Readers share their tips on coping with a long commute and how taking the bus works for them.
When Carol Ledbetter started riding a bus to downtown Seattle in 1978, she thought it would be a convenient way to avoid paying for parking and the headache of sitting through traffic.
At the time, she was living in Bothell and had just taken a new position with Burlington Northern Railroad.
To Ledbetter, spending an hour and a half on the bus each way was a worthwhile tradeoff: She was able to doze off before coming home to her two children, and in between naps, she found herself bonding with other passengers.
“Many of the same people rode the same bus back and forth to work, and we often became friends,” Ledbetter wrote to The Seattle Times after a story by one of the newspaper’s employees about his decades of commuting 56 miles one way from Skagit County to Seattle.
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“One of those friends worked two blocks from where I did, and in 1980, he became my husband,” she wrote.
Ledbetter moved to her husband’s house in Clearview, between Bothell and Snohomish. But it meant that they would continue more than four hours total of bus commuting each day.
“It worked for us, and it wasn’t too expensive,” she said. “My kids liked where they were living.”
Other readers who responded to the story shared similar experiences and offered tips they learned from years of long commutes. Most said the keys to surviving are sharing a ride with a carpool partner, and adjusting work hours to nonpeak times.
That’s partially how Gary Smith coped.
Six months a year, for 45 years, Gary Smith commuted from the Redmond area to Olympia to work as a lobbyist for small businesses.
His wife worked as a flight attendant out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, so Redmond, where they had a house on Lake Sammamish with a view of Mount Rainier, was convenient, and his kids were established in the school district.
The commute gave him time to “plot and scheme on what I was going to do that day on the way down, and an hour and a half to reflect on the day and start planning for the next” on his way back, he said.
The trick, he said, was to leave early — before 6 a.m. — to avoid traffic.
Alice Collingwood took another approach: Avoidance.
For years, she commuted by bus from Mountlake Terrace to downtown Seattle. While not a long distance, the trip can take time because of traffic. On a “really good day, it might take 45 minutes,” she said. A normal day would take about an hour. “On a bad day, it could take up to two hours,” Collingwood said.
So 10 years ago, she took a new job in Burlington and moved. That cut her commute to 15 minutes.
“I made a lifestyle choice that cost me some money, but if I had to do it all over again, I would,” said Collingwood, who now works for an organization that trains service dogs.
Her advice? “If you have to do that commute, get on the bus and make practical use of your time,” said Collingwood, who often spent time doing crossword puzzles in the newspaper.
Cecelia Sandvik said it’s not so easy to leave a job or find a new place to live closer to work. She has been working at a seafood company in Bellevue for nearly 30 years while living with her husband in Des Moines.
She’s thought about looking for a new job, but she enjoys her co-workers and said it’s hard to find something with the same salary and vacation time she’s built up.
“It’s really painful to have to make those kinds of decisions because of the commute,” she said. “When you’ve been somewhere as long as I have, it’s like putting on a favorite pair of shoes. There’s a comfort zone.”
A combination of “carpooling when possible and adjusting your hours so you’re not out there with everybody” has gotten her through.
“You just have to weigh everything,” she said.
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