When I was in third grade, I started riding the Metro bus alone. At first, I was allowed to ride to school only, but eventually my parents extended my privileges to include my favorite childhood haunts: Grandma’s apartment, Pike Place Market, and in the summer Seattle Center. Back then the bus symbolized independence. It gave me a power rare among my eight-year-old peers: the ability to get around the city without the assistance of an adult.
By the time I turned sixteen, a new power beckoned—a form of transportation that was available on demand and did not require an umbrella or an extra pair of gloves. Like most young Americans, I believed the auto industry’s propaganda: that a car was required for my transition to adulthood. For the next ten years—except for a short time in college when I found myself unable to afford a personal vehicle—I left the bus behind.
But then I accepted a job at a software company based fifteen miles outside the city. During my commutes, I became more aware of the negative impact of car culture: pollution, sprawl, isolation, and fatalities. I began to question my right to subject the earth and my beloved city to the impact of my choices. So, I returned to my roots and began riding the bus to work. Eventually, I was using my car so rarely that I decided to try living without one. I sold my lovely silver coupe in March 2003 and have used the bus as my primary form of transportation ever since.
Riding the bus isn’t always fun. I don’t like riding on rainy days, when the floor is slippery and the windows so fogged up you can’t see your stop. I don’t like standing when the bus is crowded. I don’t like drivers who ride the brakes. I don’t like practical hairstyles or sensible shoes. Despite these occasional inconveniences, I will never go back to driving, because this, I believe:
I believe in sitting next to my neighbors, in saying, “How you doing today?” and “Nice weather, isn’t it?” I believe in feeling the sun on my skin, in breathing fresh air and moving my body. I believe in eavesdropping. I believe in novels you can’t put down. I believe in businesspeople and teenage lovers, middle-aged gossips and giggling toddlers. I believe in watching and listening. I believe in naps. I believe in the camaraderie that develops among riders late at night, when the smooth-voiced driver plays jazz loud enough for everyone to enjoy.
I believe in clean air, in keeping cities dense and vibrant, and in protecting our remaining farmland and forests. I believe in the beauty of Puget Sound and the majesty of Mount Rainier. I believe that human life is sacred, that the world’s resources should be shared, and that every choice matters.
I believe that change is possible—if all of us ride.