Snow, cars
My cars aren’t going anywhere. 

With Snowpacolypse possibly continuing until after Christmas, getting around by car is still looking like trouble. I made the mistake of driving on Saturday, and even my new Subaru couldn’t really handly the snow. I hit an ice patch, ran the car into the curb, and messed up the alignment. My bus route to work has been cancelled, so I’ve been working from home, but I’ve still needed to get food, diapers and water for me and my family. This Seattle Times article suggests I’m not alone in visiting neighborhood shops.

Good thing I live in a walkable neighborhood. My address gets a perfect 100 from Walkscore, and that has made such a difference over the course of Snowpacolypse. I’ve got four supermarkets, four drugs stores and dozens of take-away restaurants to get everything I need. I have even been able to get my Christmas shopping done on the Ave.

Anyone else been snowbound at home with no transport to work? Glad to live in a walkable neighborhood? Wish you did? Think I’m a wimp for not driving a four-wheel drive car? Let me know in the comments.

23 Replies to “Thank God For Walkable Neighborhoods”

    1. One is for me, so I can run errands, the other is for whoever’s taking the baby.

      I take the bus to work everyday.

  1. You’re not a wimp. As a New Englander who left for the West a long time ago, I’ve seen plenty of tough winters. But I get sick of the transplants and lifted-truck rednecks carping on local driving in this type of weather. Let’s face it, metro Seattle, or Pugetopolis for that matter, has some fairly diverse topography and the way snow collects and ices up here makes some area driving very difficult.

    That said, my office is in Olympia, and after several days of telecommuting, I drove in yesterday and am about to today. In my 2001 Subaru Outback. That car was made to drive in the crap! You wimp! (Just kidding, dude. I heart STB). I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. I am concerned about the plowing strategy. I live in a mildly walkable neighborhood, but pretty far from any grocery.

    Because the City opposes salt or chemicals, and packs but doesn’t plow, only those of us with 4WD or AWD can really get around, and that’s using all the non-hill or mild hill routes. I have been a volunteer shuttle for Swedish clinical personnel since Tuesday, with a Honda Pilot. I have been out to the Samammish Plateau, down to Algona and Federal Way, up to Lynnwood and Shoreline, and knocked around quite a few Seattle neighborhoods. And the amount of stranded and cancelled buses is amazing.

    If we want to be bus dependent, I think we need to plough the bus routes in a more aggressive way. Or we have to expect lots of absentees and some really long walking.

    1. I’m a nurse at Swedish, and just want to say thanks! I do my work out in the community, but it seems that folks like you have been lifesavers during this disaster.

  3. I’ve been essentially snowbound on the very top of Queen Anne since Thursday(we did venture out by car Friday afternoon to pickup an order in White Center but that was pretty harrowing). None of my normal busses (2,3,4,13) have run in days and the closest to me at this point is the 16 if I walk down to Aurora.

    But, despite the difficulties of living on Queen Anne when it snows, it’s not been a hardship as far as getting essentials. 3 grocerys within 10 blocks, restaurants, drugstore, lots of coffee, Christmas tree lot, bookstore, Blockbuster. Even my gym, which I haven’t actually seen in 2 weeks.

    One way or another though, I’m getting to work on Friday.

  4. Well, way too late in life, I’m realizing that 4wd actually makes sense in Puget Sound. Normally it isn’t worth chaining up because you drive a mile or so and then have to take the chains off.

    And in abnormal times like these the 4wd with good tires seems to do pretty well in the kind of snow we have.

    OTOH, I’m not buying another car to get out a few days more each year.

    Aha! A sign of spring! Actual water is running down my window!

  5. I don’t drive, but I didn’t even feel safe getting into a car until yesterday. I have zero faith in people’s ability to drive in the snow around here. Quite honestly I didn’t feel safe in the car yesterday either. At least on Friday I’m going to the airport in a limo, so if we get stuck, we’ll get stuck in style.

    I feel much safer on a bus. At least if we hit something whatever we hit is likely to get messed up and not my skull.

  6. I live within an easy walk of a grocery store, post office, bank, library, nice big park, coffe shops, restaurants, etc. etc. My husband and I haven’t had a car for the last five or six years (although we do rent a car once in a while). Plus we’re both retired and don’t have an office we have to get to.

    As long as our feet hold out, we’re OK.

  7. If you ran Metro …

    I’d be curious to see what changes people here would make at Metro in terms of how it operates in the snow if you ran Metro? What changes would you make? What would you do differently? How would you keep the buses running? How would you improve communication?

    A few things off the top of my head … They need their own plows or sanders, or be able to outfit some of their service vehicles with plows or sanders. They need to streamline their snow routes, then pour more of the energy into keeping those routes in service. They need to take communication, from top to bottom, more seriously. They need to get out current information through a variety of media. Maybe have permanent TV scrolls on some stations. Maybe have an emergency radio frequency people can tune into. Have the person who updates their web page in the same room as the coordinators. Right now there is a several hour delay in updating the web page, which tells me this web guy is infrequently updated about changes in routing, and he probably has other duties. This should be his only duty during snow storms … staying up to date on the most current happenings then immediately updating the website. They need to communicate better with their drivers about what the correct snow route is. Drivers need to communicate better with passengers. Snow routes need to be less fluid. In other words, Metro needs to stop taking all or portions of a bus route on or off snow route throughout the day, and conditions change. It confuses people. Have one snow route, then stick to it throughout the snow days.

      1. Just read your piece, Matt. Very nice. Is there any way you can get your ideas to … I think his name is Kevin Desmond … the guy who runs Metro?

      2. I’m sure Metro has more than enough to deal with right now. Maybe after the snow clears up.

  8. Also, I think it’s almost comical that Metro tells people on their Ice & Snow page that to figure out when the site was last updated, to “simply subtract eight hours from their 24 hour (or Military time) clock, which shows Greenwich Mean Time, to arrive at the PST the site was last updated.

    Simply amazing.

  9. I’ve seen it out east once (somewhere in New England not sure exactly), but during storms all buses have their bike racks switched out for snow plows
    As for “walkable” neighborhoods: Since I’m in a wheelchair, it really sucks when the plows leave the piles at bus stops (driver can’t operate the lift to let me board) and I’m not served by a bus (have to wheel up to 164th to catch 230).

    For my few trips so far, I was lucky that I came to a stop with several people who helped to clear the drifts so the driver could operate the lift for me (if you’re one of them and you’re reading this, many, many thank-yous). I’m also lucky (even though it’s off the Adverse Weather Route) that my neighbor cleared the stops at my house on both sides of NE 8th.

  10. gotta give a thumbs up to Matt the Engineer’s suggestions. I’m new to the area, and have fallen in love with the overall ease of public transit. Until now. I don’t understand why I watched 5 (honest-to-god, 5) RT16 buses head south on 3rd Ave downtown today, two of which were stacked immediately behind each other southbound, with a third following only minutes behind. Meanwhile, the northbound stop on 3rd was innundated with RT70s, RT120s, and so many RT7’s that I seriously considered relocating on the spot (during the hour plus in which I stood in the freezing wind and rain on 3rd and Pike) to either the University district or Rainier.
    Where did all of those southbound RT16s go? Were they given detention in the Ferry Terminal for horsing around together at the opposite end of the route?
    Just before the crowd of folks who had been waiting for over an hour to catch a RT16 OUT (for the love of god, please!) of downtown got physically ugly about the situation (there was increasingly heated talk of hijacking a southbound 16 and either riding it until it made the return loop, or forcing it to U-turn on the spot), I managed to snag a spot on the only RT26 I had seen in the entire hour and 20 minutes I had been standing there.

    I’m not sure how the whole RT16 vs the folks who wanted to ride it northbound out of downtown played out, but I’m curious, both about the outcome and the cause. I’m not an expert on Seattle traffic, nor am I an expert on the transit routes, but I can say that watching the bus you want go past in the opposite direction 5 times while you wait an hour or more on the other side has the sort of psychological ramifications usually reserved for Shirley Jackson novels.

    Which is my long-winded way of saying that there should be some accessible way of finding out what’s up in real-time with the buses on the route you want either shortly before or while you’re waiting forever and increasingly hopeless (or potentially psychotic) out in cold.
    Merry Christmas eve, all.

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