UPDATE: The afternoon commute started at 4:05 p.m. and ended at 5:58 p.m. It likely would have been a little shorter had I not missed the 4:33 p.m. Sounder train. I was three minutes late, despite my sprint from Third and Main to King Street. Don’t look for me on the train tomorrow. I’ll be on I-5, enjoying my coffee and a little newstalk radio.
This account will come as no surprise to transit warriors with Orca cards draped around their necks and bus schedules memorized.
For the rest of us, who’ve been idling along I-5 for the past decade, getting on a train and then a bus to get to work is like traveling to another country for the first time.
Challenge accepted. My new commute from Mukilteo to Seattle used to be an easy pill to swallow (10 years ago), but even WSDOT recently reported the Everett-Seattle commute is now reliably 90 minutes. Why am I doing it then? I can’t afford a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a garage in Seattle.
Since it’s a trial at this point, I didn’t buy an Orca card. Instead, the Transit Go Ticket app is pretty slick for buying a $4.50 Sounder ticket. Especially when you realize you forgot cash for the second leg of the trip: the bus.
Unlike the signs and kiosks for Orca card users, there’s nothing really posted if you’re using cash or the app. Maybe in the fine print, but that would require a frantic commuter who parked (for free) 100 yards from the depot to slow down and read. Same goes for the bus. Even the bus driver shrugged his shoulders when I showed him my phone. King County Metro later informed me via tweet that I did the right thing. Phew.
The train ride is nice and the WiFi is decent. I got work done in 42 minutes and eavesdropped on a woman detailing her wedding plans. Lucky for me, I can get real work done on a laptop. I’m not sure what you accomplish if your job isn’t online. Buy groceries on Amazon? Check emails? The woman next to me caught up on celebrity news.
Why the seats face each other is baffling. We must face each other on trains? Also, why are there tables if you can’t eat on the train? How about a dining car? I’m starving! A few tips from the interior designers at Boeing might be useful for Sound Transit.
Finding the bus stop was a process, but easy enough with Google Maps. It was about two blocks north of King Street station, which was doable because it wasn’t raining this morning. The #70 bus feels slow and crowded, but that’s the only option if you need to get to Eastlake.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to the ride home, mostly because I’ll have to think about it (versus mindlessly hopping into my car). There are only four trains in the morning and four in the afternoon, so if I miss that 5:35 p.m., I’ll ask my family to come retrieve me or take Uber.
In summary, I’m OK with the options because I knew it wouldn’t be easy. It’s the price I pay for a quiet life up north. But I’ll suggest to King County Metro and Sound Transit that they should try to make it easier for people with more buses and trains with varied routes and varied times.
Also, the train could be a great experience with a few amenities like a dining car and high-speed WiFi. I even think an exercise car would attract more riders. “Trim your caboose in the Exercise Caboose.” It writes itself.
1 train, 1 bus
$14.50 roundtrip Mukilteo to Seattle
1 hour, 34 minutes