Saturday, January 18, 2014

A bus from the Rose Bowl

Then a train and another bus
Then an airplane
And then another train and another bus home

This post is in two parts, the first started on my way home from the Rose Bowl two weeks ago, and the second on Wednesday's King County Metro commuter buses.

Part 1: written between downtown Los Angeles and LAX Airport

I'm beginning this on board an LAX FlyAway bus that I caught in downtown Los Angeles, after taking a Gold Line light rail train from downtown Pasadena, which I reached from a parking shuttle that brought me from the Rose Bowl, where I sent most of my day after driving my family there.

I have to head home to Seattle this evening, so my wife will drive back to her parents' house with the kids while I (hopefully) make my way home two days before them.

When I left the the tailgate party, Stanford and Michigan State were tied at 17, but Michigan State scored while I was boarding the parking shuttle to downtown Pasadena, and as I walked to the Gold Line station I walked past a sports bar and peeked through the windows to see a line of TVs showing Michigan State still up 24-20, though they had just punted the ball back to Stanford with a little more than 3 minutes to play. My wife and her family will be bummed if Stanford loses. I haven't had internet since I left the tailgate, so I don't know who won yet.

The parking shuttle was a nearly continuous stream of buses, most apparently empty, which hardly anyone was waiting to board (granted, this was before the end of the 3rd quarter) and flew the two miles or so to downtown Pasadena but took about 10 minutes just to navigate the final block to their destination because so many were stacked up. Then it was a 3-4 block walk to the Gold Line station, a light rail train ride to Union Station in downtown L.A., and a roughly two-block walk to the other end of that station where the FlyAway bus to LAX awaited. All in all, not bad -- I've spent a little more than an hour and a half in transit, and I'm nearing the airport now. This is roughly what I normally expect when using transit -- it takes about twice as long as driving, unless your destination is downtown and you have no transfers, in which case transit can take roughly comparable time as driving in the absence of traffic, which is probably not a good assumption at the end of the Rose Bowl. The shuttle bus was free, but the Gold Line and FlyAway buses were not, though they were quite reasonable.

I expect to take another train and bus home from Sea-Tac airport at the other end of my journey, too.

Part 2: written on commuter buses I rode Wednesday between Seattle and Tukwila

The Rose Bowl tailgate party my wife's family organized was on the golf course just north of the stadium. It gets turned into a parking lot when there's a big game and I've read that it's the most desirable place in the Rose Bowl environs to have a tailgate party.  It was easy to see why -- lots of space between rows of cars, all of it well-groomed grass, and continuous beautiful Southern California sunshine in a gorgeous arroyo. Each school organized a gigantic (and expensive!) official party on opposite sides of the arroyo, but we steered clear of those and like many other people, threw our own. Occasionally we would get a visitor but mostly it was just our family and friends. I was a little surprised to observe that the Michigan State fans seemed to outnumber Stanford fans about two to one. My sister-in-law and her friends brought a flat-screen TV, a satellite dish, and a generator, so we had the Rose Parade and lots more football to watch before the big game, plus a propane grill and plenty to cook on it. We must've been there for 5 hours before most of our party started making their way to the game. I stayed behind with my two younger kids because I would have a plane to catch back to Seattle, and we watched the game from there, with frequent breaks to throw a football. My unfortunate wife had to leave the game early in the 3rd quarter to relieve me in looking after our two kids while I walked to the shuttle that would take me to Pasadena. See above for that story.

The full trip, all three bus rides and two train rides with an airline flight in the middle, went off without a hitch, though it took a while for a light rail train to get to the Sea-Tac airport station, and I was surprised to be unable to find a "next train arrives in X minutes" display there like I've gotten used to seeing in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Transferring between that train and a bus back to my neighborhood couldn't have been better scheduled … the bus pulled into its stop above the University Street tunnel station just as I walked up, even at that late hour (I arrived home at 12:15 AM). Seattle really does have an outstanding bus system.

By the way, while my trip home, though 7 hours long, was without incident, my wife's flight two days later got caught up in all the "polar vortex" delays that swept the nation, and she ended up not returning to Seattle until three days after that, with two of our kids missing a day of school. You would think a flight between Los Angeles and Seattle would not be affected by bad weather in the East and Midwest, but in the case of her airline you would be wrong, as many of the airplanes she might have caught on that West Coast trip first had to get to Los Angeles from cities in the East or Midwest.

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