A Few Commutes :: Seattle to Bellevue :: Day #1

I’d had planned to get the 7:06am #37 into town for my transfer to the #550, but as I walked out to get the bus it rolled by at 7:02am. At almost 5 minutes early, that just seemed freakishly early for a bus. But it is one of those oddball things that happens regularly in Seattle. In this city they don’t just say expect the bus to be on time to five minutes late, but instead say it might be 5 minutes early or 10 minutes late. It’s all a crapshoot in this city.

Miss The Bus, You Walk

After missing the #37 I walked up, about a half mile, to the more frequent stops. The #37 was within 200ft of where I am staying this week, however the #37 only has about 8 frequencies in the morning and about that many in the evening. Yes, it is an odd set, which I can’t even begin to understand how that works out logically.

On my way to the other stop, there was one glorious advantage to walking here besides the frequent bus service. There is a diner open for breakfast and a coffee shop serving as early as 5:30am. Fortunately for my soul it had been open for hours, as it was about 7:16am now. I ordered a soy cappuccino and a croissant, my main default order.

A Little Review of the Java Stop

This place was wonderfully quaint with a warm and cozy feel to it. On the cold days during winter I can imagine this little coffee shop is ideal to sit and enjoy and hot drink. Being it the onset of fall, I was actually wearing my hoodie, to offset the chilly weather. But it made for perfect coffee drinking temperatures. The coffee was a decent cappuccino, and the croissant tasted a bit like a “boxed and shipped two weeks ago croissant”. So even though the appearance and feel of the coffee shop was stellar, the coffee and croissant were lacking. However, by most American standards, this was a decent espresso. Keep in mind, I’m a coffee snob from Portland, my baseline is a little wonky.

Overall, I give the coffee shop a 3 out of 5 stars. For another baseline, I rate 95% of Starbucks as a 1 or 2 star out of 5. You know I’m just longing for coffee when I drinking their burnt swill. Stumptown Coffee would generally be a 4 or higher.

The Bus Ride

After that stop I crossed the street, which is a bit treacherous this time of day with the traffic zooming up and down the street here. There’s no crosswalk for a quarter mile, so it makes it pointless to cross legally. But I made it in spite of the treacherous design. I stood at the stop for about 2 minutes and a #54 changing to a #5 arrived. Meanwhile as I stepped aboard the bus a #21 Express flew by in the inner lane. I know a number of good souls that ride the #21 Express.

When I boarded there was standing room only, albeit only two of us were standing. I considered this good fortune, as TriMet buses in the AM hours are often crush capacity. To put that in laymen’s terms, because no one is actually getting crushed, but people are indeed elbow to elbow and often brush against each other. It takes a cooperative people to use transit in those conditions. Which fortunately the people who are open minded enough and thoughtful enough to take transit to work are often exactly those people. Good souls, brave souls, and thoughtful souls.

We arrived downtown after sitting in traffic for about 5-8 minutes. A trip that would normally take about 15-20 minutes took about 20-25 this morning. But no matter I was in line and doing well based on my schedule. We arrived in the downtown tunnel and I literally walked up to the #550 as a beautiful young lady stowed her bike on the front racks.

Be Cordial, Don’t Hit on the Pretty Girls

I’m not one of those wierdo types that tries to hit on every sexy lady on transit. I actually detest those fools. I will admit though that I do prefer a seat next to a pretty lady in good physical shape versus the alternatives. In this case, the pretty young lady stowing the bike on the front of the bus actually came and sat right next to me. I couldn’t complain at all.

I then removed my laptop to knock out this blog entry and a little work. The #550 is an ok ride, it is relatively smooth, but it is a bus. So I’m going to rant for just a few lines.

Bus Rant

Compared to streetcars, light rail, passenger trains, ferries and other modes, the bus just sucks by comparison. It is at the whim of the road, which is often left unmaintained and violently bumpy, costs pushed off onto . Buses don’t handle this well at all and vibrate, bounce and swing in cumbersome ways that make working on a laptop difficult. This has been slightly mitigated by such beautiful advances like the Mac Book Air and other laptops that make it easy, but overall it still sucks.

I’ll also admit though a huge part of this rough ride is dependent on the driver. If the driver is a foot slammer, then it makes conditions 10x worse, often making it impossible to do anything except hold on. When I actually get a seat on transit, I’d rather not have a jack ass driving the bus.


I finally arrived in my workplace for the day. Bellevue is a shiny city, barely a decade old. It is indeed a city, albeit being little more than a vertical strip mall from the perspective of culture. It lacks almost every amenity that a truly developed city has, but the citizens of this city are trying to alleviate this. So far, it’s going to be a few more decades. Bellevue, reminds me of Portland’s Pearl District, albeit an even newer feel.

For the trip home, I’m sure a slew of crazy things await. Until then, good day to you dear readers.

Measuring Things…



Other interesting facts are the distance people travelled (shorter is generally better for a more sustainable environment and activities), the energy consumed or expended per passenger, etc. Some of these are hard to find, some are a little easier. King County and TriMet do a decent job providing this data, mostly. TriMet has a vastly easier website to find data on vs. King County’s, which seems to have been forced to use the “how not to build a website book”. I’m sure some bureaucrat had some say in the misguided approach, but the data is there, ya just gotta dig for it.  🙂

King County Metro Bus #18

I have to admit, as my time draws to an end riding the #18 (and #17 pretty frequently) that I will miss my daily commute into and out of downtown Seattle from Ballard. However, my commute is drawing back to that of a commute I had years ago. My commute is again turning into an almost half mile walk. With streetcar, trolley bus, bus, BART, MAX, LINK, or other options as a way to get to and from. Throw on top of that a sprinkle of biking and I’m good. I’ll enjoy not sitting on the bus for 20 minutes anymore.

To think that Americans used to not travel but about 10-30 minutes walking to get to and from work. That we used to use almost no external energy outside of ourselves. We had stronger communities and knew our neighbors, all of them, not just two or three like in the suburbs. In the past Americans also often knew the politics of their town, and to some degree even their nation. Today, people rarely know what is going on in their own city, let alone at a state or Federal level. In various times throughout America’s History people took pride in building their city, the place they live, having a library and post office, and place to congregate in a park, an overlook of the city, or even just a clear cut place for a church or other place. Today, that also rarely exists, except in a few cities.

Seattle happens to be one of those places where the positive aspects of the past are not lost.

…so where am I going, what am I doing? I’ll be posting real soon about that, from a Transit Sleuth’s Perspective!  🙂

Seattle’s King County Metro #2 Trolley Bus to Madrona

Yesterday kicked off another transit commuting experiment. I’m doing a bit of house sitting in the Madrona area, so a different commute is in effect. Instead of my normal #18, #17, or #15 to Ballard I’ll be taking the #2 Trolley Bus Route to Madrona over First Hill (just south of Capital Hill). This morning was the first day of the commute and I must say, this is absolutely a part of Seattle somebody could fall in love with.

The neighborhood and area that the #2 Route traverses a good slice of downtown Seattle in the process of heading out to Madrona. The first part, technically starts up on Queen Anne Hill, but I won’t be traveling up that way. The route however comes down Queen Anne into downtown via the standard approach on 3rd Avenue. In mid-city it then cuts east up the hills toward First Hill. The route winds through First Hill and then down into the central area between First Hill and Madrona.

The segment between First hill and Madrona is basically a long straight route. This area changes from heavily business oriented urban to more residential with some mixed commercial. There are some small businesses, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and the like. Overall, the central part of the run is pretty nice.

Just as the route comes up a slight hill into Madrona the houses become a little bit better kept. In addition, the first sharp left in Madrona passes a number of very nice little restaurants, shops, and such and then winds down through the hills toward Lake Washington. There the end of the route rests within an easy stroll along Lake Washington and absolutely beautiful views of the lake.

I hope to write up a few more thoughts about the route in the near future. This type of commute, this type of neighborhood, this type of area is what can truly get someone sold on Seattle and the real beauty of this city. The area is real, with a wide diversity of people and a range of entertainment options. All this within a walkable distance to parks and other areas or a very short (under 10 minutes, probably only about 5 minutes) ride to Capital Hill.

No More Winter Biking for Me

I’m standing at the bus stop tonight, a cyclist goes by. I think I ought to smile so I’m not one of those disgruntled looking folks that sits in their car or stands waiting unhappily. I’m actually a pretty freaking happy guy! But I quickly toss that notion aside, it is cold, I can refrain from smiling at this point in the evening.

I turn and look down the street to see the bus that just slowly overtook the cyclist coming over into the cyclist’s lane. However the bus has come very close to the cyclist, and some lady in a BMW SUV attempting to turn the WRONG way on 3rd Avenue. She has her SUV protruding out into the street. Since the driver has just stuck her vehicle’s nose out into the road, the cyclist has to swerve around her. However the bus is coming over into his lane at this point.

This moment he just barely makes it by her illegal action, the bicylist slips and falls! I note in my mind, that the back wheels of the bus haven’t passed where he’s fallen and he’s been pushed up against the back of the bus! I feel my chest and stomach tighten as I mumble “oh shit” and start to run across the street to help. His hand and back leg are within inches of the back wheel. (For those that don’t realize this implication, a bus will crush any part of a human, you do NOT recover from this. If it rolls over any part of the body, that part of the body is effectively dead weight, if a person’s torso is run over they are dead. There is no surviving this, the wheels of a bus are almost always fatal).

My mind is racing, I don’t want to see this. I don’t want to ever see another person be killed by a bullet, a vehicle. I don’t want to see the blood, the horror on others faces. I don’t want the thought in my own mind.

The cyclist I see moves just a bit, but is it enough? I fear for the cyclist’s fate. Maybe because I relate so closely to anyone riding a bike. Trying to not fall prey to the rat race of the auto world’s noose. An individual staying healthy and doing more than their part for society, for their community, just by riding. I hate this feeling in my gut. The lady, in her obliviousness, starts to illegally turn right onto 3rd Avenue. She’s going morbidly slow now, I can’t see the rider. I start to cross Seneca as I walk toward where the cyclist went down.

The world, even though I know there is noise all around, is silent. I am focused solely on hearing the cyclist. I’ve heard no scream, no sound whatsoever. This must be a good sign, I hope. Finally the cyclist stands up quickly, just as the bus is pulling well past him. He is unharmed except for the fall. The lady, a bit of humanity coming out, rolls the window down and pulls slowly behind him. Albeit illegally, she now slows to block traffic while he gets out of the roadway.

I am relieved, but considering the riding infrastructure for these winter conditions, I’m somewhat disgruntled. Seattle has oriented its streets toward longevity from high capacity, high weight vehicles. The roads are not oriented toward ride quality, smoothness, or I would argue safety except for large vehicles (i.e. trucks).

I’ve wrecked once this year, and I blame three things; myself, my bike, and the city’s streets. With that, I’ve decided I’m not riding anymore until things improve, which it doesn’t appear they will considering the recent vote. Seattle would rather have the dead than safer streets. I give up, I’ll be back on the two wheels when it warms up and the road conditions aren’t so perilous, at least in downtown Seattle.