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Playing Hard to Get with Seattle Metro

He plays hard to get.
I can’t count on him.
He is rude to me.
He steals my money.
He can be a bit rough.

No, I am not talking about my boyfriend (who is as cuddly as a teddy bear and cute as a button), I am talking about the Seattle Metro of course! It seems my boyfriend troubles have manifested themselves in the form of a big, belching bus.

Painting by Robin Weiss

I am taking you against your will into the history of my dysfunctional relationship with the Seattle Metro.

The first day I met the bus I was going through downtown to Capitol Hill. I had made sure I researched everything extensively before my trip, especially fares (which is more than what Google says it is). I went to my destination without a hitch; on the way back however, I was asked to show my proof of purchase when getting off the bus. I explained I used a transfer. The bus driver was not impressed. So I repaid for the fare (I found my paper transfer seconds after getting off the bus) not understanding why. I found out that downtown Seattle is a free ride area so anytime you go through downtown, even if you did not get on there, you have to show your proof of purchase when getting off the bus.

So obvious right?

So after being rude to me and stealing my money, I decided to go back for more. This time it was actually important, it was my third day on a new job and I was going all the way to Bellevue. I got up at the buttcrack of dawn so that I could allow for plenty of time and definitely not be late….right. I had to transfer downtown. So there I was, waiting and waiting in the cold empty downtown for a bus. The sign had the right route number so why had it been 20 minutes and still no bus? Upon closer inspection, it seemed this bus was in a tunnel. I was assuming it was a magical, secret tunnel of Narnia because there were absolutely no signs or clues as to where it could be hiding.

When I looked up the route the night before, it mentioned no tunnel, which seems kinda important. So I went on a random bus and asked the bus driver about it. He said there was a tunnel that you could get to through Macy’s. Great! Except Macy’s is closed that early. What? People don’t go to Macy’s at 7am? Where will crackheads get overpriced clothing? So I was off, roaming the streets for a magic wardrobe that opened up to a forest with a goat man in it.

I'm pretty sure I've ridden on the bus with him before

I found a janky ass unmarked elevator in a most likely urine-soaked corner. Here was my Narnia portal! The elevator inched down slower and slower. The door creaked open to a huge bright platform with lightrails running on tracks and buses driving over those same tracks! Whaaa?!! An underground tunnel that I had no idea existed.

One of the underground Seattle tunnels, Photo credit: Jason Hoover, Surrealize

So I plunked down on my bus that finally came, already wanting the day to be over. As a final eff you, my button that was dangling on my coat plinked off right as I was getting off the bus. Just the exact wrong time for me to be able to begin to crawl around on the bus floor.

The Seattle Metro knows how to push my buttons. When I really really need him to be there he is super late. When I don’t need him there right away he is super early. If that isn’t playing hard to get I don’t know what is. He shows up just enough for me to keep believing in him but I never know when he will be picking me up. Well I am tired of these games, especially when the only benefit of them is a possible seat next to a mumbling homeless fellow.

Why is it that we have this antiquated system? Despite its secretiveness, the tunnel is actually a good idea. You are sheltered from the cold and the bus doesn’t have to deal with traffic. Problem is, there is only a tunnel through downtown and not many lines go through it. And I must say that their Orca card, which you can set up online as a monthly pass or just load a certain amount of money on, is pretty convenient.

We’ve mentioned the TransMilenio bus system before; it is in Bogota, Columbia and was featured in Gary Huswit’s design film UrbanizedThis ingenious design combines the efficiency of a track system with the cost effectiveness of a bus system. The bus lanes are bus only lanes, and no I’m not talking about the faux “bus only” lanes in San Fran and Seattle that cars can go in too and show up sporadically. This is a real bus only lane with a median between the bus lane and the others. The stops are not just empty promises on street corners, they are raised, covered, and enclosed buildings. Not only do they keep you dry, especially important in Seattle, they don’t make you feel like you are riding the bus. You don’t feel inferior to someone who owns a car, you feel superior.

TransMilenio bus system

Though I complain, most of my bus experiences have been good. I use it for work because traffic is a nightmare so it is actually worth it. But it could be so much better. Why is the public transportation in Seattle, a city that is home to Microsoft and Amazon, and San Francisco, one of the most expensive places to live in the country and home to Silicon Valley (kind of), surpassed by Bogota’s? (No offense to Bogota.) We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we already have wonderful examples of public transportation to copy.

But until Seattle makes some real changes (let’s not even talk about the Viaduct being torn down) I will have to keep running back to the bus…literally!

3 thoughts on “Playing Hard to Get with Seattle Metro

  1. It’s Killer whales not Orca whales, the tourist industry calls them Orca because it’s their safe word.

  2. That flow chart is intense, did you make it?

  3. What heyday isn’t today?

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