Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I've been knittin' a mitten

Unfortunately it came out too small. I was too afraid to divert from the pattern, having never navigated the construction of a mitten, and so that's what I too-small mitten. I think I know what to do to make its mate fit my hand more accurately.

I biked home from work last night at dusk (taking the direct route on 24th up Capitol Hill...a mistake I shall not repeat until my legs get quite a bit stronger) and immediately headed back out again so I could cast my provisional ballot in yesterday's election. I wasn't terribly informed, and left most bubbles empty; it was really just Proposition 1 that I was determined to vote for. I didn't think it would pass (and it didn't), but I still wanted to cast my vote in favor. It would have implemented a "regional rail and transit system between Lynnwood, Shoreline, Northgate, Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, SeaTac airport, Kent, Federal Way and Tacoma," as well as funded projects on various roads in the region, as I understand it. It was to be funded by a regressive sales tax, and various environmental groups made persuasive arguments against the roads portion of the package; despite those good arguments in opposition to the plan, it was nice to briefly imagine the idea of getting around the region without a car.

I grew up on the ass end of nowhere. We lived 20 miles from town. If you didn't have a car, you stayed home. There was no getting dropped off and picked up by the parents unless you could do whatever it was in a small enough time frame that the parents could run some other errands in town before picking you up again--no running in and running home when the round trip was almost an hour.

I'm sure that's a big part of why I get so drooly over public transit projects--even Metro, which already has its fair share of drool and other bodily fluids crusted in the crevices of its buses. My very first public transit memory is of taking the Max train on a visit to Portland when I was about 8, and zipping to the zoo or OMSI or somewhere grand and impressive. After that, I remember when I was about 15 I visited a friend who'd moved to Eugene. On Saturday night we decided to go see a movie. We walked down the street and caught a bus that took us right to the mall where the theater was, and it blew my mind, man. I was a little awestruck. How did she know where the bus would take us? How did she know where it would stop, and how could you make sure it stopped where you needed it to? Wasn't it all just a little too easy?

When I moved up here for school I had to get cozy with the bus system in order to go to work or ever get off campus on my own. One of the first days after moving in, my roommate and I decided to go explore Seattle. "Let's go to the Pike Place Market!" we decided, so we hopped on a bus and headed downtown. When we hopped off the bus we promptly lost all our bearings and strolled off in exactly the wrong direction. But we did find our way back to the bus stop and back to school, and from then on I was all about the bus system. To and from work every morning, up the hill for groceries, downtown or the U District on the weekends, and I got along without a car just fine for six years. I even tagged along with a friend when she wanted to go all the way to the SuperMall in Auburn one summer Saturday.

Then I spent a tiny bit of time in Boston, and in London, and realized almost for the first time that public transit could do more than merely get you around town. You could live just as far from London as I had lived from my hometown, or even farther, and still get on just fine without a car.

It's possible to live in Seattle--even way down at the southern edge of it--without a car. But honestly, it's not very easy (and I imagine it only gets harder the further you get from the city center). There are about 3 bus lines that run within easy walking distance, fortunately; two go downtown, and one goes north through the U District up to Loyal Heights. The one that goes to the U District only comes this far south until about 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, and not at all on Sundays. After that, you have to transfer on Rainier to one of the other buses coming south from downtown (which is going to kick my ass when I start evening classes in January, finishing class at 9:30 p.m. And, appallingly, it may just be quicker and easier to come home on the bus, pick up the truck, and drive all the way back to the U on those nights, ridiculous as it sounds.). But one of those two has a varying schedule, and only half of its runs come this far south. And sometimes the bus is just too jammed full to pick up any additional riders; I've seen them blaze past bus stops without slowing when that happens.

Well and all. No transit option can satisfy every possible route configuration for every person, of course. But for now it looks like I'll be stuck fantasizing about expansions to my carfree options.