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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Weekend Bus Question

posted by on November 3 at 13:28 PM

As everybody who reads this site regularly probably knows, I ride the bus but I don’t like riding the bus. It’s slow, smelly, dirty, hot, filled with people with serious mental-health and substance abuse problems, etc., etc. I know some of the buses are less awful than the one I ride regularly, but let’s face it: Liberal, usually white and middle-class, Seattleites who say riding the bus is a great way to get around don’t ride the bus. I should know. I never see them.

Rail is one solution. In every city I’ve ever been to—even cities with decent, clean, reliable bus service—riding rail is a more pleasant experience than riding the bus. But we aren’t going to get rail until 2009, and then only to the South End. So in the meantime, what could be done to make the experience of bus riding more pleasant for the 95 percent of riders who don’t stink, aren’t wasted, aren’t selling drugs, aren’t harassing other passengers, and aren’t raving loudly to themselves?

A bus riders’ union, like the ones formed by fed-up citizens in many other cities? More police on buses? A stricter hygiene and drug use policy—one that’s actually enforced, rather than the completely toothless system we have now? More frequent bus service and a kiosk at bus stops telling riders when the next bus will arrive? A faster, perhaps curbside, ticketing system?

What do y’all think?

RSS icon Comments


Death to the ride-free zone.

Posted by Dan Savage | November 3, 2007 1:34 PM

Good idea.

This is what they do in NYC:

Posted by chris | November 3, 2007 1:35 PM

More buses! I don't mind stinky drug dealers as much when they are not practically sitting on my lap.

Posted by Lurker2 | November 3, 2007 1:35 PM

The buses in Seattle are awful. They are always late, and I have seen, heard, and smelled! some awful things while riding.

I have wished on several occasions that the bus driver would actually kick violent/fucked up/harassing people off, or at least radio the police so they can do it for them at a nearby stop. So I think having the bus driver contact police is the best option, since I can understand them not wanting to confront some of these people themselves.

And more buses would help. Many only come every 30-45 minutes, and being always late - it can be a really long wait.

Posted by GW | November 3, 2007 1:48 PM

Move to a location where your main bus of choice is the 14 - I've lived on Capitol Hill since '93 having come from the truly abysmal bus-riding town of San Francisco. Rarely on the 14 (or for that matter the 43, 49, or the old Broadway 7) have I had witnessed the condition of wretched humanity you describe.

Pretend you're living in London or Paris or even Singapore where driving an automobile is not exactly a God-given right. Americans so fervently embrace the "all men are created equal" shibboleth but - like Christianity - so rarely practice it. Simply learn how to deal.

Posted by SICK TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI | November 3, 2007 1:52 PM

Demand that Rapid Ride, the new bus service financed by Transit Now -- scheduled for up Aurora, up 15th, and out to West Seattle -- totally redefine the bus experience. Nicer buses, places that feel like stations to wait, loading platforms, quicker on and off, dedicated lanes, fewer stops. If we can prove that we can do it better on those lines, we can create the the model for how to improve existing lines. This is something worth organizing around.

And yes, I ride the bus, but I bicycle as often as I can because, well, it is a lot nicer to be outdoors than on the bus.

Posted by michael | November 3, 2007 1:53 PM

I'm white, liberal, probably middle-class and I take the bus just about every day. When I've been freelancing, I've taken it to the Eastside and through the International District to Renton.

Granted, I don't take the really crummy routes. But I have taken a wide selection of routes and had minimal problems.... only ones that seem to go with the notion of public transportation.

Sure, it'd be nice if the buses kept better time and yes, sure, have a better connection to the police. But seriously, ECB, you're right about that segment of white liberal middle-class Seattle who says the bus is a good idea but doesn't ride it. I just see that segment as hypocritical whiners, is all. Quit thinking everything has to be just like driving your own car and ride the damn bus the way it is.

Posted by leek | November 3, 2007 1:57 PM

San Francisco is worse. WAY WORSE! Sorry to play it safe here but be thankful for what we have. It could be horrible.

Posted by biggie j guitar player for amplified rock outfit SSS | November 3, 2007 1:59 PM

Express buses that only stop 2-4 times on the way to downtown. Buses on Rainier Ave., Beacon Ave., and Jackson St. are excrutiating with half the passengers riding for only 1-4 blocks. (I don't know about the rest of the city) Maybe mini-buses running on just those streets for people not going downtown and connecting to express stops.
Also eliminating all stops that are not a whole block away from the previous or next stop. I would prefer 2 blocks but there might be too much outcry.(Unless the stop is right in front of services for the disabled.)

Posted by anna | November 3, 2007 2:01 PM

1. Eliminate the ride-free zone.

2. Raise fares. $2 in city, $4 across the lake. Add $1 during peak times. Accept credit cards.

3. Hire "bus conductors" who are on each bus at all times to help riders and enforce the rules.

4. Tighten the rules. Requiring at least "business casual" dress would be a good start.

None of this is going to happen, though, because the non-bus-riding rich liberals who run this city see the bus system as a social service they provide to the lower classes.

Posted by David Wright | November 3, 2007 2:01 PM

Fewer stops. Lower floors. Ticket dispensors ala parking sticker machines. More frequency. Nicer buses like this

Posted by whatever | November 3, 2007 2:03 PM

You hit my number one issue which is some way of knowing when the next bus will come. My bus route isn't the most used and I understand that having that bus run every ten minutes isn't practical. But at least once a month, the bus is oddly early or late or simply never comes and I end up standing at the stop for 45 minutes with no idea when the bus will be there. If I ever convinced a driving friend to take the bus and they ended up standing at the stop in the rain for 45 minutes, it would certainly be the last time they entertained bussing it.

Posted by skweetis | November 3, 2007 2:04 PM

Perhaps the reason white, middle-class, liberals don't take the bus quite as much is the threat of getting beat in the head by ethnic groups who target whites solely because they are white.

All you do grumble about how terrible the buses are, but at least the reasons you list aren't as bad the one I just offered.

True story, happened last month. But my boyfriend and I are still bus-only since selling our car a few months back, despite the violent incident.

Posted by rnl | November 3, 2007 2:07 PM

The bus system IS a social service. A frickin' dress code? To make it even more difficult for people without a job to get one? Or even just to live their lives getting from place to place without a car or cab fare?

This is one aspect of the supposedly-liberal-Stranger-poster-and-commenter crowd that I simply don't get. "Yes, all people deserve equal rights. Uh, until they smell or annoy me."

Posted by leek | November 3, 2007 2:07 PM

As in Europe: passengers board through the rear door, pay their fares to a conductor trained to answer directional transportation questions.

The driver drives - which is all he/she should be required to do. Petty criminal behavior problems are addressed by the conductor who is directly linked to 911 or Emergency Metro Central.

Ideally, the conductor should be a huge, reformed ex-con who rules by being a huge, reformed ex-con. But cool with an an aura of benignity.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | November 3, 2007 2:09 PM

How about banning socks with sandals and anything with a MSFT logo?

Posted by whatever | November 3, 2007 2:11 PM

Why not just drive? Sure there's a lot of traffic and parking can be problematic, but you can listen to the radio, make a phone call, and enjoy your latte in the comfort of your own personal space.

Posted by raindrop | November 3, 2007 2:12 PM

Oh yeah... my bus yesterday was late because a man in a wheelchair had gotten on at some point and then had to be let off again.

Short the money to provide individual transportation for disabled folks, this is a scheduling problem that I don't see a good way around. Except barring the disabled from the bus, of course, which might be someone's next suggestion.

Posted by leek | November 3, 2007 2:14 PM

Leek: It's fine with me if the bus system is a social service. You just won't get me and other middle-class types to ride it that way. Take your pick: a service for "jobless miscreants" or a service for "productive members of society". You don't get to have it both ways.

Posted by David Wright | November 3, 2007 2:19 PM

Leek: I'm not suggesting barring the disabled, but you do know, I hope, that ECB, the Stranger's patron saint of left-wing transportation policies, made precisely that suggestion on the SLOG a few months ago.

Posted by David Wright | November 3, 2007 2:23 PM

I think if we stole the Berlin bus transit model we would improve the overall usability of the system and attract way more "[l]iberal , usually white and middle-class, Seattleites." This includes a display that tells you the arrival time of the next two busses, an internal digital display that announces the stops, and a system that is organized as if it were a rail system. This means that you can look at a compact schematic map of the entire system and plan your trip much more spontaneously than with our system, which requires the use of Trip Planner. This system would require much more frequent service and probably higher prices than Seattle but the increase in quality would still attract more people, even with an increase in price.

Posted by C.H. | November 3, 2007 2:24 PM

@19, which category do drunk frat boys go in. On the one hand, they're white and have money, which makes them sound like someone you would like, but I don't know if they're really that productive. Anyway, just curious whether they're allowed to participate in society with you.

Posted by skweetis | November 3, 2007 2:25 PM

Leek: I didn't say anything about a dress code. But I do think buses and other public services should serve the greater good--the 95% of people who are just trying to get to work shouldn't have to suffer so five percent can get on and harass them, pass out, pee on the seats, and sell drugs openly. Yet even though I've seen ALL these things happen on the bus, I've never seen a driver respond by kicking the person off.

I'm assuming you don't ride the bus?

Posted by ECB | November 3, 2007 2:28 PM

This white middle class liberal would gladly take the bus if it actually went to places where I need to go. I live on Capitol Hill and commute to the east side. Why is there almost no service that goes east in the morning and west in the afternoon? I have seen empty busses with To Terminal signs on speeding up the HOV lane while I am stuck in the crawl of 520 westbound afternoon traffic. Earth to Metro: look at all those cars you are passing going 5 mph. You could easily fill your empty busses with passengers and make a lot of money. The only alternative I have to driving alone is the 255 which takes this slow circuitous route that takes an hour and forty minutes between my apartment and my workplace each way. It's not about liberal snobbery, it's about the lack of decent service.

Posted by RainMan | November 3, 2007 2:28 PM

DW: that doesn't surprise me much. ECB and Savage are two examples of the equal-rights-til-they-smell attitude I referenced above.

As for your take, well, I guess there's some equation that would determine what it's worth to entice persnickety middle-classers to the bus. My vote would be squarely cast toward allowing anyone in their real state of hygiene and attire onto the bus, until they started impeding its progress or harassing others.

Posted by leek | November 3, 2007 2:29 PM

ECB: Uh, the evidence can be readily found (by actually reading what I said) that I ride the bus pretty much every day (not always on the weekends, but every work day).

Posted by leek | November 3, 2007 2:30 PM

I ride the bus every day. Here's what to do:

1) Eliminate the ride-free zone. That will cut back on the stinky free-loaders. If you think having free downtown shuttle buses is important, have a dedicated free route that goes around in a loop.

2) Eliminating the ride-free zone means eliminating all this pay-as-you-leave crap. Way too much time is wasted waiting for people to exit through the front door before others can enter.

3) Teach Seattle riders to both leave by the back door and BE READY TO EXIT when the bus stops. Time is money, people!

4) On my route (66/Roosevelt), and probably many others, eliminate every other bus stop. There's about one every block -- that's way too much time spent stopping and starting.

Posted by Big Adventure Steve | November 3, 2007 2:31 PM

I ride the bus home everyday. I rarely see any of the middle class types like Ron Sims or other people who run the county or city. It's the designated poor people
s transportation. The way it is organized within the city seems to have little to do with creating a system that would meet the needs of all the citizens. Once a week I have to ride 30 minutes smelling somebody who hasn't showered in perhaps weeks. The cost of parking isn't high enough yet to drive most people onto busses. I know if my wages were a little higher, I'd be very tempted to get myself a parking space.

Posted by cracked | November 3, 2007 2:32 PM

I ride the bus nearly every day and have long agreed about the bus riders union idea and would love to talk to people about organizing and starting one. Metro is run by provincial technocrats who neither take the bus nor have any incentive to do so. There's a "citizen advisory board" comprised of hand-picked people from all over the city but if you look at what they actually do and the kid gloves/lack of sway they actually have over making a difference with metro, it's kind of sad. I've applied twice for the board and I think (like our ridership hour allocation) it's dominated by people from outside the city. Disappointing.

The only way Metro will change is for us to push them. They are spending a lot of big $$$ on things but completely and totally overlooking the little, common-sense things that need to change to get more people on the system and staying on the system. It's totally time for a change.

Posted by kinkos | November 3, 2007 2:36 PM

what exactly do you think the bus is? A royal chariot that will always be clean and shiny? People who ride the bus either ride because they don't have the money to buy a car or because they work in an area without free parking. People who complain about the social problems of bus riders are stupid. If you are so much better than they are, buy a car. If not, shut the hell up and accept public transportation for what it is.

Posted by .... | November 3, 2007 2:41 PM

After having been scooting a lot lately, I went back to the bus for a while, and I realized I feel like I don't have much self respect when I wait for long amounts of time and then get on buses where I'm packed in like a sardine, and need to cram past people to get on or off. It's not even that the other people on the bus are repulsive, just that they're pressed up against each other, looking bewildered. I've noticed that some buses, like the 15, double as a school bus, which is fine, except that it's packed beyond capacity every day.

Also, tangent, what's up with the earsplitting DONG DONG of the bus tunnel that can be heard all day long, several floors up from surrounding buildings?

Posted by katrin | November 3, 2007 2:42 PM

Tons of white, middle-class people take the bus. They just travel from nice neighborhoods to downtown, often on express buses that skip any sketchy areas in between. I take the bus--nice routes and less nice routes--all the time and I rarely encounter anyone who seriously disturbs my ride. (The last time was the 174 from SeaTac--you're just asking for it on that route.) Seattle is known as a temperate place with plenty of services for the homeless. Unless you want to change that, you're not going to change the buses. Sorry.

Posted by annie | November 3, 2007 2:42 PM

raising prices to keep miscreants out is stupid. I am lower middle class by many measures ( I make 33k a year, live in a studio apartment, make ) and raising prices to $2 would almost ensure I wouldnt ever ride the bus. You don't encourage more people to ride by making the prices higher than contributers to society can afford on a daily basis. (now if you could write off bus expenses from your taxes...then I could see that working out)

Posted by Bellevue Ave | November 3, 2007 2:49 PM

I used to ride the bus too, and I didn't like it either, so what I did was stop riding the bus.

Posted by pox | November 3, 2007 3:07 PM

Hmmm, buses are "full of mental health and substance abuse problems."

ECB regularly rides the bus.


Posted by Anonymous Coward | November 3, 2007 3:09 PM

well first of all i would probably vote yes on prop 1 so my kids had a better option then the bus system

as for the current situation-

bus riders union sounds like a good idea.

Posted by Cale | November 3, 2007 3:12 PM

Like 32 said, plenty of white middle class people ride the bus, but just during commuting hours and to and from downtown.

When I lived up north and took the 358, it was always white (and a few other races) middle class people, maybe a few working class, and the odd loser or two if you're riding to downtown in the morning or from it in the afternoon. But ride it any other time and it was more of what ECB described.

I remember KC sheriff's cars following the bus on weekend nights when, shall we say, the more rowdy passengers ruled that route. I also remember a plainclothes cop preventing a drunk from boarding a southbound bus one Friday night when I was heading to the Showbox. Clearly it's on someone's radar that there were problem passengers on the 358; do they take similar measures on other routes?

Erica, what you're talking about really only does affect a few routes and sometimes only at certain times. They're probably waiting for more people to call in incidents and for a pattern to show itself. Do Cap Hill riders bother to do this? I think the more middle class riders from the more outlaying areas do.

BTW, the guy who suggested a dress code for the bus must have a screw loose.

Posted by Matt from Denver | November 3, 2007 3:13 PM

"now if you could write off bus expenses from your taxes...then I could see that working out"

You can't write it off but you can buy bus passes through pre-tax payroll deduction. You just have to talk your employer into it. The words "free benefits" are music in the ears of HR types.

Posted by Mike of Renton | November 3, 2007 3:33 PM

Having the free bus only orbiting downtown sounds like the best idea. Pay as you get off is retarded. In SF, most riders have monthly passes -- those help speed getting on and off. Encourage pass purchase by making it cheaper than 40 rides.

But remember: people smell bad when they can't bathe or wash their clothes. Support a public charity that provides showers and laundry facilities for the homeless.

Also: the homeless need a place to hang out other than the bus or the public library. Open an homeless hangout.

Posted by fellow citizen | November 3, 2007 3:36 PM

I am an elitist pig because... I don't think that one person who reeks of urine and shit has a right to stink up an entire bus full of people that don't? I can walk, ride my bike, or--elitist!--afford to take a cab. I think it's elitist assholery of the highest order to tell the people that have to take the bus -- because it's the only way they can get around -- that they have to share it with people that stink to holy hell.

Posted by Dan Savage | November 3, 2007 3:40 PM

#34: How do you afford to drive to work? I work downtown and I can't believe the parking prices. I take the bus because it's so much less expensive. Driving would cost me hundreds every month. Forget it!

Posted by la | November 3, 2007 3:41 PM


Transit in Chicago is fucking AWESOME!! The buses are (get this) OLDER than Seattle's fleet but.... CLEAN!!!! No fucking joke! And they do not smell like shit/urine/puke like Metro does. BTW, Community Transit does not smell as bad as Metro, Why is that?

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | November 3, 2007 3:42 PM

Waaa! I live in Capitol Hill and there's no bus that takes me to my job across the lake! Waaa!

Here's a thought: why don't you work near your home, or live near your work? Why should the rest of the County subsidize your ridiculous commute?

Fucking whiner.

Posted by joykiller | November 3, 2007 3:43 PM

LOL!! Matt from Denver, Have you tried to log in a complaint to Metro? I tried that once when a Metro driver ran a redlight nearly hitting a lady in the crosswalk.

What a joke..... And Metro will tell you that they have MONTHS of complaints that they will never get to.

Posted by Just Me | November 3, 2007 3:56 PM

@41: I also stopped working downtown, largely for that very reason. It would be a rare job that would make it worth the transportation nightmare.

Instead, I found a way to telecommute and only have to go places a couple times a week. I'd love a transit option for those times, but there's no reasonable way to get from Edmonds to Renton without driving. The Sounder train would be ideal, but it stops at King Street. If it went one more stop to Tukwila, I'd bike the rest of the way. R/T from Edmonds to Tukwila via Amtrak is $20.

Simple choice: Live near your work, or endure the transportation difficulties. Driving in traffic is very popular and gets more popular all the time.

Posted by pox | November 3, 2007 3:57 PM


Out of everything that happens in this world, telling poor people that they have to share public transpo with people who may not have bathed recently is elitist assholery of the HIGHEST ORDER?

Sorry if I'm segueing into an SNL skit, but... really?

Posted by leek | November 3, 2007 4:00 PM

I have lived in Seattle for over 11 years now, and I relied exclusively on busses to get around until earlier this year when I finally got a car. Even now I still ride to bus to work downtown because parking is prohibitively expensive. I've seen plenty of obnoxious people on the bus over the years, but I really think the big problems with the system--insufficiently frequent service, overcrowding, the lack of reliability etc.--are inherent in bus transport systems. In fact, compared to the bus systems in other cities I've been to recently (vancouver, san francisco), ours is excellent. Their buses are older and more dilapidated, and they have all the same problems with overcrowding and being stuck in traffic. I believe the reason their busses aren't as good is that they put all their extra money into real mass transit systems, namely light rail, and it's no surprise because riding on BART or the SkyTrain is a more pleasant and efficient way to get around than the best bus system could ever be. The lesson I take from this is that busses are going to continue to suck no matter what and we should put our energy into building as much rail as possible. Vote Yes on Prop. 1 so we can have better options than busses in the future.

Posted by Scott H | November 3, 2007 4:02 PM

@ 44, are you suggesting that the sheriff's department tail that goes with the 358 happens just because? It came to somebody's attention that there were problems.

Posted by Matt from Denver | November 3, 2007 4:04 PM
Itís slow, smelly, dirty, hot, filled with people with serious mental-health and substance abuse problems, etc., etc

Just like The Slog!

But you have a problem with the bus?

Posted by RonK, Seattle | November 3, 2007 4:06 PM

@ Matt, the cops tail the 358 because 6 years ago one of the drivers on that route (I think it was the 356 at the time, Metro kept the route but changed the number) was shot and killed while crossing the Aurora Bridge. That is why they tail that route.

Posted by Just Me | November 3, 2007 4:09 PM

@ 50, fat lot of good that would have done if there was a tail that day. Sorry, but I doubt that's the reason. The tail doesn't happen during the day (it was mid afternoon when that shooting occurred) and no one believes that shooting was anything but highly random. OTOH there are always riff raff riding the 358 at night.

Posted by Matt from Denver | November 3, 2007 4:14 PM

@51, will you ride it so yes, a lot or riff raff ride that route. BTW, they DO tail in the day as well. I have seen them tail the 49 and 150 during daylight hours.

Posted by Just Me | November 3, 2007 4:16 PM

I'm curious what the rationale even is for the free-ride zone. Anybody know? As a public service, it seems principally to benefit tourists and bums. Is that its intention?

I like the conductor suggestion. It would cost a ton, but maybe they could be selectively deployed--the 7, 48, 174, just to start with.

And to all you little children bitching out your fellow citizens who happen to dislike being abused, nauseated, and/or felonized on the bus, get back to us when you hit 30 in a few years and decide that the group house on Capitol Hill isn't so much fun anymore and you move down to Skyway.

Posted by croydonfacelift | November 3, 2007 4:25 PM

"Rail is one solution. In every city Iíve ever been toóeven cities with decent, clean, reliable bus serviceóriding rail is a more pleasant experience than riding the bus."

The hypocrisy of saying this and than not endorsing Prop 1 is just amazing in itself. What crap..

Posted by Brian in Seattle | November 3, 2007 4:31 PM

But seriously?

More bus capacity. The population of Objectionable Persons (whoever you consider them to be) will not expand to fill the available seats.

Smaller buses (the opposite of prevailing trend). A smaller bus means less chance of riding with an OP (or a cluster of OPs) ... relatively more driver attention per OP.

Shorter headways (a consequence of smaller units). Makes it practical to get off one bus if you are trapped with an OP, and take the next one. Also makes it easier to pull a unit temporarily out of the line to deal with an extreme OP.

Higher fares won't help - they'll just reduce ridership and ultimately reduce capacity. And trains won't help - you still need buses to fill service space (including to and from train stations).

Two-class service? Maybe. One "premium" fleet of smaller, pricier, lower-headway vehicles with faster origin-to-destination delivery (because fewer stops, because fewer riders) ... and a conventional fleet of larger, units on bad schedules, running the same routes at low or no fares.

BTW, the hygiene problem is not a product of the bus system, but the bus system is at least in part a solution to the hygiene problem.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | November 3, 2007 4:37 PM

Clarification: I was made queasy by the dilineation of "productive members of society" vs. "jobless miscreants". When it comes to loud, threatening masterbators with gaping, necrotic wounds who leave a puddle of santorum on the seat when they sit next to you. I agree that they should not be on the bus.

Posted by skweetis | November 3, 2007 4:48 PM

I'm a white, liberal, middle class bus rider. I own a car but take the 10 from my Capitol Hill apartment to my job in Pioneer Square because I couldn't possibly afford to park there. Of course city buses aren't going to be "royal chariots," but I do think that "normal people" should be able to depend on a peaceful, efficient bus ride, especially between dense, nearby urban areas. This would mean not being constantly subjected to the ranting, dirty, drunken people that unfortunately define the bus riding experience for anyone trying to ride though downtown. The problem could be addressed by eliminating the ride free zone and better equipping drivers to deal with passengers that cause disturbances (better-defined protocol, stricter enforcement, added police presence).

Maybe businesses, hotels, retailers, schools, etc., could issue free ride passes to control the sorts of people using the ride free service. Drivers could keep a closer eye on people entering the bus and people without access to the passes (i.e., people without legitimate business downtown) would be less of a presence.

As an aside, I'm a 22-year-old woman which I would say sujects me to extra harrassment and bizarre attention from creepy/unbalanced people. I get really tired of having to put up with rambling conversations and creepy advances or leers from other riders. I spend a lot of time on buses strategizing about where to sit and trying to look distant and unapproachable to avoid unwanted attention. I'll keep riding the bus because I don't have any other option, but I hate that it's such a dependably stressful and unpleasant experience.

Posted by N.D. | November 3, 2007 4:48 PM

To me it is a simple choice. Spend a fraction of our wealth to ensure the desperate and homeless are given what they need to live with dignity and hope. Or, spend even more money to send out our troop of bully boys in uniform with clubs and tasers to drive the weak and unlucky out of our sight and into the gutters and shadows.

My kind never uses public transportation of course. But if we did, we'd not be so small and selfish. Even so, you all must have some tiny spark of love in your hearts somewhere, if only you were willing to try to find it.

Posted by elenchos | November 3, 2007 4:53 PM

So many thoughts:
-Obviously need to ensure for service that's as punctual and frequent as possible: it's a lot easier to choose to take the bus if you don't have to wait outside for very long.
-Love the idea of kiosks, especially if they include ETA and information about other buses. Wouldn't it be great to be able to show up at any major bus stop and figure out which one to take without having to research it ahead of time?
-Upgrading the buses on some of the "crummy" routes. By keeping the really crappy buses on those routes, we're not encouraging responsible ridership.
-The enforcement of rules is the biggest challenge. The Metro unit of KCSO has typically (although not exclusively) been a dumping ground for bad deputies. And if you could only see the number of "unlawful bus conduct" cases that are referred into the prosecutor's office. Although riders deserve to have the rules enforced, we need to find an alternative to arresting homeless people and booking them into jail.
-Tell us more about how a rider's union would work.

Posted by Gidge | November 3, 2007 5:11 PM

"I am an elitist pig because... I don't think that one person who reeks of urine and shit has a right to stink up an entire bus full of people that don't? I can walk, ride my bike, or--elitist!--afford to take a cab. I think it's elitist assholery of the highest order to tell the people that have to take the bus -- because it's the only way they can get around -- that they have to share it with people that stink to holy hell."

well, dan, seeing as how you're so blunt on slog and in your advice column, why don't you just tell those stinky people to get the fuck off the bus because they offend your nostrils? don't be such a scrotum! dump the motherfucker off the bus already!

as i have said before, the homeless and poor on the bus are way better than hipsters and yuppies endless yakking on cell phones, sharing the intimate details of their lives with everyone within earshot. those are the people i want to be banned for LIFE from Metro.

as for ms. barnett, if you take the 49 from the rainier valley, as it seems you do, you're not gonna get white middle class commuters on the bus. it's gonna be po' folks, drug dealers and the mentally ill, and i'd bet the majority of them are african-american, right? you don't wanna live in the south end, girly, then MOVE and quit yer bitchin'.

P.S.: i once overheard a black woman (on the bus!) say that the monorail was only going to be for white folks who wanted to go to Ballard and i could not agree more.

Posted by scary tyler moore | November 3, 2007 5:28 PM

Man. Suck it up people. It really doesn't hurt you to endure 20-30 minutes in the company of someone who smells bad. Your solutions involve making it impossible for such people to get from place to place themselves.

I've been riding Metro alone since I was a 10 year old girl. In the course of my thousands of trips, 95% of which were just fine, I had to learn how to deal with creepy, annoying people; smelly people; scary people; and people who were just friendly when I felt more like reading my book. Know what? It was good for me. It helped me learn about parts of this community I might otherwise never have encountered. Under your plans, I guess folks could go their whole lives without encountering anything uncomfortable or unpleasant at close quarters. Brilliant.

Y'all truly define what I most dislike about this city.

Posted by freddie tuesday | November 3, 2007 5:30 PM

ECB wrote:

Rail is one solution. In every city Iíve ever been toóeven cities with decent, clean, reliable bus serviceóriding rail is a more pleasant experience than riding the bus. But we arenít going to get rail until 2009, and then only to the South End. So in the meantime, what could be done to make the experience of bus riding more pleasant for the 95 percent of riders who donít stink, arenít wasted, arenít selling drugs, arenít harassing other passengers, and arenít raving loudly to themselves?

Erica, you and Dan are so fucking full of shit as to boggle the fucking mind. Really, you are you're selectively blind to anything bad happening in public transit if it happens on some form of public transit that runs on rails. I've ridden the subways in New York, the T in Boston, the Muni in San Francisco and the tube in London and there were just as many batshit insane stinky people on them as there were on the average Seattle bus and you also get the incredibly fun phenomenon of annoying street musicians at the stops. As someone who had ridden buses in Seattle for years I was totally unimpressed with the cleanliness of any of these services compared to Metro, and I used to ride the really fun Metro routes like #20 to White Center. Please explain to me exactly what it about rail that's going to make the stinky, insane people not take it. Are stinky insane people afraid of trains? They sure aren't in New York or San Francisco.

Now. Ways to improve mass transit in Seattle.

1) Exile Dan Savage and Erica C. Barnett to somewhere else so we don't have to listen to their fucking ignorant bullshit any more. Dan loves Chicago and I think he ought to move his ass back there, it's a good place for annoying Irish ex-Catholic assholes, he can take Erica with him.

2) Eliminate all on-street parking and curb bulbs on Broadway, Eastlake, 45th NE, East 15th, Denny, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th avenues downtown and turn the area that is currently used for parking into a dedicated bus and bike lane. This would speed up bus transit by not requiring buses to constantly merge in and out of traffic. As for the merchants who would complain about this, well fuck 'em, it's not the city's responsibility to provide their customers with cheap parking.

3) Get rid of the ride free zone. If you need something to replace it have smaller buses that run a limited route around downtown Seattle. This would be a pain in the ass because it would eliminate the convenience of working next to the bus tunnel and being able use the buses that run it to get around town quickly, but so be it. If you need something to get people around downtown a shuttle bus service could run quite quickly if it had it's own dedicated lane, the ones freed up by eliminating on-street parking.

4) Space out the stops. Was there any bus worse than the #20 that ran up and down Delridge? Christ, that fucking thing stopped every block, and let's face it, a lot of the people who got on could have used walking an extra block or two.

5) More buses with less seating. Metro seats are hideously uncomfortable (and folks, the light rail system ain't going to be any better). Cut the number of seats by 25 percent and run 33 percent more buses (many Slog readers might have trouble with the math on this). Yeah, there's a labor cost involved with doing so but it's still a bargain compared to that piece of shit light rail system that Sound Transit wants to build. Also buy more buses so that commuting during rush hour isn't as painful as it is. It's a Hell of a thing to tell someone who works on their feet downtown all day that they get to spend another 30 minutes standing on a bus before they get to sit down.

6) Change state laws so that all sales taxes from the sale of automobiles and motorcycles go to the county the vehicle is registered in and can only be used for road and transit needs within that county. Change the law so that all sales taxes from the sale of tires and other automotive accessories go to the county they are sold in and can only be used for road or transit needs in that county. Do the same for car rental taxes as well and taxes on parking. This will give the legislature less money to play with so they'll have to deal with it by either cutting other programs or perhaps closing some of the stupid holes that they've punched through the state tax codes for special interests. Use the money this raises to reduce the amount of general sales taxes used to support mass transit.

7) Require all public transit agencies to publish cost of ridership figures. If people knew that Sounder rail was costing over $100 a day in tax revenue for every McMansion owner rider it carried in from Kent and points further south I doubt you'd see it get much support. Erica and Dan are going to hate this one of course, most rail systems are complete and total rip-offs and Sound Transit is especially egregious. but I don't have the "progressive" mindset that Erica and Dan have that says that corruption, incompetence and flat-out lying to the public are bad things for government agencies to engage in unless they're building a rail line.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | November 3, 2007 5:38 PM

ECB @ 23

Leek: I didn't say anything about a dress code. But I do think buses and other public services should serve the greater good--the 95% of people who are just trying to get to work shouldn't have to suffer so five percent can get on and harass them, pass out, pee on the seats, and sell drugs openly. Yet even though I've seen ALL these things happen on the bus, I've never seen a driver respond by kicking the person off.

And how the fuck is rail going to be any better? Seriously? Stinky people with poor bladder control also use the New York subways, the SF Muni and the Boston T. The introduction of rails does not improve hygiene or bladder control. If you have a system where this sort of thing is allowed then it's going to happen, regardless of whether or not it's a bus or runs on rails. As far as all of these incidences of drug sales that you've seen I'd like to know what route you were on. Really because I think you're either over-dramatizing or out and out lying. I used to ride the #20 home through Delridge and White Center almost every night. In the years I did that I never saw a single drug deal. Not a one. In fact I'd have to say that in the 17 years that I regularly rode Metro until I bought my first car at the age of 34 I never saw a single drug deal. I saw lots of rude behavior, but not a single drug deal.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | November 3, 2007 5:48 PM

A few vague suggestions whose do-ability can vary:

- As Dan stated, get rid of the ride free area. No one Downtown who isn't homeless and doesn't already have a bus pass really utilizes it anyway.

- Throw unruly riders off the bus.

- Strictly enforce the 'no fare no ride' policy. Quit giving free passes to street punks who give you quarter assed excuses with a laughing sneer because they know you enforcing the code will be more trouble than it's worth. Call their bluff. Have drivers be able to subtlely radio cops and have them waiting at a forthcoming stop. What good is having a misdemeanor law on the books if you're not going to enforce it?

- Coordinate communications and route timing better so you don't get retarded bottlenecks like passengers of the 49 waiting 30 minutes for the bus and then one 49 coming right after the other. Also, be more modular with the routes and be ready to adjust to meet the demand. For example, when the 71-72-73 buses that come every 20 minutes at rush hour are fucking packed to the doors but the 41s and 301s that come every 5 minutes are half empty, that should warrant an immediate adjustment.

Anyone immediately firing back with excuses as to why we can't do any of this is missing the point entirely.

Posted by Gomez | November 3, 2007 6:00 PM

wile_e_quixote, you ignorant slut. If you're too much of a fool to see how obvious it is that trains do not have stinky and immoral types the way buses to, well, then there's just no point in trying to make you understand. You're one of those people who probably thinks that FlexCars emit pollution and add to car traffic, I'll bet. Suffice it to say that the bus is different than the train. On the bus you can sell drugs, but on the train you can't. Why? Because the train is different. Q. E. D.

God. You people are so dense. It's a wonder that Erica Barnett doesn't mention her clitoris and vulva and related anatomical phenomena in every single article she writes, what with the kind of nonsense she has to deal with.

Posted by elenchos | November 3, 2007 6:57 PM

It used to be that the buses were much cleaner and well-policed than they are currently. Mr. Eyeman's initiative took care of that - along with the 10pm closing of the bus tunnel.

One of the reasons they started the ride-free area in the first place was so that the downtown stops wouldn't be delayed by people fumbling for fares. If you promise not to whine about people dropping change, asking questions, having trouble feeding their dollars into the fare machine, etc, I say go for it.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | November 3, 2007 6:57 PM

@42, I had to laugh at the comparison between CTA buses and Seattle's buses. Both systems bought artics from M.A.N in the early 80s. Long after the CTA's were beat up and trashed, the CTA bought Seattle's old ones, which were still pristine.

Posted by transit geek | November 3, 2007 7:02 PM

All good ideas, Erica.

I'm very much in favor of establishing a "fit to board and ride" policy, but we can't ask the poor drivers earning $12/hr. to risk their lives trying to enforce it. It would require, I'm thinking, a transit police force.

In the 80s, Boston was having some problems with some street people (usually the stinky and mentally ill ones) harassing people (usually young women)on trains, but the behavior disappeared overnight once the Guardian Angels started riding the trains.

As for the white folk, you'll see them mostly on the suburban express buses M-F between 0600-0900 and 1600-1800.

In general, I love your ideas about improvements. And thanks for not adding to the auto emissions problem.

Posted by Bauhaus | November 3, 2007 7:18 PM

Agree with Bauhaus. If I recall correctly, you're coming from Rainier Valley, which is generally a poorer part of town and contains what I'll simply call some of the city's lesser elements. Not that Wallingford or Sand Point are rich places, but the people who ride in from the north end are generally weller to do, better kempt and better behaved. When I first moved here and started commuting Downtown, I was impressed with how normal and clean the other bus commuters were.

Until you get to the U District. Then the trash shows up.

Posted by Gomez | November 3, 2007 7:26 PM

1. Fixed point to point, express, no stops service, reservatiosn on the internet, and set departure times.

Wouldn;'t you like to sign up for the
--the 7 am from MLK and Orcas to 3d and University -- no stops?
--the 8 am from Morgan junction to downtown-- no stops?
--the 7:30 am from 85th and Aurora to 3d and Univestristy, no stops?

Charge a little bit more-- you're saving time and the bus actually would operate and draw passengers more like a train.

2. Stop acting like we have time. We don't. We fought all of WW2 in about 4 years. FDR did most of the New Deal in 100 days.

But it is going to take about 4 yrs for SDOT to implement rapid ride here and there in Seattle. 4 years!

Why can't they throw more express, limited stop buses on the streets NOW?
Later on they can add the bulbs and other things that take more time.

Posted by unPC | November 3, 2007 7:40 PM

@56 skweetis - are you saying that you only want the gay riff-raff scallywags off the bus? if so you're a fucking asshole......homophobe!

Posted by arr | November 3, 2007 8:06 PM


On a train, you can switch cars at the next stop. On a bus, your only options are to endure the bullshit or get off and wait 15-30 minutes for the next bus.

Posted by keshmeshi | November 3, 2007 8:09 PM

@71 - Huh? I'm saying that the tone of the comments early on was one of pity for "middle class types" for having to ride public transit with the public, which unfortunately includes some not-so-fresh smellers and some people that make us feel uncomfortable with their poorness. Then people thought I was saying that it is elitist not to allow everyone to ride the bus. So I clarified to express that I don't think it's classist to deny admission to riders that pose a health or safety risk to other riders. Oh, wait, I just got it. Are you under the impression that santorum is a gay-only phenomenon?

Posted by skweetis | November 3, 2007 8:32 PM


I don't think your idea of a "dedicated bike and bus lane" is going to work that well. Busses aren't always the nicest to bikes, unfortunately, and I can imagine many accidents when bikes move out from behind a stopped bus.

And if you never saw a drug deal on public transportation, it's because they don't want you to see them. Good luck on getting those statistics, though.

Posted by C. | November 3, 2007 8:49 PM

Hey 43, first of all, I'm so glad your mommy lets you use the computer. So let me put this simply so even you can understand. I live on Capitol Hill because I like living on Capitol Hill. I work on the east side because I like my job (usually) and have been there for ten years. I have no intention of changing either. By the way, maybe some day you will have a job that matches your apparent skills. I hear McDonald's and Wal-Mart are hiring.

Saying people should either move or get a new job because they don't have public transportation options yet don't enjoy driving because of slow commutes, high gas prices, pollution, etc etc etc misses the point. I lived in the Boston area before moving to Seattle. I used public transportation because driving in a city whose streets were laid out in the 17th century and clogged with snow four months out of the year, which charged extortionist rates for parking and had a public transportation system alternative that was safe, reliable and inexpensive did not seem like a good idea. Yes, I occasionally got stuck near some whack-job or someone who smelled like a dead goat, but you learn to deal. Life is sometimes unpleasant but you move on.

If King County wanted to invest in a system that provides more options for commuters (both ways during rush hour instead of running empty busses past a gridlocked freeway) and hires transit police to deal with the troublemakers since it should not be the driver's job, more people would use it. Increased usage means more money to pay for these improvements. I also like the idea of using sales tax revenue from auto supplies as 62 suggests. Making the bus a more attractive option for the middle class won't get rid of the crazy and smelly people but it will be a major step in making Seattle the livable city it pretends to be.

Posted by RainMan | November 3, 2007 9:10 PM

Ability to get from point A to point B in under an hour when neither endpoint is downtown Seattle.

That means direct trips, which means neighborhood-level advertising (!) to potential riders. Example: Metro staffers w/info displays at Third Place Books, Central Market, and other bastions of suburbia.

It may also mean usage- or congestion-based pricing expose underlying costs so folks can save some money without abandoning their car entirely.

Posted by Troy | November 3, 2007 9:18 PM

Bus systems in Germany, which I'm most familiar with, are structured hierarchically. You have in-city systems that link to intercity express buses. We don't have that system in Seattle: ours is one bus system serving several cities and intercity transit at the same time. So, Metro basically siphons off tax money from Seattle to subsidize irrational and underused routes in the suburbs for political reasons (i.e. Seattleites pay more into Metro than we get out of it), which degrades the quality of bus service in the city where higher-quality bus service is needed and where people want to actually ride the bus but can't.

Germany also subsidizes public transit at a loss; Americans seem to think that transit should be profitable. Germans realize that the government should help pay for transit because of the ancillary benefits higher transit ridership brings (environmental, economic, social). Until Republicans involved in transit decisions realize that public services cannot be for-profit operations, we will never have a system as good as they have in Germany. (Where I might add the *Christian* Democrat conservatives support the social welfare state and public transit.)

Another thing Germany has that we don't: The Department of Order (Ordnungsamt). When people do things that are not in accordance with the Order, they get tickets for being contrary to the Order (ordnungswidrig). And Germans tattle on each other, too. Americans don't really do that. It's unrealistic that we adopt such a concept in the U.S., but that's why Germans are better-behaved on public transit and why we will probably never have the clean, reliable transit that Germany does. We are not conformist enough.

Anyway, maybe Seattle should SECEDE from Metro and set up a separate Seattle bus system that addresses the frequency and route issues for in-city users, adding express buses to the downtowns of all the main suburbs until light rail serves them.

Germans also run the very real risk of getting tickets for riding transit without paying, "schwarz fahren," as it's called. Nearly everyone I know has gotten a ticket for that in Germany--yet in Metro I've never ever heard of anyone who's been ticketed for riding without paying.

Another thing Germans do: in general, you buy tickets at kiosks and convenience stores to ride so that the bus itself doesn't have to include monetary transactions. Why not require people who ride the bus to use magnetic ticket swipe cards? Tourists could get complementary ones at their hotels to replace the Ride Free Zone, and vending machines could be set up at all major bus stops. That speeds up entry/exit.

Low-income riders could qualify for reduced-fare magnetic ticket swipe cards. So long as those riders don't reek at point of purchase.

I agree also that the Ride Free Zone is a disaster and should be gotten rid of.

Drivers shouldn't have to kick annoying passengers off--which includes not only the smelly and the mentally ill but also the teenagers with jam boxes and what-not. Drivers should drive and stay on schedule. Enforcement should be done by security folks or police on a regular basis.

One last thing. Buses, especially on the well-ridden routes and those that tend to have dirtier passengers, should be cleaned AFTER EVERY ROUTE CYCLE. Good Lord, why should a bus go for 24 hours before piss and vomit are cleaned up?

The wheelchair access is commendable, but the process could go much faster with updated technology.

Posted by S. M. | November 3, 2007 9:27 PM

Let's take it a step further. I'm sick and tired of having to share the sidewalk with those people...the, you know, trash. Perhaps we should build a wall around the city and only let in citizens with proper attire and proper business to attend to...and foreigners with money to spend. Surely providing better services (housing, addiction recovery, job training, et cetera) to the unproductive members of society would do nothing to alleviate the problems they give us middle-class white folk.

Posted by Key To The City | November 3, 2007 9:30 PM

1 - Have a conductor on the buses to collect fare from riders and to "throw Momma from the Train" should she try to ride for free.

2 - No Ride Free Zone.

3 - Space out the stops to save time and fuel.

4 - Send all these comments to Metro RIGHT AWAY!

And #62 I ride the 120 which was once the 20 plying the road known as Delridge Way SW, (the lower colon of Seattle). Just because I top the scales at 425 does not mean you can make fun of me, or suggest I need a walk. Infact you dizzy tart I need a drink!

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | November 3, 2007 9:43 PM

ECB = Rail riders are classier than bus riders in your experience????

I'm not sure what that experience is, but I can assure you that in 5+ years of living car free in Chicago that there is not a big difference CTA bus vs. the El vs. Metra - you will find all sorts of people.

Public transportation is smelly & uncomfortable due to the PUBLIC, not mode of transport. Get a grip and rethink.

Posted by steve leonard | November 3, 2007 10:12 PM

"Germany also subsidizes public transit at a loss; Americans seem to think that transit should be profitable."

No system in the US makes money. Metro is at about 75-80% subsidy.

Having the fare cards that are date/time stamped inside the bus work well when policed by the plain-clothed security guys that also help keep order.

Posted by whatever | November 3, 2007 10:23 PM

The Ride Free Zone was originally funded by the Downtown Seattle Association to help free downtown streets and make it easier for shoppers and workers to move around.

Since then it has become a key part of Metro's operations. Downtown loads tons of people and to collect fares would take forever. It is much easier and quicker to collect them at more dispersed stops.

What are you really saying? That only those who can afford the fare should be able to ride the bus downtown? Nice. It is not that hard to defensively ride the bus. Don't sit near stinky people. Sit near clean people. Deal with it.

All that being said--the bus sucks. We need light rail and we need it now. We have a chance to build 50 more miles of light rail with Prop 1. But Erica, Josh, and the Sierra Club board would rather go back to the drawing board for another three to five years while they wait for the perfect plan. Meanwhile the roads in the RTID will likely get built anyway by state legislators. Is it any wonder Minneapolis' mayor said in Seattle yesterday that he thought opponents here were not all that bright.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | November 3, 2007 10:35 PM

I was in Chicago last year, and had to take something called the Pulaski Bus to get to the Orange Line to get downtown. Those CTA drivers don't take any shit off anyone, and you wouldn't dare try to stiff them for a ride - they'll sic the cops on you.

One nice thing about the Pulaski Bus was that it pulled into a little plaza right at the rail station so you could make a relatively painless transfer.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | November 3, 2007 10:35 PM

wow, what a bunch of whiners.

erica: what specific route do you take? and what hour do you ride it?

some routes have more yahoos have others. the route I take to work each day is filled with people reading and listening to their ipods. there is no "piss and vomit." there is no overcrowding. and the bus nearly always comes on time.

there are some routes that always seem a bit fucked up. route 44 (between UW and ballard) for some reason always seems to have a few crazies on it. and it's the only route i've been on where i've seen a fellow rider smoke up with a pipe.

routes like the 174 (downtown to federal way) and the 358 (aurora) constantly have incidents onboard so maybe non-bus people think that all routes are like those ones.

people that whine about their bus never being on time: have you ever wrote a complain to Metro?

also, I thought this was supposed to be tech city. a quick check of your bus route at would give you real-time info. i'm constantly using that site via my mobile device to determine if there's a lengthy delay, etc. but too many of you are too busy with your myspace clicking around that you don't visit helpful sites.

i will agree that some routes are always late. the 7 was split up a year or so ago into the 49 (and a shorter 7) partially to cut down on the lateness. yet the 49 is still often late. argh.

it's also possible that my life is surrounded by so much piss and vomit that i never notice it on a bus, although i don't think that's likely.

to the person above who complained about Pay As You Leave - you really think that is a serious problem? would you rather have the buses spend more time downtown or would you rather they get out of the downtown area as quickly as possible? if the bus is very crowded, cool drivers will often open the backdoors and let people leave that way and pay on the honor system. outsiders are baffled by this concept, yet it works.

seriously, most of you bus haters have no idea what you're talking about. maybe you repeatedly were forced to travel on some bad route in the past and now you can't stop ranting about it.

oh, another thing i would agree on is that all stops need to have real-time bus info via a display. (this has been tested at some stops.)

Posted by stinkbug | November 3, 2007 10:47 PM

Gosh, who would have thought that perhaps the raving mentally ill and strung out, poor minorities might have no other mode of transportation or mobility and this is one of the few resources they have available to them?

God damn them for trying to survive in a world that spites them for being screwed from the get-go, and for using the bus so they aren't confined to the "bad" parts of town where we can continue to segregate them.

Please, please, please get over yourself and your ridiculous idea of gentrifying anything you have to come into contact with (Heaven forbid you see someone with less money and opportunity than you!)

Posted by Doug | November 3, 2007 11:28 PM

DC Metro isn't as good as most of our bus service, even if it's faster.

Posted by Will in Fremont | November 3, 2007 11:35 PM

Holy classism, Batman.

For the record, I'm not particularly liberal, but I am one white middle class Midwestern Seattle transplant, and I have no problem riding the bus with the homeless and mentally ill and other people who simply can't afford their own cars, cabs, etc.

My husband rides from Fremont to downtown and back every day, and has only once complained about the people on the bus (and it was more related to someone being aggressive with another passenger than anything to do with someone being poor or mentally ill).

It may not be the most comfortable, but who ever said everything in life was supposed to cater to you and your sensibilities? Get over yourself, and stop trying to kick those with less resources off of the only form of transportation they have.

Posted by JadeEJF | November 3, 2007 11:46 PM

Stinkbug @84: it's nice that you have a mobile device that lets you check your bus's real-time status. I don't have one, and my house is a 5 minute walk from the nearest bus stop. The bus comes ever 30 minutes, which means that I usually don't feel comfortable cutting it too close. is a good service for some people, but it's not a panacea.

Will @86, what do you mean when you say DC metro "isn't as good"? I love the ease of being anywhere in the area and knowing that Metro can get me to my in-laws Grovesnor stop on the Red Line. You don't have to research routes before you begin: you just go into a station, look at the map and get on your way.

Posted by Gidge | November 3, 2007 11:55 PM

This white middle class bi-daily bus rider deals with it. I wear headphones and otherwise keep a low profile. If there's a real problem (like that dude who kept calling me a cracker, that guy who smeared toothpaste on me, that crazy ranting dude who told me to lose some weight cus I was a whole lot of woman, etc. blah blah blah), I summon my spine and stand up for myself.

Bad things are going to happen, it's part of life. It keeps my ego in check. I hope I'm not physically assaulted anytime soon, but, you know, it's the risk we take leaving the home.

I'm glad to have something, anything, by way of transportation because I can't justify the expense of having a car. Yeah, the bus is unpleasant. I don't see anyway of improving the system short of:

1) Raising the toll, which would limit accessability to people who need to ride the bus the most. This is class and arguabley racial descrimination. Poor people need to get to places too. Not everyone's employers offer bus passes.

2) Adding a bus monitor to each route. It would be this person's responsibility to keep an eye on riders and ensure security. This would be a huge expense to Metro and, frankly, I think most people (myself included) would resent a babysitter.

These options suck pretty bad. I'll take my chances and continue riding the bus.

Posted by tabletop_joe | November 3, 2007 11:58 PM

@84: the 7, to south Seattle, at all times of the day and night.

Posted by ECB | November 3, 2007 11:58 PM

Rider Profile:
I am a college student. And not from here, I go to Evergreen, so I don't get a free bus pass. I work forty hours a week for a little more than minimum wage. I cannot afford a car. I can hardly afford rent. I think, in my approximation, I am pretty a pretty average bus rider, I keep myself clean, dress in appropriate attire, and keep to myself.

Issues with Metro
I cannot afford to have the price on the bus raised. 1.25 is enough, that is about a seventh of an hour of wages.

I need to get to a variety of places, so I need all those stops. Do not get rid of them. Shopping without a car is tough enough.

The ride-free zone is kind of pointless, I need to go farther than downtown whenever I ride.

Some sort of enforcement does need to exist. The other day on the bus, my fiancee was unwillingly submitted to a conversation in which an eclectically dressed individual confessed to killing a man. We did not know who to notify in this case. Furthermore, I notice drivers talking on cell phones, which is dangerous enough in a car, much more in a bus.

The bus system needs to be fixed, but no good option by those in power has been offered or initiated.

Posted by Jaye | November 4, 2007 12:00 AM

@85, that's pretty fucking hilarious that you're defending the rights of the "raving mentally ill" against the objections of the rest of the citizenry. You probably don't see why it's so fucking hilarious, but maybe in a decade or two you will.

Posted by croydonfacelift | November 4, 2007 12:01 AM

@24: there's a 545 bus between Bellevue Ave. in Cap Hill and Redmond that runs, like, every 10 minutes in the morning. Then the same on the way back (via Stewart and Yale)

ECB, I take the 7 often because I have friends in Columbia City. I'm a white middle-class guy. I don't know if you have something that can distract you like an iPod or a CD walkman but you should consider it.

At least then, you may distract yourself hence you won't have to horribly embarrass yourself as often with your veiled classist bullshit when discussing transit.

And how is dealing with mentally ill people any different when driving? Insane people drive all over Seattle! Oh, right, you don't have to smell them or anything. I guess you'll have to warm up the planet then.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | November 4, 2007 12:19 AM

Also, maybe it's just me but I'd rather smell mild dirt off someone homeless than the upper-class white people who wear godawful cologne or perfume who ride the bus during rush hour. Fucking hell. A bad smell is a bad smell, no matter how poor or rich.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | November 4, 2007 12:21 AM

Oh. Yeah, having to take the 7 all the time would probably make me grumpy too. That route is not typical of most Metro routes though.

Maybe my nose is broken, but in my decade of Metro riding I've only encounter really bad smells a few times, if even that many times. Far worse, are people talking loudly into their phones. On good routes the riders will text away and be quiet. But every so often a loudee gets on board.

I rarely complain when riding but recently a guy sat next to me and proceeded to talk VERY LOUDLY into his phone about how he was taking his parents' boat to some secret camp site. At some point I couldn't take his talk any more and said "Can you please stop shouting into your phone?" and he quieted down.

You really think piss smells are worse than loud talkers?

Posted by stinkbug | November 4, 2007 12:52 AM
the 95% of people who are just trying to get to work shouldn't have to suffer so five percent can get on and harass them, pass out, pee on the seats, and sell drugs openly. Yet even though I've seen ALL these things happen on the bus, I've never seen a driver respond by kicking the person off.

I'm just baffled by your apparent implication that these things wouldn't be an issue with rail transit. Have you been on the subways in NYC? Boston? London? Toronto? etc. etc. etc.

Posted by tsm | November 4, 2007 12:56 AM

How old are the buses on the 7 route you take?

You can't easily compare light rail with buses (smell wise) unless you compare units that are of the same age.

Also, what time will be attached to this post?

Posted by stinkbug | November 4, 2007 1:01 AM

I predict that in less than 15 minutes, someone will use the phrase "World class city my ass" in their post.

Posted by stinkbug | November 4, 2007 1:03 AM

More buses.

Some people don't ride the bus because they run so infrequently that it's not worth it.

Some people don't ride the bus because it comes so infrequently it's packed to the gills when it finally does show up.

More buses should = less cars, but more importantly a city should just have decent bus service.

I've actually been embarrassed when on the bus trying to get t work and seen nice tourists board the bus and their appalled reactions at the filthy state of the bus and how packed full of people it was. World class city my ass.

Speaking of weekend buses, talk about infrequent, I get to spend about an extra hour taking the bus when I work on the weekends,

Posted by K X One | November 4, 2007 1:16 AM

..what about restoring the funding Regan took from mental health care?

Posted by stiletto | November 4, 2007 1:31 AM

Density is great! Except when it pushes out the Cha Cha.

Tear down the viaduct. It serves no useful purpose. West Seattle might as well be a Third World country anyway so who cares.

Don't drive your car, ride the bus. Except there might be poor people on the bus who smell bad or are sick. Now we need light rail which will only have clean quiet white folks.

But vote No on Prop 1. Fuck everyone who doesn't live within view of the Space Needle.


I'm voting Yes on Prop 1 because, seriously, fuck you guys. Oh, and I vote absentee, so I can get good and ripped while filling out my ballot, without driving drunk to "prove a point".

Posted by laterite | November 4, 2007 1:42 AM

I think there should be a first class section on the bus. Add a turnstile in the middle of the bus to separate the middle class from the crazy and stinky.

Posted by mattro2.0 | November 4, 2007 6:44 AM

As a rider of Metro for 25 years, it sucks every time.
But it gets me there.

Posted by whowhodilly | November 4, 2007 7:24 AM

About raising fares... here in Vancouver, the price is $2.25 for a ONE ZONE ride. That means a 30 minuet ride can cost up to $4.50 each way.

Does this stop the "great unwashed" from riding? No, only from paying. There is a huge problem with people never paying for sky train (or even bus) rides, and transit cops barely scrape the surface. I never buy the proper zone ticket, because it would cost too much for me to ride to school everyday.

The big problems we face here are overcrowding of our shitty fleet of old buses (from students who get a u-pass... lucky bastards) and people attacking/fighting with bus drivers... who albeit can be down right ass-holes.

And yes, the skytrain is this city's saving grace. It is soooo much better then the bus.

Posted by Cinders | November 4, 2007 7:28 AM

"Liberal, usually white and middle-class, Seattleites who say riding the bus is a great way to get around donít ride the bus."

That includes the King County Council and Executive (although not all are "white" but still) and Metro Transit managers.
SLOG should do a survey of how many of above ride Metro on a regular basis. It would no doubt be an interesting number.

Posted by NiSaMoce | November 4, 2007 8:58 AM

In the words of the immortal Al Yankovic (to Queen's Another One Bites the Dust):

Ridin' in a bus down the boulevard
And the place was pretty packed
Couldn't find a seat so I had to stand
With the perverts in the back
It was smellin' like a locker room
There was junk all over the floor
We're already packed in like sardines
But we're stoppin' to pick up more
Look out

Another one rides the bus
Another one rides the bus
And another comes on
And another comes on
Another one rides the bus
He's gonna sit by you
Another one rides the bus

Posted by smells like Queen spirit | November 4, 2007 10:23 AM

Man, EB, you sure got a bee in your bonnet about the public transit around here. I mean really, how many "Metro sucks" stories have you ground out since you moved to Seattle? Don't you have some important City Hall reporting to do,like finding out what McIver was drinking the night he lost his shit?

Posted by maddogm13 | November 4, 2007 11:37 AM

Hey, I'm a white, liberal, middle-class, early late twenties, car owning gal who Never drives.. and I Love the bus. And I live in the CC, which means I take the #7 to school or work each day of the week.

Until I can afford a full-time chauffeur, the bus will have to do. Open a window. Sit back, turn on your pod to full blast, and read/do homework/make bus sketches/look at all the people. It does help to take a hit or two just for the ride.

Posted by | November 4, 2007 12:09 PM

Here are two really cheap suggestions:

1) Post the schedule at every #$#%^@! bus stop. Where I live on MLK you would have no idea what was coming by if you didn't already know.

2) At every bus stop, attach a small sticker that explains how to use the text message service, along with the code for that stop. I would be able to use the service a lot more if the stop codes weren't a damn state secret.

Posted by MHD | November 4, 2007 2:24 PM

What @109 said. I've just learned about the SMS thing recently (after riding the buses in Seattle for almost 10 years), and it totally rules, if only for the two stops I have hardcoded into my phone.

Posted by Steve | November 4, 2007 4:26 PM

105. I remember watching the taping of the SAGE forum, which featured the candidates for city council, and they were asked how they got there. ALL of them except for Venus had driven there... and Venus, who usually drives, caught a ride from a colleague to the event.

It's pretty hollow that the people who lead and say they are for density, transit etc. don't actually use the transit system (well, maybe Venus does now that her license has been revoked).

Posted by Gomez | November 4, 2007 5:30 PM

@75, no, you're missing the point. Your post goes on and on about necessary transit improvements, but you never address why it's my problem that your commute sucks. I'm just going to go ahead and assume that you make enough money -- working on the Eastside and all -- to afford to live in a number of neighborhoods in KC. Yet you make a conscious choice to live on the other side of a humongous lake from your place of employment. You've had plenty of time to adjust this situation -- 10 years -- yet you haven't.

For some reason, though, it's now my responsbility to pay so that your commute isn't as painful. Not your responsbility to make choices that do the same thing.

Fuck you.

Oh, and for the record, I'm not some fucking teenager. I work in finance in downtown Seattle. And unlike you, I have enough sense to live in same city in which I work.

Posted by joykiller | November 4, 2007 5:50 PM

Interesting suggestions (well, except that I switch jobs, deal, move, or go fuck myself). Thanks for all the thought that went into most of these comments.

A brief follow-up to answer some questions people asked and respond to a couple of comments.

1) I think a bus riders union is a great idea.

2) The buses on the 7 vary a lot, but many of them are the new low-floor type.

3) You know, the 7 isn't the only bus I've ridden that has had problems. I've seen lots of crazy shit on 44, the 49, the 174/194, and some of the 70 buses too.

4) "Classist"? No. As I said, 95 percent of the people on the bus I ride most often are fine (and most are minority and lower middle class to working class). I have a right to ride the bus without being harassed, offered drugs, or smashed up against a guy who's shitfaced drunk and hasn't showered in weeks because there's no room to move to another part of the bus. More buses would definitely help--even if the bus driver refused to enforce the existing hygiene rules, people could move away.

4) People who say that people like me and Dan should just "deal" are exactly the reason most people in this city would never even consider riding the bus.

5) Yes, I think piss smells are worse than listening to someone on a cell phone (although it's a close call.)

Posted by ECB | November 4, 2007 6:46 PM

Having lived in or visited a number of cities with rail, I can say that:

1. Stinky, dangerous and crazy people still get in.
2. There are fare-jumpers that avoid paying.
3. There are annoying tourists who can't figure out the system who get in your way.
4. Trains break down and run late.
5. Depending on the city (or neighborhood), rail stations can smell like piss, vomit, or in the case of several NYC stations, rotting fish.
6. Rail stations can be filthy and unglamorous. London and NYC have many of them.
7. Rail cars can be filthy and unglamorous. In many cities they are crowded beyond capacity at rush hour and can be a horrid experience. Try riding the Moscow subway at 5 PM on a weekday. NIGHTMARE. Though at least people use deodorant now, unlike when I was first there in Soviet times. Talk about stinky. There is nothing worse than a 45-minute crosstown ride in a car packed like sardines with your face stuck in the armpit of a smelly babushka.
8. Petty criminals love rail. I've had pickpockets try to rip me off on crowded trains in almost every city I've been to.

I would love to have more public transportation options here. Or perhaps just more effective ones. But romanticizing rail doesn't really help.

BTW, are you collecting these comments and submitting them to Metro, or is this just another whiny Slog post?

Posted by bus rider | November 4, 2007 8:13 PM

Erica, people who think they're going to have problems with other people are NEVER going to use public transit, period. (Unless they have to.)

In fact, most people Gen X or older in West Coast cities who don't use public transit rarely switch to public transit unless they HAVE to: car is in the shop, develop driving anxiety, get into a sports accident, etc.

While there are certainly better developments in big West Coast cities for public transit, you'll find that a large percentage of people up and down the West Coast just drive, or own cars. (Yes, even in the Bay Area.)

That's just the West Coast. The weather will never become fatal or really uncomfortable as it does east of the West Coast, where people develop fast transit as a way to *get away from outside because it sucks so hard outside right now*. That's never the case on the West Coast.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | November 4, 2007 8:17 PM

I agree with all ECB's suggestions. I ride the bus at least once practically every single day, even though I hate it. Even when it's not a bad experience, it's never a GOOD one.

Get rid of ride-free.
A separate ticket-taker or conductor/direction-giver type of person would be great. I hate sitting there while some person sticks their head in the bus asking how to get to the Space Needle or some shit.
Buying fare outside at the stop would be nice. A kiosk with updated bus times would be awesome, though not at the top of my priorities.

And yes, I agree, people complaining about US complaining obviously never really take the bus around this city. I used to take the 71-72-73s a lot, and now I am constantly on the 43/49, and just... come ON. Ridiculous.

Posted by Chastity | November 4, 2007 11:19 PM

white liberal middle class 48 yo female here - riding the 358 to and from downtown every day - though not after 6, so I can't speak to that part of the day.

No beefs here, except that I wish it came more frequently and that people moved all the way to the flippin back when it's SRO - I think they're the same folks who don't hold a door for people behind them - and cruise around with their carts in grocery stores as if they're the only ones in the place.

And I hate it when the driver turns the heat on because he's not wearing a coat - and then it's hot steamy smelly instead of just smelly.

That's all.

Posted by 358 rider | November 5, 2007 7:40 AM

Rail would be just super, but it's a long time coming and in the meantime buses are what we got. Dedicated bus lanes would be super, especially on streets like Pike/Pine that are effectively one lane in each direction, making for slow traffic movement. Get rid of street parking on those streets and create bus-only (or bus/bike) lanes. They already exist on some streets, I think. Businesses will fight it, but if Seattle is going to be serious about transit, we need to get buses moving more quickly. Simplify some of the routes and have fewer stops. Not a lot fewer, but every other block on some routes is silly. Add more express routes to the outer Seattle neighborhoods for those commuting to downtown. Increase frequency of routes during rush hour. Death to the ride free zone. Ticket kiosks sound great for downtown, but what about stops in the neighborhoods? Add (or increase) transit police on the few really sketchy routes as a constant presence. I ride every weekday from Madison Valley to Eastlake and my only complaint is that the routes are circuitous, have too many stops, and are very, very slow in the downtown core. Sometimes the 11 has some real freaks between downtown and the hill, but that is life. I get a free bus pass from my job, so I guess it's a fare trade to deal with a few weirdos from time to time.

Regardless, Seattle seems to be clinging to the drive-or-die mentality, and that is not an easy fix. Change will probably come only when people are encouraged, or forced, to abandon their cars at least part-time for transit, in a situation when driving becomes a financial liability (i.e. tolls, congestion charging) and transit becomes a cheap, quick and reasonably pleasant alternative.

Posted by rb | November 5, 2007 8:54 AM

How about... raise the taxation for CARS to pay for the road maintenance needed as a result of the wear and tear they actually cause. Tax gas and vehicle registrations and toll roads to pay for maintenance/improvements and to pay for carbon emissions management systems.

At present, we subsidize more of the total cost of driving than we do the cost of bus riding in the form of taxpayer-financed road projects and maintenance, carbon emissions clean-up projects, etc. Until road maintenance is paid for primarily by the users (drivers that wear down those roads), of course public transportation is going to suck. I bet the millions used to pay for the I-5 repaving would fix up our bus/rail system nicely.

Oh, but wait, that would cost car-drivers MONEY! And we can't do that, oil is expensive enough!

Posted by Sam | November 5, 2007 9:03 AM

I am one of those young, white, upper-middle-class professionals who commutes on the bus every day. Half of my commute is on the crowded (but very clean) 41 from Northgate. The other half is on the also crowded (and consistently smelly) 36 from the ID.

Some days I get lucky and the 36 going up the hill is fine. Other days there's some mentally ill guy having a loud conversation with everyone and no one at once. Sometimes there are two or three people who smell like urine or shit. Sometimes there's just a lingering smell in the back of the bus. I've taken to carrying mints around with me all the time to help cut down the smell. It works - try it.

However, while I don't like sharing the bus with the homeless and mentally ill, most of the problems Metro riders have to deal with from them are caused by the lack of adequate human services downtown. If there were more places people could go to sleep, eat, do laundry, bathe, etc., and they had access to counseling and substance-abuse programs, how much better off would all of downtown be for it?

Posted by Greg | November 5, 2007 9:32 AM

Also, @119, cars (with the exception of studded snow tires) cause virtually no wear to the pavement. It pretty much all comes from trucks and buses. If you really wanted to tax vehicles based on damage, the heaviest taxes would go to concrete trucks, articulated buses, and eighteen-wheelers.

Posted by Greg | November 5, 2007 9:35 AM

This belief in the power of rail is terribly misplaced. I've seen worse things on the T in Boston than I've seen here. And people stink everywhere. At least on a bus there's a logistical limit to the packing in. On trains, where you don't have to worry about falling over as much, you get the really insane can't-move-my-arms packing in. I'd rather spend whatever millions we've got on tripling the number of (electric) buses, instead of setting up a whole new infrastructure.

Posted by Lythea | November 5, 2007 12:30 PM

I'm glad 114 and 122 bring up dispellations of the myth that rail transport is somehow magically free of the trash you find on buses.

Posted by Gomez | November 5, 2007 2:36 PM

Erica, you have no credibility on this matter since you have argued we should be forced to be stuck with buses alone and reject light rail.

Posted by noway | November 5, 2007 9:49 PM

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