Monday, 27 January, 2020

Laughing Gas on the 120


Picture 1


The actual words spoken were not so much the meat of the exchange. It was the noises in between. You have to imagine the bubbling, incandescent laughter- perhaps giggling is a more accurate term- which emanated from both of us, for the duration of the conversation.

He came forward at southbound Union, late in the evening on a 120. One of his eyes seemed in a permanent state of half-closure, an exaggeration of the Alfie-era Michael Caine’s lidded stare, but this didn’t dim his demeanor in the slightest. His outer coat was scruffy while still being presentable, if such a thing is possible; it was a multi-purpose outfit, muted colors and ambiguous textures, a manner of dress you could reasonably get away with at a sporting event, a housewarming party, and that spiderweb network of sewers underneath UW (no need to go home and change!). Which is to say, he’d fit in just about anywhere.

I wonder now if I thought that because his ebullient presence overwhelmed one into simply ignoring his outfit, the details of which I have trouble recalling. I’d place him in his mid-forties, with an eleven o’clock shave (it was about that hour, after all), from a country of origin I couldn’t determine. He spoke English well enough.

“How far down Third do you go?” he asked.
“Um, actually just,”
“Is it just the next one?”
“Yeah.” Here he laughed, and I laughed, and for some reason we didn’t really ever stop.
“Okay!” Bubbling out. “I’m glad I asked!”
“Perfect timing! How’s your day been?”
“Good. And you?”
“Fantastic,” I said, with emphasis. He chuckled as I continued: “I’m alive; no accidents;” I clasped my hands together in a gesture of thankful supplication, adding, “everything is beautiful!”

He knew I meant it, but the statement has an added element of ridiculousness when sitting at a red light at Third and University in the middle of the night. He laughed again, we both did, skating on the frame of mind that lets you see levels, finding amusement in everything.

He says, “yeah, the stress! And plus the vehicle is so heavy!”
“I have to stay happy!”
Chortles, rising up.
“Yeah, it’ll get to you! I drive truck.”
“Oh. Excellent! You know how it is!”
“Yeah, I’m always trying to avoid accidents because we’re so wide,”
“So wide, so long,”
Our shared agreement manifests itself in gleeful merriment. I don’t know what the rest of the bus thinking. Maybe they feel it too; who knows.

At a red light I follow up on his words, saying in a serious tone, “plus you have to be careful because it’s your job too.”
“Yeah, I look at my mirrors all the time.”
Mystifyingly, this gets us cracking up again. “The mirrors, yes! constantly! I stare at them all day!”
Effervescent mirth, though we’ve got only the tiniest of ingredients to work with. The turning green light at Seneca releases us.
“So do you do cross-country, or,”
“Just local,” he responds.
“Good, that’s nice. Don’t have to drive to Florida. That’s always handy.”
You would have thought we were under the influence of something. I wave big at an operator across the street, as loud as a silent gesture can get.
“Do you like it?” I ask him. “The job?”
He pauses before replying. I start tittering. “It’s good,” he says hesitantly. We’re at it again.

Third and Spring, our last stop on Third: “Okay, here it is,” I say.
“Thank you. Have a good night, be safe!”
Okay, you be safe too!”
“You too, be safe!”

He had a slight accent, but laughter has no culture of origin. His and mine intertwined together, fluently, authentically, even after I drove away, echoing in my greetings to the incoming people.

“Welcome everyone, this is a 120,” I announce into the microphone as we approach the turn on Columbia. I’m still riding the mirthful wave, hardly able to control my happiness. Where did it come from? It colors my voice and enunciation, living in the syllables and word choice, hanging in the air of my living room full of strangers. I can see the older Latino gentlemen looking up at me, looking at each other, enjoying the sensation of being here. “Makin’ our last stop downtown here at Columbia,” I say, “by the ferry terminal. Tonight we’re gonna go out to White Center. After that we’ll go to Burien!”

I wanted to add a “hooray” at the end, but thought better of it!

Sunday Video: Transit and Citizen Engagement


Light Rail, Citizen Engagement and the Birth of Rail~Volution

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) discusses his past life as a Multnomah County Commissioner and the foundation of Rail~Volution.

Online Survey for New SDOT Director

The Broadway cycletrack. Courtesy of SDOT.
The Broadway cycletrack. Courtesy of SDOT.

Mayor Murray is in search of a new Director for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). In December, SDOT Director Peter Hahn left for greener pastures. Since then, Goran Sparrman has been acting as Interim Director for the department. Last week, Mayor Murray stated his priorities in searching for new a director:

We’re looking for a leader who can develop a comprehensive strategy to harmonize the many transportation options available in our city. As Seattle continues to grow, our multi-modal offerings must be coordinated with one another and with regional systems. We need to stay true to the goals of our City’s pedestrian, bicycle, transit and freight plans, but the larger goal is to integrate these modes to move people and goods seamlessly and efficiently.

We think this succinctly describes the progressive transportation values that Seattleites expect in city government. In keeping with the Mayor’s policy of public involvement, he has offered up an opportunity for residents to have a say. Specifically, he would like to know priorities people feel are most important, how SDOT can improve, and what has worked in the past. Ultimately, this should help the Mayor’s Office determine what type of candidate that they should seek for the next head of SDOT. Take a few minutes to give your feedback in the online survey. The questions are brief and open-ended.

Mayor Murray intends to have a new director in place by mid-June.

Downtown Bellevue Open House

Bellevue Transit Center
Bellevue Transit Center. Photo by the author.

On March 25, Sound Transit held an open house for the Downtown Bellevue Segment of East Link. This segment covers everything north of Main Street and west of 120th Ave NE, including the Bellevue Transit Center and Hospital stations.

Downtown Bellevue SegmentThe Bellevue Transit Center station, located on the south side of NE 6th St between 110th Ave NE and 112th Ave NE, will serve downtown Bellevue. The station design has evolved considerably since last spring’s open house. In response to public feedback, Sound Transit changed the station’s layout to include three different canopies on each side, separated by twenty-foot gaps. With the new layout, riders will be sheltered from the elements from the moment they enter the platform until the moment they board their train. A large umbrella-like canopy will be installed at the west entrance of the station as well.

The presenters pointed out that there will be some empty space above the tunnel portal and below the west entrance plaza, which Sound Transit plans to use for art. The large space offers the potential for a dramatic, iconic art installation, that could even become a symbol of Bellevue over time.

Finally, the station will be designed to maximize growth on an adjacent parcel, currently owned by King County Metro. The parcel is currently zoned for buildings up to 200 feet high, or about 20 floors. Fire walls along the station boundary will allow the construction of such a building directly adjacent to the station, without needing any setbacks.

Train-to-bus connections will require a walk across 110th Ave NE to the Bellevue Transit Center. At the 30% design open house, several people suggested a tunnel crossing between the station’s mezzanine level and the Bellevue Transit Center platform, allowing riders to connect between trains and buses without crossing traffic. Such a crossing would be cost-prohibitive for the time being. However, I did urge Sound Transit to design the mezzanine level so that a pedestrian tunnel could be added later.

The Hospital station will be located on the north side of NE 8th St and along the alignment of the old BNSF right-of-way. It will serve Overlake Hospital Medical Center and adjacent medical facilities, as well as the Wilburton and Lake Bellevue neighborhoods. To help transit riders reach the hospital more quickly and efficiently, Sound Transit will build a path to link the north end of the platform with 116th Ave NE, passing just behind the Design Market strip mall. The small loop in front of the station will be used for passenger drop-off and pick-up as well as Metro’s Access Transportation paratransit service. The RapidRide B Line stops on NE 8th St will be moved to be right in front of the station; along with a new crosswalk under the light rail tracks, this will provide decent train-to-bus connections. The station platform will also feature windshields to block out southern winds.

The station construction will involve the daylighting of Sturtevant Creek, which links Lake Bellevue and Mercer Slough. The creek will run under the station, and a small bridge will connect the station entrance with the path to 116th Ave NE.

Big Update to the Transit App


Eastbound 44 on the Transit App.

Transit apps have revolutionized the way we use transit. Transit riders no longer need to carry around a paper schedule of a route or know where the nearest stop is. An app can provide that information instead, often with real-time arrival data on-the-fly. When transit apps originally came out, compiling data from multiple transit agencies was challenging. Apps usually served a few transit agencies or one type of transit mode as opposed to many, often unrelated ones.

This has changed rapidly as transit apps have become much more sophisticated. In many instances, transit apps are uniquely specialized. Want to calculate the cost of a transit trip? Or how about which door of a train you should board so that you can exit a station most quickly? Yep, you can find apps just for those purposes. For the typical rider, though, there are core features wewant in an app, and those probably aren’t one of them.

OneBusAway has been a practical and integral player in the transit app market for Seattle. Originally developed by University of Washington students as a class project, the app was later acquired by Sound Transit. The pace of the app’s development has been slow and not as inclusive as other transit app developers. Recognising a gap in the market for a more dynamic transit app, developers of the Transit App added the Puget Sound in 2012 as part of their supported regions.

The Transit App developers have created a transit app that’s clean, intuitive, and universal for users. The app offers useful features like offline schedules, trip planning, use in other cities, and real-time arrival information (where available). The developers have diligently updated thequality and capabilities of their app. Last week was perhaps the biggest update yet to the app with a completely refreshed version for iOS users.

More after the jump.

Greenwood Transit and Sidewalk Open House Report

Bike lane behind bus bulb. Attributed to SDOT.
Bike lane behind bus bulb. Attributed to SDOT.

On March 26, 2014, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) held an open house for the Greenwood Transit and Sidewalk Project. The project involves building sidewalks and upgrading bus stops along Greenwood Ave N between N 90th St and N 105th St. The new bus stops will feature bus bulbs so that buses can stop without having to exit and re-enter travel lanes. In addition, the bike lanes will be rerouted so that they flow between the bus stops and the sidewalk, similar to the bus stops on Dexter Ave.

The open house was largely a recap of information that SDOT had already announced, but there were some new tidbits. The highlight of the evening was an informal announcement that SDOT is exploring the possibility of simultaneously constructing sidewalks on both sides of Greenwood Ave N. SDOT also revealed that construction is scheduled to start between October 2014 and March 2015 and is expected to take 6-10 months to complete. Finally, in the next year or two, SDOT will begin a complete corridor review of Greenwood Ave N, which may include bus bulbs, stop consolidation, and other transit improvements.

More after the jump.

Capturing Underlying Patterns of Urban Street Design


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Chuck Wolfe and was originally published on


Have you ever wondered why some places seem built for automobiles as opposed to humans?

In a recent study, J. Alexander Maxwell and fellow researchers from the University of Strathclyde’s Urban Design Studies Unit found evidence that before the rise of the automobile, cities developed on a walkable “human” scale, with main streets that rarely exceeded 400 meters (a little more than 437 yards).

I recently joined Mr. Maxwell as co-author of an article in the London School of Economics and Political Science American Politics and Policy Blog. Together, we argue that this uniformity reveals an underlying pattern to pedestrian city settings, which merits renewed attention in contemporary urban design and policies.

Read our article here.

Image composed by the author in Aix-en-Provence, France. Click on the image for more detail. © 2009-2014 myurbanist.  All Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

See more from the myurbanist archives.

Seattle Metronatural


If you’re in need of a little pick-me-up today, you’re just in luck! Visit Seattle has a new, quirky little video that will leave you smiling and falling in love with this city all over again (as if that doesn’t happen every day anyway!) But this video is more than just a tribute to a great city, it highlights many Seattle’s best attributes: diversity, environment, recreation, art and culture, neighborhood business, livability, transportation, opportunity, and so much more. These are the things that great cities are made of. Here’s to Seattle!