On SLU Streetcar

I’ve been thinking about what we can do about really crowded routes like the 15 and 545, where the buses are already articulated and are still absolutely packed, and literally can’t accept any more riders. The headways are already as short as is practicable with a bus in traffic, and it’s not clear that there’s the money to put more buses on anyway.

What if we tore out seats? Yeah, sitting down is more comfortable, but isn’t more standing room preferable to standing with someone’s elbow in your gut? Preferable to not being able to get on it all? Best of all, the cost of something like this is a rounding error compared to the cost of some other capacity increases.

I’ve ridden buses with this configuration in Montreal and Marseille, although I couldn’t find any pictures.

The buses I ride typically aren’t quite as crowded, so what do you guys think? Fewer seats on a selected set of buses?

Tacoma Link photo by Seatrans Flickr Pool contributor Oranviri.

26 Replies to “Inside the Box”

  1. I don’t know as much about the 15, but the 545 can take upwards of an hour in friday afternoon traffic. It can be pretty bad. I dont know if everyone would want ot stand on a moving bus that long.

    1. Sure they do, but not everyone on the bus does. A lot of it is psychological. Few people think they’re going to be standing until they actually get on the bus. If they knew they’d have to stand, they might not bother. Also, part of it is that the bus has a completely unreliable travel time. The same schedule-time 545 service could take twenty minutes longer than another depending on a large number of factors.

    2. They don’t want to stand on a bus that long, especially when it’s braking hard, shifting back and forth, and bouncing down broken up pavement on WSDOT’s failing freeways, and bus-chattering city streets and arterials.

      “I’ve been thinking about what we can do about really crowded routes like the 15 and 545, where the buses are already articulated and are still absolutely packed, and literally can’t accept any more riders. The headways are already as short as is practicable with a bus in traffic, and it’s not clear that there’s the money to put more buses on anyway.”

      When ST studied costs and ridership in their mode choice process for crossing Lake Washington, phony BRT supporters (who happen to also oppose public transportation altogether) threw a hissy fit. Doug MacDonald was among this bunch. They wanted ST to compare costs between grade-separated light rail, and a basic HOV bus system. A system which Martin observes in his post. Rail-convertible BRT provides an honest comparison, because such a system provides the means for meeting ridership demand beyond just next year.

      The fundamental flaw with HOV BRT lies in Martin’s statement above. At a certain point, the buses get packed, and the coaches start piling up (platooning) at stops and in traffic. Nothing like a big, long, slow wall of buses on the street when you’re in a car, and need to make a right turn.

      Hence, the need to build capacity into the system the first time around.

      Keep one thing in mind when you read the musings of anti-rail/anti-transit BRT advocates: they don’t care whether their program has the means to be operational or not. Since most of the Kemper Kreeps and right wing think tank types fundamentally oppose public subsidies for mass transit, operational failure = a positive outcome. Their hope is that a failed government project will then free up “market driven” transportation “solutions.” As in jitneys, and private for-profit bus operators.

      Much of the privatization efforts we see coming to grand fruition with companies like Halliburton and Blackwater came evolved out of institutional breakdowns spearheaded by Ronald Reagan. They wanted to blow-up the government monopoly “stranglehold” back in the 80’s, so agencies like HUD were intentionally driven into the ground to foster private contracts who would reward the politicians who doled out money to them. You see, good, effective government services is actually a BAD thing in the hardcore conservative’s mind. And what, you ask, is the connection with transit?

      Ron Sims should have caught on to the privatizing scam before signing up with that Bushie Urban Partnership grant program. The goal of this program is NOT to provide more effective public transit for blue, Bush-hating cities. The goal was to provide a carrot which would eventually lead to private, for-profit corporations to take ownership of public assets (such as roads) to advance the far-right’s agenda.

      Some noted environmental organizations have also fallen for the congestion pricing trap, possibly unaware they were being manipulated by pro-freeway forces: the automobile and pavement industries, and by Big Oil and energy interests.

      It shouldn’t be too tough to figure out what the trojan horse looks like, when the rubber tires are visible from the bottom of the trojan horse, and when an exhaust pipe emerges from the horse’s tail end.

  2. Seriously? Are you just figuring this out? Buses in Seattle are hopelessly delayed because it takes people forever to get in and out. No more than one human fits comfortably in the aisles on mist buses here. Don’t get what I’m saying? Take a gander at the average MTA bus in NY.

  3. Double-decking only really works for long stopless drives (since it takes longer to get on and off). I like the seatless idea for short crowded lines. Leave a few seats in for the old or weak legged, but I’m fine with standing if the trip’s on the order of half an hour (I haven’t used the routes mentioned, but this would work for 2 and 13).

    1. “since it takes longer to get on and off”

      Umm do you have any facts on this? In London people seemed to get on and off just fine, people just get moving down the stairs before the stop…

      1. I think they are used to it. at very least for the first several years – I want to say decades – it will take longer to get on and off. I’ll ask CT if they have any data for this.

  4. It’s practical to remove seating, although it’s more practical to upgrade the corridor in some way. More service or a better mode. Simple, really.

  5. This would really help the 41 in the afternoons. They’re packed so bad at 5pm that the drivers have to skip the Convention Center. I get really irritated when I’m standing in the middle and can’t get off the bus at the Northgate TC because we have to do the every-other-seat shuffle as people get off. Most of these people drove to the transit center and are in slow-mode and due to their inability to debark the bus quickly I miss my transfer about 90% of the time. I have 4 possible transfers and the last one always pulls away when I finally edge my way off the 41.

  6. part of the problem could be solved if Metro (or ST) got buses with more than 2 sets of doors.

    Just imagine the fun if we had some of the double-articulated buses!

    1. It’s against Metro’s policy to open the non-payment door in pay as you leave scenarios. Some drivers will open the rear door at Montlake, some won’t.

      Fix THAT and it’ll help.

  7. I think that is worth looking into, especially in the front area of the bus. Why not extend the bench seating a few more rows back. That would probably only eliminate 4 seats. I know they are going to do that on Rapidride although to what extent I don’t know.

  8. Amen. Implementation of said improvement can begin immediately on: 10, 11, 12, 43, 49, and 2 routes. That would help increase the space for people to climb over one another at the first couple non-free-zone stops.

  9. I would be for just having one seat on each row like the Prague trams, there is lots of room for standing. It also helps that there is no chance of getting boxed in by a creep.

    1. Yeah and I think that would help boarding a huge amount, because only one sitting rider would have to get up compared to two sitting riders for the two-seat configuration.

  10. all-door boarding would help speed things along. i think metro is considering that for non-rapid-ride routes sometime in like 2093 or thereabouts – right around when they’ll deliver a better fare payment system and a number of other ridiculously quick and simple things.

    it’s nice to see some thinking inside/outside the box but we need the county council and seattle city council / nickels to start getting downright demanding with metro to get changes made NOW and not 5 years from now after everyone’s forgotten.

  11. Even easier to implement is a enter from the front, exit in the back policy. I can’t believe this hasn’t been done, it would work for all but the disabled…

  12. Oh please no. The design of the buses when it comes to the aisles and getting on and off is horrible (and smaller than it was, say, 6 years ago), but less seats – for me – would mean more reliance on the smaller shuttles for disabled people (and kinda defeats the idea of a grander mass transit). As my health has declined, standing on the bus during rush hour was a key factor in accelerating my decline (standing is also less than safe, there was a welt on my shin for a year that proved that). Less seats mean less chances for me to get any kind of relief from the often intense pain of walking and standing. You’d be surprised how often people won’t give up a seat even if you’re clinging to a cane for dear life. Possibly changing the flow of on-bus traffic would help (in one end, out the other, disabled up front for exit after everyone else, maybe), possibly more busses, it’s hard to tell.

  13. An extreme case for trains would be the special trains in Tokyo where the bench seats fold up for more standing room plus a lot of doors. Double deckers work just fine in very crowded cities like London or Hong Kong. London also forces people to pay before boarding in central London where all the stops have ticket machines like the SLU streetcar. But they won’t let you on if you don’t have a ticket. Metro should install ticket machines at downtown stops and transit centers so people will fumble for change on their own time instead of holding up the bus.

    For Seattle, doing the one seat rows or more bench seats would greatly help. It speeds up the boarding/alighting meaning the bus will be faster and people will spend less time standing. I don’t know how hard it is to do this but at least Metro should consider this in their next bus purchase given increasing ridership.

    Justin, if riders exit in the back how will the “pay-as-you-leave” policy be enforced? Would it be reversed for that case, enter in the back and leave in the front? When the bus is packed, you’re still forced to squeeze through if you happen to sit farthest from the exit.

    1. “Justin, if riders exit in the back how will the “pay-as-you-leave” policy be enforced?”

      Well of course we would have to switch to an off bus payment system, or if they ever get the ORCA prepaid card going they could just require it, then it would be fast to pay as you enter, exit out the back.

      The funny part of this whole thing is that they are talking about making all these great improvements to RapidRide, but don’t seem to bother making them for every bus.

  14. Right, of course. I’ve searched around and found that it is common in other cities outside the US.

    Taking another look at London and probably other European cities, their wheelchair access seems simpler. The driver sees the person in wheelchair and pulls up close to the curb. The ramps (streetcar-style) deploy automatically at the center door and the wheelchair user gets on board. There are no fasteners, they tell you to put your brake on. (That might be against some Federal regulation over here.) The front door remains closed so nobody will obstruct the wheelchair. When the wheelchair user wishes to leave the bus, he or she pushes the special button to signal the driver. Process is repeated. Driver never has to get out of the seat. Disabled people in wheelchairs also ride free, eliminating the fare collection issue.

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