Photo by Oran
Photo by Oran

I was tempted to write a detailed takedown of Philip Lucas’s absurd and condescending Route 7 travelogue (on the front page!) of the Times, but haven’t had a spare moment at work.  And anyway, I’ve resolved to stop whining about the Times’s project to seek out each and every Rainier Valley resident who isn’t riding light rail.

Thankfully, Erica C. Barnett at Publicola has written the definitive rebuke.

The only thing I’d add to Ms. Barnett’s list of reasons people still ride the bus is that Link can be hard to figure out.  If you’re not the kind of person that relishes figuring out complexity, especially if you don’t have strong English skills, sticking with what you do have figured out has very strong appeal.

On a related note, I’ll be interested to see how ridership changes when Metro becomes as expensive or more expensive than Link, which will happen for working-age adults starting in January.

33 Replies to “Erica Barnett on the 7”

  1. how is LINK complicated? it runs north and it runs south. We’re not talking NYC Subway, Paris Metro or London Tube here.

    1. The fares are more complicated, and there’s a whole new way to pay.

      And of course, the transfer policies are hopeless.

    2. I think the point is that if you struggle to read/speak English, any change to a commute can be complicated. More than once I’ve found myself working hard to explain to people on the train that Link will not get them to Tacoma.

    3. I heard people talking about how you can ride the “monorail” from SODO to Downtown “for free.” Also, I heard someone say that they wanted a light rail ticket but it would only give tickets for “the Sound Transit.” So it’s not complicated once you use it a few times, but the first couple times (not just on Link but on any system around the world) it can be a little complicated.

  2. Hurray for that point-for-point rebuttal. It’s bothersome to me that people believe link would replace transit in the Rainier Valley. Most in the Valley who use public transit are not commuters. I never expected to see those near or east of Rainier to catch light rail.

    Sorry that Metro and ST officials failed to factor that into their projections.

    1. pds,

      I think you missed the point. The Times was trying to show that there is no rail bias, while Barnett was showing that people had reasons for taking the 7 besides the relative quality of the ride.

      I don’t know what you’re talking about with respect to “projections.” There’s a reason Metro took away exactly zero trips on the 7 — they recognized how many local trips it serves.

      And ST is pretty much on track with their projections, although it’s early.

      1. I spent several hours talking with both Metro and Sound Transit planners about Rainier Valley service. Their answer to everything was The Magic Light Rail. They came to community meetings in the area not to listen to community members, but to coax people into believing that rail was the answer.

        And remember that they did initially plan to cut trips on the 7. And they ARE cutting the 7X.

        From Metro’s website:

        7 Local – No change to service. Revised stop spacing project in summer 2009, with first phase to be implemented in September 2009.

        7 Express – Reduce weekday morning trips from nine to five trips; reduce afternoon trips from eight to five trips; schedule in coordination with Route 34 Express.

        So they are both getting rid of a bunch of stops AND cutting express trips, almost in half.

        I’m not sure why it’s difficult for people to believe that transit officials were saying these things. But they did. And they were wrong. It’s not that I am thrilled about being right; it’s more that service is being made more difficult in the community that most relies on it.

        /soapbox

      2. Shouldn’t getting rid of stops improve service? I realize some people will need to walk farther to catch the bus, but once they’re on it it will go faster if it doesn’t stop as often.

      3. Between the 7 and 7E there are around 120 trips each way per day, is getting rid of 8 of them going to be a big deal?

        Most people who ride the #7 supported removing some stops to make the trip quicker and more reliable.

      4. I was on the Metro sounding board for those changes, and the assertion that Metro ever planned to cut trips on Route 7 is simply not true.

        Route 7X is a different story, as it should be.

    1. I wouldn’t completely agree with you on that. I think it’s more of a hybrid. And at least Central Link is very much a local line, serving Rainier Valley and the closest suburbs to the south. As it expands, it will be a regional and a local system, serving people in the city with relatively close-together stops, and people in the suburbs with far-apart stops.

  3. Not all of Barnett’s points really qualify as rebuttals. For example, her response to the Times’ point that there are many languages spoken on the 7 is a smug “well, duh!” kind of response. Did she ever consider that most of the Times readership does not travel the 7–and in fact many probably rarely use public transit in Seattle–and may not be aware of the atmosphere in many South Seattle bus routes?

    That said, I think she makes a valid point that what may be “colorful” antics to the occasional rider or reporter looking for memorable details can be irritating or draining to the regular passenger.

  4. Good lord, between both articles and all the comments…I’m a little breathless! I live east of Rainier by about a mile and I can walk to either the Mount Baker station or Columbia City station in 15 minutes.

    Mind you, just a few years ago I was overweight and got little exercize except walking the dogs. With the light rail construction going on everyday from 2004-2009, I started running, biking and walking more. I would walk uphill to the 14 a couple times a week instead of flat ground to the 39.

    I just turned 50 and am 60 pounds lighter (185) and love the exercize I get walking to those stations. I’m not saying that everyone can do this, there are many people here on the blog that this isn’t possible, but for many people in Seattle, it IS possible.

    And if walking or biking to a station isn’t my cup of tea that day, I can take the 7, 14 (soon) or 39. I am also a tall, white, blond man that has not had one issue with anyone of any race near any of the bus stops or light rail stations. Seattle is a very safe city, but I am also not stupid and am aware of my surroundings. I walk Rainier and MLK all the time (day and night) and am never bothered. People need to stop being afraid, but in the same respect, when they are in areas they’re worried about, simply be aware and don’t go alone.

    1. congrats on your weight loss! Shows that you don’t have to “work out” to have a healthy lifestyle.

  5. Oh how I would give anything for Everett Transit route 9 (the busiest, slowest and smelliest in Everett) to be replaced by light rail (not gonna happen in my lifetime).

    Those idiots on the 7 should be grateful they have such a luxurious alternative.

    1. Just because someone prefers a different mode of transportation thay you does not make them idiots. I prefer the bus. What ever happened to being nice.

      1. He was an anti light rail troll who used to frequent the misc.tranportation.urban_transit USENET newsgroup (not sure I got the name of the group exactly right).

        He was always going off on light rail making it easier for criminals, drug users and (his words) “Title 9 scum” to get around and invade (GASP!) YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!

        I think he may have been Kemper Freeman posting under a pseudonymn.

      2. “Title 9 scum”

        You mean women who play college sports? I hate it when they ride light rail to my neighborhood…

      3. “Section 8 scum…” He was/is something.

        I was always under the impression he lived down Algona or Pacific way.

      4. Ooops! You’re right..It was “Section 8”! I knew it was something with a number in it at least!

      5. The group was called misc.transport.urban and misc.transport.urban-transit he also used to post in seattle.general, seattle.politics, pdx.general, etc.

        I think the term was “Section 8 scum”.

        In any case he’s a Usenet legend and several time kook of the month award winner.

        Here’s the FAQ that explains more than you ever wanted to know about “L00T!” rail and Big Don.

  6. This is a good example of how you’re going to lose those electric trolley buses. Metro will start talking about using hybrids to “adjust” the route of the 7. Everyone will say oh yes, that’s a good idea, it will make it easier for people to ride light rail, and hey presto! down comes the wire and it’s as much work to get it back again as to build a streetcar.

    Picture the 7 with clean low-floor modern buses making only half as many stops, at purpose-designed platforms. From the many comments it seems obvious that Metro is deliberately letting this equipment degrade, just the way the railroads got out of the passenger business. The electric lines should be jewels of the Metro fleet, not the orphans.

    The Rainier Line should follow the old interurban course out Rainier providing very necessary transit to the eastern half of the community. The service provided should rival the LINK in timeliness and cleanliness. With the wire already hung (and all the electric supporting structure that implies) there is no excuse for letting this route degrade.

      1. No, there isn’t. The buses are nearly silent, which is good for riders and the neighborhoods by the bus lines. They have better acceleration and can climb steeper hills than diesels. They don’t emit poisonous exhaust, and they can run on PNW hydropower when the rest of us are waiting in half-mile long gas lines to get a rationed dollop.

        Still, there might be one excuse- that the residents of Seattle simply don’t place any value on clean air and keeping the noise down.

        However, as near as I can see, the Rainier and MLK neighborhoods have had little enough from the city of Seattle during the past 50 years. I would be very skeptical of any claim that the residents of the Rainier valley actually wanted noisier and smellier buses.

        This is a transit system that quite literally buys buses by the hundreds. They’ve said they expect the existing ETBs to wear out in the next five years but they’re not buying any replacements. How much handwriting do you need on this wall?

      2. I missed the fight to savew the ETBs in the late 1970s – was living in Mass at the time when the T was also pulling down wires. What was the “fight” here like then?

      3. Actually, I believe this went down in the 60s. The city bus authority decided diesels had become strong enough to handle most of our hills. The wire was old, and they decided to take down the wire and convert the ETBs to diesel routes. To do this they had to change some of the routes to use less steep hills.

        The people living on the routes were angry, and the people who would have new diesel bus routes running past them were angry. Seattle’s professional engineers did a study and found the ETBs were cheaper and quicker than the diesels, even on the steeper routes. The agency still refused to save the ETB routes.

        So an initiative was taken to the people and passed, forcing the agency to rebuild the electric lines and maintain the service. You see, your very old Seattleites can remember when venal politics ruled Seattle, and good things only happened when citizens made them happen.

        I don’t believe ‘venal politics’ play any role in the current threat to the ETBs. I’ll be posting shortly at Orphan Road about the organizational and social dynamics that do threaten the ETBs today.

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