When people ask me about Seattle, I have said “its I nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live here.” The biggest reason that Seattle has not been my favorite place to live is the population density and traffic. Seattle is the city with the fourth worst traffic in the nation, and worse yet it is moving up the list faster than any other city. It is hard to go almost anywhere here without spending part of the trip sitting in traffic. For example last night we went to dinner at a restaurant in our little town of Kirkland. The restaurant is on 6.5 miles from our house, and it took over 30 minutes to drive there!
Because there are more people than roads, and because it is difficult to build more roads given the geography, the Seattle area struggles to figure out transit solutions. The mass transit system is a patchwork of largely disconnected systems. But, there are more busses on the road here than any place I have seen in the world. As a driver, this can be frustrating as there are times when the roads are so clogged with busses, there is no place to drive.
One particular bus that we have been dodging for the past two years is the 255. The 255 runs from Kirkland (where we live) to downtown Seattle and back. As we commute back and forth we encounter the dreaded 255 seemingly at every turn. It cuts us off down town. It blocks us from leaving our neighborhood. It gets in front of us on the floating bridge, and just generally slows us down. I have cursed the 255 more times than Claire would care to count.
Occasionally during our commutes we would joke that “one day we should ride the 255 into the city.” Well, we never got around to riding the 255 until yesterday. After doing our online research on riding the bus, we walked about a half-mile from our house to the bus stop. Within 10 minutes we were in the belly of the beast as we boarded the dreaded 255.
Turns out it was a pleasant way to get into the city! Even with half a dozen stops, it only took 30 minutes to get downtown. And, we learned there is a whole underground transit system under Seattle. The busses and the light rails share the infrastructure and it appears to be a relatively efficient system. We got off at the last stop, which is the International District downtown.
We have never visited this district before, so strolled around seeing what there is to see. If you have been to “China Town” or “Little Italy” in other cities, you would find this area is Seattle pretty disappointing. Not much here other than small shops and restaurants catering to the large and diverse Asian community here.
From there we wondered through the Pioneer Square district, which we have visited many times and ended up in our favorite area of Seattle, the Pike Place Market. We love the market even though it is crazy crowded with tourists most days, especially during the summer.
After strolling the market and having lunch at Le Pichet (a French restaurant we have always wanted to try,) we headed back to the underground bus depot. The ride back to Kirkland was quick since we got out of the city before the rush hour. We feel good that we made peace with the 255 before leaving Seattle, and will probably ride the bus a few more times while we are here.