Monday, July 27, 2009

First ride on the Link

**No pictures yet. I'll add some once I've uploaded them from the camera**

Saturday brought a surprise for Maurie and me. Our first ride on the new Central Link light rail line. We'd gone down to Pike Place to look for something, but after being in the crowds for a bit, we didn't really want to go back into a hot apartment with all the noise from the Seafair Torchlight Parade going on that evening.

We ended up going down into the transit tunnel (feels weird not calling the bus tunnel any more!) I was hoping to get a look at a Link train. But none were at the platform. Maurie says I was a bit crestfallen at that. While we were on the mezzanine, one did pull in. We looked down on it, and Maurie suggested taking the train for a ride. So, off to figure out how to do the payment and ride.

One of the Sount Transit folks told us I could just tap my ORCA card to the reader, and Maurie just needed to show her Puget Pass if asked. So, we boarded and headed south to Tukwila station.

The ride was very nice. Quite quick to get down through Seattle. We left Westlake station at about 6, I think, and the southbound train was full. No vacant seats, and a lot of people standing. As we went south, nuturally, it thinned out some. But by the time we reached Tukwila station, there were still plenty of riders.

We de-boarded at Tukwila, thinking we'd have to move over to the other track for the northbound train. There was no indication that the train we just arrived on would just reverse direction from its place in the station. So, after looking for a bathroom (and finding one open porta-potty that badly needed service), we got on what we thought was the next northbound train.

We rode back north to Columbia City where we got off the train to see a movie. The first thing we noticed when we got off the train was that in the small park next to the station was a sign listing what was nearby...restaurants, cinema, shops, a market, etc. Maurie had been commenting on the ride north that something like this would be very helpful for riders.

As we walked through Columbia City, we noticed that the business district was still fairly lively. Several folks walking the street, a few businesses still open, lots of restaurants and bars open. In nearly every window was a poster welcoming Link riders. Most every business had a special for people who show their ride ticket or ORCA card. For example, the Columbia City Cinema offers $2 off adult tickets in the evening (I can't remember what they were for matinee showings).

We dropped into the Columbia City Alehouse for an appetizer and beer and then walked the neighborhood until our 9:40 movie.

After the movie, we caught a 12:30 train back to Westlake. This train had a handful of other riders. The south-bound trains out of Seattle were more full with people leaving the city.

We really enjoyed the ride. It will make it so much easier to get to points south of downtown. A couple of observations:

  1. Bathrooms at the stations need to be better maintained (only porta-potties at one? what's with that?)
  2. Fare/payment system is confusing. Require every rider to obtain a ticket from the ticket vending machine. And fit them to read Puget Passes!
  3. The art work at the stops is awesome! It really makes the stops more inviting.

All in all, I'm glad we had the unplanned evening out on the train, especially since I turn in my ORCA pass on Friday at the end of my current contract.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Successful Link Opening Weekend

Well, I've still not ridden the new Link light rail in Seattle, so I don't have much I can say about it. However, on Sunday as we headed to the coast for day relaxing on the beach, we did see a couple of trains running along I5 (one north-bound, one south-bound) and both looked packed to standing room only. It may have been a weekend of free rides, but it looked promising. Reports are 92,000 riders over the weekend. I've still not seen ridership reports for Monday, but I'm confident that while reports are that they were low, that they'll grow as we get used to having light rail, and development happens around the lines, we'll see those numbers go up.

Seattle Tranit Blog has been all over opening weekend, and is following the latest on it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I first read Callenbach's book Ecotopia for my Basic Inquiry class at Lewis & Clark College my freshman year. At the time, I was 18 and fresh out of the suburbs. I was ideallistic, when it was convenient (which wasn't too often). Not much of the book stuck out to me, except that most of us (all freshman from predominantly suburban backgrounds) thought it was a cool idea, but wholly unworkable. I read it again in 2001, only to find myself seeing a little more "hey, that's cool" in it, but it didn't strike me as much.

Now, nearly 20 years after reading it for the first time, I just finished reading it for the third time. Having spent the last year really thinking sustainability, a lot more stood out to me.

The transporation system put forth by Callenbach in Ecotopia really stands out. In the book, the country has virually banned internal combustion engines and private car ownership. Intercity tranportation is facilitated by a widespread Mag-Lev rail network. Small city groupings spring up around major rail hubs, branching out like spokes on a wheel (or so I envision it). Tanporation within cities is predominantly foot, bike, and public tranport via electric minibuses.

I think the first two times I read the book, I was still in a car-centric frame of mind. When I read the chapter on trasportation, I realized that this is close to a reality I'd really love to see. I'm not in favor of outright banning cars. They are useful, and even necessary for some people. However, I'd like to see more options and infrastructure to make not taking a care a whole lot more convenient and accessible.

What can you do on your commute?

Just looking up from the computer as the bus wisks me to work this morning, I noticed the following happening:
  • Woman across the aisle from me knitting
  • Several people reading books & magazines
  • Friends holding conversations
  • One or two people taking a nap
  • People working on their laptops (doing stuff for work? Blogging? Reading web comics?)
  • People reading books & magazines
  • Some just staring out the window at the traffic, water, birds, mountians, etc

What do you do on your commute? Today I'm blogging and listening to music.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Opening Weekend for Link

In case you've missed it (and if you live in or around Seattle, I'm not sure how you could have), The Link light rail line from downtown to the airport will open on Saturday. Sound Transit has details on the opening here. The folks over at Seattle Transit Blog have been counting the days to this, and I have to say that Ben and company really seem ready to party as a result of the long-awaited opening.

There will be free rides all weekend. Be prepared for long lines and crowded platforms and trains all weekend. Also, there are no round-trip rides. To give everyone a chance to ride, once you get to one end, you have to get off the train and get back in line. There will also be shuttles running the route if you don't want to wait in line again.

Personally, I think I'll be waiting to take my ride on Link until after the festivities

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why can't it be like this?

I found this video on YouTube the other day, and it makes me long for days I never even knew!

It does bring back memories of my cycle tour in Europe in '86. In particular it reminds me a bit of the first day of cycling. We were riding Nantes to Angers (in France). We had a headwind and none of us had been on our bikes for a couple of weeks. Only two of the students on the tour made it all by bike, the rest of us ended up on a train for part of the way. It was great. The French train system accepted our bikes with no additional charge and we didn't have to stow them in a baggage car. Once on, we were able to have a glass of wine as the countryside whipped by on the way to Angers.

I wish that we still had an extensive rail system in the United States, and that it was convenient and inexpeinsive to take our bikes on the train to a destination.

Ah, well, I'll just watch the video again and dream...

Friday, July 3, 2009

King County Water Taxi ridership record

Yesterday on the shuttle to the Overlake Transit Center, I heard that the King County Water Taxi set a new ridership record for June. Total passengers transported by the service in June were 33,865. This is up 12% from the 30,046 passengers carried in June 2008.

The newsbit on the radio attributed the increase to people coming from West Seattle for Mariner's games. OK, so I can understand wanting to avoid the traffic and parking near Safeco Field, but is that really the reason? How about it's a great way to get to and from West Seattle from Downtown (or is it the other way around?)

So far, the service has carried 85,784 passengers. Not bad for three month's worth of service.

Next year, the Water Taxi will begin running year-round.

Click for Schedules for the Water Taxi.

You can take your bike on the Water Taxi for no additional charge.

There are also free Shuttles from the West Seattle dock to Alki, the West Seattle Park & Ride, and West Seattle Junction (among other stops).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cycling Friendly Cities

I came across this video today. The resolution on the YouTube version is poor. If you'd like to see a higher resolution version, you can find the video podcast (for iTunes users and those with m4v players) here.

What I appreciate about this is the effort that cities have put to make their cores livable areas; taking the emphasis away from motorized mobility, and putting it on human-powered mobility.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Veer -- the review

Last Thursday (June 2), Maurie and I went to see Veer. As mentioned below, the showing was a benefit for the Major Taylor Project, which is a project of the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation.

We arrived at the Columbia City Cinema shortly before 8:30 for the panel discussion. The panelists for the discussion were David Hiller (Advocacy Director at Cascade Bicycle Club), Willie Weir (bicycle touring travel author and columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine), Davey Oil (BikeWorks and The Bikery), Erica Barnett ( and formerly The Stranger), and Greg Fredette (the filmmaker). The discussion covered topics from legislation to the demographics of cycling, to the overall cycling culture. Much of what they discussed related directly to the film. Those of us who were there for the 9:30 showing were at a bit of a disadvantage as far as knowing what they were talking about.

One observation about the panel discussion; although the theater in which we were viewing the film and holding the discussion, it was difficult to hear. Some sort of PA would have made it easier to hear the discussion. Also, and this is a hazard of wooden floors and an abundance of cyclists, it was impossible to for many to walk through the theater quietly. It wasn’t the fault of the individuals; it was their cycling cleats on the wood floor!

The movie is fantastic. The trailer barely touches on how good it is. The film maker did not simply follow five individuals who are active in Portland’s bicycling culture, but he showed how the facets of the bicycling community, no matter how different, all contribute in a real positive way to the health and vitality of the culture as a whole. We followed Scott Bricker of the Bicycle Transportation Association as he lobbied for Oregon House Bill 3314 in 2007, seeing it to passage and signed by the governor; one of Portland’s famous (infamous?, notorious?) “Zoo Bombers”; Scott, founder of Exchange Cycle Tours as his organization packs up to move out of one location, and the search for a new location and finally the grand opening in a new location which has been underserved in terms of cycling accessibility; A staff member and cycling educator from the Community Cycling Center as he runs an after-school bike club for elementary students; and finally one of the founding members of the Sprokettes “mini-bike synchronized dance team.”

I walked out of the theater with a real strong sense of how closely tied all these aspects of the cycling community are, and how they fed and fuel others. Rather than rant and rage about what the others are, or are not, doing, those profiled seemed to really see the positive in what the others were doing; the Sprockettes and Zoo Bombers bring an aspect of pure, unadulterated fun (and possibly insane adrenaline) to cycling, the BTA really focuses on the policy aspect and the ECT and CCC at getting others into cycling.

Another thing I really appreciated is that the film showed interactions with the police, for the most part, in a positive light. No aggressive confrontations, no bashing—just an acknowledgement of the job the police have to do.

There were also some poignant moments of the film: the final field trip and graduation for the bike camp kids; the aftermath of a break-in at the Community Cycling Center and the Portland Ride of Silence.

The film was truly outstanding. I don’t know how the filmmaker plans to distribute it, whether in DVD only, if he plans to continue to tour it for viewings in various cities, or what. If you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend making the effort to do so. If there’s no city near you that is listed in their screenings, contact them from the form on the website, and see what you need to do to arrange one.