Dear Monsieur Jean-Marc Cote. His vision of 2000 didn’t materialize. But was that his lack of imagination or ours? How well can we envision public transit in 100 years? With good news for the future of Washington State public transit in the expected passage of the proposed $16 billion transportation package, it seems a good time to indulge in a bit of fantasy.
So let us indulge in fantasy but not fantasy fantasy. More like Fantasy Football. Constructed within reality. Studying what is at hand and making the most of it. That means no flying buses or “Beam me up, Scotty.” Instead, the fantasy is you as the master puppeteer. The Transit Czar. You calling the shots. You conjuring up your vision firmly within reality.
And our reality? There is the good news of an infusion of cash for local public transit projects. The other local transit news, however, is the loss of fare revenues and the pending Washington State Supreme Court ruling on the legality of fare enforcement on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and rail services.
So from this reality enters the Fantasy Transit Team George. In honor of George Benson, Seattle City Council member known as the father of the Waterfront Streetcar. Both now gone but not forgotten. Little hope for the resurrection of George, but maybe the streetcar? Team George begins with five fantasies.
Team George Fantasy No. 1
Washington residents over the age of 16, with no registered vehicle, can request a Public Transportation Card which entitles them to ride free on public transit throughout Washington State.
Why this fantasy first? Because decisions on fares should be first when planning transit facilities and services. And why is that? Because fares are all about people parting with their money and nobody likes doing that. Because the phrase, “Transit Dependent” needs to go away. Because fare policies are the best indicator of the thinking behind the scenes. Because when you start talking enforcement you have admitted defeat.
Team George Fantasy No. 2
Ruth E Carter picked to design operator uniforms.
Hey. Everybody knows that the uniforms make the team. You gotta look good when you are out in public doing the job. Away with uniforms that look like police uniforms depowered. Ruth E Carter is definitely on Team George.
Team George Fantasy No. 3
A public transit coffee shop (during Covid, substitute a van) near transit offices.
Still a fantasy of the Team George Czar. Way back when, I proposed turning the abandoned old Metro control center in the Exchange Building into one. The idea was viewed as a fantasy then and still is now.
Public meetings can be dismal, but a cup of hot coffee and a croissant? Planners and riders and enthusiasts sharing their latest findings and visions seated around small tables? This fantasy includes chalkboard walls to begin “seeing” new ideas. Fantastically, drivers and mechanics and public officials drop in.
Team George wants to blur the boundaries. Create a place for small exchanges of big ideas. The amazing great innovation will appear but so will incredibly bad ideas and half-baked, self-serving ideas. Scary? Well, life is, and it will only get scarier if we hole up in our own separate worlds.
Team George Fantasy No. 4
I know, I know. But who’s fantasy doesn’t include the sensual? This is the sexiest bus interior on the internet. The designer doesn’t forget the secondary players but makes sure the stars shine. Which of course are the seats. The sumptuous, warm color. The soft curves. The smooth surface. The seats are the holders of the precious cargo. Us! Team George wants.
Team George Fantasy No. 5
Hosting a cross-state bus trip for Washington State House and Senate Transportation Committee members.
I remember hearing one year that some legislators did just that and said it built bonds that helped in working together once they were back in Olympia. When my Mom needed to talk to us kids about something important, she would take us for a car ride. You’re trapped, you’re on a journey, which of course is always when revelation occurs, and you are sitting really close but not facing each other. Perfect.
It goes without saying the seating arrangement would be Republican – Democrat – Republican – Democrat with no swapping seats. No agenda. No cell phones. Just traveling together and stopping now and then at the best local diner. A mental health counselor may need to ride along. Or a sheriff.
The Public Transit Super Bowl
Well, of course, there isn’t one. Maybe you could count the Americans Public Transit Association (APTA) annual convention? It would be pretty amazing if they sponsored Transit Fantasy among their riders and supporters and hosted the winning fantasy team at their convention. It would definitely liven things up.
Never rule out the impossible, which is why fantasy is not an idle pastime.
To be continued…
May this inspire you to put together your own Transit Fantasy team. These are rough times. So many of the struggles public transit face are a reflection of the discord and brokenness encircling it. We can’t fix that but we can inspire.
It is a known fact that a little laughter warms the space between us. Maybe creating an opportunity to envision a better world? And if not that, we will have some great fun together.