parents worry: my boy is too interested in bus schedules!

Ever seen a human-interest news story profiling someone for doing more or less what you did?

That could have been my first reaction to the Seattle Times profile of transit planner Ted Day, but there's no time for envy.  The main story is that a boy who stayed out of trouble at age 10 by collecting and memorizing bus schedules turned out to be a successful family man and transit planner.  Like all such "different drummer" narratives, perhaps it will help a few parents embrace the unexpected transit-geekery of their children, and speed the coming-out of kids who hide bus schedule collections in their mattresses out of fear of parental or social disapproval.

Not every boy who studies bus schedules at age 10 turns out like Ted Day.  One turned out like me.  My fine collection of 1970s and 80s bus schedules from Portland and Los Angeles is still in a box somewhere.  I especially recall the Portland "East Burnside" timetable (c. 1973) which predates the numbering of the lines and reveals the evasive maneuvers that this bus made for decades before the 1982 advent of Portland's  frequent grid.

So congrats to Ted Day for his well-deserved rise to fame!  The human-interest potential of transit planners' lives is just beginning to emerge into public consciousness.  Has your newspaper profiled one lately?  😉

14 Responses to parents worry: my boy is too interested in bus schedules!

  1. ga73 July 19, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I was that way growing up and turned out fine as well!

  2. Alan Robinson July 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Growing up in a rural area, my passtime was road maps, although I was quite intrigued by the first school bus schedule I came across. Going to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and experiencing urban mobility was a revelation.

  3. EngineerScotty July 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    My oddball habit (OK, one of them) as a child was “drawing signals”. Professionally, I went into computers, but now embrace my transport-geekhood. 🙂

  4. Brent Palmer July 19, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    “You’re not studying system maps on transit agency sites again, are you?”
    “No, no, no, I’m looking at Redtube… honest!”

  5. Sherwin L. July 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    I was never big on schedules. Like a lot of others, I was a visual thinker, thus I loved atlases and maps. Collected a lot of road atlases in middle school, I did.
    It’s a pleasure to see Ted featured in the paper. He’s a real whiz but all too often his great ideas are chewed up and spit out by the county bureaucracy.

  6. Moaz Yusuf Ahmad July 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I knew all the subway stations in Toronto by the time I was four, spent weekend after weekend traveling from one end of the city to the other for 3 years, and was telling people how to get around by the time I was 6.
    I only wish I could say that I was actually a transit planner now. I’m more like a transit “stick-in-the-mud” with strange ideas about public transport organization, management & customer service.
    Regards, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

  7. Justin N July 20, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    At age 10, I was one of the few people who rode the local bus in my town. By age 14, I’d drawn my own system map for the local transit agency, who still to this day does not provide one. (Even after I sent them mine! Granted, it was a pretty awful schematic map drawn in Paint…) My transit fare media collection includes a representative sample of every pass I’ve ever held, and most tickets as well.
    And yet I’m a political scientist. Does volunteering on the City Parking & Streets Commission count?

  8. Barry July 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    One of my earliest memories is riding the bus with my mother, as a four year old. I remember my fascination with a few of the details, like the shape of the stop button, or the design of the paper tickets, or the route direction signs mounted to light poles throughout the city.
    But I think I was fascinated with spatial concepts equally. By 10 I could draw a map of our suburb, including street names, from memory. And the joy I used to get when the latest city-wide transit map was published (even in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Adelaide published a comprehensive poster map of the entire network).

  9. Alon Levy July 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    I drew street maps of fictional cities. One I drew about 10 years ago I might still have somewhere in my parents’ apartment.

  10. Brent Palmer July 20, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    @Barry: But did that Adelaide map distinguish the frequent services from the rest? Ten years ago, Melbourne had a sheet map of the entire system (including buses), for A$2 from the Met Shop, but it didn’t make such a distinction.
    @Alon Levy: At the age of 9 or 10, I drew a number of maps of the small New Zealand town we lived in. But when we moved to Brisbane shortly thereafter, there was too much urbanised area to map, so I never got around to mapping the local neighbourhood as a kid. Fast-forward to high school, when one of the music rooms had a London Tube map on the wall. It fascinated me, as well as making me think how skeletal the Brisbane rail system was (this was many years before I learned about the difference between rapid transit and commuter rail). There’s something compelling – at least on an aesthetic level – about all those intersecting lines at 45-degree angles.

  11. Alon Levy July 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    I didn’t draw transportation networks, except intercity roads. Those cities I drew were meant to be in a medieval genre fantasy setting.
    Speaking of which, I need to draw another such city for a campaign I may or may not run. A large and complicated one. At least it has an in-universe reason for much of its area to be gridded.

  12. Alan Robinson July 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    So, who was befuddled by their first map of Paris?

  13. Lucy July 21, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    This reminds me of a Christoph Niemann illustration a few years ago about his New York City subway obsessed sons: