Ode to Seattle Bus Tunnel

Buried beneath the bustling streets
With your single focused mind
Your people need no longer worry
About delays, weather, taxi interference

Where were you when I rode daily
This vast city's bus system
That sometimes feels so tacked on
Almost as an afterthought

You bring modernity to us
To this already modern city
And you promise us more modernity still
When light rail graces your sterile halls
Wednesday May 21 2008File under: transportation, poetry

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Greyhound Alternatives

I've mentioned before the qualms I have with Greyhound. While I appreciate the coverage they offer–bringing transportation to places that may have no other options–I've had enough bad experiences* to actively seek out alternatives. Until I started looking, I didn't even know they existed. "Bus travel" and "Greyound" were always synonymous in my mind. I was pleased to see that this isn't the case. On the off chance that you have some of the problems with Greyhound that I do, I thought I would share some alternatives I've come across.
Megabus: Serving 3 different regions (CA,NV; Midwest; Northeast) with "low cost daily express bus service". Book early and you might only pay $1 for your seat*.
Sample fare comparision: Megabus vs. Greyhound
Chicago -> Cincinnati: tomorrow $37 vs. $46; a month from now $36 vs. $50


Bolt Bus: Serving DC, Philly, NYC, and Boston with inexpensive direct routes. They also do the ticket for a buck thing, if you book far enough in advance. Free WiFi on the bus is another perk.
Sample fare comparision: Bolt Bus vs. Greyhound
D.C. -> NYC: tomorrow $20 vs. $42; a month from now $15 vs. $34


Chinatown Buses: Chinatown buses started springing up as a cheap way for people (and wares) to get from Chinatown district to Chinatown district of major cities in the Northeast corridor. It has recently become a very popular way to get from city to city for anybody. With a straightforward loading process and very extensive schedule, this is the preferred method for many east coast corridor travelers.
Sample fare comparision: NYDC Express vs. Greyhound
D.C. -> NYC: tomorrow $20 vs. $42; a month from now $20 vs. $34


Concord Trailways: Serving Maine,New Hampshire, and Boston, this is a great example of a regional alternative. Benefits over Greyhound that I've personally experienced are movies on the buses and better connection/station location in Portland, along with saving a few bucks.
Sample fare comparision: Concord Trailways vs. Greyhound
Boston -> Berlin, NH: tomorrow $20 vs. $42; (4.5 hrs vs. 14 hrs (with two transfers))



These are a few alternatives I've come across in my travels. While I haven't ridden all of them, the ones that I have proved a better experience for me than GH. I don't always discount Greyhound because they occasionally have better rates or better schedules. I've found, though, that it is always nice to have options.
Monday May 19 2008File under: travel, transportation

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Victoria Juggling Fest 2008

This past weekend, I made the trek from Anacortes up* to Victoria B.C. When I say "trek", I mean it. As is my wont, I decided to make the whole trip via public transportation: 6 buses, 2 ferries, and 10 hours*. It is good to know that it is doable, but I think next time, I'll look into carpooling.

Anyway, the festival was great. It was wonderful to see all my old juggling buddies again and throw things at their heads. The public show had some very creative acts and kept me quite entertained. The whole Canadian spin on things (metric system, funny money, accents, etc.) gave the weekend a more adventurous aura. Yep, good folks and good fun–I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend.

(The combination of my camera not taking good indoor pictures* and my laziness to attempt taking pictures led to only a few presentable shots of the festival: tall unicycle club passing and a gym of jugglers (taken at a non-optimum time because there were times when it was much hoppinger than this.))
Monday March 17 2008File under: juggling, transportation

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North Sound City to City Public Transportation Guide

It's been a year now that I've been without a car. And while Scoot Scoot gets me around, it isn't the most efficient thing for longer distance travel*, so I very often find myself on the bus. In fact, I'm getting to know the local area bus schedule pretty damn well–so well, in fact, that I often find myself acting as consultant to people who want to go from A to B under C circumstance.

Fancy schmany public transportation districts have websites with trip planners where you can get routes to and from anywhere in the system without having special knowledge of which routes run when, where, etc. This is what I've set out to recreate for the transportation districts in our area. You select where you want to start and where you want to go and presto, this website lays out what routes to take, as well as helpful tidbits about schedule, price, etc.

One thing that the site doesn't offer (yet) is a full timetable for each schedule. One reason is because to maintain a separate database for all these would be problematic. Whenever a company changed its schedule, things would be out of sync until I realized the problem. Another reason is because I am just one guy, and the prospect of doing a full blown trip planner (for free) was a little overwhelming.

But despite the lacking time element, my hope is that this tool will help those who want to make inroads into public transportation travel but don't know where to start. Spread the word about North Sound City to City Public Transportation Guide.
Sunday March 9 2008File under: transportation, coding

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Public Transportation Excuses

I've had a very public transportation-y week. In all, I've ridden 6, count 'em, 6 public transportation systems (Island Transit, Whatcom Transit, Skagit Transit, Sound Transit*, Community Transit, and Metro Transit). In some of the downtime inevitably provided by traveling while not having to focus on the road, I started thinking about why people choose not to ride the bus. As kind of a response to some of those reasons, I wanted to share this anecdote in hopes of getting people to maybe reconsider their excuses.

A few weeks ago, a friend was in visiting from out of town. Being that I don't have a car, all our motating* was either by foot or bus*. One particular bus trip got me to stop and realize how many of people's usual excuses we were defying. We were on a relatively unfamiliar system (we were in Bellingham, whose bus system I don't have much experience with), we were going shopping at the farmers market so had a couple of bags of groceries, and we were traveling with a 15-month old in a stroller. Even with all that, the trip went splendidly. Extra time provided by the bus schedule allowed us to explore the town more, the 15-month old really enjoyed watching out the window as the bus cruised along, and we got some good exercise walking to and from the bus stop.

(p.s. I love public transportation.)
Saturday November 3 2007File under: transportation

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Chuckanut Dr.

As summer is coming to an end, that also means an end to the [comfortable] scooter season. Time will tell if I am still able to use it as my prime form of transportation. It's been a fine run with the little guy. I often think back on some of the wonderful roads we've taken together (e.g. 395 and 1 as covered here before.) Recently. I was reminded of another spectucular road we have right here in the northwest, almost perfectly suited to Scoot Scoot. I've had occasion to ride it a few times recently, and I didn't think it was fair not giving it a shout out after calling attention to those other roads.

Chuckanut Dr. from the Skagit flats to Fairhaven has got to be one of the best roads of all time. I happened to hit it as the sun was going down on a beautiful autumn day. Returning on a clear night with the moon reflecting off the water was just as spectacular. While traveling via a scooter immerses you in the environment all the more, the road is worth driving in a car as well.

It's a road I recommend to friends visiting from out of town who are headed up to Bellingham, and it is a road to I recommend to all of you who might be passing that way.
Saturday September 29 2007File under: transportation, Anacortes

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On Open Letter to Greyhound

Dear Greyhound Inc.,

I've been a customer of yours for several years. You always come through in a pinch, even if it isn't the best deal or the most convenient travel experience. But a bad options is often better than no optional at all, and I appreciate the service you provide. In my years traveling, I've noticed a few things that I wanted to ask about and a few possible suggestions. I would love to see you become a viable travel option for everyone, not just the bums and winos.

My first question is this: How do you manager to get at least one crazy person or drunk on every bus? Do you focus your advertising campaigns at half-way houses and mental facilities? Is there some sort of discount that you don't offer the general public? Or maybe it is just the camaraderie they feel with the Greyhound employees. Do you keep a staff of these folks on call in case a legitimate crazy doesn't show up? If so, where can I find the application for this position. I do a great crazy.

That brings me to my next question: Do you offer performance benefits on an inversely proportional basis? There must be some incentive that gets your employees to be so indifferent. I've never seen people on duty be so unconcerned with getting the job done properly and in a timely fashion (besides road construction crews, of course). I know this may sound like a new idea, but it is actually well accepted in the business world today: reward employees for performance rather than the lack thereof. With this simple change in policy, you might find that buses will start being on time, facilities will start to resemble a place you wouldn't be afraid to take your mother, and people won't be so horribly belligerent from having been treated so poorly. Who knows, you might even become a company your stock holders wouldn't avoid like the plague.

With a little work and thought, I'm confident that you can be a company with the value and reliability that will compare with, say, Guatemala's bus transit systems. But I will say this: I've never seen a live chicken on any of your buses.

Tuesday July 24 2007File under: transportation, open letter

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Bike Portland!

Portland likes bikes. Or at least they recognize the value in accommodating and encouraging them. I've never seen a city that is as bike friendly as Portland is. There are bikes racks in front of most establishments, often overfilled. I even saw a neighborhood that blocked off a parallel parking spot and filled it with bike racks so the sidewalk wouldn't be clogged. In the space it takes to park one car, there was space for over a dozen bikes. There is space for bikes on the buses and the MAX (the light rail public transportation), also often filled. But what has impressed me most about the biking scene in Portland is the number and quality of bike routes.

In my short time in Portland, I've probably ridden over 50 miles. The difference riding on designated bike routes makes is huge. Often these routes are on lesser traveled residential streets so you don't have to contend with traffic. When the routes do follow major roads, there is a lane set aside for you, painted and everything. Every time the route makes a turn, there are signs pointing the way and updating the distance (and estimated time) to the major landmarks. And for people not terribly familiar with the area, there is even a route planner.

All the encouragement and accommodation seems to be working. You see bikers everywhere you go, ranging all the way from spandex clad aerodynamic racer types to little old ladies with their groceries. Seeing all these cyclists is so inspiring to me. Whether it is their intention or not, the positive environmental impact of pedaling across town instead of pedal-to-the-metalling across town is huge.

I count my miles bicycling among my favorite experiences here in Portland. It kept me in shape, showed me the city, and saved the planet all at the same time. Yes, I agree with sentiment often heard around the city, on billboards, bumber stickers, and store windows: Bike Portland!
Sunday July 22 2007File under: travel, transportation

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Rust In Peace

Good cars—I mean cars that we really love—don't come along very often in our lives. It is with great sadness that I had to let Marilyn go this past weekend. She lived to a ripe old age of 309,811 miles. Now she has gone to a better place, the vehicle donation program at KUOW. Hopefully someone out there will find a use for some of her parts, so she can continue to live on in one form or another.

But instead of focusing on the sad, let me look back on the good times she provided. We shared accomplishments,setbacks, learning experiences, and confusion. She took me on adventures and was always patiently waiting for me when I came home. Marilyn, you will be missed.
Monday April 16 2007File under: transportation, pics

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Scoot scoot scoot!

I bought a scooter. I've been toying with the idea ever since I got back from Asia (and well before (*cough* Honda Spree (twice))). After spending a lot of time looking through craigslist and the classified, I wasn't finding what I wanted. Through persistence, however, I found a place in Bellingham that had what I wanted: low(ish) size and power, non-automatic transmission but no clutch, decent gas mileage, and decent top speed. All of these came together in the Yumbo C110.

As the dealer tells it, this an replica of the old Honda Cub now made by some Chinese company. The speedometer and odometer are both in kilometers and the owner's manual is obvious translated, but both are no hill for a stepper. Now all that's left is for me to get a motorcycle endorsement on my license and I'll be good to go.

(Oh, and don't worry. I got a good helmet too.) For those gearheads out there, here are the specs:
Tuesday March 6 2007File under: transportation

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