And about that Connector ride…

Last Thursday, I tried riding the Connector, Microsoft’s private commuter bus. The Connector doesn’t stop in my neighborhood (I have to catch a Metro bus or walk a very long way to get to one of the stops), and it’s pretty easy to get to Redmond on the public bus from where I live, so I’m not necessarily the best person to evaluate it. Still, I wanted to try it at least once, just to see what it was like.

To ride the Connector, you have to make a reservation online. You can either make a recurring reservation (if you want to ride every day at a certain time), or a one-time reservation (if you want to take it home next Wednesday at 5:30). I made a reservation for 9:00 AM the morning of the 27th on the Capitol Hill route, boarding at the Cherry and Broadway stop, which is closest to my house.

The experiment started out badly. I caught the 4 to Jefferson and Broadway and, because the 4 was slightly tardy (imagine that) and running isn’t my forte of late, missed the Connector by about 30 seconds. (I learned later that I can also catch the 8 to 17th & John and pick up the Connector at the Group Health stop, but I’m not sure that’s any more convenient.)

If I had missed a 48 or a 545 (the buses I usually ride to work) I would have simply grumbled a bit and waited the 10-20 minutes for the next one to show. But the Connectors run 30 minutes apart, and I hadn’t reserved a space on the next (and, incidentally, last) morning run. Fortunately, there was a “Connector ambassador” at the stop where I was waiting (they’re there to make sure everything runs smoothly in the first few weeks), and, after checking her list, she determined that there was room for me to ride on the next one. (If there hadn’t been, I would have had to find my way to Montlake or downtown to catch a 545.)

The ride itself was nice, though we got one of the small shuttles instead of one of those big, luxury buses I was expecting.

Connector shuttle

This was a good thing, since the small bus we got wasn’t close to full. Still, just in case you care, here’s a picture of one of the fancy, big buses, courtesy of “Public Transportation Adventure” Jim:

Big Connector

Connector cons:
• Reservation system: I don’t see how this requirement can be avoided, but I predict it will cause ongoing headaches, both for riders and for administrators of the service.
• Managing missed buses: See above.
• Limited schedule: Because of the requirement to make a reservation, a rider is required to arrive and leave at specified times, much like a carpool or vanpool member. No disrespect to folks who choose these options, but one thing I like about the bus (at least the bus I ride to work) is the flexibility to work late or leave early if I need to.
• No fresh air: I’m not sure how they work on the big buses, but the windows on the small shuttles didn’t open. Not that I’m necessarily a fan of folks who open windows, but I like to know it’s an option.

Connector pros:
• Reclining seats: They’re even more comfortable than Sound Transit’s.
• Seatbelts: I always feel safer in a bus than I do in a car, but I still wish that all buses had these.
• Laptop trays and chargers: Nice touch.

Laptop charger on the Microsoft Connector

 

Laptop tray on the Microsoft Connector

• Overhead bins: Unlike on Sound Transit buses, which also have overhead bins, the Connector only has one destination, so you can actually make use of them.
• A quieter ride: The Connector ride was duller than most rides on a public bus, but it did allow for easier eavesdropping. An example:

Connector ambassador 1, to Connector ambassador 2: “In my 20s, I dated these nice guys who were into commitment, and I was the fickle one. Then, at about 29, I decided I wanted to settle down, and I keep getting these bad eggs.

[…]

So then I got with my cheater/liar, and now Tim, so I’m like, ‘What’s next–a murderer?’”

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