Saturday, March 26, 2011

20 Minutes of Switzerland

With gas prices rising and the fuel efficiency of my car dropping (thanks to ethanol added at the pump in winter), I calculated that a drive to Marymoor Park to start a bike ride would cost me $5.60 round trip. That doesn't take into account the possible frustration and annoyance of stop-and-go traffic on the way home. For that reason, I decided to take the bus there, a round trip fare of $5 and use of the 3+ person HOV lane  to avoid the crawl of traffic.

I added a time buffer of about ten minutes which is pretty good for me, since my preference is to show up at a stop within a minute of the bus arriving. The busses were arriving every half hour, however, and I didn't want to be late to a ride I was leading. I organized myself quickly at home, having laid out the necessities the night before, and set out for the Montlake Freeway Station on SR 520. It only took me 20 minutes so I was a full 15 minutes early but I was warm and had some hot tea with me (that I carried in my waterbottle cage on the seat tube).

I kept checking the time and so I know that the 545 Sound Transit bus bound for Redmond arrived right on schedule, at 8:34. I loaded my bike on the no-brainer rack and took a seat near the front on a very comfortably cushioned seat. I looked around and saw nice seats throughout the bus, with a luggage rack overhead and reading lights below the rack. I thought about reading the bus schedule just so I could utilize all the amenities the bus provided, but instead I engaged in my usual bus activity – eavesdropping on conversations. It wasn't nearly as juicy as you get on Metro busses, but it was early on a Saturday morning.

When I looked out the window, I saw we were cruising along nicely with the car traffic; no lumbering bus ride here. And the bus never left the freeway to make stops; there were stops at a few points that were incorporated into SR-520, much like the Montlake station. That's a huge time-saver as the bus doesn't get stuck at lights. Less than twenty minutes after boarding, the bus exited 520 at E Lake Sammamish Parkway and I disembarked at the corner of Leary Way, tapping my ORCA card as I said goodbye and grabbed my bike.

From there, I rode just a few minutes to the entrance of Marymoor Park and found my fellow COGS ready to ride. We had a great ride over the hills, through the valley, caffeinating ourselves along the way and then over the hill and down again. Upon arrival at the park, it had begun to rain and one of my fellow riders offered me a ride home, saving me a few raindrops (and a couple of dollars) in the process.

While we sat on 520 in stop-and-go traffic on the drive home, I saw the 545 bus whiz by in the HOV lane.

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