25 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Longest Bus Ride in America”

  1. Top 7 US cities with highest homeless rates: 1) DC. 2) NYC. 3) SF. 4) Honolulu. 5) Seattle. 6) Portland. 7) LA.

    Not a Republican Mayor, Governor, or US Senator amongst any of them.

    State with the lowest homeless rate: Mississippi, which has a Republican Gov and 2 US Senators.

    Why doesn’t Seattle send a delegation down to Mississippi to see what they are doing right? It seems like we could learn from them.

    1. In Mississippi, they’re often sitting in private for-profit prisons owned by those same Republicans. Then they get their right to vote taken away so that the Republicans can keep power.

      1. If you count those in prison as homeless (as Sweden does, if I’m not mistaken) then Mississippi probably has very high homeless rates.

    2. Phil takes the cake. The cities with no or few homeless are:
      (A) states/cities that provide universal housing (some northeastern state constitutions have a right to housing, or the city provides it anyway. Those are predominantly Democratic areas. I think Salt Lake City has also reached universal housing.
      (B) cities that allow housing to grow to match the population size. Dallas and Houston for instance.
      (C) cities that have lost population and thus have surplus housing at low prices. Seattle was in that position between the late 1960s and early 2000s. (“So why don’t the homeless move there?” Because there aren’t enough jobs there or they don’t pay enough to live on.)

      What those top 7 cities and their states are doing wrong and should be held accountable for is #2:allowing enough housing to match population increases. This all comes down to restrictive zoning: having 30′ and single-family zones two blocks from Mt Baker Station, not allowing midrises in Roosevelt, leaving the vast potential of Aurora Avenue almost untapped, allowing apartments in lower Wallingford, etc.

      Portland to its credit is allowing citywide cottages and the state has invalidated single-family zoning restrictions (I think), following Minneapolis. It will take a couple decades for the housing to be built out, but it’s a good start. Seattle and Washington should do likewise.

      1. Cities like Houston and Dallas also have restrictive building rules, its not some libertarian utopia. What they do have is vast empty land 360 degrees around the city core. Which allows for nearly endless sprawl with very low density of the actual buildings. Cities like SF, NY and Seattle are hemmed in by water on multiple sides so they can’t expand in every direction. This forces all of them into confronting the problem of their zoning rules much sooner.

        The only cities I’m aware of that work well (in terms of housing at least) are Tokyo (really all of Japan their zone rules are national policy not city policy). Their rules let neighborhoods up-zone organically as empty land is used up and the only way out is vertically. The other is Singapore where they don’t even bother letting the “market” take care of it and the government just builds all the apartments/condos. Both of these case are also cities that have a serious lack of buildable land which forced their governments to act decades before any city in the US had to.

        So yeah the problem is entirely people made but no city was ever forward thinking enough to prepare for it until they were forced to by a swarm of humanity.

      2. [Japan] rules let neighborhoods up-zone organically as empty land is used up and the only way out is vertically.

        Japan has had a shrinking population for years. Their problem is trying to find uses for buildings like abandon schools and prevent rural villages from becoming ghost towns. Chicago has also been dealing with a declining population for years.

      3. “So why don’t the homeless move there?” Because there aren’t enough jobs there or they don’t pay enough to live on.

        There are good paying construction jobs going begging in the Puget Sound area. But it’s hard to hold a job when you’re a heroin addict, which is endemic in the Seattle homeless population. There are working homeless but it’s not what’s caused the surge. Nor is it where the bulk of the 100s of millions of dollars the City and County are spending. A shame since this population would actually do something worthwhile with the assistance.

      4. Chicago? Chicago definitely sprawls. The north and near west side of Chicago is vibrant and is adding infill, but the south side is emptying out and far out suburbs like Naperville continue to build Greenfield development. The north side is also emptying out a bit as triplexes are converted to single family homes in desirable neighborhoods.
        Like Seattle, most jobs are in the suburbs and most commutes are review within the suburbs. Metra is great but it serves a fraction of suburban workers because most are not heading to the Loop.

        Chicago is a bit like LA where the crane count makes it look like a development boom but the numbers don’t bear it out because there is little activity in the missing middle.

      5. “it’s hard to hold a job when you’re a heroin addict, which is endemic in the Seattle homeless population.”

        There’s a huge gap between being able to pay $1600 a month and $1600 in move-in fees and have good credit vs being a heroin addict. And even if they’re willing to pay it, some landlords require three times the rent in income and they can’t make that, Most homeless aren’t drug addicts; they simply can’t pay housing costs. Dismissing their problems as, “They’re drug addicts; they should go into treatment and learn better behavior,” misses the point.

      6. “But it’s hard to hold a job when you’re a heroin addict, which is endemic in the Seattle homeless population.”

        This isn’t even close to being true, and it helps no one to spread such nonsense.

  2. Given certain Chief of State’s veracity record, Sam, could venture a guess, as to which party’s mayors are telling the truth about their statistics. But since I generally go to STB to talk about transit, would rather stay with the video Oran submitted. Better “fit” for the holiday.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPZ9JaYZQiA

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PD-4501_Scenicruiser

    (-Some design problems that’d now seem seriously familiar…..but from personal experience, what a fantastic ride past actual mountains and grain elevators on the same trip.)

    From the time I was ten or so, around 1955, Greyhound buses were a really important thing about America itself to me. Since a fifth-grader doesn’t do “zero sum”, plenty of room for all varieties of train, too.

    Same for the giant 1954 Cadillac my dad bought for a 4-kid family car instead of a station-wagon- first step to eventual CDL on a sixty-foot “artic.” Never did coast-to-coast round trip on Greyhound, but rode both “legs” from Detroit over the years.

    Powerful political element in there too, now generally forgotten: through high school, my personal American patriots were a religious arch-conservative named John Brown, who correctly believed that God Himself demanded that well-regulated Americans obey the Second Amendment by shooting people who believed in slavery.

    And also a devoutly religious French Canadian merchant marine veteran named Jack Kerouac, who looked at cross-continental car-driving and Greyhound travel same as I did. Large part of my life, Greyhound was a major piece of US patriotism to me.

    My last Greyhound ride ten or fifteen years ago, Sacramento to Eugene alternative to very slow Amtrak, featured two drivers whose passenger- handling approach would’ve gotten them terminated from worst corrections system in the country. Both thought they were funny too.

    Strongest step in the desecration process? When the airlines deregulated, wheeled segregation set in many times more pernicious than the school-bus world. Greyhound became system of compulsory choice for Americans who could afford neither a plane ticket nor campaign money whose plastic bank-cards jingle like virtual silver.

    That Fourth of July weekend when last I de-boarded Greyhound, I remember feeling in my coat pocket for something sharp enough to scrape my country’s little flag off the bus window that now disgraced it on a National holiday.

    Most important thing about your video, Oran, is the way the two young narrators are reacting to their Greyhound experience. Which on this holiday make the condition of the bus company and our country a shamefully good fit for each other.

    Thanks for being here, guys. Our country and the travel modes that are supposed to create a lot more freedom than guns are at least worth the effort to try and save.

    Mark Dublin

    1. My first cross-country trip was on Greyhound in 2000. It was a return trip to Spokane and my first time seeing Walla Walla, Chicago, New York, DC, and (briefly) Philadelpha. On the way back I went via San Francisco. I had a four-week Discovery pass which let me walk on to any bus if it had room. (Later you had to state your itinerary up front although you could change it. It’s no longer available.) I mostly visited friends, but I’d wanted to visit Chicago ever since I went to a conference in Urbana in 1986 and some friends visited Chicago on the way back. It’s a long trip but it works if you have reading material, and you always meet unexpected people along the way. Since then I have done two or three other cross-country trips on Greyhound. The quality of Greyhound’s service and passengers go up and down over the years. Generally people are better behaved on the east-west segments and local routes than on the west coast express.

      What annoyed me the most is when I had a transfer in Cleveland or Denver or somewhere and they said, “Bus is full; you’ll have to wait for the next one”. I heard they’ll only put a second bus on if more than twelve people are waiting, although the exact number is at the local manager’s suggestion. Even if you do get a second bus you have to wait an hour for it to be ready. On the west coast express they just automatically assign two buses between LA and Portland, because they’re always needed. I most commonly traveled from San Francisco to Seattle, so that usually meant transferring in Sacramento or Redding, so I’d be an “incoming passenger” and was always put on the bus that terminated in Portland, so I’d have to transfer again in Portland to the other bus that continued to Seattle.

      I stopped traveling in the late 2000s. Two decades was enough I guess.

  3. RE: Longest Bus Ride in America…
    Why I’ll never take a Greyhound. I can rent a car and book hotels along my route. I can take Amtrak. I can fly on a budget airline and be treated better than these poor fellas. Greyhound could choose to offer a higher level of service and cater to a larger clientele. They choose not to.

    1. The working class and students need something they can afford. A surprising number of Greyhound riders are truckers going from one job to another in a different state. Most people will never take Greyhound but fly instead. But it still has a niche for lower-income people, those who want to save money, those who want to see the towns and scenery along the way that they’d never see otherwise, those who want to get away from it all for a few days, and those who enjoy meeting unexpected people en route.

      Amtrak doesn’t go to many areas, such as Missoula MT or Columbus OH. There are Amtrak thruway buses and other regional buses to extend its reach, but I don’t think many people would go to the Canadian border to transfer to a bus to Missoula/Bute/Billings/Helena unless they lived in western Montana. Not when Greyhound goes to Missoula directly, and it’s a shorter trip and those other cities are closer to it.

      I mostly rode Greyhound to save money as part of my minimalst tendencies, and because its schedule to Vancouver was better (leave Friday after work, be social Friday and Saturday evenings, come back Sunday morning). But in the mid 2000s I switched over to Amtrak for the quality of the trip, although I’ve never taken it cross-country (furthest is to Chicago and San Jose).

      Driving across the country still appeals to those who don’t want to be limited by the bus network and frequency, have furniture to carry, or are going with others and want private time. But it’s no longer inexpensive due to gas prices. The number of people driving further than SF (13 hours), Missoula (11 hours), or LA (24 hours) has probably plummeted.

      1. The average price of gas, adjusted for inflation has dropped steadily since 1978 while the average MPG has increased. According to Wikipedia, “average fuel economy for new passenger car in the United States improved from 17 mpg (13.8 L/100 km) in 1978 to more than 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km) in 1982.” and it’s up to 24.7 miles per gallon in the 2016 model year. Check out the NPR story, “Record Number Of Miles Driven In U.S. Last Year”.

      2. But the cost of housing and healtcare has risen so people have less purchasing power. Anyway, my friend who drives everywhere used to drive to San Francisco but now he flies saying the costs have crossed and flying is now less expensive.

      3. “the costs have crossed and flying is now less expensive”
        Bingo, the cost of flying routes like SEA to SFO have dropped dramatically. Especially if you’ve got a flexible schedule and watch the websites. Don’t try to read to much into it but the delta in what people on any one flight is staggering. Apparently all the money they save on flying means they can afford a rental car to drive around :=

  4. Ideally the freeway system would, but has not improved bus service. A more ideal bus service would have freeway stops incorporated into exit/entrance ramps or in large cities nearly so. And cities and especially smaller towns wanting bus service would support connectivity to their transit systems. Buses would make fairly frequent stops, but would spend little or no time on surface streets.

    Family members would occasionally make a 120 mile trip, and half the time was spent going to city and town centers from the freeway exits, not going the distance. Criminal and near criminal behavior was also a factor in our stopping.
    All in all it was just simpler driving two hours each way and providing service to family members.

    Uber and Lyft now could likely provide the connectivity to make those bus rides work better. Along with a trip insurance which covered service failures.

  5. Northgate Link restructure step 2. My initial thoughts:
    – 522 truncated at Roosevelt!!!!! Full-time frequent 15-minute service. Supplemented peak hours with 312 (Kenmore-Roosevelt) and 309 (Kenmore-First Hill). 309 extended to early evening.
    – There are still several peak expresses to downtown.
    – The 49 remains. (Not replaced by a Broadway-Beacon route. Maybe that’s waiting for RapidRide G. The 49’s survival is a benefit to me, although is it grid incorrect?)
    – The 31/32 have the Children’s-45th-Wallingford routing we wanted for the 44.
    – The 61 is almost a Lake City-Ballard route. (To 85th & 32nd.) It takes over the 75’s LCW/Northgate Way path, and the 75 switches to the 41’s 125th/5th path. (The 41 is deleted.)
    – The 62 gets its middle straightened, and spins off some streets to other routes.
    – The 65 remains on Stevens Way westbound,Montlake Blvd eastbound. the 372 remains on Stevens Way both directions.
    – There’s a small indication the 65/67 through-route might be split: a slight routing difference at the Sand Point Way-45th Street-40th Ave triangle. It could just be a map illusion. The sheets don’t mention through-routing one way or the other.
    – Bye bye 71 and 78. Hello 79.
    – Routes 301 and 304 truncated at Northgate. 302 and 303 redirected to First Hill.
    – 345/346/347/348 get more peak service to replace peak expresses.

Comments are closed.