Category Archives: Bus

This Sweet Old World

I’ve been humming the tune of This Sweet Old World today, floating between grief and disbelief over the BP Spill.  This isn’t a scree about that mess, I don’t know what can really be said.  BP should promise flat out that it will do anything and everything possible to make this right, simply, clearly, no hedging.

This sweet old world….

S’anyway…

Yesterday I had a minor medical treatment that involved a small incision and some stitches.  No big. But I was somewhat dumbfounded when over the course of 25 minutes I saw the assistant put on, remove and toss in the garbage no less than six pairs of latex gloves.

No, really.  Six pairs.  Right in the plastic bag that held the growing mound of waste that would be collected up and thrown somewhere.  The ocean probably.

I mentioned my surprise to the assistant and he, without the slightest thought, said, “well, we have to use a new set of gloves each time we open a canister because the germs can spread so easily.”

Ok.  Picture this: my little treatment happening at that moment, hundreds and hundreds of times yesterday all around the world…cuz yeah, it wasn’t very exotic.  And then imagine more complex treatments, and full out surgeries. Imagine the amount of plastic bags full of latex and plastic wrappers emanating from those hospitals all around the world.

six pairs of latex gloves in 25 minutes

So I’ve been thinking about this. Rolling it around in my head, along with the beached whales this summer and their stomachs full of plastic, and the ease of plastic, and the mindlessness of plastic and then a talk by Bill McKibben gave on NPR the other day and his new book, Eaarth,  which argues for the end of growth.

How did I get there?  Because it is the magic thinking of an expanding universe of humanity that is at the root of most of our problems today…as McKibben says, we are now “too big to succeed.”

Consider: the growing universe of germs is due to an ever increasing population that is ever increasing its number of cure-all antibiotics that the invisible microbial world mutates to conquer again and again and again.

Consider: the more people we have, the more resources we use, in an obviously limited world.

Consider: the dwindling resources requires us to take ever more extreme actions to supply the ever increasing population of humans demanding ever more of everything, while believing there is no cause-and-effect–magic!.

There is a report today about the impact slowing down– reducing driving speeds– would have in a systemic way...proof positive that a small thing can make a big difference.  We could do this, but as a nation, the idea of slowing down is insulting, not to mention unenforced, and basically any questioning of our power to do what we want, when we want, and at the speed we want, is generally viewed as unpatriotic.  Our magic thinking has gone round the bend.

There are things we could do.  You and I both know there are things we could do differently, for the sake of this sweet old world.

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Days 360-365: MLwC hits the Year End Mark

 So, I thought in honor of the project that has changed the way I think about driving–this grew-up-in-Southern-California-you’ll -take-my-car-from-my-cold-dead-hands girl–I thought I’d review some of the high points along the way.

bianchi bike

First, recollection of the project’s goal as I’ve stated it on the blog:

MLwC stands for My Life w Car, a year long project to think differently about alternate transportation options and related issues…like, jeez, I never knew how angry driving made me until I stopped. Nowdays, I mix it up: bike, bus, ped, and yes, I still drive…though nowhere near as much as I used to. I may ditch my car at the end of the year–I like to think it’s possible. But I’m spending the year figuring that question out. For now, it’s enough that I’ve changed my habits in a big way.

For the big question, will I ditch my car? No, it became clear about midway that it made no sense to ditch a perfectly good, fully paid for car that works fine and is not sooo old that it’s a polluting disaster. Flexcar is good if you don’t have a car. But I’ve managed to completely change my transportation habits to include bike, bus, walking, ride sharing in my normal activities, and drastically reduce my car use period. Good enough.

sr520.jpg

And now for some of the high points along the year where I had some clear and habit changing insights. Here are the posts I would send the interested reader to:

Day 95: Walking! The subject of walking instead of driving brought up a lot of feelings for readers and myself. Walking takes longer, but the calm and enjoyment one gets from it really resonated with people. I started walking more and found I loved the parenthetical space it created–when you’re walking, you’re just walking. Looking around, hearing birds, being part of your town–and slowing things down a lot. Maybe some can’t imagine slowing things down and to them I just say: too bad, your loss. You should try it, you might like it.

Day 99: I really started to understand how things would change if I changed my habitual approach to transportation. Also, I found that discussing the project with others opened up a lot of questions and interest with my circle of friends. I didn’t expect the kind of interest the MLwC project engendered.

Day 116-118: In the process of removing habitual driving from my life, I became aware of the connection between driving and CONSUMING! You get in the car and you go…to get stuff. The two–the need for stuff and the trek to get the stuff–are so intertwined it takes a real effort to untangle them. This realization led me to discover the San Francisco Compact–a group that is dedicated to not buying anything for a year. Amazing.

seattle071.jpg

Day 160: Continuing on the issue of consuming, I truly get it! Moving quickly, hopping in the car, is the quickest route to impulse buying possible. Making things easy is truly making things a lot worse in the whole big picture. Fast food, fast cars, fast this and fast that–I’m just not sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. I know this perspective makes me a bad capitalist, but hey.

Day 191-194: I’m starting to really understand how things have changed from the 50’s to now. Unbridled populations growth as a machine for consuming and using every resource that’s not nailed down. No wait, we’ll use the ones that are nailed down, too.

station wagon promo pic

Days 213-214: Considerations about the older car, the urge to have something new, new, new! And plus, I just love the title of the post: The discreet charm of the older car.

Days 218-221: this is an important post, one of those posts where I really get an insight into my mind. Bill McKibbon hits the nail on the head when he points out that more has not made us happier, it’s just made us anxious for More. And that mirrors my experience with driving precisely. And my driving is inextricably linked to my consuming.

Day 233-237: The Puget Sound region rejects a proposal to build more roads! This is a watershed moment in more than one way!

urbanforest.jpg

Days 273-277: I took my car on a road trip, a rare experience. How rare? Well, I was completely unaware how expensive gas was, and I had a rude awakening that cars actually need oil now and then.

Days 241-243: One of my most favorite posts of all. This chronicles a trip I made to a day long meditation…and how crazy I made myself trying to get there on time in a traffic jam. I learned well the concept of “No Escape.” And I’ve thought of it often since this day. There a follow-up of this post here. This period was a real turning point in understanding the habit of driving, the real deep down problem of it.

Days 287-290: a plea to change your life and change the world. We can all make a difference. We must all make a difference.

Days 332-338: a video about the Story of Stuff. I just want to call this out because it’s excellent and Annie Leonard deserves traffic!

So this year comes to a close. I know not many folks will want to read all the stuff I’ve chronicled over the course of this year, but the upshot is: I’ve learned how to live differently. I’ve learned that I can learn to live differently.

The crowd roars

And because of this, my next target has already been selected: plastic bags and plastic containers. I’ll begin this project soon and have a killer kick-off post planned. Of course, the new post series title? MLwP.

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)
Car: 63 miles
Bike:5.0
Ped: 5.5 miles
Bus:

Days 294-297: MLwC, looking past the current president and the Seattle ride metro campaign

There’s an article in the NYTimes today about how the global climate summit in Bali that’s been taking place for the last two weeks, came to the conclusion that they would need to plan beyond the current US administration if they were going to deal with the future of the environment at all. And ain’t that just the way with all things George Bush: people, countries, governments all over try to work with him, try to include him, but he’s such a my-way-or-the-highway kinda guy that ultimately, those same groups do what they do in all systems: they learn to move around the unmovable object.

“The next presidential election takes place at the halfway point in these treaty talks,” David D. Doniger, who directs climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council and served in the Clinton administration, said on his Web log on Saturday. “So the U.S. will field a new team in the second half. And there are good odds that the next president will get serious on global warming.”

….

Some environmental groups criticized Europe for not sticking to its guns. But it appeared that, in the end, the Europeans followed a path recommended in a speech last Monday by former Vice President Al Gore, fresh from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

He advised Bali negotiators to look beyond the Bush administration, whose tenure ends in one year.

If George Bush were just some yahoo from Texas (and soon he will be), I wouldn’t mind. Big whoop. But he has had his way with our global reputation and standing for nearly 8 years, much to our continued and growing chagrin, and I’m sick of it. A lot of people are sick of it. I don’t even take any pleasure in knowing he will be remembered as our worse president ever. What he’s dragged this country into isn’t worth any comeuppance, I just want him to go away.

So, okay. On to other things. Here in Seattle, there’s a plan in the works to try to wean some drivers off their car addiction in the coming two years. It’s part of a larger initiative to remove 2,688 cars from the daily commute in a number of ways. The one that caught my eye is called the Green Bike initiative and it works like this:

The “Green Bike Pilot” project provides drive-alone commuters with new commuter bicycles, training and gear in exchange for a pledge to reduce their drive-alone trips by 60 percent. Bike mentors will provide social support to new participants with route planning, tune-ups and bicycle safety training. Participants who fulfill their pledge will get to keep their bikes and will gain a healthy and sustainable commute habit. This unique project will help improve environmental and personal health, mobility and livable communities by providing a low-cost, carbon-free commute choice for commuters throughout King County. This project proposes to reduce 510 vehicle commute trips.

Some will likely get hot under the collar about the cost of providing bikes to people who could probably afford to buy one…but that’s not the point here. The point is very clearly to create a community support system to help people change behaviors around driving. And on the surface, that seems like a good idea. I’ll be interested to follow this.

Tomorrow I’m trying a new route to my job over on the peninsula in P-bo–bus downtown, ferry over, friend picks me up and we drive together to the office. It’s a start.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 46 miles (peninsula, three tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: 16 miles

Day 264-266: MLwC and a Seattle Transit Rider’s Union?

I continue to be intrigued with the idea of a bus and transit rider’s union, which I touched on in a recent post. What would a transit rider’s union do and why might it be a good idea here in Seattle? In Los Angeles, the bus rider’s union has a voice in most if not all transportation plans and strategies, making sure that everybody has access to effective, useful, and affordable mass transit.

This means taking on large, well funded, contractor friendly boondoggles like light rail propositions that serve a tiny sliver of the population at the expense of the transit riders. It means making sure the routes serve all groups and that rates remain affordable. It means maintaining a holistic view of alternate transportation options to the single-occupant vehicle muddle that most urban areas struggle with now.

What might a bus and transit rider’s union do in Seattle? It would help the city hear the Voice of the Transit rider, as well as all the other voices that are shouting for traffic relief. That voice and presence at the table would maintain the perspective that effective routes and timetables, reasonable rates, safe buses and bus stop areas will help Metro Transit attract and keep new riders, thereby reducing SOV traffic and improving the environment to boot.

I’ve been so intrigued with this idea that I’ve started a wiki to begin tracking resources regarding transportation, and will add more categories to it as time goes along. Please feel free to add any resources or start new pages as you see fit–the them is personal action and the environment.

How can we start a Transit Rider’s Union in Seattle? I’m no organizer, for sure, but I’d be happy to help and to learn from others who have ideas about this.

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed)
Car: 20 miles and 3 tasks
Bike: 0
Ped: 6
Bus: 0

Day 260: MLwC, a new group of voters and a bus riders’ union!

Yesterday I posted a comment that lamented our collective and general inability to put large concepts into practice in our daily lives, a large generality that is mostly true, but startlingly untrue sometimes. I read today in the Seattle PI about how the mass transit part of the transportation bill that was voted down Tuesday (Prop 1) would have passed if it hadn’t been bundled with the new roads plan. Very interesting indeed.

It appears there is a new and growing group of voters who do indeed vote based on the large concepts:

But Riehle said he saw a new concern that could have changed Prop 1’s outcome.

“A new group of voters played a decisive role in determining the results,” he said. “We found that there was a group of voters who we would describe as pro-transit defectors.”

This new class was identified by cross tabbing voters who said they would have voted yes to a transit only plan with those who voted no on Proposition 1.

“Of that group that were pro-transit defectors…the single largest reason they gave (for voting no) was environmental impacts like global warming.”

That group of pro-transit defectors represented about 6 percent of all the voters who participated in the Proposition 1 election.

“In an election where the final margin might be around 12 percent, that suggests that in the absence of their concern about global warming this would have been a much closer election than it was.”

And what does that mean for the future of transportation issues in this region? I think it probably means that the Sierra Club and other groups will be invited to the Big Boys’ conversation next time. And that can only be good for everyone.

On another front, there is talk of a Bus Rider’s Union here in Seattle. I’ve seen the mention a couple of times in The Stranger and I’m curious to learn more. To quote one fed up bus rider in his Stranger article:

Rail is one solution. In every city I’ve ever been to—even cities with decent, clean, reliable bus service—riding rail is a more pleasant experience than riding the bus. But we aren’t going to get rail until 2009, and then only to the South End. So in the meantime, what could be done to make the experience of bus riding more pleasant for the 95 percent of riders who don’t stink, aren’t wasted, aren’t selling drugs, aren’t harassing other passengers, and aren’t raving loudly to themselves?

A bus riders’ union, like the ones formed by fed-up citizens in many other cities? More police on buses? A stricter hygiene and drug use policy—one that’s actually enforced, rather than the completely toothless system we have now? More frequent bus service and a kiosk at bus stops telling riders when the next bus will arrive? A faster, perhaps curbside, ticketing system?

Most of the buses I ride are okay, but downtown, the buses can be pretty terrible sometimes.  I think a whole lot could be done if there were a Union that Metro Transit listened to and worked with, you know: actual riders at the table helping to figure out how to build ridership and make bus riding a viable alternative to cars.  I want to investigate this more.  The articles in the Stranger I’ve come across indicate other cities are doing this–stay tuned.

Daily Stats: (thu)
Car: 8
Ped: 1.5
Bike: 0
Bus: 14.5

Days 258-259: MLwC and Roads, Revisited, Rejected, Reviled

Thanks to Carless in Seattle for surfacing the above vid, a commercial which actually made the hair on my neck tingle with anxiety.

I’ve posted a couple of times about Prop 1/RTID referendum here in Washington; of course we had the election yesterday and it looks like the proposal is going down in defeat, if not flames.

I’ve been watching the comments on the news articles in the local papers and thought several of them were worthy of repeating here, as I think sometimes we underestimate our citizenry and they’re ability to rationally think through an issue. Of course there are lots of posts that do not represent the most rational approach, but hey. You can’t please everyone.

Posted by lowerwallfrd at 11/7/07 12:28 a.m.

I really wanted to vote for Prop 1, it just did too little for too much money, I had to vote no. I hope we have a similar and better planned bill next year. Light rail to Tacoma is stupid. I think Sound Transit is a nightmare waiting to happen. There are no additional funds that should be given to those pretenders.

Posted by cj in seattle at 11/7/07 3:53 a.m.

Perhaps it would help if we had smaller $$ for more specific spending goals. I think the size of this and the fact that it was a multiple project package scared people off.

Both my self and my husband ended up voting for it even though it size of it made me think on it a while. I recognize the importance of the responsibility of one generation to those who come after.

I think though that if we could get a package for just mass transit that it would take off nicely with voter support. There has been so much corruption in government that the public has become jaded by it. They don’t trust it anymore. Its important to public servants to recognize this.

Posted by jungleal at 11/7/07 5:51 a.m.

Prop 1’s flame out is worth getting up out of bed early to celebrate. Let’s have the media bring to light every penny of gas tax hike spending. Bring back those “Your Nickel at Work” project signs, and how about some “Your Another 9.5 Cents at Work” signs and some “Your Original 23 Cents at Work” signs and a breakdown of where the 18.4 cents per gallon of federal gas tax is going. If the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 bridge are so fragile and dangerous, why are they not receiving more immediate gas tax money??

Posted by rwb77 at 11/7/07 6:33 a.m.

For affordable light rail: build it like many other cities are at much less cost, at-grade, not elevated or tunneled. Build it on existing rights of way, like highways and abandoned railroads. The gold-plated Sound Transit version is great for contractors but bad for taxpayers. And for a route, how about a simple loop around the lake? Start at Southcenter, branching off from the current elevated line, go to Renton, follow the old railroad right of way north to Bothell, around the upper end of the lake to Northgate, then past Husky Stadium into downtown. Don’t try a potential engineering nightmare with tracks across the lake; dedicate both floating bridges to Bus Rapid Transit; those are the two corridors where it would probably be most feasible.

For highways, spend dollars first on safety and maintenance (remember a certain bridge in Minneapolis this past summer …..). It is not WSDOT’s responsiblity to enable people to commute 40 miles one way at 60 mph on the same road at the same time as 100,000 other people. That’s what happens whenever new lanes are approved: developers come in with new housing and new strip malls and by the time the lane opens, it’s as gridlocked as the older lanes.

Posted by SleeplessInSeattle at 11/7/07 7:31 a.m.

Proposition 1 is NOT a comprehensive package. It is mainly an Eastside improvement project, with a small fragment thrown in for the rest of the area in an effort to gloss over what it really is. Is there anyone out there who is really dense enough to believe that light rail to Mercer Island and Bellevue addresses this area’s major transportation problems and environmental concerns, much less does anything to repair the roads and bridges in most need of improvement?!

We already voted in and pay an exhorbitant gas tax in this state for what was supposed to fund road/brige repair and improvement projects. At the time, 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct were specifically mentioned as projects that would be completed with that gas tax money. Senators Murray and Cantwell also got federal disaster money to help repair 520 and the Viaduct. Almost immediately after those two money sources came into fruition, our new governor began looking for ways to legally divert the Viaduct portion of those funds to 520. So, mark my words, 520 will be rebuilt whether Proposition 1 passes or not. Proposition 1 was just the boondoggle they were looking for to build the new 520. Now they’ll just have to use the money that was already budgeted for it, plus impose tolls. Gee, what a concept. And, yes, I certainly was thinking of my children, and their children. . .when I voted no. They would be the next generation paying for this mess, and they too would have no money left to devote to projects which would actually improve the quality of life in this area.

It’s interesting that when push comes to shove, the vote was anger directed at the government, and bewilderment over taxes already set aside for projects that are not being done. Very few of the comments really take on the larger issue of Transportation Alternatives or the issue of global climate change. Those issues are likely too big for most people to actually apply to a vote on roads. Nevertheless, and for whatever combination of reasons, we have wisely elected to not get sidetracked building roads to Redmond as a weird panacea for the rest or our many, many transportation problems.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.5
Bus: 0
Many remote conferences, email, vid conferences and other alternative connectivity.

Day 255-256: MLwC and Prop 1 in Seattle

My neighbors Susan and Tom stopped me in the driveway yesterday asking if I’d read Jay Inslee’s opinion in the Seattle PI from Thursday regarding his endorsement of the hotly contested Prop 1 transportation bill. I like Jay Inslee so I was interested to hear he was supporting this thing, but indicated I’d already voted, and my vote was No.

I read the opinion and we returned to the discussion later in the evening around their always-welcoming kitchen table–good old fashioned grass roots political discussion, you don’t have much of that anymore. So, I announced up front that Inslee’s editorial not only didn’t change my mind, it actually knocked Inslee down a few pegs for me. Why? Let me quote a couple of paragraphs back to back, and we’ll go from there:

Prop. 1 also would improve bus service, create new bike lanes and add HOV lanes — additional means of getting commuters out of single-passenger cars.

Alas, there’s not much explanation of how it would improve any of those things, and those things–bus and bike–are very important to me. So far, I’ve seen “bike lanes” all over the city that amount to a white line separating the main street from the street parking area. If there are no cars parked there, you can use that space as a bike lane. And buses–don’t get me started. Now the corresponding quote:

Second, efforts to move to a carbon-free economy may be advanced as much by revolutionizing automobiles as eliminating all lane building. By the time we fix the U.S. 2 bypass in Monroe, we’ll be able to drive plug-in hybrids that charge in our garage at night, drive 40 miles off that charge, and then run off environmentally friendly biofuel produced in the Evergreen State. We can’t rely on a strategy of doing away with all passenger vehicles, all the time. But it is a realistic strategy to get next generation green cars mass produced and supplemented with mass-transit projects, such as those in Prop. 1.

Excuse me? Prop 1 has nothing to do with revolutionizing automobiles. What’s interesting to me is that this part of his article is very articulate about something that doesn’t exist, while the very real need of improved mass transit barely gets two lines. So Inslee’s article was, well, not convincing. We’ll leave it at that.

Now for Prop 1 itself. Interestingly, Inslee’s article title is “Take Bold Action by Passing Prop 1,” and that where I have to laugh. Bold? Isn’t Bold a code word for lots and lots of money? Bold in this case certainly cannot be referring to more of the same–the bottom line on this Prop. More of the same: more north/south light rail, more HOV lanes to Redmond, more and wider roads….where is the breakout thinking? Where is the vast new plan that suggests proprietary lanes for bikes and buses, for example? Or that closes most roads into downtown like London did? Give me a truly bold plan and I’ll give you my vote, but don’t give me more of the same and ask me to believe it’s going to change anything.

Susan riffed for a while on how myth makes us suffer, and it seems applicable with regard to transportation. The myth is we can buy our way out of our current single-occupancy-car-addiction without having to change or do anything different. That’s the myth. We hold onto it, we invest in it, and the more we invest, the harder it is to change our thinking. The truth is we have to change the way we think and the way we do things. We have to make more room for bikes, buses, rapid transit. We have to actually give up something to get something new. No one wants to propose truly Bold action because the public doesn’t want to have to do anything.

To quote Carless in Seattle once again:

Excess demand for roadways during peak hours is the real problem, to which congestion is the most feasible solution.

And for that reason alone, I’m sticking with my vote for Prop 1. It’s simply not Bold enough.

Daily stats (Fri, Sat)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 5
Bus: 16

Days 246-251: MLwC and the wild fear of no exit

Whoa–this blog got away from me for a few days. Like a LOT of days. I’m not sure where I’ve been….

I’ve been thinking a lot about the insight I had the other day which I described in 64 miles to mindfulness. Of course, the idea of No Exit has been around in various forms for a long, long time, from Sartre to Pema Chodron. It seems that for a lot of us, the idea of No Escape or No Exit drives us to extremes in behavior and thinking, and I’ve been aware of that in my own jungle-mind since that experience in traffic the other day.

Cars give us the feeling that there is always an escape: we can just hop in our cars and away we go! But it’s not true. The expectation, the hope of that ideal gets us in the car, but the reality is quite different and the jarring difference between the two may be at the bottom of everything from mild irritation and a buzzing disappointment in your brain, to road rage and worse. Cars promise escape, but they can’t deliver–not with all of us driving on the same roads, going in much the same direction.

Perhaps that’s why buses have the sort of stigma they do. They represent the opposite: you’re just going where you’re going. There’s no ideal of Escape. No glamor of hopping in the convertible and heading down the road, all care-free abandon. Could be.

Anyway, I’ve been watching myself and these back-of-the-mind thoughts about Exits and Escapes.

thelma-and-louise.jpg

The other issue I’ve noticed the last couple of weeks is a definite change in car usage, and a definite reason why. In summer, the activities are outdoors, you can walk to the beach, hang out at the pool, run in the park, read a book out in the hammock on a summer afternoon. But as the days draw shorter and the temp drops, my activities tend to be more involved with others, in their homes–dinners, game nights, stuff like that. We move indoors and I, anyway, find I’m driving a lot more. Hmmm.

Daily Stats: (Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)
Car: 21 miles (dozens of tasks and activities)
Bike: 18 miles
Ped: 5 miles
Bus: 0

Days 229-232: MLwC and there’s a bus in the urban garden!

My pal Yo recently pointed me to an article on Putting People First about the Mobile Experience Laboratory at MIT, and how the thought leaders there are trying to take advantage of the current global-climate-change-dependence-on-oil moment in our collective lives. Federico Casalagno is a sociologist on the MIT team who is focused on making bus stops more interesting, inviting and useful.

Casalegno views the urban landscape as a garden of communication, the better the communication, the healthier the garden. He wants to create bus stops that encourage riders to use the bus, sure, but also to enhance and enable communication. He sees our movement around urban environments as part of the larger flow of communication between people, places and things. It’s a systemic approach to transportation and I have to admit, it’s a challenge to envision since one tends to think of buses as the means to get from point A to point B–the very thing Casalegno questions.

MIT bus stop design

The uber-modern bus stops would have walls of digital images and information, some very useful such as when the next bus is going to arrive, other bits including civic events, activities, local neighborhood postings, etc. Casalegno goes further and takes on the interior of the buses themselves, suggesting that those dull and often empty spaces above the seats and the ceilings themselves could be used as a means of communication of all kinds. I shudder to think how much of that communication would become advertising…and how quickly.

Still, I read about what MIT, Boston and Massachusetts is thinking about mass transportation and I am both envious and wistful. In most cities and states, mass transit is the last thing on the list of government things to do and the Puget Sound area is no different. I would love to see this kind of forward thinking and investment that would actually help drive (no pun intended) higher ridership on mass transit alternatives.

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu)
Car: 0
Bike: 8
Ped: approx 5 miles
Bus: approx 15 miles

Day 213 and 214: MLwC and the discreet charm of an older car

When I first started to drive, the general expectation was that I would 1) have an older, hand-me-down car and 2) I would maintain it for a long time, without the real expectation of a brand, spanking new car anywhere in my dizzy head. The first car I had was a Ford Falcon which I inherited from my parents’ divorce somehow…I’m still not sure how that transaction worked but I tend to think unexpressed guilt was at work in there somewhere.

my first car

I didn’t love the car, it had absolutely no cool factor at all, but it got me around and liberated my life at a crucial time. I don’t even remember at this point what happened to the car, though there’s a vague recollection of a tow truck and a purchase for parts.

My next car was beloved, even though it too, was the product of a divorce. A friend of my mother’s had a VW bug, yellow, that she used for zipping around; after her divorce, she felt she needed something more substantial and besides the car reminded her of her ex, so she wanted to dump it. I picked it up for One Buck, the minimum you have to pay for a car to avoid some kind of taxes or something. I loved this car and drove it all over, to Wisconsin for Grad School, to Florida for vacation, and on and on. My old cat Mo grew up riding around in the passenger seat, and thought nothing of 3 day road trips.

1965 vw bug

My next 2 cars were VW bugs as well, the last one being an older model that I adored, a 1965 turquoise sweet thing that caused boomers to stop me in plarking lots to tell me their youthful VW stories.

My current car is also a VW, a Jetta that I bought during the dot com bubble for cash–my First New Car Ever. I adored it also: heated leather seats, fabulous sound system, zippy engine and a compact cool look. I was exceptionally proud of my brand new car, purchased on a whim with stock money. It was more than a car, it was a marker in time.

But now my car is old, certainly old by current standards, and it doesn’t have the je ne sais quois of before. It gets me around just fine, but doesn’t flatter my ego at all. So, where am I now with regard to my old zippy car? Well, I’m starting to notice older cars–people who are still driving their 1990 whatever, keeping it in good shape, not asking it to be more than it is, and counting on it to be all that it still is.

I notice older cars that are washed and polished, clean machines, and that still look good, and presumably function well. And of course, in contrast, I think of all the new cars out there–the thrill of them, the status and such. I wonder if anyone coming out of high school shares the expectations I had around cars anymore: nothing new, but something that will get you from point A to point B, which was really all I cared about.

And I think of the huge mountains of cars that we go through in search of that new-car-high, which is admittedly pretty intoxicating.

I came across this article in MSN about the upside of keeping your old car. Some good ways of thinking about your older car are, it turns out, pretty quantifiable. For example, keeping the thing running might cost you $1500 in repairs–every year. But that still falls short of buying a new car, a new car which will be old very soon, and within a few years you’ll find yourself choosing between repairs and a new car–and endless cycle. Your insurance will be the lowest around, your taxes even lower and in fact, even if you have a major repair every year, you’ll likely still come out ahead.

But here’s something subtle to think about: new cars are like guns in Hollywood films. If a gun appears in a scene–over the mantle, in the drawer, on the shelf–it’s a guarantee that gun will get some use in the course of the film. Same with a new car–if you have a new car, you will use it. There’s no earthly way you will choose to ride your bike, walk or take the bus, it’s just a given you will drive that car everywhere.

So, today I want to sing the praises of older cars. Not the old-old-old cars, that are poorly maintained and spew clouds of smoke as they go–those are a dying breed. Cars with pollution controls have been around for a long time so even a 17 year old car does a pretty good job of minimizing pollution. I’m talking about older cars that are maintained and loved for what they are: reliable transportation tools. Appliances, even. You take care of them, they take care of you, and that odometer is a badge of courage. Recall Seth Godin’s idea that in the future, the best made cars will have their LED odometers on the outside so people can oooh-and-ahhh about how well made this car is.

Daily Stats: (Sat, Sun)
Car: 8 miles
Bike: 0
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0

Day 208 and 209: MLwC, Fremont adventure and more on whales

Fremont Seattle

Neighbor Susan sent me the directions for taking the bus to Fremont yesterday….but too late! I’d already been and back, and it all took a lot less time than I thought. Two buses there, two buses back, little waiting and a lot of sight-seeing on the way. That’s the thing about riding the bus–you actually get to look at stuff. While on Dexter to Fremont, I had the chance to see the new condo corridor that comprises the west bank of Lake Union. Urban living at its best–it’s actually a vibrant, attractive community. Where once there were few people out walking or riding bikes, now there are outdoor cafes, sufficient population density and plenty of walking traffic.

And then there’s Fremont (aka Center of the Known Universe. Please set your clocks back 5 minutes.). Fremont has never been without its vibrant community, and while a long time ago when Adobe moved in I dreaded a lot of the things that were happening because traffic became even more impossible and the funky little hood was suddenly a lot more glitzy, somehow Fremont has maintained its predictable quality of weirdness while supporting a level of sophistication. The transition period in the late 80s and early 90s was a painful series of miscalculations (the old PCC was dreadful; the new PCC is divine, however), but the new Fremont is a walker’s heaven, and if you like Thai food, there’s nowhere better to go. And don’t forget Peet’s. In a town bristling with Sbux, it’s nice to find a Peet’s coffee where you can settle in for a good long while at the epicenter of the Center of the Known Universe.

So, I’ve branched out on the bus front.

On the gray whale front, I’m still thinking about and following the issue with the rogue hunt team from the Makah tribe out of Forks, WA. Previous post here. On Sunday, the Makah tribal council denounced the action and will prosecute the hunters to the fullest extent of tribal law. At the same time that this event has been in the news, studies regarding the “success story” of saving the gray whale from extinction have been thrown into question by recent studies; it appears that there is maybe only a third of the population recovery previously reported, and that the populations are not healthy, some are even emaciated due to vastly diminished food sources. It’s a systemic issue: global climate change impacts food sources, over fishing impacts food sources, over fishing is related to population increases, and on and on.

Last week I ran across a letter to the editor, written by First Nation tribal member Ann Stateler, which helped open my heart again regarding this incident. Here it is in full:

We are First Nations whale conservationists who regard whales as our sacred brethren. The heinous poaching of a gray whale by five Makah tribal members pains us deeply [“Gray whale shot, killed in rogue tribal hunt,” Times page one, Sept. 9].

No tribal tradition we know of would condone the ruthless killing of this whale. The poachers desecrated an ancestral whaling legacy, compromising it beyond redemption. Their selfish, cruel act betrayed whales and the Makah Tribe.

Inflicting mortal wounds that cause an animal to bleed to death over 10 hours; killing out of frustration with bureaucratic delays; putting ego and self above community — such behavior mocks traditional Native values. The poachers’ blatantly illegal actions warrant full prosecution in Makah tribal court and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The time is overdue for Makah elders, culture bearers and tribal leaders to reassess the viability of whaling in the 21st century. Imperiled by global warming, habitat destruction and other monumental threats, fragile whale populations will not endure for the next seven generations if only select groups of humans commit to protecting whales, while others persist in exploiting whales.

— Ann Stateler (Choctaw/Five Tribes)

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue)
Car: 0
Bike: 4.5
Ped: 2
Bus: approx 25

Day 205 thru 207: MLwC and Bus Ridin Chick

Pal Jodene showed up in West Seattle today after traveling to Bellevue from her home in North Seattle. I don’t know how many miles that is but it’s a lot, so she is my hero today. She noted that it’s funny how going from her home in North Seattle, all the way around the north end of Lake Washington into Bellevue was a measly buck twenty-five, while traveling from Bellevue to Seattle was a whopping 2.50–a two zone ticket. She wondered why, I suggested because two major shopping areas equals two different zones.

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Fremont district, north of downtown. I’ve toyed with the idea of bussing it but am a little intimidated by the idea. Jodene has thrown the gauntlet down and I’m feeling I must answer the call. I wonder how many zones that is, from West Seattle to Fremont, home of the Lenin Statue and all that is truly funky in Seattle.

Lenin in Fremont

The end of summer is at hand around here, the rains have started and the temperature is chillin’. It’s a funny mixture of relief that things might quiet down a little, and sadness that the beautiful long summer days are behind us. For MLwC, I’m entering a new season and will see how this impacts my alternate transportation plans. Riding a bike in the rain isn’t all that bad, but not all that fun either. But, who knows? Most everything I used to think about transportation has changed in the course of this project, so we’ll see.

Speaking of driving. I was transfixed the other day, checking out the size of the gas cap on a Hummer. Seen one lately? I know, I know–Hummer’s are so overwhelming in general, but check it out next time you’re next to one of those monsters, waiting for the light to change. The gas cap itself speaks volumes (it’s Huge).

Hummer gas cap

Daily Stats: (Sat, Sun, Mon)
Car: 7 miles
Bike: 5 miles
Ped: approx 2 miles
Bus: 0

Day 183-187: MLwC and what are YOU doing?

This remodel seems determined to eat my life.

But I digress. Carless in Seattle is an interesting blog that attempts to untangle the very very tangled mess that is Traffic in Seattle. A recent post takes apart a ballot measure (RTID) for tackling traffic issues. His bottom line findings:

I spent ninety minutes this weekend reading through all the RTID projects and trying to categorize them. The results: 47% of RTID is about expanding service for single-occupancy vehicles (SOV). King County, mind you, is spending 61% on things other than roads expansion for SOVs. But the new Cross Base Highway in Pierce County is a huge factor (new SOV capacity is 75% of Pierce County’s portion of RTID), and there’s a bunch of road widening in Snohomish County as well.

He gets to the nub of it here: Why are we focused on more of the same, ie, Single Occupancy channels, instead of alternatives? As someone said, more lanes will just fill up.

Why SOV?

The question should not be more or less lanes, but rather Why SOV? Our contractor needs to drive to our house to do the remodel (the one that’s threatening to eat my life), he’s got a truckload of tools and supplies. He’s a valid SOV case. The 15,000 people who drive in and out of Seattle every day to sit at a desk carrying little more than a laptop and a phone are unexplored opportunities to find better ways to get around. Better mass transit, better car sharing, better bike infrastructure.

Grist offered a good overview of the issue the other day, highlighting the problems in figuring out what to do with the traffic problem in Puget Sound. While I understand that most people bought their big expensive cars in order to drive to work, in a congested urban environment, more lanes for more SOVs just don’t make sense. There are so many other ways we could solve this problem.

 

The Wizard of OZ

A tee shirt I have in mind to make, specifically for biking (big print on the back….I’ll probably get run over): “What are YOU doing about traffic in Seattle?” People seem focused on what the local government is going to do about traffic, all the while continuing to drive the same way they did 10 years ago, despite staggering population density, concentrations of businesses downtown, bigger cars, more trucks…What do they think? That the government really is the Wizard of Oz? And if the gov did do something radical to change things, those same people would be the first ones to sabotage it. So I’m skipping the whole government bullshit and going straight to it: What the heck are YOU doing about traffic?

Daily Stats (Thur-Mon)
Car: 11 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 10 miles
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

Day 176-178: MLwC and Seattle Traffic Blues

To some degree, I’m completely clueless about the massive traffic jam that is Seattle right now. And, in fact, the planners who decided to take down a couple of lanes of I-5 planned things pretty well: they launched the 2 week project in the middle of August when just about everyone is gone and they pre-announced so many horror stories about the potential nightmarish commutes that anyone who hadn’t already planned to split put plans together to leave town.

So, it could be worse. That said, taking down a couple of lanes through already-congested Seattle is not a pretty site. But like I said, I’m nearly clueless about it. I drive so little anymore that I haven’t hit any of it. The most thought I’ve given the situation is curious pondering about what they’re actually doing on the freeway. I know they’re not adding lanes, or doing anything to relieve congestion. Seattle rarely does stuff like that.

Someday, though, they will. They’ll have to fix the viaduct. They’ll have to do something about the ridiculous winnowing of traffic to one single lane on I-5 through the core of downtown Seattle. And then, I wonder what will happen to my town, West Seattle, that is so dependent on the West Seattle Bridge to get into downtown. Will they bump up the ferry schedule, add more bus routes? Will they add real bike lanes?

I sort of look forward to it because change happens when change happens.  Voluntarily or otherwise, we become most creative when our regular modes of behavior are altered or removed.  I’d like to see what Seattle comes up with when change is forced upon us.

All of which reminds me: I’m coming up on the half year mark of My Life with Car. Lots to think about. A friend was visiting for lunch the other day (Hi, Dana!) and mentioned that my car was incredibly dusty from lack of use. Poor thing, sitting day after day. Maybe I’ll wash it to mark the day. We’ll see…lots of numbers to crunch.

Daily Stats: (Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 6
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

Day 119 thru 121: MLwC and WiserEarth.com

Traveling again this week, and really rushed for time. Time is a critical factor in selection of transportation modes. I elected to drive to the airport and park rather than risk not getting picked up by the shuttle again….Anyway, I was thinking about how much I travel over the course of the year and how much this impacts my carbon footprint. I’m a consultant and this travel issue won’t likely change a whole lot in the near future which makes my activities while at home even more important–walk, bike, bus, etc.

On Sunday, I hung out a while at Paul Hawken’s site WiserEarth, trying to figure out how it works. I heard back from Michael regarding the beta site re my sense that it wasn’t targeted well; I couldn’t figure out if it was for professional .org people or for regular people like me. He confirmed that they are still working out some aspects of the site (it’s beta) but:

“In a nutshell, it is definitely for people like you. I encourage you to check it out and make sure your favorite organizations are represented in there. And we are always looking for feedback on usability and for ideas on future enhancements to make the site more useful for your line of work. We can’t guarantee everything will be implemented (we have constraints on tech support and funding of course), but we do value community feedback.”

So , I went back to the site and created an account, and then went for a run.

alkilincolnpark.jpg

During the run I began to think about all the stuff rolling around in my head and realized (this may be a Doh! moment for some of you but it was sort of exciting for me): The Compact, my own MLwC project, Wildlife Alliance, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Critical Mass, the Backyard Wildlife movement here in Seattle and a hundred other things that I personally take an interest in, are all part of a much, much bigger movement that as Hawken puts, is as yet un-named and is potentially the biggest movement in the history of the planet. People like you and me–perhaps not doing big global projects, but doing things we care about, passionately, and that contribute to a larger common good.

And it’s the combination of all those things that is creating this massive global movement that Paul Hawken is writing about.

When I returned from my run, I went to the site and entered my first organization. I’ll follow up with others. I’m no expert on so many things out there, but I know about my own life and interests, and that’s what I can share. How the site will evolve, how it will utilize my interests, network us all, remains to be seen. How I will use it remains to be seen.

Participating is sort of a leap of faith. Take The Compact, for example. You use your big car to go shopping and buy things, much more than you really need, without thinking about alternate paths, and it’s all so easy, so fast, who really thinks about it. So the Compact has groups all over the planet finding different ways to live outside the planned path of consumerism. Once that habit is busted, these people like Rachel in SF, or myself here with my own habit-busting project, we find ourselves connecting to our city, our community, our planet in a whole new way. Rachel, just like me, just like you, is one little atom bouncing around out there amidst a gazillion atoms, changing the way atoms bounce here in Seattle, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and who knows where else.

And that, I believe, is what Paul Hawken is talking about. Bring what you have, share it, find your community, find energy, find a different path and share your map. And Hawken clearly understands the internet has made the path to sharing your map possible.

Daily stats: (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
Car: 25 miles
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.0
Bus: 0
Air: 2400