#transitmemory – How I Became a Transit Nerd

This morning, @mamakoid posed this challenge to everyone on Twitter: “What is your first transit memory?”

Mine is pretty simple. Years ago when I was still a young’un and living in Whitehorse, my Mom, sister, and myself were getting ready to leave our house in Riverdale and head up to Takhini for our youth league softball games.  I can’t remember if it was because we only had one vehicle at the time, or if we had one in the shop, but for whatever reason, we had to catch the bus since my Dad was going to need the truck to go to work. Though the bus stop was only 400 feet away from the front door, we ended up missing the bus by just mere seconds. We ended up having to take the truck, and somehow or another my Dad got to work. I blame my sister’s always prevalent ability to be slow at getting ready, though I think I might have had a bit of the blame on that day.

Since that story is kind of boring and short, I started thinking a little bit more about how I came to become “@ziggzagzac: Transit Nerd.” Curiously enough, I actually had part of this story already done and ready to go for my other blog, but since this is a transit-oriented blog, I decided to redo it a bit, and the following is what I ended up with:

As a kid, I had that typical childhood dream of becoming a policeman or fireman someday. However, I also remember that I had a particular fascination with buses. I didn’t really know what it was, buses were just cool to me. I didn’t get much chance to ride the bus as a kid, but I was always excited when I saw one running down the street. The area of the world that I lived in as a kid (Yukon) was a huge tourist draw during the summers, so I also got to see a LOT of different motorcoaches. Quite a few MCI MC-9’s ran up and down the Alaska Highway and Klondike Highway, but we also saw the rare and amazing Prevost H5-60 (Yes, that is a 60-foot articulated motorcoach!). Another strange bus that started showing up in the mid-90’s was a modified Mercedes-Benz O 404 coach, half bus and half hotel. As I got older, I kept telling my parents more and more that I wanted to be a bus driver when I grew up. At that age, I was also rather obsessed with maps. I remember one particular day in Grade 4 where my teacher had to rather bluntly tell me that the tourist guide/city map didn’t count as reading material. I didn’t like being told that.

Fast forward to the 00’s, when I was no longer living in Canada, but instead living in America. When I was in middle school, I hated walking to school. Since I lived less that a block away from Dayton Street TC, I would often ride the bus in lieu of a 1.1 mile walk. As I didn’t really have any money (beyond allowance, which I usually blew on junk food from the vending machine), I took advantage of a unique opportunity to get my bus fare. At my middle school, there was an afterschool program. Though it was more catered to underprivileged youth, something I wasn’t, I still went to it for one simple reason: A bus ticket. To make sure all kids got home, the school bought a massive amount of bus tickets to hand out to attendees of the afterschool program. With that ticket in hand, I didn’t have to deal with that treacherous 1.1 mile walk home. Instead, I could hang out with everyone else at the bus stop, and then get a ride that dropped me off steps away from home. When I made it to high school, I went through the process of getting a driver’s license just like nearly every other teenager. As a holder of a learner’s permit, I started driving my first car, a 1989 Geo Tracker. It was a hand-me-down from my stepdad, but that little car was a lot of fun. And it could move. However, as I was still learning the basics of car maintenance and how to actually drive, I completely neglected to give the car one of it’s most essential needs: Oil. Needless to say, it was a short month of driving that car before I blew the head gasket. Later on in high school, with a job and money saved up, I bought myself a new car: a 1994 Mitsubishi Galant. With 4-wheel drive, a sunroof, and shiny wheels, I felt like the Mac Daddy in that thing. Sadly, that experience was short-lived too, as merely 2 months after buying it, it was totaled in a t-bone accident, and I got myself a good ol’ ticket for “failure to yield.”

After 2 disastrous attempts of owning my own car, I went back to the bus. I mainly used it as a ride to and from my high school and vocational school, as well as a ride to get to my job at an unnamed fast food restaurant. Depending on the time of my shift though, there were nights where I would drive my Mom’s car to work. In the summer of ’07, I went back to car ownership again. As a 18th birthday/graduation present (I turned 18 the day before I graduated high school), I was given a 2000 Dodge Neon. This car was the car that turned me into a “Car Junkie.” Though not the greatest term to you, this car was the “shiznit” to me. And I did quite a bit with this car. I would just drive and drive and drive for no reason. I also went through the process of customizing it, adding things such as a cold-air intake, customized headlights, and a big ol’ spoiler. Being a bit of an audiophile as well, I decked it out with a sound system, complete with subs and a high-power amplifier.

Over the nearly 2 years that I drove this car, I had so many aspirations for what I wanted to do with it. Paint job, rims, tint, I wanted it all. But I’ll tell you what, as much as I loved this car, it had its problems. The list is quite long, but as a short summary, here’s a “few” of the things that happened:

  •  I replaced the battery somewhere between 5-7 times. One of those times, I started a small fire in the engine bay and was nearly electrocuted because the auto parts store gave me the wrong battery.
  • I had to replace all the wiring in the engine compartment. All of it.
  • I had it towed twice. Once, it was because the car died while flying down the freeway due to a loose connection from the alternator.
  • I blew every single fuse at one time or another, in both the interior and exterior fuse boxes, as well as the wiring harness fuses.
  • I “buried the needle” (hit top speed) on a rural road south of town. The next day, I was $450 down the drain to buy new tires.
  • I destroyed the cruise control inadvertently in the process of a botched alternator installation.
  • I nearly drove it off the side of a cliff when I tried taking it up a rural road along a canyon that just been hit by snow.
  • I watched it get repossessed in front of all my coworkers. (Long story short, shady car dealer. I got it back a few days later.)
It was one particular morning where I woke up to (another) flat tire where I finally admitted defeat. More than 60% of my income was in one way or another getting spent on my car, and that wasn’t good. So, I ended up selling the car, and went back to the bus. Originally, I kept telling myself that I would just save up and buy another car. But as I kept riding the bus more and more, as well as starting to become a bike commuter, I found myself strangely okay with it . The $22 I was spending per month on my bus pass was a lot better than the ridiculous amount of money I had been spending on the car.

Fast forward to now, and I am proud to say that I am a transit nerd. As I touched on in this post yesterday on my other blog, Twitter has been a big part of that. The Seattle Transit Blog has also been a big source of knowledge about transit as well. I don’t own a car anymore, but instead I ride the bus everyday. I do drive on rare occasion, but it doesn’t really have the appeal that it once had. I used to get behind the wheel of the car and just spend hours and hours behind it because I could, but now I use the bus for that. If I want to go to Seattle (or beyond), I don’t drive, but rather take my own unique method of getting there. Last summer, I spent a month travelling coast to coast going to multiple destinations in the US and Canada. Rather than wasting money on renting a car, I used public transportation everywhere and saved oodles and oodles of money. When I find myself bored, I start combing through bus schedules and maps, thinking and contemplating all sorts of things. Most of my friends find this transit fascination of mine to be quite strange, though I have been able to bring my best friend (slightly) over to my way of thinking, and even got him to join me on an Epic Transit Journey. (Recap here)

In conclusion…

My name is Zachary Ziegler, and I am a Transit Nerd.


One Comment on “#transitmemory – How I Became a Transit Nerd”

  1. YoBusDriver says:

    I have to say this was a very fun read. When you visit Tampa we have to ride HART and PSTA around and go exploring lol.

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