Letter at Montlake Flyer Stop

Sound Transit’s 542 was one of the most substantial changes to service in the last service revision. It’s essentially the same as the 545 — Downtown Seattle to Microsoft in Redmond — but serves the U-District rather than Downtown. The problem is that it seems some 545 riders who transfer from local routes at the Montlake flyer stop still don’t know that the route exists. An anonymous Microsoft employee took it upon his- or herself to help out fellow riders. This via the City of Redmond’s R-Trip Blog.

Here for the 545 from Montlake to Overlake Transit Center/Microsoft?

Tired of a standing-room only 545?

Did you know that the new 542 express bus goes directly from here to Overlake every 15 minutes during weekday commute hours — and the majority of seats are empty?

The new 542 bus follows the exact same route from Montlake to Overlake as the 545 — except it stops right above you (Montlake Blvd E & E Lk Washington Blvd). It’s the same place that the 271/540 stop before turning onto 520.

The times that it stops here are:


6:43 :58
7:15 :31 :45
8:01 :16 :31 :46
9:01 :16 :30 :45
10:00 :15

Using OneBusAway on your iPhone or Android? You can check the 542 Montlake arrival times by entering stop #25243


A fellow Microsoft commuter who feels guilty watching you guys crammed on the 545 when we have lots of extra seats waiting for you

In the reverse direction, this doesn’t work as well but everyone that uses the 545 to get to Montlake should know these routes complement each other.

H/T Courtlandt Stanton

28 Replies to “Earning Transit Karma”

  1. Awww, thanks guys. Seeing my vigilante rider notification signage on one of my favorite blogs was the least thing I’d expected to see in the morning.

    I’m bummed that each time we pass by the Montlake Flyer stop on the 542, we still are only picking up 2-3 passengers with many more waiting at the Flyer stop below. And many (if not most) of the seats on the 542 indeed remain empty.

    And in hindsight, my 5-minute poster job could have been a better help. The headline was WAY too small (nobody’s going to notice it unless they stand next to it) — and the written explanation of finding the 542 stop didn’t explain the spatial wayfinding clearly (e.g. should have said “just look to your left and go up those stairs, it’s the bus stop right in front you.”)

    But hopefully Adam’s blog entry will spread the love for the 542.

    1. Maybe the behavior points out that riders value frequency and span of service higher than a seat on the bus. When the go to the Montlake Freeway station they know they will get a bus between 6am and midnight 7 days a week, and more frequently than the 542 runs during the time the 542 runs. They don’t have to remember when the 542 starts/stops, nor worry about Pacific & Montlake congestion.

      For those who say how awful the current Montlake Flyer station is, apparently the frequency and span of service are more important – and it demonstrates how valuable this connecting transfer point is.

      Can riders start a petition to get the Montlake Flyer station retained on the new 520? I hope it doesn’t go away in 2 years already as someone posted.

  2. This makes me wonder if I were to post a bus-riding tip in a bus shelter in order to help out my fellow bus rider, what I’d say. But this 542 message is a good one. I just hope people look up from their iPhones to notice it.

  3. Thank You, Thank you.

    As a bus driver I had a woman on Tues. ask me several detailed questions about snow routes in an area of the system I have never driven. When I told her I didn’t know, she went ballistic. I understand riders’ frustrations. But riders can be equal partners with drivers in sharing information. Usually when a rider asks for information I don’t have, and it’s a reasonable question, a fellow rider knows.

    1. Agreed. I’ve been moving from base to base and doing vacation work for the last 2 years in an attempt to learn more of the system. Even with a concerted effort to better learn more routes and areas of the city, I still have a pretty good chance of having *absolutely* no idea what the answer is for many customer questions. It would be a bit easier if I were full time since I’d work more hours and could scrounge at any base, but a guy’s got to have his limits… :)

    2. I’ve heard from people here who said they tried to help but the passenger refused to take the advice and insisted on the driver answering their question.

      I’ve also seen some instances where the driver broke out his copy of The Book trying to find the route.

      I helped fellow riders a few times with the help of One Bus Away, it’s really handy.

      1. That happened to me the other day. Someone was asking about the 230 and, since it’s my home bus route and I know it extremely well, I offered assistance when the operator wasn’t sure (actually, the operator knew me and directed the passenger to me).

        The passenger still insisted to get the information from the operator. :::sigh:::

    3. I have always been really surprised how well riders know the system. It’s funny when someone asks the driver and then like 5 people jump into the conversation and start giving the person advice.

  4. It’s been fifteen years ago last July that I last drove a transit coach, so tell me: does current route qualification include knowing information like this? Whether it does or not, a driver’s life gets a lot easier if he or she makes some effort to find out.

    STB is good on stats. Can anybody give us a ballpark figure on the financial loss to our transit system resulting from people not knowing the information they need to use it?

    Based on my own experience these last couple of years, I think we’ve finally got a regional transit system that people can actually use to get to work. Unfortunately, any intelligence agency would be lucky to have a single piece of information as little known as how to use transit around this region.

    Suggestion: I’m told that around San Francisco, homeless people station themselves at fare machines, and politely offer passengers transit information, including fare machine use, in return for a dollar. According to this morning’s Seattle Times, voters who a few weeks ago refused to pay taxes to keep the State from collapsing still spent record bucks shopping. Maybe they’ll give some poor individual a buck for some transit info.

    Also, having seen the movie “Up”, a must for all owners of labs and Dobermans, maybe Cub Scouts could earn Passenger Assistance badges for this work too.

    Happy Holidays- and Eli, thanks for the example.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Trouble is I already know how to use the machine and the guy insists on “helping me”. I was buying a ticket for Caltrain. And I was too polite for not saying “No thanks”.

    2. “…so tell me: does current route qualification include knowing information like this?”

      I’m qualified on virtually every route at East, Bellevue, Atlantic, and Central bases. I don’t recall ever being asked questions about connecting routes.

      “Whether it does or not, a driver’s life gets a lot easier if he or she makes some effort to find out.”

      Absolutely. I was at East for a couple of years and tired of answering “I don’t know” to just about every question I was ever asked when downtown. Now I only have to answer “I don’t know” about 50% of the time.

    3. I was suckered by that at the Transbay Terminal in 1987, after riding Amtrak to SF. The guy offers to help you find something, and you think he’s just being a friendly neighbor like you would do, but at the end he asks for money and you realize it’s a business. I think I paid because he did render a service, but I was mad that he hadn’t disclosed his expectations at the beginning.

  5. I applaud you Eli.

    I feel this should’ve been something that Sound Transit did. Introducing a new service should come along with some marketing, just like they did with Link. Besides, with the flyer stop going away in 2012 they ought to know. Maybe someone should put up a “This stop will close in 2012. Save the Montlake Freeway Station!”

    1. I think they should have asked the driver to make a 10 second announcement about it for a few days or send some ST stuff out to several bus stops to hand out information and help riders figure out the new service.

  6. “In the reverse direction, this doesn’t work as well” and therein lies the problem. If there’s one resounding theme from the book “Waiting on a Train” it’s that consistency and frequency builds ridership. If I have to keep a database in my handheld to let me know which direction and which bus to take at which time then I’m not going to take a bus. I seriously do keep such a database but only for my route to/from work (every 30 minutes the ideal route changes and going the wrong way adds 30-45 minutes to my commute) . I understand there’s limited funds but a bus thats empty because it doesn’t always do what you want it to do is wasting money.

    Consistency and frequency builds ridership…

  7. I’m glad that in the 5 hours that this post has been up nobody has asked “Why can’t the 542 stop below?” If anyone does come by later and wonder the same thing–take a look at a map and notice it’d be impossible unless the bus had doors on its left side.

    1. Well they could actually open up the jersey barrier and allow buses to go from the ramp to the flyer stop but we simply don’t do stuff like that for buses.

      1. And we’ve got the chance now to rebuild the flyer stop so that all buses stop up on the surface/lid eliminating the stairs, making for much better connections to Montlake and providing a park like “station” instead of a shelter on the shoulder of a freeway.

      2. That would be the ideal design, even if it adds 1-2 minutes to downtown trips – connections make a network

      3. Such an easy and cheap fix too (oh, wait – I forgot – obvious fixes are too much for government LOL)

      1. Such an easy solution to a whole host of transit “problems” – running on both sides of one way streets (2nd and 4th in Seattle, the avenues in NYC are just 2 examples).

      2. Yes, the first link is to a “Trackless Trolley” run by the MBTA in Cambridge, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts. The second one is the Eugene BRT.

    2. @Bernie, you’re fantasizing. There is no plan to build a flyer stop for 520 buses going downtown. The 520 agency collaborative team has turned a deaf ear to the transit community.

      A lot of the politicians involved are under the false impression that the flyer stop is being rebuilt on the lid. When it is pointed out that only buses going to and from UW will stop there, they look surprised.

      It looks like we are going to have to go testify before the lege when the 520 tolling bills come up, pointing out what a disaster the 520 replacement plan is for transit.

      Yes, Bernie, we may disagree on solutions, but at least we’re on the same page about the problem, for once.

      I suppose we have been shown the way, and can do a little guerilla advertising pointing out that the Montlake flyer stop is going away, and will not be replaced.

      1. Somehow I got randomly selected for a USDOT survey on Lake Washington travel. I made sure to document using the bus to cross 520 on one of my designated “reporting days,” and also left a lengthy comment about my concerns for the loss of the flyer stops.

        I don’t know where that survey is going, but maybe someone will notice. The new 520 is getting federal funding, right?

Comments are closed.