Friday, October 19, 2007

And the Wheels on the Bus...

Today, I did something that I've been meaning to do for some time; I tried using our local public transit for my commute. Now, I live roughly 40 miles from my office. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the greater Seattle transportation system, but a generous description would be simply that it stinks.

It's great if you happen to live or work in Seattle, Tacoma, or Everett...cities connected by a straight line called Interstate 5. But, if you work and work in communities outside of that line, you're pretty much out of luck.

I live south of Seattle and I work in a community east of Seattle. I basically have two choices, I can drive to Seattle and then take a bridge to where I need to go (this is really out of the way) or I can take one of the most congested roadways in the area. The worst part is a seven mile stretch that regularly takes 40-60 minutes to drive. As a result, my average one-way commute takes about 90 minutes. While I've (rarely) made it in 45 minutes, it can take more than two hours on bad (read: rainy) days.

Folks have asked why I don't take the bus. Up until recently, the routes were designed to move people through downtown Seattle. Get them in town, the logic went, and then shuttle them off to where they need to go.

It was a pretty effective strategy when I was in my teens. However, the demographics have changed in the last 30 years, along with the real estate prices. People moved away from the city to find places they could afford. Unfortunately, the transit routes remained behind. Downtown Seattle was still considered the gateway to the rest of the region.

Ten years ago, I lived in Kent, a community south of Seattle. A friend of mine snagged a temporary job with a large employer on the Eastside. At the time, my friend lived in Bellingham, a community roughly two hours north of Seattle. Unfortunately, my friend wasn't able to drive at the time and asked if he could stay at my place for the length of his contract.

My friend had to use the bus to get to and from work. Because the routes were designed to serve Seattle first, he couldn't go directly from my home to his work place. As a result, a one way trip took 2-1/2 hours, longer if he missed his connection. As you might guess, my friend quickly made alternate living arrangements.

Today, JP and I live in a community south of Kent and it was with some surprise that I discovered that a bus route directly connects our community with the one I work in. It's taken a while to try it out, but that's what I'm doing while I write this.

The ride isn't overly luxurious, but it's not bad. The seats are upholstered and there are air nozzles above the seats, similar to the ones you find on airplanes. They're not overly great, but they do offer a feeble amount of circulation.

While the seats are a little cramped (I'm a tall guy, after all), it's nice to be able to completely forget about driving conditions. (It started raining like crazy not five minutes after I boarded.)

Time wise, it looks like relying on the bus will add another hour to my daily commute. (I think I can trim that a bit by changing stops.) Regardless, it beats the five hour ordeal my friend had to face in the 90's.

So, while our local transportation system has along way to go before it stacks up well against New York City, Washington D.C., Paris, or London, it's made some progress in connecting the farther flung communities.

I'm not going to be able to use this every day, but I may try it for a while to see what else I can accomplish with this time.

Hopefully, I'll be able to work on posting more frequently to my blog or to work on other projects I've been wanting to tackle. We'll see.

I'll update you on my progress in a little while.

Photo credit: Me, taken during one of my innumerable drives to work.


Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

I wish we lived closer to your work ... you're such a trooper, love. xx, JP

5:09 PM  
Blogger Shaz said...

Deb and I have discussed your long haul to work and I know she wishes it was easier for you. I hope the transport situation gets better soon. At least i will enjoy more posts lol

8:21 PM  
Blogger giggles said...

I think you could well take advantage of this chauffeur style commute...well okay just imagine you're being chaffered! Go to my blog and download Wordbiz 1.8 you could play online scrabble, read a book, search the net...oh my so much open to you with a lap top as your companion! Good luck with that! Look forward to hearing how it turns out. My cousin used to use an Walkman and read a book so no one would speak to her!

Peace Sherrie

2:54 AM  
Blogger Tim ID said...

I've commuted by public transit for 25 years and know it's pros and cons inside out. Of course I also work for one of the public transit agencies in your area (I'm assuming from your description of the bus that it was one of ours). I'm glad you discovered we have routes designed to connect communities without going through downtown Seattle. Hope your commuter grows on you.

9:44 PM  

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