Thursday, 27 February, 2020





A collection of interesting moments I’ve had recently, which all strike me with the unexpected nature of how events sequence themselves….

* * * *

What the uninitiated would call a “crazy lady” boards and sits near the front. She speaks to the air in front of her. Another woman with more regular brain function, strangely affluent for the 7 and somewhat out of place as a result, boards at Union without paying. “I owe you $2,” she says by way of explanation, and sits next to the unstable speaker. She ends up earning her ride through much more useful means than paying me cash–she speaks to the rambling woman next to her and keeps her at bay, artfully engaging her and keeping the thread of decorum alive. She probably didn’t know how valuable her presence would end up being on the bus, but I was very grateful. “This one’s on the house,” I said later.

* * * *

“God bless you,” says a thug at Henderson after I give his friend a transfer. He shakes my hand in the ebullient glow of acceptance. Two hours from now he will be in the Saar’s parking lot, fighting another young man, smile gone and a crowd gathering.

* * * *

Two young men in an unwashed beige four-door, let’s call it a Honda or Nissan or somesuch, nothing fancy. They catch my eye as I jog across the street in Rainier Beach because one is black and the other is white, and both seem dressed like– well, as if they just applied to Dartmouth and both like listening to classical music and progressive talk radio. Less than twenty minutes later I’ll see them again. The beige car will be smoldering and crumpled from the rear. They’ll be standing outside, hands on hips and foreheads, nerves fraught and struggling for balance. But that hasn’t happened yet. For now they’re simply driving, laughing about something, carefree and present.

* * * *

A wheelchair is rising up on the lift. One set of wheelchair seats is occupied by an older Muslim woman. The other is a white guy in a suit in his forties–the only white guy in sight, and currently the only fellow around with a suit. He remains motionless as the wheelchair enters. Seeing this, the Muslim woman offers her seat instead to the wheelchair. I stand and walk back to get the straps, and right as the Muslim woman is hesitantly moving out of the way, before I can catch myself, I’ve said it out loud to the Man in the Suit:
“You don’t feel like movin’?”
When he stares slowly and doesn’t respond I say “okay,” and ask after the wheelchair lady’s day. Prejudice earns my disrespect very easily, and I try to forget about it. I ought not to have said anything.
But he pipes up carefully and politely during a break in the conversation: “I actually just finished donating blood. I’m feeling, really woozy right now.”
I stand there a second and take him in as an individual. He wasn’t a rich white guy preening at all the colored folk around him. No, he was merely a guy, a guy working through some issues, like every single other person. How idiotic of me.
“Oh my goodness, okay. I understand. You’re fine. You should relax.”
“Thank you.”
“Oh yeah, let’s get you home.” Pause. “Listen, I didn’t mean to be testy in my tone back there.”
“Hey, you’re okay. All you did was ask a question.”
“Thanks for understanding.”
He’ll say the same to me when he leaves.

* * * *

I’m sitting in my seat, turned completely around, elbow on the farebox, talking down two violently furious drunk men. Both have verbally assaulted myself, others, and each other, and will continue to do so with increasing intensity for much of the remaining ride. The police will prove particularly useless this afternoon, both in their failure to respond but more curiously in one officer’s regrettable behavior to one of the principals as he boarded, thus instigating the debacle in the first place. I aim for that delicate mixture of asserting myself and remaining flexible, bending like reeds in the wind and never breaking.

One of the screaming men, drowning in a pathetic and ugly hostility, continually restates his former military status. I feel the heady rush of working, really working, struggling to stay on top of a situation. I wonder when I’ll see this man again–probably sooner rather than later. I don’t know that it’ll be just a week, exactly a week, and although next Friday afternoon he will be unkind and unhappy, he will also be sober. He will sneak on the back, all rage and muscle, never mind the fare, tearing his own transfer in a rash of entitlement. But, as he deboards at Othello I’ll say to him, without irony, “Thank you, mister Navy Seal! Thank you for serving!”

And he will slow a little, disoriented and uncharacteristically appreciative, stumbling through words of gratefulness he’s not used to using. His voice is an odd fit for “thank you,” but he does his best. Confusion. I want to hug the guy, but as in hugging a porcupine, I have myself to consider. I hope he finds more of what is missing in his life.

Pronto! is on its way to a block near you

Pronto! bikes in Occidental Park by Charles Cooper.
Pronto! bikes in Occidental Park by Charles Cooper.

Pronto! bikes are already circulating the city. They’ll be available for all users beginning at 1pm. See our earlier coverage on the launch from this morning for more information or the Pronto! blog.

Indigenous People’s Day 2014

Chief Sealth by Great Beyond on Flickr.

On October 6th, 2014, something monumental happened in Seattle–no, I’m not talking about the Seahawks win (though more on that in a moment), I’m talking about the Seattle City Council passing a resolution to honor Indigenous People’s Day on the Day Formerly Known as Columbus Day (DFKACD). This resolution sets aside the second Monday of October as a day to honor indigenous people in the City of Seattle.

The passage of this resolution is nothing new, and in fact, it comes years after a similar measure in Berkeley and this year’s measure in Minneapolis, and well after states like Alaska decided to stop honoring Columbus on that day. The day is certainly novel in some respects, but it isn’t without precedent, nor is it new: according to resolution author Matt Remle (link below), this has been an idea since at least 1977.

This resolution, sponsored by Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Kshama Sawant, was initially set to be voted upon last month, but with an eye toward the publicity and teachable moment of its enactment the vote was pushed back (much to this author’s chagrin, though I’m just one person). After a contentious committee meeting the resolution moved toward a unanimous passage before the full council on the same day the Seahawks defeated the DC Football Team. Symbolism all around. And a statement by measure co-sponsor Councilmember Kshama Sawant, co-sponsor of the measure, made a very important statement on the passage of the new reconized holiday.

Given the struggle of being native in Seattle this measure is a welcome gesture of decency and goodwill from the Seattle City Council, and it isn’t just about a name. This resolution also urges the teaching of curriculum promoted by state Senator (and then-Rep.) John McCoy (D-Tulalip) under HB 1495 (2005) and it reaffirms the city’s commitment to solid relationships with the Native American, Alaska Native and, indeed, all indigenous cultures currently residing in and around Seattle.

For more information on the resolution, you can learn about it directly from its fantastic author, Matt Remle (Hunkpapa Lakota).

Signing of the resolution takes place at 4pm in the Bertha Knight Landes Hall at City Hall. Celebration will occur at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center from 2pm to 9pm.

The countdown is over: Pronto! launches today!


Pronto at 43rd

You might think that today is just another gloomy fall day in Seattle, but you’d be mistaken. Starting today, the bright green Pronto! bikes will light up your day!

In spite of unforeseen delays due to funding and technical problems, the Pronto! Bicycle Share program is ready to launch! It will be the first bike share of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. The system will let locals and tourists alike use 500 bikes spread out over 50 stations around close-in, destination neighborhoods like Downtown, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill and the University district.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Pronto! Cycle Share executive director Holly Houser, and other officials will launch the system this morning at 11am in Pioneer Square’s Occidental Park. The bikes will then become available for members to pedal out toward stations around town. Think of it as a prelude parade northward to say “Pronto! is here!” If you want to be a part of the inaugural ride, be sure to get there before the 11am press conference.

Other local rides will be taking place across city neighborhoods at 12pm, but you have to sign up online. After all the post-inaugural festivities, the system will be available in the afternoon to anyone with a membership or who buys a temporary user pass. If you’re looking for bikes, you can always download The Transit App which natively supports real-time information and station locations (or use the online map). It’s also not too late to sign up for the program. We have some of the details on cost and how the system works.

Together with the Second Avenue cycle track and other infrastructure improvements coming online throughout the city, the bike share program is on the way to making Seattle a world-class bike-friendly city. Let’s now welcome Pronto! to the Emerald City!

Sunday Video: A Green Duwamish


Green/Duwamish Watershed Strategy by King County on Vimeo.

What We’re Reading: Showing Off Because They Can

Visualization of Markthal in Rotterdamn by JanvanHelleman on Flickr.

Arrogance of space: Latvians take the whole arrogance of space thing seriously by biking around and showing how wasted space is by cars.

Fair share streets: Sightline continues its series on creating fair share streets by taking a look at bunch of case studies.

Let the kids bus it: A parent writes about letting kids bus themselves around; it’s not as scary as people think it is.

Designing the bills: A Norwegian architecture firm is tapped to redesign Norway’s paper currency, the results are beautiful.

Underground: A look into the London Underground’s “ghost stations”, and a sneak peek at the new driverless trains for the 2020s.

Subsidizing drivers: A DC bicyclist asks the real question, why should non-drivers subsidize drivers?

Improved health: King County leads the way for healthcare enrollment under Obamacare, but the state is making progress elsewhere,too.

A big divide: Census data shows that there is a big divide between even Gen Xers and Millenials when it comes to driving habits.

Microhousing rule change: The Seattle City Council has adopted a new set of rules from microhousing.

Room to grow: Capitol Hill still has tons of capacity remaining for growth, 71% left to be exact.

Wooden skyscrapers: Timber construction of skyscrapers might be the future, they’re quick to build and cheaper. It’s just a matter of building codes to allow them.

Thin the lanes: 12-foot lanes are a disaster for pedestrians and cyclists, but they’re also bad for actually moving traffic, too.

Radical projects: 13 projects that could entirely change the way we look at London.

On the edge: Two new projects that are on the edge of Capitol Hill, and they look great.

Be practical: A transit advocate ask the legitimate question of why can’t transportation mega-projects be more practical to extend the value of the investment.

50 years: A look at how high-speed rail in Japan has been completely transformative.

First of its kind: A co-housing development breaks ground on Capitol Hill, hopefully we’ll see more.

History lesson: A brief history on the Seattle Waterfront and a sweet map to go with it.

A head turner: Michigan’s DOT is embarking on a two-year study on a multi-use street in Kalamazoo, and would you guess that it includes protected bike lanes and a trimmed down street?

Showing off: Dutch designers delivered a fascinating and beautiful new building to Rotterdam.

Another small tweak: SDOT makes another modification to the Second Avenue bike lanes after two accidents.

Tweet of the Week: OMG, new trolleybuses

Seattle Metro 1990-1 Breda AETB 4231 Olive Way at Summit by Ian Fisher on Flickr.

The days of the old Breda and Phantom electric trolleybuses are numbered. Here’s a sneak peak at one of the new 40-foot low-floor electric trolleybuses. Built by New Flyer, the bus is wrapped in Metro purple and gold. You should start seeing them in regular service come 2015 in both 40-foot and 60-foot variants.

UPDATE: Metro posted some extra photos today on their Facebook page.

Let’s Hear it for Rats


Picture 6


Conversations from the middle of the night:

A man, asking the woman with her arm in a sling:
“Is that a mouse?”
She manages to be old, sprightly, craggy, skinny, tattered, wounded, exhausted, and energetic all at once. The man several seats behind is asking about her pet animal, nestled in a sea of coat pockets and crevices.
“Huh? No, it’s a rat. A mouse is a fish with fur.”
“A fish with fur?” He laughs. “I thought mice were supposed to be all cute and shit.”
“No, mice are just like fish in terms of how they get attached to stuff. Rats are, rats,”
“Rats got more personality?”
“Yeah, rats are more emotional.” Just like a dog or other pets. “They remember you. Mice, mice just, fuckin….”

She gets detailed, expounding on why there are lab rats as opposed to lab mice, how rats imprint on their owners, size and cleanliness concerns, and more. The man learned more about rats in ten minutes than he probably has in a lifetime. Last night she got on my bus with a broken wrist, the hand extending in a painfully impossible angle. She’s confident she’ll need surgery, but tonight is better. There is a cast and sling.

Very late last night her boyfriend, a pony-tailed, camo-jacketed grizzle of a man in his sixties, rode back with me after dropping her off at the hospital.  Some people can talk with that confiding and friendly air which makes you feel like you’ve known them for years. With merely their voice they put their arm around you, and you feel privileged, like you’ve made it into their inner circle. Presidents know how to do this, and so does the rat-owning lady’s boyfriend on the 7.

We spoke in warm tones about his son and newly born grandson, about the heavy rainfall in Texas, the value of traveling, and a day when he asked his twenty-three year old son to help with some manual labor. The father, despite being two generations older, ran circles around his son, and we reveled in the fact that old age can still mean life, setting a good example, and showing the world how it’s done.