Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter biking begins early

Last week the weather improved enough (and the timing worked out) for me to do another bike/bus commute. I caught a King County Metro #355 to downtown, hitting some traffic along the way, and then a #150 from the International District station to Tukwila, with a bike connection on each end and in the middle. Before my bus arrived, a light rail train went past at the station with exactly four people aboard. My bus, by contrast, had more than 40 people riding with me. I sincerely hope that opening the light rail station at the airport will improve its ridership more than the incremental increase I expect, because I have not been impressed at all by the Central Link ridership I've seen so far, excepting its opening weekend.

On the way home as I rode up to the Tukwila Park and Ride where I would pick up the #150 bus, that bus passed me and slowed but did not stop, so I was out of luck. I'd worked a long day and it was after 7:00 PM, so my next bus wouldn't come along for another half hour. Rather than wait in the cold for that long I continued biking to downtown, adding about 12 miles to my bike commute. I hadn't expected the longer ride and didn't have double socks on,
so my feet were fairly frozen before I reached downtown, though fortunately they warmed up again while I was riding the #358 bus home from Belltown.

This morning I tried a repeat of last week's
commute, though this time the weather was more than 10 degrees colder: it was about 21ºF when I left my house. The morning ride was fine though freeway traffic was even worse, so my bus ride to downtown took about 10 minutes longer than it should have, but this was no problem since I have about a 12 minute wait for my connecting bus there anyway. Sure enough, that bus drove up about a minute after I arrived at the station. This sort of traffic is unusually bad in my experience, though certainly not unheard of.

By the way, in warmer weather (and in daylight) I'm much more likely to take more of these bus legs of my commute on my bike, but at this time of year I'm content to ride nice warm public transit, slow and infrequent and occasionally crowded and even more occasionally peopled with crazies and/or drunks as it is.

That said, and now that I'm home with the kids abed, in between the return legs of my commute tonight, as I was biking north on 3rd Ave through downtown, a
#70 trolleybus pulled up in the right lane at a stoplight, and out of the corner of my eye I saw someone in the back look over at me. I looked back, and it was Rob Johnson, executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, his eyes moving back to his paperback book.

"Hi Rob," I said.

No response.

"Hi Rob!" I said somewhat more loudly, waving my arms.

Still no response.

"Hi Rob," I heard someone else nearby say, I know not where.

Rob was having none of it, though
granted, the bus windows were closed. He probably recognized me, just as I imagine he did at a Mariners game last season when he walked with a date past me and my family, again looking full into my face before turning away. He probably felt some cognitive dissonance then, too, as I imagine some others also do when they are faced with supporters of truly sustainable public transit modes that they do not themselves endorse.


I raced the bus up 3rd Avenue for a couple more blocks before it turned east towards Capitol Hill. I won, natch.

After getting off a #5 bus in Fremont and biking to my home neighborhood of Greenwood, I stopped at a store to pick up some "Secret Santa" treats for my kids. A man selling "Real Change" newspapers at the market asked me how cold I thought it was.

"About 28," I guessed, then wished him warmth and headed home.


Rob said...

Hi Aus-car. A colleague of mine forwarded this on to me and I thought I would drop you a note to say that I'm sorry I didn't recognize you (twice), usually I'm a little zoned out on the way home especially if I'm reading a book (and you're outside of that bus in bike gear). I'm usually pretty good with names and faces and if we've met before I'm sorry about that.

As for the fact that there are certain things TCC (or I for that matter) do or do not support, I think our record speaks for itself. We like buses. I ran the Metro Transit Now campaign in '06 and TCC has assisted in the passage of more than 15 bus transit ballot measures since 2000. I also take the bus to work everyday.

We like trains. We helped to pass ST1 and 2 and have worked hard on the Seattle streetcar network as well as inter-city passenger rail.

We like bikes and peds. We worked to put more bike and ped investments into the '06 Bridging the Gap funds and over the next two years helped five different jurisdictions in Washington adopt Complete Streets ordinances (something we're pushing at the state level in Olympia this year).

So when you get a chance send me an email and let me know when you might be able to meet up for coffee so I can make up for the snubbing. Best - Rob

Aus-car said...

Hi Rob,

Hmmm, and all this time I thought I'd been writing in a vacuum, it turns out that people have been paying attention all along. Thanks to your colleague for pointing out my blog to you.

We've met several times before. I even got up and spoke at the Q&A for the first of three "future of transit" brownbags that TCC ran this spring and summer, making an observation that Councilmember Drago then validated.

In past meetings, when you've said you were interested in talking, you also mentioned sitting down for coffee, but weren't available at the times I suggested, for coffee or for events I organized. That was when I worked much closer to your office ... such a meeting is more problematic now, but I will try again to arrange something. It'll probably have to wait until after the first of the year.

By the way, TCC's support for buses, trains, bikes, and pedestrians is not in question. It is your/TCC's support for emerging forms for cost-effective, energy superefficient public transit that are fast, safe, and convenient enough to entice people from their cars that is currently lacking. With the amount of support being thrown towards these technologies elsewhere in the world, by government, environmentalists, and businesspeople, and the inevitability of their adoption there and eventually here, the question isn't whether you/TCC will support these technologies, but when. This is the cognitive dissonance I speculatively attribute to those who aren't yet on board, in whose company you/TCC are not alone, though those ranks will thin in coming years.

The last time we met you seemed dismissive. I would hope this will not be the case going forward.

Best regards,