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Seattle’s Bus Chick on the Rewards of the Riding Life

Carla Saulter pens a very eclectic blog called Bus Chick, Transit Authority, which you can find on the Seattle Post Intelligencer's website.

Carla, who lives car-free with her husband and young daughter, is all about riding transit and inspiring others to do the same. The bus has indeed figured prominently in her life: she met her husband on the bus; riding has provided her with a creative outlet for stories and interesting anecdotes; and she named her first child for the most renowned bus rider in history.

I was bowled over when I heard that Carla actually went by bus to give birth at the hospital (not to mention to also come home afterward). I knew then and there that I needed to profile her. I just wish I lived closer to the Bus Chick family so I could ride the bus with them more often.

[intro music]

Carla Saulter: [00:02] I’m Carla Saulter and I have been car free for six years.


Adam Edwards: [00:12] I’m the bus nerd and I guess that means I’m bus chick’s sidekick.


Carla Saulter: [00:21] This name is Rosa Caroline after Rosa Parks and my mother. I write a blog for the Seattle PI called “Bus Chick Transit Authority”, and I also write a column for a local street paper. I rode the bus a lot as a kid and I loved the bus but like most teenagers, as soon as I turned 16 I wanted to drive. I had a job in Redmond and commuted every single day across four freeways and I sat there everyday in traffic and just complained about how much traffic there was and how much pollution and sprawl. And then one day it just dawned on me that I was part of the problem and I was choosing my commute and the only thing I could control was my own actions, so I started taking the bus to work. You’re in this vehicle and you’re surrounded by all these people from all different walks of life. You don’t know where they’re coming from, you don’t know where they’re going. The only thing they share in common probably is this ride and, I mean, it’s just endless fodder for stories. I have lots of different categories in my blog and my favourite is the “overheard” category which is basically just random conversations I would hear on the bus. It’s not really advocating car freedom, although I would love it if everybody decided to be car free, it’s more about presenting a way of life, like you don’t… everybody doesn’t have to march down the same path, and my life is fun. I love my life. I do everything that everyone, all the middle class, married people I know do, professional people. I just do it differently.


Adam Edwards: [01:42] Well I’m certainly proud of her helping get the message out that riding a bus and taking Transit is an easy way to live one’s life, it gives you a lot of freedom. This is a bus system that it takes a lot to get used to, you have to learn how to use it. But once you know how it works, it’s kind of fun. It’s fun to figure out how to from, you know, place to place and I guess that’s part of what makes me a bus nerd.


Carla Saulter: [02:01] I’m always talking about how to market Transit. I had this idea for promotion, why I ride, and you could have like all these different people talking about, you know, I ride because it saves me money, or I ride because I can read or whatever. But Metro had this other idea where they wanted to show regular riders on the bus and they contacted me and asked if I would be on it.


Adam Edwards: [02:19] Sometimes when I’m trying to catch a bus and I just miss it and it’s pulling away and I see her on the back of the bus, and that kind of hurts a little to see her smiling face because I’m running after it.


Carla Saulter: [02:27] Used to see this guy on the bus all the time and there’s just something about him. It wasn’t as if I had a crush on him, I just really wanted to know him. We both volunteered for something where you teach high school kids about your career and he came up and introduced himself to me and said, “I’m Adam”, and I said, “oh yeah, you ride my bus, I see you all the time”. And he’s like, “oh you ride the 545”. So then after that he came and sat by me when he would see me on the bus, and basically we got to know each other. He had this friend that he used to always talk to on the phone and he was telling me all the names they had for people and I said, “so, what’s my name?” And he said, “oh, you’re bus chick”. So it just kind of stuck.


Adam Edwards: [03:00] At our wedding we did have a bus that we were using for our guests, it was a historic, an older bus painted red and white.


Carla Saulter: [03:07] Metro has employee association that restores and maintains historic vehicles, so we rented a cool vintage bus. Chicklet, I think either one of my readers or one of my co-workers suggested that and I just loved it, so… she’s actually bus chicklet, but I just call her chicklet. She gets excited when we go on the bus, she’ll say… to her going bye-bye and riding the bus are the same thing, that she sits on my lap, we look at people, we talk to people, we look out the window, we read, and I love that I don’t... if we were riding in a car I’d have to strap her in the back and just sort of ignore her while we sat in traffic. But this way we get to be together, we spend those rides together. I do hear from people who say they started trying the bus because of me or they tried riding the bus to a specific place and never tried it before. One of the things I love about my blog is it basically allows me to write about everything I like and one of my heroes is Rosa Parks and she also happens to be associated with the bus. It just seemed like a perfect name for her for many reasons.

[music]

Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://www.seandoughtie.com Sean Doughtie

    I would love to be car-free, but public transit in the Hampton Roads Area of Virginia is abysmal. We are getting light rail, but I'm not sure that will be enough. Its really nice to visit cities that have a very developed public transit system such as New York, DC or Chicago.

    Thanks for sharing the video.

  • Bobin

    This is great!! Bus Nerd and Bus Chick are the coolest!
    Awesome.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/npGREENWAY Scott Mizée

    Awesome story. Thanks for taking the time to profile her, Clarence!

  • ninestein

    I think this is a great thing here it isn't a reality in my city. The bus system here is overloaded, late and not efficient. Mostly it travels North/south and not east/west which I live more or less west of my work. If only I had a bus system like this one. It is a dream and seeing it makes me more depressed about the city transit here.

  • http://oregonlive.com/harddrive CommuterJoe

    This is a very cool little flick. I just posted it on The Oregonian's commuting blog in Portland. Thanks.

    oregonlive.com/harddrive

  • PHCS

    Bus Chick is clearly being the change she wants to see in the world. She must be a person of great patience and I commend her for her contribution to improving Seattle's atrocious transit landscape.

    Go Bus Chick.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/PatrickMc Patrick McMahon

    Glad to see that Bus Chick's blog survived the sad downsizing/conversion to Web-only for the Seattle P-I.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/buschick/

  • http://www.leftbanker.com leftbanker

    I was a fairly car-free Seattleite before moving to Valencia, Spain where I have been without internal combustion for three years. I have always been more bike boy than metro boy but I always have a transit card in my wallet just in case. One thing that always makes me smile here in Spain is seeing little kids taking the subway to the beach with their parents, complete with pails, shovels, soccer balls, and all of the other paraphernalia required for a day on the water.

    Keep up the good work. Cars were a huge mistake of the 20th century. The sooner we fix that the better.

  • http://www.re-visionlabs.com Aurea Astro

    I love this and would LOVE to crowdsource this further to reach as many people as possible! I posted it to our Facebook and Twitter, any other suggestions? Is there a Seattle-focused street films coming our way soon?

    Twitter: RVLcommunity
    Blog: http://blablab.re-visionlabs.com
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/revisionlabs

  • Anirudh Sahni

    A great video! Carla has done so much for bus riding in Seattle with her input to transit agencies and the hipper image she brings to transit.