Today marks ten years since the opening of the Seattle light rail transit system. I was one of the 45,000 riders that boarded the light rail train for the first time, on July 18, 2009.
The initial line ran from downtown to Tukwila International Boulevard (close to Seattle-Tacoma airport). Four more stops have opened since then (Seattle-Tacoma airport & Angle Lake to the south, Capitol Hill and University of Washington to the north). The next extension of three more stops to the north, will open in 2021.
I was on the No 48 bus today, southbound and returning home from the University District. We were about to depart from a bus stop, when a blind man walked up at that moment, tapping with his white cane to find his way. (The bus stop serves several bus lines).
Oh man! I thought – is this your bus? How would you know this is your bus? .. and we’re going to leave you behind, if it is!
Just then, he produced a big rolodex out of his jacket that showed the digits 0 4 8 — a sign to arriving No 48 bus drivers, I’m sure. They would know to look for blind passengers, spot him, and assist him to get onto the bus. Luckily today, an alert bystander on the sidewalk saw what was happening, and knocked on the door to get the driver’s attention. Another person helped the him to get onto the bus. We were on our way, leaving no one behind. It made me very happy. It made my day.
A second Boeing 737 Max 8 was involved in an Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday by Addis Ababa, killing all 157 on board. And the causes of the Oct 2018 Indonesian crash are still under investigation .. but that tragedy revealed that Boeing and the FAA had not felt it necessary to tell pilots about updates to the 737 Max 8’s flight control system.
So I wondered today, what I would have done, if I had a flight scheduled on a Boeing 737 Max 8. I would probably have tried not to think about it too much, and fly anyway. I did the same shortly after 9/11, since I needed to fly for work. And is that not what we do every time we fly, anyway?
Tue 3/12: On Tuesday, news came that the European Union’s aviation regulator had grounded all MAXes in the EU, and prohibited them from even entering the airspace of 28 nations. This airspace stretches from the Azores Islands in the Atlantic, to the Russian border. At this point I would definitely have changed my travel plans, if I were to board a Boeing 737 Max 8.
Wed 3/13: Even Canada grounded its Max 8 planes. The FAA finally issued an emergency order that grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8’s, worldwide. Who knows what exactly, transpired behind the scenes, yesterday & today between the Boeing CEO, Trump, and the acting FAA administrator. They don’t inspire confidence.
It was a long day of traveling, but I made it home. I took the Sprinter train from Rotterdam Centraal station to Schiphol airport (24 mins), an Icelandair Boeing 757 from Schiphol to Keflavik (3 hrs), and another Icelandair Boeing 757 from Keflavik to Seattle airport (7 hrs). Oh, and then the Seattle Light Rail & No 10 bus to get home!
I arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at about 11.15 am this morning.
I had to spend a little time at Schiphol to figure out how to use my OV-chipkaart* for the train ride down to Rotterdam, but that’s OK. Now I know how to use it in Rotterdam, as well.
*Cannot load money onto it at the ticketing machine with an American credit card! (USA cards do not have PIN numbers). No need to buy a fare ahead of time, but if you travel 1st class, you tap the card once at the station/ platform entrance as usual, and then a second time on the platform next to the train, for the 1st class surcharge.
My flight made it into Schiphol airport at 12 noon local time, after the connection I had made in Reykjavik.
From Schiphol, I took the train to Amsterdam Central station.
The OV chipkaart that I had bought there, does the same as the Orca card that we have in Seattle, and more. The passenger uses it to tap on readers at train stations and on trains and buses, to pay the fare. The cards can be used anywhere in the Netherlands on local trains, trams and buses, and even on regional trains. Just not on ferries, yet.
I made it to the airport, and it looks like my flight is on time.
I had to negotiate two blocks of bumpy, snowy sidewalk to the bus stop with my roller bags, but it was not too bad. It was easy from there: bus to the Capitol Hill train station, and train to the airport.
Now it’s 7½ hours to Reykjavik on Iceland Air, and another 3 to Amsterdam, where I will overnight on the way to Cape Town, South Africa.
I’m home! .. but it’s going to become a stretched-out Friday for me!
That’s what happens when one flies east across the international dateline. Let’s see: 18 hrs in Japan on Friday + 9 hrs flying + 14 hrs in Seattle until Friday midnight. That’s a 41 hr day. Whoah.
Today was my last full day. I will head out to the airport after lunchtime tomorrow.
It was gloves-scarf-skull cap weather: no sun and only 6°C/ 42°F for a high. I went out to the very touristy surroundings at Asakusa Station (pagodas and shrines), and then made a stop at Omotesandō Station (glass and steel) as well.
My day trip to Nagoya went well, but man! there was an icy wind blowing in the city today. I was so glad I had packed my woolen skull cap.
Here’s the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (bullet train line) that runs from Tokyo to Nagoya, that I took. It continues its run from Nagoya on to Osaka. A more direct line to Nagoya will open in 2027, and be extended to Osaka by 2045*.
*Assuming Earth had not been utterly destroyed by humans, by then.
I spotted some unusual buildings along Meiji-Dori avenue today, while walking from Shibuya to the Harajuku station.
Some days I run myself ragged with too much walking! So for tomorrow, I plan to take the Nozomi Super Express to Nagoya. It’s 1h 40m in one direction.
I ran out to Saginomiya station on Sunday, to visit friends of ours from Seattle, that live here in Tokyo.
The transfer I had to make at Takadanobaba station was a little ugly*, but I was fine after asking the station attendant for directions.
*The Seibu-Shinjuku line is from a private operator, and not shown on my Tokyo Metro app.
This morning, I took the Yurikamome line’s train to the new Toyosu fish market from Yurakucho Station (not much to see there), and then went on to Shimbashi Station. The line offers plenty of great views of the waterfront and of Tokyo Bay.
The Yurikamome line was completed in 1995, and is Tokyo’s first fully automated transit system – controlled entirely by computers, with no drivers on board. It looks like a monorail, but it is not: the trains run with rubber-tired wheels on an elevated concrete track guided by the side walls.