samk (Flickr)
samk (Flickr)

I’ve been meaning to point out, as one of the not-employed-by-Microsoft bloggers, that the Microsoft Connector is a pretty big boon to the region’s transportation infrastructure.   Metro and Sound Transit profit immensely from the Connector’s existence, as  Microsoft continues to buy passes for all its employees, while actually paying the costs to transport Connector riders and freeing up capacity for other routes.

The only real losers from this setup are people who happen to work near a Microsoft facility.  Routes to these locations are much less cost-effective when some number of passengers are taking Connector instead.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those unlucky few.

How does the Connector affect your commute?

46 Replies to “Microsoft Connector”

  1. I have a feeling that the connector carries quite a few commuters who would otherwise drive to work at microsoft, due to its direct route and wifi. I have friends who use the connector and they can actually clock in while they’re on the bus and get quite a bit of work done.

  2. to answer your question, it doesn’t really affect my commute one way or another, since I commute from ballard to downtown, but I’m sure it removes quite a few cars from the highways, which benefits plenty of other people in a small way.

  3. Well, personally, I don’t use it because the shocks are too stiff. It hurts my back. I like the cushy Sound Transit coaches. :)

  4. I commute to Microsoft almost daily, but don’t use the Connector I’m not a full-time employee. I still have to transfer or bike to the 545 because contractors and vendors can’t ride the Connector. It’s still valuable to me – the Connector has bike racks, and I’ve noticed more bike spots open on the 545!

    The Connector has attracted a lot of employees who would otherwise drive to work. This opens their eyes to using transit for non-work trips as well. I know a few MSFT employees who live in Seattle and generally leave their car at Microsoft during the week. If they need to get around the city, they now take Metro instead of driving from Belltown to Downtown.

    1. yeah it’s weak that contractors can’t use it, I don’t think most routes are full…

      1. I think the peak times are often full. My bus to capitol hill tends to be.

  5. I use it to get home some times. The reservation scheme makes taking it in the morning more dicey, because I have fewer options to get to work in the morning, so if there’s no seat I’m screwed.

  6. I’ll use my first ever comment on this blog to say this: I am extremely jealous of the Connector! I see it whizzing around Lower Queen Anne every day, and every day I wish that Boeing would implement something like it.

    1. Boeing used to have a significant set of custom Metro bus routes from King County directly to the Everett plant: 949, 950, 951, 952, and 965. Only the 952 survives (service from Auburn/Kent along I-405). You can transfer from the ST Route 511 to the 952, but it’s certainly not the one seat ride it used to be.

      1. Yes, the company promotes that 952/511 connection heavily….”fly to Boeing!”. I’ve done the math and it’s 1.5+ hrs that way, as compared to my 35 minute carpool. Bring back the custom buses! A guy can dream, right?

      2. Boeing used to have a bunch of CT routes that went there also. There’s still a couple around (routes ending in 7 are Boeing routes) but there used to be a lot more.

  7. The Connector is the most direct bus route to Microsoft (where I work) from my house, but it’s still more convenient to bike. Getting the 2 miles to the Staples stop, having to register in advance, and being screwed if I’m a couple minutes late for my scheduled ride is too many hoops to jump through. Regular bus service, erratic as it is, is almost better because at least service is more frequent and you don’t have to schedule in advance.

  8. It’s aggravating for me (in a way) because there is a stop almost right at my doorstep in N Seattle. However I work at the Issaquah campus and it doesn’t go there. :( Metro or Sound Transit doesn’t support that route very well either.

      1. The key to the sentence is “very well”. The last bus in the morning leaves Northgate at 8:00AM. That’s frequently when I wake up. :)

        But even if I decide to get up an hour earlier, it takes 1 hour 15 minutes to get from NG P&R to Issaquah P&R. I’d have to first get to NG P&R and then when I get to Issaquah P&R I have to transfer to get to MS campus. When all is said and done you’re looking at a 2 hour commute each way. It usually takes me 35 minutes to get there and about 45 minutes to get back if I drive. It’s a no brainer.

  9. How does it effect me? Well, I see it when I go to and from work in Central Seattle and I relish life in the city.

  10. I think it’s one of the best benefits Microsoft offers. When we were house-hunting, one of my main criteria was “Must be within .5 miles of a Connector stop”.

    Since starting at MS almost a year ago, I’ve driven to work exactly once (too snowy for the Connector, not too snowy for my Subaru). Living in Wallingford, I’d either need a downtown connection (545->16), or a lucky transfer (545->43becomes44) to avoid a 3-bus commute.

    Yeah, the shocks are stiff, but the WiFi works pretty well, and I’m guaranteed a spot since I can reserve it. My only real complaint is that the 3+/bus lane on 520W gets all jammed up with people entering & exiting, and it has to be on the outside to allow ST/Metro buses to stop because 520’s too narrow for stations in the median.

    It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens to the Connector once Central Link opens, but since most of the routes are in the North half of Seattle, possibly nothing will change.


    1. If I were in Wallingford, I’d either use it, or I’d cycle to Montlake. I know a devlead who cycles from Fremont to Montlake every morning, he’s pretty awesome.

      1. There’s someone in the bioengineering department at UW who bikes from West Seattle to UW most days. That’s super-awesome.

      2. When I worked in Bellevue I cycled every day from Wallingford to Montlake, then from S. Kirkland P&R to 116th NE and Northrup (near Dixies BBQ). Without riding the bike the the trip took too long and was extremely frustrating due to all of the transfers I would have had to make (or I would have had to go downtown first).

  11. I rode the 441 when I worked at Microsoft, and I’ll ride it if I work there again. It’s only a couple of blocks to Canyon Park P&R, where the 441 stops.

    The only Connector buses I’ve even seen just pass by, and don’t cover my area.

  12. I think I’m one of the few that doesn’t know exactly how it works. I’ve seen it all over, from Priuses to cutaways to long haul buses. What’s the routing, i.e. where to, and how often? Do you always have to make a reservation? Any other details?

    1. So, the Priuses are on-campus shuttles – they say “Shuttle Connect”. Some of the cutaways and all of the long-haul buses are “Connector”, which are the reserved buses to and from residential areas.

      There are also services that connect campuses – I can get to Bellevue, Sammamish, or Seattle from Overlake using shuttles.

  13. The Connector does affect my commute, if only in that it takes some folks off the 545 who would otherwise be on it.

    When I got my contract at Microsoft, I asked a friend about it and learned you had to be a full-time MS employee to ride it. Further, they don’t have enough seats on the Connector to meet the demand.

    It’s a nice benefit. But with the 545 being a pilot route for WiFi on Sound Transit, and the fact that I don’t need reservations to ride, I think Sound Transit is the win for me, even though there’s a Connector stop only a couple blocks from my home, rather than 9-10 blocks for the 545.

    1. On the way home I take the 545 to the 43,44,48 most evenings. It’s hard for me to plan when I leave, so I need the flexiblity.

  14. Does anyone here who works at MS have any maps of the connector system? I can’t find any online

      1. That can’t be current, can it, Oran? I know there’s a route that comes into West Seattle.

      2. It probably isn’t but it’s the best I can find. Connector’s reach seems to be expanding rapidly.

  15. I used to take the connector a lot when I worked on the Redmond campus! My only complaint would be that it was too popular and I couldn’t just decide to take it, say, an hour before I wanted to leave the house.

    Now I work in Bellevue, and there’s no connector that goes there, which is a shame. But the 550 and my bike go there, so it’s not so bad.

  16. Is MS Connector operation contracted out to someone? I know the UWShuttles are operated by Gray Line. It’s funny (in a wasteful sort of way) that sometimes they apparently don’t have any cutaways and send one of the big Gray Line tour buses to get 10 people from SLU to UWMC!

    I know Seattle Children’s also runs a shuttle called the “Green Line” between their hospital, Fred Hutch, Met Park, and Roosevelt Commons. They like to hide useful info like schedule on their CHILD intranet, though.

    1. I’ve seen the SLU shuttles on campus parkway–they’re the blue cutaways. One of them is marked “Boeing Everett”. I think the SLU shuttles do double duty as the Night Ride vehicles. I can’t say about the operator, but I know the Health Science Express buses are owned by the UW–you can see them parked at the lot near Pend Orielle & Montlake.

    2. It’s too bad that they hide the “real” information about the Connector on their intranet … I wish to post a complaint … well, more of a concern … regarding how one of the buses was being operated. There doesn’t appear to be any way to contact anyone at Microsoft. (Don’t know why that surprises me.)

      If someone has contact information, I’d appreciate it!


      1. Same thing. I had one of the Shuttle Connect drivers roll right through a red while I was in the cross walk with the walk light; so close I could (should?) have kicked in his door. Two people in a cross walk 9:30am in the morning and the guy just blows through a red light. I can’t find anything on the cars (“hows my driving”) or on the web. I’m going to register the complaint with Bellevue PD but doubt that will do any good.

  17. I hate the Connectors!

    There should be a way to encourage better public-private partnerships so that Metro could operate PUBLIC buses that run these routes, without folks fussing that Microsoft is benefiting.

    Then it could include part-time and contractors, as well as folks who work near MS. It might even create better transfers for some people since they are basically operating as real express buses.

    1. I believe Microsoft pays for some public buses too. I don’t think routes like the 242 would exist without money from Microsoft.

  18. You don’t really need reservations to ride. You’re supposed to have them, but you can always sign a little slip of illegible paper (which I’m confident nobody bothers to enter into a database) if you show up without a reservation. And you can sign up on the website up to about 20 minutes before the bus leaves.

    That said, if you show up without a reservation, and it’s full, you’re out of luck. If you’re trying to travel during a peak time, it’s going to be full with people who reserve the same time every day (you can set up a recurring reservation.) If you leave after 6PM, say, it’s pretty rare to find a bus full (on the Laurelhurst route, anyway.)

    It’s also the latest thing that the anonymous commenters on in the internal HR blog have been calling to cut – not realizing that dumping another several thousand cars back on the road would make their lives worse as well.

  19. I’ve been involved with a vanpool since before the Connectors started up. When they started we did some timing runs since there are some connector routes close to our meet up point. However, we realized due to the fact the vanpool is more direct its about 15-25 minutes faster each way. The part of the program that I think is fairly cool and underutilized is the bike van they run from Montlake to the campus. I think the rack carries 10-12 bikes and its often not that full. It also doesn’t require a reservation currently.

  20. Van conversions (the vehicle that MS Connector uses) stink.

    They are unstable and typical of our “low-bid” society.

    And I fear, they are very dangerous in an accident. Has there been any yet on the MS system?

    Penny-wise, pound-foolish as Metro found out when they had the Champions on some local service-they wear out way faster than a proper transit coach.

  21. I know I’m kind of late to this, but here’s my two cents:

    When I moved from Renton to Bellevue, I made sure I was on a bus that took me to Overlake/NE 40th.

    I don’t take the Connector, never have. Then again, since I live on the 230, I don’t need it.

  22. How does a person contact the people in charge of the Connector shuttle service if they are not a part of the Microsoft collective?

    I’d like to comment on the operation … both positive comments, and a complaint about how one vehicle was being operated. (I did not feel safe passing this one vehicle due to how it was being driven.)

    Thanks in advance.

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