Tag Archives: Puyallup Fair

Multimodal Monday: Sounder to the fair

Heading to the train

Let me begin this post by telling you how much I love the Sounder train. It is delightful. Truth be told, I enjoy the train a heck of a lot more than I enjoy the Puyallup Fair. Last year, Sounder was easily the best part of the entire fair adventure, and the fact that Sound Transit was running a fair shuttle again this year is a good part of the reason we decided to go.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out quite as well for our 2014 Puyallup pilgrimage.

The schedule for the shuttle is very limited this year; it only runs on September13th and the 20th, with three trips to the fair–leaving from Seattle at 10 AM, 11:45 AM, and 12:40 PM–and only one trip back, at 6:30 PM.

Since our only return option was on the late-ish side, we decided to take the 11:45 AM trip down. By the time we boarded the train in Seattle, it was already packed. After several minutes of wandering, we were able to find two seats in separate areas of the same car. Each of us ended up with a kid on our lap, but we were more fortunate than the riders who boarded after us, who did not find seats at all.

During the trip down, ST employees (or maybe fair people?) walked through the cars selling tickets to the fair, which was a great way to streamline the experience for riders. (They’re also selling train/fair “express packs” online this year.) We took advantage and bought our tickets on the way down.

Pierce Transit provided a shuttle from Puyallup Station to the fairgrounds (definitely an upgrade from the school bus ST used last year), but per usual, we opted to walk the half mile. It’s actually a very pleasant walk through downtown Puyallup–past the library and Pioneer Park–and it got us there faster than waiting for the shuttle would have. And, thanks to our ticket purchase on the train, we were able to bypass the line and walk right in.

The fair itself was the same as always. We ate. We listened to music. We saw draft horses and piglets. We rode some rides. We ran into friends.

Because we anticipated extreme crowding on the ride back (three trains’ worth of folks trying to fit onto one train), we headed back to Puyallup Station at about 5:50 PM. By the time we arrived, at around 6:00 PM, the line looked like this.

Sounder line

Sounder line

Needless to say, we didn’t make it on board. When the train finally pulled away from the station at a little past 6:30, it was so full the driver could barely get the doors closed. The hundreds of folks left behind milled around, confused, until word got around that buses were coming. A few minutes later, they arranged us according to destination.

Bus destinations

By this time, Chicklet had to use the bathroom. Unlike the Sounder, buses don’t have restrooms, and there was no way she was going to make it through a 45-minute ride without one. An ST staffer directed us to a porta potty, and we managed to make it there and back just as the bus to Seattle was pulling up.

The ride back to Seattle was lovely. We had seats together, fair scones (ST staff handed them out while we waited for our buses), and gorgeous views of The Mountain. We leaned back, relaxed, joked, and relived our experiences while the sun set outside the bus windows and the driver apologized for the inconvenience over the PA.

By the time the bus dropped us off at 5th & Jackson, both kids had to use the restroom. (It wouldn’t be a bus fam adventure without a trillion trips to public restrooms.) We hustled to King Street Station, took care of business, then full-on sprinted for the 14. By 8:30, we were home, exhausted and grateful.

There is no doubt that Sound Transit botched the planning for its fair service this year. They didn’t even do a very good job of managing communication during the drama. The day probably wasn’t the best advertisement for public transportation–either for the folks crammed on the train or for those left stranded at the station after a long day.

On the other hand, thanks to some scrambling by ST staff–and off-duty drivers who were willing to help out on short notice–everyone made it back where they started. And, if I may inject a bit of perspective: Trips to the fair are one thing. Until we adequately fund transit, people with far more important destinations will continue to be passed up and left behind.

Here’s hoping for a smoother experience next year. Or, maybe we’ll just go back to riding the 578.

Doin’ the Puyallup, bus-fam style (part II)

A lot has happened since my last post. (This is mostly because I wrote it over six weeks ago, but it was a pretty jam-packed end of summer.) For one thing, my baby brother got hitched. (!) And also, we made a trip to the Puyallup Fair.

The last time we did the Puyallup (way back in ’08), Pierce Transit offered a shuttle from Tacoma Dome station right to the fairgrounds. The trip was reasonably painless but did involve two transfers and a bit of a roundabout route. These days—in case you haven’t heard—Pierce Transit is broke. The agency has been forced to cut a lot of vital service, so obviously, the fair shuttle had to go.

So, when we talked about going to the fair again this year, I assumed it was going to be a hassle to get there. I’m no stranger to transit adventures, but I do have my limits, and a day at the fair with two children is exhausting enough without bookending it with a couple of bus marathons.

As it turns out, the fairgrounds is only a little more than half a mile from Puyallup Station. (Thanks for the tip, Priya!) To get there, we caught the 578* from 2nd & Pike and then walked the .6 miles (through a pleasant downtown area, on sidewalks) from the station to the fairgrounds. The 578 isn’t a straight shot (it stops in Federal Way, Sumner, and Auburn), but it mostly sticks to transit centers and the freeway and keeps the stopping and starting to a minimum. Our total travel time was roughly two hours, including walks and waits. The cost: $2 of extra charges on our Orca cards for the 578 ride.

The ride back was even better (and significantly shorter), since the Sounder was running. We walked the same .6 miles back to Puyallup Station and caught the 4:37 PM train (the first northbound train after the morning rush) back downtown. Have I mentioned that I love the Sounder? It delights me. Our total trip time—from the fair exit to our front door—was an hour and a half, and the train ride was easily as fun as anything we did at the fair. And speaking of…

All four of us had a fantastic time. We ate ice cream. We met firefighters. We watched a pirate show. We ran into many friends. We got (henna) tattoos.

And, yes, we even did some driving.

Driving at the fair









Driving at the fair








Driving at the fair







Already looking forward to next year…

Note that we wanted to catch the Sounder, but there are only two southbound trains in the morning–at 6:10 and 6:50 AM (too early!). The next train south isn’t until 3:15 PM (too late!).

Doin’ the Puyallup, bus-fam style

The last time I went to the Puyallup Fair was the summer before I left for college. I took my youngest brother, who was nine at the time, and I don’t remember much about it–except that it was my last chance to spend QT with my “baby” before I moved away from home and that the ride down there (in my dad‘s trusty Toyota pickup) was really long.

Today Chicklet, Nerd, and I did the Puyallup as a family (yes, I realize it doesn’t get much more lentement), and thanks to Pierce Transit, we did it our favorite way: on the bus.

Our itinerary:

1. 27 from home to Third & Seneca
2. 594 from Second & University to Tacoma Dome Station (This was our first time taking the 594. Talk about a comfortable ride!)
3. Pierce Transit’s Puyallup Fair Shuttle from Tacoma Dome Station to the fairgrounds (The shuttle also serves several other Pierce County locations.)

Total travel time, from front door to fair entrance: 1.5 hours (not much longer than driving, given the traffic, and we didn’t have to hassle with event traffic/parking)

Total cost, which included fare upgrades for my pass and Bus Nerd’s ticket on the shuttle: $3.00 (a heck of a lot cheaper than driving)

Waiting for Puyallup Fair shuttle
Waiting for our chariot
A view of the Mountain, from the PF shuttle
The view on the way there
Puyallup Fair bus parking
Bus parking at the fair
Chicklet napping in the Ergo
Chicklet’s version of a car nap

And speaking of cars…

Car stroller
These were available for rent at the fairgrounds
Cars for sale at the fair
And these were available for sale

Thanks to ST for the fast, comfortable ride to Tacoma and to PT for providing alt transpo to the event. We didn’t have any trouble or setbacks getting to and fro, so I don’t have any major complaints, but it certainly could have been easier to plan the trip. I had to use three different websites (ST’s, PT’s, and the PF’s) to find all the information I needed. (PT’s rider information line was the number listed for questions, but the office is closed Sundays.)

The fair wasn’t exactly my flavor (and not just because there was a car dealership in the middle of the grounds), but Chicklet certainly seemed to enjoy herself. She got to practice some of her favorite words–piggies!, cow!, kids!–and experience all kinds of new sights and sounds. For those of you who are interested in doing the same, the fair–and the shuttle–run until the 21st.