Sunday, November 21, 2010

70 Years of Electric Trolley Buses in Seattle (1940 - 2010)

Electric trolley buses have been part of the public transport system of the city of Seattle since 1940. Originally introduced to replace streetcars, trolley buses take advantage of the hydroelectric power available in the Pacific Northwest region of Cascadia. Electric power collection and return occurs by poles on the roof of the bus connecting with two overhead wires. Trolley buses provide quiet, no-emission operation that has excellent acceleration characteristics and hill-climbing ability. Besides the Seattle system, trolley buses also currently operate in: Boston, MA; Dayton, OH; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; and Vancouver, BC Canada.

Cascada Artpost commemorates the 70 years of trolley bus operation in Seattle with a set of five artistamps, released with a descriptive booklet. The buses portrayed represent both the original coach types and the vehicles currently in service. The first trolley buses replaced streetcars in 1940, and the city procured additional trolley buses in 1943-44 for a total fleet of 307 trolley buses. We have taken some artistic liberties in posterizing the scenses of the World War II era Brill and Twin coaches - pink trolley buses never actually ran on the streets of Seattle!

Seattle Transit substituted diesel buses for a portion of the trolley bus network in 1963. A public vote consolidated public transport in Seattle and King County into a single system called Metro in 1973. The trolley bus system closed for two years in 1978 for rebuilding and expansion, with 110 new standard-size 40-foot trolley buses built by the now defunct American automotive manufacturer AM General starting service in 1979. In 1986, Metro added 46 high-capacity 60-foot articulated trolley buses built by the German manufacturer M-A-N to handle larger passenger loads.

As an alternative to purchasing new trolley buses, Metro (now part of King County government) decided to rebuild 100 trolley buses with salvaged electric traction systems in new bodies built by Gillig. These buses began service in 2002. A similar approach was taken in 2006-2008 when 60 articulated dual-power diesel electric coaches built by the Italian manufacturer Breda originally introduced in 1990 to operate in the downtown Seattle transit tunnel were converted to full electric operation.

Metro's entire trolley bus fleet is near the end of its useful life. A key decision is approaching on whether to replace the trolley buses with diesel-electric hybrid buses by 2014. This decision occurs in the context of a Metro budget crisis where there is great pressure to reduce expenses. Will decision-makers succumb to the temptation to abandon the trolley bus system in favor of less expensive diesel buses? With the peaking of global petroleum production and the vulnerability of the United States to petroleum price hikes and spot fuel shortages in the years ahead, a decision to purchase buses powered by fossil fuel could prove shortsighted and foolhardy. Metro's purchase of a new electric trolley bus fleet and possible expansion of its trolley network would increase Seattle's resilience to the challenges presented by peak oil.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Transmission on this frequency is now closing...

Wayne Hom 1948 - 2010

On the evening of Wednesday, 26 May, I received an email from friend and former co-worker Wayne Hom, sharing his news that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. I telephoned him immediately, and he spoke as if he did not expect to live very much longer. We arranged for me to stop by his residence for a visit on the following Saturday.

I spent the rest of the week trying to grasp this news. Wayne had been a senior scheduler at King County Metro Transit for many years, and I considered him a valued colleague in the planning of changes to public bus service in the Seattle metropolitan area as well as a close friend.

When Saturday arrived, I took several buses to reach Wayne's house and on the way stopped at a Mexican restaurant to pick up lunch for us to share. I arrived just before 2:00 p.m., and for the next three hours we talked about everything, from the lastest developments at Metro to his medical condition and spiritual matters. Except for stiffness in his joints and feeling tired, Wayne was not in pain, and actually seemed in a good frame of mind. About his medical prognosis, he said with a smile, "That's life, everybody has to go sometime." His approach was to take each day and try to have the highest quality of life that he could manage. At the end of the afternoon, we talked about my visiting again in the next week. He shook my hand and thanked me for stopping by.

On 31 May, I learned from his sister-in-law that Wayne had passed away on Sunday morning, 30 May, with his family present. Yesterday, 10 July, the Hom family held a celebration of his life. At the celebration, I presented a framed sheet of an artistamp I created for Cascadia Artpost to honor Wayne. The artistamp shows a picture of Wayne from his last trip to China, superimposed on a scene with a Metro Route 36 trolley bus serving his Beacon Hill neighborhood in Seattle. Wayne was a frequent observer of bus operations, so much so that we at Metro called Wayne "the Beacon Hill Observer." This was an appropriate monniker for the artistamp.

Wayne used a phrase on his telephone answering machine, "Transmission on this frequency is now closing ..." which mimicked the closing message from the BBC's shortwave radio Caribbean relay station. I'll always remember that message in thinking about him. Wayne was an excellent friend, a super competent transit scheduler, a perceptive observer of the world, a talented graphic artist and photographer. I'll miss him.

Peak Oil Day and Deepwater Horizon

On 11 July 2008, the price of a barrel of oil reached a record $147.27 in international trading. The Post Carbon Institute has identified this day to symbolize the time when global peak oil production occurred. July 11th serves as a reminder to start adapting to a post-petroleum world. All three charts reproduced on Cascadia Artpost stamps are courtesy of The charts illustrate respectively the peaking of world energy sources, trends in population growth and oil production, and the decline of oil production in the continental United States as well as Alaska.

In 2010, the uncontrolled release of oil and menthane from the Deepwater Horizon well into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico is an environmental disaster of unparalleled dimensions. Reliance on high-risk methods such as deep-water drilling is a consequence of the peaking of global petroleum production. The photos of distressed waterfowl shown on Cascadia Artpost artistamps were taken by Charlie Riedel of the Associated Press off East Grand Terre Island on the Louisiana coast, while the photo of the blue-gloved hand and the oil-covered beach in the same locale appears courtesy of Greenpeace.

Will we learn any lessons from these events?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Invisible Exhibition

Cascadia Artpost received an invitation from the Australian artist Aska requesting our participation in a global "Invisible Exhibition" by responding in some way to the enclosed photo of a portion of one of her paintings. Aska's artwork can be viewed at

The photograph was scanned and then edited in Adobe Photoshop Elements, then imported into Corel Draw X4 to design the artistamp. Four rounds of editing were necessary to produce color hues that were close to those in the photograph. Cascadia Artpost sent ten sheets of artistamps to the artist for her use.

The resulting artistamp calls attention to Aska's website, and is the first of an intended series of artistamps with the theme "Invisiible Exhibition" that will feature unusual and interesting graphic images.

If you have an unusual graphic image that you would like to see turned into stamp art, please send the image to Cascadia Artpost, 2649 NW 64th Street, Seattle, WA 98107-2456 U.S.A. Credit will be given to all contributors.

May Day

In late April 2010, the computer available to Cascadia Artpost was in a repair shop to address a boot-up problem encountered in the course of upgrading to Windows 7. Since the computer was not going to be back in time for the May Day weekend, we decided to publish an artistamp by other means without use of a computer. This May Day artistamp was produced as a rubber stamp impression.

The red background was applied as a first step by using a solid rubber stamp block image fitting a 1 inch by 1 inch perforation. In the second step, the typography and symbols were composed as a small custom handstamp and individual impressions were made by hand to perforated sheets of 70 stamps. Given that each image was created individually, each artistamp had variations in the impressions.

The May Day stamp mailed on 1 May 2010 on a plain red card honors the day of working people everywhere.

Favorite Books

In response to a mail art call sponsored by the Paint Rock River Valley Postal Authority, Cascadia Artpost created a block of four artistamps calling attention to favorite books. The call was for "favorite book," but who can point to just a single book and call it their favorite book? The artistamps were printed on February 26, 2010.

The aristamp designs are based on scans of four book covers.

A Pattern language by Christopher Alexander et al. is a unique handbook first published in 1977 and now has gone through 20 printings. Based on empirical observations that aim to identify a set of structural and spatial patterns of human buildings and communities that function well, sustain individuals psychologically, and appear inviting, this book is subversive to what architects have been doing the past 30 years. Nikos Salingaros calls A Pattern Language "one of the great books of the century." One could say any century.

A Glass Face in the Rain is a 1982 collection of poems by the late Cascadian poet William Stafford. Stafford's poems are often set in the western United States and contain a certain affirmation, confidence, and optimism that we find attractive even in the face of darkness. These poems embody the spirit of Cascadia.

The Brothers K by David James Duncan is a wonderful epic novel about the Chance family and set in the 1960's Vietnam War era. A coming of age tale about four brothers and twin sisters incorporates a number of interesting ingredients: baseball, fundamentalist Christianity, humor, and the response to circumstances that we personally lived through.

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein is a critiqueof contemporary capitalism in the wake of wars, terrorist attacks, natural and human-made environmental disasters, and self-inflicted financial crises where the corporate state uses public disorientation to impose control through a mix of privatization, further deregulation, repression of unions and other opponents, reductions in social spending, and police/military repression. This all works, up to a point where reality overwhelms shock. The unfolding scope of degradation resulting from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a case in point.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Please note that the Cascadia Artpost Post Office Mailbox is now closed. All postings should be sent to the following address:


2649 NW 64th Street

Seattle, WA 98107-2456


Spring in Cascadia

Spring is our favorite time of the year, and not just because this is the month of our birthday. This is the season of rebirth, of the new start. Spring is the season of hope. It is the time when gardens start to come alive. Here in Cascadia, our climate is moderate, so our transition of the seasons at this time of year is more gradual: longer days, enough warmth in the soil to cause seeds to sprout, more breaks in our cloudy weather regime. To celebrate Spring in Cascadia, Cascadia Artpost presents four artistamps illustrating flowers from last year's spring garden: Dicentra uniflora (common name: bleeding heart), Helleboras ericsmithii (common name: hellebore), Phlox paniculata (common name: phlox), and Crocus vernus (common name: crocus).

One of our favorite poets of Cascadia, the late William Stafford (1914-1993), more often was inspired by the other three seasons, but here is a poem of his fitting for spring. It is taken from the collection Learning to Live in the World, Earth Poems by William Stafford:


When you wake to the dream of now

from night and its other dream,

you carry day out of the dark

like a flame.

When spring comes north, and flowers

unfold from earth and its even sleep,

you lift summer on with your breath

lest it be lost ever so deep.

Your life you live by the light you find

and follow it on as well as you can,

carrying through darkness wherever you go

your one little fire that will start again.

~ William Stafford, 1991

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Security Flap

Security flaps have come to dominate U.S. media attention. We are a nation preoccupied with security. The latest attempt to ignite explosives on an airliner destined for the United States has precipitated another round of recriminations and ruminations about security. Commentators such as the scholar Chalmers Johnson say that this is the natural cycle of blowback, retaliations and counter retaliations to the American overstretch of maintaining an empire of a thousand military bases around the world. Cascadia Artpost calls attention to the latest Security Flap by reproducing the patterns found on "security envelopes" carrying mail art received during 2009. What does security mean for you?