I woke up with a lovely start to see snow. It was predicted but the white stuff finally fell this morning.

From Kent up to Seattle, we only had a minor dusting of the evil powder but from Mercer Island into Bellevue, they got 2-6 inches of snow.

Needless to say, I give major kudos to my driver of the 550 who ALMOST made it to Bellevue Transit Center. The last hill defeated her. Conveniently for me though, it was a simply walk across the street to the Expedia building.

How was your commute?

P.S. Those of you that were waiting for a 550 Westbound bus. I’ve only seen 4 buses go West since I boarded my 550 at 6:50am. If they are on reroute, it would be safe to assume that they are stuck and out of commission. The 100+ people at South Bellevue P&R, PTO is your friend.

57 Replies to “Ah, snow.”

  1. The 520 bridge is toast traffic-wise, I went over 90 to BTC because the 545s aren’t showing up.

  2. It started snowing in my neighborhood last night so I was prepared to leave early. Snow was on the street this morning and falling. The 6am 257 was a hybrid artic and ran through just fine. I waited for the next bus which was a regular coach and it never came. So I went down to the Brickyard P&R, half a mile from my house, and caught a late 311 towards Downtown Seattle. It zoomed past all the crawling SOVs on 405 until it tried to merge to 520.

    The ramp to eastbound 520 was blocked by several stalled vehicles behind a stalled tanker trailer truck and it appeared that the road south was pretty bad, too. The driver avoided using the 520 HOV lanes where they weren’t clear. 520 was really slow with several stalled vehicles on the opposite direction. We kept our fingers crossed hoping the articulated bus would make it up the hill before the bridge in the HOV lane. The snow was coming down hard in the Medina area. From there, it was smooth sailing into downtown with little snow.

    Left home at 6:20, caught bus around 6:35, and arrived at work at 7:50 for a travel time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, twice as long as my normal commute.

  3. Again, METRO dropped the ball. I checked their website and only the 5 and 28(i think) were the only buses that had issues. However, they had a METRO spokesperson on KING 5 who said ALL buses where on snow route. Communications, communications! My bus never came probably because it was stuck somewhere…this is because their snow route is nothing and the bus is still forced to go down narrow back roads. I just really hate these snow routes. I don’t know how many regular route are not capable to be snow routes!

    My back-up bus did come, 10 min late which is VERY understandable. But it came, the reason, because there is a adequate snow route they use. Although it’s not a published route it sure gets me downtown. My regular bus, never showed because it doesn’t have a snow route and is forced to go up and down steep roads. I hope this blog really holds it to METRO to get their act together…seriously, bus service should only INCREASE during snow events, not decrease!

    1. “bus service should only INCREASE during snow events, not decrease!”

      This cannot be emphasized enough! At the very least use longer buses! People typically flock to the bus more around here when the snow falls; some delays are expected, but the 66 was either ignoring its timepoints (which might be a sign of a snow route, but the published snow route doesn’t really skip any timepoints, even though it has to double back to serve Northgate TC) or was HALF AN HOUR late! For what was basically a light dusting of snow! A regular bus rider should not be thinking they should brave the elements and drive when the snow comes!

      (I commute from the North U-District to Seattle U. My day: Forget about the 64, because late in Snowpocalypse I tried to catch it twice, and once it just passed by the Ravenna/I-5 stop without stopping, and the other time it didn’t show at all, which is unacceptable. Start waiting for the 79 at Roosevelt/56th around 8:08-8:10… normally, might be a little late for the third 79, but plenty of people are still waiting. After seeing a 67, later wishing I’d caught it, and the aforementioned 66, the 79 finally shows up tailing another 67 significantly after 8:30, late even for the last 79. It’s already after the time my class starts at 9 when I get off at Madison/Marion, and a huge crowd is waiting for the 12. Wondering if the 12 is on snow route, I trudge down to 1st and just manage to catch the 12; no, it’s not on snow route. Show up to class 35 minutes late… for a 50 minute class. Rant over.)

  4. The main issue for Metro (or any transit agency) are drivers that are unfamiliar with driving buses (or any vehicle) for that matter in the snow. While most of the agencies around here do OK with providing somewhat on time service when the weather goes South, it is nearly impossible to add additional services. Metro doesn’t have the manpower or spare equipment to allow any extra service.

  5. I arrived at my stop just as my bus was leaving three minutes early (or 25 minutes late?) and I had to wait another 25 minutes to catch the next bus. Why couldn’t the driver have waited three minutes and operated as the later bus? Anyhow, you might want to do a grammar check there Brian.

    1. I don’t know if drivers know the times for the other trips on their route, and I suspect the people already on the bus would not be happy that they’re being made even later than they already are.

    2. Each bus has a “run card” that designates where and at time to be at certain places. It’s the holly grail. You do everything to make the times, but NEVER be early, so killing time becomes an artform. Only the control center or an onstreet supervisor can change the schedule.
      This all sounds good, but many drivers just ad hoc it when things get screwed up, and the 4 frequencies for 1100 buses get jammed with calls. Then the control center issues a blanket call, saying “only emergency or disabled bus calls from here on out”.
      Bottom line is, you do the best you can.
      (retired Metro driver)

  6. The 66 and 67 were on their snow re-route this morning using Roosevelt between Northgate and 80th rather than 5th.

    Unfortunately this is not an adverse weather route published on the route map and in the schedule.

  7. My commute was bad. Coming to UW out of Greenwood, the 355/48 were no shows as was the 5 express. Caught a 5, then finally walked from Phinney and 46 to the UW Tower. In the hour and a half that I was out, I saw 1 44 headed eastbound, but it was too full to pick people up.

  8. I would love to see more double decker buses, I bet they would not get stuck as often as the articulated ones… ST operates many routes that don’t use the trolley lines.

    1. Justin – you are absolutely correct. The Double Tall operated by CT has the highest stability rating a bus can get. The testing is done in Canada on a long huge frozen flat surface. They drive the bus and get it up to 60 mph and slam on the brakes for one test – and it’s so bottom heavy that the bus comes to a nice stop. Another test is they get it up to 60 mph again and slam on the brakes while executing (geeky word here!!) a sharp turn. They want to see how stable it is vertically – and the thing is a frikken TANK!

      Can you imagine “Riding the Tsunami” on a Sound Transit Double Decker? Brings a little tear to my eyes.

      1. I agree. I’m sure the maintenance and operating costs are significantly lower since you have less bus for the same capacity and fewer moving parts. They also take up less room on the road and at the curb, which would be especially useful on crowded 3rd Ave downtown where there can be 3 or 4 articulated buses on one block at rush hour. I guess the main drawback might be loading time.

      2. Not sure what the axle weight on a fully loaded double-tall is compared to a “normal” bus. Though some of the Hong-Kong double-deckers have two axles in the back.

        I’m sure they probably aren’t as heavy as the Breda’s were. Those things were seriously overweight, but I guess that is what happens when you turn a LRV into a bus.

      3. They use double-deck buses in places like Hong Kong and London, including models similar to the ones CT is buying from Alexander Dennis. I don’t think load/unload time would be a huge issue.

      4. the double-talls in london have loading/unloading down– load/tap in (oh orca card, I long for you) at the front, exit at the back. period. it takes no longer than any other bus stop. stair traffic isnt bad either – people who need to come down are already downstairs and waiting at the door when its ready to stop.

    2. I’d love to see both ST and Metro buy some double-deckers rather than more articulated buses.

      Supposedly they perform like a standard 40′ bus when it is slick out. There are hybrid versions (and I think CNG too). They come in 30′, 35′, 40′, and 45′ versions.

      Trolley wires shouldn’t really be a problem as the double-deckers are only 14′ high and the trolley wires need to be able to clear trucks and construction equipment that is that tall.

      There may be a few non-tunnel routes that can’t use a double-tall due to clearance issues but I doubt there are many.

      1. What’s the maximum speed (i.e. can they comfortably do 60mph) and do they have sufficient power to weight ratio to climb all of the hills?

      2. CT is using double-deckers for Seattle express routes. So I presume they are capable of freeway speed.

        I don’t know about hill climbing ability, but again some of the cities using them (Victoria, Hong Kong) aren’t exactly flat.

      3. The Double decker’s perform better than a standard 40′ and much better than a 45′ (MCI). Sound Transit was surprised that their new MCIs operated by PT weren’t as stable in the snow on the local and in town snowier roads as anticipated, since the MCIs are so heavily made. They are made to be used on routes 45 miles or longer and cost around $200,000 more ($550K) than your standard 40 Gillig ($359 – 415K). A new 60″ New Flyer Artic will run you around $900K – ouch!

        As to load and unload, I found that riding the CT Double-Tall wasn’t really affected much more because they are used on the long haul commuter routes and the riders got smart and would get out of their seats prior to the stops and line up near the doors. It also helped that their were two doors. Unloading at the end at the P-R took just as long as an artic.

        Boy, I really am a Bus Geek Chick, aren’t I?

  9. “Eastside Metro service is being impacted by snow, ice & traffic. Route-specific information is not available. Bus riders are advised to go to bus stops on flat portions of major arterials, or to P&Rs, TCs or other major transfer locations. Expect possible delays. Thank you for your patience.”

    Seek flat ground. “Possible” delays. Quote of the day.

  10. I waited 30 minutes for the 49 headed North on Capitol Hill. Someone walked by me and said the bus was packed, taking on a wheelchair at Mercer. I never saw it pass, even after walking down 10th and across the University bridge. I did see a packed 49 coming up the hill by the onramp to I-5. The driver had a sign that said “SMILE” in the front window.

    I was late to work.

    1. Every time I see one of those smile signs in bus windshields, I notice that the bus driver isn’t smiling, so I’m not quite sure why they put the smile sign up.

    2. Someone walked by me and said the bus was packed, taking on a wheelchair at Mercer.

      That might have been me (although I got on at Seattle Central not Mercer)

      1. and yeah, the driver was struggling with their lift (the lift hydraulics failed, which is why it took so long)

  11. My bus, the 54x (I was off bicycle today due to slippery conditions), showed up about 10 mintues late. The 116 bus didn’t show at all and the 54 was sporadic. The 22 was no where to be seen, even on a snow route. Some people at my stop had been waiting for any bus to show up for over an hour.

    NPR said buses were on snow routes and the #5 and #28 (?) were cancelled. However, they didn’t say that the 54 which the #5 turns into/shares a route was going to be effected. That’s my pet-peeve. Again, West Seattle route was ignored. People had trouble all over West Seattle – main streets were wet/slushy but not icy. Confusion was everywhere and buses were packed like a sardine can. Hope there’s no more snow this evening so I can get home.

  12. mybus was mostly giving the good old “No Info” status for my routes this morning.

    onebusaway gave info which didn’t jive with reality. it said a bus had just departed a half mile up from my stop, but no bus ever appeared (and it’s not a bus that would have been rerouted in that stretch).

    after waiting 10 or so minutes, a bus that was seemingly off route (from both its normal route and its adverse weather route) happened to come by. since it was heading downtown people happily boarded it.

    note: one sign of being a bus geek is when you get all excited at seeing a bus on a street it’s not normally on.

  13. I waited for 40 minutes for a #1, went home, did some work and waited to see if any went by in either direction. 35 minutes more passed and nothing – either direction. Tried to call metro to no avail. (Am I the only one who hates that they just hang up on you and make you call back instead of queuing you up?) I eventually called a cab to get to work because I was so late. Between 6 am and 7:45 I checked the metro website probably 5 or 6 times only to be told that only the #5 and #28 were being effected by snow. When I got to work it had other routes listed. Including the #1 which said in part: “The bus will run its regular route to 10th Av W & W Armour St.” This is well past 5th and Olympic where I was waiting. So where the heck was it?

    Talking to some folks at work – they experienced the same thing – not just late or fewer buses – they saw no buses at all!

    I’m baffled. It’s like metro just decided to not run a bunch of routes until after 8:00 am.

    Which, frankly, I could deal with if only I knew about it! They have got to find a way to communicate with riders better! It’s this kind of BS that makes people not trust – and then not use – transit.

    1. I live on the other side of Queen Anne and had the same problem. No mention on the website of reroutes so I went to my stop to wait. No 3/4’s ever came. I started walking and eventually caught a 16 at 5th & Denny. The driver was really polite and nice. She said that none of the short trolley buses (like those that run on the 3/4) were being allowed to leave the base when she left around 5 am. Yet nothing on Metro’s site mentioned anything. I even checked again when I got to work. I didn’t see any 3 or 4’s at all in my hour plus trip to Pioneer Square. It’s frustrating.

      It’s situations like this (and those in December) that make it very hard to trust Metro. You’d think they could get a better system in place. I don’t need fancy GPS on buses (although it would be nice) I just want reliable information about if my bus is coming. If it’s not that’s okay I can get to where I’m going other ways but nobody wants to wait at a stop for a bus that’s not coming.

  14. This twitter post says it all: “onebusaway: Bad tracking data + unpublished reroutes = don’t trust OBA” (or MyBus or Metro Tracker or your bus schedule…)

  15. Riding the ‘cross bike in the snow is always fun; especially with the road slick on the rear :-)

    Lake Washington School Dist. was 2 hours late, whimps. Northshore was on time. The head of the transportation dept is an ex army Master Sargent. If the roads open the buses roll! If they put him in charge of Metro he’d kick start anybody stuck in stupid ;-)

  16. Here’s my pet peeve: with slightly less service and all kinds of car and bike commuters jumping on the bus it fills up extra quick. I take the 36 at the north end of Beacon Hill to downtown and watched 3 full busses drive by me. There were about 20 people at the stop when I finally gave up, took a 38 to SODO and used the busway to get north.

    I’m sure it’s more difficult then it sounds, but could (non-trolley) busses on routes that frequenty fill even on non-snow days start a few busses halfway down the inbound commute? Otherwise by the time the next bus comes it’s full with new arrivals before it gets to people who had earlier busses pass them.

  17. I waited an hour for bus 26 in Fremont. It never showed. There were plenty of 30s and 31st headed in the opposite direction. All with chains on. Chains on completely bare roads. Oh, don’t worry Metro, the taxpayers will pay to fix the potholes you just created. Awesome.

    1. There might have been a lot of snow at the other end of the route. The drivers aren’t going to stop and take the chains off as soon as they get to bare pavement. Just because it’s clear at your end doesn’t mean the whole route is that way.

  18. One thing I thought was cool was the driver of an 8 am 211 asked that nurses and doctors at the Mercer Isl. P-R be given priority boarding since it’s a main run to Pill Hill.

    1. Whoa! That is not cool at all! And if I witnessed that, I would report it not just to Metro, but to a local news station, as well. It is not a driver’s place to make that kind of request.

      1. I’m going to guess no one’s going to care, since most people would gladly acquiesce to the request.

      2. Wrong. This driver’s supervisor will care. This driver’s “doctors and nurses have priority boarding” announcement is going to come to a stop.

      3. There’s a difference between asking all riders to give doctors and nurses priority boarding and actually “having” priority boarding. It seems like this driver did the former. That’s not as big of a deal in my world.

      4. In December I spent seven days shuttling nurses to and from Swedish in my own 4WD all over the metro area. Asking for other passengers to volunteer their spaces for essential hospital personnel seems like that old lost value, “civic duty.” During snowstorms their are more accidents, falls, breaks, and we need everyone at our medical centers to treat those who get injured.

      5. I’m guessing most evening news viewers would react this way: “You mean doctors and nurses don’t get priority boarding already?”

      6. I’m a nurse at swedish and on the back of our badges we have a “we are essential emergency personnell” blurb. Makes sense to me that you’d want healthcare and utilities and etc folk getting to work before, say, a guy who makes macros for MS Word.

    2. In fact, I am going to report this to Metro. This driver may be doing this every morning, and if he or she is, it has to stop

      1. Safety is Metro’s primary concern during adverse driving conditions… When service must be suspended for safety reasons, Access Transportation vehicles may still be available for emergency services such as trips to critical medical appointments…

        Sort of a no brainer that it would be a good idea to get the doctors and nurses there and not just the patient.

  19. Rather than wait for an undetermined amount of time at my bus stop for a chained-up bus that was never coming, I simply got into my car and drove to work.

    At some point Metro needs to figure out how to deal with adverse weather cause right now they are incompetent.

    1. Personally I think it is mainly a communication problem, as in they have none.

      Metro apparently has only a few channels to talk to drivers and no GPS so there is no automated way to know where each bus is (maybe not even “never left depot”). Without internal information (preferably also accessible to services like MyBus and OneBusAway) they’re really screwed whether or not they’re acting competently.

      Some buses (such as the 30 I got on) were running on route and on time, but without someone standing out at the stop Metro didn’t know that.

    2. At least you’re able to hop in a car. Me & my trusty wheelchair need that 230 to Microsoft (or in my case, I was showing my little brother Seattle Central Community College and UW; see my comments above for the fun that happened)

  20. Hmmm…I got into work faster today on my N Seattle to Issaquah commute. Thank god there is that nice, fast thoroughfare called 99 bypassing the miserable I-5.

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