An odd thing happened yesterday.
Usually, when I catch the 7:30-something-in-the-morning 355, because of the position of my apartment on the route (toward the beginning), it is relatively empty. All the seats are usually filled by the time the bus reaches downtown, but when I board, it is typically only 20% full. Also, when I board the 355 around 4:30 in the evening after work, the seats are typically only 70% full.
Yesterday, however, Seattle was recovering from an unusually severe snowstorm. Well, unusual for Seattle. I gather Seattle doesn’t usually get any snow at all in the winter, and when it does, it is typically melted inside of a couple of hours, at least on the streets. This time, however, the temperature dropped, making the snow stick around, and in many places turn into ice. The City, and much of the Western half of the state, because it is not used to this sort of thing, never bothered investing in a great deal of snow removal equipment. No salters at all. Only a few plows and a handful of gravel trucks. For what is, by some estimates, a reasonably large city. Lovely.
So what did people do? The snow storm was Monday night. Some people went to work via automobile as usual on Tuesday, thinking things would be fine by then. Things were not fine. A great number of the skittish folks who had bad experiences commuting on Tuesday noticed something, though. They noticed that while their crappy little vehicles slipped and slided around the road, the buses did pretty well. Why? Partly because the bus drivers generally know how to drive, and most other Seattle drivers do not. Partly because the buses are heavier. But mostly because the buses were equipped with chains. Chains, for those of you who do not regularly drive in wintery weather, are exactly as you’d expect: a ladder of chains wrapped tightly around the tires. Chains make for some very good driving in snow and on ice. Good grips. You don’t leave ‘em on year round because they are prone to fucking up your car and refuse to let you drive fast and make an awful noise and fuck up the pavement. But they’re useful in winter weather.
Right. So the Tuesday drivers decided to take advantage of the better-equipped buses on Wednesday. Which brings me back to my odd thing that happened yesterday: I barely got a seat. On both legs of the journey. The 355 was so packed both ways that it had to pass people up.
Why am I bothering to write about this? Because I know most of the non-regulars who took the bus yesterday were bitching about how cramped and slow the bus was. Not realizing that (1) it was slower than usual in part because of the snow and ice, and (2) it was more uncomfortable and slower in large part because the bus was absorbing so many non-regulars. If a large number of the car commuters would take the bus more often, there would be more buses. Less overcrowding. Happier transit users all around.
The 355 is my bus. All you non-regulars can stop bitching and apologize to me for making my ride uncomfortable. Otherwise I’m going to start having to hitch at gunpoint and ruin your commute.