Look at this picture of riders on the number 42 bus today, which travels along Martin Luther King Way, right alongside light rail. Then look at the picture after the jump of light rail riders yesterday. Notice something different? The bus riders are virtually all minorities. Light rail's are not. In fact, on the trains I've taken for the past few days, they've been mostly white, which is pretty surprising given that the trains service the most diverse part of town. What's going on? To find out, I passed on light rail this morning and rode the 42 into town.
For Inja Kim and David Shing, 74 and 86 respectively, it was a matter of the distance from their homes to the nearest light rail station. "It's hard for an old man like me [to walk far]," said Shing, who added that he lives about a half-mile away.
Age isn't an issue for John Nills, 18. Still, he says of light rail: "I'm just not going to take it." He didn't articulate why. But it raises the question of whether the shiny, high-tech trains are more bedazzling to middle-class whites for some reason than others.
Nevertheless, some on the bus had tried the trains, and liked them. "They're easy, quick, efficient," said Chris Frank, a 25-year-old canvasser for a King County project that passes out energy-efficient light bulbs and showerheads. Living near the Othello light rail station, he said he would often take the trains--unless the bus came first, as it did today.
Obviously, some who normally take the 42 are choosing the train. The bus was much less full than usual, which made the bus even more appealing than usual. It had lots of seats, stopped less frequently and arrived downtown five or 10 minutes earlier than usual.