Freeloading

It was a beautiful day for most of the day today, and to get out and enjoy it I decided to head to Bellevue Square to start looking for some new threads to wear for the next wedding coming up. I know there is nothing in Bellevue that I can’t get in Seattle, but I wanted to check out the lake and see what the scene was like over in Bellevue. This also meant that I got to take the 550, which is quite fast for bus service. Yes, it costs more, but for the views, express service, and comfortable Sound Transit buses why not? Plus it probably is no secret, I like Sound Transit, I haven’t had any problems every time I have had to take their buses. Except today! It wasn’t anything ST did, but everything the passengers didn’t do. That is: Pay the EXACT fare! Appalled, disgusted, and confused begin to describe some of my thoughts about this experience. I counted today cause it got to be about every other customer, and 5 didn’t meet that requirement! 5. I am not a fan of fare evaders, I pay my fare as do most on the bus. The thing that got under my skin the most enough to cause me to blog about it, was level of disrespect to the driver. If these punks get on a bus they should know ahead of time what they are going to have to pay! All they have to do is look at the fare box! Watching the people who claimed they didn’t have the extra dollar get off the bus and laughing about it with their friends. There is only one word, ignorance. One guy, get this, used his “Sounder” ticket and read ignorantly to the driver that it should count as a transfer on the bus while walking off the bus. What a moron, the Sounder didn’t run today! The offenders today were younger in their teens, one older, mix of male and female. I have ridden the 550 before where 2 offenders did the same thing once in Bellevue except they didn’t give the sob story that they didn’t have the money, they flat out ran off the bus and flipped the rest of us off. Now, I wonder is this something that occurs on certain routes more than others? I see it on intercity routes, and I feel like it would probably occur on those routes more due to increased passengers. I thought while riding, perhaps it is confusing passengers to have ST and KCM buses be different in cost? But then the disrespect makes me think these people know the difference between the two and probably understand the cost breakdown well enough. Seattle to Bellevue is 2 zones, and costs $2.50! They should make no mistakes, $2.50, not $1.30, and definitely not free! Not to take it out on you, I am sure you all express my frustrations as paying transit folk! I wonder if it might make things better if there was a ST ticket vending machine (TVM) like the Sounder uses at multiple locations downtown that people could buy their tickets and show them upon boarding. That way, you won’t slow down the bus, you will have proof of purchase, and I will feel better about the world. Maybe we could even make it a machine that represents all transit agencies in the metropolitan area. What do you think? Have you encountered this before? Feel free to vent if needed, surely I have.

Overheard Conversation

Going back to tunnel security, I was eating lunch the other day and next to me were 4 King County Sheriff Officers, that I believe were part of Metro Transit Division. Seems they are gearing up for securing the Tunnel upon the reopening coming up soon on September 24th. I didn’t invade the conversation they were having, but they were talking through mock situations. It really made my job seem like a boring job. Good to know that they are gearing up for the re-opening. Next time I will barge into the conversation and get more details. Sorry for the delay in posting this has been summer of weddings that I have to be in.

Costly Cities for Commuting

Forbes came out with a list of the top ten cities for the most cost incurred in getting back and forth. Texas, Florida, and Ohio had 2 cities each.

The list:

1. Houston Texas
2. Cleveland Ohio
3. Detroit Michigan
4. Tampa Florida
5. Kansas City Missouri
6. Cincinnati Ohio
7. Dallas Texas
8. Phoenix Arizona
9. Miami Florida
10. Denver Colorado

I was surprised to learn that in Houston, the average commuter spends 20.9% of their household costs on commuting! Doing the math with my costs, I would be spent.

But that’s in part because Houstonians spend a lower than
average proportion of their take-home pay on housing. And that’s the
trade-off.

Transit costs are high because Houston has few policies
hindering sprawl, which in turn allows for cheaper housing. In San Francisco,
which is much denser and has more prohibitive zoning laws than Houston,
residents rank 22nd in commute costs but fifth in the combination of housing and
transportation.

The article points out that some of the best cities such as New York City and San Fransisco have expensive housing, but cheaper transit costs. I think the main key is that sprawl is going to be costly not just in gas, vehicle wear and tear, and roads. It will place more carbon dioxide in the air which as we know leads to the smog that cities like Los Angeles experience everyday. So there is your trade off, enjoy the cheap housing with views of sprawl, because in a few years, it won’t matter you won’t be able to see 200 yards in front of you. Our very own Seattle didn’t make the list and I wasn’t able to find out where it did land on the list, however, I think there is work to be done here. Seattle labels itself as a forward city in dealing with reducing gases and being stewards to our environment and the Puget Sound. I think that ST2 is going to be extremely important in helping Seattle stay off the these type lists. This will also help reduce the cost of our commute, I imagine we aren’t as good as NYC or SF, but we are working towards getting there or better even. Perhaps we’ll be able to see the Cascades and Mount Rainier for years to come, provided it isn’t rainy and cloudy. As for the cost of living, well that’s another blog, but I only see it going up everyday, at least we’ll have good transit. What do you think the City of Seattle could do? What could a city like Houston could do who is already in the hot seat for costly commutes?

Transit+ Riders – I-5 lanes = Nice Commute

I was going to post Monday evening, but thought I better wait at least another day and see how things go. As you may have heard traffic on I-5 has been better than expected both Monday and Tuesday and at the time I am writing this it is good as well. Perhaps the coolest mode of transportation in my opinion, the Sounder, carried 6,709 people on Monday and about 1000 less on Tuesday. I hope that the influx of new riders will like it and stick with it, certainly, it has to be better than driving alone. This shows that Seattle has the capability of using transit and taking cars off the road! Certainly Sounder wasn’t the only mode to experience increased ridership, the water taxi had 500+ people cross Elliot Bay, Metro had normal levels on Monday and increased levels on Tuesday. This may be people not able to get on Sounder? Who knows. I have read a lot in the local paper comment sections that this was planned, it is a conspiracy that Seattle chose to do this at the time the ST 2 vote was coming up. I have 2 thoughts on that, first being if it is a conspiracy, that is some effective planning across many sections of government in our state, which is extremely unlikely to happen and invalidates that possibility. Second, if it was a conspiracy, which I don’t think it was, maybe it is a good thing to show people this is a good alternative to riding alone? I see nothing wrong with that? It goes to show you that riding transit is a mindset. Certainly there are problems with transit, but without riders you won’t see any changes. Of course, there has to be a Yes vote on ST2 ballot to help. Transit can work and will work in Seattle. All these people could have stayed in their car and dealt with backups to Tacoma, but they didn’t! I think it’s a sign. More transit!

Bus Tunnel Security


King County Metro is making some changes in security when the opening of the tunnel occurs in September according to the Seattle PI. Basically KCM is renting cops to patrol the tunnel during operating hours. Previously it used to be 2 Seattle Police officers patrolling each station that were off duty and working overtime. It appears that will continue to be the case except they won’t be Seattle Police. Due to the rise in concern of safety on 3rd Avenue up above, this has people a little nervous. The new cops will be connected and a quick response away from real authority. However, they will not have authority to arrest or carry weapons.

Metro paid about $1.5 million annually to hire the off-duty Seattle
officers, Jacobson said. O’Neill said officers were paid a flat rate with no
overtime.
The new plan will cost about $1.7 million, including $984,000 for a
contract with Olympic Security Services Inc. of SeaTac and $770,000 for the
Sheriff’s Office to hire the additional commissioned officers for its Metro
unit, Jacobson said.

Do you feel this is a bad move? Would it prevent you from using the tunnel? I am excited to see it open again, I know I will be using it. I am not sure why now the plan is 200K more than prior service? The tunnel has been an example of cleanliness and safety in transit systems. I hope it continues to stay that way.

Numbers Shine for Sound Transit

Sound Transit released some stats on 2nd Quarter performance and their hard work is starting to pay off! Total ridership on Sounder, Link light rail, and Express buses went up 11% compared to last year. The Sounder alone went up 20% while Express buses went up 10% and Link light rail 2%. This is awesome, especially since Central Link isn’t even completed yet. In fact they had 3.5 Million people use Sound Transit in the 2nd Quarter. When Central Link is completed and rolling on its rails, I only see Sound Transit going up. In my perfect world, when ST Link is running to Everett and Redmond, the numbers will be as high as some other larger cities perhaps? San Francisco? Chicago?

Speaking of ridership the 19 days of pain are almost here, and as you may have heard Sound Transit added a Sounder round trip run for a total of 5 runs. The new trip starts in Puyallup at 6:17am and returns leaving King Street at 4:50pm. They have tweaked the normal schedule so make sure to take a peek if you are a regular. I see this as really the only way to sanity during this stretch of time. It will show the region that we need grade separated transit badly. In fact I hope people will use Sounder and see that it is the way to go even with all I-5 available. It provides Sound Transit with a great opportunity to showcase the Commuter Rail. So tell everyone about it that can use this awesome service. Too bad they couldn’t do 9 or 10 round trip runs! However Sound Transit is the agency that is adding service on buses and trains during the I-5 maintenance project. King County Metro is not adding any additional service as they are maxed out. Is anyone trying Sounder out for the first time? What are you doing to avoid this mess? Vacation? The coffee shop idea Mayor Nickels was talking about?

Double the Fun!

I am sure you may have seen the new Double Decker bus used by Community Transit, if not I snapped the photo above so you could see the massiveness. Community Transit is the second agency in the U.S. to put this type of bus into its regular service, the only other being Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I don’t use the CT route that uses this particular bus, but I have got to imagine the views are awesome! The bus seats 67 with room for 20 standing which is double a regular 40′ bus in the same footprint. I wonder how this compares to the articulated buses? The route 402 is currently using the bus as a testing period which will last approximately two weeks, before it rotates to another route for additional testing by Community Transit. I saw the release on the news and there was a lady who wouldn’t get on cause she was afraid it would hit the overpasses. It does clear the overpasses so don’t worry if that is stopping you. Has anyone rode the Double Decker yet? Any first impressions? I am glad to see CT pushing the envelope for innovation in modern transportation, it shows that this region is serious about transportation.