All your bus are belong to us

I had a technical seminar this afternoon in Kirkland. Since I biked into work, I planned to avail myself of the bus system. It took a few minutes to figure out the nuances of address specification in the King County Metro trip planner, but I found a rare “direct” route. Getting to my seminar was a breeze once I realized the bus changes numbers mid-route and I didn’t have to do anything. For the return, I just had to catch the same bus going the opposite direction. Easy peasy.

I missed the return bus by 30 seconds. The next was scheduled to arrive an hour later. The deadly combination of engineering mindset (“I’ll construct a route on my own”) and Y-chromosome (“…without asking for directions”) kicked in full-blast. This is where things started going awry.

As it happened, 15 minutes later, there was another bus heading to the Bellevue Transit Center. “Transit Center” is a nice, soothing term that suggests “place where you could get a connection.”
Oh, if it were only that easy. First, we have at least two bus systems: King County Metro and Sound Transit. Don’t ask me why. Although they play nice on the trip planning tool, I wasn’t online, and neither bus carries the other’s itineraries. I had to rely on memory.

Second, despite holding my own in science-ish conversations about heat transfer equations and conductivity of aluminum versus silicon a mere hour earlier, grokking the bus nomenclature proved to be baffling. For example, at the Transit Center there were two 550 buses, one flashing “Bellevue” and one “Seattle.” I reasoned that since I was going to a location in Bellevue, I should take that bus, not the “Seattle” one. Bzzzzt. Thank you for playing. Merv, hand him the year’s supply of Turtle Wax, the San Francisco Treat.

The bus was heading in the wrong direction. The driver recognized my puzzled, bus-tourist look and pointed me to where I needed to go to catch a bus heading the other direction.

I did. The next driver was not so forthcoming with useful information, but his bus was labeled “Issaquah.” This bus could theoretically get me home, where I could enjoy using my year’s supply of Turtle Wax. He pulled into the Bellevue Transit Center. While we were lollygagging in one of the bays, listening to a passenger berate people without a jedi-like mastery of the bus system, I overheard someone else talking about “the Renton bus that goes to Factoria.” Duh! Factoria is in Bellevue, therefore I need to take the Renton bus! I bolted. Twenty minutes later, the mythical bus arrived.

Four buses and 75 minutes to go six point three miles is not so good, even if I did get to read two newspapers. (Hey Mitch, Rice is moving conferences again.)

12 thoughts on “All your bus are belong to us”

  1. Hum…but does the King County Metro trip planner want you to pay double for your bus ride like the one here in DC does? Let me explain: rail to bus transfer = $.25 but when you use the trip planner it calculates the total fare as if you were paying full price for the train ride (varies by location) pluse the full price for the bus ride ($1.25 for regular buses; $2.50 for express buses). Oh, yeah, and it’ll have you get on a bus if your destination is more than 3 blocks from the nearest subway station. 😉

  2. Ah, the bus. If I could somehow get back all the time I wasted waiting on the wrong bus, I’d have a lot more time to think of clever things to say on your blog. But, alas, it is not to be.

  3. Wait… did you end up going farther in more time than if you had waited for the first bus? That’s hilarious! (Well, for me at least.)

    I hope you’ve learned the obvious lesson: when it comes to public transportation, never make reasonable assumptions.

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