Ad in DC Metro station, photo by VeloBusDriver

This is an open thread.

96 Replies to “News Roundup: Probably a Myth”

  1. Is it possible for any of the proposed King County sales tax increase (0.2%) to be used for transit purposes?

    1. (Thurston Co.) will ask voters in August to increase sales tax from 0.6% to 0.8%.

      I’m pretty sure King County is tapped out on sales tax athority.

    2. There will be no sales tax increase, Constantine never seriously wants one.

      The entire purpose of him floating this proposal is to polarize the public against frontline County workers, and divert attention away from the bloated, redundant, and overpaid managers earning over $100K throughout County government.

      It’s a Rope-A-Dope.

      1. Or maybe the entire purpose is to sustain vital programs for county residents that are currently on track to being cut because of the county government’s huge deficit that was brought about by the recession. Just a possibility.

      2. Thank you. I too love to bash everything government, but after a while these conspiracy theories get annoying.

      3. Chetan,

        Not a “conspiracy theory” but an observation. The day that Dow announced his tax hike proposal he went on local radio and again and again mentioned that local unions need to “get realistic” about costs during upcoming negotiations – and not one word about “getting realistic” about costs within the upper levels at County government.

        It happens in other cities around contract time too – even in better economic years. Government officials start threatening the public with cuts that will hurt them the most – and pointing at frontline workers, many of whom are unionized, as the culprits.

        No tinfoil hat here – just the clarity of vision associated with a realistic analysis of the facts at hand and often used political tactics.

        The County’s deficit has been exacerbated by the recession and our regressive tax structure (which Dow has proposed to expand). It’s also been exacerbated by spending, and I have yet to hear any talk at the County level of cuts to management and administration. It’s always about cutting “vital services”.

        You don’t find that a wee bit suspicious or at the very least – unwise? I do.

      4. alexjonlin,

        Sure. It’s a possibility. On the other hand, the day that Dow announced his proposed tax increase to protect “vital programs”, he made the rounds on local radio commenting again and again that huge costs associated with union labor were largely to blame.

        And not one word about auditing or examining cuts to the upper eschelons at County government, or the salaries and benefit packages of non-represented employees.

    3. Could someone answer my original question? Could the county legally use (and perhaps even dedicate) some of that additional sales tax money to transit (and/or bridge repair and replacement, road repairs, sidewalks, and bike infrastructure)?

    1. Not much, maybe 5000 hours a year, or something under 20 hrs per weekday using one bus.

      1. At that number I estimate that $145,000.00 of that would be driver wages. What would account for the other $555,000.00 in cost of that 20 hours per week?

      2. 5,200-5,600 hours ($125-135/hr) works out to more like 100 hours per week, not 20. So, 2 routes 10 hours a day on weekdays or twice than many peak hour routes.

      3. Thanks Jeff,
        I made the same mistake but couldn’t even figure it out until you posted. Still, if it’s your route that’s cut it’s more than “not much”. Plus, those hours could represent a significant weekend service.

  2. In the “problem with the tunnel” story:

    “Members of the freight-hauling community say the route question isn’t that important to them, because most trucks from the Ballard area would take the new waterfront surface route instead of the tunnel.”

    Of course not. Everyone will use the waterfront surface route because it’s free and just as fast. Remind me why we’re building this thing again?

    1. Just as fast? There will not be a stop light at almost every block, as there is now? You really believe McGinn wanst a “freeway” along the waterfront? Or, you think he might want some traffic “calming” (slowing) features on that surface street?

      1. Need to be clear on what’s “just as fast”. Travel from SODO to Ballard via surface vs. travel via tunnel (and via Aurora, since there will be no Elliot/Western exit from tunnel) = just as fast, maybe faster. Travel to Ballard via surface vs via today’s highway + Elliot/Western = not as fast. Travel to Aurora via tunnel vs via existing highway = just as fast. Travel to Aurora via tunnel vs via surface = not as fast. The first of these examples are what freight hauling community was claiming.

  3. I’m so giddy that I was listed on Seattle Transit Blog (The Many Types of ORCA users/Stupidity in Mass).

    Two things, I cannot wait until Light Rail goes across ALL of WA state. And then, I overjoyed that METRO is printing less schedules and hopefully pushing more people to rely online instead.

    1. Speaking of which:

      When I was living in Heidelberg, there was a great Strassenbahn system for getting around the city. However there was also a line, the 5R, that ran a giant loop (on the same tracks) through the center of Mannheim, Heidelberg and Weinheim. It wasn’t fast at all, took a couple hours to do the whole loop, as it wasn’t very fast and stopped at every little hamlet along the way.

      Here’s what I’m talking about:
      (those dots are not the only stops of the 5R, in the cities it made all the stops of a regular Strassenbahn).

      Anyway, I’ve heard that our term ‘Light Rail’ comes from German Tram designs, so I was wondering if there were any plans, way, WAY, into the future to have anything like this.

      Oh, I should also note that there was a S-Bahn from Heidelberg to Mannheim that took a third of the time to get there, so this was pretty much just local service.

      1. Sounds like commuter rail basically. If we expand our commuter rail system to run all day every day with at least 30 min headways, we could end up with a system like that.

      2. Kinda, but not quite. The S-Bahn was more like commuter rail IMO. The 5R was the same vehicle as the Strassenbahn (Streettrain) except for it had AC. It also ran on the same tracks as the Strassenbahn. In my second map, you can see the two purple lines of the 5R coming into the city and turning into a city route while in there.

      3. Huh so I guess it’s more like the old Interurbans of the US. I wish we could bring those back.

      4. Thanks! Looked up Interurban and that seems to be exactly what it was. I wonder in the future if we will ever see anything like this? I realize right now it seems kinda crazy, but if gas prices continue their rise, will Everette, Tacoma, and Olympia ever build light rail or would streetcars be more fitting to their makeup?, And if they do go the LR route is the technology pretty uniform, so that one train could run on multiple systems?

      5. Well we’ll have light rail down to Tacoma and up to Everett in a couple decades and I’m hoping that at least in Tacoma it continues underground for a segment in the densest parts of the city, to destinations like UPS and TCC, and in Everett it continues underground from Everett Station to the middle of Downtown Everett. The rest of these cities may be better served by streetcars, or, if they continue to grow and densify, maybe more high-capacity light rail.

      6. The S-bahn is a set of regional rail networks that are all linked together. Most people take it to the suburbs or between neighboring cities, but you can also take it within the city if you’re going to one of its stops, or across the country if you have more time than money. Within regions, it runs 24 hours at least every half hour. Between regions there are SE (Stadt-Express) trains that skip the minor stops. Stop spacing is somewhere between north Link and Sounder.

        If you added Sounder stations at Ballard and Belltown and Boeing Access Road, and added a spur to Sea-Tac airport, you’d have an S-bahn route. You would then have regional trains throughout the day to Portland/Eugene, Bellingham, Spokane, and Walla Walla. These would connect to other regional trains in a chain down to California. Although the chains are a bit harder to imagine here with our lower population density and gigantic rural areas.

      7. Yeah, that’s what it seems to me. Very good system they had there, and as a student I think it was only either 40 Euros (60 bucks) or 60 Euros a month for a regional pass. So not just the complete Heidelberg system, but also Mannheim where my friend lived and went to university (and I assume Weinheim, but I never hung out there).

      8. In the Rhineland you can get three levels of passes. “A” is one city (Duesseldorf). “B” includes the nearby suburbs. “C” includes the entire transit region (Rhein-Ruhr, including Duesseldorf, Essen, Wuppertal and the cities around them: this would be equivalent to half the Bay Area). A pass is good on all transit from buses to streetcars/subways to the S-bahn (but not the faster IC or ICE trains). You can get a pass for a week or a month, and possibly other increments.

        The next region south is Rhein-Sieg, including Cologne and Bonn. If you commute between two regions, you have to have a pass for both or buy a ticket for the uncovered area. I think I took one S-bahn from Duesseldorf to Cologne, another from there to Bonn, and a streetcar to Bad Godesberg, each taking between 30 and 60 minutes.

        On weekends you can get a Wochenendekarte, which covers all non-fast trains throughout the country (including local subways but not buses). So I took a 3-hour trip on an SE train to Aachen, and with a chain of three local buses got to Liege and back for a total of $25 or such. I considered the 9-hour trip to Berlin but there wouldn’t have been much of the weekend left when I got there.

      9. Does the C Ticket include admission to the Wuppertal Suspended Monorail? Cause I gotta ride that sometime, it appears to be the coolest thing ever.

      10. Yes it does. It’s called the Schwebebahn. I rode it. The entrance is right at the Wuppertal S-bahn station and there are signs to it. It runs along the top of a steep narrow river valley. (I don’t remember if a river was there, but the train runs along where it would have been.) The wheels are on top of the train. It runs pretty slowly. It’s considered the safest rail mode, and had no accidents until its 98th year, when it had one minor accident.

      11. It runs in part directly over the river. They dropped an elephant once and he was uninjured because he landed in the water (and people complain about dogs on KC Metro ;-).

  4. I had the ‘Downtown ORCA Penalty’ happen to me unexpectedly yesterday. In the course of running errands yesterday (Kennydale–>Renton–>Kent–>Seattle–>Kennydale) I was charged three full fares (total-$6.75) in 4 hours and 10 minutes. If I had been able to tap when I boarded the #111 in downtown Seattle rather than after languishing miserably on I-405, I would have only been charged twice ($4.00). It’s quite ironic to be charged MORE because your bus got stuck in traffic.

    It’s not that big of a deal, but it is definitely another example of the opacity and counter-intuitiveness of the system.

    1. And as usual, Sound Transit tried to blame Metro, the ST spokesman initially telling Gutierrezz (author of the “getting there” article) that drivers had been instructed to allow passengers to “tap out” after leaving the RFA – but before reaching their destination.

      Aside from being false (drivers had been told no such thing – and I proved it by providing the text of what *was* presented to Metro Operators:

      Q: The ORCA transfer time of 2 hours is too short for some of my passengers and it is shorter than current Metro policy allows (up to 2 hours from time coach scheduled to arrive downtown).

      A: The ORCA transfer window is a regional system decision. Metro cannot set a different transfer time than other agencies in the regional system covered by ORCA.

      . . .the very idea demonstrated a lack of understanding of how ORCA works. Anyone wishing to avoid a 2 or 3-zone fare need only (according to the ST spokesman’s “solution”) tap out once they crossed Dearborne St. – and leave the bus at their end destination, which could be as far away as Tacoma.

      1. Who better to learn how to game the system, than the system guys?
        I’m shocked!

      2. The point is not that there are creative ways to game the system, or that a spokesman misstated or a reporter misreported a workaround. The point is that it’s a de facto fare increase which the transit agencies won’t acknowledge straight-on. People are paying $6.75 or $15 a day, which adds up to a lot if you do it several days in a row as a visitor would. A maximum daily fare or a weekly pass would make a big difference. A discount on e-purse cash would be at least some consolation.

        All this ill will detracts from the fact that Metro is perfectly justified in saying they need the money that the 2-hour transfers generate, and there’s no inherent right to a several-hour transfer. But the agencies should at least acknowledge this directly, and do something for riders who have to go long distances and now are suddenly paying more.

      3. Mike,

        Metro isn’t the problem. Metro issues paper transfers good as long as the passenger boards before the expiration time appearing on the bottom of the transfer. You can ride for 16 hours stuck in traffic if you want. So long as you boarded when the transfer was good – it’s still good.

        “The agencies” aren’t the problem. Sound Transit and their lack of understanding of ORCA is. Period.

    2. Actually, you would have been charged $4.75, not $4. If you would have avioded the last charge of 2.75 to your card by tapping early, within you 4 hour window, the ORCA reader would have said on the 111 trip “XTER + $0.75” because if you have charged the difference of the $2 off-peak original charge to the two-zone peak charge.
      But, by doing that, you would have added another 2 hours to ride anything of a value of $2.75 or less without being charged again.

  5. It’s a shame about the fewer schedules. We ran out of schedules at bases about half way into shakeup, so we no longer have them on the buses either. Throughout the service period we get people who are new to riding the bus, visiting from out ouf town, who just changed jobs etc. – and really need a printed schedule. Add to that the confusion of some routes (but not others) being linked, higher frequency of running times during peak hours, and no indication at kiosks which buses are headed out of service (i.e. “to base”) and what you have is a big pile of piss-poor customer service.

    At a savings of only $85K, I would much rather have seen one managerial position, one redundant and unnecessary member of The $100K club laid off than lose all those schedules and all that information for folks without ready access to a computer or smartphone.

    Hey Metro – in the words of my 15 year-old daughter: “EPIC FAIL”.

    1. It would be nice if Metro published the printed schedules online as PDFs. You can print a schedule, or you can print a route map, but they are not as compact and so grabbing a printed shedule is more convenient for stuffing in your pocket. Paper sizes might be a bit of a problem, but many will fit on 8 1/2 x 11.

      1. Thats a great idea. I will mention that to those in charge in the Metro Marketing and Distribution Dept who are incharge of the timetables and bus stop schedules.

      2. Actually, come to think of it. There is a “Custom Print” feature on the Metro website already. When looking at a timetable and wanting to print it, you can click “custom Print.” You then can select the direction of travel and day of the week. From there you can the select the range of times that you would travel and print out only the timepoints you would need ranging from 1-5 timepoints.

      3. Thanks for the pointer, but there appear to be some bugs…

        PDFs of the complete schedule would be a useful option for a complete and compact schedule.

    2. How about print far less schedules but make sure that no matter what a schedule is posted at every single bus stop for every route that stops there? It’s maddening when there are long stretches where none of the stops have schedules. A combination of schedules and OBA stickers at every stop and making schedules more readable online could save Metro a lot of money.

      1. That would also require vandal-proof schedules, or a team to replace schedules that have been vandalized. More than once I’ve seen the plexiglass broken and the schedule floating in the wind, affixed at only one precarious edge. It makes me want to drop the plexiglass on the vandals’ heads.

    3. It’s a savings of $85,000 per service change, so $85,000 x 3 = $255,000 annually.

      1. It’s not a real savings, at least at that level. Lack of schedules means fewer riders, and lost revenue.

      2. Not if there are visits in the millions to the website to visit the schedule pages, custom print schedules, and do a trip plan.

      3. I’d wager that a majority of bus riders are not frequent internet surfers. Hence, the lack of information getting out when Metro or ST thinks posting something on the website should get the word out.

    4. Or they could hvejust put a prominent note on the front of schedules that include newly implemented changes, printed a ton of those, and printed far fewer for all the routes with no changes.

      You know, like EVERY transit system everywhere else does.

    5. We ran out of schedules at bases about half way into shakeup,

      It’s all the transit junkies “stealing” schedules for their collections. They horde them knowing that they’ll be able to resell them on ebay and rake in huge profits. Making them “rare” by limiting production will only exacerbate the problem. Thank you very much STB… :=

      1. This also means that the 2 new Cascades round trips will be delayed until 2015…

      1. I think that might be the stretch past Dupont, but I cannot remember and the original Point Defiance Bypass Folio is no longer on the project home page.

  6. I understand that this is easier said than done, but one intent of ORCA was to simplify how people pay their fares and it has to some extent, but fails in so many other ways.

    One case in point – I am now forced to buy my own monthly passes, but doing so on their web site or at their kiosk is painful! Coming from the east coast, things were simple. I knew exactly how many zones I’d go through and bought a monthly pass accordingly. Here, I am presented with ~20 different options ranging in prices. No day passes or weekly passes either. ST’s explanation was that they are covering seven different transit agencies with different fare structures. I understand that this can be difficult, but to make things simplistic, we need to have these different agencies all come on-board to the same fare structure. On the other hand, when I travel to different cities I rely heavily on their public transportation. It’s easy to figure out what to buy by looking at a nearby map and their kiosk UI’s aren’t nearly as confusing. None of the kiosks that I’ve been to here have this and it’s a huge deterrent for tourists and residents alike.

    I know that there are several people on this site who are fully against combining most, if not all, of the transit agencies under one roof, but can someone give me an example of other major cities that do this as well? MTA, DC Metro, SEPTA, MAX/TriMet, MARTA, and the systems in London and Paris are all under one umbrella and boy does it make it so much easier figuring out fares and how to get from point A to point B.

      1. Thanks. Ferries aside, it’s really just the BART and MUNI and there appears to be two types of monthly passes you can purchase – an “A” and “M” pass. “A” includes BART and Muni and the “M” is Muni only. This is far easier to understand than the 20 options presented by ORCA.

      2. I was thinking of the wider region. There’s also AC Transit, Caltrain, ACE, VTA… As I understand, they don’t have any fare integration or transfers.

    1. I am one of those currently against combining all the transit agencies under one roof, but I agree that we need ONE internet portal, and to seriously start to converge the different fare structures.

      1. We should have a single day pass rate. It’s available after 9:30am to avoid commuter highjacking and easy to understand. It should be good on all the buses/lightrail/streetcars/commuter trains/ferry walkons in the three county range.

  7. No. The love seat idea is awful, as is the otherwise brilliant Carla Saulter’s incessant promoting of “bus luh.” I am not a particularly fetching girl (i believe the polite term is “plain”), but somehow various gentlemen seem to think my mere presence on the bus indicates some desire to be their “special friend.” Seriously, you could do better at Marv’s Broiler. Why are you bothering me when i have my headphones in and am reading a book?

    1. Maybe if there was a designated zone, it would be even more obvious you were not open to advances when you sat elsewhere.

      Also if someone comes up to you and tries to spark up an unwanted conversation, just start making random hand signals or speak gibberish. :D

      1. yeah.. On the bus.. I’m not available. I’m trapped in this small space and it’s unfair to try and pick me up.

        With unwanted conversation just say “no thank you” It’s polite, it’s the wrong answer and a negative statement about just about anything.

      2. Yeah, i generally do that, but…the problem is that when that doesn’t work, i can’t really cuss someone out on the bus, especially late at night. See also why there’s this 5% of bus riders who can see you but not the headphones and/or book.

  8. Anyone who has ridden a late-night bus on a number of different routes knows that Metro already has “love seats”.

    Better take a glance before you sit down.

  9. God! The Bellevue City Council is a hazard. I wish we could just bypass the whole stupid ‘downtown’ and get to Redmond via Eastgate and let their precious malls wither and die.

    1. Yeah, no one works or lives or shops or hangs out in Downtown Bellevue, it’s all just developers.

  10. Of course Clark County wants Light Rail now… the Fed’s are picking up the cost of crossing the Columbia River. Waiting turned out to be very financially smart of them.

    Besides with Portland bearing the cost of the rest of the system they get a huge benefit in transportation connectivity.

  11. So the UP is fighting High Speed rail in California? Not surprising, as they are not the most passenger friendly train company to begin with. I wonder how it would be if the Southern Pacific, which was headquartered in California, still existed and had not been bought by UP. Most of UP’s rails in California are probably old SP rail lines.

    1. Virtually all UP lines north and east of LA except the line to Las Vegas/Salt Lake are former Southern Pacific or Western Pacific lines. The UP of the 1960s stretched only from omaha to Ogeden plus the two brances NW to Portland and SW to LA. In addition to the WP and UP, they have also absorbed the Chicago Northwestern and the Missouri Pacific systems to become the bloated giant they are now.

    2. SP wasn’t all that passenger friendly either, at least in the last 15-20 years of its existence. If anything, they were worse than UP was at the time.

  12. since this is an open thread.

    does anyone know about all the tracks in sodo east of 4th avenue?

    i thought the track between 6th and 8th was UP but i walked by today and saw BNSF marking.

    anyone have pictures or an old track map before most of the area tracks were torn up?

    looks like 2 tracks went through the area now used as the light rail yard and one went where the structure through the hill is.

    1. I think the track around 8th was the old shore line. I will see if I can dig up a map and double-check.

      1. that would be awesome.

        any other info about the busway either would be good. that was the old line to union station right?

      2. The UP line from Seattle to Tacoma was built by CMStP&P, The Milwaukee Road, and was electrified. UP only had trackage rights on NP and CMStP&P north of Portland until the demise of the Milwaukee in the 1980s(?). So, today, UP runs all that track east of 6th ave, but BNSF seems to have trackage rights.

      3. Actually, the CMStP&P had trackage rights over the UP-built and owned line between Black River and Reservation [Tacoma] (or was it Fife?). They also had trackage rights over the Pacific Coast (originally the Columbia & Puget Sound, later owned by the GN) from Maple Valley to at least Argo in Seattle.

        The UP had trackage rights over the NP from Kalama, on the Columbia, to Reservation.

        The CMStP&P did have a fair amount of track on their own in the area.

      4. That’s right, it was UP south of about Black River/Longacres – Milwaukee put up the wires, but UP owned the track. The changes in ownership and trackage rights just over the last 40 or 50 years is truly byzantine.

    2. For what it’s worth, I looked at a couple old maps I have (from 1911 Collier’s Atlas and 1920s Kroll Map of Seattle) and the lines are there but not labeled so I guess you’ll have to find a rail map. They might be on the Sanborn maps available via SPL.

  13. I flew into DC once during college for a conference of some sort. I got off the plane at National, grabbed a snack, and got onto the Metro. A minute or so into the ride, an assertive, but polite man told me there was no eating on the train. Properly admonished, I put my stuff away, and never did it again.

  14. I saw those ads on the DC system when I was there last month. Took a picture intending on sending it to STB. Forgot and now someone beat me to it. Maybe my favorite public transit PSA ad EVER!

    Though I must admit, rat watching in NYC’s system is entertaining and always a good guide for segregating the tourists from the local.

  15. Regarding the Rat Ad: Bus etiquette seems to have disappeared completely: The NoFood/Drink icons have disappeared, as have the Do Not Disturb Driver signs. The other day I had someone sitting next do me scarfing/slurping down her takeout lunch in a most obnoxious manner. This is as unpleasant as being trapped next to someone yakking on cell phone at max volume.

  16. So many times when bikes are talked about its always about some scheme to route them through high density areas. Today I took a ride from my apartment on Kent East Hill, up Soos Creek Trail and then around Lake Youngs.

    This is what low density bicycling is like…imagine going to work this way:

    Bike lanes? Sharrows? Tunnels…bridges…Don’t need ’em!!

    And this is still in King County.

    Imagine if all of Seattle could be rolled back to this low density type of life.

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