Bainbridge Island - Day 4 - The first commute

Today was the first time I tried the commute in from BI. A breakdown of the journey:

  • 6:20 am - leave house and walk to bus stop

  • 6:27 am - bus picks me up

  • 6:50 am - bus arrives at ferry terminal, walk onto ferry

  • 7:05 am - ferry departs

  • 7:40 am - ferry arrives in Seattle, walk to shuttle on Marion and Western

  • 7:45 am - Shuttle departs

  • 7:56 am - Shuttle arrives at my work building

The alarm went off at 5:50 this morning. I laid there for a few minutes, then forced myself out of bed. I got ready for work and left the house at 6:20. When I turned off the entryway light on my way out the door, I was met with total darkness. I knew it was going to be dark, I brought my electric lantern in preparation for the commute, but it was still a shock to be met with such complete darkness! I turned on the lantern and walked south on Sunrise Drive. I thought maybe I'd see other commuters on the road, but no, I was all alone.

The 'bus stop' on the corner of Sunrise and Torvanger isn't marked. Although the transit website doesn't describe it, I suspected that you could flag the bus down at any spot along the route. But without knowing for sure, I figured I better go to the stop listed on the bus schedule. When I saw the bus approaching (the only vehicle I had seen so far on the road) I swung my lantern to make sure he saw me. The bus was small, similar to a King County Metro access bus. I had read that the Kitsap County buses take the Orca card, but I didn't see the reader on entering. I asked the driver and he showed me that it's on the left-hand side when entering. I swiped my card, took a seat and got out my book.

From where I sat, I could see out through the windshield as we continued down the dark road. Periodically I'd see a tiny light up ahead in the black beyond the headlights. Another passenger! The bus would stop to pick them up and, as I suspected, not at scheduled stop locations. I imagined how I too must have looked like a tiny island of light in a black sea when the bus came to get me.

As we got closer to town, I started seeing other cars on the road (or to be more specific, their headlights). The closer we got, the more vehicles I saw as everyone converged on the same location. When we entered Winslow, there were finally street lights which shined down on pedestrians also converging in from all directions.

The bus pulled into a lot and as we all got off (less than 20 passengers) the driver wished us each a Happy New Year. I had no idea where to go, having only drove onto the BI ferry in the past, so I just followed the converging crowd. Some swerved off to one door, but not enough, so I didn't follow. A few more peeled off into another door, still not sure. A large crowd was entering an open doorway ahead, I followed them. Once I entered, I saw that the other doors I passed led to the same room. We walked through a number of jetway style tunnels surrounded by scattered friendly conversations. Then the tunnel opened up and I saw the water and the ferry.

I entered the ferry and found a comfy chair that was on the end of a row but not in the main aisle and got out my book. The ride was quiet and uneventful. It was more comfortable than riding the bus, but not significantly different. I can imagine that if I needed to get some work done, sitting at a table would be MUCH better than trying to work on the bus (which I never attempt).

When the ferry reached Seattle, I moved to the front of the boat where the crowd was again converging. I had 5 minutes to reach the shuttle, and I wasn't exactly sure how to get there, so I wanted to be one of the first off. Once off, there are stairs down to the street or a continuing foot bridge that goes up Marion. I stayed on the footbridge which passes VERY close under the viaduct and then ends at First. As I walked to the light, I realized that I passed up Western and had to backtrack. Walking back down Marion Street, I saw there were stairs from the footbridge down to the corner of Marion and Western. Ok, I'll have to use those next time. I saw two Amazon shuttles sitting on Western, so I walked over and entered the first one. I told him that I was going to Varzea (the name of my building) and he said that I actually want the other shuttle. So, I hopped off and got on that shuttle instead. The shuttle pulled out one minute later (right on time), and dropped me off at the front door of my building eleven minutes later at 7:56.

So, four minutes shy of the one hour and 40 minutes I had expected. I'm still trying to decide what I think about it, but here's what I've got so far. It was a pleasant commute. It didn't feel like it took 96 minutes. Although I had to make two transfers, each next ride was already there and waiting for me. I was able to walk right up and sit down. Each ride was nice and clean, not something I can usually say about the Seattle buses. There is much less walking amongst traffic compared to my West Seattle commute (where I have scary close calls with cars at least once a month).

The thing that gives me the most hope that this commute could be viable is this: from the moment the ferry left Bainbridge Island to the minute I arrived at work was 51 minutes. If I can lock down a time efficient journey from the house to the boat departure (say 10 - 15 minutes instead of 45 minutes) I could see doing this. It would certainly be one of the most important criteria if/when we get down to house shopping. It'd be great if I could walk (or kick-scooter!) to the boat in that amount of time. Or possibly I could get a motorized scooter or motorcycle and park it down at the dock ($5 per day for motorcycles). Biking is another alternative (free bike barn at the dock) though I wouldn't be too excited about biking on the street in that darkness.

We're spending the night in Seattle tonight because we have a few appointments scheduled in Seattle for tomorrow. So it's back to my regular evening commute for tonight. I'm taking the day off tomorrow, and I'm guessing we'll drive back over tomorrow evening. So, Friday will be my next BI/Seattle commute day, and then I'll be doing it both directions!

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