E pala le maʻa, a e le pala upu
~Stones rot but not words.

At some point during my academic career, people will have a harder time figuring out what I’m talking about. Language—especially so-called “standard English—is such a political issue nowadays, isn’t it?

Seattle Transit Blog has a nearly-comprehensive list of transit-oriented definitions for use on their transit blog. I have listed below the most common definitions I use in On The Road and my Community pages.

The key to success is…

GREEN — Transit-oriented terms and definitions, including those specific to the Puget Sound region.

PURPLE — Definitions specific to my Community pages, including, but not limited to: social justice terms, academic jargon, Samoan slang, and certain Russian swear words.

‘ (koma liliu—Glottal Stop)

‘aiga: Family.

‘ie lavalava: Rectangular piece of cloth often wrapped around the waist. Worn by Pacific Islanders on the islands and in the diaspora.

‘ie faitaga: This is a more formal skirt wrapping, worn only by men. Usually solid black in color.

‘okina: Hawai’i’s way of refering to the koma liliu: An important consonant in the alphabets of all Polynesian languages. This, along with the macron, changes the meaning of what could look like the same word on paper (though some savvy Islanders will be able to understand what you’re saying based on context—don’t trust this will happen all the time!). For instance, fa’i (banana) is NOT the same as fai (to do).


Afatasi (or, more informally, Afakasi): Samoan term used to describe a person of mixed race/heritage. Interestingly, there was a small debate that took place in 2014 about usage and meaning, but to me, that’s what ambivalence is.

Articulated Vehicle (or “artic”): A bus or train with a hinge the allows it to bend.  60-foot articulated buses are commonly deployed on Community Transit, Metro and Sound Transit’s busiest routes.


BAT lane: Business Access and Transit lane, a type of bus lane located on the curbside that permits traffic to use it to access driveways or cross streets but not for through travel.

BNSF: Burlington Northern Sante Fe, operates one of the largest privately-owned railroad networks in the United States.  BNSF owns the mainline tracks through which Amtrak, Sounder, and freight trains run and extracts rents from passenger rail operators.

BRT: Bus Rapid Transit, a mode of bus transit that is non-universally characterized by some or all of the following: higher-capacity vehicles, dedicated lanes, signal priority, off-board fare payment, all-door boarding, or wider stops.


CBD: Central Business District, typically considered the hub of commercial and financial activity within a city.  Sometimes referred to as “downtown” or “greater downtown.”

CD: Central District, a neighborhood in Seattle that is east of downtown, bordered roughly by 12th Ave, Madison St, 23rd Ave, and I-90.

Central Link: The initial segment of Sound Transit’s regional light rail network, connecting Westlake Station in Downtown Seattle to SeaTac/Airport Station (see Link).

Colonialism: Colonization can be defined as some form of invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a people. The invasion need not be military; it can begin—or continue—as geographical intrusion in the form of agricultural, urban or industrial encroachments. The result of such incursion is the dispossession of vast amounts of lands from the original inhabitants. This is often legalized after the fact. The long-term result of such massive dispossession is institutionalized inequality. The colonizer/colonized relationship is by nature an unequal one that benefits the colonizer at the expense of the colonized.¹

In the context of social justice work, I must assume that I am positioned within institutions that maintain a colonial relationship with the Indigenous peoples whose lands we stand on, even though personally I might be able to claim a different relation to the same places. See also: Cultural Citizenship, Decentering, Positionality.

Cultural Citizenship: Refers to the right to be different and to “belong” in a participatory democratic sense…The notion of “belonging” means full membership in a group and the ability to influence one’s destiny by having a significant voice in basic decisions (402).²

CT: Community Transit, the transit agency for Snohomish County, Washington, with the exception of the City of Everett and rural areas that are not taxed and do not receive service.


D-2 Roadway: A two-way exclusive roadway for HOVs and transit running in the median of I-90 from Rainier Ave S to Airport Way S. Connected to the I-90 Express Lanes and the DSTT.

D60HF/D60: New Flyer Diesel 60′ Standard High-Floor Bus (see New Flyer).

D40LF(R)/D60LF(R)/DE60LF(R): New Flyer Diesel (‘DE’=Diesel-Electric) 40’/60’ Low-Floor (Restyled) Bus (see New Flyer).

DART: Dial-A-Ride-Transit, a transit service operated by King County Metro that can deviate from its fixed route to serve customers by request.

DE60LFA: New Flyer Diesel-Electric 60′ Low-Floor Bus BRT-styled design; see New Flyer. There are only 35 vehicles of this kind in service in the Puget Sound region: 15 for Snohomish County’s Swift Blue Line, and 20 for Metro’s RapidRide A and F Lines.

Deadhead: “Deadheading” refers to an out-of-service bus that is: driving from the bus garage to the route terminal, vice versa, or driving between route terminals.  This term is also used in other industries, like rail and air transportation to describe both equipment and crews.

Decentering: In social justice contexts, to view dominant institutions, ideology, norms, cultural expression, epistemology, etc. as only part of a larger, more diverse system of the same. This does not mean to disavow nor ignore centers of dominance, but rather to attempt to render such centers as ‘non-universal’ and constructed in relationship to alternate, underprivileged centers.

DEIS: Draft Environmental Impact Statement (see Environmental Impact Statement).

Dream Project: College access (and to a lesser extent, college readiness) program that empowers high school students with strategies to create and enact their own post-secondary plans. Dream Project also refers to the mentoring strategies and social justice courses at the University of Washington, a group of undergraduate mentors from the same, or the group of leadership bodies (link coming soon) that hold the program together. These common definitions are not mutually exclusive and are meant only to describe the program in different contexts.

Dream Team: A long-outdated term used to describe a group of Dream Project undergraduate students that mentor high school juniors and seniors. At the University of Washington, this term has been used more informally during breakout sessions and still appears in the back of our shirts.

DSTT: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, a 1.3-mile tunnel under Downtown Seattle that was originally built in 1987 to alleviate downtown bus traffic.  Four of the five stations (excluding Convention Place Station) are now served by Link Light Rail.  The tunnel is expected to be exclusive to rail by the opening of Northgate Link, when capacity will be fully dedicated to trains.


E-3 Busway: An exclusive roadway for buses that follows the alignment of 5th Ave S. It extends the south end of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to S Spokane St for access to I-5.

East Link: The light rail extension from Downtown Seattle to Redmond via Downtown Bellevue.  Scheduled for completion in 2023.

EIS: Environmental Impact Statement, a document required under the State Environmental Policy Act that assesses potential impacts to the environment and addresses techniques and alternatives to mitigate the impacts.

ET: Everett Transit, the transit provider for the City of Everett. See also: Community Transit

ETB: Electric Trolleybus, a type of electric bus that is powered by connecting trolley poles to two overhead wires.  Seattle is one of six remaining cities in America to use ETBs and has the third largest fleet.


Fa’asamoa: Samoan culture, ways, values or expression.

Fa’aumu: Refers to my legacy alias. More broadly, the Fa’aumu is an expression, used when one is very excited, very mad, or…we gon’ kick yo…win the game! But don’t do it on the bus though…

Federal Way Link: The light rail extension from SeaTac Airport to Federal Way Transit Center via Angle Lake, Kent/Des Moines and Star Lake. Angle Lake opened in 2016. Currently scheduled for completion in 2024.

FEIS: Final Environmental Impact Statement (see Environmental Impact Statement).


Gagana Sāmoa: The Samoan language. See K-Style, T-Style.

Gillig: Gillig Corporation is an American manufacturer of heavy-duty transit buses formerly located in Hayward, California. As of June 1, 2017, all production of Gillig buses will take place in the Livermore, California facility, with parts sales remaining in the Hayward site. Various suburban, intercity and rural transit agencies in the Puget Sound region use Gillig buses. Gillig was famous for its high-floor Phantom models—the product line itself ran for about 30 years—and continues to produce 30, 35 and 40 foot buses for Puget Sound transit agencies in Low-Floor and BRT styles.


Headway: The time between scheduled transit vehicle departures. Routes typically operate on 30, 20, 15, 12 or 10 minute headways.

HOV: High Occupancy Vehicle, usually defined as a vehicle with two or more occupants, including transit.


Indigeneity: Indigenous populations are composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country wholly or partially at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world, overcame them, by conquest, settlement or other means and reduced them to a non-dominant or colonial condition; who today live more in conformity with their particular social, economic and cultural customs and traditions than with the institutions of the country of which they now form part, under a state structure which incorporates mainly national, social and cultural characteristics of other segments of the population which are predominant.¹ See also: Colonialism, Decentering


K-Style: Informal, everyday way of speaking Samoan. See also: Gagana Samoa, T-Style

KCDOT: King County Department of Transportation.

KCM: King County Metro (see Metro).

Kinkisharyo: Manufacturer of Central Link light rail vehicles; also used to refer to the vehicles themselves.


Link: short for Link Light Rail, official name for the Puget Sound’s light rail project. Maintained by Sound Transit, and operated by King County Metro. Contains one segment from Seattle to Seatac, another in Tacoma, and more to come.

Live loop: Refers to the turnaround of one or more transit routes together at a route endpoint so that trips passing through the endpoint switch directions while continuing to operate revenue service throughout. Live looping is usually implemented at transit hubs in dense high-traffic areas where layover space is scarce. Popular examples include routes 71, 73/373X, and 125.

Ahh yes, the 373X came. That means my 73 will come in 10 minutes! #hopeful

Lo-Flo: My colloquial term for Gillig Low Floor “Advantage” and its BRT(+) counterparts.

LRT: Light Rail Transit, an urban rail transit mode with rapid-transit style features that is non-universally characterized with any combination of the following: at-grade/mixed-traffic running, lower capacity and slower speeds than heavy rail metros, or electric power.  LRT differs from streetcar/trams by typically utilizing higher capacity trains and sometimes running in grade-separated guideways.

LRV: Light Rail Vehicle, a rail vehicle used in light rail transit systems.  LRVs can run as single-car trains, couplets (two-car trainsets), or multiple-car trainsets (generally up to four).  LRVs are generally built to capably run in streets and have more rapid braking capabilities than heavy rail trains.

Lynnwood Link: The light rail extension from Northgate to Lynnwood via North Jackson Park, Shoreline, and Mountlake Terrace.  Currently scheduled for completion in 2023.


MEHVA: Metro Employees Historical Vehicle Association, a historical organization dedicated to preserving Seattle’s vintage and heritage transit vehicles.  MEHVA often offers public rides on these vehicles.

Metro: King County Metro Transit,  also refers to its predecessor, the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, a countywide agency created in 1958 to handle regional wastewater treatment and given authority to operate transit service in 1972.  It was absorbed into King County government in 1994. Metro can also refer to a high-capacity grade-separated rapid transit system, also often referred to as a ‘subway.’


New Flyer: a manufacturer of bus vehicles based in Winnipeg, Canada.  Various transit agencies in the Puget Sound region use New Flyer models.  The bus model codes are designated as follows: letter prefix indicates propulsion system. C for compressed natural gas, D for diesel, DE for diesel-electric hybrid, E for electric, T for trolley, X for Xcelsior platform. Number indicates vehicle length in feet. Common lengths are 35, 40 (standard) and 60 feet (articulated). Letter suffixes: LF for low-floor, HF or no suffix for high floor. Additional suffixes may include: i for Invero, R for restyled models and A for BRT style. Xcelsior and Invero buses are low-floor vehicles and do not have a suffix.

Northgate Link: The light rail extension from University of Washington to Northgate via ‘The Ave’ and Roosevelt. Scheduled for completion in 2021.


ORCA: One Regional Card for All, a fare payment system introduced in 2009 to streamline operations and costs associated with the numerous transportation agencies in the Puget Sound area.  The ORCA system uses RFID technology and can carry cash value in the way of an E-purse, or regional passes.


Pālagi (or Palagi): Informally, this Samoan term is used to describe a White person or groups of White people. Technically, pālagi can be used to describe a person of European descent, or groups of the same. I use this term in lieu of “White,” especially outside of academic and social justice contexts. In the context of my Pacific Island communities, you will hear me invoke the term “pālagi” in a wisecrack critique of White Supremacy.

Positionality: Refers to the ways you are situated in relation to something, which comes before any particular views you have about it and influences what you can see and say. See also: Colonialism, Decentering, Privilege

P&R: Park and Ride, a transit facility with automobile parking that allows transit riders to drive and park, and then take transit.  P&Rs are more common in suburban areas where automobile usage is high and connecting transit is limited.

Privilege: Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we’re taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it.¹

PT: Pierce Transit, the transit agency for Pierce County, Washington.  Does not tax or provide service to various outlying areas in the County.


RR: RapidRide, a new type of stream-lined bus service operated by King County Metro expected to open in 2010.  Funded by Transit Now initiative, RapidRide will have a number of BRT-style (see Bus Rapid Transit) features to provide frequent all-day service.  RapidRide lines will be lettered ‘A’ through ‘H’.


SDOT: Seattle Department of Transportation.

Siemens: Manufacturer of the next generation of Link light rail vehicles. Sound Transit ordered 122 Siemens S70 train cars last year for Northgate, Lynnwood and East Link extensions, and exercised options for 30 more vehicles due to hit Federal way in 2024.

SLU: South Lake Union, a neighborhood in Seattle south of Lake Union that is currently undergoing urban renewal.  Served by the SLU streetcar, the neighborhood is being planned as a future hub for companies and organizations based in the life sciences.

SLUT/SLUS: South Lake Union Trolley/Streetcar, a 1.3-mile streetcar line that runs from Westlake Center in Downtown Seattle to the South Lake Union neighborhood.  The official name is “South Lake Union Streetcar”, but the other acronym has stuck for obvious reasons.

SR: State Route, a road or highway owned by WSDOT.

ST: Sound Transit, the short name for the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, the regional agency that was formed in 1996 and commissioned to plan and implement express bus service, light rail, and commuter rail.  The Sound Transit District spans across King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties.

ST3: Sound Transit 3, the Regional Transit System Plan for Central Puget Sound, the third phase of implementing the regional transit system. The plan was approved by voters in 2016. Commenters may use ST4 and ST5 to refer to future phases after ST3.

STB: Seattle Transit Blog, a blog about everything transit in Greater Seattle, created by transit wonks for transit wonks.

Suka: The Samoan word for “sugar.” When said aloud, it could be taken as a Russian expletive.

Swift Blue Line: The region’s first BRT line, planned and executed by Community Transit between Everett and Aurora Village.


T-Style: More formal way of speaking Samoan. See also: Gagana Samoa, K-Style.

Tacoma Link: The light rail serving Downtown Tacoma, perhaps more accurately described as a streetcar.  There is serious discussion about extending this to serve Tacoma’s neighborhoods.

Tālofa lava: Oh, why hello there! Formal greeting in Samoan. Shorthand: Tālofa.

TC: Transit Center, a facility used as a hub for local transit connections.  Many suburban cities outside of Seattle have transit centers in their downtown areas.

Through-routing: Typically refers to the linkage of two transit routes together at a common terminal so that trips passing through the terminal switch routes while continuing to operate revenue service throughout. Through-routing is usually implemented at terminals in dense high-traffic areas where layover space is scarce.

TIB: Tukwila/International Blvd Station, a station on the Link line.  Not to be confused with Tukwila Station, served by Sounder.

Transit Wonk: Any individual that has an unusual yet enthusiastic passion of public transit activities and issues.

TSP: Transit Signal Priority, priority that is given to transit vehicles at an signaled intersection with mixed traffic.

Tulou: The “magic word” in Samoan etiquette, whether you’re on crowded trolley or passing between people in a conversation, or passing in front of elders–just to name a few examples. Usually said in conjunction with a small bow.

TVM: Ticket Vending Machine, an automated machine that sells tickets or passes.  Sound Transit TVMs also issue ORCA cards.


University Link: The second segment of light rail to open, adding two stations at Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium. Opened in 2016.

USDOT: United States Department of Transportation, the governing body that regulates transportation activities within the United States.

Uso (inf. “Uce”): Samoan term used to describe a relative of the same generation and same gender. In the diaspora, this is also a loaded term used to describe relatives/friends as if they were brothers/sisters. Read this graphic for more information on proper usage.

UW: University of Washington, a major research university and the largest in the Pacific Northwest.  Its main campus is in Seattle’s University District with branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell.


White Supremacy: A historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by White peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.¹

WSDOT: Washington State Department of Transportation, an agency responsible for the planning and construction of major road projects, as well as ferries in Washington State.

WSF: Washington State Ferries, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation that oversees the ferry system.  WSF has the largest fleet of ferries in the United States.


XD40/XD60, XDE40/XDE60, XT40/XT60: New Flyer’s “Xcelsior” low-floor buses. Current propulsion systems in the Puget Sound region include diesel, diesel-electric hybrid, and trolley-electric (see New Flyer).

¹ “Racial Equity Tools Glossary,” accessed May 28, 2017,

² Rosaldo, R. “Cultural Citizenship and Educational Democracy.” Cultural Anthropology 9.3(1994): 402–411.