Adventures In Articulated Transportation

[Editor’s note: Today, I’m excited to introduce Mike Schwagler as the newest contributor to Rain City Guide. Mike currently wears two hats in that he is an agent for John L. Scott in Redmond and also the founder of Write For Sales Copywriting. I’ve had an email dialog with Mike for a while now and I’m confident he’ll be a great contributor to the site! Mike can be reached at 425-861-1588 or]

My wife, Diane, and I have lived on the Eastside for over 20 years and never tire of going to Seattle. Well, perhaps the verb going is misleading. We like being in Seattle…at least once we get there! The hubbub, the energy, the cultural activities, the people on the street, everything about it is wonderful. Seattle truly is a great city!

Going there, however, has always been the issue. In fact, I’d bet there were 10 years when we only got downtown once a year. Driving in, along with the issues of parking and navigating the downtown streets had been enough of a hassle to discourage a lot of our visits.

About a year ago Diane took a position with Virginia Mason, working downtown, and discovered something quite remarkable – our public transportation system. At first we were a little bit hesitant about this whole bus thing, so on the Saturday morning before she started her new job, we took the bus downtown. It was a dry run to figure out the best stops for her to get off and the best routes for her to walk to her new offices. Once we were comfortable with all of that, we walked a few blocks to the shopping district and ended up hanging out in downtown Seattle all day. It was a blast!

When we were done, we hopped onto the “545” (one of those long, articulated express buses) at Westlake Center and 23 minutes later we got off at the Redmond park and ride. Who needs a car?

Diane takes the bus to work every day and with the exception of a storm-related adventure last winter (which could’ve had serious consequences had she been driving a car), she has been having a great experience. She’s developed a group of bus-buddies and always has an interesting story about someone new she met on the bus. That doesn’t happen in your car unless you crash into someone.

As for me, I’ve used Metro and Sound Transit to get downtown at least fifteen times, for seminars, shopping and just for fun. I hop onto the “545” right outside my office here in Redmond (how convenient is that?), do what I have to do downtown, and then meet Diane after work for a bite to eat or to just stroll around with my gal in the Emerald City.

18 thoughts on “Adventures In Articulated Transportation

  1. My congratulations to your wife on winning the Metro Lottery! Yes, if you happen to live and work close to one of the express bus lines, it’s geat. Unfortunately, the way that most of the suburbs were laid out, mass transit doesn’t work very well and there is no inexpensive nor easy fix for that.

    My wife and I also live in Redmond, but I work in Monroe, while my wife works in Carnation. Ever tried taking a bus to do either of those commutes? Ha! Sure, it’s possible, but only if you have 2-4 hours per day to wait, ride, transfer, wait some more, ride, transfer, etc. My wife and I both can get to and from work in less than 30 minutes (reverse commute both directions). It’s a no-brainer.

    You want to know why most people take their cars instead of the bus? Several reasons:

    1) Even driving their own car in rush-hour traffic, they can get to and from work faster than if they were on the bus.

    2) Even if it takes slightly longer than the bus would, it’s still preferable to drive one’s own car due to the convenience and comforts not available if using the bus (can make trips to the store after work, more comfortable seat, not too hot or cold, can choose radio station, etc).

    3) No standing outside in wet, cold, windy weather.

    I’m personally all for buses and use them whenever it’s convenient (like when I had jury duty downtown Seattle, or need to get the airport in the early morning and don’t want my wife to be stuck in northbound 405 traffic after dropping me off). But let’s get real–if you’re not close to a main line, or have to take a 1.5 hour multi-transfer tortuous path to get from point A to point B (very common on the Eastside, e.g. Bothell > Bellevue > Woodinville) that would take you maybe 20-30 minutes in a car even in traffic, why bother?

    We need to get real about mass-transit. Let’s use it when and where it makes sense, and ditch it when and where it doesn’t. I’m tired of seeing dozens (probably hundreds around the greater Puget Sound area) of 99% empty buses driving around on the Eastside every night of the week between 7pm and midnight–what an incredible waste of resources (not to mention all of the diesel exhaust pollution created). It would be far less expensive to give people free cab rides during these hours (I think Dori Monson of Kiro 710 AM discussed this idea) and bill Metro, than it would to pay to drive empty buses around during these off-peak hours.

  2. I live on BI, the bus stops nearby and coordinates with the ferry schedule. HOWEVER it only runs weekdays during the commute periods. As limited as it is, it is wonderful!

    We moved from Portland which has always had a very efficient bus system… not to speak of light rail that really works and now streetcars down town in the residential areas. Too bad Vancouver opted out of light rail early on, now they waste time and money sitting in traffic going too and from Portland.

    Yes, Seattle Metro needs to get real about mass transit. There is no way we will be able to build enough highways to accommodate all our travel needs by auto.

  3. I am glad you enjoy riding the 545. The Eastside-Seattle routes can be quite mellow. Be careful about your blanket statements though. Ride the 5 each day for several years and get back to us.

  4. Hi Mike and welcome. It’s too bad that this post didn’t come out again before the transit vote that I wrote about a while back: we could certainly use more options around this area. With a lot of very worthy projects getting squashed with the down vote I think it will be a while before we see anything else proposed on such a large scale. In the meantime, if you can find a place with useable transit near where you currently live (or where you are buying) then count your lucky stars.

  5. Mike, welcome to RCG. Sounds like you’re an interesting writer.
    My office is in Belltown. I live in Issaquah Highlands. I hop on the 218 and get downtown in 35 mintues. Then, I hike the 20 minutes to Belltown twice a day and enjoy looking in the store windows and keeping up with all the new buildings going in. This means I don’t have to work out! yeah!

    I like to work on the bus so I’m done with the mundane and can be more effective when I get to the office. I have a sprint card that even has good enough transmission for video feed. I do my checkbook balancing, junk email, answer emails all the while I’m day trading. I usually get one trade in while on the bus!
    This morning I drove and it took me over 45 mintues, I didn’t get my email, banking or trading done. 99 was packed and that’s how I get to Belltown by car. Grrrr.

    I love the bus and my route. Since I use it as a good working time, and have for 3 years, it’s the only way to fly!

  6. Lots of great comments! Yes, indeed, the buses work great for some and not so convenient for others. To be sure, my wife has had some crazy bus stories, including crashes and passenger conflicts (those can be tense), but on balance she likes the experience – plus it’s really easy from our location in downtown Redmond. I’m not much for driving – especially in cities – so if I can use the bus (which after living here for over 22 years is a recent discovery) that’s all the better for me.

    It will be interesting to see how the new light rail turns out. Trains seem to be doing quite well in other cities.

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