Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Some economists are fond of the phrase TINA, an acronym for, "There Is No Alternative." Okay, let me back that out.

They're using it in the context of macroeconomic frameworks and capitalism / neoliberalism, of course, but I'm using it to talk about riding my bicycle to work. The reason there's no alternative, say the philosophy's exponents, is because it's the only thing that's been proven to work. While I make no claims about THAT, I will say that anything apart from me cycling to work isn't going to happen.

Today, I thought it would be useful to not cycle to work, since I am leaving from the office for Portland immediately after work, and it'd be nice not to leave the bike here. I don't drive to work, and 17 miles is a walk too far. I considered, then, using mass transit -- after all, I work in a reasonably busy industrial area just a few miles out of downtown Kent, WA. Brand-new Kent Station, five miles away, is a regional transit hub, and at the intersection of West Valley Highway (called 68th in Kent, just outside my industrial district) and 190th, there is a bus stop.

How hard could it be?

After all, I live one mile from busy Highway 99, and there's a bus stop right at the corner.

This will work.

Unless, of course, you know how the mass transit system in the Puget Sound area works, and does not work. For one thing, I live in Pierce county, two miles from the border with King County. In Portland, a tri-county authority called Metro links up the downtown area and the suburbs. All buses, trains, streetcars, and cable cars operate under the Metro umbrella.

In the Sound, though, it's different: King County Metro and Pierce Transit are two separate authorities, operating separate bus lines, with separate tickets. Sound Transit, the regional authority, adds more complexity instead of less. ST operates inter-city "express" buses from the major down towns of Sound area cities, and its tickets are acceptable as transfers into the appropriate Metro systems, but KCM, PT, and ST don't really synchronize their schedules well.

The ST express buses offer service on weekdays, from either Tacoma or Seattle, to transit hubs in various other sound-area cities. Transit BETWEEN cities like Tacoma, Kent, Auburn, and Bellevue, however, is spotty at best.

All there transit authorities have separate websites, separate route maps, and separate "find a trip" engines, and interaction with the companion authority is weak to nonexistent. It was actually quite a process to figure out what I was meant to do.

NB - Google Maps has recently partnered with a number of transit authorities to search for directions "by public transit." It's a great feature, but it only works if all of the public transit systems you'd need to use are in their system. For the sound, only King County Metro is included.

After searching all three websites, If I wanted to bus to work, I'd need to:
1 ) Walk 1 mile to bus stop
2 ) Board PT - 501 north to Federal Way Transit Center
3 ) Transfer to a northbound bus, like the 564, to Kent Station
4 ) Transfer to the 150 north to 190th in kent.
5 ) Walk to work

IF I'm reading this right, I'd have to catch the 6:10 bus, meaning leaving home at about ten minutes to six. That means the bus takes more than half an hour longer than my bike, and there are two transfers to make or miss. I want to try it one of these days to see how it works out, but if there were any hangups, at the very least the gap between buses is 30-40 minutes, so, it's just not worth it.

What kind of sense does this make? This is a seventeen-mile commute, all within mid-sized cities in the Puget Sound.

With that, please see the link I'm just about to add to my blogroll for the SEATTLE COMMUTE blog. They are, among other things, a big proponent of effective, rail-based mass transit in the sound. My own commute is a good example about why the "band-aid on a bullet wound" fix that some politicos call "express bus" based transit is a non-starter.

I usually avoid political statements, but I feel like transit OUGHT to transcend politics. Sure, it doesn't, but, seriously, folks: Rail works. It's everywhere. Get some.

More soon.

Oh, and mind the gap.


  • At 11:23 PM , Blogger Miriam. said...

    That pretty much sounds like my commute from the suburbs in Denver to the downtown area. Except the Denver Metro area has one transit authority, but it still was completely worthless.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home