Bus-schedule collector at 10; bus-route planner at 39
Ted Day, 39, works as a transit planner for King County Metro, part of a team that figures out routes for the system's 9,600 bus stops. It's a dream job for the man who, as a boy of 3, found a love for buses.
Seattle Times staff reporter
For his third birthday, Teddy Day's mom baked a cake in the shape of a bus, with yellow frosting and black stripes on the sides.
You see, Teddy loved buses and, in particular, everything about their routes: where they went, what time of day, how often, how the routes interconnected.
As the little boy grew, he would spend endless hours poring over King County Metro bus schedules.
"I wasn't cognizant of why at the time," says Day. "But it was a tangible thing to keep me busy. I had consistency."
Now Ted Day is 39, and he works out of a cubicle on the fourth floor of the King Street Center in Pioneer Square.
He is a transit planner for King County Metro, part of a team that figures out routes for the system's 9,600 bus stops.
This might not sound like an exciting job to many, but he is living out the dream that began at age 3.
There are few people who can make such a claim.
His mom, Holly Day, remembers that it was around the time Teddy's father left that her son developed his unusual passion. The mom raised Teddy and his older sister by herself in the Wedgwood neighborhood.
She says about her son, "He was the easiest kid to have. He'd just entertain himself for hours. All he needed was a paper and pencil and the bus schedules."
As he grew, she would take him to the Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington, where he would spend hours with phone books from other cities.
Small-town phone books, says Day, often contained bus schedules. For the bigger cities, Teddy would get addresses for their transit systems and write letters asking if they could mail their bus schedules. He accumulated hundreds — Baltimore; San Francisco; St. Paul, Minn.; Trenton, N.J.; Wilmington, Del.; Cheyenne, Wyo.
It was a big day in Teddy's life when a package arrived containing schedules from Los Angeles Metro, which these days has 183 bus routes covering 1,433 square miles.
When the family took a trip to Disneyland, Holly Day knew a major stop would be picking up bus schedules for the area.
Teddy also liked to draw up new bus routes and change existing ones.
And, no, that wasn't his only focus in life.
"He wasn't like an idiot savant," says his mom. Teddy played soccer and baseball, was in Cub Scouts, hung out with his buddies, had a job at a nearby Safeway.
Still, he was a walking app of bus routes.
Family friends, looking for Metro Transit information, found it easier to call Teddy than Metro itself.
A bus runs through it
In 1982, when he was 10 and had memorized all the routes of the Metro Transit bus system, I interviewed Teddy and tested him on his knowledge.
Duvall to the University District, getting there by 10 a.m.?
"No problem. The Duvall bus only runs at 7 in the morning, so you'll have to catch it then. That'll take you to Kenmore, and you transfer to the 372 bus, and that goes straight to the U District."
Shilshole to the West Seattle Junction by 3 p.m.?
"Easy. You'll have to catch the 46 bus at Shilshole at noon. That'll take you to the University District, and then you transfer to the 71, 72 or 73. They all run downtown. Then you transfer to the 55 that takes you to West Seattle."
The 10-year-old was asked what he wanted to do when he grew up.
He answered simply, "I want to be a bus mapmaker."
Back then, it seemed like an innocent kid's daydream.
Day graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1990 and enrolled at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, with a double major in math and natural sciences.
He didn't know exactly what his future would hold. But buses never left his life.
In college, he met a young woman who a few years later would become his wife, Elizabeth Day, now a schoolteacher.
She remembers their dates.
"We'd go places in a bus," she says. "Even to the movies, if it was possible, we'd take a bus."
For a little over two years, the couple was separated as Ted went to graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley.
He earned his master's in transportation engineering, returned to Seattle, and in June 1998 married Elizabeth. He worked for a private transportation-consulting firm but went to work for Metro on Nov. 30, 1998. It was a major day in his life. His dream came true.
The couple bought a home just 10 blocks from where Ted grew up.
Needless to say, a major consideration in choosing the neighborhood was its excellent bus service.
Public transportation played a role in various aspects of the couple's life, such as when they traveled abroad to Europe for vacation, or even for a weekend in Vancouver, B.C.
"We spent eight weeks in Northern Europe and didn't have a car. We went all the way up to the Arctic Circle," he says.
These days, Day and his wife are the parents of Sarah, 2, and Andrew, 4.
With young kids, sometimes you just have to use a car. But a couple of summers from now, Day thinks the family can travel to England and use bus and rail for transportation.
Knows his numbers
Day's work hours are filled with the kind of numbers a transit planner can love:
Some 220 to 230 routes (as Day explains, some routes split into two at different times of the day), 50 million miles traveled annually by 109 million passenger boardings.
And these are the kinds of issues that fill a transit planner's life:
The ebbs and flows of ridership, as neighborhoods change. How construction projects affect a bus route. Making routes work best as budgets tighten. Scheduling routes so kids going to the University of Washington get to class on time.
Of course, he still can tell you exactly what routes to take to get from one place to another. And, of course, Day commutes by bus. He loves observing the passengers and thinking about whether a particular route is best serving them.
At night, when Elizabeth is reading a best-seller before going to sleep, Ted brings out a transit-route book.
Elizabeth understands. It is what drew her to Ted back in college.
"He's got such a passion. It's pretty amazing. He has fulfilled what he wanted to do," she says.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or email@example.com
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