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February 16, 2006

More Bus Adventures

A follow-on to my bus expeditions from last fall. The local Audi dealer moved from its choice spot right near Microsoft's main campus off to one in the hinterlands between here and downtown Bellevue. So of course I needed to investigate how to get there by bus.

A quick check of the Metro map reveals that bus number 233 goes within walking distance of the new location (it's north of Bellevue-Redmond Rd, on 124th Ave NE). The 233 stops on Microsoft's campus. But I was actually coming from home, so I would be leaving from the Redmond Park&Ride.

The bus I would take from the Park&Ride would be the Sound Transit 545 Express which runs along 520. The 545 stops at both NE 51st and NE 40th streets. The 233, meanwhile, gets off the highway at NE 51st, goes west to 148th NE and turns south, then comes back east on NE 40th (the map at left is a detail from the Metro map).

According to the schedule, the 545 stops at NE 51st at 8:54 and NE 40th at 8:58. The 233, meanwhile, stops at NE 51st at 8:56. So I figured it would be no problem to take the 545 to NE 51st, and then transfer to the 233 which would be coming along two minutes behind.

When I tried it the first time, however, I missed the connection. The problem is that the 545 stops on the on-ramp to 520 after crossing NE 51st (green dot on the map). The 233, meanwhile, having come off the exit and turned right, stops on NE 51st (blue dot). So to connect you have to walk up the on-ramp back to 51st, and then (the crux of the problem) get across NE 51st to where the 233 stops. And of course the first time I tried this I was waiting for the light to cross NE 51st and here comes the 233 up the off-ramp, turns right on the red, and disappears down NE 51st without me. The 545 had since departed also, so I wound up having to walk the extra half-mile along the bike path to NE 40th, and then to campus.

This morning I tried it again and I figured out the move here. You ride the 545 all the way to NE 40th and get off (yellow dot). Then you board the 233 as it is coming back east on NE 40th (red dot). The key is you don't have to cross any streets (although the NE 40th stop is a bit further west than you might expect, because of Building 100 being there). Also, it is faster for the 545 to go between its two stops on the highway then it is for the 233 to ziggle past the Pro Club, so the connection is not as tight.

In fact this morning as the 545 was crossing NE 51st I could see the 233 already on NE 51st preparing to turn left on 148th NE, so it was a few minutes ahead of where it had been the first time. But I was still able to continue on the 545 to NE 40th, then get off and walk to where the 233 stops on NE 40th, before the 233 got to the stop (I was helped by the fact that traffic backs up on NE 40th -- the light at the west end of the NE 40th overpass blatantly favors cars coming off the highway and turning left over those crossing the highway on NE 40th).

As an added benefit, if you happen to miss the connection to the 233, you can lick your wounds and just walk to campus and then catch a later 233--you're not stuck out in the wilds of NE 51st.

Posted by AdamBa at February 16, 2006 10:13 PM

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Or you could catch the 233 at the Bear Creek P&R (at 178th & Union Hill Rd, near the Target in Redmond) and get to campus directly in less than 15 minutes.

Posted by: Jason at February 17, 2006 10:09 AM

True, but the Redmond P&R is directly on the route that my wife drives to take our son to preschool. The Bear Creek one is out of the way.

And I wouldn't get the psychological thrill of hitting the connection just right.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at February 17, 2006 10:26 AM

Montlake Station has the same problem. The 545 lets you out, and you trudge up the hill only to see the bus you wanted (43, 48 etc) cross the other way and on up the hill without you. Tricky riders learn - without even looking up the road to see if there is a bus coming - to quickly go down the stairs, under the boulevard and then up the stairs again to reach the stop without crossing any crosswalks. I spent many years thinking these riders were nuts going back the way they came until I figured it out ;)

These days with me going into downtown Bellevue (555) instead of Redmond (545), I have the "over or under" problem at Montlake Station. This is where I dash down to the sound transit stop, and if I have missed it AND there is likely to be a 271 upstairs I trudge on up those other stairs to catch it. Sometimes up at the 271 stop I can see the 555 coming (they day has to be clear) and then back down the stairs I go. I draw the line at binoculars, though

Mostly it seems like big intersections that take 10 minutes to cross should have bus stations rather than stops scattered everywhere. But perhaps I have seen too many buses pass me by...

Posted by: Elizabeth Grigg at February 21, 2006 11:52 PM