While driving my bus, I often encounter passengers who are not ready to pay their fare, sometimes resulting in significant delays. We’ve all seen them: The person who puts down their bag and then fishes around in their pockets for change or the person who pulls out their wallet and thumbs through virtually every credit card and punch card they own looking for their ORCA card. I’ve heard from many passengers that they consider this behavior rude so I’ve developed a routine to try remind passengers to have their fare ready. In as upbeat, positive, and non-scolding tone of voice as I can muster I quietly say, “It really helps keep the bus moving if you can have your fare ready when you see me coming.” People don’t like to be scolded (Seriously, have you ever enjoyed it?) but I’ve found that most folks seem to get it and realize I’m just trying to keep the bus moving for everybody.
Yesterday’s trip north on the D Line was a perfect example. After a passenger boarded at Dravus Street and proceeded to execute the “fish through the pockets” routine, I gave my gentle reminder – The passenger finished paying, moved to the rear of the coach, and I started driving. One more quick stop right before the bridge for a few passengers to jump off and then, as luck would have it, the traffic lights switched to yellow and then red – and then the bridge went up. It would have been a perfect video for Metro to use as a reminder to have your fare ready. This example is extreme – usually the worst delay is missing a traffic light cycle – but payment delays are still very common and add up, costing passengers time and Metro a LOT of money to be sure. I’m sure most of the people reading this are among Metro’s fastest paying customers, but if you aren’t yet, can you do your fellow passengers a favor? Please have your fare ready before you board. Thanks!
Streetfilms has a feature on Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI) for crosswalk signals that I’d recommend watching. In short, before a signal for vehicle traffic turns green, LPIs give pedestrians a head start to establish their presence in the crosswalk. While Streetfilms doesn’t cite safety statistics, virtually all pedestrians can imagine how LPIs might improve their odds. We’ve all likely had the experience of getting a “WALK” signal and stepping out into the crosswalk right as Mario Andretti (or at least his evil twin) takes off from his pole position right as the light turns green as if the green signal releases a massive rubber band holding Mario’s car in place.
The city of Seattle has already started experimenting with LPIs in “a few” locations (Sadly, no mention of where). I stumbled across one on 4th Ave S, just north of Costco and can say that it at least *feels* safer. Going forward, I’ll be interested to see more of these, especially in locations with heavy volumes of turning traffic. Perhaps 4th & Olive, or 6th & University near the I-5 onramp? Where would you like to see an LPI?
I have been rereading a chapter from Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” titled “The City Without Us”. The chapter opens with a look into what would happen to New York if humans vanished from the planet one day. Under normal circumstances, the subway tunnels in New York are kept dry by constant pumping. Once humans are no longer around to maintain the pumps, the tunnels would fill up quickly, even without flood waters from Sandy’s storm surge. The chapter goes on to illustrate just how delicate New York’s infrastructure is and how much it relies on constant human intervention to keep the large portions of the city from quickly collapsing. With more Irene and Sandy-like storms likely in New York’s future, the chapter is an excellent view in the possibly futile effort to keep New York dry.
The rest of the book is equally fascinating and looks at what happens to several different human creations after we simply vanish. The chapter on our Nuclear Power plants and warheads is applicable for those curious about what happens to all that spent nuclear fuel we have laying around in cooling ponds. Given the fragile state of Fukishima’s cooling ponds, that chapter contains a sobering look at our “Hot Legacy”.
Anyway, I highly recommend the whole book.
UPDATE: Apparently, I missed the fact that the US Army Corps hasn’t received a request to help with subway tunnels. From the look of MTA’s web site, they appear to have things under control. I can only imagine how long it’s going to take to pump all that water out and then inspect the electrical equipment.
I ran across an interesting article in Wired Science about the process of removing flood water from New York’s tunnels. It’s a fascinating short read worth your time. A few highlights: The US Army Corps of Engineers has built up a specialized Task Force for such operations in the years after Katrina. Interestingly enough, they have the people but no equipment on standby. It’s going to take some time since they are waiting for pumps and the dewatering process needs to be done slowly to prevent damage to the tunnels. I also found it interesting that they are focusing on the Brooklyn Battery tunnel for cars first rather than Subway tunnels. MTA’s Subway Recovery Map shows that the Brooklyn Subway lines are all completely cut off from Manhattan. In New York of all places it seems like you’d want to focus on the rail system first, but perhaps there is other damage further up the line or the MTA has things in hand on their own.
The demise of the Ride Free Area and surging demand for public transportation have combined forces to virtually guarantee packed standing loads on my final trip. When I get stuck behind a train, which happens almost every evening, I usually start denying rides at University Street or Pioneer Square stations where frustrated passengers longingly eye the space in front of the yellow line. I’ve heard stories of harried passengers, after being passed by multiple overflowing buses, being pushed to the brink of violence and DEMANDING to be allowed to ride forward of the yellow line. Some drivers may demur and allow it, but as the bulletin to the left shows, management appears to be quite serious about enforcing this rule.
But perhaps management pressure on drivers doesn’t motivate you. Frankly, why should it? How about enlightened self interest? When you are on a 30-ton vehicle you may think it’s very safe, and it is. A combination of the heavy frame, professional drivers, and stringent safety regulation makes them so. But there are times where the safety bubble of a bus can be pierced. The picture to the right illustrates why being in front of the yellow line can be such a bad idea during a crash. So please stay back and, ideally, move as far to the back of the bus as you can to make room for more people. We’ll get you there, even if you have to wait for one of the next couple of buses.