Op/Ed: Buses Belong in the Transit Tunnel

Kevin Desmond, Metro's General Manager. Photo from King County.

by KEVIN DESMOND

I’d like to respond to the Seattle Transit Blog post from May 29th: “How and When Link Reliability Will Improve.”

The article seems to point the finger at joint operations in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for negatively affecting Link service reliability over the past 11 months.

Joint operation of buses and light rail in the tunnel is a one-of-a-kind system, and we are less than one year into it. Metro Transit and Sound Transit work in very close collaboration to identify and examine the types of operating problems that have resulted in any Link or bus service delays.

Since we opened for operation last summer, there have unfortunately been occasional service delays caused by operating issues in the tunnel. For example, during the month of May, there were approximately 15 instances of a disabled bus blocking light rail trains. Then again, I also hear from bus riders – particularly those on Eastside routes – that have significant waits to enter the tunnel while trains clear the track.

But, any vehicle delay in the tunnel – whether it is a bus or a light rail train – almost always blocks all other vehicles. It’s not just a bus vs. train issue.

Sure, there is a trade-off. A rail-only tunnel would improve Link reliability, but then again the tunnel would be very under-utilized. Joint operations helps both Metro and Sound Transit move thousands of people each day through downtown Seattle without adding additional congestion to the surface streets. Buses alone have 50,000 tunnel boardings each weekday, compared to a total system ridership of 21,000 for light rail. So while Link service would be more reliable if it was exclusively for trains, we would see increased travel time for thousands of Metro and ST bus riders, and increased operating costs for both KCM and ST due to lengthier bus travel times through downtown.

Seattle Transit Blog readers should know that we are committed to operating service in the tunnel as reliably as possible, and KCM and ST continue to commit significant resources to support tunnel operations. I know that we here at Metro are very proud that Seattle has this one-of-a-kind bus/rail operation. I expect in partnership with ST we will continue to troubleshoot and make improvements.

Finally, I must take strong exception to the statement that Metro employees who operate the Link trains have no incentive to operate on time. There have been a number of challenges for Link during this first year of operation – perfecting joint operations, traffic signals on the at-grade portion of the line, ongoing alignment construction, and various behind-the-scenes technical issues – but, be assured Metro’s Rail Division is highly focused on and committed to service reliability. The people who operate the trains select in from bus operations, and I think they are all proud to be the first light rail operators in the region.

Mr. Desmond is General Manager for King County Metro Transit.

Comments

  1. Mark Dublin says

    Many thanks for this article, Kevin. We do indeed have a one-of-a-kind system, and many of us who worked to bring it into existence almost thirty years ago are very proud of it every day we sign on duty to keep it working.

    However, I doubt anyone involved at any level would disagree that the system could work a great deal more smoothly and efficiently than it does. The trouble is not with the equipment or the facilities, and certainly not with the skill and dedication of the operating personnel. But the most talented symphony orchestra in the world still needs a conductor and a good view of the baton.

    More than any other system in the world, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel absolutely depends on the individual skill and cooperation of everybody who drives, supervises, coordinates and maintains it- and even more on their ability to work and think together.

    From my own observations, most delays result not from incompetence or ill-will, but from breakdowns in communication at critical times- and from operating people insufficiently trained- and not just in the classroom- in the special knowledge required to run a very unusual system.

    The equipment is tricky enough. But more important, everybody on shift needs an instinctive sense of what’s going on, and their place in it from minute to minute. I don’t think either King County Metro or Sound Transit has ever really considered how little personal contact bus and train operators have with each other through the work day- or the damage this does the system.

    A year into operations, thirty years of project history can help you. The inception of the Downtown Seattle Transit Project included an Employee Advisory Committee of a dozen frontline operations people, chaired by Transit Director Ron Tober. For three years, the committee met regularly with the world’s top rail engineers on the design of the Tunnel and its operations.

    Your work crew helped design the Tunnel, Kevin. They’re doing a magnificent job running it now. Bring them back into the oversight of it, and the results will only be good.

    Mark Dublin

  2. Mike Skehan says

    I don’t think anyone here would seriously consider abandoning the needs of 50,000 bus riders per day, to increase the quality of service for less than half that number of Link riders.
    That said, the discussion at STB seems to focus on November 2016, when University Link opens. Many would argue the buses need to give way to many more trains competing for precious ‘tube time’, and that one mode can use that time more efficiently. The other crowd (myself included) sees a tunnel with far higher capacity for transit riders than is currently planned even in 2017. Hence, selected routes should remain in the tunnel beyond 2017 until rail capacity, using 4 car trains demands more priority. That may not be needed until Northgate opens or beyond, which is too far down the road to begin that debate.

      • Mark Dublin says

        Careful what you wish for. A full-time transit operator’s paycheck might not be adequate compensation for the loss of the chance at what most people consider a normal life.

        Nights, weekends, split-shifts…mornings that start at three or four, evenings that end at one or two am. Sixty-one seconds late a very few times, and you’re fired beyond the union’s ability to get you back. Don’t feel like coming to work on a particular day? Contract says tough.

        Need time off for family, or fun? If the company doesn’t need you that shift, maybe- but don’t count on that very often.

        Those health benefits also have another name. If you were a bus, they’d be called mandatory repairs. Forget preventive maintenance. Take a good close look at the physical condition of the average bus driver past forty. I know maybe three people who’ve stayed in shape over two decades’ driving- they’re either serious athletes or part-time or both.

        Not to say we don’t like our work- younger people have fewer hangups about this, but people senior to me would never admit how much they loved driving. Loggers, commercial fishermen, coal miners- like the song “Dark As A Dungeon” says, people do get attached to work that will kill them.

        As with everybody who manages transit, I think five years driving a trolleybus would give Kevin a career advantage, though if he’s got a family they’d probably have him forcibly deprogrammed. But I’m glad he’s doing the job he’s got, and not me.

        For some of us, a year night shift on the Route 7 beats a week light duty in the office.

        Mark Dublin
        Formerly Metro Transit Operator 2495

      • Beavis McGee says

        Actually I was offering to trade paychecks with Kevin Desmond. I’m a bus driver. At $170K per year (Desmond’s salary), I’m guessing that his working conditions are substantially better than ours (not that he doesn’t put a few in).

        A better response to VeloBusDriver though:

        “I gues that’s why you don’t see me posing for a photo-op behind Kevin Desmond’s desk.”

        The original photo that accompanied this post was a pic of Desmond – wearing a business suit – behind the wheel of a bus (looked like the RapidRide console).

    • lazarus says

      I suspect that when U-Link opens there will be many more Link boardings in the tunnel then the current 50,000 daily bus boardings. At that point the tunnel should certainly go over to Link-only to improve service for the greater number of users.

      Two things to remember:

      1) It’s not like moving the 50,000 bus boardings to the surface would result in poor service. During Link conversion we saw that surface operation was actually very good, maybe not *as* good as tunnel operation, but still very good.

      2) The level 50,000 bus boardings in the DSTT is undoubtedly inflated by RFZ policy. Rationalize the RFZ policy and you would see more Link boardings and fewer bus boardings in the DSTT. Therefore we shouldn’t make policy decisions using 50,000/21,000 since that ratio for mode split doesn’t tell an accurate story.

      In any case, I think it is clear that the long term future of the “bus tunnel” is rail-only. It’s just a question of when we switch it over to just rail.

      • Mike Orr says

        “During Link conversion we saw that surface operation was actually very good”

        You call spending 15-20 minutes to cross downtown very good? The tunnel makes the Chinatown grocery stores accessible to Capitol Hill residents. Otherwise it’s a long trip on the 14, and takes an hour to get there and back. (Not to mention that the bus is often ten minutes late.)

      • Sherwin Lee says

        Depending on what SDOT does with the transit master plan, there is a bright opportunity to make CBD surface-running buses the smoothest ever. Downtown is just about the only place in the city where you can give road capacity over to bikes/buses without people getting riled up. We could learn from Portland’s transit mall.

  3. Chris says

    I also would love to see the tunnel go train-only at some point in the future (the sooner the better). I imagine travel times and congestion from this could be mitigated by turning key avenues downtown “transit only” like 3rd/4th, Pike/Pine/Madison in the downtown core while dropping the RFZ.

  4. Carl says

    In May there were 15 instances of disabled buses blocking light rail trains.

    That sounds quite high for there to be a blockage every other day. If the hybrid buses become disabled with this frequency (and this is just in the 2-mile tunnel segment), it raises two questions. One, I trust that tow vehicles are available at both ends of the tunnel to respond to such blockages and that the typical blockage is removed quickly. Second, in the study about replacing the electric trolleys with hybrids, this breakdown frequency on a level dedicated right of way should be considered.

    I have heard bus drivers announce to their riders that the bus is delayed due to a Link train ahead. I’m not sure that passing the blame is helpful, since the Link train ahead may be delayed by buses ahead of it. If a wheelchair ramp must be deployed, that often causes a cascading backup.

    Perhaps the most helpful thing that can be done is to make sure that trains are quickly allowed to proceed from Westlake. Sometimes it seems to take a long time until an all clear is given. They don’t seem to do that at other subway systems, relying on announcements at terminal stations with stub turnaround areas – maybe figuring that the penalty if someone doesn’t vacate is that they have a 10 minute wait until they are back at the other platform.

    • Beavis McGee says

      Most “delays” due to a train at the platform ahead aren’t really “delays” at all, but a result of trains and buses not being permitted to occupy the platform/station at the same time. Usually the wait is just a moment or two while the train loads passenger and moves on out of the tunnel. Also trains coming from opposite directions may not always be in sync, causing a few moments additional wait time. Such an announcement does not usually indicate that there’s a disabled vehicle ahead – rather that the bus is just waiting its turn to occupy the platform.

      When the driver announces a “delay” of the type you describe – they’re probably just letting passengers (who have a tendency to get a bit nervous if a bus sits still in the tube for more than a few seconds) know that they’ll be moving forward in just a moment, as soon as the train clears the platform.

  5. Kyle S. says

    As others have mentioned above, the projected ridership for U-Link is above the current bus boardings in the DBT. Add East Link and North Link to the mix, and there will be no way to maintain the mandated separation between buses and trains and still adequately serve customers.

    Once the buses are kicked out of the tunnel, I’d love to see 3rd Ave between Olive and Pike turned into a transit and pedestrian mall, with sheltering the entire way.

    • Norman says

      It sounds like, once again, posters here fail to comprehend the difference between “boardings” and “ridership”.

      According to the article, there are currently about 50,000 bus boardings in the downtown tunnel each weekday. At the same time, there are about 21,000 boardings on Link trains, all along the line!

      There are not 21,000 boardings on Link trains just inside the downtown tunnel. Many of those 21,000 weekday boardings are at the other stations along the route.

      For southbound Link trains, perhaps a little over half of all boardings are in the downtown tunnel — maybe 6,000 boardings per week day. For northbound Link trains, only about 10 – 15% of all boardings occur inside the downtown tunnel — say about 1,500 per week day.

      This would give about 7,500 weekday boardings inside the downtown tunnel on Link, compared to 50,000 downtown tunnel boardings each weekday on buses.

      Or, you could compare the total boardings along the entire routes of all the buses using the downtown tunnel to the 21,000 total boardings on Link trains.

      But, comparing the total boardings along the entire route of Link to boardings just within the downtown tunnel for buses which use the tunnel is nonsense, obviously.

      I sort of doubt Link trains will average even close to 50,000 weekday boardings just within the downtown tunnel even after the UW segment opens. But, someone on this blog should have ST’s projection for that number. So, what is it?

      • Steve says

        Of course, once U-Link opens, it’s likely there will be through-riders on Link. That is, some number of people will ride through the tunnel without any boarding happening, e.g. from Beacon Hill to UW. As far as I know, that’s not a pattern supported by the current bus tunnel — bus routes either start or end in the tunnel. So a boardings-to-boardings comparison wouldn’t accurately model the long-term usage of the tunnel — delay faced by through-riders presumably counts for something too.

        That said, I agree with your point that comparing overall Link ridership to bus boardings is invalid. And that buses are clearly picking up many more riders than Link is today.

        Though honestly, I’m surprised there are 50,000 boardings/day in the tunnel. It always seems like 3rd Ave is more crowded than the tunnel, at least around commute times — does 3rd Ave have more than 50,000 boardings, too?

      • lazarus says

        The 50,000 bus figure includes riders in the RFZ. Bus riders going from N downtown to S downtown and back for lunch are distorting the facts because buses are free in the DSTT but Link is not.

      • Norman says

        People use Link between stations inside the downtown tunnel, just like they use buses. I have never seen any fare checkers check for fares on trips inside the tunnel on Link. And most people who use Link for rides between tunnel stations don’t even know it’s not supposed to be free. People just get on whatever comes first — whether its a bus or train.

      • Mike Orr says

        The issue is which U-Link. With the Brooklyn station opening five years after UW station, a significant portion of U-district riders won’t be able to use Link until then, because catching a shuttle bus from Pacific Street to 45th could more than wipe out any savings from taking Link. So it may not be until 2020 that the 71/72/73 can be retired.

      • lazarus says

        Dude, I don’t know how you could ever possibly “sort of doubt” that Link will average close to 50,000 DSTT boardings – of course it will! In fact, at some point it will surpass that figure.

        Many of the highest ridership tunnel routes will be directly replaced by U-Link and those bus boardings will become Link boardings. And the increased speed and schedule reliability of Link over buses on this corridor will result in increased ridership on Link beyond what could ever be generated with the current bus system.

        Also, the current value of 50,000 bus boardings in the DSTT is artificially inflated because it includes RFZ boardings. Get rid of the RFZ, or extend it to Link, and you’d see that 50,000 figure shrink substantially. It’s artificial.

      • Norman says

        See above. People ride Link between tunnel stations, just like they do buses — as if Link were free. Most people think Link is free between downtown tunnel stations, anyway.

        If they do start checking for fares on Link in the downtown station after the UW segment opens — as they probably will — then those people who now ride buses, and Link, for free between tunnel stations will no longer do so. Those people will ride buses for free on surface streets, instead of paying to ride Link. So, however many thousands of people who board buses and Link now for free trips inside the tunnel, will not be riding Link when they start enforcing fares inside the tunnel.

        In other words, a lot of those 50,000/day bus boardings inside the tunnel will shift to bus boardings on surface streets, not to Link boardings.

      • Norman says

        If the ride free zone is eliminated, I expect many people wno now ride between tunnel stations on buses or Link, will decide they can just walk those short trips, and don’t need to spend $2.00 (or whatever the fare would be by then) to ride a bus or train a mile or less.

      • Charles says

        If you have a monthly pass, people won’t think twice about it except having to remember to tap on and off.

      • Rob says

        I think it makes sense to have free transit on rail downtown, but I think it makes even more sense to have the same policy for everything in the tunnel. Right now if you’re going to ride within the length of the tunnel you don’t even know whether to tap on or not since it is impossible to know if a bus or train will be arriving first and the readers at most stations are on the mezzanine. If you DO tap on (or purchase a ticket) and a bus happens to be there first, you’re going to be pay to ride a (free) bus, or have to spend time waiting to get on a train.

        This might not be so bad for pass holders like myself but E-purse users and people purchasing tickets are not going to be attracted to use the system more often or to invest the $5 in a pass when the fare payment system seems to be built around the needs of agencies as opposed to the needs of riders.

        Not that Seattle has a ton of extra money, but maybe the city could reimburse Sound Transit for the value of fares that would be lost in the tunnel or come up with an equitable distribution for the amount of fares lost between Metro and Sound Transit in the tunnel until the buses are gone.

      • says

        Portland recently converted its Fareless Square into the Free Rail Zone. It’s just the reverse of Seattle; the trains are free (including streetcar), while buses aren’t. On the other hand, they have no tunnel and run trains on surface streets downtown.

      • Kyle S. says

        Many of the boardings in the DSTT (which I mistakently referred to as the DBT above) are going to the U District, Northgate, and the Eastside. All three of which are replaced by Link.

      • Norman says

        I specifically wrote, “I sort of doubt Link trains will average even close to 50,000 weekday boardings just within the downtown tunnel even after the UW segment opens.”

        Do you see the part about “after the UW segment opens”?

        That eliminates Link trips to Northgate and the eastside (which won’t open until much later) doesn’t it?

        Of course, after the full Link system is opened, many years from now, boardings inside the tunnel will be greater than they will be with just the UW segment operating along with Central Link.

        Still, ST must have tunnel boarding projections for all of these segments, and I would think that someone on this blog knows what those projections are. I would be curious to see them.

      • Kyle S. says

        Norman, given the potential consolidation of the U District routes, it wouldn’t be infeasible to replace them all with U Link (maybe leaving a local shadow surface route behind), potentially directly transferring U District-bound DSTT boardings to U Link.

      • alexjonlin says

        I’ve seen 105,000 daily boardings predicted for Link once U Link opens. Assuming the majority of people are headed Downtown, that would get you close to 50,000 daily boardings in the DSTT. And then once ST2 is all built out I wouldn’t be surprised to see close to 100,000 daily boardings there.

  6. Gordon Werner says

    One of the good aspects of the old Breda Tunnel buses was that they had three sets of doors. Helped get people on and off a lot quicker. While I think the Rapid-ride buses are too large for the tunnel … Metro should have considered this when purchasing all of the articulated hybrid buses.

    • z says

      The breda seated 64 or so. The rapid ride like de60a with 3 doors seats 40. And appears to have horrible flow through the coach to boot. That’s quite a loss of capasity. Even ten seats for the de60lf is still quite a few. I would be willing to bet that 1657 and 1455 could probally hold down the rapid ride service as good if not better than a weinermobile.

      • Brent says

        Um, isn’t there room for a lot more standing passengers on the weinermobiles?

      • Z says

        Nope.

        In the tractor (even though theres no engine in there), aside from the W/C well, there are 2 single forward facing seats on the operators side opposite of the center door, followed by a partition next to one, and a pair of forward facing seats. If you wanted standee room, you’d have all longituidal seating, and probally acheve the same, if not a little more seating capasity.

        again, in the trailier, there are 4 pairs of forward facing seats ahead of the rear door, in which case 2+1 would allow for better passenger flow and more standee room int he trailier other than in the rear door area. When i walked through one i found the asile narrower than usual, problaly in part to Metro’s choice in seat. Not to mention the fact the x60LF layout is pretty awful anyways with the arrangement around the center axle the way it is.

  7. says

    The primary fallacy is thinking that downtown Seattle would continue to have the popularity and density to warrant a tunnel.

    The entire system would be better served putting the buses back on the streets…and having the express buses jump directly on i-5 rather than that excruciatingly long journey down through Sodo.

    As far as LINK — the monorail people had that part right. It should all be elevated. No tunnels. No street grades. It should also be automated and run all day and night.

    • says

      All elevated? Way to encourage concrete deadzones!!! Unless you’re going with brick/steel viaduct, it’s not appropriate for the established urban landscape. Tunnel/trench, plez!

    • MattG says

      Do you think downtown Seattle is going to shrink in size? In the longterm, Seattle isn’t shrinking and neither is downtown.

      • Chris Stefan says

        John,
        The facts and the trend lines don’t support your assertions. Washington has been steadily gaining population, so much so we may end up with another congressional district. Seattle is likely to continue to be a local, regional, national, and international center of commerce for the foreseeable future.

        If anything it is the rural areas that have been shrinking in population. For the most part educated professionals prefer to be in cities or at least college towns. Some place like Superior, Nebraska holds little appeal.

        Increasing productivity and automation in the agriculture and industrial sectors means far less labor is required for the same amount of output. This means fewer people are needed to support the farms, ranches, mines, mills, and plants that have provided the economic base of many rural communities.

        True, for some telecommuting from the middle of nowhere has appeal, but this is by no means a majority.

  8. joshuadf says

    It’s nice to see that Kevin agrees with Ben (and ST’s Rob Tober) that “A rail-only tunnel would improve Link reliability.” The big question is how the trade-off will work after 2016, particularly before 2020 when parts of East Link and North Link are scheduled to open.

    I definitely think additional changes to downtown streets with more bus only lanes will be necessary. Keeping the 71/72/73/74 in the tunnel could negatively impact Link ridership due to preference for a one-seat ride to places like Wedgwood instead of the possibly faster option of transferring at UW campus. (Assuming the tails of the 71/72/73/74 continue to exist.)

    • Norman says

      You mean that, given the choice between a one-seat ride on a bus, or riding light rail part-way, then transferring to a bus, some people would choose taking a bus the entire way? If that is true, then forcing those people to ride Link part way then transferring to a bus is not improving their commute, is it?

      This has happened to some people already with Central Link — they would still be taking the bus, if routes were not changed to force them to take Link at least part way.

      • Kyle S. says

        For the specific passengers in question, it could very well be an improvement if their travel times are quicker, they get a seat when they normally would not, or the consolidation of trunk service towards Link frees up resources that can be spent on the bus portion of their commute.

      • says

        The trains are faster, frequent, more reliable, and cover much more of their costs in rider fares (55% vs. 22%). In an era where we’re talking about a 17% cut in Metro service by 2015, freeing up more bus service hours to redeploy elsewhere seems obviously preferable.

      • joshuadf says

        I think people would only choose the one-seat ride due to inertia, and if they figure out the rail-bus transfer timing they’d find that it does improve their commute in terms of both time and quality. (Of course we actually don’t yet know what the 2016 options will be.)

        A couple years ago I had to change my commute a lot when my job location changed. It’s a hassle, but it’s a one-time hassle that you figure out after a week or two.

      • Aleks says

        Like anything else, transit planning is constrained by economics. We’d like to serve the region as well as possible, but we have only a limited amount of resources. Every service provided is a thousand other services that we can’t afford.

        Concretely, every bus we send over the express lanes is a bus that we can’t send to Lake City. Every bus we send along the Link route in the Rainier Valley is a bus that we can’t send to Kent.

        I’m sure that some people are unhappy with this decision, but I’m just as sure that some people are happy with it. The point is, though, it’s unfair to oppose all change simply because current riders shouldn’t be inconvenienced. Public transit doesn’t exist solely for the benefit of current riders; it’s supposed to increase the mobility of the whole region. If the most effective way to do that is by removing some one-seat rides, then so be it.

        Over at Human Transit, Jarrett has a post, Build Your Own System, which makes this concept very visceral. I highly recommend you read that article.

    • alexjonlin says

      When U Link opens, the super-express versions of the 71, 72, and 73 could continue to exist at peak times (the 76, 79, and 77, respectively) while the 71, 72, and 73 would be truncated to local service to UW Station. Once North Link opens, they should wipe the whole Northeast Seattle bus map clean and start over from scratch, creating a frequent-service, Link-oriented grid system.

  9. says

    Mr. Desmond says “Buses alone have 50,000 tunnel boardings each weekday.”

    A few people above found that statement surprising. So with Fall 2009 ridership data given to the Metro Transit Taskforce, I’ve compiled the average weekday ridership for all current tunnel routes. This is ridership for the entire route, not just downtown boardings. Not sure if it includes free rides within the tunnel.

    41 7,790
    71 3,930
    72 3,990
    73 4,700
    74 940
    76 740
    77E 730
    101 3,880
    102 750
    106 3,790
    150 5,250
    212 1,470
    216 400
    217 170
    218 1,190
    225 260
    229 370
    255 3,380
    256 220
    301 1,410
    316 620
    550 5,768 (Q1 ’09 data)
    TOTAL 51,748

    So, no one uses those routes to travel anywhere but downtown?

    Note: Rt 194 had 4,260 average weekday boardings in Fall ’09, discontinued Feb 2010. Routes 76, 77, 216, 218, 316 became tunnel routes in Feb 2010.

    • Sherwin Lee says

      There’s no water in comparing the current tunnel routes to Link, because the buses come in from all parts of King. You want a fair comparison, then try sticking the 8 in the tunnel. A TON of Eastside buses come in during peak hours, and lots of riders come in from the south on the 101, 106, 150, etc. Don’t forget the 41, and of course, the 71-74, and rather strange peak-only routes like the 76.

      In other words, Link’s ridership in terms of competitive boardings far outstrip bus ridership in the tunnel.

  10. says

    Sorry Mr Desmond, buses are the problem in the tunnel and CONSTANTLY delay the trains. Chalk it up how you like, but that’s the reality. I agree in principal that the tunnel would be otherwise under-utilised if buses weren’t also in the tunnel at this time. And, the train is frequent enough that really, delay of trains aren’t a significant issue unless a bus breaks down. However, when U-Link is done, the buses need to be out as headways will be higher and the buses more appropriate back on the streets. With 3rd as maddening as it is now with transit, maybe you should be discussing converting 3rd and 4th both as bus/transit/carpool/bike-only corridors.

  11. Mike Skehan says

    Ultimate tunnel capacity per direction is 360,000 riders per 20 hr day or 3/4 Mil riders per day both ways (4 car trains on 2 min headways).
    So were at something under 50,000 bus and 20,000 rail riders, or maybe 10% of capacity.
    I think its a tad premature to start ‘kicking anybody out of anything’.

    • alexjonlin says

      This doesn’t have anything to do with capacity, just that Link trains are frequently delayed by buses in the tunnel, and vice versa, a situation which doesn’t work out well for anyone.

      • Mike Skehan says

        “nothing to do with capacity?” Huh? That’s all it’s about. How many trains or how many buses or how many of both for what level of reliability.
        15 bus delays out of about 25,000 bus operations in a month is a tiny number, hardly worth throwing in the towel to doing a better job.

      • alexjonlin says

        That was 15 bus breakdowns that caused major delays. I would say from experience that trains and buses delay each other the majority of trips through the tunnel.

  12. Chad N says

    A few weeks ago I rode Link southbound through the tunnel and it was flawless, fast and efficient (for the first time). The train smoothly accelerated away from the station, acheived its running speed and maintained it until braking for the next stop. After a quick reasonable dwell time, the train closed its doors and sped off to the next stop. It felt smooth, effortless and efficient, just like rail transit should.

    At International District I checked the clock, and 4 minutes had elapsed since boarding at Westlake. That is 2 minutes less than scheduled. Great!

    The secret in my view: the train waited long enough before leaving the staging area to let all the buses in front of it clear out. Our buses will always have longer boarding times than the trains, particularly if the handicap ramp is used, so trains need to leave sufficient space in front of them. Leave space for the train to be a train, and all will flow smoothly in the tunnel.

  13. Seattle Greg says

    Two thoughts, and I have shared them elsewhere. One: Why the lengthy spacing between coach and train? Metro, et all, trusts its drivers to come within inches of each other on normal city streets, and among coaches IN the tunnel as well. But the Link has to be fully out of the platform and in the next tunnel before the coach lights allow them to enter. How many seconds for the duration of the day would be saved to allow the coaches to roll once the train begins rolling? That 3-5 seconds would add up quick.

    At this point its like the rail AIR cannot even be touched by a coach. Seriously. Ditto reverse, once the last coach at the platform is running, start the trolley. I understand the need for some buffer to allow traffic around in an emergancy, but really… a fully empty tunnel platform is dwell time lost forever.

    SECOND issue: WHY WAS the 76 REVERSED? It used to go SB through town, then jumped on the freeway NB… In the AM it took the last exit, then went NB up 3rd. The Reverse just added to the cluster of 70′s, and just made all the south downtown riders add 40 minutes to their commute. They must now ride through the length of the tunnel to get to the South end, and in the evening they now get to add to the mess NB. The concept of Balancing LOADS seems like this is the wrong direction. The additional time for all during commute now helps to fill the coach, but did not do anything positive to the overall time spent commuting. That many coaches running that slow at commute now fills the seats, but it was working fine before.

  14. says

    Nonsense. Metro does practically everything it can to thwart rail in this region, be it light rail or streetcar. I’m sick of the shortsighted political turf wars from Metro and their ongoing penny-wise, pound foolish decisions like wanting to replace electric buses with diesels (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=133395816688760). The boarding numbers for 2010 are totally irrelevant as 1) Link ridership will increase dramatically over time due to multiple factors, and 2) many key tunnel bus routes like the 41, 71, 72, and 73 will be replaced by expanded light rail service. There’s a reason no other city runs buses and trains in the same tunnel. The tunnel was built for rail, and that’s what it should be used for. Get the buses out.

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