With Snow Sticking, Metro Still on Snow Routes

Update 3:40 pm: Metro just announced they’re staying on snow routes the rest of the day.

Update 2:30 pm: Some ST bus routes are delayed. It’s all tracked here.

Update 11:10 am: All Pierce Transit buses on snow routes.

It looks like Metro made the right call last night to plan on AM snow, as snow is down and sticking in many areas of Seattle. All Metro routes remain on their snow routes. Route 90 — a snow-only route — is currently operating with 3 buses an hour. Link light rail seems somewhat unaffected thus far.

So far — and we’re still early in what could be a cold, icy week — Metro is having a pretty good performance. This is a far cry from the chaos of Snowpocolypse 2008. Metro will be severely challenged, however, if the slush on roads freezes tonight as some expect.

For OneBusAway users: Metro has further taken the step of shutting down real-time data to services like OneBusAway, since the data is inaccurate when buses are on reroute.

Tell us how things are for you in the comments.

ALERT: Snow Routing Monday Morning

[UPDATE 6:10am: No change to Community Transit's service this morning.]

[UPDATE 7:53pm: ST Routes 545 and 560 also will miss some stops in Seattle.]

Here’s Metro’s full press release on the subject. Money quote:

“We decided Sunday night to be proactive, even though we know how unpredictable snowfall can be in King County,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “We would rather be over prepared than have buses stuck on regular routes during the middle of a snowy commute in the morning or afternoon.”]

In a pre-emptive move, Metro just announced that all routes will use their snow routing on Monday morning. Take a moment to re-familiarize yourself with your route’s snow route.

Updates will be at Metro’s adverse weather page. We’re told that more information will follow, so check back here.

Ridin’ Dirty: An Enlightening Journey on America’s Intercity Bus System

By DON KOSTELEC

Straddled that Greyhound and rode him into Raleigh, and on across Caroline.

–Chuck Berry, The Promised Land

Without a single proposition for change or a smoke, I reached the Greyhound terminal in downtown Raleigh an hour before my scheduled departure with one goal in mind: For a modest $5 fee, Greyhound allows you to purchase a priority boarding pass. It’s the closest they can come to a First Class ticket.

The total fare was $60, which when compared to a $300 one-way rental car rate seemed to be a fiscally sensible choice for travel home to Asheville on the company’s dime.

I’m armed only with my computer bag, a bus ticket, various gadgets, snack food and advice from my friend James: “Sit near the front. The weirdos sit in the back, plus you have to deal with the noisy engine and the stench from the bathroom. If anything happens the driver probably has a gun or some type of self defense training.”

Yep, it’s a bargain at $5.

Continues after the jump. [Read more...]

Sunday Open Thread: The High-Speed Bus Plan

This is worth watching a few times to pick up the more subtle jokes:


Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan

Track Work Each Evening

Photo by DWHonan

Sound Transit is doing some track maintenance on Central Link each night from 8 pm till closing, from Sunday through this Tuesday. Headways will be 20-25 minutes and only the Northbound platform will be open at Beacon Hill and Mt. Baker.

As usual, there will be neither schedule, nor real-time arrival information, nor onebusaway, so it’s a roll of the dice when your train might arrive.

Mapnificent and Bike/Bus Synergy

I was planning to use today to hype Mapnificent — a cool Google Maps derivative that tells you how far you can get by using transit, bikes, and your own two feet:

20 minutes without a bike (Seattle Bike Blog)

Of course, the algorithm at this point still has its flaws. Seattle Bike Blog used the program to talk about bike/transit synergy, which is one of my favorite topics, so I’ll let Tom take it away.

ATU Approves Labor Contract

wikimedia

The vote of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 587 membership is in. Its 3800 members approved the new labor contract with a 69% yes vote. About two-thirds of members voted. All that remains is a vote of the King County Council.

John wrote up the main contract provisions last week. According to press release, the cost savings amounts to 130,000 service hours, or a fifth of the projected 600,000 hour shortfall in 2015. That is a huge and important step towards resolving the Metro budget crisis.

Transit operators are to be thanked for honoring the need to serve the people of King County with as much service as possible, whether they perceived that as in their self-interest or not. Here’s to hoping that other stakeholders — voters, the State Legislature, the King County Council, and neighborhood interests — exhibit similar community spirit and enlightened self-interest when more change comes to Metro.

More related documents than you can stand are prominently featured on the ATU 587 website.

SR-520: Peak Tolls $3.50, Still Need $2,000,000,000.00

Proposed SR-520 Toll Rates

Tuesday the Washington State Transportation Commission, which has toll setting authority, released it’s recommendations for SR-520 tolling. The rate vary by time of day but not dynamically like HOT lanes.  This proposal has been years in the making. Two years ago the state legislature asked WSDOT to look at tolling options for the cross lake corridor. The report outlined ten tolling scenarios, five that only tolled SR-520 and five that toll both SR-520 and I-90.

More after the jump. [Read more...]

News Roundup: Sprawl Repair

Photo by Erubisu 27

This is an open thread.

Bellevue Prioritizes Bel-Red Development

everythingeastside.com

Monday’s Times highlights Bellevue’s plans for the Bel-Red corridor and how it’s threatened by budget problems:

An ambitious plan to turn Bellevue’s Bel-Red neighborhood into a bustling, urban center with a downtown Kirkland-style heart has run into an obstacle — a $100 million shortfall in the city’s capital budget…

Despite the decline in sales and business-and-occupation taxes that pay for the capital budget, the city says it is still committed to transforming the Bel-Red neighborhood, an industrial district centered on Bel-Red Road, which serves as a corridor between downtown and Redmond.

This is another example showing that, differences about Link alignments aside, Bellevue is a leader in trying to accommodate population growth somewhere other than the exurban fringe.

Also, note that investing in new, dense development will ultimately improve the city’s fiscal position by broadening the long-term tax base.

Comment on Seattle’s Transit Master Plan Update

Seattle Department of Transportation has a call out on their blog for survey responses on how transit is working in Seattle. The transit master plan hasn’t been updated since 2005, and with the monorail dead and Sound Transit 2 passed, an update now will help inform what investments the city should make next.

The transit master plan update will expand upon already identified important transit corridors and assign preferred modes to each. This will be the first time since the monorail that the city will officially take a position on what transit mode should be built in lieu of that project.

The other major purpose of the master plan is to improve existing service through small investments. The Transit Master Plan web page specifically mentions bus bulbs and signal priority as tools in the city’s purview.

Martin sits on the Transit Master Plan advisory group, which next meets on Friday at 8:00am in the Boards and Commissions room at Seattle City Hall.

U-District Reroutes for Tomorrow’s Game

Route 68 on UW campus, photo by Oran

If you’re planning on traveling through the U-District anytime tomorrow after noon, be prepared for lengthy delays and several bus reroutes.  An evening 5pm football game between the UW and UCLA is expected to snarl traffic and transit along with it.  With most Metro coaches out on regular assignment, there will be no special event service as the University is chartering private coaches to bring in fans.  There will be a special shuttle looping around campus the whole afternoon to get riders from heavily affected areas to 15th Ave NE.  It will operate at 15 min headways from 2:30 to 8pm.

[Update 1:35pm:] Any person holding a Husky Card, with or without the U-Pass, will be able to board any Metro bus tomorrow. (H/T: Commenter Spencer)

Since Metro won’t know exactly when the reroutes will be in effect, the best thing to do is to board at a stop that won’t be affected or simply take another unaffected route entirely.  Unfortunately, Metro hasn’t bothered to list all the affected routes in one clear and concise page so we’ve taken the liberty of doing that for you below the jump.

[Read more...]

Save Our Buses Kickoff

Not tired of political campaigns yet? The “Save Our Buses” campaign, trying to win a 0.3 point sales tax increase for Pierce Transit, is holding its kickoff event on November 22nd:

SAVE OUR BUSES CAMPAIGN KICKOFF
WHEN: Monday, November 22nd 6:30 – 8:00 pm
WHERE:The Hub Events Space, 203 Tacoma Ave S., Tacoma
RSVP: info@approveprop1.com

WHAT HAPPENS IF PROPOSITION 1 FAILS?

1. All frequent bus service will be reduced from every 15 minute every to 30-45 minute making it incredibly difficult for working families to get to work reliably.

2. Weekend service will be drastically slashed with bus service every hour across most of the system; this will severely hinder transportation access for our elderly and low-income residents.

3. Service in many outlying areas of Pierce County will be eliminated as will shuttle service for disabled people, leaving thousands of residents stranded without any alternatives.

It’s a tough time to ask you to dig deep to support transit but a 35 percent service cut will be devastating to our community and its most vulnerable users.

If you can not attend the kick-off please considering making a secure online DONATION or mail a check to Save our Buses at PO Box 735, Tacoma WA 98401.

I often think a lot of tax and revenue rhetoric is inadequate to the task. In some sense, this is a tax increase in that the rate is going up. In another sense, though, the average citizen is putting far less into Pierce Transit than he did a couple of years ago, because he’s purchasing fewer taxable items. This measure more or less returns him to the $45 a year or so he was paying for Pierce Transit in the first place.

They really ought to pass a law so that each of these measures is not named “Prop. 1″. All kidding aside, this is a really important decision point for Pierce County and people interested in Pierce Transit should participate.

Seattle Transit Communities

Seattle Transit Communities

Tonight the Seattle Planning Commission is having a release event for their “Seattle Transit Communities” report, which from my understanding has been in the works for the last few years. The event is at 5:30 at Pyramid Alehouse (1201 First Avenue S) accross the street from Safeco Field. While I haven’t seen the document yet the Washington State APA newsletter has a short blurb about it (1/3 way down) and it appears Dan Bertolet has. More after the jump. [Read more...]

October 2010 Link Ridership

"Link and SR599", by Atomic Taco

October’s Central Link ridership was down slightly from September, at 22,079 per weekday, 14,010 per Saturday, and 12,323 on the average Sunday. As we head into holidays and bad weather, it seems likely that July’s 24,145 will be the peak ridership for 2010.

Although I’m told October is a peak month for transit system-wide, it may very well be that summer has more demand on an airport line.

Carbon Neutrality Brown Bag

Futurewise is hosting a brown bag on Wednesday about Seattle’s Carbon-Neutrality goals:

Seattle Carbon Neutral Initiative: Innovations for Station Areas and Town Centers

Speakers: Seattle Council Member Mike OBrien and Seattle Planning Commission Executive Director Barbara Wilson

Date/Time: Wednesday, November 17th, Noon-1:15

Place: GGLO Space atthe Steps, 1301 First Avenue, Seattle(Enter from Harbor Steps)map

Description: Earlier this year, the Seattle City Council set the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030kicking off an ongoing process to define both the goal and the policy tools to get the city there. Come hear from Council Member Mike OBrien, who spearheaded a six-month volunteer-led effort to examinecarbon neutrality through the lens of various sectors, including land use, energy, and transportation. Then hear fromSeattle Planning Commission Executive Director Barbara Wilson on their new publication Transit Station Communities and its policy implications on both carbon emission reduction and creation of livable neighborhoods.

I wonder if the tunnel will come up?

In all seriousness, I think “carbon neutrality” in the context of a unit as small as a City is a pretty sketchy concept, but thinking seriously about our major emissions sources can’t help but reduce our impact, and if done intelligently can actually improve our economic and fiscal position.

Governing Boards

Boardroom Two small

wikimedia

Folks in the DC area are aparently unhappy with the way in which the WMATA board has let the Metro system deteriorate over the decades. That caused Greater Greater Washington to wonder what makes a good governing board structure:

The RAC [Rider's Advisory Council] developed 6 high-level recommendations:

  1. The Board is analogous to a legislature and should include public officials.
  2. The Board should set clear, high standards for its members.
  3. The Board should focus on high-level policy and objectives.
  4. The Board should act as a regional body rather than as individuals.
  5. WMATA’s top staff member should be a CEO rather than a General Manager.
  6. Board decision-making should include a clear and accessible public input process.

Here in Greater Seattle, we have two governing boards with substantially different structures. How do they stack up?

I’d say that Sound Transit’s board fares pretty well according to these criteria. The Board consists of a number of local elected officials nominated by the County Executives, meaning that they tend to reflect the Executive’s regional vision rather than narrow constituencies. Furthermore, my subjective sense is that ST staff are pretty liberated to execute policy without looking over their shoulders.

On the other hand, the King County Council is the governing board for Metro, and while not a disaster there are certainly some weaknesses. In particular, there are instances of the Council responding to vocal interest groups by tweaking Metro’s plans. Worse yet, the Council is absolutely driven by parochial concerns rather than a regional vision: 40/40/20 is the obvious example.

I’m very much an advocate of having fewer elected officials to make the ones we do have more accountable for the government’s overall performance. Nevertheless, I wonder if an Executive-appointed Metro board might not do a better job of governance, even if it was drawn from a pool of local politicians.

Of course, a directly-elected board would be the worst of all possible worlds, as members’ only way to impact their constituencies would be to be ultra-defensive of their district’s resources and ultra-responsive to anyone who complains about an agency initiative. I think the institutional design of the Regional Transportation Authority is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the enabling legislation.

Sunday Open Thread: That’s Why It’s 30

A great PSA out of New York City’s DOT. Funny but right to the point. Seattle’s arterial speed limit is 30 as well, although you wouldn’t know it on some streets.

Maintenance: Comments Offline

Comments will be disabled for the new few hours as we do some site maintenance.

Update: Comments are back online!

What About the Managers?

One form of pushback against scrutiny of driver wages is to question the pay and benefits of more senior Metro personnel. After all, if reasonable restraints on driver pay and benefits are in the interest of passengers, then that’s certainly also true of those for managers.

As a practical short-term matter, all Metro employees are taking a similar haircut. As far as KCDOT can tell in a Friday of work, there are only about five Metro employees that are not represented. The various other unions that have a stake in Metro are all part of Executive Constantine’s massive COLA freeze coalition. Constantine has asked the Council to approve the same for non-represented employees.

In the longer term, there are two basic arguments to allege that any particular group of employees is “overpaid.” One, used by Michael Ennis on drivers, throws around high-ish salary figures ($75,000! OMG!) as if that were in itself an indicator of waste. Not only does it totally ignore any context (How many hours did that person work? How much skill, experience, and responsibility does she have?), but it’s not a coherent argument. Most of us pay our doctor’s salary through a combination of taxes and insurance premiums, but it’s uncontroversial that in most cases those doctors make more than us. The similar device of waving around 6-figure administrator salaries is equally ineffective.

On the other hand, comparative studies with similar positions at similar agencies is a valid way to analyze compensation deals. If Metro’s pay structure for either drivers or managers is out of line with peer agencies, then the King County government is driving a poor bargain. I haven’t done that research, which is why you won’t hear me make statements about whether or not King County is paying certain people too much.