In September 2009, Metro revised Route 106 to serve the Rainier Beach Link light rail station, creating new travel opportunities for people living and working along the route in Georgetown, Rainier Beach, Renton, Skyway, and South Beacon Hill. Riders could benefit from a faster trip to downtown by taking Link partway instead of busing all the way. How well does that work? Two charts hold the answer, after the jump. (more…)
A Link round-trip ticket was a de facto regional day pass until Jan 1, 2010. Photo by l0st2
Like I said in a previous post, getting riders to switch to pre-paid fare media speeds up bus boarding. The discontinuation of the Ride Free Area next October makes fare payment more critical to transit operations than ever, of which its impacts will be felt throughout the network, including Link light rail.
A set of affordable 1/3/7-day passes could get more cash users switching to the ORCA card and reduce the number of cash transactions on the bus. It will also make transit easier to use for visitors and infrequent riders. This works best with a robust network of fare retail outlets and a lower cost ORCA card.
Read on for my conceptual proposal that works within the existing regional pass system without changing individual agencies’ fare structure. Note that I have not calculated the fare revenue or ridership impacts of my proposal.
Presenting the 1983 Metro transit system map featuring a dark background and white/green lines in high-resolution. Don’t miss the other side with downtown maps, night owl map, rider instructions, and a frequency table of all routes! It was scanned from a copy in UW’s Suzzallo Library. This is one of Metro’s more non-traditional map designs. (Click “View original” on the linked pages to download the full images.)
Frequent service for nights on the town or workaholics.
How late should “frequent service” operate for the purpose of defining a standard span for a frequent transit network? I have found that it varies for each city but I looked at our neighbor Portland for an answer. Before the budget shortfall forced cuts, Portland’s twelve Frequent Transit bus corridors plus MAX light rail offered service every 15 minutes or better until 10:30 pm, every day. TriMet chose that time since it “corresponds to end times for evening activities, based on a survey of evening college classes, movie theaters, shopping and event centers.” Compare this to King County Metro’s quasi-standard of frequent service until 6 pm Monday-Saturday and 5:30 pm on Sunday*. How many of Seattle’s main bus routes meet the Portland standard for Frequent Service?
As you can see from the thick lines in the diagram above, within Seattle itself, there are eight bus corridors plus Link light rail that meet the criteria. While the geographical extent is similar to routes within Portland, all but one go through downtown, limiting easy crosstown travel. Here’s the actual coverage of the Seattle routes on a map. Outside Seattle, there are the RapidRide A (Pacific Hwy) and B (Bel-Red) lines. That’s a total of ten bus corridors plus Link.
What is disappointing is the proposed night** headways for the upcoming RapidRide C (West Seattle) and D (Ballard) lines do not appear to be frequent at all. In conversation with a Metro planner at a recent open house, they were being conservative with the frequencies since they barely have the resources for it, which explains the “15-30” numbers for some routes. It means they want 15 minute headways but might not be able to fund it. Then there is the C Line has which has a night headway of “30-60” minutes. The planner told me those figures might include the late night trips they are adding to the C and D to replace the Night Owl routes.
RapidRide, in its role as a trunk line, should be a guarantee of service at least every 15 minutes until 10 pm every day. The way night frequencies are presented in Metro’s restructure proposal dilutes the RapidRide brand that Metro advertises as its “fastest and easiest way to travel, with service so frequent you don’t even need a schedule.” If that is what RapidRide is supposed to be, then what do you call routes like the 7 and 70-series that run more frequently than RapidRide both during the day and later into the night?
*the Frequent Transit Network in Seattle’s Transit Master Plan has a target service level of 15 minute or better frequency, 18-24 hours a day (6 am to midnight), every day.
** The “Night” time period is defined in Metro’s Service Guidelines as 7 pm to 5 am all days.
Getting cash paying passengers to switch to the ORCA card can speed up bus boarding for everyone and save operating costs. However, there are many who continue to use cash. There are many reasons for this but I would like to focus on just one: the lack of places to buy and reload a card.
There are only 139 locations in the entire four county area where one can add value to their ORCA card, only a quarter of them sell new adult cards, and a handful (with very limited hours) sell youth and senior cards. This is inadequate. Retail locations cannot sell new cards which is a step backwards from the pre-ORCA era and a big mistake. The coverage of ORCA outlets really is pathetic by comparison to Chicago, London, or ORCA’s sister system in San Francisco.
In spite of the limitations, ORCA is now used on half of the region’s transit trips. That was most likely achieved through conversion of pass users to ORCA, many of whom have employer managed passes. That was the easy part. The challenge now is to convert the other half to ORCA users and attract new transit users.
Not everyone has a debit or credit card for online or over the phone transactions. Not everyone can use the Internet nor can they afford to go out of their way at inconvenient times just to get a card. It is even more inconvenient for youth and seniors. And while one can buy an adult or youth card and fare with checks or money orders through the mail, it can take days to process.
If ORCA is to be used by over 80% of transit riders, it must be easy for all users to get a card and add value to it near home or work or on the way. King County’s approved 2012 budget provides funding for eleven ORCA vending machines throughout King County, one of which will be installed at King Street Center. That is a good step towards making ORCA more accessible but vending machines are expensive and other card distribution channels like retail outlets should be studied for expansion.
Transit in Overlake Village, Group Health site outlined in black
In addition to Bellevue’s open house on Tuesday evening, the Redmond City Council is holding a public hearing tomorrow, October 18, at 7:30 pm at Redmond City Hall on the Master Plan to redevelop Group Health Cooperative’s 28-acre site in the Overlake Village area. The area is planned to become a new transit oriented urban village served by the RapidRide B Line and Link light rail.
The Master Plan envisions a phased redevelopment of the property that would ultimately result in about 1,400 residences, 1.2 million square feet of office and retail uses, and a hotel and conference center.
It is going to be an interesting string of transit oriented development along East Link between downtown Bellevue and Overlake. Once the whole area redevelops, the B Line jog over to 152nd Ave NE makes a lot of sense.
Metro won't be doing all-door boarding but San Francisco's Muni might do it next year.
King County Metro’s 2010-2011 budget (p. 28) set aside $5.5 million to implement ORCA card readers at all doors to speed up boarding but the project has been cancelled due to issues with implementation under Metro’s complicated fare structure. The readers would have saved about a hundred daily service hours. The funds from the cancelled project will be available for projects in the 2012-2013 budget that weren’t previously funded or which require additional funds.
Determination has been made that rear door ORCA readers are not feasible at this time given Metro’s varied zone and special fare structure which require operator interaction with ORCA equipment to provide exceptions and correct fare categories for different riders. This continues to be an area of interest, but there is no solution currently identified and funded. Metro also continues to look for ways to increase the number of ORCA card users and off-board fare purchase.
Metro’s problem lies with the zone system and how one would pay the correct fare without driver assistance. Metro will have to face the same problem when the RapidRide E Line (Route 358) begins service in 2013. It is the only RapidRide line to cross a zone boundary. Metro has not decided on how off-board payment on that line will work but it is being discussed.
There are a few technical and policy solutions to this elaborated after the jump.
The impending end of the Ride Free Area, by October next year, should end the debate on the much maligned back door use policy. Seattle will finally operate like all the other big city transit agencies in this country where there’s almost no question on which doors can be used to exit. But old habits are hard to change and passengers will need to be encouraged to use the back door to exit whenever possible to speed up everyone’s trip.
Metro updated the decals inside buses to reflect current door use policy. The decal above the back door now reads “In Ride Free Area, Use Front Door Only, 7 PM – 6 AM”. This is to cut down on fare evasion caused by people unaware of or ignoring the RFA’s 6 am to 7 pm hours. From my observations, many people are already using the back door to exit after 7 pm, following the natural desire to use the fastest way out.
There are many ways to inform. Some Sound Transit buses have a big “EXIT DOOR” sign above the back door. TriMet buses have a giant sticker on the ceiling pointing towards the back. Muni buses automatically announce “Please exit through the rear doors” everytime a stop is requested. That may be annoying to hear but it works. How about one of Metro’s APTA award winning signs with tips for a faster ride?
I’m sure that when Metro figures out the specifics on phasing out the Ride Free Area, there will be a strong public awareness campaign backed up with strong enforcement.
Background on the policy change below the jump. (more…)
Metro put together a decent map showing the improved Eastside frequent & all-day transit network, featuring the RapidRide B Line, that will begin service on October 1st. Metro will be distributing these maps as a “pocket guide” to the Eastside transit network. The other side has a frequency chart and list of connections to major destinations on the Eastside, plus park & ride locations and fare information. This is a good initiative from Metro to promote its new and improved service. I hope to see these maps in the hands of as many as possible and that these maps be posted at the Eastside transit centers for all to see.
This map uses a similar color scheme to the Spokane transit map. The RapidRide B Line stands out as the Eastside’s main transit route with a thick and dark red line. Frequent service (every 15 minutes most of the day) routes are a thinner light blue. Other all-day service (every 30 minutes) are an even thinner light green. Peak-only routes are not shown. I printed it on an 8.5 x 14 inch sheet of paper from a monochrome laser printer and was able to read the map, even though the background colors and tiny streets were washed out. The green is a little too light, almost blending into the background.
Unlike Spokane’s schematic map, this is a geographic based map produced from a GIS. Metro wanted to show the underlying street grid which is helpful on the cul-de-sac dominated Eastside where walking to the main roads isn’t as straightforward as it appears. There are different intentions here in the role of each map. Spokane is creating a hierarchy of maps with a simplified system map providing the big picture and the route map providing street block level detail (also compare with Community Transit’s route map). While Metro has done the opposite with a big detailed map and simplified route maps, the one big map is all you need.
I can see Metro taking this style and quickly adapting it to the system map and expect them to produce something similar for Seattle when the C & D lines launch next year. It’s nice to see Metro finally getting maps done right.
Metro doesn’t provide a link to print or download the map but I found the source images for the map and the information tables. Warning: they are very large 2-3 MB image files.
As for my Eastside transit map, I’m still working on it. I’m going for a schematic to see how that’ll work compared to this map.
Take a look at Spokane Transit’s new system map for the September 2011 service change. It prominently shows frequent service routes as thick red lines. Frequent service being defined as “every 15 minutes during Weekday peak and day times”, roughly from 5 AM to 6 PM on weekdays, and “Night and Weekend service every 30-60 minutes or better.” The branches of frequent lines are shown as thinner lines. Portions where “basic” lines combine to provide frequent service are also indicated. Even at the shrunken size of the image above you can tell where all the frequent service is.
Compare the new map to the previous map. The map is now schematic, which sacrifices geographic accuracy for clarity. Going schematic also allowed the elimination of insets for the outlying areas, making it easier to follow the lines. Despite individual routes no longer getting their own color, I find the new map much easier to read due to the simplified lines and elimination of clutter.
Spokane Transit is the second transit system in the state to highlight frequent service on its system map after Bellingham’s WTA.
H/T @ziggzagzac on Twitter. Also, Jarrett Walker’s take. Walker worked on restructuring Spokane’s bus network and notes that despite service cuts, STA maintained its frequent service loop.
UPDATE, 3:10 pm: Response to my inquiry from Chris Tohm, Communications Specialist, at Spokane Transit Authority. Items in brackets are my notes:
Thanks for the kind words about the new STA system map.
The layout was a collaborative effort with CHK after we met with Rick Wood [President & CEO of CHK America, a firm specializing in transit information solutions] to discuss the new changes to the system. We had committed to doing a more detailed series of maps for our individual route schedules and wanted to simplify the system map so it would give a better vision of the entire system.
Karl Otterstrom, STA’s Director of Planning [former planner at Metro who worked on the Rapid Trolley concept], had some ideas about showing frequency and combined frequency and CHK did a really good job turning those theoretical concepts into reality while creating a really user-friendly design.
… [omitted link to Human Transit article]
It’s been long tedious process working through the details but I’m glad to say it is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on recently.
Long overdue, with prototypes tested three years ago, Metro began implementing its new signage system on a route by route basis this year. The new system matches Metro’s current color scheme and presents more information than the old signs in a clear and consistent format. However, the possibility of significant service cuts put replacement of regular signs (type A in the graphic) on hold, since Metro would have to go back and “patch” the new signs with stickers. Even with the $20 CRC, “budget [for the new signs] will still be a challenge”, says Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke. Metro continues to plan on replacing the large kiosk style signs at busy stops, since those signs feature interchangeable route tiles (types B and C). There’s no estimate on when all the regular signs will be replaced. Complete replacement of the large signs is estimated to take at least 5 years.
You can see the new large signs at 3rd & Pine northbound stop, a few stops on 3rd Ave in Belltown, the island stop at 4th & Jackson, and the 4th & Jackson stop beside Union Station. The regular signs have appeared in many places across King County.
The new system is a significant improvement, in both form and function, over the old signs, which haven’t changed in basic design for decades. It was designed by Portland based Mayer/Reed and Jon Bentz Design in Edmonds, the latter has also worked on Sound Transit’s graphic and signage design standards.
One mitigation measure suggested in Metro’s No Ride Free Simulation Study is “implementing ticket machines and/or ORCA readers at high boarding locations along Second, Third and Fourth Avenues.” The goal is to have passengers pay before they board the bus like on Link light rail or Swift BRT. When combined with a proof-of-payment (POP) system, the all door boarding benefit of the Ride Free Area can be retained.
The introduction of RapidRide C, D, and E Lines in the next two years would presumably bring ORCA readers and some kind of POP to the busiest Downtown Seattle stops. Ticket machines would allow cash payers to pay before boarding.
How much would the ticket vending machines (TVMs) cost? The $400,000 per year that the City of Seattle pays Metro for the RFA is enough to buy at least twenty Swift style ticket vending machines. That’s enough to equip every RapidRide stop within the RFA* with a TVM and for six other busy stops downtown.
I say at least twenty because I’m assuming a total cost per TVM of $20,000 based on Community Transit’s costs for Swift’s TVMs including spares, the management system, taxes, and contingency. The TVMs themselves cost $9,000 (accepts coins and cards) to $13,000 (accepts coins, cards and bills) per unit. I think there is potential for cost savings if Metro leverages the City of Seattle’s existing infrastructure which supports over 1,600 parking pay stations and off-board TVMs on the South Lake Union Streetcar.
I’m not suggesting that the city spend all $400,000 on ticket machines but merely pointing out how much that amount could buy. It’s not an insignificant amount. It isn’t a new concept either, hundreds of stops in Central London’s “cashless zone” have ticket machines for fare pre-payment since 2003.
*According to Metro’s maps there are 14 RapidRide stops in the RFA. Stop pairs are on 3rd Ave at Yesler, Cherry, Seneca, Pike, Virginia, and Bell. For C & D lines there are another two stops, on 2nd & Seneca and 2nd & Columbia. I’m not sure why the E Line (358) doesn’t have a stop at 5th & Jackson.
**Disclaimer: The author is currently employed by the City of Seattle. However, all opinions expressed in this article are completely his own and may not reflect the views of anyone else.
On Thursday morning, Sound Transit took delivery of the 27th and final light rail vehicle (LRV) purchased for the University Link project. LRV #162 rolled off an oversized flatbed truck on to the tracks of the Link Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF) to couple with LRV #101, the first LRV, which took it inside the maintenance building. The Kinkisharyo LRVs were assembled in Mukilteo and trucked down to the OMF at night. The 27 new vehicles were delivered over the course of 7 months. The newly delivered LRV must go through a “burn in” process involving tests and running for 1,000 miles at night before they can carry any passengers. Many of the new LRVs, numbered 136 and above, are already in service. The Central Link fleet now totals 62 LRVs.
Outbound train on Monday, June 13th, 4:32 pm, an average June weekday
Central Link’s summer ridership surge continues. In June, weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 25,629/22,919/18,841. That’s up 9.5%/30.9%/35.4% over last year.
New revenue service ridership records were set on Friday, June 17th with 30,542 boardings, Saturday, June 4th, 26,089 boardings, and Sunday, June 26th, 22,922 boardings. Ridership broke the 28,000 mark for two consecutive days on Thursday the 23rd and Friday the 24th.
Sound Transit revised past estimates again. For unknown reasons, weekday estimates for March, April, and May increased by a few hundred, while April’s Saturday estimates jumped by 2,000.