Archive for August, 2011

Carla Saulter is a writer, parent and bus rider from Seattle who blogs about being car free on her website BusChick.com. She also writes about public transportation and children at Grist.org. According to her bio, she exchanged her car keys for a bus pass in March of 2003, and has never looked back. You can read more about why she takes the bus in her lovely This I Believe essay, Bus Chick’s Manifesto.

In honor of the “back to school” time of year, we chatted briefly with Carla about the delights and challenges of living car free with kids. Take a peek at our conversation with the Bus Chick herself below. Then feel free to add your own ideas and thoughts on how to work public transportation into your own family in the comments section.

CYWB: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Carla! It would be fantastic if you could begin by giving us a brief overview of the landscape of your car free life.

Carla: Because my family does not own a car, transportation considerations were one of our key selection criteria when choosing our home. To me, the location of our home mattered more than the house itself. Even a few blocks can make a huge difference when you spend a lot of time walking.

My husband and I both bus to work (he works in Redmond and I work downtown), and our kids’ daycare is within walking distance. So, one of us can drop them off and catch the bus from there.

CYWB: A lot of people think about going car free or light and say, “that’s great, but it couldn’t possibly be me.” In surveys we’ve conducted, parents often indicate that they need to be able to pick their kids up from school, run errands after work, etc.  I wondered if you could speak to whether going car free could actually be anyone.

Carla: By the time we had kids, we had fortunately already set up our life in such a way that would enable us to continue to be car free. If you’ve already got a home and a job and your life set up a certain way, making the shift can be more challenging.

It’s doesn’t have to be all or nothing, though. The key is thinking about your life differently, and identifying opportunities to make the choice to not drive. Take going to the grocery store for example.  People always think it takes longer to walk, yet if I were to get my kids in the car, drive the 7 blocks to the grocery store, look for parking, get out of the car, unstrap them, and get across the parking lot to the store, the time savings are negated. We tend to accept the daily hassles of driving as given parts of life, when there are lots of other options.

The huge thing for parents is getting kids to and from school—a large percentage of traffic during rush hour is caused by parents taking their kids to school, and many people think they are doing their kids a favor by driving them to school.  But in fact the most dangerous place for a kid to be is in a car, and traffic created by parents driving their kids to school also creates  danger for the children who do walk. The key is re-imagining how your kids get to school, and separating your commutes from theirs. If your kids walk, bike or take the bus to school, that frees up your options for how to get yourself to work.  If you have questions about commuting with children, I would check out the organization Safe Routes to School and  Anne Lutz Fernandez’s book, Carjacked. Both have good, reassuring information for parents who are considering this.

When you’re accustomed to driving, any other choice seems like a lot of hassle –on the surface, getting in the car seems the easiest. When trying a new commute, there is considerable work on the front end, and the challenge is getting people over the initial hump. Challenge yourself to try something for a week—or even once—with the understanding that it’s only a test. If you don’t like it, you can stop.

CYWB: Something you’ve written extensively about is how your kid’s lives have been improved by their experience being on public transportation. Can you talk a bit more about this?

Carla: One huge positive is that my kids are going to be great walkers! Exercise is always going to be an integral part of their life, because they’ve grown up with it as something that’s completely normal.

Their experience is such that getting around doesn’t mean being strapped in a box. The going somewhere for my kids is the adventure, being on the bus, waiting for the bus, walking around in our neighborhood. We’re partners in crime, and everything is an adventure for us. And the majority of the time, young children LOVE buses.

CYWB: Do you have a “survival kit” that you bring on the bus?

Carla: Good question! Not exactly, though there are things I always have with me. I don’t bring toys on the bus, because they take up a lot of room in my bag, and I don’t find that they provide much distraction for an antsy child. We live very close to the library, so I always keep compact, age appropriate books in my bag.  I also have bubbles for bus stops, and nonperishable snacks: raisins or crackers. I am intrigued, however, by the idea of having a special (compact) toy box that only comes out on the bus!

CYWB: Not to put you on the spot, but is there anything that King County Metro could do to improve the public transportation experience for parents?

Carla: Taking a stroller on the bus is terrible. The current policy is that you need to fold the stroller down before you get on the bus, which is extremely time-consuming, cumbersome, and inconvenient. There are some good reasons why this policy exists, but it’s not communicated well or enforced consistently. Low-floor buses help with accessibility for all riders, including parents with children. Link Light rail is easy because you can roll your stroller onto the trains, but there are still some issues. Parents: I recommend using an infant carrier instead of a stroller, but if you are going to bring one, make sure it’s a lightweight umbrella model.

CYWB: For some people, money talks, and according to AAA, you can save up to $9000 annually by not having a car. Have you ever been able to do something awesome with the money you’ve saved?

Carla: My husband has never had a car, so he’s been able to put away quite a lot over the years.  Our kids college funds are basically already taken care of, and we can go on adventures when we want. But besides savings, another way to think it is that when you’re a car owner, a lot of your time working is spent towards paying for it.  If you’re not doing that, perhaps you’d be able to work less and have more time with kids. Or, you could choose to retire early so you have more time with your family that way.

CYWB: Some parents express the concern that if they don’t drive to work and an emergency happens, they won’t be able to easily get to home or school. Has that ever factored in to your considerations?

Carla: I think that’s crucial. When I started out riding the bus to work, even before I had kids, I would worry, how would I be able to suddenly leave work if I had to? What would I do if I needed to go home? Now my husband’s employer offers the Guaranteed Ride Home service as part of the ORCA Passport program, and it provides tremendous peace of mind. But even if that service isn’t offered at your workplace, you can always give yourself permission to spend $100 a year on taxis. That’s a small amount compared to the cost of driving every day.

CYWB: Do you find that having a car forces you to become hyper-local? Do you think you miss out on experiences because of that?

Carla: People feel like having a car provides them with unlimited options. It’s true that cars are useful for certain purposes, but not for every trip, every time—certainly not for the majority of trips that Americans use cars for, which are two miles or less. What I’ve found is that there’s so much in my neighborhood!  We go to the library twice a week, and we have three community centers, the lake, and amazing parks all within walking distance. My husband and I also take the bus to go to night events all over town, and we take a Zipcar when we need to go somewhere far.  I love being part of my community, knowing my neighbors, and feeling connected. I think this really gives your kids a sense of place. I mean, why do you live in a neighborhood? What does a neighborhood mean to you if you are always in a car going somewhere else? We just moved onto our street, and we’ve already met most of our neighbors because we’re always out walking. Our lives are not limited, but absolutely enriched.

Monday, August 29th, 2011 2:09 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

We are organizing a photo shoot in downtown Bellevue designed to promote walking, bicycling, and transit as attractive and viable commute options. In order to capture a realistic view of green commuting in Bellevue, we are looking for volunteer models who live and/or work in downtown Bellevue to help us out. Photos resulting from the shoot will enliven and enhance our ongoing marketing campaigns, and will be used in future print and web publications.

The shoot will last approximately 4 hours and will be held on either Friday, September 9 from 1:00-5:00 p.m. or Saturday, September 10 from 1:00-5:00 p.m., depending on when the majority of respondents indicate they’ll be available.

By sending a photo to us, you give us permission to consider you for inclusion in photographs promoting Choose Your Way Bellevue. In addition, you acknowledge and agree that the photo becomes the property of Choose Your Way Bellevue and we are under no obligation to choose you for the photo shoot. You further acknowledge and agree there is no compensation for your services.

Send a photo of yourself to hayley@bellevuedowntown.org, along with your name, contact information and availability (Friday, September 9 from 1:00-5:00 p.m. or Saturday, September 10 from 1:00-5:00 p.m.). We’ll be in touch if you’ve got what we’re looking for!

Thanks so much, and we’re excited to hear from you!

-Team CYWB

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 11:17 AM | by admin | Add a Comment
Choose Your Way: Seattle to Bellevue

Choose Your Way: Seattle to Bellevue

Reimagining: The cost of parking

Reimagining: The cost of parking

Friday, August 12th, 2011 4:40 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

We here at Choose Your Way Bellevue have been hearing quite a bit about the new ridesharing service go520, a pilot project sponsored by WSDOT that aims to pair drivers and riders in real-time as they travel. However, we had no idea what it was like to actually use it.

We know there’s nothing like a first hand account to alleviate the inevitable questions and concerns around trying something new. So, the folks involved with the project were kind enough to share this brief interview with one of their users, whom we’ll call Ronen Y.

Ronen uses go520 to commute from the Central District in Seattle to the Redmond Microsoft campus across the 520 bridge five times a week. Ronen initially became interested in the go520 project because he thought it would be a good way to earn cash for gas and have a faster commute. He primarily serves as a driver, so if you’re booking rides on this route you might get matched! Here is his story:

Pioneer Profile: Ronen Y.

Some info on Ronen:

Where do you commute from/to? Central District in Seattle to the Redmond Microsoft campus

How many days a week do you commute across the SR520 bridge? 5 days

Do you use the system mainly as a: Driver mainly (but also rider)

How did you hear about the go520 pilot program? Email from my employer

What made you interested in the program initially? Get some cash for gas and travel a little faster on the 520 on-ramp (as a driver or rider)

Q&A with Ronen:

What do you think of Avego’s go520 service?

I like the “stop-based” system go520 uses. The way I see it, it gives better chances of matching folks and gives riders flexibility to find a ride from different locations.

You took part in Avego go520 WP7 beta testing.  How did you find the app?

I thought the app was easy to installwithin a few steps you’re up and running. Just have your data entered on the website and you can easily find riders. The app is intuitive and reliable, and you can count on it to match you with riders along your route.

You have attended Avego go520 events—how did you find this experience?

The events were well organized and fun. I really enjoyed meeting the crew and learning about their system, and also giving direct feedback to the folks at Avego.

Do you have concerns with the system in general?

No, but you need lots of drivers/riders to use it to be effective. Let’s get some more people on board!

Do you have any other comments about the go520 Program or Avego?

go520 is a great idea that takes commuting to the next level. Its simple design allows users to find a match to carpool within seconds once there’s a rider on your route. The flexibility this system has allows you to depart whenever you want, and find a driving match without binding to a schedule. Driving over the 520 bridge can be faster on the ramp, and the riders pay you some money back which isn’t something to dismiss so fast, especially with the new bridge tolls coming soon.

Curious about real-time ridesharing? Visit Avego’s go520 website to learn how you can earn money—and save time—by participating in the project. Have you tried the project? We’d love to hear your story, too! Post a comment below:

Friday, August 5th, 2011 11:29 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

Once upon a bicycleDuring National Bike Month in May, thousands of people hopped on a bicycle for the first time to see what life is like behind the handlebars.

Maybe that was you, timid at first, yet growing more confident by the day, learning to see your city in a new way, forever changed by the experience.

Whether you just started riding or have restarted after years away from a bicycle, we want to hear your adventure.

Tell us, in 420 words or less how starting to ride a bike has improved your life (or not!) Stories can be about the obstacles you overcame, cautionary tales or advice to would-be cyclists. Points will be given to those who include photos of their two-wheeled wonder!

The winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to Gregg’s Cycles to stock up on gear to make the ride even merrier. The winning story will also be posted on the Choose Your Way Bellevue blog and featured in our 2012 Bike to Work Month newsletter.

Stories must be emailed to hayley@bellevuedowntown.org. Contest runs for the entire month of August 2011. To be eligible you must live or work in downtown Bellevue.

And remember to like Choose Your Way Bellevue on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to learn about other contests and promotions throughout the year.

Monday, August 1st, 2011 1:50 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

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