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.

End Of A Smart Era

I found an email from car2go this morning. (It was sent to an account I don’t check every day, so the email could be a few days old.) The email informed me that car2go is phasing out its Smart fleet in Seattle, and going toward an all-Mercedes-Benz sedan fleet.

I’m paraphrasing and reading between the lines here, but it sounds like two main things are behind this change. The Smart cars are nearing the end of their fleet lifespan (car2go has been in Seattle for about four years), and Smart is no longer offering combustion engine cars in North America. (I wonder if car2go is going to continue using electric Smarts in other cities.)

I don’t remember the last time I rented a car2go. It’s been a long time since I’ve needed one, and when I’ve wanted one, there are none is my area, and when there are cars2go in my area, I haven’t wanted one.

It’s the same want-vs-availability situation with ReachNow.

I haven’t used Zipcar in so long that I’m not entirely sure that my account is still active.

I’ve really enjoyed driving those Smarts.

That Block, Updated

This is a follow up to last Thursday’s post: Bad Street Design?

There are a lot of traffic changes going on in Downtown Seattle, and the surrounding areas. I’m happy with what I see. I love all the new bike and bus lanes. I love the crosswalk signals timed to give car traffic a few extra seconds to turn right off of 4th Avenue, toward the freeway. I love the crosswalk signs at Broadway and John, timed to give pedestrians entering and exiting Capitol Hill Station a few extra seconds to cross the street.

The only reason I was motivated to write about that one block last Thursday was that it seemed out of character with the rest of the traffic changes. I started writing the post to rant about a bad design, then changed my opinion mid-way through the post, and finished up writing about the mystery of that block.

This week, the design has changed. The bus stop, which used to take up the entire block, now takes up only the first half. The Bus Only lane now ends mid-block. I haven’t seen a design like that before. Car traffic continuing westward on Pine Street now has to merge in front of the buses. It seems a little odd to me, but I’m no expert. Maybe it’ll work.

Bad Street Design?

I first noticed this traffic change yesterday morning. I had intended to write a post about it. As I thought about it later, though, I wondered if I’d misunderstood the situation. I mean, who would design something like this? So I decided to hold off until today to post about this.

I got off the 47 bus this morning, at the stop on Pine Street, between 6th and 5th Avenues. I took another look. No, I hadn’t misunderstood the situation. I managed to snap this photo during a momentary gap in traffic.


This is a pretty important bus stop. Every bus coming down from Capitol Hill stops here – the 10, the 11, the 43, the 47, and the 49. It’s the entrance to Westlake Station – the first transfer to Link light rail after Capitol Hill Station.

Yesterday morning, I wondered why so many cars were in the bus stop. (It’s also the end of a Bus Only lane, by the way, starting at 9th Avenue.) Then I saw it. The left lane of this block of Pine had been to converted to a Bicycle Only lane. (There are now bike lanes up Pike and down Pine, which I think is awesome.) The center lane has been converted to Left Turn Only, turning south onto 5th Avenue – and that’s the problem. This means that car traffic continuing west is forced into the bus stop. Two things happen: Either cars get stuck behind a line of buses, or cars get stopped by a traffic light and buses can’t get into the stop. It’s bad for cars and bad for buses.

I’m more puzzled than anything else. This design seems to be the opposite of the whole point of a Bus Only lane.

This morning, I saw a few cars just continuing forward through that center lane, around the 47 and the 10 in the bus stop. I can’t really fault them for that.

I told Phillip about this last night. He replied that designs can always be tweaked if they don’t work out the first time. I suspect he’s right. It’s also possible that this isn’t the final design. Could this bus stop be moving somewhere else? Is it going to be eliminated?

I could be entirely wrong about this being a bad design. It could just be a bad design for now. It could be a work in progress.

(EDIT: The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is, indeed, a work in progress. So I added a question mark to the post title.)

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.