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Bus Stop | The 545

16452122607_deca224184_cSound 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.



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15 thoughts on “Bus Stop | The 545

  1. I know plenty of full time MS employees who take the 545. Its faster then the private shuttles and doesn’t require reservations.

  2. Yup, lots of full timers take this route. The connectors seem rad, but they’re annoying to book at times. The 545 comes ever 5-10 minutes with no planning. You even see the occasional MS executive onboard.

    Full timers or contractors, my god this bus has some serious nerds on it at times…

  3. I did not mean to imply that no FT employees ride the 545. I was simply highlighting the dynamic that is slightly unique here, where there are private and public options available for essentially the same route, with some employees not able to utilize all options.

    • That dynamic exists, but is not really visible at this particular stop.

      The Connector at Bellevue and Pine is really useless because the 545 is vastly better in so many ways — more frequent, no booking, no need to go through the tiny winding streets of Capitol Hill where the connector buses’ lack of suspension becomes cerebrally and viscerally noticeable, see more friends, pre-load on coffee at City Market — it’s the stops within the tiny winding streets of Capitol Hill at 16th and John / 19th and Aloha [*] NOT frequently-served by Metro where the Connector makes a difference. However, the difference is that full-timers might be able to take the Connector, whereas contractors will simply drive, i.e. take the ultimate private option, because it’s the sensible thing to do rather than walk and take a Metro bus (slow in the mornings) to the 545.

      [*] I think these are the stops? Sorry for any confusion if they’re slightly off

      • I always find stupid that 545 goes has to take 2 left turns in capitol hill just to pick up Microsoft employees.

        Someone is wasting time and money.

        If it is true that most people taking the bus there are Microsoft employees, let them use their private bus and make 545 really a express route and go straight into I-5 from Olive and keep the Microsoft bus stop there.

        And if not, then ask nicely Microsoft to pay for this, rather than duplicating part of 545 route.

        I can’t imagine someone justifying route 8 taking a similar detour around First Hill to pick up Amazon employees.

      • Reading is FUNdamental.
        As the article says, contractors cannot ride the private Connector buses. So their option is this bus, or private drive.

        Another point is that Microsoft throws TONS of money at Metro and Sound Transit, both for “doing the right thing” as well as to grease the skids politically. They practically paidmformthe entire Overlake Transit Center. All the contractors (the ones here referenced as V- and A- workers) are riding on Orca cards that Microsoft 100% pays for, even though they’re contractors. It’s good for Sound Transit, for MS, and the workers. The big $$ Microsoft contributes in this arena probably accounts for this slightly out-of-the-way detour up Capitol Hill for the 545.

      • Yep, my 100% subsidized Orca card is my favorite perk of working as a contractor for MSFT. Haven’t owned a car in several years because of it — street parking obsessed Capitol Hiller’s rejoice!

      • You didn’t get the memo? If you work at Microsoft and/or Amazon, you’re automatically evil and sacrifice babies to a goat-headed god. No matter how much money you contribute to the tax base, no matter how much you support local businesses, no matter how civic-minded you are with the Capitol Hill community, you’re a horrible disgrace and should leave.

        Yes Frank, Sound Transit build the 545 JUST for MS employees. Why, we eat caviar and drink champagne on our way to our jobs. The other Sound Transit and Metro buses are for peasants and the hoi polloi. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but our secret plot is to drive everyone off the Hill until Capitol Hill is NOTHING but MS and Amazon employees. Bwwa haha haha!

  4. (Non-Microsoft employee edition.)

    Unfortunately for those of us in North Capitol Hill, the 545 isn’t all that convenient to use for our hop over to the Eastside. I take the 49 to the U-District, and take the 542 into Redmond. On the plus side, it’s less crowded, and takes about the same amount of time.

    • Have you considered a vanpool? You can ride those free too. There are quite a few from Capitol Hill to Microsoft. No need for bus connections.

  5. A bunch of bus routes will be changing once the Link stations on Capitol Hill & Husky Stadium are finished. It would be great if the 545 just terminated at Husky Stadium. It will be faster for 545 riders to transfer to Link at Husky Stadium than it would be if the 545 continued downtown on its current route.

    (I’m another non-MSFT reverse commuter who rides the 545 every day from Capitol Hill to Overlake.)

  6. I’m another non-MS employee that uses the 545 daily… I xfer to the 555 @ Montlake/520. It’s quick & convenient! The only thing I don’t like is the mass herding of these people at this stop onto the bus. Can’t anyone form a fucking line? It would actually speed up getting on the bus. :)

  7. Thanks for remembering our anniversary! :)

    The Olive Way freeway station was suggested to Metro by me and other Capitol Hill bus riders as long ago as 1998, and again to Sound Transit in 2004. Their response was that WSDOT would have to get involved, as it was an I-5 onramp. As their collective inaction illustrates, bureaucracy doesn’t move, even for the most obvious winning ideas, unless pushed on by the right elected officials.

    If someone wants to organize a lobbying effort for this freeway station I would suggest starting with Seattle mayor Ed Murray. He was a champion of the Capitol Hill bus route in 2004, and as the current SDOT head, ST board member, and former State House Transportation Committee chair, he has influence over all the concerned agencies.

    • In response to another frequently expressed sentiment about this “dogleg”, note that the route that I’d actually proposed to ST in 2004 was quite a bit quicker than the present one. See the map at . It was to turn right from 4th Ave onto Pike St, then left on Bellevue Ave. ST chose the present route ( in order to preserve the bus stops on Stewart St.

      Thus, it is just as valid to characterize today’s zig-zag as a deviation to serve *Belltown* residents (to save them from walking 2 blocks south to Pike) as it is to call it a deviation to serve Capitol Hill residents.