I can still remember when the team from The Urbanist invited me on board. In true urbanist fashion we all arrived without using cars–Owen by bicycle, Ben on foot, myself by bus. The three of us took a corner table and devoured dim-sim the way college students demolish nachos. (Is there another way?) The website then had only recently grown from being just a notion, a fledgling idea in the throes of coming together.

The year was 2014, February. Come Valentine’s Day we would lose the 358 with the new shakeup, and they encouraged me to write a piece on what the 358 was like from the point of view of a driver who couldn’t get enough of it as a cultural artifact.

Of course I was excited by the invite. I’d been to the website before and was impressed, but also intimidated. My stories are mini-narratives with no data on offer about housing, transit infrastructure, zoning… they’re just about people. My posts don’t have any numbers in them. I want to be part of this, but wouldn’t I be out of place? 

That’s exactly why we need you, they said. People need to remember that after reading about mobility law, tenant rights, bus lanes, rights of way, bikeshares, density bills, pre-tax pass policies, rail alignments, fare hikes, signal investments…

It’s easy to forget that what we’re actually talking about are people. You, me. Somebody’s grandmother. And that’s what these stories remind us of, the human element. We have to remember this is all really about real people. And what does that look like, and feel like? How does it sound? That’s why the bus stories, they explained. 

I was humbled. And excited. I still am. It’s been an honor to contribute in my own small way to the beautiful collective mass of information and reflection that this website is.

If you’ve enjoyed the stories (which will keep coming–never fear!), you may know (from a previous post) that there’s a book version of them being released at a show of mine this Saturday.

But I wanted to extend a personal invite to you, The Urbanist readership and staff, because it means something important to me when the stories resonate with those of us with a passion for urban planning, politics and execution. You guys get the bigger picture, the micro and macro, the machinations behind the day-to-day interactions.  You know the size of things and the effort that goes into their being. You care about the betterment of the city and its population as a collective. And that perspective means you get a certain something out of these bus stories that is unique, steeped in the cultured context of knowledge and time.

How could I not invite you personally?

Perhaps I’ll see you Saturday. Details and location here.

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Nathan Vass has had work displayed in over twenty photography shows, designed a book and three album covers, including two for Neil Welch. His “My Favorite Things” tour at Seattle Art Museum was the highest-attended such tour there. Nathan is also the director of eight films, four of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. He owns a photography business, Two Photography, with Larry Huang, and has photographed a dozen-plus weddings. Born in South Central LA, he holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Washington, and is also a prolific writer and sometime painter. Formerly a Hollywood resident, he still contributes film reviews to Erik Samdahl's site, Filmjabber. In addition, he holds a side job as a public bus driver, which he enjoys almost as much as directing films- if not slightly more so! He is a two-time winner of Metro’s Operator of the Month award and holds a record number of commendations.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hey Nathan I love your stories about transit around Seattle as having lived at the end of the former route 174 in S Federal Way for 17 year’s I finally ended up in Spokane because of a lengthy illness, anyways we have issues here in Spokane with transit we have 4 bus routes that driver’s avoid the #61 to Airway Heights and onto Fairchild AFB which this route passes by two casino’s it has it’s issues people that have lost their paychecks and then the homeless that surround my neighborhood packed with a stench this route sucks, and then we have the #25 N. Division, finally after several decade’s STA of being a packed bus being stuffed against the window from downtown Spokane to the end of the line because of a large shopping mall and several other shopping centers and a hospital that I gave up riding this foul mouthed stinky bus, thank God Spokane Transit Authority put a 60 foot artic bus on this route with 3 doors and finally the two last routes #29 SCC and the #90 which goes by the Union Gospel Mission and the social security office, the stench on both routes that run by the hellish House of Charity homeless shelter, I finally got a car and do not miss riding a Spokane Transit bus, anyways Nathan we have problems in Spokane and I thought I would share my story this side of the Cascades and enjoy reading your articles! 😀😀😀

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