Posts Tagged ‘bus’

Exposed!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Now that the rainy season has arrived full on, perhaps it’s timely to expose certain downtown buildings and their owners for a socially reprehensible offense to pedestrians. I am referring here to the growing prevalence of fake canopies.

Over the last year a number of older buildings around the downtown core have been retrofitted with projecting canopies constructed of glass and steel. Some are simple and serviceable, others are quite elegant. Some have been accomplished as a part of Metro Transit’s commendable efforts toward making downtown a better place to use transit. All of these improvements are welcome in a climate that demands cover over the sidewalk during the winter and sunlight in the summer.

However, the objectives of this general endeavor are apparently not universally shared. Whether done by individual merchants or property owners, we are seeing constructions of steel ribs and struts that extend out over the sidewalks but in fact contain no glass or other materials to provide actual cover. It’s quite the mean-spirited trick: What looks like cover is, in fact, open to the sky and, therefore, rainfall.

I have experienced at least three of these architectural cheats. One is over the entrance to Belltown Court on Second Avenue. Although a small canopy, I have seen more than one parent waiting to send a child off on a school bus while waiting under this false cover and getting soaked in the process.

More egregious is the one Third, just north of the Century Square building, which has recently had a handsome canopy added to its west- and south-facing sides. The offending canopy is actually a quite elaborate and costly structure but it offers no glass panels.

American Apparel:Thumbing its nose at shoppers.

The third one I have experienced is at the American Apparel store on 6th Avenue. This structure is really a sign disguised as a canopy, which should not be allowed at all. Here is a prime street in the retail core with a national brand business thumbing its nose at shoppers. How completely rude is that?

I’m sure there are other examples, which I leave to respondents to point out.

I fear that perhaps the city’s land use code does not mention the requirement of glass (or other solid covering) in its definition of canopies – a loophole that should be corrected immediately. If glass is indeed a requirement, then these parties should be sent notices of a city code violation with the associated penalties.

Now, for those who will undoubtedly send me some sharp retorts about how transients or teenagers will gather under these projections and businesses would have to pay more for cleaning, security, blah, blah, blah — save your breath (or typing fingers). Throughout downtown there are scores of glass and steel canopies, generous in width, high enough not to block storefronts and low enough to offer shelter that are not havens for antisocial or criminal behavior. To not provide canopies in this climate and latitude along primary pedestrian streets is either being lazy or insulting.

Besides, why would we ever take the view that, because of a few miscreants, 95 percent of the population must suffer?

Next bus: 5 minutes

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Way back in 2002, I lived in an apartment in East Portland just off Burnside Street. At first, I thought the proximity to Burnside would be kind of a bummer (the nearby Sandy Hut notwithstanding). But after I few days, I realized that my location meant I would never need a bus schedule again. That’s because I could see the bus stop’s digital display from my apartment hallway. Once it read “4 minutes,” it was time for me to grab my bag and head out the door.

The best bus schedules are those that tell you when the bus will actually be there, and a printed schedule, even if its online, isn’t always a good place to find that information. Does such a thing really matter? Many people who ride the bus are minutes from their stop, and they don’t want to stand out in the rain inhaling gas fumes for five minutes. And seeing a line of people in the rain waiting for their bus and inhaling gas fumes definitely isn’t going to get other people out of their cars.

But if you live in Seattle rather than Portland, and you ride the bus, you do have options. Some of you might already know about My Bus, but I only recently realized it was a real thing and not some mock-up. Choose your bus number and stop location, or search by neighborhood to see when buses are likely to arrive. It also tells you when the last bus left, so you can track your loved ones or, if you’re feeling really wonky, do some calculations on whether the 7:57 is consistently so late that you might as well just stick with the 8:13 and squeeze in some extra minutes of sleep.

The best part: It looks like they actually have more stops listed than on Metro’s site. Sometimes, when you’re taking an unfamiliar route, it’s nice to know where the actual stops will be rather than just guessing based on a route map or having to use the Trip Planner just to find out where the stops are.

They’ve got apps for web-enabled phones and texting options, too. I’m going to start using it and see how it goes. If anyone’s already using mybus, let me know if you’re really spending less time standing in the rain.

A reader also alerts me to the presence of One Bus Away, though I haven’t had much chance to explore that yet.  It has a call-in, SMS and iPhone-special version options.

Oh, and if you plan to stay in Seattle for a few more years, Metro plans to have real-time displays on its five Rapid Ride routes, starting in 2010 from Federal Way to Tukwila. Ballard and West Seattle routes will come online a few years later…

Saving bus service actually helps the economy

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

By now, most of us have heard Metro’s grim warning of a $100 million funding decline next year, and a potential 20 percent cut in service. We’ve also heard that an increase in local taxing authority might be a solution to keep our service. If it’s Thursday morning, the anti-tax, anti-transit crowd is undoubtedly out in full force. If history is an indicator, their arguments are hollow.

They’re probably saying more taxes will make the economy worse, and asking how we could even consider such a thing, and don’t we want to be business-friendly?

They’re backwards. Saving bus service will help us IMPROVE our economy, and improve a lot of people’s lives, even if requires a tax increase.

Of course, Metro hasn’t mentioned a tax increase per se, just maintaining a similar amount of revenue via a higher rate. But it’ll be argued as such.

With decent bus service, more people can leave their cars at home, saving operation and parking costs and wear and tear, and keeping away from the financial cliff. Transit gives people the option to not have cars at all, which can make poor people middle class. Anyone need reminding on the importance of saving individuals on the brink for the good of the rest of us?

Businesses are increasingly locating where the transit is good, because transit helps them attract employees. This is a major reason most office construction and tenants stick to a few urban districts in our region, and those in other areas are asking for better transit. Even if the boss doesn’t use it, the rank and file often do. I’ve heard 60 percent of my office uses transit at least sometimes, aided by our Downtown location.

Financial benefits to the region as a whole are less immediate but even more significant. We save tax dollars in the long run because good transit lets us reduce the amount we spend on road capacity, where our wish list is in the tens of billions because road capacity is outrageously expensive. Consumers end up saving because transit can reduce the amount of parking required (or wanted) for everything we spend money on. For example, the City of Seattle has reduced parking requirements for housing in a few areas, often saving tens of thousands of dollars per unit. Why throw these advances away?

Transit helps the nation use energy and materials more efficiently, from steel and leather to gas and oil. True, our whole metro is 1 percent of the country, but we can be part of the solution. Between the materials to produce the car and the resources to operate it, even a US-made hybrid sends money overseas hand over fist. We reduced oil demand when prices rose; again, why throw that away?

It’s hard to tell where the economy will go, and where tax revenues will go. Maybe things won’t be so bad. But count me as one who’s happy to vote yes if necessary to keep our bus service…and to stay up way too late tonight to write this.

Ride Transit, Save $8,400

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

You might have read that Seattle transit users save an average of $8,400 annually compared to drivers. That’s according to a recent study that assumed transit users have one less car.

$8,400 is quite a figure! Is it true? Who knows, but the approach looks reasonable.

Better than clipping coupons

It’s good to think about this. We talk endlessly about housing costs and taxes, but personal transportation costs were hardly mentioned until gas hit $3. Even now, people aren’t necessarily connecting the dots: Transportation is a variable expense, and ditching the car (or using it less) can save you a bundle.

We often hear that 30 percent of income should be used to calculate housing affordabilty. But that assumes big transportation expenses. I’d argue that a combined figure for housing and transportation is a better metric. Perhaps a number like 45 percent is reasonable for both.

We Downtown residents often hear that we’re paying too much for housing. So we explain that many of us are actually pretty thrifty, all things considered. In fact, we often save far more than $8,400, because we ride in the free zone, or walk, rather than buying bus passes. We can even rent out our parking spaces.

That said, you don’t need to be in the center of town to make transit convenient. Any bus that goes past work probably goes past residential areas. Even if those areas cost a few hundred bucks more, maybe it’s worth it.

Now we just need more transit!