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Finding humanity on a public bus

Nathan Vass
Nathan Vass at the wheel.


This story originally aired on Dec. 2, 2017.

Many of us make our way through traffic while riding on a bus.

One of the busiest bus routes in Seattle is the No. 7 carries more than 11,000 people every day. The No. 7 goes through the Rainier Valley and at night It turns into the No. 49 when it heads north, to the University District.


This is Nathan Vass’s bus route.


“It’s very enjoyable to get to do North Seattle and South Seattle in the same vehicle. And you see this sort of shift in turnover and demographics happening on the bus and people are forced to get along with each other and that generally is the case, they do get along,” says Vass.


Nathan is not a passenger. He’s the driver. He signed up for the job when he was 21 years old, the youngest you can be to drive a bus full of commuters. Nathan has been fascinated by busses from a very early age.


“I have a lot of memories of running on the bus with a camera and spending the day exploring, actualizing both the desire for photography and the desire to learn about people in the world and see what other lives are like up close,” recalls Vass.


When Nathan isn’t driving a 60 foot long, articulated people mover, he’s an artist. His blog, A View From Nathan’s Bus, chronicles the characters he meets while he’s at the wheel. He also makes films and takes beautiful photographs that get hung on the walls in galleries.


In this story, Sound Effect Host, Gabriel Spitzer takes a ride on the No. 7/49 with Nathan. Nathan shares how simple acts of kindness are often returned and how driving a public bus enriches the art that he creates.


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.