194 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Prototype”

  1. One down, 9k more to go. I’ve been asking for years now for a more visible stop number on the signposts to make it easier to use tools like OneBusAway. These signs are obviously a great improvement in that regard, but it’s been a long-time coming. I’m hoping it won’t be two more years before all the signposts are upgraded.

    1. Hey, what’s going on with One Bus Away’s SMS interface? It hasn’t worked for me for like a month… I’m getting back a response that says my query is “outside the service area.” I’m sending the exact same texts that used to work (i.e., “Onebus 76710” to 41411).

      1. Sounds like your default search location is messed up. Follow the “How can I change my default search location?” instructions here.

    2. Indeed… The new signs are an improvement, but c’mon – a video to celebrate the updated signs when places like San Francisco have had realtime arrival screens on stops for years?

      How about installing more screens like the Northgate TC has, or the LED displays like at the stops along the streetcar? For a supposedly progressive technology center with lots and lots of buses, we sure seem to be well behind the rest of the world.

      1. I prefer the flat-screen televisions such as along the Canada Line. More ad revenue. :)

      2. Portland has some Made by Solari on the Green line. They are also all over switzerland, either the old electro-mechanical types, or increasingly the LCD screens. Translink in vancouver is now mounting LED line displays on bus stop poles informing you when your next bus is as well. Saw these next to Science World – Main Street station.

      3. Metro had those a while ago. They were discontinued for some reason; I think funding and vandalism were two reasons.

      4. Metro should be doing this for every significant thing they do. Agencies need to learn from private companies. Media isn’t going to call you up every week and ask if anything exciting is happening. You have to put out information and videos like this are great if tv stations aren’t going to cover it.

    1. The frame is screwed in from the side and locks the tiles in place. Unless someone has a tool that can remove the special headed screws and a ladder, then it would be difficult.

      1. and updating them too as all you have to do is slide around the blocks instead of modifiying the existing sign.

  2. I was in Toronto for vacation last week and got to see a completely different transit system. Streetcars running up and down all the major streets downtown and making stops in the centre lane, not in the curb lane. Funny thing is that half of the stops aren’t stations. When the streetcar doors open, they have a stop sign on them and it is against the law to pass a streetcar on the right when it’s doors are open. My gf and I agreed that that could never happen here.

    The TTC also sells a day pass, which was very handy. For $10, you get a ticket that is good on any subway, streetcar and non-express bus that TTC operates. During the week that $10 pass is good for one adult but on the weekends, it is valid for two.

    Getting back to Seattle via Vancouver, we had the opportunity to ride the new Canada line from end to end. As many others have pointed out, it seems very short-sighted to have built the platforms as short as they are. We were traveling just outside the rush hour window and it was still pretty crowded. Still, it’s nice that Vancouver is another city with direct transit access to downtown from the airport and back. Toronto can’t say that.

      1. Yeah, even a lot of the bus stops are like that. Definitely a system built before ADA.

    1. When I was there in January, during the morning rush passengers were queueing at the place on the platform where the doors would open when the train arrived. This was at the Bridgeport (Casino) station. Not everyone in the queue would get onto the trains as they arrived. Only a place like Vancouver is civilized enough for this to work.

      1. Actually, that same thing happened in Bangkok on the Skytrain. It was kind of incredible, above the (really cool) chaos of the streets, everyone lined up for the train, sometimes waiting for a few trains to go by before they could get on.

      2. Well, they have markings on the platform that tell people to stand to the side of the doors and leave the center space for exiting passengers.

        As for the buses in Bangkok, that’s a completely different world.

      3. Our bus stop at Burrard Station was the same way. People lining up, single file, before the bus even arrived. No crush to get on and everything went smoothly even with fare payment as you boarded in the downtown core.

      4. I much prefer the crush at the in-city places like Northgate TC. I’m really, really good at getting ahead of other people in those situations here… not so much in other countries.

      5. Must form only for certain routes at certain times – riding the 41 downtown on a weekday afternoon is pretty crushing at the TC. Of course, I might just not notice the line and be cutting everyone off! Maybe I’ll keep an eye out now. Or not.

      6. Matt,
        It’s free-for-all after 6:00 AM. Before 6:00 AM, the passengers are very orderly and line up around the shelter and down the middle of the transit center.

    2. I used to live in Toronto. The TTC is a horrible organisation with many useful examples of what NOT to do.

      1. Indeed. I wasn’t necessarily endorsing the idea of the stop w/o a station in the middle of the street but it was certainly something we would never see here. I did like the day pass though. It is the same design as the old visitors pass that Metro used to have. It looks like a scratch ticket and you uncover the appropriate month and date box for whenever you are going to use it.

      2. From what I’ve been reading about the TTC, the entire public transit culture there is suffering from a major malady – one that has most recently manifested as a squaring off between transit riders and operators.

  3. The old yellow and white bus signs are a representation of the old color scheme of Metro buses. It’s about time they update them.

      1. I don’t think they will. The last color-scheme/livery change was quite the process. But then again, this is Seattle!

      1. Someone can correct me if my memory is off, but I liked those when I was growing up because the numbers were different sizes depending on how many routes stopped there. The stop by my house was served by the 73 and 78 and used that sign on the right but the numbers were huge and the two routes took up almost the entire brown space.

      2. Sure do, and the buses, especially those (I think) MAN ones that looked like loaves of bread.

      3. Oran They still exist. The Southbound stop on Broad Street and second Ave (1/2/13/36) still has one of those.

  4. So the rumor around Metro has been alot about First Transit. Now, everything here is just what I have heard, so it may not be totally true.
    So it sounds like the contract CT has with First Transit has defaulted and First Transit will be done at the end of this shakeup in June. That includes all CT operated ST routes (510,511,513,532,535) and the majority of the Downtown Seattle CT commuter routes. I have also heard that some Commuinty Transit drivers have received layoff notices. So it seems the the commuter routes will go back to CT to be operated by their own drivers but the big question is, who will operate the ST routes? The rumor was that Metro would begin operating these routes, but I still had my doubts. But yesterday, someone had talked to one of the Metro planners and from what they had said, makes me believe that this might actually happen.

    Does anyone else know anything about this? If you do, please share…..I would be interested in more info about this.

    Also, some info about June shakeup, if anyone cares:
    Route 23/28 moves from Central to Ryerson Base
    Route 36 Diesel moves from Atlantic to Central Base
    Route 66 moves from North Base to Ryerson
    Route 106 moves from Central to South Base
    Route 212 moves from East to Central Base
    Route 249 no longer linked to 921, and moves from East to Bellevue (for 30ft Bus)
    Route 355 movers from Central to North Base

    Route Renumbering: Route 186 replaces > 915, Route 193 replaces > 941, Route 224 replaces > 929, Route 246 replaces > 921.
    School routes (these school routes will be the same until summer break & next school year in the fall, these changes will take place.) 206 becomes >821, 207 becomes > 822, 208 becomes >823, and the School trip varient of the 219 becomes > 824.

      1. I drive for CT, and i never heard this before but they never tell us anything anyway! But i do know about 70+ of our drivers have received layoff notices, some will be rescinded after the final run cut this week. If we were to operate the first transit commuter runs, we would not have the manpower unless most of those drivers were not laid off. I do hope this rumor is true

        BTW, only drivers are actually losing jobs, no admin., management, marketing, etc. they are moving 1 supervisor who was hired last month back to dispatch, 2 dispatch back to driving.

    1. What led to the default? I don’t know but I want to complain about the reliability of the 535. It is horrendous. Every time I ride it to Bellevue during the day it always arrives at Brickyard around 5-10 minutes late, which means it arrives at Bellevue TC late. I missed a few connections and had near misses. I know it can leave an estimated timepoint early so I arrive 5 minutes in advance and end up waiting 15 minutes for a late bus plus another 15-30 minutes for a missed connection.

      1. Yes, it is unreliable. I always feel that First Transit drivers drive too slow and they waste time stopping and anouncing the route number and destination at every stop, even when no one is at the stop.

        Not sure why the default…..Hoping I could get more info from others on the blog. Maybe CT didn’t want to continue the contract if they were going to have to layoff their own drivers. They could make more weekday split shifts out of the downtown commuter routes and not have to layoff as many CT drivers if First Transit wasn’t around. But then why not have CT drivers operate the ST routes, and just have Metro take over on Sundays?

      2. I don’t trust the 535 either. If I’m going from Lynnwood to Bellevue, I’d rather take the 511/550 combo. Much more reliable, especially off-peak during weekdays.

    2. Also, the 6000 series coaches, or Rapid Ride coaches will be out on the 174 in June, according to the Metro pick sheets. Most of the buses will be Rapid Ride buses, but you will still see a few 6800’s or maybe a couple 2300’s at rush hours.

      1. WTF? Running coaches with RapidRide branding, but it’s not RapidRide service? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of buying special buses for RR?

      2. Yes, it kind does. But whenever Metro recieve a new fleet of coaches, it seems there are always some kind of bugs to work out. The newer and more technology on the coach, the more computer problems, like the 2600-2812 hybrids when we first got them. Then the 6800’s had problems of their own, South Base had to borrow hybrids from Central just to keep their tunnel routes going while they worked thorugh the bugs on the 6800’s. This way the Rapid Ride coaches will start to get some miles on them during summer shakeup, and hopefully Rapid Ride will start in Fall shakeup in October and the coaches ill be running good.

      3. Why do they insist on shredding up the newer buses on the unruly passengers of the 174?

      4. One of the worst things that happened recently: a driver was assaulted and knocked unconscious by youths late at night. The same group also broke the rear door glass and frame. This was on the 124 (former N half of the 174) in January.

      5. Only bus I’ve been on where someone broke a liquor bottle over another passenger’s head for “touching his woman” (all they all knew each other)…. Driver didn’t even react, just continued on his way (this was probably around 5 years ago).

      6. does this mean that they will also be running as the 26 to Fremont and points North? since the 26 becomes the 174.

      7. yea … don’t know why I confused that … guess cause Metro always refers the the 124 and 174 together since the 124 ends at the Tukwila Link station and the 174 begins there.

      8. No….26 links to 124. 124 and 174 are seperate routes, out of seperate bases. Only the two night owl roundtrips link 124 & 174, but those don’t do 26’s.

    3. WHY oh WHY is there still a 36 Diseasel?!?

      It is not fair to the Beacon Hill/Holly Park Community that all these years later* there is still a bus belching soot into the second-floor windows.

      *(which included the LINK station construction and the twice-extension of trolley overhead)

      1. At least the 36 diesel only runs during the day on weekdays now. Weekday evenings and weekends are trolley only. They need the 60ft buses to run weekdays 5am-7pm to handle the passenger loads.

      2. There are 59 of them. At least 2 are at Atlantic Maintanence at all times, plus ~10% spares that won’t go in service at any given time. For example, 3 are at maintenance, 6 will be spares, and 50 will be in service during peak.

      3. Hopefully, should Metro reconsider getting rid of the trolleys in four years, the 36 would be full-time trolleys. I’m just thinking out loud.

    4. If the 36 diesel is moving away from Atlantic, then that means less work at Atlantic – a particular hardship for part-timers. I imagine some work will be returning to Ryerson now that the scaffolding is gone from the new bypasses through Qwest/Safeco as well.

      1. Point being that when a regular operator on the 36 takes a day off, that frees up extra work for part-timers working the Additional Tripper list. More about this at http://tinyurl.com/29z6n6w .

        65% of all part-time work is actually assigned to full-time Operators – even when there are part-time Operators available and willing to do the work.

      2. The amount of work changes every shakeup, and in this case the amount of work at a particular base does in fact change when a route (or part of a route) moves to another base. Part time Operators can only drive work out of the particular base that they’re assigned to. Only full time Operators can “detail” to other bases or in the case of System Board Operators, regularly rotate between bases.

        In this case, moving diesel 36’s to Ryerson results in a net loss of work at Atlantic Base, meaning that part-timers who work Atlantic base have fewer opportunities to earn income there.

      3. Nothing is forcing them to only pick Atlantic Base work. In fact, this opens up new opportunities since they can pick both a diesel 36 and some other Ryerson work.

      4. Tim,

        I apologize for not making my point better. Moving from Atlantic to Ryerson won’t increase the amount of work available to part-timers, as there are more part-timers at Ryerson competing for extra work.

        Not sure why you keep trying to shoot down my point on this.

      5. Not sure why you keep complaining about this…

        Metro needs to schedule more efficiently. As you’re well aware, Metro has less than no money. If they can’t schedule more efficiently, something’s going to have to go. It could be operators, it could be a route, it could be something else. Metro shouldn’t be providing work a certain way for the sake of providing it that way. They’re not “doing you a favor” by providing work–they’re providing work, and since you applied to work there, you indicated that you’re willing to do work. And it sounds like you don’t like the way some of the work is offered. If that’s true, maybe it’s time to consider employment elsewhere.

      6. Tim,

        You definitely have a future as an Administrator with the King County Department of Transportation. Better study for those finals.

    5. I drive for CT, and i never heard this before but they never tell us anything anyway! But i do know about 70+ of our drivers have received layoff notices, some will be rescinded after the final run cut this week. If we were to operate the first transit commuter runs, we would not have the manpower unless most of those drivers were not laid off. I do hope this rumor is true

      BTW, only drivers are actually losing jobs, no admin., management, marketing, etc. they are moving 1 supervisor who was hired last month back to dispatch, 2 dispatch back to driving.

    6. Why would CT contract out thier ST contract with First Transit instead of doing it themeselves? For that matter why didn’t ST contract directly with First Transit if they were cheaper?

      1. ST asked that second question too. They were going to implement it as a cost-saving measure, but it looks like this might not happen.

        However, since CT skimmed a bit off the top, they did make some money off of it, and we all know they need it.

  5. I don’t think Metro has finalized the design for the smaller stop flags yet. The 66/67 stop on 11th Ave NE at NE 42nd St just got moved, and the old style flag is there (there are still two posts). They re-painted the curb, however. I should go grab a photo of the stop…

    1. I’ve also noticed quite a few freshly painted curbs.

      How do they decide, though, which stops get schedules and which don’t?

      For example: the SB stop at Dexter & Harrison has only the 23, even though both the 23 and 124 stop there (through-routing from 26/28). Also, when signs were installed for 913 in Kent last September, there were schedule holders on the posts, but schedules never got put in.

    2. New signs were used on the 180 in the Sea-Tac area (only two routes: 180 and 574)

  6. According to the King County Employee Salary Database ( http://www.thenewstribune.com/soundinfo/kingsalaries/ )Metro Marketing Supervisor Bob Virkelyst made just over $112K in his position last year. Efforts last year included having off-duty volunteer bus drivers hand out pins lauding Metro’s 1 Billionth rider – an effort generally laughed at by the public – who assumed that the uniformed drivers were on the clock (and wasting County dollars) as they handed out those silly pins.

    Meanwhile, when I call their office to suggest printing out a few thousand bumper stickers ( http://pstransitoperators.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/stickergif.gif ) to promote transit commuting, the idea goes nowhere.

    Good to know another member of the County’s 100K Club ( http://pstransitoperators.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/the-100k-club/ ) is out there earning their keep.

    Oh – love the signs.

    1. Ever think that maybe those employees wanted to help? Just because someone that made more money than you did got some other people to volunteer doesn’t mean they were “conned” into doing it.

      1. Tim,

        Of course they wanted to – they volunteered.

        I looked through my post and don’t see how you could have gathered that I was implying that someone was conned into something.

        My point – if I need to make it explicitly is that Bob Virkelyst is overpaid, Metro’s “marketing” department a sham, and that the thing last year with having uniformed bus drivers hand out pins was an idiotic debacle and a major public relations failure. People saw bus drivers handing out pins and the automatic and overwhelming reaction was not “gee! 1 billion riders! Cool!” but “Gee! Metro has money to pay drivers to hand out silly pins announcing something that we don’t give a rip about! Bummer!”

        That help?

      2. After announcing how much money he earned you went straight into how he led volunteers into handing out pins, and then criticized the fact that there were pins being handed out. To me, it sounds like you’re being pretty critical of him.

        You have also not explained how you determined that “the public” “doesn’t care” about Metro carrying over 3 billion passengers. Did you survey a bunch of them? How did you determine what the consensus was? Did you turn deaf ears to all of the people that said it was cool? Did you ignore that boots page that Metro put up?

        Also, you’re assuming that the first thought in anyone’s mind was that the county is wasting public money. Not everybody jumps to that conclusion. In fact, some people don’t care where the money comes from, and there are probably others that think they should’ve gotten extra money for doing that.

      3. Tim,

        On one hand you’re quite astute – I was (and am) critical of Virkelyst. Metro’s “marketing team” is in my view quite incompetent at marketing Metro to the genereal public. The pin thing last year was but one example. The current “We’ll Get You There” (are you KIDDING me?) is another.

        My view of the 1 billion pin campaign is based on the feedback that I observed from customers at the time – from realtime, face-to-face conversations with folks to editorials in the news to online comments pointing out how ridiculous it all was.

        As far as the idea that “some people don’t care where the money comes from” – uh, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one. I don’t know anyone who believes that the stuff grows on trees, and as a Metro Operator on the receiving end of public opinion about how my job is funded, those “some people” who “don’t care about where the money comes from” have a tendency to never make an appearance where it counts.

        At any rate – perhaps if Metro did a better job of Marketing and cut some of those bloated, inflated salaries at King County, there’d be more available for sytem improvements such as better signage in the downtown area and we wouldn’t have these 2 or 3 prototypes, but new signs system-wide. Don’t know if folks have noticed, but Metro has also cut down on printing schedules (we’re already out of them at Atlantic Base) and is even issuing memos to Operators to cut down on things like the number of Lost and Found tags(!) that they use.

      1. Before Bob Metro didn’t present any coherent and strong brand. It was completely MIA and you fail to acknowledge that. It still isn’t as good at Sound Transit but Metro is *so* much better than just a few years ago.

        I spoke with him for a class project about two years ago and was extremely impressed with what they were working on. They were right in the process of Rapidride branding. We looked through a lot of the logo mockups and talking about what the brand has to communicate to riders. He was very responsive and I shared some of my project results with him which he appreciated.

        By bringing in how much he makes you completely lose any objectivity. You move your comment beyond perhaps fare criticism to an all out attack on character.

      2. Adam,

        By bringing in how much he makes you completely lose any objectivity. You move your comment beyond perhaps fare criticism to an all out attack on character.

        I never claimed to be objective – do YOU? And since when is pointing out someone’s salary an “attack on character”?

        THE MAN IS OVERPAID. I believe that he and his team do a lousy job on marketing Metro, and that they are paid $100K + benefits to do so is a travesty. That’s not an “attack on character” – I’m sure they’re all fine people who hug their kids and pay their taxes. I just don’t believe that the County is getting its money’s worth.

      3. Point being folks – I like the signs too. But what is the point of putting up a few prototypes and releasing a video (starring Mr. Virkelyst) lauding them but to say “Hey! Lookee what we could do IF ONLY WE HAD MORE MONEY!” and justifying their over-inflated salaries.

        Want to save some money at Metro? Hoping to avoid service cuts?


    2. If I were a Metro employee — even one high in the chain of command — I would have a big problem with another Metro employee calling me out, by name, on a public blog.

      If my boss did that to me on a public blog, she/he would find herself/himself on the losing end of a big lawsuit, at the company’s expense.

      Just because the posting rules say nothing about obeying laws regarding employee confidentiality, that doesn’t mean your job will be protected if someone above you in the chain of command catches you breaking laws regarding employee confidentiality on this blog.

      This exchange is the sort of exchange I would stay far away from if I were a Metro employee. If I felt compelled to criticize the performance of my higher-ups, I would do so under a pseudonym not recognized as belonging to a Metro employee, and I would take pains not to criticize another Metro employee by name.

      Feel free to ignore my advice. I’m just trying to protect the drivers who offer lots of wonderful information on this blog from doing something that could threaten their employment.

      1. If I were a Metro employee — even one high in the chain of command — I would have a big problem with another Metro employee calling me out, by name, on a public blog.

        That’s nice. It’s also tough noogies.

        If my boss did that to me on a public blog, she/he would find herself/himself on the losing end of a big lawsuit, at the company’s expense.

        Possibly. That would depend on the content of hte post, and the relationship between poster and post-ees. Vierkelyst isn’t in my chain of command, and I’m not speaking as one who works with or for the man – just as a taxpayer and a citizen with my own unique perspective – one I’m entitled to express with or without your approval. Good news though – this being a public forum, you (and he) are welcome to respond, not just here but on my own blog. Don’t agree with what is said? Respond and correct the record, disagree or otherwise present your own case. Everyone wins. And if you’re under the impression that I’m one of the “higher ups”, it’s probably time for you to click on my name.

        Regarding “confidentiality” – the database of King County Employee salaries is public record, and online for all to see at:
        King County Employee Salary Database (Tacoma News Tribune)

        If I felt compelled to criticize the performance of my higher-ups, I would do so under a pseudonym not recognized as belonging to a Metro employee, and I would take pains not to criticize another Metro employee by name.

        I suppose this would be the approach of someone who was ashamed of what they had to say, and lacked the courage to put their name behind their words. I understand that you are claiming to be such a person. I am not.

        And believe me – expressing my first amendment rights is no threat to my employment, nor is naming names.

  7. I can’t believe I missed the 6001 display bus at Westlake last week.

    Anyone know if they plan on putting out another coach for display anytime soon?

    1. Probably not, it was a special deal for Earth Day (or Take Your Child to Work Day, I’m not sure which).

    2. Why not? If Metro wants RapidRide to be successful it has to market it. That’s one of the core elements of BRT. Community Transit did a great job with promoting and getting people excited with Swift by displaying the buses at various community events months before service began.

      Or if the rumors discussed above are true, you’ll get to ride them in June.

      1. I’d like more advanced notice. Or have them do it the day after I have a midterm, and not the day before.

      2. The info above about BRT buses on the 174 is not a rumor….the other info was. Metro put out the pick sheets for operaters for next shakeup, and most of the 174’s are scheduled to use Rapid Ride coaches. But you will see some 6800’s and 2300’s on the 174 too mostly at rush hour.

      3. I can’t find the run card for it, but one of the 174s that operates on Saturday evenings will become a 180 on a wienermobile.

        It’s 174/1R, duty 095 if someone else can manage to find it.

  8. Speaking of RapidRide, or any BRT, it sounds like the new Las Vegas Gold Line BRT is off to a pretty good start:


    They are claiming about 20,000 boardings per weekday on that Gold Line BRT.

    “The ACE Gold Line, which runs down Las Vegas Boulevard from downtown to the Strip, has been averaging 20,000 people a day, Snow said.

    “That’s far more than the 4,000 to 6,000 riders the commission’s computer models predicted, Snow said, and the demand required the RTC’s contractors to add staff.

    “We really tried to get ready, but we were overwhelmed by the response,” Snow said.”

    The L.V. Gold Line BRT is 11.2 miles long, and cost about $52 million ($4.6 million per mile), and is already averaging more weekday boardings than Central Link, according to this article.

    1. Now that is BRT done right and something even I would stand behind building for this region. RapidRide is really just a glorified bus… them using it on a normal 174.. well I don’t expect those coaches to look nice for long…. Nice going Metro.. nice going….

      1. Speaking of “looking nice for long..” Have you noticed that some Link cars are already looking pretty “used”? Stains on seats; etchings in the windows and clear divider panels; dirt and trash on the floors.

        Every time I ride Link there is at least one passenger eating something. A couple of weeks ago, about a dozen guys with sleeping bags and back packs boarded a Link train with a large dog, and started eating fried chicken with their hands. I was in the opposite end of the car, but could smell it from the length of the car. One guy came wondering through most of the car with a chicken bone in his hand, apparently looking for a trash can. lol

        Obviously, with so many people eating and drinking on Link cars, there is some food and drink being spilled on seats and floors, and some of these are causing stains that are not coming out. Lots of people are just leaving their mostly-empty disposable food containers on the trains when they get off. I don’t think that Link cars are going to look too spiffy after five or ten years. They are already losing that “brand-new” look.

      2. What’s the matter with eating on the train? As long as it’s self-contained and the eater cleans up after himself, I’m all for it. No BBQ chicken or box of rice, but a sandwich or apple should be fine. Unused to eat on the subway all the time.

      1. http://weeklyseven.com/news/2010/march/04/where-rubber-meets-road

        different article.

        “And the cost consideration can’t be ignored. Phoenix’s new light-rail line, which is pretty much at street level, cost $70 million a mile to build. Seattle’s new 15.6-mile line, which had to negotiate a trickier topography, cost around $173 million per mile. The Gold Line cost about $52 million for the entire 11.2-mile route. “We think a system that serves the entire community is better than just one small line that serves a portion of it,” Snow says.”

        “If you want a taste of the BRT, check out the RTC’s MAX line, which opened in 2005 and runs from downtown up Las Vegas Boulevard to Nellis Air Force Base. The stations feature cool, curving sheets of metal, and ridership has been pretty good, about 8,000 people a day. The buses are clean, airy and light, with skylights, and the ride, which takes about 30 minutes, is smooth. The passengers are about the cast you’d expect: a young woman and her baby, an older woman, young couples holding hands, people chattering away on their cell phones or talking to their friends about the swap meet. The agency has saved some 60 percent of costs to operate the line versus the slower line it replaced.”

        Consider that last sentence, which is something I don’t hear discussed much in this city. L.V. claims that a BRT line saves SIXTY PERCENT of opereating costs of a slower line it replaces. You can move a larger number of people with fewer buses, because BRT lines average a much higher speed. So, operating costs of BRT are much lower than that of regular city buses, according to this article.

      2. If you build no right of way at all, and the whole expense is buses and stations, you can claim low costs. The comparison of LV BRT and Link is like comparing apples to cougars.

      3. BRT increases the capacity of existing roads. That is why it is so much more cost-effective than LRT. Our existing highways and streets have plenty of capacity — we just aren’t using them efficiently. One or two people in a car is not very efficient. 90, or even 30, people in a bus is very efficient — especially the closer you get to 90.

        Our highways and streets can carry several times as many people per hour or day as they do currently. Why build more right-of-way at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars per mile, when we can just vastly increase the capacity of existing right-of-way by putting a lot more people in each vehicle?

        Take 50 people out of SOV’s and put them all in one bus, and you are greatly reducing congestion on that road, saving those 50 people a lot of money, and not having to spend billions of tax dollars on new right-of-way.

        What’s not to like?

      4. What’s not to like is that we’re never going to “end” congestion, as some people will always prefer to drive and sit in traffic. The answer, for either BRT or rail, is dedicated right-of-way for transit that provides a congestion-free alternative for the rest of us.

      5. HOV lanes can be congestion-free for buses. They just have to adjust the number of people per vehicle to keep those lanes running freely.

        If you operate enough buses to make it worthwhile, you can convert some lanes on arterials to “bus-only” lanes, without building new lanes.

        How much is it worth to you to have a “congestion-free” trip? Would you pay thirty times as much for a trip on a train as you would for a trip on a bus? Because Central Link light rail cost about $160 million per mile, but L.V. Gold Line BRT cost only about $4.6 million per mile.

        And Link takes about 40 minutes between Westlake and SeaTac, while the 194 took about 30 minutes.

        So, is a trip on Link worth $60 to you, if the 194 trip cost you $2? Would you pay thirty times as much to ride a train as a bus?

        Or, you just expect the taxpayers to pay the difference, so you can avoid “congestion”?

      6. Norman,
        No matter what you say U-Link, North Link, East Link, South Link, and the First Hill Streetcar are all going to get built.

        Past that do realize that unless you have at least reserved ROW separated from the SOV lanes the buses are going to get delayed by the SOV drivers. Paint isn’t enough to keep the SOV drivers from intruding on the transit lanes. In the most congested areas or on the highest ridership lines, the transit lanes will need full grade separation from other traffic. Just like with rail practical headways and reliability are limited by the amount of grade separation. Even with 100% grade separation the ultimate capacity of BRT is less than a rail line in the same ROW. The transitway also requires a wider footprint as you need room for a breakdown lane. Furthermore labor costs will be higher as you need more drivers to move the same number of passengers.

        BRT does have its place but it is no more a “one size fits all” solution than light rail, streetcars, or commuter rail.

      7. Stop creating a false dichotomy between “taxpayers” and “transit users.” Voters in this region have resoundingly decided to tax themselves to construct light-rail so that we all have the option of a congestion-free alternative. So, yes, we democratically decided to have ourselves, as taxpayers, pay the difference to have the option to avoid congestion.

      8. “Even with 100% grade separation the ultimate capacity of BRT is less than a rail line in the same ROW.”

        Not true.

        “The transitway also requires a wider footprint as you need room for a breakdown lane.”

        The lanes already exist. They just require BRT routes on them. For example, across the I-90 floating bridge center span.

        “Furthermore labor costs will be higher as you need more drivers to move the same number of passengers.”

        Who cares about labor costs? Total operating cost of BRT is similar to, or less than LRT.

        I didn’t ask what voters voted on. I saw the results of the elections. I also saw the propaganda for the Pro-LRT side on tv, print media, and heard the radio ads. You can win many elections when you out-spend your opponents by an overwhelming margin, and say things like “one light rail line has the capacity of a 12-lane highway”, which is a blatant lie.

        What I asked is how much more would YOU pay to ride light rail instead of BRT? ST light rail is costing many times more than BRT. How much more is a trip on LRT worth to you compared to that trip on BRT? It is costing taxpayers many times as much to provide that trip on LRT instead of buses

      9. I, for one, won’t ride a BRT on a congested corridor for any extended period. I don’t need to and won’t. I would ride a train/subway/LRT even if not faster because I (generally) have more space and the ride’s better. I’m not alone in this preference.

        There is no way that the incremental or marginal cost for BRT can be equal to (or less than) rail. Incremental passengers require more operators for BRT and stops create real bottlenecks.

        There’s no way that a comparable number of riders can board and alight on a bus, even with three doors and off-board payment, as on a train/subway/light rail. That ends up being a limiting factor of comparing the services. A train with up to 40 doors can arrive every 2.5 minutes. I’ve been on buses that took 5 minutes to load/unload at one stop, backing everything up.

      10. Norman, I’m perfectly aware of what you asked me. Thanks for the update. My point was and remains that your question is fundamentally flawed: as a taxpayer I am already paying the cost of the difference between light-rail and BRT, and I am happy to do so. This is what people mean when they say false dichotomy.

        Of course you didn’t ask about the results of the election, because the results of the election undermine your entire argument that some class of tax payers is being wronged by some class of transit users. Taxpayers voted to fund light-rail usage. And cry me a river about campaign funding. You lost the vote.

      11. “Even with 100% grade separation the ultimate capacity of BRT is less than a rail line in the same ROW.”

        Not true.
        How am I wrong? A light rail line can handle 24000 passengers per hour, per direction. Commuter rail and heavy rail transit have even higher capacities. The capacity of any real-world BRT line is considerably less than either.

        The lanes already exist. They just require BRT routes on them. For example, across the I-90 floating bridge center span.

        This is one limited example of a transitway on one very short segment of a much longer future rail corridor. So where do you get grade separated bus lanes between Northgate, University District, Capitol Hill, and Downtown as but one example?

        Who cares about labor costs? Total operating cost of BRT is similar to, or less than LRT.

        Labor costs are the majority of operating costs. As you increase the number of buses on a particular BRT line and shorten headways your operating costs go up. Besides you are simply wrong about BRT costing the same or less per service hour than BRT. Link looks bad right now as a large number of fixed costs must be carried across a low number of service hours, but those service hours will get much cheaper as more of the ST2 system gets completed.

        It is costing taxpayers many times as much to provide that trip on LRT instead of buses

        Your point is? Those taxpayers voted to build the streetcars, light rail, and commuter rail in Sound Move and ST2.

        Besides widening I-5 would cost considerably more.

      12. Norman,
        Good luck with getting the State to increase the capacity of the HOV lane. They have standards for the HOV and have not adjusted the minimum capacity when the lanes fail to maintain those standards.

  9. Calling KC Metro is most of the time an exercise in futility. Many times trying to get hold of a live person to give you information you’ll get fast busy. The “BUS-TIME” system is confusing and many stops aren’t even provided! Why aren’t the BUS-TIME stop numbers not on the schedule displays?

    The onebusaway is a much better system and at least lets you know when a bus will be there. Spending money on new signs is a waste of money as far as I can see.

    1. Joseph,

      Why aren’t the BUS-TIME stop numbers not on the schedule displays?

      If you’re asking why every stop in the system doesn’t have the time listed for when a bus is supposed to be at that stop (“bus time”), then the reason it isn’t there is that it can’t realistically be provided or predicted. Not to mention that your average bus schedule would go from a small foldout to a major volume, particularly for those longer routes with hundreds of stops. Driver run cards would experience a similar explosive expansion, and become completely impractical for Operator use.

      Bus schedules (and our own run cards) have “time points” that we aim for. Some are “hard” (definite expectation of departure time) and some are “estimated” – allowing for normal traffic condition variations over longer routes that cross major stretches of freeway, bridges, etc.

      1. I don’t think Joseph was asking that each schedule be adjusted for that exact stop. Rather he was asking why the BUS-TIME stop number isn’t printed on the schedule (or on the sign, for stops w/out schedules). That way a rider wouldn’t have to bother with BUS-TIME’S stop lookup feature (which Joseph notes is rather convoluted); they could just punch in the number and get the scheduled time for that stop.

        The funny thing is, each schedule is customized for each stop and does have a unique stop number printed on it. But, of course, Metro apparently has two stop-numbering systems, and the stop number printed on the schedules isn’t the stop number that BUS-TIME uses; rather it is the stop number that OneBusAway uses. Why the hell Metro has two different stop numbering systems is beyond my comprehension.

      2. The schedule at each stop reflects a time based on the timepoint. For example, the 71/72/73/74 all have NE 45th ST as a timepoint, and the printed schedule at the stop at NE 41st ST says “Bus leaves NE 45th at these times”.

        OneBusAway interpolates these times since it takes a known amount of time to get between two timepoints based on the distance between them.

      3. The stop numbers on the schedules, signs and shelters are the real identification number for a stop in Metro’s database. The BUS-TIME numbers are specific to a route and stop, not just the stop, so a number directly gives the schedule for a route x at stop y. BUS-TIME should ditch their own numbering system and go to a OBA-style system: enter the stop number, press #, then (optionally) enter the route serving that stop, followed by the # sign.

    2. Joseph, the reason Bus-Time stop numbers (Metro’s automated schedule lookup phone system) are not at stops is because each number is unique to a stop, route and direction. A stop served by 5 routes would have 5 bustime numbers, which would be confusing. OneBusAway uses the stop’s ID number and Metro’s new signs show that clearly. All that’s missing on them is instructions on using OneBusAway.

      Besides, BusTime is obsolete because it only provides scheduled, not real-time information for only Metro routes. OBA gives Metro, ST Express, Link, Sounder, and Pierce Transit info with more agencies to come in the future. Thus making it more useful from a regional perspective.

      1. Yet if they’re going to have it, it should at least function correctly. All four buses I tried to call about last night (#101, #105, #106, and #240) either gave me incorrect information or told me that my “selection” (the only one they offered!) was “invalid”. When I asked for information on the #105, it spat back the times for #240. And (as of two weeks ago anyway) all of the new 5-digit stop numbers (such as the #106 stop on Henderson/MLK) don’t work. Grr.

      2. Exactly. And they promote it more than they promote One Bus Away, which most people hardly know exists. I know more people who dial BUS-TIME than use One Bus Away because they heard about the hotline on the Metro Web site or in a timetable.

      3. The only problem with that is that Metro doesn’t know what Brian is going to be doing a year from now. If they start printing that in timetables or posting it at stops and he disappears, they’re stuck with nothing. That actually happened to them in the past (Bus Monster).

        With BUS-TIME, they own it, and pay people to fix it.

      4. Years ago I pondered a rogue stickering campaign, since I figured there was no way Metro was ever going to get around to letting people know about OBA themselves (though actually it was MyBus I was using back then).

        These new signs at least have the stop numbers more visible, but still no info on OneBusAway. Might there still be a place for my sticker design?

      5. I would just make it say

        Want to know where your bus is now?
        Text “Onebus 76710” to 41411!

        where the stop number is written in Sharpie. Give it an element of mystery, and people would talk about it if there were enough signs. No need for the texting rate disclaimer, either, in a guerrilla ad campaign.

      6. True, though as someone without an unlimited text plan, if I didn’t know about OBA I just saw that I’d probably not do it. Then there’s all the folks who don’t even know how to text. And with so many folks with smartphones, it seems silly not to promote the url, where those folks can get elegant interfaces. There’s obviously not room for listing all the options (e.g. text-only mobile web, iPhone, android, etc.), but phone, sms and web seem like essentials to me.

      7. Not to mention that the point of OneBusAway is to take some of the “mystery” out of riding Metro, not create more :)

      8. A stop served by 5 routes would have 5 bustime numbers…

        That’s actually not true. You can simply enter the four-digit BUS-TIME number and the system will list all the routes at that stop. Even if you use the stop lookup feature and specifically enter a route number to find a stop, the system will give you the same number for any route you use, and it will rattle off the scheduled arrival times of all the (Metro) buses that stop at that location, even if you only want the one you used to look up the stop.

        For example, if I use the stop-lookup feature to find the stop featured in this video, I’m told its BUS-TIME number is 1324. Then I’m given arrival info for not just the route I used to find the stop (the 19) but also the 24.

        (That’s a lie. BUS-TIME has been giving me nothing but “For additional information or assistance, press 0” messages for weeks now. But it gives me those messages for all the routes at the stop.)

        Both numbering systems appear to be completely redundant, denoting stop & direction but not route.

      9. It’s true, now that I was testing it out, it seems like BUS-TIME stop #s are usually tied to a couple of routes, but not all of them. So if you look up the route 46 at 15th NE & NE 43rd, you’ll get info for both the 46 and the 45. But not the 43, 44, 49, etc, that also serve that stop. They’re probably all lumped together with a different number.

        God, the more I learn about how Metro does this kind of crap, the more and more amazed I am that we even have buses running at all. The whole system is so half-assed…

  10. What’s with the sporadic weekend trolley operation? Sometimes they’re out for service, other times they’re not.

    I also like how Atlantic operators insist on wearing their construction vests even when they’re driving diesels on the weekends.

    1. Trolley operators aren’t supposed to wear their vests at all unless they’re getting out of their coach to re-set poles or deal with an issue requiring leaving the bus.

      Not sure why some drivers insist on wearing them behind the wheel. I don’t.

      1. I don’t drive trolleys regually, but when I do coach changes on my splits at Central on trolleys, I never wear it. I consider it to bad luck……like I’m just asking for my poles to dewire. I have to laugh at those who wear it driving diesels….maybe they are just proud Atlantic operaters.

  11. How does one bus away know whereto the buses are. Do they all have GPS in them?

      1. ok … then why can’t they do something like that for LINK in order to provide “next train in …” messaging? if it works on a bus … it can work on a train

      2. Actually, Metro doesn’t have a signpost system like that described in the article, or if they do, that’s not the data that OBA uses. OBA uses data based on odometer readings taken when a bus leaves base, and then periodically radioed back to a server. Since routes are fixed loops of known mileage, position can be estimated based on number of miles traveled. This is why when buses go on snow routes or otherwise have to detour, the whole system breaks. With an RFID signpost system, one could at least (I imagine) still say “Bus X has passed Stop Y”, even if Stop Y wasn’t on Bus X’s regular route. With Metro’s system, we can’t even say that much.

      3. It is the same system that OBA uses. Odometer readings augment signposts. This is useful because sometimes buses go off route, and if you’re solely relying on odometer readings, the tracker will think the bus is further on its route than it really is. I just finished reading your post, and you kinda said the same thing. BUT with this system, a bus has to hit 3 signposts off route before the system triggers it as off route.

        The “signposts” are actually small beacons that send out a signal continuously (the battery lasts about 6 years). All coaches have a radio that listens for that signal, and when it passes one, it knows exactly where it is at that point. The coach logs the date and time with the signpost number. I believe this map is a map of all of those transmitters.

        The radio system has two channels, one for odd numbered coaches and another for even numbered. The system polls six coaches per second (I’m not sure if that’s 3 per channel or 6 per channel, more likely 3). If the coach’s radio is in data mode, it recieves this request and radios back the last signpost that it passed, the time it passed it, the odomoter reading when it passed it, and its current odometer reading. From there, the system does all that fancy interpolating. Fun fact: the system is accurate to within 10% of the distance between two signposts.

        Metro does have RFID tags on the buses. It’s to the left of the destination sign on the front of the coach, and above the wheelchair symbol (if the coach has one). The RFID tag is automatically reprogrammed at the beginning of each trip (assuming the operator hits the next trip key), and contains, among other things, the operator’s ID number, route, run, and coach number. As far as I’m aware, this RFID tag has nothing to do with the signpost transmitters, but I do know that the tags are used for tracking coaches in the tunnel. If you look near the beginnings and ends of the tubes, you’ll see a white square panel, about a foot wide. That’s the RFID reader for the coaches.

        Link is a whole ‘nother story, and I’m not going to get into that one right now.

      4. The RFID tags are also used for Metro’s legacy Transit Signal Priority system. That’ll eventually be replaced by 802.11-based network + GPS like what RapidRide will use.

      5. The 802.11-based network will run at 4.8 GHz if you were curious.

        At one time, it was planned that RancidRide would have WiFi on board. It’d be pretty easy, since the network that the RancidRide buses are on will be connected to King County’s WAN, but I don’t know if that’s been scrapped or not.

  12. I received this Central Link light rail rider alert at about 12:30am last night (Sunday morning, technically):

    “Central Link service haulted due to police activity.

    Due to a police incident around Mt Baker station train service has been halted until further notice.”

    Anyone have any details on this? Does that mean that every Link train was stopped right where it happened to be? Or what?

    And what was the “police activity?” A gang fight?

      1. Yeah. I think there was a drive-by shooting at Mount Baker Station a few months ago. It’s sad… But luckily if you’re not involved in crime, you’re not really at risk, because almost all these shootings are between people who knew each other.

      2. no it was a house on MLK … but the cops shut the whole street down … and that includes LINK

  13. I heard a while ago a rumor that the fake ceiling at King Street Station was going to come down at the beginning of April. It’s not down yet, is it? Any word on when it will be taken off? I can’t wait, it’s going to be such a nice station after the restoration.

  14. Very sad story out of Portland. A TriMet driver, turning left downtown around midnight Saturday, ran over a group of people, killing two.


    Something similar happened in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood about 7 years ago. A Metro bus traveling west on 34th street and turning left onto Fremont Ave ran over two women in the crosswalk, killing one. Amazingly, the driver kept his job. I hope the 48 year old female TriMet driver isn’t so lucky.

    Be more careful, bus drivers. You have a very simple job with few responsibilities, but one of them is to make sure there is no one in the crosswalk before you proceed.

    1. I saw this … a real freaky accident … although I don’t know why the people didn’t move out of the way. Was alcohol a factor?

      1. They don’t know yet. The female driver had been driving for TriMet for three years. The bus was out of service, and no one but the driver was on the bus. She ran over five people total.

      2. I learned at a young age to give way to large vehicles … because you will lose every time. I cannot understand how someone could let a bus run over them (exceptions being if they were pushed or drunk or talking on a cell phone/texting or listening to thier iPod)

      3. Dude, the people in the crosswalk had the walk symbol, according to the news reports I saw. The bus driver should have waited for them to finish crossing. They probably didn’t even have time to react. It’s not as simple as not “letting” a bus hit you. You’re blaming the victims here.

    2. “Before Saturday night’s accident, TriMet had been involved in 29 bus-related fatalities since 1998. Most recently, 15-year-old Austin Miller died in February 2008 after being struck by a No. 52 (Farmington/185th) bus at Southwest Murray Boulevard and Farmington Road in Beaverton.”

      I hope someone responsible for safety training also lost their job along the way.

  15. Since this is open thread, I thought I’d offer one (perhaps belated) suggestion on fares:

    Instead of zone pricing (which some ORCA users are losing patience over, since overcharging is more widespread than ST or Metro admit), use route-type pricing. Charge more for express routes. Create some sort of financial incentive for shifting South King County express service to come out of TIB, Airport, Tukwila Sounder, Kent, and Auburn Station instead of out of downtown.

    In the case of ST, treat certain routes like the 574 as local, and the 59n’s as express. Also consider some sort of congestion pricing on Sounder, so that if empty seats are an ongoing reality in any particular direction, then Sounder fare can be capped at the same price as the 59n’s, or perhaps even lower.

    1. Ugh, I have to disagree with you on this one.

      For the longest time I’ve been lucky enough to have a FlexPass with my company, so I didn’t have to care about where I went, but am now forced to buy an ORCA Puget Pass. In light of that, I got to experience the “joy” of the ORCA website. All I wanted was a 1 zone pass just to find out that I have 20 different options presented to me – that is after I called support to figure out how to change my E-Purse card over to a Puget Pass…

      Growing up on the east coast, it was easy to figure out what pass I needed for the places that I go to often. Here, being presented with options like “$1.25 Puget Pass” makes absolutely no sense.

      What needs to be done is to have the same fare structure for all of the transit agencies to avoid this utter confusion. Then you can have zone 1, zone 2, zone 3, and possibly passes for express transit. I’m sure many of you will complain about this, but it’s my opinion that this is actually a hindrance for people to start using public transportation. Example – I want to take my 1 zone bus, but also be able to use the Link. With the $2.25 Puget Pass, I’m able to take the bus, but I’m short 0.25 for the Link. I actually didn’t know this until I talked with someone. However, if this same route was labeled as a 2 zone trip, that would be MUCH easier to understand.

      Sigh, I question Seattle’s over thinking on solutions that have already been solved. Why re-invent the wheel?

      1. Also note that without a zone-based pass system, every time the fare increases you’ll have to manually reset any autopay you might have set up, since the system no longer knows what sort of fare you need your pass to cover.

      2. My problem is not with the handling of ORCA (which still charges for two zones for a lot of short trips, but I don’t worry about that extra revenue Metro is getting too much). It’s with the inefficiencies caused by duplicate-head express routes. Express routes that run along S I-5 (or 509) duplicate service with the still-far-from-full Link trains. We can’t afford that type of inefficiency any more.

        If people want a 1-seat ride to distant points all over South King County, they should pay more for it. It is a premium service.

        If people are willing to ride Link and then take a local route the remaining distance, they shouldn’t be punished by paying an extra 25 cents for the whole trip over what the 1-seat duplicate-headers are paying.

  16. The Los Angeles Times published a terrific story today on Cambodia’s bamboo trains.

    It rattles along at 20 miles an hour, swaying back and forth on uneven rails, the engine so loud it makes your teeth hurt. Then, rather unceremoniously, it runs out of gas and dies. …

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