Hella Bus Blog
Your place for all things Buslandia!
Quick personal introductions to some of the brilliant, interesting, and really, really ridiculously good-looking writers who will populate the world of Hella Bus with all the political and cultural news you require this summer. More to come!
Born and raised in Seattle, I am in an incoming senior at Whitman College where I major in politics with a particular interest in race and ethnic studies. I enjoy reading fashion magazines, watching crime shows, listening to hip-hop, and snacking. Usually all at the same time.
Last August, I left for Southern California to pursue higher education at a little place called Pitzer College, not knowing if I would ever return to the city I’ve called home my entire life. With the added experience of living in a waterless desert, I have now returned to the city by the sea to resume my post as writer, photographer, and documenter of all things music and art. I love public transportation issues, and am a huge proponent of protecting basic civil liberties for all citizens.
I'm a freshly-minted college graduate. I am also crazy, because for some reason I want to get into journalism and fiction writing, which are dying and poverty-inducing professions respectively. This quixotic quest for clippings started when I was the go-to Hella Bus guy last summer. I combat my existential crisis by playing bass, working part time as The Stranger's Unpaid Intern, and hanging out with Mitch Hedberg.
I’ve been the youngest volunteer in the room since my first Bus experience way back in 2008, and my time with Hella Bus is no exception. A rising high school senior with a summer birthday, I am the only Bus intern who won’t be able to vote come November. Despite this bitterly ageist setback, I’ve done my best to become an involved member of my local community. When I’m not sitting in the dark writing about local happenings or out in the sun experiencing them, I can be found watching and relentlessly making fun of bad movies, skiing (yes, even in the summer, what’s good), and biking.
Ever bake a cake, and leave out a key ingredient - sugar perhaps? Tastes terrible (Probably. I'm an insanely good baker). Or forget to add tapioca/flour/your thickener of choice to a fruit pie and end up with a soupy mess? (Again, I'm purely trying to imagine the problems that a lesser baker might encounter).
You see, oven-based neglect is not dissimilar to the predominant discourse on transportation today - it's missing a key ingredient:
When we talk about transportation we nearly always talk about sustainability, but transportation is also a social and economic justice issue.
For a timely example, see this Monday's front-page New York Times article about transportation. It turns out that Europe is on the forefront of establishing "more environmentally friendly modes of transportation." It's a lovely article, but focuses solely on environmental issues without drawing out the broader affects of public transportation.
So what's the problem? Well, when we make transportation a narrow issue, we get back a narrow demographic engaged in the discussion. If we want to reel in a broader range of voices into the discussion of transportation policy, we need to acknowledge the broader role it plays in our life (see the Sightline institute for a great fusion of human and environmental approaches to transportation).
The ability to move yourself from one place to another is one of the baseline requirements of participation in our society. You must be able to transport yourself from your house to your work, to school, to the store, to the doctor, to leisure activities (like baking camp*).
Even when we look at large-scale decision-making around transportation and development, it doesn't take long to spot the effects on the individual.
If we collectively decide that we're going to build car-focused infrastructure, then we're saying that the price of participation in our society is at least $8,500 per year on average (the cost of operating a car).*
If we collectively decide to require developers to build a set minimum of parking spaces with each new building, we're pushing the cost of development up, and ultimately, the cost that all of us pay for housing or at the store.
If we collectively decide that we want to maintain low housing density in our cities, we're pushing up the price of housing (via supply and demand), and making our cities unaffordable for all but the very wealthy.
If we collectively make a decision to underfund Metro, who does it hurt most? The people who count on it as an affordable mode of transportation.
Don't get me wrong--the environmental aspects of transportation are huge. I love the fact that bicycling, bussing and walking are great for the environment, for health (I'm pretty convinced that the cure for our current obesity epidemic is to stop driving), for fun, for stress relief, and on and on...
But when the discussion is framed primarily around sustainability and skirts over the day to day human impact, a whole range of voices - most often those most directly affected by declining public transit - are pushed to the margins.
So just as a sugarless cake is only enjoyed by a small slice of folks (just kidding, no one eats sugarless cake), so too does a purely environmental discussion of transportation leave out important issues and voices. Those of us interested in funding public transportation would do well to open more avenues into public discourse by looking at it as a social and economic justice issue as well.
*Is there such a thing? Not that I need it. I'll refer you to my earlier comment about how really, really ridiculously good at baking I am.
*A little comparison shopping: Four full-cost, peak hour fares on Metro ($2.50), every day, 365 days per year, would come out to $3,650/year. I'm not sure what the yearly cost of biking is, but say you ride a really, really extremely nice bike for your commuting pleasure--a $1,500 bike for example. The bike lasts for 3 years, so that's $500/year. Throw in a generous $500/year for repairs, accessories, and of course spandex! Because spandex is essential to biking! That's only $1,000/year. And all that walking costs you is the price of a comfortable pair of kicks.
Your new Hella Bus Staff!
Now - as you know - the Bus has been working on the ground alongside thousands of powerful young people, organizations, community leaders, and good elected officials to move Washington towards a fresh era of politics since 2007.
Now, Hella Bus is bringing the good parties, good politics, and youth power to the world wide web.
We've been here (as in the mystical realms of the internet) for a while now, but today marks a distinct moment in our history. Specifically, we now have a fully staffed team of talented young folks (rather than one curly-haired guy in an attic) to bring you the best in arts, culture, politics, and the beautiful ways they interweave.
Today's media climate needs more platforms for thoughtful, authentic young voices, and Hella Bus aims to be just that. Nothing annoys us more than when major publications write about young people, but leave out our voice (and it happens all the time).
Ultimately, (and here's where the name comes in) we believe the world should be hella Bus - which means more informed, more inclusive, more youth-driven, more progressive, less self-satisfied/serious/involved, and much much more of a party. We're taking over the world, and having a good time while we do it.
On this here blog of record, we'll be sharing the Bus/youth/potentially your perspective so join the movement and let's do the dang thang.
Check out the podcast of a very interesting, informative, and provocative roundtable on gentrification in Seattle featuring the likes of former mayor Norman Rice, The Stranger's Charles Mudede, Eric de Place from Sightline, and Richard Morrill a professor of Geography at UW.
Listen to smart, smart people talking about very important stuff here.
Add another chapter to the Bus' party book of records. On Monday, over 200 people crammed into Nord Alley in Pioneer Square for the 2011 Summer Fellows Inauguration. And it was the best! To be topical, the Inauguration was to parties in an alley as zombie ladybugs are to being totally real.
For an easier point of reference, check out this lovely set of photos of the event courtesy of 2009 Summer Fellow Gabe Meier:
Pai's food truck, followed by chocolate cake, followed by immense satisfaction.
Not your average alley party (little to no public urination).
2011 Summer Fellow Paris Randall relaxing.
It was Thomas' birthday!
2010 Summer Fellows Stacy Beull reveals her musical talents.
Two former Summer Fellows, two State Representatives. A match made in heaven.
Huge thank you's to everyone who made it happen - the Pai crew, Seattle Foundation, Brainerd Foundation, Bullitt Foundation, Zeitgeist Coffee, the International Sustainability Institute for the wonderful space, Rep. Eric Pettigrew, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, and the whole Bus family that came out to support an amazing group of young people launching their journey to leadership in Washington State!
If you follow local news in Seattle, you've probably seen that King County Executive (and friend of the Bus--both the Hella and the Metro varieties) Dow Constantine proposed a two-year $20 vehicle license fee to prevent major cuts to Metro services. Specifically, 600,000 service hours, or roughly 17% of all Metro Service.
Visualizing abstract numbers is hard. For clarity, Metro has put the effects of a 17% cut in bus service in an understandable context--"the rough equivalent of eliminating all rush hour bus service for commuters, or all weekend service in King County."
Needless to say, that's HUGE. The impacts of such a dramatic cut in service will be felt by bus patrons and those of the car-going variety alike. If you're a bus rider, the effects are pretty direct. Check out the plan for one-sixth of the (PDF--helmet tip to Seattle Transit Blog). Not a Metro rider? According to Metro, buses "carry the equivalent of 7 lanes of traffic on state highways in peak commuting hours." Your commute just got longer.
Thank you map. For enhancing my confusion.
Dow's proposed $20 fee is a fairly straightforward plan to cover the revenue gap and prevent these cuts.
Now $20 may not seem like a whole lot of money. After all, it is about a half of one tank of gas (escalades excluded), or two-tenths of one percent of the AAA's --a pretty small amount of money in the grand-scheme of car-ownership.
But those thinking that a temporary $20 car tab hike would be uncontroversial should think again. In order to pass, the car tab hike needs either 6 out of 9 votes on the King County Council, or 5 out of 9 votes to be referred to the voters on the November ballot. There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding whether or not the Council will pass the fee directly - Publicola reports that five council members are on the fence - including all four Republicans and Democrat Julia Patterson.
Completely unrelated side note: You can find out who your King County Council person is and what their phone number is here (on the right side of the page). A call from an active and engaged constituent goes a long way towards nudging an elected official in your preferred direction. Whatever that may be.
Whatever happens with the two-year car-tab hike, though, the big picture demands that we find some long-term solutions for Metro funding. Currently, Metro gets the majority of its money from sales taxes (regressive and unstable), and another big chunk from rider fares (which have increased every year since 2008).
It's almost a perfect storm: the recession, rising fares, the fact that people in King County are driving less and less, and the fact that baby boomers are about to hit the age where they have to turn in their car keys. Combine all those and you have an underfunded transit system pushed to the limit. Luckily, there are ideas out there such as the Local Transit Act designed to confront this impending challenge - we'll see how they fare (pun EXPLOSION!) in next year's legislative session. Stay tuned for more!
Last week we posted this astounding photo album from the great Vancouver hockey riots of 2011. Two follow ups that more or less confirm that this was one of the more peculiar riots in history -
1) 90% of the wreckage was cleaned up the next day by 11 am. Almost 16,000 Vancouver residents RSVP'd to join in sweeping up a shattered downtown - some of whom were angry about the riots, some of whom had taken part.
2) Police are identifying perpetrators through Facebook photos. The NYT has the rather creepy lowdown here. This feels like a fairly logical corollary to the public nature of social media and serves as an excellent reminder that when you stare into Facebook, Facebook stares back (thanks Nietzche!).
And this continues to be one one hell of a photo album.
You met some of them. Then you met some more. Now, check out the third and final installment of 2011 Summer Fellows introductions below. Say hi to them digitally now - then meet them in their full 3-dimensional reality this evening at 6pm in Nord Alley for the Summer Fellows Inauguration!
Alma Garcia Santos
I will be graduating in the fall from Eastern Washington University with a degree in social work and a minor in gerontology. I have 3 younger brothers who get on my nerves sometime like any other siblings. Super excited to what this summer will enrich me with!
Amber Rose Jimenez
Amber is enchanted with philosophy and smitten with the arts. She's got mad-rad love for a free press, an informed citizenry, and all-ages, youth run spaces. Plus, she's totally keen on learning about the social & political (sub)cultures within the Middle East and is planning on traversing the region as a foreign correspondent someday soon.
Omar Mozo Olazcon
I got this.
Sug Haynor is all about glamarchy, dirty feet, overalls, and and micron .005 pens. She/they/squee/ze enjoys long walks on the beach and dinner by candlelight.
The talented Mr. Joshua Guerci put together this video of us chatting with some of those courageous folks running for Seattle City Council at our kick-off a few weeks ago. Which candidate can name the most neighborhoods? What was the last photo attachment they sent from their Twitter Account? Do they get topical humor? Peep it:
Check out this TED talk on power, politics, and the courage to stand up for the public good from dapper gentleman and founder of our friends to the south Jefferson Smith:
At the riots in Vancouver following their Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup finals:
Peep the rest of, perhaps the most spectacular photo album in Canadian history here. Seriously, you won't regret it. Police are reporting several instances of officers suffering "human bites," solidarity riots in Montreal, and over 100 arrests. Also, judging by these photos, this wasn't "a small group of hooligans" like the Vancouver Police Chief claimed, but a broad base of (probably intoxicated) devastated sports fans, pyromaniacs, and romantics (see above). Check out the beautiful, hilarious, terrifying, and a little bit heartbreaking photo album here.
It's a three way street, and it's blowing my mind (helmet tip to the Seattle Bike Blog)
Just as Avatar added a new dimension to cinema, bicyclists are adding a new dimension to street use. Previously, the distinction between cars and pedestrians, roads and sidewalks, crosswalk users and people who have to stop for crosswalk users was pretty well-defined. Even if not perfectly practiced, the rules were generally understood.
Now that all of us cyclists are on the road, though, it's a brave new world. Much like the mythical griffin that is part-eagle, part-lion, we exist in a gray area somewhere in between a car and a pedestrian. We travel in the street, and yet are as vulnerable to collisions with cars as pedestrians. When riding in the street, we generally ride in the right shoulder, but take the car-lane when we need to, and sometimes we even ride on the sidewalk. We stop at stop lights (mostly), but treat stop signs like they're yield signs.
As a society, we're clearly in the middle of a sometimes messy, and sometimes heated process of figuring out what the norms of the road are for our increasingly three-way streets chock full of bicyclists.
Publicola recently linked to an insightful Portland Tribune article arguing that bicyclists should be legally allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs. And, as the 'Cola points out, Idaho already allows this. Mad love for Idaho, but who would have thought they'd be leading the way? It's a brave new world indeed.
Some forward-thinking locales--mostly in Europe, as far as I can tell--are even removing traffic signals--the thinking being that in the absence of traffic signals, road users are forced to pay more attention to each other, and be more considerate.
My take on all of this? I'm not sure if I'm ready to remove all the stop lights just yet. But, after years of cycling, I've developed some opinions on what the norms of bicyclist road-use should be. It's totally cool to treat stop signs as yield signs, but be very careful. And, please, don't run red lights--you just look like a dick if you do that. I generally ride to the right, but I will take a car-traffic lane anytime I even vaguely think I need to for safety. And I never, ever ride on the sidewalk, except when I'm absolutely forced to in instances such as crossing the Fremont Bridge. At stop lights, rather than ride all the way to the front of the line of cars, I'll generally take the car-lane because I'm scared of a right-turning car slamming into me.
And in general, the more separation between cars, bicyclists and pedestrians the better. Mad love for bike lanes, the Burke-Gilman and the soon-to-exist Broadway cycle track, which the city is developing in conjunction with the soon-to-exist Pioneer Square to Broadway streetcar line.
I'm actually ridiculously excited for the cycle-track. Check out the plans for Broadway's new look:
Thanks to Capitol Hill Seattle for the image.
Remember Welcome Wagon?
Attendees from last month already helped to organize our wicked fun Council Kick-Off with the Stranger, joined us at Sasquatch, and helped hundreds of young Washingtonians pledge to vote. And it only gets bigger and better from here.
Well guess what, it's happening again! Welcome Wagon is the absolute best way for new folks to meet the Bus and see what it is we do, and for Bus stalwarts to usher in another exciting year of good parties and good politics. Come join us this month for more food, drinks, foosball, and opportunities for driving the Bus into a better Washington. It kicks off at 6pm and wraps up (or moves elsewhere, as the case may be) around 7:30. Everyone is invited! Please RSVP to nicole [at] washingtonbus [dot] org!
Bus HQ 1100 E. Union St. Suite 1E