Rebels By Bus

Slow Travel With Low Carbon Footprint

Helpful hints from Eric…

On April 21st Gail and I had the pleasure of presenting RBB to an enthusiastic group at the Olympia Timberland Library.  One of the members of the audience (Eric Swensson) is an avid and very experienced bus rider.  Eric generously shared the following tips in the art of bus ridership…including location of public restrooms!

Following are his un-edited tips…

Thanks, Eric! 

Last night’s talk at the Olympia Public Library was right up my alley as to what I’ve been doing for the past 30+ years, as a transit-only traveller.  It might be helpful for me to pass on the following tips (for advanced transit riders I’m sure much of this will be redundant):


“…Making a List and Checking It Twice…” , as the old carol lyric goes.  Quite often, schedules change without much advance warning.  A good example was the weekday morning northbound connection at Brinnon between Mason Transit Route 8 and Jefferson Transit Route 1.  Previously, there was a good connection with up to 10 to 15 minutes leeway at the Brinnon Store.  Then, as Jefferson Transit revised its overall schedule (with what looked like a major contraction of service), the Brinnon Store stop was moved to an earlier time.  That meant that northbound riders would have to wait 6 hours in Brinnon (unless they instead arrived at Brinnon on the afternoon Northbound Mason Transit Route 8).  It now looks as if someone got the word to Jefferson Transit.  A new schedule shows Jefferson Transit arriving at Black Point Road at 8:38 a.m., but not departing from Brinnon until 9:20 a.m. (that’s quite a layover time, for a 10 minute timepoint travel distance
between Black Point Road and the Brinnon Store!).  Mason Transit also advanced their Route 8 departure time from Shelton by 5 minutes, from a previous 8:10 a.m. to 8:05 a.m., so they would be scheduled to arrive at Brinnon by 9:15 a.m.


The Written Word Lasts Forever – I regularly go from Olympia to Bremerton via Shelton.  But on one trip, a passenger was asking the driver about a connection the driver didn’t have any idea about.  It turns out, the rider was using a schedule that was over 4 years old!  No wonder the driver didn’t know about that connection – it no longer existed.  Moral of the story – if there’s a shedule on a rack at the front of the bus, pick up a schedule and check to see if your trip will still work – don’t rely on old schedules.

For that matter, caution should also apply to any and all written directions, including my own, which have any dates older than a few months or are not dated (just for the record, this is written on April 22, 2011).  Too much can happen quickly, such as elimination of services or critical changes, to warrant any complacency.  Being 5 minutes off might not be critical if it is a delay, but having something leave 5 minutes before you expected, especially if you are not there, can be a real bummer, when you see the bus without you leaving into the distance.


A Timeless Measure.- I wear a watch and also I keep my cell phone clock checked against reliable tindependent time sources.  Keeping track of time is essential for transit.


Choices, Choices…  – Where to connect with a long-distance transit provider can be a major issue to any traveller.  I can understand using the Lakewood Sounder Station for those driving north out of Thurston County – parking’s usually not crowded, it’s convenient, and all Route 592 and 594 buses to Seattle either stop there or begin there.

However, as a transit rider going all the way by transit to Olympia, I generally won’t use it.  If I am headed north to Sea-Tac Airport, Sound Transit Route 574 does not go to it.  Also, it is a drive-by site for southbound transit to Olympia – the drivers only stop if they see someone there (you have to be in sight – AND SEEN – at the shelter along the street which is furthest from the garage).

Depending on the time of day and day of the week, I sometimes make spot decisions as wheter to catch a northbound bus at the SR 512 Park and Ride or go to downtown Tacoma.  Since most Sound Transit 594 buses go to10th and Commerce before heading to the UW-Tacoma and then the Tacoma Dome, I can save up to 30 minutes heading to downtown to catch a just-missed bus at the SR 512.


Blaine to White Rock: Officialdom at the Border – Generally speaking, most border officials are business-like and official, without being officious.  I also make sure that I am in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations that I know about.  I have and use a current passport, I have not been convicted of any corresponding crime that the Canadian Government considers as disquallifying, I don’t smuggle, I am fastidious about declairing everything, I cross only at authorized crossing points and I make sure all of my paperwork is in place,

However, a note of caution needs to be made for transit travellers about crossing the border at the Peace Arch Crossing at Blaine-White Rock.  There is no transit across the border, but there is transit within ½ mile of the Peace Arch at Blaine and within 1½ mile of the border at White Rock (by way of Beach Road).  Unfortunately, Canada Customs and Immigration has taken a very hard position concerning crossing the border on foot at this location.  Expect to be subject to very high levels of scrutiny and even higher levels of border control.  I have witnessed one couple assessed $100 each as “security” for their economic capability to stay in Canada, and I have also been given a stern admonishment about crossing on foot there.  If possible, I have since used other transportation forms (Amtrak, Greyhound or Quick Shuttle) to avoid the hassle and any future adverse data entry.

This is not a problem for people crossing by ferry from either Port Angeles or Anacortes. Customs and Immigration Officers in Victoria and Sidney are accustomed to travellers crossing on the ferries by foot.


Restrooms at Transfer Points – A Necessity of Life – It may not be exciting, but the question last night about knowing where Viagra and when you can find a clean restroom is an essential.  Beginning on going north from Olympia along the I-5 corridor, then sweeping in a generally counter-clockwise pattern, my take is as follows for the following major transfer locations:

SR 512 Park and Ride – the McDonald’s Restaurant at the north end of the parking lot has clean restrooms.  Yes, it’s a bit more of a walk than the porta-potties, but it is worth it,

Downtown Tacoma – I no longer bother using the public facilities at 10th and Commerce.  The restrooms available to the public at that site are so unappealing that I will avoid them if at all humanly possible.  I instead get off at 19th and Pacific (Federal Courthouse-State History Museum-UW-Tacoma), and use restrooms at the UW-Tacoma.  There are brand-new, spotlessly clean restrooms in the  building  just south of the southbound Pacific Avenue bus shelter/stop area (walk past the Taco Del Mar, Subway and another restaurant – and then an empty storefront – until you get to glass and stainless steel doors leading to a concrete finish hallway.  Enter, walk past the elevator, and the restrooms will be on the right).  Also in that general area, up one flight of stairs to the next street and then to the left is the UW-Tacoma Library, with restrooms to the right once inside the doors.

Downtown Seattle – This is one general area where public restrooms are few and somewhat hidden.  If you are coming into Seattle on a weekday, getting off at 4th and Cherry puts you immediately next to the Columbia Tower.  Go inside, go up the escallator to the second level, walk over towards the shoe shine stand, and the facilities will be right there.  After “doing your duty”, exit the restroom, curve to the right until you reach an exit out to the street (Columbia Street), exit, turn left and head a steep downhill a few feet to the corner of the building, then without crossing any street, turn left and walk ½ block back to the bus area where you originally got off the bus.  Northbound buses from Tacoma, and northbound busses to Lakewood and Everett all stop here.

Also available are restrooms at the Seattle Public Library; on the 6th floor of Macy’s (the old Bon Marche); the third floor of Westlake Center; varous floors at Nordstrom’s; and the lower level at Pacific Place.

No longer easily available are the restrooms at Uwajimaya’s.  These now require a purchase in the food court area, and a code to go through the restroom area doors.

Everett – Everett Station has well-designed, clean restrooms inside.

Mount Vernon – Skagit Station, the central transportation hub for Mount Vernon (Amtrak, Greyhound, Skagit Transit, WTA) is new, and has modern and squeaky clean facilities inside the terminal.

Downtown Bellingham – Since I was last there about 2 years ago, when they were in the midst of tearing down the old Bellingham Station (the main transit center in downtown Bellingham), in order to build a new one, so I cannot tell you what the status is now.  (One note – neither Amtrak nor Greyhound have stops in downtown Bellingham.  They instead stop at the Alaska Ferry Terminal, several miles southwest of downtown Bellingham).

Bellevue – The rebuilt Bellevue Transit Center has restrooms on the north side of the transit oncourse, about mid-block.  You have to leave the general covered pedestrian corridor and cross the eastbound transit bus right-of-way.

Shelton – Coming into Shelton from Olympia via northbound Mason Transit Route 6, the end-of-the-line is a stop known as 5th and Cota – Credit Union.  Immediately across the street is another bus stop next to and known as the “Civic Center”.  During the hours it is open, I have walked into the Civic Center, stopped at the front Information/Service Desk, asked politely to use the restroom, and after permission, walked through the drapes to the right, into the building’s Great Room.  The restrooms are on the opposite side of the Great Room.

Belfair – the bus stop is at Bill Hunter Park, which is limited to a bus shelter and outside concrete benches and table.  The nearest restrooms are in the QFC (enter the store through the left-hand side entrance, then keep curving to the left and past the mini-bank).

Brinnon – Only if time permits, will I use the available outside Porta-Potty.

Port Townsend – The closest restrooms to the transit center/park & ride are at the McDonald’s and in the Safeway.

Sequim – There’s a new transit center at 2nd and Cedar, one block north of the main street of Sequim.  I haven’t been there since it was built, but if there are no public restrooms at the transit center, then one block east from the Transit Center at Second and Cedar (walk past the Sequim City Hall), there is a public restroom building on the far side of Sequim Avenue at Cedar.

Port Angeles – Restrooms are available inside of The Landing Mall, across the street from the Port Angeles Transit Center

Forks – The transit center has restrooms.

Kalaloch – restrooms are on the north side of the store building (walk around the building – the restrooms are not accessible through the store).

Amanda Park (Lake Quinault at US 101 – southern terminus of West Jefferson Transit, from Forks to Lake Quinault) is befrit of openly visible available faciities, as of a very quick search last year.

Aberdeen – The central Aberdeen Station is without public restrooms.  There is a Jack-In-The-Box nearby, and as a fall-back, there is the Aberdeen Public Library, 2½ blocks away (Wishkah Street is a one way, westbound street.  Without crossing Wishkah, walk 1½ blocks following the traffic flow past “H” street to the far side of “I” Street, then turn right and walk one block to the library)

Longview – The CAP bus from Tumwater is scheduled to arrive at about 10:40 a.m., with the CAP bus to Salmon Creek departing at 11:05 a.m., giving you 25 minutes.  The office at the Transit Center has restrooms, but when the office closes (such as for lunch), the entire building, including the restrooms is locked up.

Salmon Creek Park & Ride – There are no no-site restrooms.  Anyone urgently needing to go quickly should cross the street to the Burger King across the street.


Hope that helps

Eric Swensson

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