Tag Archives: Microsoft

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?'”

Microsoft takes on Google in another arena

Back in March, I wrote about the fancy, private buses Google provides to its employees. Looks like our friendly neighborhood software giant is getting into the transportation game, too:

The Connector, a new transportation service launched by the Microsoft® Connections Transportation Program, will carry employees from their residential neighborhoods to the Redmond, Wash., campus, starting Sept. 24. In the pilot phase, The Connector will make stops in five neighborhoods covering downtown Seattle, Bothell, Mill Creek, Issaquah and Sammamish, providing a convenient, productive and comfortable means for commuting to work.

Microsoft Connector


Apparently, the Connector will serve neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of Microsoft employees. From the Seattle side, this means Queen Anne/Belltown and First Hill/Capitol Hill. With the exception, perhaps, of Queen Anne, I’m not convinced that traveling from these places on a private bus (which I assume will have limited pickup locations) will be any more convenient than transferring to the 545. Of course, it’s hard to make that determination without more information about how buses will work. If I don’t find out sooner, I’ll talk to folks who ride it on the 24th, which by the way, happens to be the same day the bus tunnel is scheduled to reopen. But I digress.

I wonder how many Seattle riders will be former 545ers (crossing my fingers that ridership doesn’t decrease enough to affect service) and how many will be SOV converts. Microsoft seems to think that the program will have quite a few converts. (Certainly, in places like Bothell and Snoqualmie, which don’t have convenient bus service to Redmond, it will.)

The company’s predictions about the environmental impact:

• The Connector service will result in 20,000 fewer cars per month and 240,000 fewer cars per year on the road.
• The Connector will eliminate approximately 3,800 tons of carbon emissions annually.
• By providing a convenient option for commuting to work, The Connector will eliminate approximately 800 vehicle trips and 32,200 miles of travel each day, significantly curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s hoping.