Monday, September 8, 2014

Friday afternoon bus stop excitement

It's been awhile since we've shared some stories of the bus and Friday afternoon at the bus stops were pretty darn exciting.

Since it was Friday - and who really wants to work until 5 on a Friday - I was waiting at the bus stop for the 4:04pm 445 SMART limited heading northbound. As I'm quietly waiting for the bus, a group of people runs up to me - yelling 'let's ask her!!!'. They are all wearing matching shirts so clearly doing some sort of scavenger hunt or something? The next thing I know, a man has dropped to his knees and is asking me to marry him. I am convinced to say yes as they say their jobs depend on it (who I am to deny in this economy?!) and I'm part of a photo showing my agreement to this whirlwind bus stop romance.  This spurs a discussion from my fellow bus riders about workplace bonding, and everyone generally feels bad for those on the scavenger hunt. We all agreed that cocktails with coworker is the best way to bond - and to get business done. Truth!

The bus ride is fairly uneventful but the bus is most definitely packed. I'm getting ready to get off the bus at 8 Mile & Woodward, and another woman is waiting to get off the bus with me. There is a man with a shopping cart at the bus stop, presumably waiting for the bus. He instead, right as we get off the bus, takes the shopping cart and proceeds to ram the cart into another man walking by, while yelling 'THAT'S WHAT YOU GET!!'. The passerby exclaims in shock/confusion and we proceed to get off the bus in the middle of all this bus stop drama. The fellow bus rider and I fall into stop together, believing in 'safety in numbers' and the bus driver tells us to be careful. She proceeds to drive the bus slowly next to us with the door open, while we walk by the man with the cart, who is now in his own but clearly still angered. I truly felt bad for both parties in the shopping cart smackdown, but I so appreciated our thoughtful bus escort through it all. Bus drivers are amazing & considerate individuals - so any bus drivers that are reading this post - we want you to know how much we appreciate you!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday: My First Transit Experience

It's time for kind of a fun post, don't you think?! I know we're all transit funding and RTA and what is SMART/DDOT/M-1/DPM doing and let's increase bus service all of the time. Let's take a break!

With the mass popularity of 'Throwback Thursday', we decided to share My First Transit Experience - and would love you to do the same. Was there a turning point in your life where you realized that transit was amazing!? If you grew up in the metro Detroit post-trolley system (and with the advent of our suburban sprawl), you most likely had to travel out of the state or out of the country in order to experience transit in any sort of real way.

When I was a student at the University of Michigan, I had the very lucky opportunity to study abroad in Paris, France for three months. At the ripe old age of 19, I had never traveled away from my family, had never traveled abroad, and definitely had never experienced any sort of transit system. Sink or swim, right?

 The organizers of the study program gave us a map of the Metro, which honestly looked to me like a tangled web of colorful spider legs/WTF. Do people actually use this thing!?

See exhibit A:

I made the decision that I'd walk everywhere - this system just looked too scary to operate, and I'd totally get in urban workout shape. After taking a few VERY long walks, I decided to give myself plenty of time one day to get to school. This cannot be that hard, right? I had to travel along the gold line from the La Motte Piquet Grenelle stop, directly to La Sorbonne. Seemed easy. I gave myself an hour as I swear it was going to take me that long/I'd miss all the trains/it would totally break down and I'd miss class. I had to be at class by 8am, so I was solidly rolling with the morning commuters.

It took me SEVEN minutes. For the entire trip. I had plenty of time for a pre-class hot chocolate and pain au chocolat. YES. And as I relaxed before class - I realized this Metro-thing was less of a mystery and more of an opportunity. I could get a monthly pass - a Carte Orange - which could give me unlimited access to this amazing city (single farecard whaaaat). I took on the subway transfers with gusto and even got to a point where I didn't have to refer to the map much. This was a key turning point in my life - I always felt that I was able to figure out metro and bus systems other cities. And I started to wonder: why can't we have this in metro Detroit?

And setting me up for my future with 2 Women 4 Wheels, I started documenting the people that I met during these transit trips in my journal. These fine folks included a woman that I would see on the Metro a few times per month - and each time, she would say something quickly in French and give me a flower. Um, why not? There were also numerous people who would would stand on upside down buckets giving lectures to the entire train - one of the favorite topics were various points about "Beel Cleenton" (that's Bill Clinton for those unfamiliar with a French accent).

So, how about you, dear readers? What was your first transit experience?! #tbt

Saturday, May 10, 2014

To: Governor Snyder & the Michigan Legislature

It was December of 2012. An apparent lame duck session in the Michigan Legislature full of a LOT of activity (let's actually not relive that), but the one shining ray of hope? THE RTA PASSED! Michigan! You joined the rest of every single other successful metropolitan area. And transit AND regional planning, which our area has consistently struggled with? Joys upon joys!

So we get started - hire a CEO, form the board, form the Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC), we are rolling with a small budget from MDOT. More money has GOT to be coming, right? Gov. Snyder is all about the RTA, so this is a true priority, right?

We know the story. The money doesn't come through and the CEO quits. There is a small RTA staff keeping the administration going. The Board meets, and gets some of the important start-up work going. The CAC meets, and we get ourselves going - bylaws, structure, committees, leadership - all in place (in a pretty short time, when you are talking about organizing 50 people, I may add). Measures upon measures to get RTA funding rolling die in the halls of Michigan legislature. Is there a special building or wing of a building in Lansing for just dead RTA-related bills? Does the door still shut? Guys, all this paper could really end up being a fire hazard. But I digress....

The week, a House Committee ok'ed $400M to fix Michigan's messed up roads & bridges. I am most definitely not saying that this doesn't need to happen as a person that uses those roads & bridges (many times when I'd rather be using public transit). But think. At the RTA board member's May 21st Meeting, the board will be conducting interviews for a new RTA CEO. Should the job description more accurately say RTA CEO/Volunteer? If we aren't going to get serious about funding, we might as well be up front about it.


Love, the transit-loving citizens of SE Michigan

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Story of the Three Buses

The polar vortex is finally gone and hints of spring are all over the place, including full bike racks on buses and that is what brings me to write this blog post!  I wish this was a tale similar to "The Story of the Three Bears" and that, like Goldilocks, I was just trying to find the right bus.  However, I'm not a "Goldi" and I didn't get to decide which bus fit just right.  You see - this is actually a tale about how it's not always easy getting around by bike and bus.  This adventure explains how it took me three buses to get home.

So what happened?  After work last week, Julie and I met up for cocktails (and a transit-related meeting).  The meeting (i.e. happy hour) ended and it was time for me to head home.  I didn't have far to go to catch a bus.  We met at the Majestic, which has a convenient bus stop located right outside the building.  Sure enough, I only waited a few minutes for the bus when I saw one approaching.  I was excited for such speedy service!  That was until I saw two bikes on the front of the bus.  I kept thinking in my head, "Damn! Please, people with bikes - make this your stop!"  Unfortunately, it was not their stop and by default, it was certainly not my stop to get on the bus.  Grrr...

Since I was a little frustrated, I decided to bike north to the Warren & Woodward stop.  It was there that I sent a text to DDOT  (506-64) to learn how long I had to wait.  Twenty minutes.  Okay - that was not bad but it was a little chilly, so I decided to continue to bike north to the bus stop at Grand Boulevard and Woodward to help me warm up.  After waiting a little bit, I saw in the distance a bus!  As the bus approached closer to the stop, I didn't see any bikes.  "Woohoo!"  I thought, "I'm getting on this bus and heading home."  That was until I realized that the bus didn't have any bikes on it because it did not have a bike rack.  Let me repeat that:  IT DID NOT HAVE A BIKE RACK.  In fact, it looked like once upon a time it had a bike rack but it broke off or something.  Just my luck!  Grrr...

So I waited.  At that point, it was after 8pm and I was cold because the sun was down and I didn't plan to be out after dark. Anyway, I stayed put at Grand Boulevard and Woodward and waited.  And waited.  Another twenty minutes passed and finally another bus approached.  I didn't see any bikes on the front and I saw shiny metal bars across the front!  Indeed, that bus (the third bus) had an empty bike rack on the front.  In excitement, I pulled down the bike rack and placed my bike on the bus, which seemed up a little higher than usual but, oh well, my bike was on a bus!  (Unfortunately, there's no picture of bus #3 because I was in such a hurry.) When I finally got a seat inside the bus, I realized I was riding an older bus.  In fact, it had a sign prominently displayed that read, "No Radios Allowed."  I'm assuming that sign was put up before all the kids had their cd players and/or mp3 players and/or ipods.  Another tip that it was an older bus was the sign that notified riders that there was a public hearing scheduled for Friday, February 24, 2012.  (While I'm happy to see some of the older buses in commission to add efficiency, come on DDOT - take down some of the old signage.)

Luckily, the third bus got me to the Fairgrounds, last stop of the 53 Woodward.  I thanked the bus driver, took my bike off the bus rack, and rode into the sunset. 
Wait...the sun already set. 
I rode home in the dark and cold but I made it home. 

Three buses later.

The end.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A 2W4W Editorial

A note to our dear readers:
Yesterday, many of you may have seen a post from us showing a sneak peek of some amazing new technology that SMART has in beta test mode. We were contacted by SMART directly and asked to remove that post due to the fact that we weren’t authorized to share that information (which we, for the record, understood we were). We have a good relationship with many folks at SMART, and out of respect for them, we took the post down. We did note that the post reached over 330 people, who, we presume, were really excited about the technology advancements, so we wanted to write this editorial to give our readers that background, and some other thoughts.
To us, it highlights a bigger question for SMART. How do they respond to positive press? When we posted a link to the blog directly on their Facebook page yesterday morning, we noticed that the 2 immediate previous posts on their page said:
2. A story about a bus driver flicking off a driver
Literally. You cannot make this up.
So. SMART is in the news a lot (think: route cuts) and on social media a LOT (see above or many posts on their Facebook page) in a negative light. We aren’t saying that our post needs to be the post they embrace, and they are welcome to share their technology news in the way they see fit. But in a way - isn’t creating a positive buzz kind of a good thing in today’s media world of Facebook shares and re-tweets and god knows what other social media the kids are using these days? Especially given the sea of negativity that SMART currently swims in. In our eyes, our post created excitement about SMART for 330 people. Given our current transit system and its challenges, that’s priceless.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Transit around the world: Sint Maarten/Saint Martin

As a part of our work and play adventures, Melissa and I get the opportunity to travel around the United States and sometimes, when are extra lucky, around the world! 

This edition of 'Transit around the world' takes us to the beautiful island of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. 

The island is located in the Caribbean, just east of Puerto Rico. It's split into 2 countries - Sint Maarten is Dutch and Saint Martin is French. - but there's an open (no need for a passport) border. This adventure takes us between the exploring the capitals of the 2 countries - Phillipsburg and Marigot. 

We had read a few things about the bus system on the island, and learned the following: 

1. In most cases, there's not marked stops or set routes. If you see a bus going where you want to go, as noted by a sign in the front of the bus, just flag them down.
2. Fares range from $1 - $3. 
3. They are safe and frequent! 

So after our time in Phillipsburg, we happened to find the street where the buses ran. The buses were more like mini-vans, but were definitely frequent. We also found a labelled bus stop (perfect), which I of course had to hug: 
A bus stopped for us, after about a 1 minute wait, labeled 'Maho Beach' and we were headed to Marigot. After telling the driver where we were headed, a quick sign change and we were on our way! 
Supply meets demand = LOVE IT.
We picked up another bus rider and stopped so our bus driver could throw out a banana peel in the trash (we of all people know = bus snacks are important). Our bus ride was $2 each and we paid our fare at the end of the super-fast ride. 

Way more environmentally friendly and economical than a cab! #buswin #always

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dispatches from the CAC: Part 1 (and it's already time for ACTION)

Greetings 2W4W fans!

Yes, it's been awhile and YES, we've still be attempting to bus/bike (mostly walk/bus - biking has largely been treacherous for us. See: shoulder and hip bruises) during the winter of 2014. It's been an adventure to say the least, but this is not why we come to you this lovely Tuesday morn.

Many of you know that I've been lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to serve on the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority's Citizen's Advisory Council (CAC). We've had a couple of really productive meetings of the CAC, have a great set of bylaws in place, and have been getting to know each other. It's a very dynamic and like-minded group of people, and I'll be posting some more observations and information about the CAC as we get rollin' (see what I did there?!).

Now, for what you have been waiting for.

We need you to take some action, transit friends. You know by now that we don't mess around (much).

Many of you have heard the news that the budget to largely fund the RTA won't be on the ballot for the voters until 2016. But until then, the RTA needs some basic operational funding to get going. Money for a CEO, some basic transit professional planners and consultants, some admin support, insurance, legal, accounting, basic office set-up, etc. I'm actually looking at the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 and it's a little over $900k.

Extremely and all kinds of reasonable. Any start-up needs some funds to, uh, get started. Am I right!?

The Governor and Senate have passed $2M dollars in start-up funds to get us to 2016, as a part of supplemental appropriations bill SB 608. The Michigan House Committee has stripped these funds out, which leaves the RTA without those sorely needed (and can we all agree reasonable) start-up funds. Lord help me.

Our friends at Transit Riders United have created an easy link that you can use to contact the leadership in Michigan to urge them to add the RTA funding back into SB 608.

You can also reach out to your lawmakers via phone or email, urging them to support the $2M RTA Supplemental funding.
Find your Senator:
Find your Representative:

Please take action TODAY because the vote in the House may be as early as today! 

One day, when we are all happily riding the BRT down Woodward, and with the sun shining upon our stress-free faces, we will laugh and laugh about the silly days that we thought we couldn't get $2M for 2 years for an RTA in Michigan. We deserve to get to those days. Call now and THANKS.