Important: Many Metro buses are operating on their adverse weather routes, meaning that schedules and services like mybus.org could report bad data. Be prepared to wait!

Also, walk to the top or bottom of the hill to catch a bus.  Your bus may not be able to stop on a steep slope.

******

Seattle’s getting walloped, so I’m going to work from home.

I’ll bet the Sounder is packed today.

Good snow stories?  Share them in the comments.

UPDATE: My Sounder prediction, above, is not at all supported by early reports.  See the comments.

UPDATE: Both WSDOT and SDOT are twittering about the mayhem. – Eric

Image from SLOG.

74 Replies to “Snow Day Open Thread”

  1. Metro is down on its knees. I’m staying home right now. http://transit.metrokc.gov/up/rr/adverseweather.html

    Sound Transit’s website is extremely bogged down and unusable.

    Listening to the Railroad Radio, BNSF and Sounder are delayed with multiple frozen switches, snowed jammed switches, and a couple reports of slowing down due to zero visibility.

    There are 2 jackknifed buses somewhere around my area, not sure where exactly. All the buses I have seen have chains on. A lot of sirens have been going on.

    I-405 @ I-90 is closed judging from the DOT camera. Backed up from I-90 to SR-167

    I-5 @ Mid-Boeing Field looks like a mass collision happened there. Backed up from Mid-Boeing Field to SR-167

    SR-520 @ Redmond Way/Lake Samm Pkwy looks like multiple spin outs and collisions have occurred.

    1. Hi Brian

      I was involved in the mid Boeing field incident – it took 3.5 hours to drive three miles from the 405/5 interchange to just north of the Boeing Access Road

      Overall it took four hours to get from south Issaquah to Boeing field this morning!

      Tim

  2. 520 from me (capitol hill) to Microsoft doesn’t look that bad. I wonder if it’s worth it to try?

    1. For fun, I walked to Westlake and got on a 545. We’re sitting in traffic on Olive. I brought food and water just in case, and have snow boots on. :)

  3. The first train from Everett was very lightly loaded.

    It was about 10 minutes down in Edmonds and arrived at King Street about one minute late.

    1. It’s nice how much padding is in those schedules, isn’t it? Another project or two and they’ll reduce the scheduled time, I bet.

  4. I have to go downtown or all that Pad Thai I made will go to waste! I’m carpooling to Downtown Bellevue and hoping bus connections from there are better.

  5. I ride MT 181 and Sounder 1506 and both were on time this morning – Sounder arrived in Seattle at 7:20 as usual.

  6. Not a lot of snow down here in Kent. A little disappointed. I’m headed up to Green River at 9, and I’ve been checking MyBus (which is really really laggy this morning) they claim the buses are on time, but we’ll see when I make the journey to the stop.

    There may not be much snow but there definitely is some, and it looks icy. TONS of accidents out there this morning, especially in Seattle and Bellevue. I’ll keep to the south end.

  7. Checked the traffic maps and metro’s site before I left for my office downtown Seattle from Licton Springs/Northgate. Rode an articulated 75 to the Northgate TC. Had to stop on the upslope to the N. 92nd ST overpass near North Seattle Comm College for a Miata backing/sliding down the hill in front of us. Well that chained up articulated 75 didn’t make it either. The tires spun out, the driver did everything he could. Backed the articulated bus down the icy hill and took a running start and still got stuck. He let us off, I walked home to Meridian and Northgate Way. I think non-articulated buses were making it. The city hasn’t sanded up here and that bridge was sanded during last weekend’s snow. Never thought it was much of a “hill.” Didn’t want to go get on the several non-articulated buses that were stuck behind us, don’t want to try the commute home.

    Serious commendations to the driver though he tried everything. Don’t know if he got unstuck.

    Metro — We get you there (except in snow)

  8. There are people waiting at the top of Queen Anne for some sort of van that never came, so I walked down the hill. I thought I’d try the Monorail to sail over traffic, but it’s still broken down. Went to a bus stop, but everyone was walking right by it so I decided to walk to work (the bus never passed me).

    Strangely, I didn’t see a single accident or abandoned car on the way, and cars were making it down the Counterbalance. So it could be worse.

    1. While driving the 3 trolley to queen anne in a snow storm several years ago, I didn’t get the word that we were supposed to do a “turnback” at Seattle Center. I plowed up the hill on Taylor Ave, made the turn around on top and came back down. That was in 3″ of snow and no chains. But is sure was lonely up on top. The trick was to not stop on the hill, just keep going, nice and easy!

      1. The #3/4 route isn’t that bad. I could imagine them allowing drivers to keep the route alive, but not stopping on the way up. I certainly wish my Queen Anne Ski Lift idea was a reality – I’m not thrilled about climbing the hill tonight.

  9. So who out there can tell me what the effectiveness of Light Rail would be in situations like this? Obviously a lot of it is tunneled, but what about the non-tunneled portions? Are they all on flat land and therefore not affected or barely affected? I guess what I’m asking is, would people be able to easily get around on Light Rail while everything else is all gummed up?

    1. A quick search for “light rail snow” brought up this (strangely by the Florida Bullet Train site) telling us that Denver’s light rail hasn’t been shut down for snow since they started operations in 1994. Denver doesn’t use special snow equipment, they just run trains 24×7 when snow starts piling up.

    2. Rail in general takes much more snow and ice to start having problems than roads. The preferred solution for most rail transit systems seems to be to keep the trains running 24×7 during a snow event. I don’t know if the streetcar or link cars have sanders, but mainline rail locomotives often carry sand to help with traction.

      1. Portland’s MAX uses sand–there’s a hopper of it under one of the single seats on each end of the car. I have a picture of the hopper, but it’s on my home PC. I’ll try to remember to put it in the flickr pool tonight

      2. I thought most LRV’s had sanders but I didn’t know for sure. Even in areas where ice and snow aren’t expected they can be helpful. Say from a film of oil and water getting on the rails.

      3. MAX actually has somewhat more trouble in heavy rain than in snow, according to an operator who blogs

    3. They run MAX all night to keep wires clear of ice, and it rarely goes off-schedule.

      The Streetcar, btw, last I checked had not gone off-schedule a single time.

  10. Ferry from Vashon to Seattle (Passenger only) was fine. Watched a 150 @ 4th and James take 4 lights to get through the intersection (with chains), so decided to go home. Ran to the 54 @ 21nd and Columbia – jacknifed.

    went to 1st, and the first bus was a 22. Driver was awesome.. Avalon was closed to he took delridge to home depot to head up the hill (passed another jacknifed bus). the he reversed back to the Junction (Alaska and 35th had a 3rd jacknifed bus) and continued his route.

  11. I got a ride to downtown Bellevue and walked up to the transit center from the HOV ramps. Metro was putting chains on buses there. I took a 261 to get downtown. Traffic was really light on 520 with everyone driving slowly. It didn’t take any longer than normal to get to work for me.

    I’ve never seen this much snow downtown in a long time (I can’t remember 1990) and it’s still snowing hard from my view on the 37th floor. Yeah, I saw those 2 chained diesel artics jackknifed on Columbia St between 2nd and 3rd Ave towards the Viaduct.

    Last night, it snowed up here around Kingsgate while downtown was dry. My 255 driver was a champ; he managed to get through the snowy hills in a 60-foot hybrid while other buses got stuck, including the 252 that I took to the P&R before transferring. He even got unstuck while stopped on a hill.

  12. I drove to Bothell for work this morning around 945am and 10am and saw two stuck buses on E John St on the hill east of 12th going up to 15th. The street was closed going eastbound due to the stuck buses. Going west was fine, drove down to the I-5 Northbound onramp and got on I-5. Freeways were bare and wet, full speed ahead. :) The trick of course is just getting to the freeway.

    1. I-405 SB near SR 520 around 9 am was close to whiteout. There were spun out cars and SUVs alongside the highway.

  13. I am checking the Metro site and it keeps saying “unpublished route” is this the snow route for the bus or are they “rolling their own”?

    1. This really bugs me. This morning I checked the Metro site before heading out, and there was a message “Due to adverse weather, this route is operating an unpublished reroute. Please call 206-553-3000 or visit the adverse weather page for additional information.”

      Of course this was the adverse weather page, so I tried the phone number. After 10 minutes on hold I just started walking. Who knows where the bus ended up, or if anyone even knew where to expect it. I’m picturing the #2 joyriding through Fremont just for fun. Or maybe the unpublished reroute is parked in front of a donut shop.

    2. It isn’t the adverse weather route, it’s some other unknown route :/

      Not very useful, is it?

    3. Last night 255’s were just picking whatever route they felt as drivable. Some chose to bypass the main road and take the street by my house. Some decided to skip the troubled area by taking 405. Some took the normal route and got stuck.

      I guess “unpublished route” is Metro’s way of covering up the fact that even the adverse weather routes are not working out and Metro’s letting the drivers go their own way.

      1. Which sounds like a fine afternoon commute strategy, when people are all coming from downtown and can figure out where to get off based on where the route ends up going. But it’s just crazy for the morning commute. What stop do I wait at? Will a bus ever arrive at the stop I’m at, or should I walk to another one? Should I have brought warmer shoes and a thermos of soup? Will they find me in the spring?

        More than a list of the exact routes these buses will be taking, I’d love to see a list of stops that will be served.

  14. I’m very very mad that soundtransit.org is out of service…c’mon! What the heck! This isn’t the 90’s! Oh yea, I really wish all transit agencies put some money into a good online bus travel info/status. Like Mybus saying bus never left the base, meaning it ain’t showing up. Or…bus stuck.

    1. WSDOT has a good mobile site but there’s none for the transit agencies.

      WSDOT even has a twitter that I can follow. Ron Sims has a twitter; why doesn’t Metro or Sound Transit have one? They’re very handy for shooting out short news updates.

      There’s also the RPIN site that combines all the government news updates.

    2. The transit and transportation web sites seem to have melted under the strain of the increased traffic today.

      Not to knock the IT people for these organizations, but really you need to do a better job in setting up your web infrastructure for peak loads. It really isn’t that hard or expensive even for a dynamic, database backed, real-time, website.

  15. My road commute on the I-5 was over three and half hours for a three mile stretch of roadway around Tukwila.

    Wish they would plan for a Light Rail stop at Boeing Access road – it needs one!

    Tim

  16. I wish they would say *which* bus routes are considered “core routes” that won’t get canceled this afternoon.

      1. Onebus doesn’t seem to be working right.

        “Routes on adverse-weather reroute don’t have accurate arrival times.
        That would be almost every route at the moment.
        Maybe work from home today?”

        The number 2 says it’ll arrive at the top of Queen Anne in 13 minutes. I somehow doubt it. Actually, according to Busview, the 2, 3, 4, and 13 (the ones I’ve been following) are all missing from the map completely right now. Maybe they’ve given up for the day?

      2. Busview, MyBus and Tracker don’t use GPS so its really hard to tell exactly where they are and when are they arriving.

        Metro is moving towards a GPS-based system with its brand new communications system. We should begin to see goodies like automated stop announcements on Metro buses in late 2009 according to Metro’s In Transit newsletter. This should mean more accurate bus locations for the tracker.

  17. The Seattle PI said not only is the South Lake Union Streetcar running, but it’s getting more riders, plus with the buses in bad shape, I would expect it to be running. I was going to ride it, can’t do any temp work if I cannot get to a bus, will barely be able to get to the store on foot. Might try the latter, though.

  18. Sam, Bus View doesn’t work well at all. The java is flaky via Firefox. And via IE I’m getting “Server Unavailable. Trying to Connect” in the upper-right of the app (and thus no bus data).

    The high point of my commute this morning was seeing if the 7X driver would choose Eastlake or the (regular route of) the I-5 express lane. He picked the latter. He got stuck going up to the onramp though. But after 20 minutes he managed to get up a block to the on ramp (passing another stuck bus). The passengers cheered at least twice once we made it to I-5. And of course there was no problem going through the bus tunnel.

  19. It took twice as long for me to get from where I live in Maple Leaf to my office in Lower Queen Anne. The 77 was only a few minutes late and slowly made its way down I5. The problem was where it turns from 5th Ave to head down to third. An artic non-hybrid bus was jackknifed, no route number on it. Right behind it was a non-artic/Gillig 316. Our bus slide and hit the curb, the drive then announced he was going anywhere for a while and we all got off.

    Can anyone explain why they don’t just route the 77, 76, 79, 316, etc… in the tunnel? That would make the most sense since they are outlying routes that only run at commute times. It would have made things easier today.

    Normally on 3rd I catch a 1,2,13 to Lower Queen Anne, but none were in sight. So instead I went into the tunnel and took a 255 to Westlake. From there I still didn’t see any of my buses on third, headed to 1st and Pine to catch a 15 or 18. A 15 was there waiting, but jackknifed. The driver was trying to get it backed up, but couldn’t. The large right rearview mirror had to be folded in since it rubbed on a tree. Meanwhile another 15 happened by and I caught that to 1st and Denny and due to the reroute I walked from there.

    I decided not to leave early at noon and work from home the rest of the day. Luckily at Mercer and Queen Anne a number 2 trolley was waiting there. We packed it like sardines and then headed downtown. From there I caught a 73 from the tunnel at Westlake and made my way home an hour and half after I started. Can’t wait for Light Rail to Northgate!

  20. Still not many bus problems in Kent, at least not as of an hour ago. On my way home things were getting a little worse and snow was actually falling pretty heavy, but every bus that I saw was doing fine. I did see a commuter bus this morning that must have been massively late based on when and where I saw it.

    My family up in Lynnwood: totally different story. My aunt got stuck somewhere, my mom had to drive to Seattle and apparently police were not pleased with how she was driving, and my sister, who has sworn off buses, frantically called me trying to figure out how to get to Shoreline via CT and Metro because there is just too much snow to drive.

  21. CT’s website is down, supposedly because of too many alerts being put out, and high traffic. I just tried to check it out of curiosity.

    1. Heh yeah I’m guessing that’s why my sister called me. “If the website fails and all else fails call Craig he can tell me how to get there.”

  22. Important note. This has been mentioned above but should be reiterated. The website onebusaway.org and mybus.org will not work for any bus with a modified route (about all of them today). There’s a great explanation here.

    1. Given the cost of GPS gear these days how hard/expensive would it be to outfit each bus with a transponder that could give the actual location of the vehicle?

      1. I mentioned it above but here it is again.

        GPS bus location will be coming soon.

        Metro’s Smart Bus program will feature GPS tracking technology according to the contractor. This will allow Metro to display the locations of all coaches accurately on a GIS-based map. The new mobile data terminals that we’ve seen on buses for the past year will be used to their full potential. Smart bus technology will be implemented beginning in late 2009 with automated stop announcements and displays on buses.

        The ORCA readers are also controlled from that terminal.

        [Spam filter didn’t like my links]

    2. I mentioned it above but here it is again.

      GPS bus location will be coming soon.

      Metro’s Smart Bus program will feature GPS tracking technology according to the contractor. This will allow Metro to display the locations of all coaches accurately on a GIS-based map. The new mobile data terminals that we’ve seen on buses for the past year will be used to their full potential. We should be seeing smart bus technology implemented beginning in late 2009 with the automated stop announcements on buses.

      The ORCA readers are also controlled from that terminal.

  23. 3:35 southbound Sounder was packed like a sardine can.

    Hearing both the CT and ST websites are down – probably because of traffic.

    WSDOT Seattle Traffic map has slowed to a near crawl.

    So much for our reliance on rubber tire transit.

    1. ST’s website has been replaced with a temporary page with several routes canceled or rerouted, along with the PM schedule for Sounder.

    2. The 4:20 SB Sounder had very long delays… it didn’t arrive in Tukwila until after 5 pm after sitting for a half hour just north of Boeing field to let a freight train and Amtrak go by. Probably why they just cancelled the last train.

    1. Crikey, 72 to 65th & 15th only 41 to Northgate only. That is going to screw over a bunch of people. You are SOL if you are trying to get to lake city from anywhere but downtown.

      1. You could try transferring to the 372 or 75 at Campus Parkway. They’re both on reroute around campus, but should still stop there.

      2. Yea, just thinking of all the people who get on/off the 41 north of northgate or the 72 north of 65th.

  24. About Bus View, I’m not saying it works well, I’m just saying that if I were going to going to try to catch a bus today, that’s one resource I would use.

    One question I have about Bus View, though, is when a route is on snow route for a certain portion of the route, does Bus View track the bus on the snow route street? In other words, the bus is on a different street when it’s on snow route, so when you go on Bus View, will you actually see the bus on that alternate snow route street, or does the bus icon go blank because it’s “off route,” or does it incorrectly show the bus as being regular route?

    1. [Sam] Yesterday the #2 wasn’t running at all, but Bus View told me it was on time. So it seems like a case where wrong information is worse than no information at all.

  25. No more 164. Glad I came home when I did. That route was fine earlier. James Hill would seem to be the only thing I would have concern with and with the 168 not even on snow route that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Keep it like that and I won’t have to do the show tomorrow WOO!

  26. Coming back from the post office, I saw a charter bus stuck, then a tow truck come to pick it up, and the tow truck slide down the hill too. It was freaky, dozens of people scrambling. I guess an even bigger tow truck is going to have to come now.

  27. I think Metro did a piss poor job of managing their resources. I understand that frequencies can’t be kept up, but between 3:50 and 5:50 today there was only one 36. This is for one of the highest frequency busses during the normal schedule. But there were two 76s and two 3s during that period. I have no expectations of superb service during these conditions, but somebody wasn’t monitoring the damn system.

  28. Metro makes the same mistakes every time it snows. They never learn. One thing I think they should do is redesign their snow routes. Streamline them. Get them off most secondary roads and hills. They often just get stuck there anyway. Another thing I think they should do is have a few of their own sanders. They don’t need to sand, plow, or salt hundreds of miles of roads, like the DOT does, but they should at least identify the areas where buses are most like to get stuck, then target sand those areas with their own sanding vehicles. Also, relax the accident standards for drivers. From what I understand, drivers who slide into a car or post are still penalized by Metro for getting in an accident, even if they just lightly brush against a sign post. Metro’s accident rules are not lessened for severe winter weather. What that has the effect of doing, from what drivers have told me, is to make many of them them stop and park the bus as soon as they can. There is no penalty for parking the bus and stopping service for the day. The driver avoids getting charged with an accident, and he has the incentive of accruing overtime.

    1. One thing I’ve seen in a snowy east coast city: when the snow gets bad enough to seriously disrupt traffic, they’ll add extra buses to ensure there is frequent service along major roads. (Not regular numbered routes, they were just labelled “SNO*BUS”.) I assume the idea is that if your regular bus is late, you can at least get somewhere in the general area of where you’re going.

      1. Where do the extra buses come from? Metro is maxed out in the peaks, and losing many buses to accidents or getting stuck means there are even fewer. This is generally what the routes that Metro ran in the late pm were designed to do – get you in the general direction.

      2. True, not to mention Metro removed almost all of their articulated buses from service even if they weren’t stuck—that’s got to be at least a third of their fleet, and the higher-capacity one at that.

  29. There are good reasons that the general public dislikes taking the bus. Metro, in many cases, contributed to that today. When a driver does something out of the ordinary, passengers get confused or worried that they won’t make it where they’re going. Especially on a day like today, drivers NEED to communicate what is going on to the passengers.

    As I was waiting for the NB 150 in Kent, I expected it to be late. It was 10 minutes late. No big deal.

    Although it’s not posted anywhere, the 150 does have a re-route to avoid the Southcenter hill. When our driver turned onto Strander Blvd. as he was approaching the mall (which is out of the ordinary), I heard many passengers asking each other if the bus was still going to Seattle. Not once did the driver make an announcement about the re-route, even after several people asked him.

    To make matters worse, we sat at the Tukwila Park and Ride for 15 minutes without any indication as to why. Again, a few passengers asked why, but he made no PA announcement. Apparently, he was waiting for his relief. That in itself doesn’t bug me, but the fact that he didn’t simply let us know really bugs me. That and the fact that his relief driver was not waiting for us when we were already 15 minutes late.

    Enough of this rant. I like Metro and most of the drivers, but come on…just let us know what’s going on!

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