Test Ride: 2009 Jamis Aurora

I went over to the U Village branch of Counterbalance Bicycles on what was a fairly blustery and cold day to try out a new 2009 Jamis Aurora.  The shop itself is fairly nondescript along the Burke Gilman Trail, which makes for a good test ride area (now if it weren’t so cold).  The technician helping me out was quite patient and willing to explain the new shifting mechanisms that have gone on to a good majority of bikes since the last mountain bike I wrote with grip shifts a decade ago(!).  After the ride, he was even nice enough to offer a few pointers on what to look for when selecting commuter/touring bikes and to talk a bit about what could be added to the bike itself.

I didn’t ride much more than five minutes on a flat trail, partly because I was using this as an initial assessment, and partly because it was a cold wind (and I can’t say I was that well layered, though I did, at least, have my favorite polar fleece jacket on, plus helmet, but no gloves).  I ended up on a 53cm frame, since apparently every site I looked at that recommended a 54-56cm frame for my inseam size and height was patently nuts.  The ride went quite well – accessible gear shifting, good braking, and with the drop bars, I felt like I had a fairly comfortable position.  I felt a lot of bumps/vibration through the saddle, but since the saddle wasn’t perfectly tuned in to my riding style, both the tech and I wrote that off as potentially fixable with saddle adjustment (it was also a fairly hard saddle to boot).  The gearing was responsive to shifting, though since I’m not adjusted to the gearshift style, it was somewhat hard to remember which lever did what (easily correctable).

I didn’t try any hill riding or normal street riding due to the wind, but the trail was close enough quality to some of the not-so-well maintained roads so as to make it a fairly good indicator of what to expect.  The gearing range was wide enough just on the flat portion to make it rather clear that hills should be no problem for a properly trained rider (though there is this one rather large hill on 35th NE between 95th and 110th that I’d be interested in trying this out on).

A couple interesting things the tech pointed out: one was to pay close attention to the quality of the wheel on the bike, as well as the overall component quality.  Weight is not that big of a concern for me for this, so the steel frame of the Aurora wouldn’t present a problem.  The tech did point out that the Aurora Elite would have higher-quality components and thus (theoretically) longer durability, if it were in my price range.  He certainly didn’t seem to think that the Aurora was a bad fit – there wasn’t any particular indication of “um, maybe you should go more for this one”, but that might be because I was specifically requesting that exact bike.  Amanda suggests that perhaps part of the reason we didn’t hear any push-back from the tech is due to the economy and the price of the bike, but I would hope that someone concerned with making the sale would be more concerned with the satisfaction of the buyer (thus garnering repeat business), even if that means going against what the buyer thinks they want.  Perhaps this makes me nuts.

Most of my time on whatever bike I get would be commuting back and forth from work to school with some other destinations as required, probably with some recreational riding thrown in.  The major concern health-wise will be making sure that my wrists and back stay fairly well supported so as to not throw those any further out of whack than they already are.

King County Metro: To Increase or Decrease Fares?

This strikes me as sort of a chicken and the egg problem – do you lower fares to increase ridership or do you increase ridership to lower fares?  The editorial acknowledges the issue of access, though, which seems to me to be more and more important the further you get from the Seattle metro area.

I’m lucky in that I live in an area where there’s at least five routes that run through regularly to various areas (a good chunk of them to the UW), but that wasn’t true in Olympia, where I was so far away from bus access that it was a literal impossibility to use the system, even if it was substantially cheaper than driving.

Here’s an Idea: New Water Taxi Service

As Washington State Ferries prepares to sell two passenger-only ferries so that they can focus on their main vehicle ferry fleet (New York Times, Seattle Times), why don’t we consider a new foot ferry program between the University of Washington and Kirkland, allowing foot travel across northern Lake Washington? We’ll be faced with traffic delays and issues as the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge (otherwise known as the 520 Floating Bridge) is replaced in a few years. The idea has been suggested before by King County councilman Dow Constantine, and a similar program exists in the Elliott Bay Water Taxi program offered by King County Metro. It would definitely make it easier for people to get across the lake, considering that transit options into places like Kirkland and Bellevue from the University are decidedly lacking.

Other good reasons for this:

  • We don’t have to remove boats from the region that are already here.
  • The program would encourage people to leave their cars at home if the route were designed in a sensible manner with good connections to Metro, Sound Transit, or Community Transit on either end of the taxi route.
  • The program would be a great link-in to the already proposed and hopefully soon-to-be-implemented Sound Transit light-rail link to the UW.

Some challenges exist, of course:

  • Who owns/runs the boats? The University of Washington? King County Metro? A private operation?
  • How do we encourage ridership?
  • Can this be a year-long program? Currently, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi shuts down for the winter.

Update (11:50PM): here is the link I was originally searching for from Dow Constantine’s research into the subject back in 2005.

Flickr Update

All my photos are now here, with a slideshow here.  There’s lots of new ones too for people who keep asking when they’ll ever see the photos I’ve taken (*cough*Dad*cough*).  Alas, these aren’t ordered chronologically, so stuff that happened back in 2004 is sometimes placed after stuff in 2006.  The photostream seems to go off of posting date, which doesn’t necessarily match the reality of when the photo was taken (and Flickr is too smart – I can’t date uploads as having happened before today, since I only just signed up).

If someone’s reading this that knows how to change the photostream settings to pay attention to image date rather than upload date, that’d be nice.  I doubt it’s possible based on the FAQs, though.

There are, in particular, more photos from my 2006 road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Why I Voted No on Proposition 1

November 6th marked election day in Washington State.  One of the biggest items on the ballot was Proposition 1: REGIONAL ROADS AND TRANSIT SYSTEM, which was soundly defeated in the polls with 55.47% voting no.  This was the largest transportation bill ever proposed to King County voters and those within the districts affected by the proposed changes.

Looking at the list of proposed improvements, a good chunk of them are necessary improvements to the existing transportation infrastructure in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties.  So why vote it down?

  1. The measure was, quite simply, too big, and this is the fault of the state.  Voters had no ability to vote yes on individual portions of the proposal and had to either accept or reject the entire package.  This is explained in the King County Voters Pamphlet, which exposes the text of the measure itself.  That text includes the following statement:”WHEREAS, in 2007, the State Legislature, enacted Substitute House Bill 1396, which requires Sound Transit and RTID to submit their proposed transportation plans in a single ballot question in order to provide voters with an easier and more efficient method of expressing their will, and which included findings that transportation improvements proposed by Sound Transit and RTID form integral parts of, and are naturally and necessarily related to, a single regional transportation system . . .”

    The state legislature effectively doomed the measure by requiring this.

  2. We don’t need to keep throwing money at fixing and expanding an infrastructure that is in bad need of rethinking.  It is not sustainable to add yet more capacity to the system, which will not encourage the use of alternatives like light rail, bus lines, bikes, and carpooling.  Increasing population density and making the existing city cores more walkable and livable in general will help create an environment where we don’t need to drive as much (if at all).  The goal here should not be continuation of the status quo; it should be a complete reversal and rethinking of it.
  3. We need to start thinking about how to best preserve the spaces we have, which is not assisted by further sprawl and massive projects to revamp infrastructure.  The Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle is a perfect example.  This is a major highway into and out of Seattle, granted, but there are other ways to direct traffic through the city.  When the bus tunnel closed for maintenance several years ago, everybody assumed that it was the end of the world and traffic would grind to a halt.  This never materialized.  We adjusted.  We would adjust to not having access to the Viaduct and being rewarded with a more welcoming waterfront.

I push for the idea of sustainability because I recognize my impact on the world.  I recognize the need to maintain the infrastructure that exists already, but I do not recognize the need to expand upon it unless such expansions support new transportation options rather than simply inviting more cars to join our already-clogged highway system.  I recognize the need for transit, but I also recognize that the more single-occupancy cars we add to our roads, the faster the infrastructure deteriorates and the sooner we need solutions that make sense.  That solution is not a gigantic package where voters have no choice in what they can and cannot accept.  We need a la carte voting on these measures so that voters can properly speak their minds.  If this ever happens, I will support mass transit in favor of less sustainable transportation expansions.

What’s been going on with my bus?

I think I finally figured out what’s been going on with Metro’s route 372 (Woodinville P&R to University of Washington) in the mornings. Before today, I always made it out to the stop by about 8:25AM or so and managed to catch the bus about 8:30AM, which got me on campus on time for work at 9. However, yesterday, I got stuck waiting until 8:40, which made me ten minutes late for work.

Of course, this prompted a check of the time schedules Metro posts for that route – there are two arrivals: one at 8:15AM and one at 8:40AM (the 8:15 is the one I took in this morning, which was on time). So why was it that standing there at 8:25 let me catch the 372 at 8:30? Either the 8:15 ran 15 minutes late for over a month (I started riding in July, and yesterday was the first time I got stung), or the 8:40 was/is chronically 10 minutes early. Either way, this is completely against their time schedules and led me to think that it was actually an 8:30 bus.

Good going, Metro.

Nice Seattle Neighborhoods

I typically ride Metro’s route 65 along 35th Avenue Northeast through both Wedgwood and a very small part of the View Ridge neighborhoods on my way home after work.  I’ve decided that between Northeast 45th (which runs past the University of Washington) and Northeast 110th is a very nice area with fairly nice houses (chances that any of those are rentals seems rather low).  Smaller houses, but that’s typical for Seattle.  The drawback being that that corridor is only served by routes 64 and 65, though some cross streets are served by other routes (not many of them, from what I can tell).

Moving to Seattle

June 29th, we move out of Olympia and make our home in a one-bedroom apartment at Solara, a complex along Lake City Way, about a 20 minute Metro ride from the University of Washington. Soon, I will also be starting a new job at the University of Washington Information School as a part-time SharePoint Administrator – I’ll post the job description shortly.

Of course, on top of that, I’m also in the Information School’s Master of Science in Information Management program, starting in September. I haven’t registered yet (and actually haven’t heard anything on whether I’m even supposed to register, despite having a time ticket), so I have no idea what classes I’m in – in general, I’m just waiting for the iSchool to give me more information, since I’m sorely lacking any knowledge beyond the fact that I’m now a UW student with a job.

We’re in the process of finding a moving company to get all of our stuff from point “A” to point “B”, so more on that later, hopefully.

Life Rolls On

A lot has happened this year already. I’ve applied for and been accepted into the University of Washington’s Master of Science in Information Management program, which I’m hoping will help me to better understand how information is conveyed and manipulated. I’ve worked very hard as the Information Technology Manager for Evergreen’s Writing Center despite only being a 20 hour/week position, doing everything from applications development to budget proposals to presentations at this year’s PNWCA conference (yes, again). I am now also a Professional member of the Association for Computing Machinery, upgrading my former student status.

In a week or so (on May 11) I’m off to Ohio to finally meet a friend of mine that I’ve known online for half my life. I’m worrying about finding housing in Seattle for graduate school and worrying about finding a job (and worrying even more about the fact that both almost have to happen at once). Amanda, my girlfriend, is in Ireland, enjoying herself immensely by the sound of things. We’re having new mailboxes installed.

In short, life rolls on.