By Aaron McAbee
It’s easy to be a bus rider and pinball player in Seattle and the surrounding area, but it takes an awareness of time and the always-changing bus schedules. It also requires headphones to avoid unwanted conversations, a charged phone to confirm bus times, and a book or a game to pass the time. A smartphone is also your best friend for managing schedules, transfers, and real-time updates. Every transit rider with an Android or iPhone should have the OneBusAway, Transit, and Google Maps apps locked and loaded, but nothing beats personal knowledge or this copy of Skill Shot as a backup plan.
The 40 is the most important pinball bus in Seattle! It hits Olaf’s and Full Tilt (both in Ballard), Add a Ball (Fremont), and Shorty’s (Belltown), then runs down 3rd Avenue where you can connect with other buses that will take you to the Seattle Pinball Museum (International District) and places such as the Narwal and John John’s (both on Capitol Hill). The last southbound 40 leaves Northgate on weeknights at 12:16 AM, hits Ballard at 12:40 AM, and Fremont a few minutes later.
Getting to popular pinball destinations in Georgetown like Flip Flip Ding Ding, 9lb Hammer, Jules Maes Saloon, and Georgetown Liquor Company is easy with routes 106 and 124. The 124 runs the latest with the last two leaving at 1:29 AM and 2:49 AM along Airport Way, the main road to Georgetown. The last 106 leaves Georgetown at 11:58 PM.
The 8-Bit in Renton is a great location with two main buses from downtown (the 106 or the 101). The latest bus back to Seattle leaves only a few blocks away from the 8-Bit at the Renton Transit Center at 11:35 PM, riding into Seattle just before midnight.
Another Castle in Edmonds can be reached by the RapidRide E line, taking it all the way out to Aurora Village Transit Center. What’s great about the RapidRide lines is they offer free wifi, and are considerably more comfortable than the older buses. From there, take the Community Transit 101. The last bus leaves at 10:11 PM on Highway 99, where Another Castle is located. Be aware that this is not the same Metro 101 bus that takes you to Renton — this is a Community Transit that runs to Everett via highway 99.
Planning a trip out to Dorkys’ in Tacoma? Catch the Sound Transit 594 on 2nd Ave. It is a very pleasant, mostly nonstop ride on I-5. The very important information you need to write on the back of your hand is 10:20 PM. That’s when the last bus from Tacoma leaves the 10th and Commerce stop on both weekdays and weekends. Do not miss this bus or you shall be taking an expensive taxi ride back to Seattle. Check Dorky’s website for their hours – they are currently closed on Mondays and have varied hours throughout the year.
If you let pinball destroy your sense of time in the many late night pinball tournaments that Seattle offers, get familiar with the RapidRide Routes: C serving West Seattle, D serving Ballard, and E serving Aurora. All lead to connecting buses downtown and run as late as 1:30 AM, but the later it is, the less frequently they get. The E also provides free nightly entertainment, seemingly programmed by Tom Waits and John Waters. Another option for the late night crowd is the 80 series of night buses. They are slow, have very limited schedules (with sometimes more than an hour between one bus and the next), and go to limited areas but it’s cheaper than a late night taxi, Lyft or Uber.
Bus times and schedules change every few months, so make sure there are no surprises when you deal with Metro, Community Transit, or Sound Transit. An ORCA Card is the easiest way to transfer from one bus service to the next without having to pay multiple times. The card keeps track of your transfers for you! You can use the multiple ORCA machines located throughout the downtown Seattle transit tunnel to load more money when you run out, or online. Take note: certain transit centers (Aurora Village and Alaska Junction to name two) do not have ORCA machines. Remember to bring cash or just a few extra quarters on your way out the door if you’re uncertain about your ORCA balance, or buy a monthly pass and don’t sweat it.
Once you start hanging out with pinball people, you will have a network that will help you to major bus routes, or maybe even a ride all the way home. Remember, gas money is essential and polite to offer to anyone nice enough to give you a ride. The wider your social circle, the better your options to get to Monroe or Seattle Pinball League tournaments at far away, hard-to-reach locations. It’s more fun to compete and connect!