Sportswriter Joe Posnanski, a national treasure, does some deep thinking:

How long do you think the Yellow Brick Road was on the ballot before the people Of Oz and Munchkin Land actually voted for it? And, even more to the point, WHY did they vote for it? How in the world did THAT bond get passed? One, that road had to be ridiculously expensive to build. Yellow brick all the way from Oz to Munchkin Land? That’s really wasteful.

Second, was there even a need for this road? I would have to assume to that the Oz Anti-Tax groups opposed it. And those groups were right. Think about it: does Dorothy pass a single person the entire way to Oz? Even one? No. Not one person on a bicycle. From what I can tell, not one person commutes from Munchkin Land to Oz. Dorothy is passing scarecrows and rusted tin men and talking lions. But not another soul. There is absolutely no need for that road. And it certainly did not have to be made of yellow brick.

Third, what about loss of life in the road’s construction? The human cost. The feeling seems to be that about that about 20,000 people died building the Transcontinental Railroad. And that wasn’t opposed by two fairly violent witches, crazed monkeys and guards under a wicked spell. Plus the railroad had to wind through woods with lions, tigers, bears (oh my) and very angry trees who throw apples about as hard as Brian Bannister.

All in all, I think the Yellow Brick Road is the most wasteful and pointless public works projects ever.

156 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Boondoggles”

  1. “two fairly violent witches, crazed monkeys and guards under a wicked spell”

    that alone would deter regular commuter traffic … never mind the lions, tigers, bears, and angry trees

  2. I do not know if I missed its being posted here …

    but how is the Swift BRT line doing? is it meeting/exceeding/missing its targets?

    1. I don’t think you have missed anything. I haven’t seen/hear anything from CT. I think they are a bit preoccupied with their service cuts right now.

      1. I repost this from the Everett Herald:

        The Highway 99 corridor currently averages 4,500 riders a day, according to the agency. It’s estimated that in the first year, total ridership on the corridor, including Swift and other buses, will increase 25 percent, by 1,125 riders to 5,625.

        Within five years, ridership is projected to rise 57 percent above today’s numbers.

        Of course, those targets are probably now off because of the recession, Sunday service suspensions, service decreases on the 101 local, etc.

      2. That’s what I was thinking of, thanks! Only thing is they never gave any projections for Swift by itself.

        I ride the entire Swift route to work in Everett and at least in the mornings and evenings, ridership seems to be up dramatically.

      3. And, just out of curiosity, how would you characterize your rider experience? Are you loving it? Wish there were more/fewer stops? Has it saved you significant commute time? Is it a better on-bus experience?

      4. I love it. It hasn’t saved me any commute time, since I actually switched to it from my car, but that in and of itself just shows you how much I like it. Since I switched, I’ve started riding other CT routes, and it’s definitely better service:

        – It needs a couple more stops (the others they have planned will fill in nicely), but the ones that are there seem to nail the key spots along 99 well. Between the spacing and the stations (which beat the SLU streetcar’s hands-down), that aspect is the most rail-like.

        – Off-board payment just works. I’ve seen a number of people unfamiliar with it, but most seem to have it down. Wait time at the station does vary a little by driver, but I’d say the 10-second dwell is about right, even at busy stops.

        – Times seem to have stabilized at 45-47 minutes end-to-end. It seems to me there was more variance early on, but I’ve been able to plan on the times fairly well now.

        – Drivers are doing a pretty good job of getting in and out of the stations. They pull in fairly quickly, tight to the curb, and are pretty dang good at lining the doors up with the black platform sections (which, by the way, are just one of those nice service touches that really set it apart).

        – I hope whoever designed the bike racks was able to patent them, they are ingenious. I’ve read CT designed them in-house?

        – The worst part is the announcements. The speakers are terrible when combined with the driver recordings unless you get it just right. So automated announcements and station monitors next year will take it up a notch.

        All in all, it’s no Link. But it’s by far a lot closer to that level of experiene/service than any other bus I’ve been. As a previously non-bus/transit person, I’m really impressed.

      5. I completely agree. It is a really refreshing to see such high quality bus service.

      6. Thanks for filing such a detailed report, Nathan. It may not be Link, but then that corridor doesn’t really need Link, does it? I think the key things are that off-board payment is working, dwell times are reduced as advertised, and end-to-end trip times are reliable and stable. Those elements—along with reduced trip times compared to the service it replaced—are what will help the line continue to capture choice riders such as yourself. Hope you’re spreading the gospel to your neighbors and coworkers. Thanks again for the info, I really hadn’t heard anything since opening weekend and was getting curious.

      7. I’m telling anyone who will listen. And the “I have a car but like Swift better” is pretty powerful.

        Ben, Mike, Oran: Any pointers on the best way to get answers from CT? I’d like to get an official word on the status of the 99 TSP…

    2. As with Link, could we please wait for 2-3 years before maniacally focusing on the minutia of ridership?

      1. I was just curious because they promoted the heck out of this line’s start and then I haven’t heard anything since.

      2. I think there’s really only one thing we’re looking for – do cities along Swift change their zoning around stations?

      3. Ben’s right. The land use is horrible and transit ridership will not be exceptional until that changes.

      4. Lynnwoood appears to be planning for mixed-use development along Hwy 99, focusing on the areas around the Swift stations. It seems like the corner at 196th has the highest potential, but in order to make TOD work there, they should really move the NB station from 200th to 196th. I don’t know about the other cities.

      5. There’s a corner lot immediately behind the 196th SB station that needs to be developed stat!

  3. I posed a couple of questions in the Mercer Is. thread below, but would like some feedback on the topic of “Forced Transfers”
    When is a forced transfer from one vehicle to another make good public policy?
    Never mind for the moment who is running which vehicles (bus or rail).
    It seems to me there has to be a tangible benefit to both the riding public and the supporting tax paying public to convert bus trips into rail trips.
    For the rider it could be a faster, or more reliable trip experience.
    For the public it could be a more efficient overall public transport system, meaning LESS rider subsidy.
    If neither of these conditions exist, then WHY do it?
    This subject seems acutely important at this time. East Link is undergoing final design consideration, and North Link will be starting construction soon.
    South Bellevue P/R, S. Boeing Access Rd.(station defferred) and Northgate TC are all about 7 miles from Seattle CBD, and will all have a direct Link connection to Seattle’s CBD.

    1. I think as most things the responsible answer is it depends. A good example of a route that should be significantly changed would be something like the 41. On the flip side I think routes like the 43 and 49 probably shouldn’t be changed that much.Well designed systems will have bus and rail lines that complement each other.

      Also there is a difference between “forcing” transfers and building a system based on transfers. For example, on the Eastside Metro routes can be reoriented into more a of grid/ubiquitous network rather than a radial structure oriented around Seattle and to a lesser degree Bellevue CBD. A grid/ubiquitous network structure is built on transfer for the high demand corridors (Bellevue-Seattle where frequency is high) but at the same time would increase the number of one seat rides possible between destination on the Eastside that you would currently have to transfer. So it is a balancing act. The big question is do you add value to the transit system by making people transfer for routes that they previously had a one seat ride for.

      I would recommend reading these three posts. (there is a 3rd hidden picture. Got the RSS feed to see it)

      1. The 43 would do a much better job of complimenting light rail if it stopped running on 23rd AVE entirely, and and the 49 would do a much better job if it terminated at the Capitol Hill station, rather than Downtown. Many times, shortening a route, and thereby increasing bus frequency does a better job of complimenting light rail than keeping the route the same.

      2. I think we might have a different view of what they do. For me the 49 and 43 are more important as a connection for north and east capitol hill to the UW, not so much downtown. That is what the 10,11,12,14 do.

      3. Talk of the 41 and North Link made me curious …

        Sound Transit claims typical travels times from Northgate to downtown by bus are typically 26 minutes, and by rail it will be only 13 minutes (which I doubt will be true. I’ve run the numbers, and I calculate North Link travel times will be closer to 18 minutes).

        But a quick check of the Metro Transit’s route 41 weekday morning schedule, during the height of morning rush hour at 8:31 AM says that it take only 17 minutes to go from Northgate Transit Center to University Street Station.

        But I would agree the contrast between “13” minutes and 17 minutes isn’t as dramatic as 26.

        The 41 will eventually be eliminated. Some pablum mentioning “duplication of service” will be given for the reason of its elimination, but that won’t be the true reason for its elimination. We all know that.

      4. That’s interesting, the 41 is never scheduled to take as long as 26 minutes (for the record, that number is from the bottom of the North Link project page. Maybe they’re accounting for future traffic delays on I-5? However, the 41 is scheduled to take up to 25 minutes from Northgate to downtown during times of day when it doesn’t have the express lanes, so ‘typical’ travel times will still be more than 17 minutes.

        Also, I don’t see why the 13-minute-to-downtown number is unreasonable. If the trains are going at their top speed of 55 mph and stop for a minute each at Brooklyn and Roosevelt stations, they could easily make the 4-mile route from Husky Stadium to Northgate in seven minutes. Assuming that ST’s estimate of six minutes from Husky Stadium to downtown is correct, that’s 13 minutes total from downtown to Northgate.

      5. Here’s my proof and here’s the link.

        “Typical travel times to/from Downtown Seattle are expected to be:

        Northgate Station Bus: 26 min Rail: 13 min”

        The must be averaging-in other, slower Northgate to downtown routes, to bump-up the bus travel time average.

      6. If i had a dollar for every bloody time the 41 sat in traffic for significantly more than 25 minutes, i’d be a very rich girl. See also the 522…it might take 20 minutes from the city line to downtown, it might take 40! You never really know.

        Everyone crying emo tears over the demise of the 194 clearly never missed a flight because some idiot decided that cars should try to cuddle on the freeway, or because someone decided that they were more important than the laws of physics and inflicted their violation on other people and their cars.

        Rail moves faster on a consistent basis regardless of conditions. Sometimes it’s a tad slower, sometimes it’s significantly faster, but either way there’s a reason we pack those Sounder trains over chancing the express buses during rush hours…you will never get stuck in the Fife merge hell, or 50 feet from the Portland Avenue exit (because of a Celine Dion concert, see…) on the Sounder.

      7. Just did a quick check on Metro’s Trip Planner for trips from Northgate to Westlake at 12:30 pm on Monday. 30 minutes via route 41 and 37 minutes via route 73. Route 73 is probably a fairer comparison to Link since it serves the same areas that Link will; Northgate, Roosevelt and the U-District.

      8. It is duplication of service in some ways but this isn’t the same as the 194. The train will be competitive with the fastest express buses (at present travel times), while also serving Roosevelt, two ends of the U District, and Capitol Hill, without the need to run overlapping service.

        North Link will affect people in some way riding between those destinations on routes 41, 43, 48, 49, 66 & 67, 71, 72, 73, 74, 316 and more. We should be talking about restructuring the entire north Seattle transit network to be more effective, not comparing Link to a single bus route.

      9. Oran I *completely* agree. This time around Metro has to be bolder in how it restructures service.

      10. Totally agreed. Metro still doesn’t seem to get the point of light rail, as you have shown here.

        Also, don’t forget routes 522,306,312,372,77,76,79 and 64.

      11. Chetan,

        “Metro still doesn’t seem to get the point of light rail”.

        Well, seeing as how they don’t own one or get any revenue from one (though they do get payroll compensation) that’s not terribly surprising.

        As long as cash customers are forced to pay twice to get from Jackson Park or Lake City to downtown Seattle, you will face strong resistance to forced transfers. Folks in those areas have had consistent one-seat service with peak hour expresses since the advent of the Blue Streak experiment in the late 1960’s.

        Yes, yes, “get an Orca card” is great advice. I actually got them for my wife and me even though we live in Vancouver (no, not that Vancouver. Washington’s). We visit her niece in the Rainier Valley often enough that it’ll be nice to have an e-purse. But they’re not particularly convenient for people to obtain, and the process sure won’t do in an emergency.

        Next time you ride the bus in the off-peak try to keep track of how many cash fares board. It’s my experience that for most routes it’s about 25% during non-commute hours on Tri-Met or C-Tran. With the no transfer policy infrequent riders may have obtained them in order to avoid having to pay twice. But it’s cheesy in the extreme that proof of payment is not honored across systems except through a system that tracks all of your trips.

      12. The system may track all my trips, but if I acquired my card with cash at a TVM and I refill my e-purse with cash at a TVM, the system doesn’t really know who I am.

        Of course, this reasoning will not apply if you need a reduced-fare permit or have an employer supplied Orca pass.

      13. I’m not sure the 372 is a good candidate for restructuring with Link unless all of the routes entering and leaving the East side of the UW campus are looked at for possible connections to UW station.

        Even then you have the hellish traffic on Montlake to look at which will only get worse if WSDOTs A+ plan for 520 is built.

        As for the current riders of the 71, 72, and 73 who travel through the U-District, I’m sure most will be happy to trade a one-seat ride for not crawling down the Ave and Eastlake (when the express lanes aren’t open in their direction of travel). Besides there is almost a complete turnover in riders as the bus passes through the U-District. Forcing transfers is going to affect only a handful of riders.

        As for the ORCA issue, remember that all U-Pass holders, as well as all monthly pass and reduced fare permit holders will have by default ORCA cards in 8 years. A lot of the remaining cash fare users will have hopefully picked up a card by then. Also hopefully there will be a better solution for visitors and other casual users by then.

      14. Oran: “It is duplication of service in some ways but this isn’t the same as the 194. The train will be competitive with the fastest express buses (at present travel times), while also serving Roosevelt, two ends of the U District, and Capitol Hill, without the need to run overlapping service.”

        Actually, it’s more like the 194 than that. Link is just a couple minutes slower than the 194 under ideal conditions, and the same or faster during high-traffic conditions. Yet it still manages to serve 4 more stops during that time, with 5 stops in urban neighborhoods. (Beacon-TIB = 6, – 2 for skipping Holgate and Spokane). You could turn it around and say, “Design a bus route that gets to the airport in 40 minutes and also makes 5 stops in urban neighborhoods (Rainier Valley or West Seattle).” The 194 wouldn’t come close.

      15. You don’t have to have one bus route that serves all those stops. With buses, you can have express routes that go directly between downtown and the airport, with no stops, and local routes that make a lot of stops. Light rail trains have to stop at every station on every trip.

        This is a big advantages of buses over light rail. You can build and operate several different bus routes for a total cost that is a fraction of the cost of one light rail route.

        You could have increased frequency of the 194 and 174, kept the local and express routes down MLK Way, and added routez that took people from MLK Way stops to the airport or Tukwila (although very few people are using Link between Rainer Valley and SeaTac).

        And all of this could have been done for a fraction of the cost of Central Link.

      16. Good grief, Norman, you are such a broken record. Doesn’t anything else interest you besides regurgitating your same tired old Link criticisms? For the zillionth time….

        Fast, frequent, high-capacity service that runs on dedicated, grade-separated right-of-way, captures choice riders, and spurs pedestrian- and bike-friendly economic development. A congestion-free alternative. That is why we build rail—rail *in addition to* not *instead of* buses.

        Increase bus service and all those buses will still. get. stuck. in. traffic.

      17. Sam, let’s broaden the arguement for the moment.
        When Link opens at Northgate, should ALL express buses going to downtown be truncated to feed N.Link? That would be all of CT’s and ST EXpress routes to either the U-dist or Seattle CBD.
        Based on your numbers, and assuming the express lanes are worse than they are today, it seems the time savings on Link would mostly be consumed by getting the bus off the freeway, into the Link station, deboarded, and queued up for loading the LRT vehicle. BUT, now that we’ve built Link, should the public expect ALL buses to quit doing the same thing that Link is doing?
        This could apply to Northbound I-5 buses at Boeing Field Stn (if built), would certainly save a pile of bus hours, but probably wouldn’t save the riders any time, and probably cost them time.
        This is the crux of the policy debate that will surely come. Who wins, the riders or the taxpayers supporting both systems.

      18. In a way, the riders will benefit, as all those saved bus hours can go elsewhere.

      19. Again I think it depends. I know that ST looked at truncating service at nortgate but I don’t remember what came of that idea. Remember at this point headways will be 3 minutes on Link.

        However I can tell you about a study done here in Stockholm. Most of the system is structured around the commuter rail and subway system. However when they implemented the cordon tolls they introduced new direct bus service to the city serving locations that needed better service but weren’t directly served by the rail system.

        So for example in Seattle you could have a CT bus that come down and stop at Northgate then travel down SR-99 ending in downtown Seattle. As I said before this is “adding value” because those that would otherwise have to travel into the city center and then come back up are given a direct and much faster trip.

      20. I wonder if it would be at all possible to build a Northgate freeway station, keeping the CT routes going into downtown but allowing riders to transfer at Northgate to the U District. That way, you could eliminate the University District express routes, which probably have lower ridership, while still keeping a one-seat ride for the popular Downtown express routes. When Link gets all the way up into Snohomish County, they could do away with the express routes entirely and put in a system of high-quality feeder service (as much as I appreciate CT, I wouldn’t exactly call its local buses high-quality) in the form of Swift routes on longer routes and circulator streetcars/branded buses on shorter routes.

      21. From the dates I’ve seen, North Link will open to Lynnwood about the same time it opens to Northgate. Anyone heard any different opening projections?

        I am curious whether CT will continue running commuter routes into downtown or the UW once Link opens at Lynnwood TC. Maybe they could use their freed up service hours to run more buses to Eastside job centers. Or run buses on Sunday again.

      22. No, Link is currently scheduled to open to Northgate in 2020, but could be open in 2018 if they get some federal grants, while it’s not scheduled to get to Lynnwood until 2023.
        From the ST2 website: “The extensions will open in phases, including University of Washington to Northgate, Seattle to Bellevue, and SeaTac to Highline Community College in 2020; to Overlake Transit Center in 2021; and to Lynnwood and Redondo/Star Lake in 2023. Expanding light rail will enable Sound Transit and local transit agencies to redeploy buses to other routes for more transit service options overall.”

      23. From what I understand the ST service to Snohomish County will indeed terminate at Lynnwood TC once Link opens there. I’m not sure if there are plans to terminate routes at Northgate TC during the 3-5 year interim or if CT has similar plans to replace the I-5 segment of any of their routes with Link.

        The huge advantage is the service hours can go elsewhere and the portion of the route replaced by Link becomes all that much more reliable.

      24. Why isn’t duplication of service not a justifiable reason to change bus service.

        The entire point of Link is to be a transit arterial. Once you get that up an running, bus routes can become much shorter and much more frequent.

      25. OK, what’s with your outlandish claim that it will take 18 minutes Westlake-Northgate? ST has calculated that it will be 13 minutes, and I am inclined to believe them, as that would fit with the U Link travel time estimates as well.

      26. Sam,
        If you would have looked at the links that were a part of the site you referenced, you would have found the methodology used in estimating the travel times for the buses.

      27. Sam: “The 41 will eventually be eliminated. Some pablum mentioning “duplication of service” will be given for the reason of its elimination, but that won’t be the true reason for its elimination. We all know that.”

        I hate to ask what conspiracy Sam thinks is the real reason for eliminating the 41. I’ll assume it’s “to boost Link ridership numbers so it doesn’t look like as much of a boondoggle”.

        Eliminating duplicate service is a very good reason to drop the 41, and it will give a significant number of service hours to north Seattle, for instance to boost east-west service at Northgate.

        Truncating the CT and Shoreline express buses at Northgate was a goal all the way back to the original Link proposal. It would save tons of gas and remove hundreds of buses from downtown Seattle streets. Nobody anticipated that Link could get to Lynnwood so soon, I guess, so that has raised new opportunities that make the Northgate station less central. I suppose now only buses south of 145th will feed into Northgate station.

      28. I think the 43 could serve a different destination than downtown Seattle. Maybe enhance the service along Denny Way to Lower Queen Anne for a combined 7 to 8 minute frequency?

      29. That would be cool. They could have the 43 continue to Uptown, and maybe have the 49 jog over to 12th after serving Capitol Hill Station, and continue down 12th all the way to Little Saigon or even Beacon Hill.

      30. Alex,

        You are actually advocating forcing someone traveling downton who got on the 43 at 23rd and Aloha to transfer to a Link train at Broadway and John?

        WOW! NO transit system would do a thing like that.

        You’re in sight of the destination of 92% of the people on the bus and WHOOPS! you gotta transfer.

      31. If you’re on 23rd between Interlaken and Thomas and you’re so opposed to transferring that you won’t even do it when it would save you several minutes, you can walk four blocks over to 19th and get on the 12 to downtown. If you’re north of that area, it’s a quick walk, bike, or, yes, 43/48 ride to UW Station, where you’re just 6 min from downtown. This has advantages, though, in that it allows people on that route to get to more destinations outside downtown, and reduces duplication in service.

      32. The 43 crawls at a snails pace between Broadway & John and 3rd & Pine/Pike. I’ve been able to walk faster than the 43. I suspect a lot of riders would happily transfer at Capitol Hill Station rather than endure the crawl up and down the hill on today’s 49 and 43.

        Note that the Rapid Trolley Network plan Metro put together replaced the 43 with a route that went up onto Queen Anne, along Denny, and John. The 49 was restructured to serve First Hill, Beacon, or Rainier depending on the option chosen. You should dig up the plan and take a look at it. There are several good ideas for restructuring the ETB service in there.

      33. There has to be a balance with forced transfers. Each segment should be at least a mile or two, otherwise you feel like you’re spending more time transfering than riding. It makes sense to transfer in the U District to get to Wedgewood, or in West Seattle to get to Alki. It does not make sense for Link to be the only way from downtown to Capitol Hill (a short 10-minute bus ride, with many high-ridership stops around the station), or to take Link one stop to CH and transfer to a bus going five more blocks to 15th or 23rd. Some people will want to, but that shouldn’t be the only choice.

        There needs to be a bus on 10th Avenue E north of Broadway. There needs to be a bus on Pine Street and/or East Olive Way to CH station. I don’t know whether the 43 can be truncated at 23rd. It depends on how many people go from there to Broadway, which I’m not sure. And if you eliminate the 43, people on 23rd would have to make two transfers to downtown (to the 8 and then Link). Two transfers makes sense for a 10-mile trip but not for a 2-mile trip. On the other hand, I think people east and south of 23rd & John are a little shortchanged by the 43 routing (CH gets so much more bus service than those places) that I’d like to see some attempt to compensate for that.

      34. Well, given how slow the East/West routes are over First and Capitol Hill I certainly plan on using Link between downtown and Capitol Hill Station rather than sit on a bus crawling its way up Pine or Olive. Even if I have to transfer to another bus (or streetcar) to get where I’m really going it will be a major time saver.

        For that matter I suspect except during rush hour taking a bus from UW station to your destination on 23rd would be faster than riding the 43 through Capitol Hill.

        In any case for some ideas on how bus service might be restructured to make more of a grid and to deal with some of the congestion issues take a look at the Rapid Trolley Network plan Metro put together a while back:

        FWIW transfers don’t suck if the route you are transferring to runs fairly frequently. In the future I expect 23rd, John/Olive/Denny, and Broadway to have frequent enough service that transferring to and from Link won’t be a huge issue for most people.

      35. Interesting idea that would make a T at 23rd, with the 43 going north and the 8 going south. Maybe extend the 43 up to Roosevelt Station and turn the 48 into a E-W crosstown route serving 85th St, Roosevelt and NE 65th St. The former 48 on 23rd then runs by UW Station straight up 25th to Lake City. Connect the 49 with the 36 via Broadway and bypass downtown. Now you’re getting a grid. Without any constraints, I can make up make options.

      36. I think some *very* serious scenario based VISSUM modeling is necessary to determine the best way to restructure service.

      37. Thanks for the links on Grids, Adam. I agree grid is most efficient, when done with frequent headways, that minumize the waits between transfers, otherwise riders have a low tolerance for getting dumped on a corner, then waiting half an hour for next leg.
        My post to Sam about truncating ALL S.bound I-5 buses at Northgate to continue on the spine LRT leg is important. Clearly, riders are not going to like getting kicked off their bus, even if they do save a couple of minutes, after all the extra steps are taken to transfer. An estimate of how that would effect ridership is as high as 30%, and clearly counterproductive to expanding public transit ridership overall.

        Likewise, non bus riding tax payers (or most people) will see the duplicate services as a waste of their money. Why invest so heavily in LRT, if your not going to use it, they may cry!
        And the Northgate example has nothing to do with a grid. The buses are packed with riders going to Seattle CBD.
        It’s your call. Save the hours, and feed Light Rail, or keep running both buses and rail to the same destination.

      38. Okay I think I see what you are saying and I think it would be a pretty complicated question to answer. I’m sure when it comes time to decided we will all spend a ton of time talking about this.

      39. Yes, much time to discuss Northgate. Ben implied today that truncating lots of eastside routes at SBPR is an option. This same logic could be applied here, for Eastgate and Issaquah riders, these are decicions being made very soon.

      40. These decisions aren’t being made “really soon”. I’m not sure about ST’s plans but Metro didn’t lock their decisions down for Central Link till Spring 2009.

      41. By really soon, I meant B7 or B3 as the preferred alternative. One would have SBPR, available for many ‘forced transfers’, and the other would not, negating the decision by Metro at any point in time. Sorry, I wasn’t very clear on that.

      42. It’s not a duplication. Different fares, routings, agencies, modes of transportation, etc. Wait a minute, maybe North Link is a DUPLICATION of Metro route 41 and shouldn’t even be built! It’s duplication of service!!!

      43. It’s an improvement, not a duplication. I won’t bother listing the reasons why because you know what they are, and I know you disagree with them.

      44. ON the other hand,I would sure like to know what thought process led to re-directing the 76 express once it moved to the Tunnel, and for that matter, what was the thinking of putting it IN the tunnel.

        The 76 was a great way to “counter program” for those who commute to the south end of town. It still serves that end of town, but now EVERYONE on the 70 series travels southbound through the tunnel, adding almost 20 minutes to the ride inbound and out. Under the old surface route, those working in the south end could arrive at work 20 minutes earlier, and not clog up the southbound flow through the tunnel…

        NOW the 71 and almost duplicate 76 tend to clump up in the evening northbound, and the only difference is after you get to the U District, with the 76 being a bit more express… BUT IT ALWAYS was…

        Now you have damn near everything but the 70 local in the tunnel all running the pick ups heading north though the tunnel… and thanks to that, all are full so if you board at 5 pm from University Station North you are pretty much going to stand… at least the old 76 route gave those departing from the north end of town a chance for a seat in exchange for a longer time before the freeway… but the worst of it is the inbound morning commute. From the UW north, you WILL ride though the tunnel on all the 70’s to get to the south end of town… if you work in the columbia tower or for the city, you just got to add 40 minutes to your daily commute.

        I live out north near Wedgewood, and could chose the 64, 71 or 76, and with timing the old 74, and even catch the bevy of busses using the 65 to find em… but other than the 30, the 76 provided the opportunity to reverse the flow, and often gave a great counterpoint. the week after the switch, This was a big question a lot of riders brought up… and I have yet to hear a good reason…

        DId I miss this debate here?

      45. The 76 doesn’t seem much worse than it did going the other way down Third. But I only ever ride it outbound from downtown. The 77 inbound (my usual commute bus) is a bit slower but it is hard to tell if that is due to the re-route on the North end (due to Thorton Creek bridge reconstruction on 15th) or switching to the tunnel. Typically the difference is only about 5 minutes on the inbound leg. Outbound is a different story, but again that is mostly due to the screwy re-route.

        In any case it is still faster than a 66 or a 73 both ways.

      46. For what it’s worth both the Metro rapid trolley network plan and the City of Seattle urban village transit network would re-orient the ETB network and the bus system in the City of Seattle to more of a grid network running down arterials. Unfortunately both are somewhat plans on a shelf at the moment. Since the funding for the transit part of the 99 reconstruction project went away the rapid trolley network is pretty much dead. Some of the UVTN has been implemented mostly through the Metro service hours funded by the city. However the route restructuring doesn’t seem to have happened.

        Hopefully as more of the Link network comes on-line Metro will re-structure the bus routes to more of a grid network.

      47. Hear, hear, Chris. I’d love to see the City spend some more $$ on more Metro hours, but that doesn’t look likely any time soon. Still, it’s clear there are some very good ideas on restructuring the workhouse ETB services!

    2. There are some good examples of this in SE Seattle, where duplicate bus service and bad connections are costing our transit system a ton.

      The 7x goes to Downtown, rather than stopping at Mt. Baker station, the 34 goes all the way to Downtown, rather than utilizing an artery it crosses several times, the 39 goes close to he Beacon Hill light rail station, only to turn away and go Downtown by itself, and the 106 takes you from Rainer Beach to Downtown as fast as light rail, wasting a lot of bus hours, and runs along light rail from SODO to Downtown, rather than just terminating at SODO station(the 101, 196, and 102 do the same thing).

      I think that almost always you should truncate bus service to light rail, because it is extremely cost effective and allows for much more frequent service. When you do so, having light rail can actually be cheaper than just buses.

      1. I know someone that lives close to one of the 106 stops and commutes to the UW. Sometimes he drives (E1) and sometimes he buses. Two transfers is probably the limit–if you made it 3 he’d probably get a parking permit.

      2. But shortening the 106 would allow for more frequency, making transfers much less of a hassle.

      3. Yeah like if the bus came every 6 or 7 minutes it would make it very attractive service.

      4. Transferring from Link to the UW express routes in the tunnel shouldn’t be a deterrent, both run frequently during most of the day. It’s getting to the Link station that’s the problem.

      5. “the 106 takes you from Rainer Beach to Downtown as fast as light rail, wasting a lot of bus hours”

        You should hear my ‘Save Our Valley’ friend bitch about the new 106. “Metro ruined a perfectly good and popular bus route.” “I know people who drive to Othello station so they can ride the 106.” “There’s no bus from Rainier & Othello to Othello station anymore, so I drove to the stadium for the home show. [Actually there is a bus, every 45 minutes until 7pm.]” “No I don’t have an ORCA card yet, why would I want one?” “The trains are empty every time I see them.” “No, I haven’t ridden the train yet. Why would I want to?”

        I tell him he’s just being reactionary, and so are the people who drive to Othello station (ignoring the new 107), and they’re being irrationally anti-rail, but that’s how some people down there feel.

      6. How do they catch the 106 at Othello? Unless it’s along Beacon Avenue I guess.

      7. I wondered if the 7X and 34 should go across Boren to South Lake Union instead of downtown.

      8. It would cost a lot less to get someone to SLU from SE Seattle if you terminated the 7x and 34 at Mount Baker, and allowed them to transfer in Downtown to the 70 or the SLUT. I think most people would prefer more frequent trips (which is what you can do when you truncate service to rail arterials) over one or two direct buses.

      9. I think the routes need to be maintained to go to I-90 so connections to routes along the freeway can be made, especially the 34. Given that, I think a different major destination other than downtown, therefore a routing via First Hill and South Lake Union during peak periods.

      10. Service to I-90 wouldn’t necessarily have to be the same route as the current 7 or 34. For example a frequent bus along the route of the 7 between Mt. Baker TC and downtown could provide much the same service to I-90.

        The easy re-route for the 7 would be up 12th and Broadway to either Aloha or the U-District. Another possibility would be to run up 23rd to the U-District.

      11. “I think most people would prefer more frequent trips (which is what you can do when you truncate service to rail arterials) over one or two direct buses.”

        If that were true, our problems would be solved. The problem is that so many people want one-seat rides to downtown, and they don’t think frequency matters.

  4. Silly sportswriter, roads NEVER get referendums!

    That’s only for the non-asphalt non-motorized commie public transit stuff.

  5. Since this is an open thread:

    Anyone hear anything about when the “next train in X minutes” signs will be fully up and running?

    1. For the last few weeks the stations have had “The next train will be arriving in 2 minutes” signs/announcements. The signs scroll by once and then they are gone. This is not at all what I wanted to see — nowhere near as useful as they should have been, and so I really hope this is not going to be the final form of these signs. The signs need to almost constantly show the time of the next expected train, not just when it is two minutes away. Also, in the DSTT, the bus tends to come 45 seconds later, not 2 minutes.

      I too am curious when the signs will be fully “finished.”

      During the last few weeks, I have probably seen these announcements about 90 percent of the time that I take Link. But I don’t ride Link every day, just 3-4 times/week usually, and not generally during rush hour.

      1. Those two-minute warnings have been pretty inaccurate (30 seconds-5 minutes real arrival time) in the instances in which I’ve experienced them, and I’m not sure what I should do with that information, anyway.

      2. Well, if the info is accurate, it is nice to have. Lets you know if you have time to play a quick game on your phone, or go back out and grab a cup of coffee, or whether you just missed a train, etc. It is not vital, but it is really, really comforting as a rider to know when the next train will arrive.

      3. I believe the “2 Minutes” is for when the trains depart the Capitol Hill station … they are not calibrated for the Stub Tunnel terminus (that’s what a Metro person told me the other day) …

      4. The crazy thing is next bus away proves to be much more accurate for Link in the tunnel.

        In an ideal world I’d like to see the arrival displays mimic the next bus away displays. List the next few routes (or trains) arriving along with the estimated times.

      5. I just want to see signs like this German one. I posted about it in a comment here last month, and also said: “I notice the German sign has room for more than just the next train time — also the current time, where the trains are going to terminate, etc. (As others have said, ST should stop it with the Northbound/Southbound thing. Tourists particularly may have trouble knowing which direction they want. Tell them where the train terminates — which is very important if for some reason it’s not going all the way! Only include the direction in addition, if necessary.)”

        How are you getting NextBusAway in the tunnel? I can never get any signal in there, except sometimes in the ID/Chinatown station.

      6. By Next Bus Away, do you guys really mean One Bus Away? I’m on Verizon, and I have no trouble getting signal at Convention Place or International District stations, and if I’m in the right spots in Pioneer Square station I can pick up a signal on the platform.

      7. Yes… I became a BIG fan of One Bus away on my old Razr. I could phone in, and get the information I desired… but starting last Monday, IT HANGS UP once I punch in the stop. Every time. I get no farther then the stop number no matter HOW I call it up. Who can I report this to? The glitch seem to be happening for anyone calling up the audio… the web side remains quite functional, but I do not have a web capable cell phone.

        Any suggestions?

      8. I’m sorry I meant One Bus Away.

        I can get a signal in International District just fine and in a couple spots in Pioneer Square. However the way I use One Bus Away with the tunnel stations (other than IDS) is to check before heading into the tunnel.

      9. One Bus Away, Next Bus Away, whatever. I knew what he meant. :) I have heard the Verizon folks have an easier time getting signal in the tunnel stations than T-Mobile folks like me.

    2. Not really an answer, but since testing started and at least as of last weekend, the signs at Tukwila International Blvd Station were still “mixed up” — announcements about northbound trains on the southbound platform and vice versa. I really hope someone at ST is aware of and fixing this.

      1. ST is still testing the system so problems like this don’t occur in the future.

    3. I still think the announcements need more time on the drawing board. At most stations, I hear “The next train will be arriving in 2 minutes.” But the announcement doesn’t say which direction.

      1. Hmm. Usually when I have heard them it says “The next train – Northbound – will be arriving in 2 minutes.” But as I mentioned above, it should not use Northbound/Southbound anyway. Instead, “The next train to Westlake will be arriving in 2 minutes” or “The next train to Airport will be arriving in 2 minutes.”

    4. What is the goal for these signs? I understand they’re only partially implemented during the testing period, but what are they going to do in production? Will they show the next train time every minute or continuously? Or will they just show it at random or just before the train comes, as they seem to be doing now.

      Can they shorten the sign so it doesn’t scroll as much? I don’t need all the verbiage, I just need the destination and number of minutes.

      I *THOUGHT* everybody knew ‘next train’ signs should say “DESTINATION: X MIN” continuously.

      1. Why don’t they just switch on the continuous next train display? The audio messages at 5, 2 min, arriving, can remain because blind people cannot read the signs.

      2. Yeah, the announcements are important for accessibility for the visually-impaired, but I really hope they don’t reduce the functionality for everyone else. We need the continuous display. I know they are testing now… but shouldn’t they test the continuous aspect of it?

      3. The signs can interrupt the continuous display to show the text of the current announcement.

  6. Has anyone else noticed those big giant boulders that are being trunked down I-5? They are really huge and are loaded one per low-boy truck and are travelling as “oversize loads”. One day I saw 5 of them, all heading from north of Seattle to (apparently) the Oregon coast to be used in a breakwater project.

    I have two questions: First, where the heck are they coming from? And second, why can’t the state of Oregon find a boulder supplier that is a little bit closer to the Oregon coast?

    It just seems like a huge waste to tranport tons of giant boulders from northern Washington all the way down to the Oregon coast.

  7. Here’s some crappy camera work of Link and the shuttles yesterday:

    A few notes:
    – Shuttles took 6th Ave between SODO station and the tunnel. Shuttles headed northbound would pick up passengers at the bus stop right outside the station, continue north on the busway to Holgate, right on Holgate, left on 6th, pass by Central/Atlantic Base, left on Royal Brougham, and right into the tunnel. Southbound was out of the tunnel, left on Royal Brougham, right on 6th, stop just outside the employee parking garage to serve Stadium station, continue down 6th to Lander, right on Lander, right on the Busway, and serve the same stop right outside SODO station.
    – Other routes headed northbound on the busway also picked up passengers headed into the tunnel, and since operators were opening the back door, it appeared that they were doing it for free. I caught a 101 down to SODO station after the RFA hours had ended, had to pay (didn’t care though, I have a pass), and the route was the same except the operator hit the stop south of Lander since he had to stay on schedule.
    – The destination sign for the 97 was a static “Link Shuttle”. No via or to.
    – I saw one 97 departing Westlake for CPS, empty. This would’ve been the only weekend that you could have taken “Link” to CPS, but I doubt many people did.
    – ST had two shop trucks outside the Pine Street Stub tunnel. Not really sure what they were doing.

    Couple of pics here.

  8. Regarding the 1900 vans:

    Van Review by Carey Watson 2/18/10
    Revised 5:20 am 2/25/10

    Revised 3AM 3/7/10


    1: Windshield Glare. With the two front fluorescent fixtures with the black tubes and the red filter and the rear fixture with the black tubes and the textured clear light, the light level in the back met Metro’s “reading ability” test and (with only testing in a dark room) the glare problem seemed to be reasonably solved. Next Thursday the 25, the team is going to go out from 2P to 10PM to do more testing during the dark times. Hopefully it will also be raining. We went out on the 25th . We went from Preston to Snoqualmie and back to Fall City in the dark. All who drove stated that they had no problem with the glare with the above fix. One interesting note is that the rear window is so low, that a car in back of you will be shining his headlights directly onto your inside rear mirror. Did not seem to be major problem, just very irritating.

    2: Windshield swipe—Major fatal flaw. (When we went out on the 25th of February, the weather was dry, so this was not tested. I am still convinced that this is a fatal flaw.)

    Two arms were tested—24” & 27”. Two lengths of blades were also used. The major problem was that the blades move in an arc across the window. The section of the window under the arc is not cleaned. This area is too big. Speculation was made that the problem could be solved by limiting drivers to those who are at least 5’6” (or 5’8”). The explanation is that is a medium truck converted to a bus. Truck drivers are male. Males have only 5% that are less than 5’6”. Females have 50% under 5’6”.

    In addition to the area under the arc, the blades also do not travel far enough to the side. They do cover the area necessary to see the mirrors but it would be hard to see pedestrians and small objects if the window is dirty from dirty water or obscured by heavy rain.

    3: Blind spot on right front corner. The banana mirror installed on right front corner seemed to do a fairly good job of making that problem manageable. (On the 25th a flat mirror was also added below the banana mirror. I believe that this is a very important addition. In addition to helping with the right front corner blind spot, this mirror helps with the view of the door, and with the view down the side of the coach. The regular right side mirror is at 90 degrees to the driver. This means that when the driver checks the right side mirror, he must swivel his head far to the right. One loses the vision of what is straight ahead. This is a serious problem.)

    4: Minor problem of the DDU blocking the front window was solved by East base members just rearranging where the DDU, GFI, and transfer cutter were put on the dash.

    5: Door Vision. Metro is concerned that the only door is not connected to an interlock brake. The parking brake is not sufficient to hold van when accelerator is pushed (difference in air brakes versus hydraulic brakes). I am more concerned with being able to see the door and surrounding area before I open or close the door. (See additional mirrors below.)

    6: Additional Mirrors We would like to put in a convex mirror in upper right corner of van. I also made the suggestion that the middle present mirror be changed to a flat mirror so the driver could see accurately the mirror above the door. (On the 25th the middle mirror was changed to a flat mirror. Big improvement. There was also a round convex mirror added to the inside top right corner of the coach. One could see virtually the entire interior of the coach. This was also a very good addition.)

    7: Pedal reach. Short people (again) might have a problem with reaching the pedals comfortably over long shifts. Sorry I wasn’t paying attention. There is no hill holder and the tension on both pedals is stiffer than on buses.

    8: The regular right outside mirror. This mirror is directly 90 degrees from the driver. This means that one has to look completely away from the front of the van to check the right side. NOT ACCEPTABLE. Rain-X was mentioned as a solution (done by equipment service workers only). Better solution was to install another mirror underneath the banana mirror for seeing down the right side. Hopefully this will be done by next Thursday. This is a major problem. The fix might work. (See #3 above. Fix was better. I still see the outside right mirror as a major problem. This might be solved by getting used to it. This solution of getting used to it, is not very good for extra board drivers, ATL drivers, and report drivers. While not necessarily a fatal flaw, I still consider this a problem area. )

    Additional problems.

    Transfers and all day passes. Metro has proposed leaving a few cut transfers by fare box and have passengers do a self-serve. This solution will not work because when the transfers magically disappear (esp. when the teenagers are getting off.) the driver will have to pull over AGAIN and put out a new crop of transfers. All day passes will be an even greater temptation. A real solution would be to give everyone a free ride. (Metro wouldn’t lose that much as most people have passes and it is only 35 coaches on low ridership routes.)

    Passengers cannot see out of the front of the bus. There will be a lot of missed stops esp. at night because passengers will have a much more difficult time keeping track of where they are. Another problem with the passengers not being able to see out is what happens to drivers who have to qualify. Safety was not comfortable with the qualifying driver sharing the front cab with the driver—no standees allowed. This is a bigger problem now since we can no longer qualify in a private vehicle.

  9. For goodness sake, Martin, the Wizard of Oz is a movie, not a civil engineering project. Your analogy of wasteful fantasy spending in a much-loved movie and presumably wasteful road building projects is lost on me – well not lost, but of spurious import. I don’t see the relevance or connection here at all.

    The interstate highway project had its flaws and yes, the I-5 has split downtown Seattle into two parts – east and west of the freeway, but many of those splits have since been bridged with a convention center, a park and lots of bridges. In an advancing society, economic trunk routes have to be made and Seattle would not be the city is its today without such projects to build and then to heal the rifts. Same with bringing the railroad to Seattle in the 1890s. These are economic movers. By way of contrast, mass transit is a people mover, but by its nature, way more local in intent than is the interstate system, whose prime purpose is the moving of freight and military hardware (a-la pre-war Germany).

    Locally, the main purpose of road building projects is to move people, into, through and beyond the three county Puget Sound region. The purpose of mass transit is to more people more efficiently within the same region, but with the exception of our under funded train system, not really beyond it, however much we might wish for that.

    Before we make ridiculous contrasts between a fantasy road built from the imagination in the Wizard of Oz and actual roads that have way more purpose in the real world, let’s step back and see how everything connects to truly make a mass transit/moving system. I like the buses, trains, streetcars and roads that we do have and they all have an integrated purpose. Anyone who advocates pushing one at the expense of the other, risks achieving neither a mass transit system nor a smoothly efficient integrated one. Build more efficient roads where we must, trains where and when we can and buses where other forms of mass transit system would be prohibitively expensive or ineffective.

    1. I think you’re taking Martin’s post way too seriously, Tim. Just some light-hearted content to kick off an open thread.

    2. Yeah Tim the purpose whatever we include on Sunday open threads is usually intended to be amusing.

    3. For the record I am absolutely opposed to highways made of yellow brick.

      1. OMG, it was a road, for christ sake. Who implied it was ever intended to be a highway or built to those standards. Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

      2. Not to mention that the Yellow Brick Road had a poorly designed terminus at Munchkinland. No connections to arterials, whatsoever. Very wasteful, indeed!

      3. What do you mean Sherwin? It seemed to go right to the middle of town in Munchkinland.

      4. But considering it’s intertwined with the terminus of the Red Brick Road that spirals into infinity, you’re basically concentrating all your congestion right there! Bad transportation planning.

      5. That spiral is the warp tunnel to Kansas, and other than the occasional house is congestion free.

      6. I’m for yellow brick roads, but only if the yellow bricks are solid gold. After all there is much more opportunity for political patronage that way.

    4. Maybe commute patterns were very different when the road was built. You know, before the evil witches ruined the neighborhood.

      1. Maybe building the road caused the evil witches to move to the neighborhood.

        All the more reason to keep any yellow brick roads out of your neighborhood, after all who wants a bunch of evil witches ruining it?

      2. Maybe we should paint the East Link trains yellow. That would really scare Kemper.

    1. So does that mean the scaffolding is down? That should make Stadium Station a little nicer. Is the 97 still running even though Link is back in the tunnel?

      1. I rode Link from Westlake to MBS this afternoon. The falsework over Stadium is indeed gone. It looks more open, but there’s still a big shadow there. I think the trains were limited in speed there before and will now be able to go faster over Royal Brougham. As far as I could tell, the 97 had stopped running.

      1. The Japanese have never really been known for great styling. These apply to cars too.

        But styling’s subjective. I still prefer the Siemen’s LRV though. Portland’s paint scheme does not do the train justice.

      2. On the other hand the Link cars look just fine in a mostly white paint scheme (and the same cars look nice in Phoenix’s paint scheme as well)

      1. yeah … but the “Ends” of TriMets S70s are completely different from the standard one … it’s all squished down making it look bad IMHO

      2. And the ends are all white on some of them. A few have a Trimet decal on there, which breaks it up a little, but (anecdotally) most don’t.

  10. Does anyone know if ST has had any contact with the Point Wells developers? That project looks like it could be pretty cool, but it seems like it’ll only work if they get good transit going there. It’s right on the Sounder North route, so if the developer could work with ST to build a station there, that would be great for Sounder ridership! I remember seeing on a Sound Move map that they were considering a possible future station at Richmond Beach, so a station in that vicinity has been considered before.

  11. Also, any updates on the new Tacoma Link stop? The article a couple months ago said it would be done by May; is that still expected?

    1. This Jan 8 article suggests it was moving along at that time, but also that Sound Transit hadn’t approved it yet. I can’t find a mention of it on ST’s site.

  12. Every large public works project in this country’s history has faced exactly the same kind of fight: we don’t need it, we can’t afford it, The Brooklyn Bridge will bankrupt New York, city and state, Marin County is just fine by ferry.

    With light rail, opening day usually shifts howls from “We don’t need it!” to “When does our neighborhood get some?”

    Mark Dublin

  13. “The Perfect Rider”

    A sampling:

    The perfect rider doesn’t snore,

    Or shell his peanuts on the floor

    Or spill his coffee like a flood

    That turns your shoes a shade of mud

    He doesn’t smell of spicy food,

    Has no B.O., is never rude …

    The perfect rider’s fingernails

    Are never clipped while on the rails

    And when it rains he keeps his feet

    Off the rail above your seat

    He never stands up in the aisle

    Before we reach the final mile

    The perfect rider hogs no seat

    With purse or package or his/her feet

    Applies no makeup, wears no scent,

    Nor flaps the Tribune like a tent.

    Engages in no lewd palaver —

    The perfect rider? A cadaver.

    Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

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