The Prop. 1 package has suffered its first casualty as a result of the recession.  Thanks to lower sales tax collections, and a three-month delay in implementing the tax in the first place, there will not be 100,000 new service hours in 2009; instead, there will be 24,000 this year with the rest phased in by February 2011.  If you prefer to phrase it another way, there will be 48,000 additional service hours after the tax has been in effect for one year.

On May 26, the Sound Transit board  chose this staff option over an alternative that took until September 2011.  The difference in the slower plan was that ST would have delayed a September 2009 service increase.  A massive February 2010 service change occurred in either plan, but follow-on improvements would have slid back about 6 months.

A clear yet exhaustive comparison of the current plan and the rejected one is here (pdf).  An even more detailed staff report (pdf) is available as well.  The deferred plan was estimated to save about $10m.

UPDATE (2 Jun): The various Sound Transit 2 plan documents are careful to say “Express Bus improvements beginning in 2009.”  (emphasis mine).  The YES statement, in the King County Voter’s Pamphlet, suggests “100,000 hours of additional service in 2009.”  It may very well be that completion in 2009 was never feasible and it’s simply an error by the authors of the YES statement.


ST also released its quarterly ridership report (pdf) last week.  Ridership rose in spite of the economy.  Although that’s partially due to increased service, bus boardings per revenue hour increased.  Although ridership is up, the productivity metrics for Sounder actually deteriorated because of sparsely utilized reverse-peak trips.  These cost virtually nothing to provide, because the train has to get back to Tacoma to do another run anyway.

I’m not really sure why ST doesn’t also track productivity per operating hour as well as revenue hour, since that would correct these kind of metric-related problems.

13 Replies to “Sound Transit: Slower Bus Rollout, More Riders”

  1. Unless I’m mistaken, I think productivity per operating hour wouldn’t have been any different.

    I believe only two of the trains return to Tacoma for a second run in the morning – the two used for reverse trips. I don’t think any trains have been running a non-revenue return, they were just started to add more peak-direction service.

    1. If you add a revenue hour for a reverse trip, and no one rides it, that reduces the average number of riders per revenue hour.

      1. It also raises the “cost per passenger”, when in fact, the costs per passenger in the non-reverse trip may have not changed.

      2. They have indeed changed – in order to serve that new trip, we need to return a train to the other end of the line. That’s a cost!

      3. You know I understand that…

        It’s this that I’m responding to: “I’m not really sure why ST doesn’t also track productivity per operating hour as well as revenue hour, since that would correct these kind of metric-related problems.”

        I’m pointing out that productivity per operating hour and productivity per revenue hour are nearly identical. I don’t think this would be a significant difference.

      4. Ben,

        The point is that the train is going back to Tacoma anyway, so it’s an operating hour whether or not there are passengers. When you count only revenue hours, the metrics tell you that having a reverse-peak trip is bad; when you count operating hours, it becomes clear that allowing passengers on the reverse-peak trip makes sense.

  2. What about Metro’s September changes? This thread says they were likely to reinstate an anemic 42, leave the 39 on minimal life support, re-add the VA hospital red carpet, and not improve the 9, but I never saw anything on the final decision.

    1. We reported they were “about to pass” those changes. They passed them.

      1. Which is really annoying. A handful of whiny transit users held the entire SE service plan hostage so they could have door-to-door service.

        The service plan really should have had much better service on the 39 and the Rainer Valley/West Seattle route. Metro’s routes that connect destinations without going through downtown tend to have pretty good ridership.

      2. I always wondered why the 42 existed. Who would take a diesel bus running every half hour when there was a trolley bus ten blocks away running more frequently. Especially when MLK didn’t have much there until the last few years. Well, now we know.

        Although I must say, I did feel for the woman in Rainier View who bought her house in the 1950s and lives at the end of the 42 line. She made a commitment to the Valley even though it wasn’t the most prestigious place to live during the intervening years, and has been a long-term bus rider. Hopefully the 107 will be good to her.

      3. 10 blocks is a long way. Plus, the 7 is the about the slowest ride you can imagine.

  3. Roughly right now, the first SEA-TAC reverse avg. 120-150 passengers a day and the second SEA-TAC is roughly 60-100 passengers a day. The afternoon reverse trains are nearly the 200 passenger a day range. The schedule for reverse doesn’t really fit most people’s commuting habits and there is virtually no traffic for reverse commuters which also explains why driving is the more popular and faster option.

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