Crammed bus

The Seattle P-I has more information about Ron Sims’ plan for Metro. Including details on what new capital projects might be cut:

Facilities that could be sold to raise money in the short term include 1.2 vacant acres Metro owns in Bellevue next to its transit center, agency general manager Kevin Desmond said. And the $65 million in capital spending reductions mentioned by Sims in his post would include $9.8 million budgeted for an off-street layover facility at the south end of downtown Seattle for buses idling between runs, $10.5 million identified as Metro’s contribution to a South Lander Street overpass that may no longer be needed and $7 million designated for a maintenance of a revived waterfront streetcar line, a project that now seems stalled, Desmond said.

I think we can official call the waterfront streetcar dead.

Thanks to Gordon for the Link. The photo is from Oranviri, as always.

31 Replies to “Sims’ Metro Plan in the P-I”

  1. Like the waterfront streetcar needed another kick in the gut. Now even the money to build the maintenance shed we don’t have a place for is gone!

    So much for planning for the future.

    1. If Curitiba, Brazil is any indication of how a properly implemented BRT system does, no, it won’t be worth it.

      I just wish they’d put normal articulated buses and add bus signals on the routes they’re choosing.

      1. I think it will be worth it, simply to get routes that are more frequent and easier to understand. Some portions will have their own lanes, which will be good.

        It won’t be a replacement for light rail, but hopefully it’ll expand the visibility of transit — which helps both Metro and Sound Transit.

  2. So, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what it looks like to me-

    Fares will go up the same amount, on in-city routes with packed buses running short distances, and on long routes in the county that frequently run half empty. IOW, Sims is going to take it out of Seattle city residents to pay for services in unincorporated King County. Adding insult to injury, the Waterfront Trolley, the only route that ever made a profit, will not be back.

    This is the kind of thing that makes it really hard for cities to work with counties to provide regional transportation. No wonder the Seattle DOT is thinking trolleys, built and owned by the people of Seattle.

    And all of this is so Sims can buy more diesel buses which will use more expensive fuel leading to larger operating losses that will require….

    Well, that’s some plan alright. More and more I’m thinking bicycle.

    1. I’m really kind of cold to this Seattle-vs-the-Eastside characterization. As there’s more service overall in Seattle than on the Eastside, and the ES tax base is a bit larger, in the aggregate East subsidizes West.

      Now, I think this is one region and am fine in principle with some cross-subsidy, but I think Seattlites should stop pretending that 20/40/40 is some kind of gross injustice.

      I deplore the “screw Seattle” attitude in the suburbs, and I think the reverse is equally worthy of contempt.

      1. This is the perennial city-vs-countryside debate. People outside the city want to pretend they do not use services that a city make possible (like museums and even indirect ones like airline routing) and so shouldn’t pay for it. City people meanwhile complain that all services should be concentrated right where they are. In all I doubt anyone is really subsidizing anyone else.

      2. You’re generally right, though the ES tax base is substantially smaller than the “North King” base (seattle + shoreline/lake forest park). The ES has about 480,000 people, NK a little more than 700,000, and the jobs break down 650,000 vs 310,000 according to PSRC.

      3. I would be no more in favor of the 20/40/40 rule if it were leaning in favor of Seattle. My problem with the rule is that it means brand new service is created in areas while existing service continues to suffer and telling us they don’t have the money to improve existing routes.

        I think Metro’s priorities should be roughly 80% to improve existing service where demand is already seen and 20% to new service, regardless of the actual location the service is.

  3. Any chance of breaking off the in-city portion of metro from the rest of the county? At this point I’d rather the city collected the Seattle tax money and used it to pay for service in the city.

    The county can go ahead and bankrupt itself running empty buses from subdivision to subdivision all day.

  4. I think there was a reason that in 1972 they combined all of the various transit agencies around the county into one. Having so many different transit providers can get quite confusing, especially if they have different fares. I’ve always hated transferring between Metro and ST, and figure out exactly how much I need to pay along with the transfer.
    And I think all the streetcars are and will be built and owned by SDOT, but operated by and having the same fares as Metro, much like Link.

  5. Let me clarify my comment- To hell with Ron Sims. He’s not showing leadership in an area where leadership is needed. He can look at the results of a bad policy (reliance on diesel-powered vehicles) and call for more of the same.

    If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said there was no need for city initiatives in transit when a county-wide system existed. Now I think we can see that systems need to be sound enough to survive the bad leadership we’re seeing from Sims. And redundancy is part of being sound.

    Nothing improves reliability like a second chance.

    1. As I’ve argued before, providing Seattle with good service at reasonable prices is not the county’s primary interest. Nor should it be. We’re lucky it benefits King County to run so many busses through Seattle. I think what we’ve been seeing is Sims returning to his core focus – serving the county.

      We need to build our own system.

  6. Yeah, but, uh, aren’t Seattle residents also King County residents?

    And I was kinda under the impression that the buses running on Seattle streets are King County Metro buses. Is there still a Seattle municipal transit system I just haven’t noticed lately?

    1. Of course we’re King County residents. King county has 1.8M people – only a third of which live in Seattle. As a county it makes sense to have medium distance transit – in our case busses. For example, electrifying these busses (or adding things like streetcars) doesn’t make sense at the county level, and I suspect Seattle’s only electrified as a holdover from our streetcar days. But a city requires a different form of transportation to get around efficiently.

      Look at it from this perspective: does someone in Woodinville really care if we have a waterfront trolley? Is she interested in paying for an urban transit system at all? A few might, but overall it won’t benefit anyone but Seattle so it would be unfair and unpopular to tax the county for new service. When Sims takes our streetcar money and spends it on diesel, it will earn him votes overall.

      I’m not necessarily talking about creating a new transit agency. King County would work just fine as the operational body, and we still deserve our share of the tax money that goes to the county. But we should consider funding and owning our own capital projects, such as a traffic-seperated streetcar system, to connect our neighborhoods together. We have the agency and knowlege – we just need a taxing mechinism.

      1. I have to disagree about the suburban dwellers not caring about urban amenities. They don’t care about the bus, but at least my visiting friends and relatives always want to see the unique city things like mass transit (currently the streetcar) and of course the Space Needle, though I try to push the Smith Tower instead. There’s a term for this but I can’t remember right now.

  7. Well I’m a little surprised to see an engineer say that electrification doesn’t make sense at the county level. Apparently we have a county system paying stiff prices for oil and if the need for power was buffered by being able to use electric power from hydro sources, the county wouldn’t be taking such a bath in the recent spike in oil prices.

    In point of fact, back in the 60s the city wanted to do away with the electric routes, in spite of the fact that it was cheaper to run the electric buses than diesel replacements. Because the electrics are also quieter and faster, people put the matter on the ballot and forced the city to rebuild the electric routes instead of dismantling them. It’s not just a matter of sentiment.

    Now, this may sound really radical and all Swiss-like (and where but in America could the Swiss approach also be radical?) but it seems to me that we already own the dams that make hydro power, and it should be possible for us to use electricity to protect ourselves from exploitation by the oil markets.

    Switzerland has been doing that for about a century, so it’s not like it’s an untested idea.

    1. I agree with your basic point. But we’re building a regional system (Link), and I’m not sure how to do electrification at the county level. Power lines on the freeway? Another parallel light rail system?

      I guess the best way forward might be localized electric busses or streetcars that bring people to Link. I still feel like a county solution will look different than the urban solution, but I’m willing to concede the point about the county not needing electrification.

      1. Wireless electricity is the answer!!! I am of course joking, but that made me think… are all-electric plug-in buses used anywhere? Should be possible with today’s technology.

      2. Busses need range and power. The two just don’t work with batteries. Even our hybrid busses get around 3mpg. With that much energy required, the mass of batteries would be huge.

        That’s actually the argument that pro-roads people often make when you bring up peak oil – even trucks will be running on batteries. But if you run the numbers, using our best batteries trucks wouldn’t be able to drive more than a few miles without plugging back in.

      3. Good point. Now I remember plug-in car articles say things like “Do you realize most commuters only need a range of 30mi?” or something like that.

        Oh well, I’ll go back to working on wireless electricity. If you never hear from me again you’ll know what happened.

      4. Ok, I’ve thought about this further, and am ashamed I was so quickly negative. Yes, you’d need a huge amount of batteries, but the batteries per person would be less than a hybrid car.

        So I googled and found the Tindo. A solar powered electric bus that’s free to ride and can travel up to 125 miles before charging. They can only hold 27 people, but I’m impressed.

  8. Great Balls of Fire! You don’t need to electrify all of the KCMetro vehicles. Just electrify what you can!

    In the case of buses, for example, electrifying the in-city routes that run up and down hills could get close to the 80-20 rule, because your population density is higher in the city.

    We’re talking buffer and incrementalism here. You may remember from chem classes that the buffer doesn’t nullify the chemical action, it modifies it in the middle. If a third of the system was electric, rising oil prices would still affect the system, but not as much.

    And changes to the system need to be incremental in any case. You don’t want to scrap buses that still have long lives in them, or pay through the nose to give riders in Issaquah electric buses. Instead, use the existing electrical vaults on trolley bus lines to power streetcars, and use the buses liberated by that change to electrify routes now served by diesel buses. Doing that would mean the new vehicles you purchased could be the latest and best streetcars, new neighborhoods would benefit from the quiet, economy, and efficiency of trolley buses, and KCMetro would be buffered against sudden spikes in a global oil market.

    1. I agree with all of that. But I don’t think we can get the county to do any of it, since it would mean spending more on Seattle then the rest of King.

  9. And BTW, hybrid delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and buses are here to stay. Seattle being somewhat backward about all these things. I can’t promise when you’ll see them, but the manufacturers in Europe are delivering now, and if you’ve ever watched a garbage truck or UPS guy working, you’ll see the appeal.

    Link through to Daimler hybrids here.

    No ‘preview’ available so I will repost link if this doesn’t work.

    1. Hey, we’ve had hybrid busses here for years. They still only get 3 mpg, but I’m sure the technology will improve with time.

      I like the idea of hybrid garbage trucks. Those things are really heavy and probably get terrible milage.

      UPS tested out electric trucks for the christmas rush last year in Petaluma CA. It requires a different delivery model due to the low speeds and range limitation, but it sounds like a perfect way to get around in a city.

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