Different Commutes

Today was the 10th anniversary of the Seattle Streetcar. In celebration, both streetcar lines were free all day. This didn’t mean a whole lot to me, since my employer pays the full cost of my ORCA card, so technically, the streetcars are always free for me (unless you factor in the cost of the labor I put in to get that ORCA card – which I don’t). Still, I love our streetcars, and I thought this was pretty cool.

It’s been too long since I last rode the First Hill Streetcar, and a whole long longer since I’ve had the opportunity to ride the South Lake Union Streetcar.

I left work this evening and walked down to Jackson Street, getting stopped by “Don’t Walk” signs the whole way. (I was in no hurry. As always, I’m a fan of the slow commute.) I got to Jackson just as a streetcar was pulling into the stop. (Oh well, I’ll wait for the next one.)

I stepped onto the platform as the streetcar was loading passengers. I reached the back of the streetcar as the “Doors Closing” signal started sounding. (Oh well.) But the doors stayed open. It seemed that the driver was waiting for me. I quickened my pace and stepped into the streetcar. (Thanks, driver!)

I wanted to snap a photo or two on my commute home, but I had no waiting time on the platform, it was too crowded inside the streetcar to get a photo without someone’s face in it, and it was too dark outside to get a reflection-free photo out the window. (There were empty seats here and there, but many people seemed to prefer standing.)

It was a quick ride home, but with the walk down to Jackson, I got home a little later than usual. (It was not one of the more direct ways home.)

Yesterday, Phillip and I met up at Pacific Place after work, to see a movie. I rode a Link train from Pioneer Square Station to Westlake Station. Then I went up through Nordstrom, and over the sky bridge to Pacific Place, where I found Phillip waiting for me.

It was an hour until the movie started, so we had dinner at Johnny Rockets.

Cristina met us at the theater, early enough that we could have waited dinner for her, but we didn’t know when she’d arrive. (Sorry, Cristina.) The three of us hung out in the lobby and had a nice chat.

Michael found us after we’d found seats in the theater.

The movie, by the way, was Coco. It was wonderful. I highly recommend it. I’d love to own the DVD someday. I’m pretty sure all four of us were crying by the end. (There’s a little more to the crying, which I may, or may not, expand on later.)

After the movie, we all said goodbye, and Phillip and I walked over the bus stop near The Paramount, where, we learned, Hilary Clinton was speaking. We just missed a 49 bus, and had a 13 minute wait for the next one. (It was a pleasant night out, so it was a nice wait.) Then we walked home from Broadway.

And, of course, last Friday I rode home via the U District on the 74 bus.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have a more typical commute home.

I Made It To Work

Yesterday afternoon, Phillip notified me that, according to the Seattle City Light map, power was out in our neighborhood. Neither one of us were home, so there wasn’t anything we could do about it.

Three hours later, I checked the map. Power was back on. That’s the way power outages typically occur in our neighborhood: When power does go out, it’s never out for more than an hour or two. (Well, except for that night when it was out for eight or nine hours.)

We got home and reset the clocks in our apartment. These days, that’s only two clocks – the bedroom clock and the microwave. We’re content to let the VCR blink 12:00. (Having no cable TV, there’s nothing to set to record.)

My weekday mornings have four important times: First, when I wake up; then, when I get Phillip out the door if he’s riding a bus to work; then, when I get Phillip out the door if he’s driving to work; and finally, when I get myself out the door.

The bedroom alarm wakes me up, and then my phone’s alarms remind me of the other three times.

I woke up this morning before the alarm went off. Then something – I have no idea what – told me something was wrong. I looked at the clock. It was the time I’d normally be getting Phillip up to catch the bus. The alarm hadn’t gone off. We’d set the alarm incorrectly.

We both rushed through getting ready. Normally, we’d have our own times without getting in each other’s ways, but not this morning. Phillip managed to get out the door, catch a bus, and get to work on time. I managed to get myself out the door on time, with my hair still wet.

On the Westlake Station platform, a stranger asked me if this was where the train to the airport stops.

“Yes, it is,” I answered.

“Well, how would I know that?” he asked.

“There are signs, like that one,” I replied, pointing to the sign above our heads. Then, worried that that might have sounded sarcastic, I added, “Or you could ask someone standing around.” The stranger laughed at that.

A moment or two later, that same stranger asked me, “Do all the trains stop at every station? I mean, are there express trains?”

“No, they all stop at every station. From here, the train will get to the airport in about thirty-seven minutes.”

“Oh, that’s perfect.”

I got to work on time, of course. A coworker, who typically arrives before me, arrived a few minutes after me. Her bus had broken down. She was on time for work, however. (She, like me, allows for a flexible commute.)

Right after my coworker and I exchanged stories of our atypical commutes, I received a text message. Link light rail service was temporarily disrupted. Five minutes after that, Link service was back.

My Commute

I had to fill out a survey at work today. It was a survey about my commuting habits. It was required by the city. (I don’t know if “required” or “requested” is the right word.)

I actually enjoy completing surveys, especially when they help my city understand overall commuting trends. It likely helped my employer get whatever benefits it gets from reducing traffic Downtown.

It was a short, quick survey – all multiple choice. It asked only about my trips from home to work last week.

I worked five days last week, Monday through Friday. I don’t telecommute. My one-way commute is two miles.

I rode either a bus, train, light rail, or streetcar five times. I used two transit agencies: King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit. I used a single-occupancy vehicle zero times. (I’m assuming that excludes a bicycle or motorcycle, but even if it didn’t, the answer would still be zero.)

I was asked to pick up to three reasons why I didn’t commute in a single-occupancy vehicles. My employer subsidizes my transit pass. Parking is expensive. It’s good for my physical and mental well-being.

The Bus Route That Must Not Be Named

The 47 bus didn’t show up again this morning. And, once again, I didn’t receive a text alert about the service disruption.

I got to work on time, of course. I walked over to Olive Way and caught a 10. A couple of people from my bus stop did, too. Another rider caught up with the 10 on Pine Street. I saw one other person walking to Downtown.

I filed a complaint with Metro Transit when I got to work. My complaint was not that the 47 didn’t show up. (With the narrow streets in my neighborhood, all it takes is one delivery truck to bring the 47 to a halt.) My complaint was that I never, ever receive text alerts about the 47, and I wanted to know why. I added that I’ve signed up for text alerts for several routes in my general area, as well as Link light rail and the First Hill Streetcar, and I receive those with no problem. It’s only the 47 that Metro seems to forget.

Metro Transit’s complaint system is so automated that I don’t expect a reply that actually addresses my concern. I just felt the need to complain.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve voiced this concern. I added it in a comment in a recent Rider Survey.

Last week, I received a text alert that read: “Transit service will be rerouted during the Mercer x Summit Block Party on 8/19”. This is my point: There was only one route rerouted by that block party, and it wasn’t specified in the alert. Metro can’t even name the 47.

That’s the end of my rant. For now.

I was moved into my new cubicle today. I’m now on a lower floor, and farther away from the bathroom, the lunchroom, and the coffee pots. Those are the only negatives.

I’m in a much nicer space now – even better than any desk I had before the temporary move into the conference room. I sit with my back to the window, as I did before the move, but now, for the first time, there are no cubicles between me and the view. The view is more interesting than before, too. (There’s more variety of things to see.) And when I do stop admiring the view and get back to work, my group is in a better layout than before.

After a not-so-happy commute, my workday turned into a nice change of scenery.

Just As I Thought

I’ve gotten into the habit of riding the 47 bus home for the past couple of weeks. Today, I had a hold waiting at the library, so I rode Link.

Pioneer Square Station felt different. It seemed noisier. There was an aura to it that I couldn’t quite identify. I went down the stairs from the mezzanine, and saw that the platform was packed with people.

There was either a transit disruption or a sporting event somewhere, I figured.

A northbound 2-car Link train was just leaving the station. I made my way down the platform, but before I got halfway, a northbound 3-car Link train arrived. I didn’t have time to get to the third car, so I boarded the middle car. Despite having a train less than a minute ahead of it, this car was packed. I managed to find a seat, however.

It had to have been a game, and judging by how happy everyone seemed, we must had won.

Just as I thought, the Mariners played the Orioles this afternoon, and we won 7-6.

Meanwhile, we received an email at work today, telling us the final phase of the move will start in two days – or maybe a day and a half. I’ll be moving out of a cramped meeting room and into a proper cubicle on another floor.

They never did move a third person into our room, and my roommate and I have gotten along well, but I will be very happy to get out of there. I’ll be happy to have a window again. I’ll be happy to have a proper filing system again – one other than papers stacked on a table top. I’ll be happy to find my scissors again.

But, really, it hasn’t been bad.

Air-Conditioned Buses

We’ve started an Excessive Heat Warning in Seattle. It started today. Temperatures will be in the 90s through Friday.

It was standing room only on the 47 bus this morning. That’s unusual. My guess is that it had to do with the weather. Why walk when the buses are air-conditioned?

At work, we’re advised to turn off all unnecessary lights (always good advice), and to lower the window shades – to keep the building cool. Of course, on our side of the building these days, the majority of people are construction workers tearing down the cubicles.

The move is going well. I’m impressed. Any problems that do crop up are quickly fixed by management. I doubt I’ll get used to working out of a box at my feet, but we’re all doing our best.

I chose to ride a 47 bus home, to lessen my walking time. (It’s not a bad idea.) The 1 bus going up 3rd Avenue was jam-packed. The 47 wasn’t nearly as full, but that was probably because a 10 and 11 stopped right before it.

The highlight of my commute home was passing by The Eagle just in time to see a family of tourists stop to take a group photo in front of the building. I suspect that they were posing into front of the rainbow streamers, rather than in front of a leather bar. I could be wrong however.

Weird Timing

I’ve been riding the 47 bus home every day this week. The weather’s been nice, and a bus offers a better view than Link. I’ve had no holds come in at the library, so there’s been no need to be up on Broadway.

Taking the bus home involves a couple of minutes wait on 3rd Avenue, and a 5 or 6 minute wait at 4th and Pike for the 47. Overall, it evens out to the walk home from Capitol Hill Station.

I left my desk at my usual time. As I walked over to the 3rd Ave bus stop, I remembered that I hadn’t ridden the streetcar home in quite a while. But I continued on the bus stop.

My wait on 3rd Avenue didn’t feel any longer or shorter than usual. It was a little odd that the first bus to arrive was a route 1 bus. Usually, it’s a 3, 4, 7 or a 70.

I got to 4th and Pike just as a 49 bus arrived. I checked OneBusAway. A 47 bus had left 2 minutes ago, and the next one was due in 19 minutes. I have no idea what happened – if my timing was off, or if something had happened to the 47.

I put my phone away. The 49 was still loading. I boarded it, and ended up with a good view on the ride home. Plus, I ended up walking past the library, even though I had no reason to go in. 

Morning Message

I decided, on a whim, to walk up the hill this morning and ride Link light rail all the way to work. I dropped a book off at the Capitol Hill Library and saw a mysterious typewriter in some bushes.

A half-block from Capitol Hill Station, I received a text message. “Link light rail is temporarily interrupted due to an emergency at Angle Lake Station. Updates will be provided as information become available.”

I wondered what kind of emergency at the southernmost station could shut down the whole system. I crossed Broadway and went to the stop for the 10 bus to Downtown.

I had no reason to check OneBusAway. The 10 or the 43 would be by shortly, and there was no benefit in knowing when. Still, it was something to pass the time.

When I unlocked my phone, I saw that a second alert had come in, one minute after the first. “Link light rail has resumed normal operation and service at all stations.”

That was very odd.

I crossed Broadway again, entered Capitol Hill Station, and had just enough time to post a photo of that typewriter before the train arrived.

I’ve been noticing that more and more people have figured out that our light rail trains have an exterior button to open the doors, but haven’t yet figured out the the button works only when it’s lit up. Once the doors close, and the train’s brakes are released, you can pound on the button as many times as you want, but the doors won’t open and the train is still going to leave the station.

A New Way Home

Since I was coming home to an empty apartment this evening, I decided to experiment with a new commute home.

I walked south along 5th Avenue, through Pioneer Square, under Yesler Way, and into the International District. It’s a part of town I’ve never walked through before. Obviously, I saw sights I’d never seen before – government buildings and apartments, with mix of old and new architecture. It was a nice walk – not very hilly.

I was about two blocks away when I saw two streetcars arrive, and depart, at the stop at 5th & Jackson.

I got to the streetcar stop. The arrival sign said the next one was due in 10 minutes. OneBusAway agreed. They were both right.

I rode on the “Japantown” streetcar, which, until today, I thought was rather pretty. Well, I still think it’s pretty, but the problem today was that I chose the seat next to the window with the big flower on it. I’d never noticed this before, but those decals are not transparent. That big flower blocks almost all of the view. All of those inkbrush lines do, really, but that flower is the worst window blocker.

Japantown Streetcar

This photo wasn’t taken today. That’s the flower, however.

The streetcar was full when I got on. Otherwise, I would have switched to a different seat. I kept glancing back for a free seat after every stop, but I soon resigned myself to a viewless ride. Oh, I could see out, through the gaps in the design, but I wasn’t pleased with the design choice.

I glanced at my watch when I boarded the streetcar at 5th & Jackson. I glanced again when I exited at Broadway & Denny. The streetcar ride took around 20 minutes. That’s about twice what a light rail ride from Pioneer Square Station to Capitol Hill Station takes, but the views are better – when you can see through the window, that is. I didn’t factor in the time I spent walking.

I stopped off at the library, where a third hold had come in.

A Tough Commute That Wasn’t

I received a Transit Alert text message late this afternoon. University Street Station was closed. Link light rail would be serving the other tunnel stations.

Then came another alert. Expect transit delays Downtown, due to “a police action”.

There was a police standoff of some sort that closed a block of 3th Avenue, right in the centet of Downtown.

I thought about catching the streetcar home, avoiding the tunnel and Downtown. The streets would be jammed, and Link would be crowded with people. Getting to the streetcar, even heading south to the International District, would be a challenge. Link seemed the best option. Besides, I was a little curious how they’d announce that the train would be bypassing the next stop.

I got to Pioneer Square Station just as a Link train arrived. The train was no more crowded than usual. There was no announcement about a station closure. The train stopped at University Street Station. Apparently, the police action was over.

I walked from Capitol Hill Station to the library. I returned one book and checked out another. Then I walked home.

A commute by light rail is often dull, but that’s a good thing.