There was recently a long, passionate, and strange argument in the comment section of STB about whether food should be allowed on the bus.  Some of the more bizarre (to me) arguments include: buses are so slow, I need to eat at some point in the journey and people shouldn’t eat on buses because Americans are fat.

I have a solution.  I’ve been reading Darrin Nordahl’s book Making Transit Fun (we’ll have a review here in a few weeks), and this idea would fit right in to the theme. 

The idea:  change Metro policy to disallow all food except carrots.  Hire a pleasant, friendly salesperson to wear Metro orange from head to foot.  Buy large local organic carrots, wash and dry them, and cut the ends off (so carrot top litter doesn’t become a problem).  Then have her hop on and off not-packed-full buses, selling carrots for $0.50 each.  And give her an ORCA card reader to charge from your ePurse. 

Yes, carrots are loud.  But that’s part of the fun.  Imagine hopping on a bus and finding it full people crunching on carrots. 

Benefits include:

  • Carrots are healthy.  There goes the Americans are fat argument.
  • Carrots are food.  There goes the OMG I WILL STARVE argument.
  • Carrots are clean.  They have little smell, aren’t wet or sticky, and have no wrapper.
  • This would be fun.  It would support interaction between bus riders.  It might boost ORCA adoption, as you can actually buy something with it.  It might even drive up ridership, as people see the news stories about bus carrots.  It would certainly make the bus feel a little more friendly and inviting.

48 Replies to “One Solution to the Bus Food Problem”

  1. This does sound fun! The novelty might wear off after a while, but it could have several short and medium-term benefits as you point out. +1 on improving ORCA adoption by making it more useful as a form of payment! My concern on that is the possibility of not being allowed to use my employer subsidy to load up my e-purse.

    I don’t really have a problem with food on the bus. Perhaps my opinion would change if a lot of people actually ate on the bus, or if we had a large rat problem, or if my job was to clean Metro coaches. On rare occasions I will eat a small snack (a piece of fruit, a chewy granola bar) on the bus, but I’m not usually on it long enough that I can’t wait until I’m at my destination. It is rare that I see others eating on the bus.

    I think it is hilarious that some are so offended by the site, sound and smell of others eating. I get way more annoyed at loud music (against policy) and smelly people.

    1. I should mention neither smelly people nor loud music ever prevent me from riding. Long headways, inconsistent arrivals, and slow buses, however, often prevent me from taking transit.

    2. She can probably take cash too. Though it would be fun and convenient to pay with ORCA.

      Does your employer just put cash on your ORCA? Mine provides an ORCA pass, and I seperately activated the ePurse feature. When I, say, want to hop on a ferry I can scan my ORCA and it charges from my ePurse rather than from my employer’s pass (pass doesn’t cover ferry trips).

      1. My transportation benefits are provided via wageworks, so they give me a debit card that I then use at a TVM to load my card.

    3. I will say, the carrot proposal will attract tourists. Call it a “carrot” for bus riding….

    1. True, celery is almost as fun as carrots, but I think by that point we should bring it up a notch to long beans.

      1. I 2nd the ranch/peanut butter requests… although that kind of defeats the point of this.

  2. I already bring a little ziploc of raw almonds and discreetly snack on them if I’m feeling peckish. No smell, a little crunch and if I drop one, at least not particularly gross to clean up. I think decent carrots are a little bit wet; wouldn’t want to clean them up from the bus floor.

  3. I’m not sure why you think the “omg I will starve” arguments are bizarre. Kind of like I need to be able to drink water on the bus, I also sometimes really, really need food. Hypoglycemia, man. It’s not necessarily that the bus ride is super long (I’ve been known to make it an hour and a half without eating (1.5h being the time it takes to get from Kent Station to the U-District)) but sometimes the timing is just such that the hunger just hits, you know?

    Good idea, though. I request hummus as a dipping material (it could also come in a squeeze bottle and I could eat it off my finger).

    …and why are we assuming the carrot-seller’s a lady? Just wondering.

    1. We’re not assuming a female carrot-seller. I chose a gender for literary, not technical, reasons.

  4. One problem: carrots are totally not filling. It’s weird. I was really hungry at home one time and carrots were the only thing I had around. I swear I ate a whole bag of them and was still hungry.

    1. They’re largely water – so they only make you feel full for a short period of time. That whole bag of carrots probably had 100 calories!

  5. MORONS. Everyone knows eating too many carrots turns your skin orange. What will the tourists think, watching a bus full of orange people go by? We’ll be the laughing stock of the nation.
    Think, people, think.

    1. At least that’s better than vampire pale….might even make look healthy!

    2. First the Space Needle, now our skin?? I thought that Seattle’s official colors were greenish, bluish and grey? Although perhaps the things one has to do to turn people those colors probably isn’t the healthiest… REGARDLESS I PROTEST THIS GUB’T SPONSORED HUE TAKEOVER

  6. people shouldn’t eat on buses because Americans are fat.

    It’s absolutely true that eating habits and eating rituals have a huge effect on obesity. Breaking down barriers to eating further will make people even fatter.

    1. That’s patently false. Many small meals throughout the day have proven better for weight control and dental health.

      1. Yeah, Doug, but that’s not what has been happening the last 50 years. It used to be three meals a day at a dinner table and people were skinny, now it’s eat whenever you want to and look at people.

    2. That’s more about what people are eating than how often they’re eating it.

  7. Just don’t eat food while riding transit. Carrots, celery, or Royales with cheese. What a concept, piggies.

  8. LOL! As one of the people who probably drove the referenced thread out of proportion, I get it.

    However, you inadvertantly brought up a great idea. Make ORCA useful for something other than transit fare. Tokyo has a similar card called Pasmo and IIRC it can be used like a debit or credit card to buy things at stores as well.

    Would ORCA adoption go up if AM/PM or 7-11 took it? I’ve seen soda and newspaper vending machines that take credit cards, what if they took ORCA? Tap your ORCA at McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin to down at the bus stop? Maybe the booths at the Lusty Lady (Does that place still exist?) could take ORCA in lieu of tokens, LOL!

    1. How about if downtown parking meters took Orca cards? If we decided to turn some parking meters into duel-function machines that could also be used to pay bus fare, we could get this for free.

  9. I love it. Matt is clearly in sight of solutions that will both benefit riders and Metro. For those who don’t like carrots then don’t eat them. Y’all are so myopic. More people should be as creative and thoughtful and less afraid to come up with unique ideas. Keep ’em coming.

  10. Another problem related to the food problem is the restroom problem. People who undergo 90-minute bus sagas to get to where they need to go, often face a lack of opportunity to use the bathroom along the way – either the connection points lack restrooms, or the time it would take to go means you miss your next bus. And, often, headways are long enough so stopping to go to the bathroom at a point where you don’t have to stop and transfer anyway means a 30+ minute delay.

    The restroom problem can be a big deal. For those with bladder problems or small children, it can often be a dealbreaker that makes the bus completely unusable.

    1. Yes! I think every Park & Ride and Transit Center should have restrooms. To defray costs and cut down on abuse I suggest they be pay restrooms with a time limit, similar to the public toilets of San Francisco, which are also self-cleaning.

      While putting toilets on local buses wouldn’t be feasible, perhaps Sound Transit could invest in coach-style buses with toilets like Greyhound uses. Metro could use similar buses for its longer express routes. This would probably increase commuter ridership immensely!

      1. I think that ORCA-accepting pay toilets are a good idea.

        But I also think on board restrooms are a terrible idea. They smell horrible (especially when some joker drops a deuce) and they go south quickly if not properly maintained. They fill up quickly when everybody decides to use it and require a place to be dumped out.

        On Greyhound, less people ride a given vehicle in a given day than a commuter route, which will turn over several times and get new people that will want to make deposits.

        On board restrooms…terrible idea on a bus.

  11. People who think they can’t go without eating for 50 minutes are just weird. And people who eat on the bus are stereotypical Americans. Rude, annoying, inconsiderate, impulsive, instant gratification, obnoxious, and disgusting.

    1. You seem to be forgetting that it’s not just the 50 minute bus ride. Perhaps where the person came from and/or is going to isn’t a feasible place to eat either. Many Americans are overscheduled.

      My guess is the guy who was eating a Styrofoamed teriyaki dinner on the bus wasn’t headed home… I’m pretty sure most people would wait an hour if their destination was somewhere they could relax and enjoy their food as opposed to glugging it down on the bus.

      I don’t think I’m a “stereotypical American” but I do love offending people. I just usually don’t do so with food. Instead, I curse people out or tell them to have a bad day or talk about disgusting things in public. I’m gonna have a field day with the news about powdered baby capsules from China!!!!

  12. Carrots do have a smell (that one could imagine starting to dislike if one smells it enough). Also, they rot. Someone will have to go through the buses at the end of every day and check for carrots and half-carrots under the seats.

  13. One great idea from “Making Transit Fun” is the slide. What if we replaced all down escalators in the DSTT with slides? Slides would be faster, require little physical effort, and be “fun”.

    1. I love the slides idea. We should be building spiral slides in to our future stations.

    1. I would think gondola stations, just like rail stations (in most cities but ours), would be great places for food vendors and news stands (assuming news is still printed in paper form by the time we get a gondola). I’m not sure of the appropriate food policy for gondolas – it’s a much more private space, and there can even be room for a table.

      Perhaps we could have a dining car, with white linens, for an extra fee.

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