Sunday, April 27, 2014

Start the bus



This column was written for Issaquah Press

My 14-year-old granddaughter Kait and I caught the Metro for a trip from the Highland Park and Ride to downtown Seattle to board the Seattle Great Wheel. It was my first time on a Ferris wheel and her first time on the Metro.

The Ferris wheel was fun, but being introduced to the Metro will be more useful for her as she grows up. This was my second time since moving here to ride the Metro to downtown Seattle. The first time was to take in a motorcycle show at the Washington Convention Center.

Many years ago, I used the Metro when visiting Seattle from Alaska. I could catch it at the airport and make my way around Seattle without the hassle of renting a car. I have also found mass transit the efficient way around London, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington D.C.

So, a Seattle Times headline of March 10, proclaiming “Public transit in U.S. nears 6-decade high in ridership” got my attention.

I am as much in love with the automobile as anyone growing up in my generation (born in 1942), and even more so in love with motorcycles, but there is something practical and convenient about mass transit, practical from the standpoint of fewer hassles, but also from a conservation point of view. It is a relief to go to Seattle and not have to even think about parking, to say nothing about how much gas is needed or how much traffic is jamming the freeway. Remember the old Greyhound slogan, “leave the driving to us.” Some slogans hit the mark.

The Times article said ridership on trains, buses and subways is up. It reported 10.7 million trips in 2013, the highest total since 1956.

The article said there is a fundamental shift going on with people as to options other than having a car, according to Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of the transportation association. “This is a long term trend. This isn’t just a blip,” he said. “People want to work and live along transit lines. Businesses, universities and housing are all moving along those corridors.”

One of my brothers got caught in the recent T-Mobile lay off and landed a new job in downtown Seattle. He is now able to ride a train from his home in Edmonds to work. The only thing he has told me about his new job is how much he likes riding the train.

A recent trend that has automobile manufacturers worried is the number of young people who are not buying cars and not even bothering to get driver’s licenses.

Most of us who drive cars never sit down and add up the true cost of this convenience. To paraphrase a saying related to boats, a car is a pothole we pour money down. I do know this, if I could recover every dollar I’ve wasted on cars, my retirement could be much different. From my current perspective, mass transit looks mighty good. God bless the driver’s licenseless young people.

1 comment:

  1. I'm married to a retired Greyhound Bus Driver named Joe and my son David has been with TriMet Portland's mass transit for 19 years first as a bus driver and for the last 17 years as a light rail operator and now trainer.