Fall quarter is just around the corner, and there are so many decisions that have to be made: what classes to take, when to take them, whether to buy or rent your textbooks, etc. The cornerstone decision for everything on campus, though, is how to get there. Luckily, our campus allows for quite a few options, and one of those is public transportation! I know, it’s not the most luxurious means of travel. Riding the public bus for the first time can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be!
Taking the bus is a great way to save time, money, and stress… If done correctly. I’ve been using buses as my main means of transportation for years now, and so I’ve compiled a list of what I wish I had known before starting.
- Purchase a bus pass. If your route consists of transfers, DO NOT use cash, and buy a pass for the bus instead. This will save you a lot of money that could be used for other things, like coffee to get you through those morning classes.
- Cascadia students/staff: Once you receive your campus ID card, you can take this form over to the Kodiak Corner (with your payment of $91) and get your new Orca Card through U-Pass. For the duration of the quarter, that card will have unlimited rides on three local transit systems.
- UW Bothell students/staff: You can activate your U-Pass at the UWB Cashier’s Office in UW1. Much like Cascadia’s, this U-Pass costs $91 for the quarter, and is conveniently your husky card!
- Other: For those not eligible for a campus bus pass, there’s still hope! Visit https://www.orcacard.com/ for more information on how to purchase a general Orca Card.
- Use a website or an app. There’s so much to consider when planning your bus route – transfers, walking distance, time, etc. Thankfully, there are many free sites that will figure all of this out for you. Use any of the following to find the most convenient route possible.
- Have backup routes. Buses often run late, so if there’s an alternate bus that comes and will get you to your destination, take it!
- Test out your route (at the same time you intend to bus) before classes start. This will be especially helpful if the route consists of transfers or is a long one. If there’s anything you are not sure about – traffic, where the bus stops, if the next bus will be made – test the route, and make sure that everything will go smoothly on the first day of class.
- If not using a pass that is already paid for, check the ride cost. Different transit systems have different costs, and crossing county lines will typically cost more.
- Have exact change. Bus drivers do not carry change, so if all you have is a ten dollar bill, you’ll have to pay with that.
- Even better, have EXTRA change. You’ll need it in case you get on the wrong bus and have to pay for another.
- Keep a charged phone. I know, it’s tempting to use that last 5% on the bus ride back home. But, you’ll be glad you didn’t in case something goes wrong (like missing your stop) and have to call for a ride.
- Have payment ready BEFORE getting on the bus. Don’t be that person to hold up the line!
- Be at your stop at least five minutes before. This is commonly suggested by bus drivers, manuals, websites, etc. Trust me, it’s not a tip you will want to skip. Times shown are only an estimate, and so you never know when the bus will come early. Not all drivers will wait to depart.
- Make sure you are on the right side of the road. Buses often have stops at the same intersection, but obviously going in different directions. Ending up in Shoreline when you meant to go to Everett? Not fun.
- Double check the bus you’re getting on. The route number and destination are digitally printed on both the side and front of the bus, so make sure it’s exactly what you’re looking for before you leave on it. If uncertain, ask the driver!
During the ride:
- Only take one seat. No one likes the person taking up two seats on a full bus, so keep your belongings either on your lap or on the floor. Not only does this prevent valuables from being potentially stolen, but others getting on the bus will appreciate that they won’t have to ask for you to move your things in order to sit.
- Refrain from long, personal phone conversations. These are irritating, and it’s helpful (and somewhat worrying) to assume that everyone on the bus has nothing better to do than listen to every word during the ride. Of course, if you need to take a call, then take it; but try to keep it as short and quiet as possible.
- Be respectful to your fellow commuters. They’re all like you in just trying to get to their destination pain-free. Respect includes taking only one seat, talking quietly on the phone or with a friend, giving up your seat to a senior, etc.
- DO NOT fall asleep on the bus. A forty minute bus ride right before your 8am class may sound like the perfect opportunity for a nap, but beware: a missed stop can potentially cost you time and money. Plus, one of the scariest feelings is not knowing where you are when you wake up.
- Instead of spending the ride snoozing, take the time to study or read a book! I’ve been making my way through A Game of Thrones during my commutes.
If this list of tips for riding the bus scared rather than consoled, seriously, don’t worry. Practice makes perfect, and it’s not as scary as it seems. All of these tips come from personal experience (aka hundreds accounts of falling asleep, missing a stop, getting on the wrong bus) and here I am: perfectly okay and still a frequent rider. Follow these tips, and you will be too!
If that’s not enough to convince, keep in mind that you will no longer have to deal with driving through traffic and parking.