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Willie Weir : September 8th, 2009

The Trifecta to Vancouver

It was a birthday trifecta–Light Rail to AMTRAK to SkyTrain.

I turned 48 on August 4th. The same day that Barack Obama did. Yep. We are birthday buddies (he didn’t call). We were both born on August 4, 1961. I have to say that having the same birthday as your president does have a “so what have you done with your life?” element to it. So, while Barack shared birthday cake with White House correspondent Helen Thomas (another birthday bud), I got to live out a dream of riding the rails all the way to Vancouver.

With the completion of the first link of Seattle’s Light Rail, it is now possible to take rail transit from our neighborhood in Seattle to Vancouver.

My mom flew up from Sacramento and joined Kat and me on our trip up north.

Highlights from the trip:

No time spent on I-5.
A bike ride around Stanley Park with my mom on the back of a tandem. The first time she’s been on a bike in 45 years!
Meeting Momentum magazine columnist Ulrike Rodrigues.
A pedi-cab ride around the waterfront arranged by Ulrike and fellow bicycle advocate Chris Keam.

For as long as I can remember, AMTRAK has had only one train a day to Vancouver. But they have now added a second train, making this trip twice as convenient. What a treat!

Kat Marriner : August 24th, 2009

Trading Local Color for Efficiency

A Seattle Times article rather accurately describes a typical ride on the #7 bus running between downtown and Rainier Beach. It’s been part of our repertoire of transportation choices since moving to Beacon Hill where the 7 is a quick walk down the hill or the 36 is a quick walk up the hill. A ride on the 7 is gritty, diverse and full of stories.

When I last rode it earlier this summer, a young woman in traditional dress from some place I couldn’t identify was singing a sweet, sad tune before she started growling like a trapped wild animal. I was sitting in the first forward facing seat with my knees nearly touching her long skirt. Grossly fascinated and a bit intimidatied, I stole peeks at her performance. After about 10 minutes of this sing-song-growl not a person had complained or even moved away from her, but eventually the driver got out of his seat while at a light and told her to stop. It was distracting him. She clearly understood and stopped. I chalked it up to another day in the life of the lowly #7.

Today for convenience I would opt to take light rail downtown for it’s cool efficiency. But I’m missing the characters and stories. Not a complaint, but an observation. The #7 is a lesson in diversity, sometimes compassion, and always patience. The article reminds me what I am giving up for a fast ride.

Willie Weir : July 30th, 2009

Give it Up: Responses

I’m already getting inquiries from folks asking … is anybody responding to your open letter?

The answer is yes.

Richard Conlin (Seattle City Council) was the first to reply. He has given up his car for 5 or 6 days at a time. He is a true bicycle advocate who pedals the talk. Go for a week or more Richard!

Norman Sigler (candidate for Seattle Mayor) gave up his car 3 years ago and donated it to KPLU!

Brian Carver (candidate for Seattle City Council position #4) has given up his car for long stretches, but has vowed to give it up for a week again … soon. Even asked me to check back with him on that promise.

Dorsol Plants (candidate for Seattle City Council position #4) gave up his car in 2007 AND won the Candidate Survivor!

Sally Clark (Seattle City Council) sent a long and thoughtful reply. Not yet ready to take the carfree week plunge.  I see her sans car pedaling around my neighborhood all the time. Go for a week Sally!!

Mike McGinn (candidate for Seattle Mayor) let me know that he has a car but rarely uses it. You may have seen the stickers around town “Mike Bikes.” But I think even Mike McGinn could learn from having no access to a car for a week. How about it Mike?

Tom Rasmussen (Seattle City Council) didn’t respond personally, but a staff member did. She let me know that many city staffers have given up their cars. Good trend. Maybe they can convince Tom to do so … for just a week.

Richard McIver (Seattle City Council) won’t be taking up the challenge. But I admire that he took the time to respond.  He lives in the Seward Park neighborhood which isn’t well served by public transit.  He hopes that one or more of his colleagues will take me up on my challenge.

Willie Weir : July 29th, 2009

Give it Up: An open letter to my local and state representatives

Mayor Nickels–give it up. Seattle City Council members. You too. As well as King County Council members, Governor Gregoire, State representatives and ALL candidates for the above offices.

I’m talking about your car. For a week. Just a week.

You see, my wife and I answered the call to help the region and the planet by giving up our car over four years ago. With climate change upon us, it was imperative that we transition out of our auto-centric society. Get on the bus. Get on our bikes. Get out and walk.

There were plenty of incentive programs offered by our city and county governments, including the Way to Go Seattle–One Less Car Challenge. We took advantage of the Washington State Vehicle Redistribution Program … our car was stolen. We opted not to replace it.

We were in a good position to give up our car. We don’t have kids. We live on Beacon Hill with frequent bus service (and now Light Rail). We have stores, restaurants, a library, and a park all within a ten minute walking distance of our house. We both do most of our work from home.

Easy.

OK. Walking up the hill from the grocery store with a 20lb Thanksgiving turkey in an excursion-size backpack wasn’t easy. Waiting outside in a 40 degree drizzle for a bus that never came wasn’t fun. And taking 4 buses and a ferry to get to Sequim wasn’t convenient.

It didn’t take long to understand that for someone who owns a private vehicle, our city and region’s public transportation, bike paths and pedestrian corridors are top notch. Because when it isn’t easy, fun or convenient … you take your car.

When I joined the ranks of the carless, I began an education in how auto-centric our green little region is, and how far we have to go to get to be a truly livable place … for everyone.

How many of my neighbors park their cars across the sidewalk. How cracked and poorly maintained those sidewalks are. How fast the cars fly by on our residential streets. How few cars yield to me in a cross walk. How few bike racks there are outside the businesses I frequent. How poorly signed (or not at all) the bike routes are throughout the city. How terrifying biking can be in downtown Seattle. How little park space we have downtown and how much space we devote to parking.

So many issues and problems invisible to me while driving in my own personal vehicle.

Now I’m asking you all to give up your car. Not for four years. Just seven days.

For seven days live the life that few have chosen and many have no choice but to live.

Believe me, no matter how long you have lived in or served this region, you’ll learn things that will surprise you.

I know I did. And I’ve lived here for 25 years.

The best decisions about transit and neighborhood planning will be made by government officials who have taken the time to live a life without a car as an option.

Give it up.

We’ll all be glad you did.

Sincerely,

Willie Weir
Beacon Hill, Seattle

Willie Weir : July 23rd, 2009

Transit for the Next Generation

Light Rail for the next generationI don’t know who this little girl is. I took her photo riding on the Light Rail opening in Seattle. The line is 14 miles from downtown to the airport. This region should have so much more public transit. But we’ve hemmed and hawed and debated and voted … and voted again.

But the first part of it became a reality today (July 18,2009). And when she is my age … she’ll be glad we got around to actually beginning to build it.

Kat Marriner : May 12th, 2009

Pay-per-use

Now there’s an idea … pay for what you use.

As a cyclist and pedestrian, do I pay-per-use? I suppose as a home owner, my property taxes pay for sidewalks, cross-walks, etc. But how do I as a cyclist pay for road and trail use? Does my bus fare come even close to paying for the use? If I drove a car, where does the  money come from to pave the roads and put in signs and light?

Seattle might just find out how some of this shakes out. Take a look at “Let’s try taxing drivers by the mile” from the Seattle Times.