Monday, October 13, 2014

DDOT: Out of Bus Passes

I left work a little early to get a new DDOT bus pass. When I arrived, I saw the scene in the picture below.




Unfortunately, the machine behind it was out of order, too.

No problem. It was before 5pm, so I walked over to get a bus pass the old fashioned way from the person working at the DDOT window. To my surprise, no one was there. See the picture below with the closed window, a sign explaining they close at 4:45pm, and my watch showing that it wasn't 4:45pm yet.
Grrr... all I want is a damn bus pass!!!




So I walk over to the information window, where a DDOT employee kindly explains to me that they ran out of bus passes.

Really? It's Monday and DDOT ran out of bus passes?! I don't even know where to start.

What do you think? Is this acceptable?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rollin' through the D...C.!

Faithful 2W4W fans! You are all aware that Melissa and I get the privilege to travel these great states - and sometimes planet - of ours. I head to Washington D.C. so frequently for work - the waitress at the hotel I frequent actually knows the kind of hot sauce I like with my eggs in the morning. #reallife

One of my co-workers, David, a major public transit/biking/2W4W fan, has been asking me to take a tour of the D.C. bike-lane infrastructure for awhile. It hasn't worked out for various reasons, but I was totally nervous about actually taking this ride. WHY? Isn't the name of this blog something to do with wheels and biking?!

Yes, it is. The challenge is - in Detroit and SE Michigan, bike lanes are limited and it's honestly ok, and I'd venture to say, expected, by drivers that bikers be on the sidewalk. Biking on the sidewalk doesn't fly in most every other metropolitan area - mostly as the sidewalks are full of people. I've biked once in the streets of downtown Chicago - my life flashed before my eyes every single time a car whizzed by me. And a good friend of mine was recently was hit by a car as she bike commuted in San Francisco (she's ok, and healing well, thankfully). I was about to navigate these bike lanes in rush hour DC, on a bike-share bike, and without a helmet? Get your big girl bike shorts on, Julie, and let's get serious.

The helmet issue was solved quickly by David, who was kind enough to lend me his for this ride - but left me worried as he was helmetless. But we rolled on - I was grateful for the extra head protection to get started. First up, Capital Bike Share right outside our office. David has an annual pass that he let me use so boom - key fob - here's a bike. Awesome. The bike was heavy duty but felt sturdy as I hopped on - I will take it.
There she is - closest to me in the photo - let's ROLL.
David started our bike tour on lanes that were pretty protected from the road. Think two lanes of traffic - parked cars - and then a 2-way bike lane. A 2-way bike lane with marking down the middle!? These are things I've seen in renderings, in videos and in cities I've visited, but I've never actually experienced one. One word: brilliant. Ok, one more word: safe. It just made sense as you navigated it - even as someone new to biking in the area, and this was it - complete streets at WORK. A dream.

This picture is not the best - but you can see across the street how there's a parked car next to a 2-way bike lane - and most importantly - bikers using the bike lanes. 
 We even had the opportunity to check out a real live bike traffic light, which is the red mini-bike light to the right as you look at the photo below. When that thing turns green, you have about 2 seconds to literally traverse a busy intersection, and pretty much skip waiting for 3 traffic lights. I was a little confused as to what street we were going on, so my traversal turned into sort of a crescent moon shape across the intersection. Hey guys - this is a lot of awesome to take in so be patient with this little Detroit biker.
At 16 & U Street - when that bike light turns green, eyes on the prize, bikers! 
All and all, our tour of DC took about 45 minutes and was solidly in the 5pm rush hour traffic. Bike commuters definitely keep it moving - I was overtaken by those rockin' road bikes while I got an extra workout pedaling with my bike share bike. Please don't take this as any sort of knock against the bike share program, it was amazing to be able to pick up a bike and drop it off on the fly - and all bike share bikes come with bells = YES. And most of all - I loved it. I could not stop smiling the entire time. The infrastructure supports biking in the city, and seeing how people use it - I could only wish that we could start in this direction for Detroit. Bike lanes are a great start, but having a system where bikes actually get priority at times? That would really give our Motor City something to get used to - while moving us into to the future supporting ALL transportation options.

Until next time - thanks for the bike tour, David! 
I would feel so much better if we both had helmets on :) 


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.

GOVERNOR SNYDER AND MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE:


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:
1. I HATE YOU
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.