News Round-Up

Unusual Load
One way to carry clothes to work on the bus. Image by Oran from the STB flickr pool
  • Erica Barnett shared her thoughts on the Sound Transit fare proposals. She outlined some of the positives of getting rid of the ride-free zone, but doesn’t address the negative: buses would get stuck downtown. That’s the reason the ride-free zone (and later the bus tunnel) was created in the first place.
  • If the weather permits, I might try this bus-run commute, too. The tricky bits are planning on where to leave your clothes, and not stinking up the bus when you get on.
  • This Oregon writer adds another datapoint to the snow-salt controversy: old cars can be destroyed by salt on the roads.
  • Obama keeps saying “stimulus” and “roads“, but not “transit”.

Taken For A Ride

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Welcome back! As a primer for two of my classes (transit planning and transportation policy) this quarter we are watching and discussing a PBS documentary “Taken for a Ride” by Jim Klein. The film documents how GM and other automotive industries conspired to kill established streetcar providers. I’m sure there are some half truths in this movie but it is a fact that GM was prosecuted for illegal activities that killed American streetcars.

I was able to find the first 20 minutes of this film on YouTube. If anyone else finds the complete film please share. If not maybe this would be something to watch at an STB meetup?

Snow Post-Mortem

It’s been fashionable recently to call for various snowstorm service improvements that are somewhat expensive. To simply say “there ought to be more service” begs the question of “how?” Should the city or county buy more plows? Use salt? Buy more tow trucks? Would you prefer these kinds of things to, say, a significant number of new bus shelters for use year-round?

Since heavy snow isn’t a common occurrence here in Seattle, we don’t think it’s unreasonable that the city essentially accepts crappy service on the rare occasion when this kind of thing happens. The debate about changes to policy and if we should spend lots of money on plows, etc. will continue, but we’d like to focus now on small improvements that could be made quickly and inexpensively.

Most of these small improvements are, in my opinion, related to operational management and communications. One of the few things worse than your bus being canceled is not knowing about it, and waiting around for hours at the stop in the cold.

After the fold is an initial by-agency brainstorm, including some things that went well.

Continue reading “Snow Post-Mortem”

Lies My Weatherman Told Me

The snow is still on the ground.   Selected Metro routes are running the adverse weather routes, with a few on the dreaded “unpublished reroute.”

Community Transit and Pierce Transit also have service changes.  Nothing on the Sound Transit website at the moment, but you can check the website of the county where your ST bus originates to see its status.  Of these, only the 522 and 582 are affected at the moment.

As ever, give yourself plenty of time to get there, don’t wait for a bus on a hillside, etc, etc.

Judging from a quick check of the 42 and 48, it would appear that now can handle the printed adverse weather route, but not the unpublished ones.  It may be best to just see where your bus actually is, which you can do at (which will require you to download a Java plug-in).  Also make sure to enable pop-ups for that site. [UPDATE: Two commenters have pointed out that busview data is not GPS data and suffers from the same accuracy problems.]

Less than 6 months till light rail.  Consider this your snow day open thread.

Phoenix Light Rail

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

A friend — who runs the NYC-based Bridge and Tunnel Club site — was in Phoenix for the opening of the new Valley Metro Light Rail and sends along these pictures:

Northbound train, interior:


Central Avenue and Camelback Station:


19th Avenue and Montebello Station:



It seems like they had a very crowded opening day. Apparently several Sound Transit staffers went down there to gain insight in advance of LINK’s opening in just a few months.

Sunday Night Snow Thread

Some commenters are picking up snow-related bus chaos tonight.  It’s supposed to melt overnight, but share your discoveries here.

We have unconfirmed reports of unpublished reroutes, canceled routes, and all the other silliness, but not a peep out of the Metro website as of 8:48 pm.  Does no one working on Sunday evening have the password?

UPDATE 8:56pm: According to this link, Metro will make the call for Monday morning service at 10pm tonight.

UPDATE 10:29pm: As of 9:51 tonight, the adverse weather page is being updated and has a prominent link on the front page.  Please refresh your browser if you are not seeing it.

If the Monday plan was finalized at 10pm as previously suggested, it hasn’t been posted on the Metro site or RPIN at the moment.

UPDATE 10:37pm: “Seattle911” blogger Casey McNerthney is all over this developing story.  The Monday morning Keystone-Port Townsend ferries are canceled, and salt is being used on selected Seattle streets.

No word from Community Transit or Sound Transit.   All Pierce Transit routes are on snow detour at the moment.

UPDATE 10:51pm: I’m turning in, with no word on the plan for Monday.  Unless one of the other bloggers keeps it going, check back here a little after 5:30am.


Image from Flickr contributor a href=
Image from Flickr contributor Redjar

All this talk about fare structures has sparked some yearning for turnstiles.  I refer you to my post on the topic last summer.

The only thing I might add is that although it’s true that LINK has surface stations, there are fairly high walls at every point except the on-ramps at the ends and (of course) the tracks themselves.  While those obstacles aren’t insurmountable, they aren’t any easier to negotiate than simply jumping the turnstile.  In any case, you’d have to have security, so the surface station issue isn’t really relevant.

You couldn’t have turnstiles in the DSTT when shared with buses, of course, but it’d be easy enough to assume anyone exiting without an entry swipe is coming from there and assess the maximum fare.

All that said, despite my East Coast biases I’m not terribly energized on this issue and am happy to see how the honor system works out here.

Where’s My Sales Tax Increase?

2257452464_fe2abc0a09I was perversely disappointed yesterday when I searched around, and looked at my receipts from the day, and discovered that the Sound Transit 2 sales tax increase of 0.5% had yet to take place (pdf). All the ST2 documents before the election had indicated that we’d see a sales tax increase on January 1 — but not so!

I put in a call to Sound Transit, and the sales tax increase has been delayed until April, after the ST2 implementation plan is approved by the Sound Transit board. Apparently there have also been some technical delays in setting up the mechanism to collect the tax with the Department of Revenue.

Either way, Seattle residents like me get a three month reprieve from a 9.5% sales tax. Even if it is worth it.

ST Considers Distance-Based Light Rail Fares

2923755386_f0db8f19f1Sound Transit is considering distance-based fares for the Link light rail system that is expected to begin service this summer. Under this plan, users would pay a base fare to ride the system, with an additional fee per mile on the train. Proposed fares are:

  • A $2.00 base fare with an additional 5-cent per mile charge, if the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel were free for light rail riders.
  • A cheaper $1.75 base fare with the same  5-cent per mile charge, with the fare also being levied in the Transit Tunnel.

Riders with the upcoming Orca smart card would tap the card to a reader both when entering and leaving a train. Those without cards could purchase tickets at the station, with ticket vending machine that will apparently lets the rider choose his destination. Security on board the train could verify your ticket/Orca purchase, and citations and fines would be given to those who boarded the train without paying. There would be no turnstiles and most riders would be operating under the honor system.

According to an ST press release, the maximum fare would be either $2.50 or $2.75 for the entire route between Westlake Center in Downtown Seattle to Seatac Airport. (Due to planned bus fare increases, Metro route 194 — the airport bus — will cost $2.75 during peak hours by January 2010.)

Continue reading “ST Considers Distance-Based Light Rail Fares”