New Flyer D60HF Drivers Area, by Atomic Taco
"New Flyer D60HF Driver's Area", by Atomic Taco

[Note: An earlier version of this post was online for the first few minutes, and the first two comments refer to the earlier version.]

It’s being widely reported that the first part of the long-awaited Metro audit report is out.  The slideshow is here.

The main finding is that the use of scheduling software could avoid deadhead runs, shorten layovers, and thus save between $12m and $19m a year.  The Triplett plan envisions about $90m in service suspensions over four years, so in the long run it could cover a large part of the gap.  Unfortunately, it is likely to take as much as three years to realize the full savings from this exercise, and so will not substantially reduce the need for immediate cuts.

Importantly, the County auditor claims this does not violate the labor agreement.  Metro layover times are about 29% of the round trip time, compared with a national average of 21%, which presumably results in somewhat higher route reliability than otherwise.

On top of that, an additional $3.75m a year could be saved by using scheduling software Metro already owns, rather than using manual methods for bus and operator assignment.

There are some other findings that are somewhat less likely to be implemented:

  • When trolley buses are to be replaced in 2014, do so with diesel hybrids, saving $8.7m a year in life-cycle costs.
  • Raise senior, disabled, and youth fares to be in line with peer agencies.  Peg them to a fixed percentage of full fare so that they grow in line with it.  The details in the slideshow are lacking, but $51m a year suggests that they’re looking at about $1.00 in increases plus some policy changes, like reducing discounts and abolishing the off-peak fare.

There was also a rehash of the $105m one-time fleet replacement surplus.  The final installment of the audit report, to include more details on the Auditor’s fare proposal, is due September 15, with the County Executive’s proposed budget hitting the street on September 28.  The Council is likely to act in November.

Thanks are due to Larry Phillips for requesting this audit in the first place last year.  Metro riders will benefit from his initiative.

128 Replies to “Metro Audit Results”

      1. I was being sarcastic, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a “maybe” thing since it saves money in a non-priority service area.

        And there’s not enough time to organize folks in the city against this consideration. You know, telling Slog and other outlets to get a protest going against this possible decision, telling Metro that Seattle will be a solid “no” vote against any future increases in taxation should they become possible.

    1. How is that great news? It’s horrible news for Seattle citizens and will probably violate air pollution standards. If Seattle really wanted to be a leader in reducing green house gas emissions we would be advocating for more trolley buses, not fewer.

      1. They don’t run ETB’s on Saturdays, and use diesels for express buses. If you ever see a bus going around 5mph up the Counterbalance, it’s probably a packed 2X diesel.

      2. I remember reading that the 60ft Bredas (and the MAN 60ft ETBs before they were retired) are sidelined on weekends due to higher maintenence costs per mile than diesel and they have enough diesel busses to replace them on weekends. Weekday service could not be dispatched without ETBs – not enough diesels.

        The rest of the ETB network used to be 7 days a week unless contruction along routes required reroutes. If those routes are diesel every weekend – I do not know why. The overhead system is maintained mostly during regular business hours (and service) for all but major work.

        Weekend diesels drove me crazy in the 80s and 90s when I drove route 7 and 43 expecting trolleys. I can only imagine living next to trolley wire and having to listen to diesels!

      3. Every time I’ve checked that link it’s been blank. Is it being updated every Friday? What about weekdays when I see diesels running trolley routes? I’ve visited that link before – I’m not sure it’s reliable.

    2. There must be a shortage of trolleybus manufacturers.

      Trolleybuses are cheaper to operate (with Seattle’s cheap electricity), and even including the wires, cheaper to maintain than diesel buses, even diesel-battery serial hybrids.

      This means that the only possible reason for trolleybuses “costing more” over the lifecycle is a shortage of trolleybus manufacturers, causing the prices to go up.

      Seattle should triple the size of the trolleybus network and convince dozens of other cities to install them, thus enlarging the size of the trolleybus market and causing more manufacturers to bid. :-)

      1. Nathanial,

        This means that the only possible reason for trolleybuses “costing more” over the lifecycle is a shortage of trolleybus manufacturers, causing the prices to go up.

        No, the reason that trolleys cost more to run is that you not only have to factor the cost of the equipment that’s driven in – but the cost of thousands of miles of overhead wiring to feed them power.

        It’s the maintenance of the overhead wiring that drives up the cost of running ETB’s.

  1. Would it really make sense to eliminate transfers? Are there other well operated systems that don’t use transfers? That doesn’t really sound like a good idea.

    1. Many systems throughout the country charge for transfers.

      Austin, TX does not issue transfers at all. Their base fare, however is only $0.75 and they have deeply discounted passes.

      C-Tran went “no transfer” in the past couple of years. The public was not thrilled, and as revenues went back up, transfers were once again issued.

    2. The sooner we get rid of paper transfers, the better. They are hard to read, people keep them on file, or splice them together, or give them away (even though they are supposed to be non-transferable) ORCA’s transfer system is more logical since it is based on what you actually paid for your fare and has a set time limit. It’s also much more difficult to game the system and there’s none of that transfer confetti for the driver’s compartment – a definite plus in my book.

      Getting rid of transfers completely? That works too although it gets more complicated since you have to do the math and figure out what an appropriate fare is. Some people will be winners others will get the shaft. In the end, it’ll just change the percentage of people that buy passes vs. pay cash.

      1. Giving away transfers is a great idea, and I happily engage in his practice regularly after seeing a picture of a streetcar stop during the Great Depression – the fence behind it was full of paper transfers, because people knew that helping each other save what little money they did have was good for the community. I also give away my Seattle parking window stickers to people approaching the pay station when I have money left.

        Sure, transfers are technically non-transferable (haha), but as much as I like transit, Metro’s still The Man and my fellow citizens are more important to me!

      2. stealing from the government is never a good idea. Please don’t encourage dishonesty and cheating. All of us should pay our fair share.

      3. The transfers we have are a little different.
        We have these 45-zone sheets. And depending on how many zones you ride, you tell the driver to stamp off that many zones.
        The stamp has a time and date that’s used as transfer, so it wouldn’t be a good idea sharing that with your fellow citizens.
        However, allot of people here do share parking cards when there’s time left.

      4. Hate to tell you this, but cost-wise “the Man” is YOU, me, and all other taxpayers.

        Folks who qualify for reduced fare etc. – fine. Simply ripping off your fellow fare-paying passengers, probably not so cool.

    3. I can’t find anywhere in the info provided that mentions transfers. Does anyone have any additional information about this?

    4. When you think about it, transfers aren’t really going away. They just take the shape of a little card that people need to carry around with them. This is why a person needs to get an ORCA card.

  2. How are diesels cheaper than electric trolleys? Maintenance must be dirt cheap on the buses themselves (simple electric motor vs. complex diesel, for one). Then add in the cost of the diesel itself (especially at 2014 – or worse, 2034 fuel prices).

    1. Maintenance on the buses really isn’t all that cheap – they’re far more complex than you describe. The electric motor and associated controls are fairly complex in and of themselves (though less so than diesels), however there are the pickups, poles, and other components (hydraulics, etc.) that the ETB’s have in common with the diesels. The largest cost I believe is maintenance and repair on the overhead wiring.

    2. The majority of broken down coaches I deal with on the road in my district are the Bredas, even though they make up a small percentage of buses on the road as a whole. I loved driving trolleys when I was an operator, but I can see how moving toward a hybrid coach would save money.

      1. “The majority of broken down coaches I deal with on the road in my district are the Bredas”

        Well that’s the problem right there! The frankenbus Bredas. I would like to see a cost comparison between a hybrid bus and a modern trolley bus, like the Hess Swisstrolley or the Solaris Trollino, instead of a comparison between what we are currently running and new hybrids.

      2. The 49 would never be able to make the turns downtown or at Bellevue and Pine or at 15th and 45th in the U-district if it were running a double artic. The 7 would struggle at it’s north downtown turnaround at the minimum, and wouldn’t be able to use most of the turnbacks along Rainier.

      3. That double artic in the video was making a much tighter turn than I thought such a thing was capable of. I wouldn’t be surprised if the turning radius on that monster was similar to the frankenbredas.

      4. The double-, and single-, articulateds made by Hess have rear-wheel steering like the old MAN trolleys that Metro used to run. I’ve seen the double-articulateds go around some pretty tight corners in Zurich, as tight as anything we have here. I didn’t take any video when I was there, but this video on YouTube is a good example.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BcL7yoqAzU

        Not that we’ll ever have buses like that here, but it’s fun to dream…

      5. I wish the Bredas could still run as diesel. You could listen for the bus and then walk to the stop when you heard it coming half a mile away – talk about real-time arrival information!

      6. The D60HF New Flyers are almost as good for giving advance notice of their arrival. The new hybrid artics are unfortunately a bit too quiet for that.

      7. I agree, the frankenbredas aren’t a fair comparison of the maintenance costs of ETBs vs. hybrids. A much fairer comparison would be the Gillig trolleys vs. the Gillig diesels.

        Even if Metro’s ETB fleet was entirely Bredas, when diesel gets expensive enough they still will be cheaper to run than diesel or hybrid buses.

      8. Not surprising that Breda trolleys are the most broken-down buses. They’re the oldest in the entire fleet by several years! Replace them with new trolley buses! To do otherwise would be criminal in this crazy age of global warming.

      9. I like how Metro tried to justify buying the lemon Breda buses in 1990 by keeping them around to replace the MAN trolleys – only to have them constantly fail on them on the electric lines.

        If they refurbished the MAN trolleys, they would’ve had a much more reliable fleet.

      10. It’s odd that the Breda trolleys break down so often, given the electric propulsion on the Gilligs are from the old AMG trolleys from the late 70s…

      11. The power plant (motor) on the Bredas isn’t the problem, it’s the poor electrical, mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic engineering throughout the rest of the coach that breaks them down.

  3. I’d like to know where the $8.7 Million/yr. difference between the ETB fleet and a hybrid fleet comes from? Does this include fuel costs? Are the “savings” enough to offset the risk of further fuel price increases?

    1. My guess is that it’s in the maintenance of the overhead lines. Also when they did the study of the new hybrids I think they may have been a little overly optimistic in the cost reporting; like assuming that the maintenance is going to remain relatively constant over the service life of the bus. They had operation and maintenance costs down to about a dollar a mile. You’d think federal incentives would be greater for an ETB than a hybrid but the way lobbing works that might not be the case.

      1. Substituting diesel for relatively clean electricity may indeed allow for some cost savings. However, these savings will come primarily from local skilled labor (line crews). That money stays in the local economy while a good portion of the price of diesel gets shipped out of the area. Diesel hybrids, in this instance, are a form of outsourcing.

        Add to that increased emissions, noise, hill climbing performance, and I wonder if these numbers *really* add up. Before they seriously consider replacing trolleys with Diesel Hybrids, I would like to see how well 40 and 60 foot prototypes manage after being subjected to runs going up and down Queen Anne and Capitol hill all day, 7 days a week…

        Don’t get me wrong, I love our Hybrids. They are my favorite bus to drive. But are they the right bus for our Seattle hills? (And local skilled jobs)

      2. Supposedly they did that on the Counterbalance once with a GMC Diesel vs. a 30 year old beat up Twin Coach trolley in 1970, the Trolley won. The speed on the diesel as measured in single digits.

      3. I don’t believe Metro should keep a particular bus type so it can support high wage labor. It needs to reduce cost and labor is a very large one. Metro mission is to provide transportation not be a high wage job creator.

      4. [rob] I don’t think that was [Velo]’s point. If we’re going to spend a dollar, I think he (and I) would like that dollar to stay here (in the pocket of a skilled worker and to our hydroelectric plants) than be sent abroad (to pay for diesel, which generally comes from the middle east). Even if diesel is a little bit cheaper (which I sincerely doubt, when all factors are considered), a dollar spent here is much cheaper thanks to the multiplying effect of keeping dollars local.

        Looking at just one step of that dollar and only looking at the tax side of that step, the maintenance worker is taxed on it when he earns it which goes to our federal government who sends some back toward transit. Then he spends some of it on his property taxes which finds its way back to Metro. Some of the rest is spent on taxable goods and services, some of the tax going back into transit.

        I’m sorry if I’m belaboring the point, but often these studies think of all dollars as equals, which they aren’t.

      5. I believe Seattle City Light is pretty close to tapped out on it’s hydro. The region as a whole is which is why we’ve got a big ass coal fired plant in Centrailia. As far as oil I think we still get a large percentage of the NW supply from Alaska. The US main trading partner for oil is Venezuela. On the whole though it doesn’t matter that much because it’s a world wide distribution system. If we have excess hydro electric capacity we sell it to California (and buy it from them in the winter). Alaska will have no trouble finding a trading partner for oil and no matter where the tankers come from the refining and distribution creates jobs locally (not exactly what you’d call “green jobs”).

        I would like to see more of an accounting for the ETB system vs hybrids. For example is the building and maintenance of fueling facilities included in their cost. For the overhead perhaps SDOT can take it over. The funding can be a negotiating point between the city and Metro over the RFA. The wires really are part of the road system and electric vehicles go a long way toward mandated emissions reductions. I’d also like to see Metro look hard at some of the new super capacitor technology. I know it’s being applied to light rail; don’t know about buses. I think range free of wires has gotten up around 2 miles with recharge times less than five minutes.

        Expand and open up the wires to commercial use. Enforce a zero emission or PZEV zone during peak hours. Maybe it’s just a decade too soon for this but I’d sure like to see some direct comparisons. I’m also wondering why Metro hasn’t looked at CNG when other counties have started to move that way.

      6. The coal plant in Centrailia has been around for a while (1950’s?), most of the new capacity build regionally in the past 15 years or so has been either gas fired combined-cycle turbine plants or wind farms. Gas combined-cycle plants are about as good as it gets for fossil fuel in terms of efficiency and pollution. Wind is of course clean and renewable.

        I’m not sure why Pierce Transit went for CNG in a big way while both CT and Metro have so far resisted switching to CNG buses. It would seem combining hybrid buses with CNG would be a huge win in terms of fuel costs and pollution.

      7. Metro almost went with LNG until I think Gary Locke as county executive decided to go with clean diesel instead to lower capital costs.

        I am certain that Seattle Fire would object to buses bringing CNG or LNG into the Downtown Transit Tunnel.

        The hybrid fleet was acquired primarily to replace the Breda fleet for DSTT use.

      8. It would seem the solution should be to have New Flyer make some E60LF coaches. Ideally using the BRT model bodies similar to the ones Metro bought for Rapid Ride.

  4. Would love to see a bullet-point analysis of why buses sometimes run empty. I’m all for better efficiencies and less dead-heading, but why do some people not understand that a) just because that bus is empty now doesn’t mean it was 10 minutes ago, b) sometimes buses need to get where the people are – and there aren’t always people on the way there to pick up because they don’t want to go there at that time of day.

    Here’s hoping that the armchair quarterbacking of those with little insight into the basic realities of commuter transportation – or who are just plain too lazy not to think through their “easy” solutions – doesn’t overwhelm the real solutions proposed in the audit or the underlying reasons for some (apparent) cost inefficiencies.

    1. How many times have you dumped a whole bunch of people off at a Park & Ride and then pick somebody up at your next stop who says, “man, your bus sure is empty”. Happens to me on the 222 quite a bit.

      There may be more efficiencies in combining trips from multiple bases. I think Metro already does this (at East & Bellevue for sure – Downtown? North? South?) I think the pretty little graphic ignores the reality though that most people during the rush hours are heading in one direction.

      Another possibility – more storage trippers. Leave buses from Bellevue & East at Central/Atlantic during the day. Heck, I’m just going to drive that bus back downtown in the afternoon. Probably not much of a cost savings here since you have to pay the drivers for travel time. But again, local wages vs. cost of diesel which is exported from our area.

      Even more efficiencies could be possible if ALL routes in the Sound Transit area were under ONE transit agency. I’d bet the planners could have all kinds of fun mixing and matching trips on CT, PT, Metro, ST, and possibly ET.

      1. Not sure I’d want to see what a pick would look like under an omnibus agency.

        Storage trippers are a good idea to increase efficiencies. I don’t think that travel time tends to amount to much more than what is usually given on some of the downtown variable trippers/road reliefs. You’ll see a lot more of that at Atlantic.

        Welcome to trolley land, VB. More reason than ever to keep picking Atlantic, as the trolleys may not be around much longer.

      2. Metro did shifts some routes around to different bases to save deadheading. 342, used to deadhead from Bell Base to Shoreline P&R, then back from Renton to Bellevue. The 167 used to Deadhead from Central Base downtown, to Renton. Run the trip to the U. District then deadhead back to Central. So last summer I believe, some 342’s and some 167’s went to North Base. Some stayed at Central and Bellevue Base. So for example now, AM rush hour…..Coach leaves North base to Shorline P&R (short deadhead), 342 to Renton, 167 from Renton to the UW. Then a fairly short deadhead back to North Base. Sucks for us drivers, because I love deadheads, but saves hours and fuel. But, you can do this completely. Some areas just need very frequent service in one direction, and not in the other. Plus deadheading can be much faster than running the trip on the way back.

  5. I hope Seattle doesn’t get rid of ETB’s. Once they are gone we won’t get them back in our lifetime.

    I bet the savings are short-term savings and not real savings in the long run. A properly maintained ETB has a greater service life than a diesel, and it should have substantially lower acquistion and maintenance costs than a diesel hybrid which has both diesel and electric components. We haven’t even had the experience of a full lifecycle of a hybrid bus so the service life and maintenance costs aren’t even known.

    If it is about cost-shifting (the feds pay the capital cost of more expensive buses but not the maintenance cost of the wire) then let’s get Patty Murray and others to help to change the federal policies so they don’t artificially subsidize abandonment of a zero-emissions capital infrastructure.

    1. OK, so others are saying the savings are illusory, and are due to assuming that all trolleybuses are as bad as the Breda’s currently in use. When in fact most trolleybuses are substantially more efficient and lower maintenance. :-/

      1. Buses yes, wires no.

        You do realize that ETB’s rely on a network of thousands of miles of overhead wiring and a dozen or so power relay stations, right?

  6. Would their be any savings from eliminating stops on urban routes when closely spaced? For example, the 49, which stops every other block on Broadway. This would potentially increase travel time and free up more bus hours. It would certainly help customer satisfaction in my view, as I’ve never understood Metro’s reliance on more stops (issue of equitable access) over faster routes (and reliability).

    1. Metro has been eliminating stops like you describe. The area I’m most noticed it is University Way, but my mom says it has also happened in Bellevue (and she’s not happy about it). Maybe they will do it in the next Broadway renovation.

  7. Lemmee see…

    ETB’s run on “free” locally produced hydro-electric power,

    versus…

    Petroleum that comes from nice people like “Our Eternal Friends™” the Saudis, Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin and Sarah Plain.

    Yes, I see, lets sap and impurify all of our precious capital by sending it overseas!!!

  8. I’ve heard that some routes are 9 1/2 to 10 hours long, and the total break or recovery time on those routes can be from 2 to 3 hours. That’s just outrageous! So on a 10 hour route, with a driver making about $28/hr, those last two hours of OT will be paid at $42/hr. Plus, he’s getting paid for his 2 to 3 hours of break time!

    Do away with those kinds of routes with too much break time combined with too much overtime. It’s paying a premium for being out of service.

      1. Top pay for Metro drivers is $27.64/hour.

        I didn’t say there are routes with recovery times of 2 to 3 hours. I said there were routes with TOTAL recovery times of 2-3 hours. In other words, if you added up all the recovery time on some 8 to 10 hour runs, the total amount of recovery time would add up to 2 to 3 hours.

      2. How much total recovery time does Sunday’s route 545/01R have? Somebody said they have the ability to look up that kind of information online.

      3. How much total recovery time does Sunday’s route 545/01R have?

        545/01R (Sunday) – 14 minutes (Bear Creek P&R) – 36 minutes (at Atlantic Base) – 13 minutes (Bear Creek) – 36 minutes (Atlantic Base) – 16 minutes (Bear Creek) – 16 minutes (Atlantic Base) – 15 minutes (Bear Creek) – 48 minutes (Atlantic Base)

        Total shift time: 10hrs 16 minutes

        Total recovery time: 2 hrs, 48 minutes

      4. Sam,

        The hastus run sheets I saw – granted years ago – indeed had this type of pattern on multiple routes systemwide.

        On weekends, I recall Routes 570 (up to 55 minutes of layover at one end) and Route 140 both having excessive layover.

        Again, it should be noted that data are from years ago, so this may no longer be accurate.

        In general, look which picks the senior operators are doing – in my experience, they know exactly where the less driving intensive routes are.

      5. Hmm – there is no route 570 (now anyway). The 140 goes between Renton and Seatac.

        In my experience – senior operators don’t work weekends at all – they tend to qualify for (and take) weekends off.

        Not saying it doesn’t happen, but if it does I’d like to know where, and am guessing that it’s both rare and there’s some actual reason for it. Such as it’s cheaper to lay a bus over for a longer period than turn it around to run empty due to low demand or deadhead it back to run in an incoming/outgoing direction; or long distances involving potentially heavy traffic travel times. The 3 570-level routes currently running are the 574 (Tacoma/Lakewood to Seatac) and the 577 (Federal Way to Seattle) and the 578 (Puyallup to Seattle). The longer the run, the longer the recovery time/scheduled layover tends to be largely account for frequent traffic tie-ups so that the bus isn’t always running late at the turnaround. In other words if traffic is copacetic and all other things run well, then yeah, the driver gets a longer break. On other days they may get no break at all but they get to stay on time for the subsequent leg of their run.

      6. My apologies. The route was the 560. The layover point in West Seattle was used by the former 570 (which was folded into Route 560).

        A route’s trip sheets – which is an output of HASTUS – clearly shows which routes have more layover than others. Ask for a copy of the sheets from the schedulers to see for yourself.

        In many cases, there are very good warrants for lots of layover. In others, there aren’t.

      7. I can actually get the run cards online via the ATU web site – so I’ll definitely check and get back to you on that.

        In what cases (specific routes, please) are there no good ‘warrants for lots of layover’?

        Sorry to be a pest, but this is the kind of claim that the public – much less familiar with transit complexities than some of us – tends to latch on to, and frankly tends to sound a bit to me like urban legend.

        As to the 560 – I accept your challenge.

        Thanks to ATU, all run cards and pick sheets are online.

        The longest 560 run is the 560/10R (I went through them all by the way), running on Sunday only and clocking in at 10 hours and 39 minutes. The layover/recovery periods on that run occur as follows:

        19 minutes + 35 minutes + 19minutes + 50minutes for a total of 123 minutes. That means that if everything runs precisely on time – no traffic delays, no passenger slowdowns, construction, etc. – that the driver gets a maximum of 2 hours and 3 minutes break during a full shift lasting over 10 and a half hours. That *just* qualifies for your claim of “2-3 hours”, although that’s for 38 minutes more of on-duty time than the 10 hours you mentioned.

        So while something *close* to what you describe does appear to exist – how eggregious and unreasonable is it? It’s:

        -Only one day a week on this one route, one run, one driver;

        -Not guaranteed (subject to delays in arrival times at the layover spot)

        -Comparable to many jobs that offer paid lunch + 2 15 minute breaks, plus assorted potty and smoke breaks, etc.

        -Doesn’t all occur at once (you said that drivers

        -May actually be the most efficient way of keeping the bus on a particular schedule (what else is the driver to do during that time if the return trip is needed/scheduled for a particular time)?

        I’m sure that there’s plenty of room for tweaking, but I get concerned a bit at alarmist claims that thousands of hours are being “wasted” paying drivers – who have to be in uniform, with their vehicle, transporting people on a schedule, etc. – for “down time” that is a necessary component of providing in the field transportation services to the public. If there’s a lot of waste in the transit system – it isn’t here. Try middle management.

      8. Not to mention the route is hourly on weekends. I would believe that this would affect recovery time also.

      9. Jeff,

        Thank you for going and looking this up.

        Specific routes that have warrants for less layover?

        I’m going to have to pull some schedules and give you some examples. (I do not have access to the run cards like you do).

      10. Here’s your route. (Thanks Oran)

        Route 70

        37/38 minute one-way run time with over 20 minutes of layover. In each direction during a.m. and midday.

        Specifically, on 070/02VT CMBO 210-1 (Atlantic Base), the operator between 6:07 a.m. and 11:28 a.m. has 101 minutes of recovery/layover and that operator is “in service” for 320 minutes. 31 percent of time is spent on recover/layover. I hope my math is right.

        It would appear that Route 70 during certain times can be operated with less layover and one less bus. Even with bridge lifts.

      11. 2Tall,

        Let’s take a closer look at that run card data:

        The total shift time (not counting the 10 minute sign-in/inspection time) is 5 hours and 26 minutes – or 326 minutes.

        The 070/02 VT (CMBO210-1) has the following layovers/recovery times:

        6:43-6:51 am – 8 minutes (at Brooklyn/NE 50th St.)

        7:28-7:53 am – 25 minutes (3rd S. and S. Main)

        8:30-8:51 am – 21 minutes (Brooklyn and NE 50th St.)

        9:29-9:53 am – 24 minutes (3rd S. and S. Main)

        10:28-10:51 am – 23 minutes (Brooklyn and NE 50th St.)

        Total cumulative recovery time: 101 minutes

        So yes – your math is pretty spot on.

        Now – this is a WEEKDAY run.

        Guess what happens during weekdays? Traffic. That means that this recovery time is dang near always used for – wait for it – RECOVERY.

        I challenge you to actually RIDE that run, and you’ll see how much time is actually spent “in-service”. On some morings if not most, I guarantee you that driver gets maybe half that time, if at all.

        So given that you’ve pulled this rush-hour weekday example – how would YOU make it more “efficient” (assuming that having the bus parked for more than 30 seconds is in your view somehow “inefficient”?

        You’ve got the run – card – show us what YOUR schedule would look like. Would you cut the recovery time at either Harvard or Main in half? More?

        Do tell.

      12. Riding the bus is not the way to look at the real running time. It’s a one-time snapshot which isn’t representative. Looking at the on-time data on multiple trips is representative.

        Here’s what I would do:

        Pull the OTP data and look what the 95th percentile running time is. Next, I would look to see how the real running time relates to the scheduled runnig time and determine what the “real” recovery time is.

        Next, I would see if it were possible to reduce recovery time by 15 minutes (Route 70 has mostly 15-minute headways, and thus you’d need to reduce recovery by a minimum of 15 minutes to pull a bus out of the schedule and maintain existing service levels).

        If you can’t reduce recovery by 15 minutes and have maintain some recovery time, then you wouldn’t do it.

        Where you put the layover is not so important – it’s a short route. It could be 5 minutes on one end and 20 on the other, or 10 and 15 on either end. The key being is that you’d put a minimum of 5 at one end.

        Let me be clear that recovery/layover is necessary for schedule reliability and operator health/comfort. The key question is how much layover/recovery is necessary. 30 pecent of time spent in recovery/layover is unquestionably high.

        I strongly suspect that the real running time data would show that you can reduce recovery time by a total of 15 minutes and pull a bus out of Route 70 schedule during weekday morning/middays. This still leaves an operator with over 25 minutes of recovery time every round trip, which is not unreasonable.

      13. By the way – the real way to save money by paying out less overtime (and the full-timers will probably find me, kill my family and burn my house down for even suggesting this) is amending the contract to permit part-timers to work evenings and weekends.

        As I wish to go full-time myself as soon as it becomes possible, I can see why full-timers want to keep this provision as it does protect a certain amount of overtime for full-timers. On the other hand – there are a lot of part-timers scrounging for every hour of extra work, and currently evenings and weekends are closed to us. When they could be paying a part-timer straight time, they’re instead paying more senior operators twice as much to work overtime.

        Ultimately I’m for keeping that system the way it is, as the County would doubtless make the entire workforce part-time if they could. However, I’m just saying – a lot of overtime could be reduce that way.

        Please don’t burn down my house, full-timers.

      14. It doesn’t seem like they should allow overtime at all when there are part-timers available to fill in. It’s not fair to the part-timers, and definitely not fair to the taxpayer! A friend of mine is a deputy in Pierce County and he makes more on overtime than his normal wages, yet the department claims they don’t have the budget to hire more cops!

      15. I saw a presentation one time where Tri-Met offered part-timers three eight hour shifts instead of peak hour work. The conditions:

        1) There was one shift at night during the week and a Saturday and Sunday shift.
        2) The weekend work was split-shift
        3) Part-timers working this option has a guarantee 24 hour work week.

        The union went for it because it gave more full time drivers weekends off and provided more flexibility for the part-time work force (sometimes Monday through Friday between 3 and 7 is not good). Management went for it because they could schedule split shifts on weekends and schedule service more efficiently.

        Perhaps the union and Metro could try this on a trial basis at one base with five drivers. That would be the minimum since one night run would need five part-timers for Monday-Friday.

      16. There are other costs associated with having employees on the books. Training, uniform allowance, health insurance, facilities, etc… Paying overtime, even on a regular basis, sometimes will be less expensive than hiring a new employee and figuring out how to get them into the schedule so you don’t have to pay the 2 or 3 hours in overtime. This is especially true for weekend runs and the remainder of a 4/40 work schedule where you are only paying OT for 1 or 2 days a week.

        The Machinists at Boeing were still complaining about getting TOO MUCH overtime as part of their 2008 contract. Boeing shoves all that OT down the Machinists throats because they have determined it is less expensive than hiring new employees. In many cases, I’m sure Metro management and planners have come to the same conclusion.

      17. VB,

        Two issues being confused here. My point is that as a part-timer scrounding for more than the 3.5 hours a day of regular work that I have, I – an EXISTING employee – am not permitted to work evenings or weekends. Someone calls in sick on a piece that runs after 8pm? I can’t work it. Someone has an RDO that doesn’t include weekends? I can’t work their Saturday or Sunday piece. Under the current contract, the County HAS to pay full-timers overtime – even though there are a hell of a lot of part-timers out there willing to do the same work for straight-time.

        Again – hoping nobody burns down my house for pointing this out.

      18. But isn’t the issue that if “part-timers” get more than 20 hours a week then Metro is required to provide full time benefits? That’s why it’s cheaper to pay over time.

      19. Bernie,

        No. A part-time driver has to work an AVERAGE of 20 hours per week or more over 6 months to qualify for fully paid medical for the driver only. Benefits for full-timers include paid (or partially paid) medical, dental, and vision coverage not only for the driver but for dependent family members.

        I do not believe that it is cheaper to pay overtime than paying straight time, particularly when you add up the numbers. Remember, overtime for a driver at top scale (takes about 5 years or less depending) is 41.25 per hour. That means 10 hours of overtime costs the county $412.50 (more really if you factor in the corresponding increase in pension benefits as well). The same amount in straight time if paid to a junior part-timer would be $192.50 – a difference of 220.00 for every 10 hours of overtime.

        I believe that the contractual restriction against part-timers working eventings and weekends is specifically included in the union’s contract language to protect overtime for full-timers, and has nothing to do with cost savings to the county. Again – risking having my house burned down by full-timers-of-which-I-hope-to-be-one, I believe that a genuine cost analysis would show a substantial savings if some of that overtime were paid as straight time to willing part-timers.

    1. One more point on this issue of down time as a measure of “waste” in transit – some folks seem to be insisting on a level of efficiency (using this measure) that doesn’t exist in private transportation either. When I worked for Grayline, it wasn’t unusual to spend 2 hours out of 8 actually driving – the rest of the time was spent waiting at the Port of Seattle holding are near SeaTac waiting to be dispatched to run passengers into town, or waiting for passengers to get ready to board, etc.

      When I worked for the company that provides shuttle service to Amazon.com, I usually spent 5 minutes driving, 10 waiting, 5 minutes driving, 10 waiting, etc.

      Mile for mile, I think Metro drivers are giving the taxpayers more than their moneys worth, especially once you toss in the assaults, spitting, bodily fluids, and all that fun fun fun traffic.

  9. The only “break” we are guaranteed is 5 minutes between trips so we can use the restroom. It’s a safety issue (do you really want your bus driver concentrating on where his next comfort stop will be?) If you get rid of our “breaks” you’re really just eating into system reliability.

    I used to get a really nice “break” on my current tripper… That is, until the school kids came back and their parents clogged up the roads around Tyee middle school with their cars (Doesn’t anybody walk, ride their bike, or take the school bus to school any more?). Now I’m lucky to get 5 minutes to ready my bus for the next trip and empty my bladder for the next hour and a half. Sounds like the schedulers have my tripper dialed in pretty good. (Fine by me, I’m a taxpayer too you know…)

    1. VB,

      On the contrary – you aren’t guaranteed even that 5 minute break.

      And yeah, trolley trippers tend to be pretty tight. Try driving the 10/12 on game night when it takes 45 minutes to go 6 blocks on 5th avenue. You can forget your potty break at either Interlaken or Volunteer Park.

      1. You guys have my respect. I have to go every 45 mins or so at work. Ever consider the “motorman’s friend” or “stadium pal”? I got one for fishing on the ocean because I don’t like going in front of my fishing buddies. Too much info I’m sure, but these tools rule!

      2. Drivers get fired for urinating anywhere but a proper restroom – it’s happened on a number of occasions when someone has been observed peeing into a pop bottle or other “tool” such as you suggest.

        In other words – it ain’t allowed.

  10. so Seattle has all these Hybrid busses … but they do not run in electric mode on the city streets … so what’s the point? sure they are useful in the DSTT … when they aren’t running on diesel anyway … but I have never seen one in electric mode on the surface.

    1. They’re not the Bredas – they don’t have an “electric mode.” They have a “hush mode.”

      Allison, New Flyer, and Metro developed hush mode to minimize emissions and noise in the DSST. It operates as follows. Some distance from the end of the tunnel the system is put into a pre-charge mode if it is necessary to bring the batteries up to a certain level of charge. Some engine power is diverted into battery charging if pre-charge is necessary. At the end of the tunnel, the driver selects hush mode on the shift selector. An “H” shows up. This reduces engine horsepower. When the bus speed drops to 15 mph, engine fuel is cut off. With important accessories (power steering, air compressor, and alternator) driven by the engine, however, the engine must still be rotated to operate them. The diesel engine is rotated, or motored, by the electric motors in the hybrid drive unit. When the diesel is motored, it still makes some noise because engine compression has not been released. When the bus stops at a station and the doors are opened, the diesel is not motored and everything stops. When the doors are closed, motoring begins and continues until the bus reaches 15 mph. The engine is then fueled and operated at reduced power. This sequence happens at every station. At the end of the tunnel, the bus changes out of hush mode automatically.

      On city streets, the advantages of the hybrids over pure diesel buses are improved fuel economy and greater torque for climbing hills.

      1. … and better acceleration up to about 30mph, reduced wear and tear on the brakes as well as the diesel engine. They have their issues, since they are creatures of advanced technology. I sometimes have to “reboot” the bus which is always fun to do with a group of Microsoft employees on board. (Can’t resist making some crack about the bus running Windows.) That said, they are a pleasure to drive. I hope the mechanics are having equally good luck with them.

    2. Calling hush mode electric mode on the hybrids that Metro operates is a misnomer. The diesel only shuts off when the doors are open. The diesel must operate when the vehicle is moving to operate power steering, charge the air system (which runs brakes, suspension and doors), and provides a boost to the electric propulsion. Engine throttle and speed are reduced to lower emmissions and noise over regular (non hush mode) operation.

      1. The diesel engine isn’t running under its own power during hush mode when the speed is under 15mph. Under 15mph the diesel engine is being turned by the electric motors in order to operate the auxiliary equipment attached to the engine. It is only when the bus exceeds 15mph that fuel is supplied to the diesel and it starts running.

      2. Do they employ some sort of compression release? I would hope so or else the electric motors would be working overtime to overcome the engine compression.

        I also really curious why they paid to have the hush mode deactivated and then reinstalled for the couple of years the tunnel was closed. If seems hush mode be a good thing even if the buses are running on the surface streets downtown? What’s the big drawback?

      3. From the text I quoted above: “Some distance from the end of the tunnel the system is put into a pre-charge mode if it is necessary to bring the batteries up to a certain level of charge.” The reason it’s not used on the street is because it drains the batteries. They have enough juice to run the length of the tunnel, then the bus switches back to normal operation.

      4. In hush mode, the coach is much quieter. Maybe not when idling, but when the coach takes of in Hush mode, its much quieter. The name “Huah” wasn’t just givien because of the the noise level, it stand for “Hybrid Ultralow Sound & Hydrocarbons”

    3. You don’t really want to use HUSH mode on streets because they only run at about 90 horsepower. Not much throttle response. In the tunnel, after you leave one station, you don’t want to take your foot off the gas until the next stastion or you could lose alot of momentum. Wouldn’t be great driving them in city traffic.

  11. Instead of ditching trolley buses because of higher maintenance costs, maybe we should be looking at the bigger picture: why are the maintenance costs so high in the first place? Vancouver, our close friends to the north, seem to maintain their trolley buses just fine. European cities are expanding their trolley bus networks because they work and they like them. Why is Seattle so quick to blame the trolley wires when cities all over the world are expanding their networks?

    I hope Seattle doesn’t end up making the mistake of ditching the ETB system – it would be insanely stupid in the long run. I imagine we’d look back 40 or 50 years from now on that decision like we do now on ripping out the interurban and the failure of Forward Thrust.

    1. Barman,

      Maintenance costs are high because the buses need maintenance like any other – plus the cost of maintaining the overhead. Trolleys basically drive two roads – one under the tires and one over the poles. It’s the road over the poles that costs the big dollars to maintain.

      1. I believe that. But other cities, including Vancouver, find the cost/benefit difference worth it. I think that saving some money now will not be with it in the long run.

      2. And a more extensive ETB system would bring economies of scale at least to some extent, no? In the urban “core” the system should be much more extensive (8, 11, 48 south of 65th, and 27 just for starters).

      3. I’d add the 5, 15, 16, 17, 18, 26, 28 as well. Most of the Ballard routes were at one time streetcars and were converted to ETBs.

      4. I believe that there was a proposal for both route 11 and 27 to be converted to ETB’s. That was at the time when the Rte 70 was created (converted?). However, both of those routes saw heavy neighborhood opposition due to the wires.

        The Route 8 conversion has always appeared to me like a no-brainer. The hill on Denny always makes me wonder if the diesel will make it. Additionally, with part of it’s route already under existing wires, the additional work may not be as extensive as a straight new-build condition.

      5. On the other hand electricity is cheaper than diesel. Furthermore since Seattle City Light relies almost entirely on hydro power there are no emissions of any sort from ETBs. What is that worth in carbon credits alone? Not to mention the local improvement in air quality.

        I wonder how much the feeling ETBs are too expensive is colored by the artic ETBs being some of the oldest coaches in the fleet for well over a decade. The MAN ETBs were very long in the tooth when they were finally replaced, the Bredas were never reliable in the first place and were 15 years old when they replaced the MAN coaches.

        Furthermore the routes the ETBs are on I imagine would be quite hard on any coach.

  12. The Gillig ETBs haven’t been the center of any controversy, but they essentially have 30 year old engines in new shells. That alone should direct a little more of the maintenance costs towards the already-expensive-to-maintain Breda buses a larger portion of the budget for trolley repair.

  13. as a larger* ^

    My last line was a bit of a given – but with my lack of proofreading, I forgot to make a point with my post –

    they shouldn’t base the excessive costs of trolley maintenance based on information on vehicles with a long track record of failure. Did Metro magically think that removing the diesel engines would suddenly make all the Breda series’ problems go away?

    I have seen my share of Gillig failures. But for every Gillig wire failure I’ve seen, I’ve seen plenty of more Breda issues. The other night I was walking past the 44 layover by the UW Medical Center and noticed that the Breda parked there was having issues getting power from the wires, as the bus destination signs/interior lights were flickering and the bus was not moving. As I walked by, another 44 Breda approached the layover area. The driver walked over to check the poles as the other driver stepped out and tried to help him. I don’t know how the issue was resolved, but the bus was almost ten minutes past its scheduled time when I boarded another bus.

    1. I think that the entire motivation behind putting the Breda’s into trolley-only service was pretty much a face-saving measure, an alternative to scrapping the entire fleet.

      As a driver I really hate driving the damn things. Their electrical systems are downright haunted (I’ve had doors open and close for no reason and other issues), the suspension makes it ride like a troop transport, the controls are even less ergonomic than the Gilligs, etc.

      If all Bredas were driven into the Sound to make a new artificial reef tomorrow I would break out my fishing pole.

      1. I fail to understand why any transit agency would buy anything from Breda at this point. It seems like every US contract they’ve had has been a disaster: the frankenbuses here, the LRVs in SF and Boston (which has to sting after the grief the Boeing LRVs caused both agencies), problems with various metro cars and refurbs, etc.

      2. You should read about all the problems Denmark is having with the new trains they ordered from Breda. When Breda brought the prototype to the testing facility it was still in parts and it took the engineers something like 3 months to put it together. The engineers at the Danish State Railways have said that each train looks like it was hand-built because no two are alike.

        http://tinyurl.com/lhjooz

  14. This is where we learn whether McGinn has any thoughts about transit. He could add saving the ETBs to his “ditch the tunnel” running point and quite possibly win the election on the ETB issue.

    That is, if he knows enough about any of this to get up to speed and connect the dots.

    Here we have a lot of big issues- AGW, peak oil, air pollution, sound pollution- and a short-sighted bureaucracy thinking that if we ignore all of these issues, the diesels somehow become “cheaper” and we save money. It would not only be easy, but right, for McGinn to run against the bureaucracy on this point.

    And incidentally, they calculate cost-per-mile for the hybrids at a dollar? The IRS allows 50 cents/mile for a car used in business, and the car is maybe 1/15 the weight of the bus. Thatsa some economy of scale! Frankly, I’m smelling the pungent aroma of slightly over-cooked books in this report.

    McGinn should come out of the Sierra Club closet, say he’s concerned about the problems of the next 30 years, and promise to save the ETBs as one of the solutions for those problems.

    And if he doesn’t know he should do this, someone should tell him.

  15. I used to ride the 71 during the Breda era throughout most of my childhood and teenhood.

    There is one question I have—One flaw of the Bredas back in the day (as I remember) was sometimes, when they departed a DSTT station, they would unexpectedly stall and the bus was forced to continue on diesel mode throughout the DSTT. What exactly was the cause of this problem? Do the hybrids have similar issues in Hush mode?

    I can also never forget the thunderously loud roar the Bredas on route 150 produced when they exited the IDS staging area, very classic!

  16. I’ve noticed that there’s always this one 255 bus that runs in diesel mode in the tunnel – its this one specific purple hybrid bus that has this problem. I’ve never really bothered to remember the fleet number, though.

    1. If it’s the same 255 everyday, than it might just be a driver thing. The same coach usually isn’t put on the same piece of work everyday. All the hybrid I drive through the tunnel never have problems with Hush Mode, so I think its probably just a Operater Error, not using it. Is it always the same driver?

      1. So if the driver can disable Hush Mode I’m even more confused as to why Metro paid to have it disabled (then enabled) for the two years the tunnel was closed. They couldn’t just tell drivers to not use it?

        Eats batteries? Deep discharge does kill batteries and if tunnel operations are indeed eating batteries I don’t think that cost has been fairly factored into Metro’s analysis.

        Even something as lame as GM’s “mild hybrid” technology which shuts of the fossil fuel engine while stopped would seem to be a winner for surface operations. Not if you bought it just for that but if you own it already because it was needed for the tunnel then why not?

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