Sound Transit has been busy on Capitol Hill for years but, for a long time, the only public transit that Sound Transit has actually provided directly to Capitol Hill has been a dogleg on the 545.
The 545 is Sound Transit’s express bus to Redmond, home to Microsoft’s campus and many other tech companies. At most times of day, the 545 comes through downtown Seattle and gets directly onto I-5 via Olive Way. But in the morning, it takes a zig-zag up Pine to Bellevue Ave and picks up Capitol Hill “v-dashes” before getting back to its normal route and onto the interstate.
On a recent Thursday morning, Bus Stop went out to wait for the 545 after grabbing a pastry at City Market. Several Microsoft Connector buses drove by the crowd passing the time at the bus stop looking at their phones. Full time Microsoft employees get to ride in the private Connector buses, but contract workers (“v-dashes” and “a-dashes” in Microsoft parlance) have to wait for the bus with the rest of us.
The dogleg is nearing its 10th anniversary this year and owes itself to the work of one man, Anirudh Sahni. CHS wrote about Sahni’s fight to bring the 545 to Capitol Hill a few years ago.
It’s hard to find another example of a bus route in Seattle that is so saturated with people heading to one particular destination, day in and day out. The 8 between Capitol Hill and South Lake Union is nearing the 545 on this score, but is not there yet.
Eventually Sound Transit will have light rail in place between Seattle and Redmond, in what it hopes will be another 8 years. Then Capitol Hill to Overlake will only be about 30 minutes away by train, not counting transfer time downtown. Sound Transit is also studying the possibility of a transit-only Lake Washington floating tunnel at Sand Point, but this would likely also necessitate a transfer at the University District.
In the meantime, Seattle transit planners dream of installing a freeway station that could make a Capitol Hill stop easier and perhaps lead to all-day service. The Olive Way freeway station would go in right at the on-ramp to I-5 on Olive Way and cut the detour time to serve Capitol Hill to almost nothing. This could also serve riders of such routes like the 255 to Google in Kirkland.
In the meantime, Capitol Hill’s eastside commuters are thankful for the dogleg.