Yesterday the Seattle area bus schedules changed. My eminently convenient bus trip has been shifted a bit because the Free Ride Zone in downtown Seattle was phased out. There were economic reasons for doing so, but also some logistical reasons. It takes far less time to have people pile onto the bus downtown and pay when they get off than it does to wait while everyone pays as they get on. I'm riding double- length busses that can carry nearly 100 people, and even when everyone has bus pass cards that they tap to pay their fare, it's time- consuming. So my bus is moving out of the very convenient Seattle Bus Tunnel, and out onto the streets.
Nevertheless, I wouldn't trade my bus commute for an automobile commute for anything. I've read more books during my two 30-minute commutes per day over the last 4 months than I've read in the previous 4 years. And while I could drive, I choose not to. Neither do a lot of other businesspeople I see on the bus; it's smart, convenient, safe, and economical to share the commute.
This Isn't Your Grandma's Bus
There was an article this week in the Wall Street Journal about how mass transit organizations are trying to attract more businesspeople like me by improving the quality of the ride on their busses. Seattle was mentioned among the cities who are taking this approach.
Seattle's new RapidRide busses just added 2 lines to their schedule that are designed to make getting to work at large employers like Microsoft much more convenient. When I was at Microsoft in the last 1990s, there were a lot of co-workers who "crossed the bridge" to work on Seattle's Eastside area where Microsoft, Nintendo, and Eddie Bauer all had major corporate installations. My co-workers complained though that it was a lengthy commute because it required an interim stop at the Downtown Bellevue Transit Center, and that schedules didn't mesh very well.
After much research, King County Metro (the mass transit agency) added a bus that runs directly from Downtown Bellevue to Microsoft's Redmond Campus with only a few stops along the way. These busses have their own distinct color (deep red), well-constructed bus stops with good weather protection, and illuminated, real-time schedules displayed on overhead signs that tell commuters when the next bus will arrive. High-tech has come to mass transit, and it's making a difference for those of us who appreciate the effort.
Business Travel, Mass Transit, and You
What does all of this have to do with business travel? Well if you've been reading my newsletter for any length of time, you know that I'm a big advocate of using mass transit while traveling for business. If your work takes you to metropolitan areas, it's worth investigating the local transit schedules. Check everything from trains between the airport and downtown to local transit that can take the stress off trying to find your way around in a rental car.
Most transit agencies now have full schedules listed online, and you can either use a search engine to find those websites, or check the Ground Transportation section of the local airport website to find links to the local mass transit agencies. I'm very proud of the fact that Seattle's LINK Light Rail now travels swiftly between Sea-Tac Airport and the very center of downtown for a mere US$3.00 (as opposed to $30-35 in a taxicab). The trains are sleek, quiet, clean, and well- maintained, and of course, Seattlites are well-behaved and courteous while riding the trains.
And with this new effort to attract professionals and business travelers to mass transit, it's quite likely that your business destination is served by busses and trains that will give you those extra few minutes to polish your presentation. You'll be whisked along to your destination in a stress-free mood because you won't have to worry about getting lost. Give it at try!