Photo by VeloBusDriver

TransitSleuth tweets: “Hmm, what would increase bus ridership in Seattle? I want to create a top 10 list. :)”

I’ve thought about this a bit so I’ll give 11:

1. More density. Density begets ridership.

2. Bus lanes and signal priority. Slow buses are a frequent complaint.

3. Higher gas prices. Tackle the demand side. See 2008.

4. An end to socialized and/or regulated parking, possibly a higher commercial parking tax. Ditto.

5. A branded frequent-service network. RapidRide is a start.

6. More frequency, particularly East-West. Too many dense places in the city are too far apart by bus.

7. Payment reform. This is also part of speeding things up. More off-board payment would help. Popularizing ORCA through a small fare discount would speed adoption and boarding time. There are couple of ways to get rid of the pay-as-you-leave policy, but the important thing is to introduce the board in front/get off in the back and improve flow on the buses.

8. More presence by transit security.

9. Real-time arrival where possible. GPS is being installed over the next year and will improve the accuracy of onebusaway, but RapidRide is the only part of the system that is planning message boards at stops.

10. Stop consolidation.

11. More standing room on crowded routes.

Notably, only items 6 through 9 require serious outlays of cash. 1, 3, and 4 can actually generate more revenue for government. What’s lacking in most cases, is political will, generally on the part of the King County Council but also the City of Seattle.

130 Replies to “11 Steps to Bus Ridership”

  1. 12. Less confusing system for non-riders (spelled new customers). IMHO Metro suffers from both a route and fare structure that is overly complex. Anecdotally, many people I’ve talked to feel intimidated by the Metro system.
    A. Fares. Ride free/Don’t ride free. Pay as you leave/Pay as you enter. Peak/Non peak. One zone/Two zone. Use the back door/Don’t use it. My transfer is good/No it isn’t. You get the idea.
    B. Routes. In attempts to customize the service for ‘niche’ markets, Metro has created a lot of routes that do very different things called route deviations. Most of these are to economize on bus hours used. I prefer to call them ‘route mutations’ as some require post grad classes to sort them out, and don’t even get me started on the route maps. (is it a route, a turnback, an express thing, or a snow route. Yikes!)
    Simple systems are less intimidating for newbies. Those are your new riders.

    1. To the Metro’s defense, Seattle has a fairly unique topography. This isn’t to say that this can’t and shouldn’t be done, but the current street layouts, hills, and lakes helped shaped the current transit routes. Now, if we had transit that had its own ROW, it would be much easier to navigate by looking at a map :)

      I only bring up our topography because in the two east coast cities that I have the most experience in (NYC and Philly), they’re almost purely a grid system over a wide swath of flat land. East/West and North/South bus routes are extremely easy to plan and also figure out where they go by looking at a map. It also helps that most of their streets are one-way (West Seattle? Have you ever thought of looking in to that?)

      1. Here’s a sample possible North Seattle grid-style bus network I drew up. I’m pretty sure that it would use a similar or even lower amount of bus hours despite the fact that every route would go very frequently all the time, because there would be so many less routes and many routes would be truncated so that there would be much less duplication.

    2. A well-planned and communicated zone system makes it easier to figure out payment. Consider Copenhagen for instance – each change in “color” on the map means you need to pay for an extra zone: .

      Really, I do think the lack of an integrated fare structure within the Puget Sound region makes things overly difficult. With multiple agencies and fare structures, it’s just confusing, and the lack of transfers now adds complications. We also shouldn’t be encouraging one mode (bus) over another (light rail) based on technology. A simply zone structure would make life so much easier. Movement to the ORCA card should simplify further and I agree that there should be incentives for using it. Here in Amsterdam, one two-zone ride on the trams is €2,60 if bought in cash from the driver. The same ride is around €1,10 if you use your public transit card. Rather than give a discount for ORCA, why not raise non-ORCA prices so that those who refuse to adapt can pay a premium for the extra time resources (i.e the bus driver’s time) that they are consuming?

    3. A classic example is the any one of 3 (I-5 express lanes, Eastlake express, Eastlake/Fairview local) routes the 71/72/73 can take between downtown and the U-District.

      At least with the DSTT being open longer hours we no longer have to contend with tunnel vs. non-tunnel hours.

      1. It seems to me that your #5 is key, and would be incredibly cheap to implement (far cheaper and easier than the RapidRide system seems to be taking). While Seattle’s topography makes routing difficult, it also has the benefit of forcing many routes through the same choke points (U-District, Pike/Pine, West Seattle Junction, Ballard Bridge, etc.) Using a similar color coding as Bellingham’s Go system (which combines multiple route #s into a specific color), it seems that frequent, easily identifiable service, could be implemented to MOST of Seattle’s denser areas. The 70’s essentially already work like this to the Ave area. The 15 and 18 could easily be a Downtown Ballard Line, and of course a West Seattle Line would be simple.

        Sure, some regular riders would still opt to wait for the specific bus that gets them closest to their destination, but for someone just trying to get to the area (for a neighborhood walk, street festival, farmer’s market, etc.) this system would work wonders.

      2. Some of these, like the 15/18 and West Seattle routes, are already being planned for RapidRide (which has federal money attached). The 70-series, the most frequent leg in the system, probably won’t get the same treatment because U-Link is only a few years away.

      3. So I did. I ride these routes all of the time and I can’t keep all of the various routings straight.

  2. Well, for 1 to happen, the culture in Seattle needs to change. Remember the uproar over the Beacon Hill re-zoning? Until people are accepting of the fact they live in a city and density is actually a good thing, this will be a tough bargain to sell.

    #7 seems like the easiest and lowest hanging fruit of these points that the Metro can do right away. I’m assuming this as there is no real change in infrastructure to implement this point, although the RFA will probably have to go as a result.

  3. Also: for the “King County Metro area, for example, a ridership-maximizing service plan would probably offer no all-day transit service outside the City of Seattle except for links to the densest suburban centers such as downtown Bellevue and perhaps some older, denser inner-ring suburbs such as Renton and Burien. Beyond that, the suburbs would have nothing but school services and express buses”

    1. Is there anything wrong with express services to those suburban centers? I’ve never asked, although I’m about to contradict myself from a much older post – but if you live in Seattle and want to go home to Renton, do you really want all of the “local” stops? Granted, this will hurt people who live along the route who want to get there as well. Perhaps a mix of semi-local and express?

      1. Sigh, it’s too early and I’m not exactly awake yet. “but if you WORK in Seattle and want to go home to Renton”

      2. We’re kind of heading in that direction with ‘trunk and feeder’ transit, or ‘spoke and hub’, if you prefer.
        Trunk routes(Link, RapidRide, beefed up core routes) should get you between activity centers really quick. From there you transfer to a milk run getting you to your final destination.
        Trouble is, with several transit agencies in the mix, it’s really hard to coordinate activities to achieve optimal performance.

      3. True and you nailed one of the major problems on the head – multiple transit agencies. At least they all agreed on ORCA, although there are some serious usability issues there, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

      4. Renton is probably a bad example, since it already has near-express service on the 101.

        They could have near-express service to Renton more frequently, though, if the 101 came out of Rainier Beach Station, starting a minute after southbound Link pulls through, and altered the route to go to Renton TC before South Renton P&R. That would be an under-30-minute trip from downtown Seattle to downtown Renton.

        On game days, the 2-seat ride would be significantly faster.

        Moreover, anyone living near a station would also have near-express service to Renton.

        What is standing in the way is the parochial traditions of the county council, grandstanding for their constituents’ one-seat rides and resisting route changes in their necks of the woods even if the new service in their turf becomes better. Moreover, the subarea equity doesn’t take into account new service provided by Sound Transit (e.g. Link), so the easiest and least painful service efficiencies can’t happen without more painful service cuts happening in the other subareas simultaneously.

        Sending the 101/102 and 150, not to mention a dozen other commuter routes where half the bus time and fuel is deadhead, directly downtown, and directly from downtown, with reverse-direction deadhead, is very expensive. Having a 7.5-minute-headway South I-5 commuter route taking off from RBS, and serving Kent-Des-Moines P&R, Starlake P&R, Federal Way TC, Federal Way P&R, and South Federal Way P&R (and eliminating the 177, 178, 179, 196, and 577 in the evenings), and truncating a half dozen other lines to come off of this line, should yield seven-digit annual savings, even with adding reverse-directional service and more frequency on the east-west connections.

        I’d love to see the county council at least try afternoon/evening routes coming out of RBS as a modernization of the routes that duplicate-head on I-5. I understand the psychological barrier created by a multi-seat ride going to work in the morning. But evenings are ripe for providing better, less-expensive service, that allows more riders to bypass gridlock, and enables riders to get between a lot more places a lot more quickly.

        If Executive Constantine wants to change the way King County does business, he should shove the expensive subarea equity rule out the door.

    2. Brent pretty much nailed it: “What is standing in the way is the parochial traditions of the county council, grandstanding for their constituents’ one-seat rides and resisting route changes.”

      Jarrett Walker/Human Transit: “no all-day transit service outside the City of Seattle except for links to the densest suburban centers such as downtown Bellevue and perhaps some older, denser inner-ring suburbs such as Renton and Burien.”

      The suburbs need good transit corridors just like Seattle does. The routes to Seattle are already covered; they just need some of the gaps filled in during the off-hours. But intra-suburb buses are atrocious. Downtown Kirkland and Bellevue are both urban villages, but the 230 runs hourly between them on weekends! They at least need Swift from Bothell – Kirkland – Bellevue – Renton, Kirkland – Redmond, Bellevue – Redmond (planned with RapidRide and Link), Renton – Kent – RapidRide A, etc. That’s the only way to build a transit-riding base in the suburbs.

  4. 12. Make the fares consistent between ST Bus, Link, MT Bus (and PT, CT, ET if applicable.) Probably just two fare levels – in county and intra-county.

    13. Offer a day pass, maybe ORCA only, at 2x the relevant fare.

    14. Make cash fares higher than ORCA to drive ORCA adoption (or raise fares and offer a discount with ORCA – same result.)

    1. 15. Make ORCA easier/cheaper to get. Put TVMs at major points, and make issuing ORCAs the primary function on the main screen (even at Link stations), paper tickets require a special harder to find button. Make buying an ORCA cheaper, maybe $1-2 instead of $5. In fact if ORCA can be sold for $1, then maybe dispense with paper tickets and make the TVMs ORCA only.

      16. Eliminate paper transfers. Right now a paper transfer is 2x more valuable if you confine yourself to Metro than an ORCA transfer.

      Intent is to simplify the fare practices and payment, and thereby also reduce boarding times and transfer fraud.

      1. 17. If there is a day pass on the ORCA, eliminate the downtown free ride zone. Anyone coming by bus to/from downtown has implicit free rides via their day pass. People who drove downtown can pay.

      2. PS: All this can be done in a revenue-neutral way, and most of it costs little, with the possible exception of installing new TVMs. I believe that our agencies can program the TVMs themselves.

      3. A daily maximum cash fare on ORCA would be a good day pass and would be automatic. The implicit “Ride free area” is a great idea, However we still need to find a fix for the ORCA rail vs bus off board payment issue so all doors on all vehicles can be used in DSTT.

        Implement off board payment systems at bus stops where ridership is high whether it is Rapid Ride or not. (many U-District and Downtown Seattle bus stops come to mind).

        An ORCA discount for cash fares would help this also.

        Suppose the minimum cash fare available on bus trips was the equivalent of a day pass issued by a paper ORCA which would one could scan on a TVM and receive a permanent ORCA at no cost? This could be a way to eliminate paper transfers.

        An opportunity to implement many changes is coming up with the next round of fare increases – raise the cash fares but leave ORCA fares the same or do not raise them as much.

      4. I wish we had a feature to signify our agreement with a comment. Carl’s suggestions above are long overdue.

      5. Actually, $5 for a day pass isn’t that bad. It’s equivalent to a two-way fare. So why not just give a daily pass for the first day any ORCA card is active? It would require only a minor software change.

    2. 12: King County Ferry District too! I hate how it’s so much more expensive than regular fare, especially for youth. It can’t get real daily ridership by commuters and other residents until it lowers its fares, at least for residents.

    1. “How ’bout enough buses and more polite drivers?”

      Solving the “enough buses” problem (along with some of the payment efficiency issues) will go a long ways toward more polite drivers. I try very hard to be polite but when I’ve got somebody screwing around looking for loose change I can get kind of snippy – especially on crowded express routes. I’d quote Spock to these people (The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few) but that would probably yield a complaint. Go figure.

  5. Martin, you said that only your points 6-9 would require serious outlays of cash. I’d argue that 2, bus lanes and signal priority also would. Besides needing to get buyoff from SDOT, I would think that anytime you open up a traffic signal cabinet, it will cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars. And you wouldn’t be able to do it in most places without a traffic survey first. As for bus lanes, paint may be relatively cheap, but you also need to pay signage and for someone to paint the lines.

    1. I probably should have said “operating outlays”. But “hundreds of thousands?” Really?

      1. to expand a little, if a civil engineer or a traffic engineer gets involved, the cost goes up. multiply by the number of intersections affected. deal with the public outreach and political fallout of changing the road around (c.f., “road diets”).

        it may be worthwhile, but it won’t be cheap.

      2. To be honest, Seattle really needs a modern traffic management system and not just to make changing signal timings and implementing transit signal priority easier.

        Of course finding the money to implement such a thing would be a problem, but I suspect the city would be able to save money in the long run.

      3. The main cost of “road diets” is the political cost. The paint is cheap.

        The road diets being pushed so far aren’t really aimed at giving buses better ROW. They are making it easier to cross the street to bus stops, and for buses to move smoothely while they are in traffic, though.

        I hope SDOT is keeping in mind which roads should have bus lanes when they do the road diet list. In particular, N 145th St, Northgate Way, NE 65th St, N 45th St, Montlake/25th Ave NE, Denny, Beacon Ave, Rainier Ave, Columbian Way, Othello, and Henderson should be kept in mind for future bus lane-ification. I’m sure that list isn’t comprehensive.

        ROW dedication is something we are likely to achieve a lot of during the McGinn administration, and will have a much tougher time achieving if a reactionary not-so-pro-transit mayor succeeds him.

  6. Clarifying question: when you say east/west, do you mean within the City of Seattle or between east and west of Lake Washington?

    As for the rest:
    * Martin – good job, as always in producing this list. It’s spot on.

    * I agree with others about the need for smoothness between agencies. The confusion there is frustrating.

    * Metro seems to be unaware of which routes need larger buses. I often ride the 39, which is usually empty, and it has the larger bus. The 8, which is almost always crowded – even turning people away on a weekday at noon, gets the smaller. I realize this is nitpicking, but I know wannabe switchers who switch back to cars for these sorts of reasons.

    * Metro fails to meet the needs of teenagers. And while that isn’t an issue for many who read this blog, I believe that transit-adept teenagers will more likely become transit riding adults. We change the culture partly by changing it for our kids. Most Seattle teens are given Metro passes, and the transit agencies should listen to their needs as well. Or their parents. ;-)

    1. How does Metro not meet the needs of teenagers? I feel my needs are met pretty well. My only annoyance is ST 2 zone youth is $1 more than Metro $1 youth and I get a Metro card!

      1. Yeah I’m a teenager and Metro seems to be meeting my needs the same amount as everyone else’s (sure I have gripes but they’re the same ones I would have otherwise). My one thing is that they should really put more buses in around the school rush. Cause dang, there are sometimes crazy crushloads on the way to Garfield in the morning.

      2. Not sure what buses go to Garfield, but it would be nice if Metro put 60 footer on the 230 that goes by Interlake High School after school gets out. Won’t happen because it doesn’t make sense for a 60 footer for one run of a route that’s normally on 40 footers.

      3. Yeah the 48 goes to Garfield and it’s usually a 60-footer but also usually packed… And the 3/4 coming up the hill from Downtown are always just 40-footers, and I don’t know what they’re like before school, but I know they’re incredibly crowded for the first two or three runs down the hill after school.

    2. limes,

      Is the 39 almost empty on the whole route, or just on your segment of the ride? Out of curiosity, where to you see people getting on and off?

  7. @7. I suspect that a program of giving away a lot of ORCA cards would be cheaper than deploying a whole bunch of TVMs. Those machines are not cheap.

    However, making use of ORCA does require access to these machines if you don’t know how to use the webpage. (And I never use the webpage because I want value added immediately, not 2-5 days from now.)

    Figure out a dispersal pattern to put five or so TVMs around downtown so that nobody is more than a three-block walk from a TVM, and then provide maps at all downtown bus stops pointing to TVM locations.

    1. There are enough TVMs downtown. But there isn’t one TVM in the entire Eastside, not even at Bellevue Transit Center. Start with TVMs at all the transit centers, and work up from there.

  8. joshuadf,

    Two responses for that:

    1. I chose to take the question literally as improving ridership in Seattle proper.

    2. Cutting suburban service, in itself, does not raise ridership. It can be a means to free up revenue to do other things, but the focus of the list is what to do with the money, not how to raise it.

  9. To offer myself as an anecdote: I am carfree and generally walk everywhere I need to go. Use Metro every ore week or so, but would more often if headways were shorter so trips didn’t come with the looming threat of an hour of my day spent waiting at stops.

  10. According to regular posters on this blog, many bus routes in Seattle are regularly at capacity. Thus, increasing density would have no impact on ridership on these routes, since there is no room on the buses for more people.

    The main way to increase bus ridership is obvious — ADD MORE BUSES!

    This not only increases capacity, but shortens headways.

    What is the problem? Lack of money. There is no money to add buses to routes, aside from the planned RapidRide routes, which very likely WILL increase bus ridership.


    1. Norman – we won’t know for sure if RapidRide routes will actually increase ridership until the numbers come in.

      While buses can easily be re-routed in case of an emergency, they still get stuck in the same problem they’re trying to alleviate – traffic. The city tries to help buses by providing bus-only lanes only to have people complain vehemently about it. Think 15th Ave as an example. Now that buses have the right of way, people still prefer to sit in traffic during rush hour instead of taking the bus and complain about it.

      Part of the reason why people would rather sit in traffic is because of the perception that transit here is inefficient, and who am I to argue that? There are things that need to be done – items already pointed out by Martin and others on this blog – before this perception actually changes. The solution isn’t easy, Norman. You cannot throw more buses at the problem, much like you cannot continue to endlessly add lanes to a highway.

      1. But, the buses are many routes are packed. That completely contradicts your comments. How can you say “people still prefer to sit in traffic,” if there is no room for them on buses? If the buses were mostly empty, you would have a point. If the buses are full, you have no point.

        Twice as many buses with headways half of what they are now, would be more “efficient”, would they not?

        But, you have absolutely zero point, if the buses are full. Full buses are proof positive that people will absolutely take the bus instead of driving — if there is room for them on the bus!

        And, every time Metro has increased capacity on popular routes, ridership HAS increased, even without improving the style of service to a SWIFT-type bus service.

      2. But are buses packed because they’re so efficient and people love them, or are they packed because they’re behind schedule and now have to cram more people who are waiting for a late bus that was supposed to arrive 15 minutes ago?

        “Full buses are proof that people take the bus instead of driving”???? begs to differ. begs to differ. Virtually no one commenting on either of those two blogs are in favor or the BAT or in taking the bus, but they would rather have that 3rd lane open for them to drive.

        Matt the Engineer brought up a good point a while ago in regards to the Nickerson road diet. The roads here are bottlenecked at key points and it makes all traffic inefficient. With that same thought process, no matter how many buses you throw at the problem, so long those bottlenecks exist, that means those buses need to merge in with traffic. And so long that is the case, they will be waiting to merge and will ultimately be behind schedule. Sure, along the middle of the route, people might be able to expect a bus every 15 minutes, but once the bus reaches the bottleneck, the efficiency is lost.

      3. For once, Norm is right. Don’t let it go to your head, Norm.

        The Magnolians aren’t just whining about the buses getting the ROW. They’re also complaining about how infrequent the buses are. And they are right.

        Lesson learned, I hope: If you set aside a lane for buses, then fill it up with buses. The poor frequency of RapidRide will rightly be seen as a betrayal of the voters.

      4. Its the chicken or the egg, though. What comes first?

        Is there demand for high frequency buses or allowing ROW for buses on roads when demand isn’t as high as it could be?

        If there’s demand for high frequency, but buses still get stuck in traffic for various reasons, then people won’t want to use it. If buses are given priority traffic, but there’s no demand, people will complain that it’s a waste of a lane because it’s not used optimally. Something has to come first and people need to change.

    2. I agree that RapidRide could be successful. That is because these serve long distance routes, with minimal stops, and they will have parking for all but the central city destinations (Seattle, Bellevue).

      So, once again, it will be proved that “density” is not part and parcel of transit success. In fact, transit is mostly a way of overcoming density.

      All of these arguments for “increasing transit” in fact sound like a ludicrous topsy-turvy world. For example, would you want to increase the number of people on Welfare? Would you want to increase the use of Food Stamps? Would you want to increase the number of people with cancer so that they would buy more MRI machines?

      No, of course not. A measure of success for our society is how many people can use Personal Transit Systems (bikes, cars, taxis) successfully.

  11. The biggest ones for me are:

    1. Route Frequency. Far too many buses run at 30 minute intervals. Routes like the 8 should be running way more often.

    2. Branding. This includes maps, signage and maybe most importantly the website. Metro’s website is horrendous compared to TransLink’s and TriMet’s. Metro’s maps are ugly and hard to read. There should be one regional transit website that covers all ORCA agencies.

    3. Pricing. Fare zones should be standardised across all agencies and all modes of transit. This is to eliminate confusion.

    1. There’s no need to go far afield to criticize Metro’s website. It’s horrible compared to the ST website.

      1. Community Transit has a fine website and their maps are pretty decent. The most depressing part? They contracted that work out to Metro’s design department!

    2. I couldn’t agree with you more on point number 3. When I first looked at the horrific pass options for ORCA, I could not have been more confused. A few calls later, I found out that the $2.25 pass would cover me for KC buses, but would fail to cover my LINK rides – and for that I would need to add e-purse funds to cover the difference.

      In Philly, I can get a center city (1 zone) pass that will cover all subway, surface trolleys, buses, and 1 zone on the regional rail line. If I wanted to travel further, I would have to buy up to the zone I needed to travel to (7 total). It’s also extremely easy to see on a transit map which zone you needed to travel into.

      As much as I hated SEPTA when I lived there and thought that it took me no where I wanted to go, I’ve come to the realization that their pitiful implementation is light years ahead of Seattle’s.

    3. Agree that more routes should be more frequent, but FWIW the 8 runs every 15 minutes from 5 AM to 7 PM. It’s only from 7 to midnight that it runs every half-hour.

      1. Every 15 minutes is not ‘frequent’, except maybe by Metro’s standards. And 7pm is early, especially for a line that serves Seattle Center and Capitol Hill.

      2. I was just pointing out that the 8 is a bad example, when you could point to dozens of routes that run at 30 minute headways at their most frequent.

  12. Boy this list is starting to sound like the Transit Nazi’s hard at work here… IMO thinking along those lines (Raising the gasoline and parking taxes solely to encourage transit ridership, premium fares for non ORCA riders, etc) is exactly what the Anti-Transit types want you to think so it can fuel their fires…

    Do i agree we probally need a higher gasoline tax? Yes, but the moneys generated need to be reinvested in our highways (and i’m definatly not saying that you cannot spend that for related transit improvements), Do we need a higher parking tax? Mabye on surface lots in the urban cores of citys, to encourage either structured parking, or other forms of devlopement other than just a parking lot.

    As for ORCA, Cash fares and ORCA fares should be the same value, and get the rider the same benefits. To reduce fraud in the cash fare system though, we need to install fareboxes that can print transfers (like vancouver bc). Spendy outlay yes, however for infreqent riders, or those on very limited incomes it levels the playing field. Which if you dident keep the field level, you could open yourself up to a discrimination lawsuit and for very good reason (i’m surprised this hasent happend already with ORCA. For example several ADA services (Access, Shuttle, etc.) Dont accept ORCA, yet the fixed route services do. This denies the ability to tranfer between fixed route and ADA paratransit for someone who uses ORCA, and or requires them to have two passes (Granted there are few who do this but…))

    And finally for the rest of it, i think we need to rationalize some of our transit services by consolidating the various Metro and ST Express routes, straightening routes out, and overall improving headways.

    1. Many if not most of the transit agencies in the US that offer ORCA-style cards incentivize card use by charging lower fares on cards, providing transfers only for cards, etc. Not accepting ORCA on Access or the like might be an ADA issue, but I can’t see how differential pricing/benefits is.

    2. “Cash fares and ORCA fares should be the same value, and get the rider the same benefits.”

      Cash payers waste a great deal of operating time and contribute significantly to the inefficiency and unreliability of the system. On top of the primary rationale of ORCA discounts and ORCA-only transfers (disincentivizing such waste), it’s fair on its face to charge more for a payment method that demands disproportionate operating time/expense.

      1. Please cite your sources to this fact.

        Its my opinon that they take about the same amount of time. ORCA is horrendusly slow at tagging on and off, and if they dont have enough fare on the card… Cash riders who dont have their fare ready are also a bit of a nusiance as well, So its probally awash in the end.

        Also, as for why Cash fares and ORCA fares should be the same, is atleast in my experence cash fare riders are also more than likely title VI eligible, which means they fall under the ADA. I’m no expert on the matter but i think you’d want to err on the side of caution on the matter and make sure that everything is the same across the board for everyone on every service. Otherwise you could be opening yourself up to some expensive lawsuits.

      2. Anecdotally — from riding Metro A LOT — cash payers take a minimum of 5 seconds to feed in their money and get their transfers. But as you mention, there are many, many cash payers who take 30 seconds to a minute.

        ORCA tagging problems have been ironed out pretty well. I rarely see a time-cost of more than 1 or 2 seconds per rider. And I’ve seldom seen a driver make someone “pay the difference” when the e-purse runs out (even if they should), so that rare situation is hardly adding up.

        And Z, I’m pretty sure at this point you need an ORCA to pay the disabled fare on Metro (it replaced the former ID).

        And why in the world would you “err on the side of caution” by not doing something that, as Andreas points out, myriad agencies already do legally and effectively? That’s extreme anti-logic!


      3. I’ve had a few times were an operator has to reverse a transaction and change the fareset (or just change the fareset) and that takes forever.

        You can still use the old style RRFP on metro (and probally the other agencies as well) because they are still issued by a few non ORCA agencies. Although you get the cash benefits if you do. Fortunatly its a free upgrade to an ORCA RRFP if you so choose (atleast with metro)

        Again, it goes back to giving one group of riders extra privlages that another group may not get, which is something you dont want to do. Now, for most people the extra offset required to care for an orca card is easily doable, but for some its not. And even on this board, everyone is saying the fare structure needs to be simplifed, well yes it does. And it would be even simpler if you dident have two sets of fares (orca vs. non orca) and two sets of transfer rules associated with it. (Not to mention that your not potentially discriminating against anyone who uses the system that way).

      4. For Metro’s paratransit services like Access, you don’t need an ORCA reduced fare permit. An ADA Paratransit ID gets you on the van, then the fare ($1) can be paid with tickets, cash, or pass.

        What Z seems to be saying, though, is that Access doesn’t accept ORCA, and thus ADA Paratransit riders can’t transfer between paratransit and fixed-route transit. But according to Metro’s website, Access monthly passes are held on an ORCA card and are “accepted as full fare on Metro Transit bus service, Access van service and Sound Transit Link Light Rail”. Whether one gets any transfer credit for all the other agencies that use ORCA, I don’t know, and maybe that’s more to Z’s point: if folks with non-ADA ORCA passes get to transfer between agencies, but folks with ADA ORCA passes can’t, is that discriminatory? I don’t know, and I admit it’s something that should be fixed (how hard would it be to give ADA users a transfer credit for the reduced fare amount?), but it doesn’t seem like something that should prevent ORCA from going forward entirely.

      5. I’m not sure what Z’s original point was, and there’s no way that disabled ORCA passes wouldn’t include an interagency transfer for at least the face value of the pass, since that’s just how ORCAs are programmed.

        But Z now seems to be arguing that having a fare discount for ORCA or eliminating non-ORCA transfer privileges discriminates against “anyone who uses the system [in the less efficient/higher-cost way].”

        But “stupid” and “financially irresponsible” are not a protected classes in the way that race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability are. If you make the choice to use the system in a manner that costs you more, you are not being discriminated against for being allowed to do so.

        By Z’s logic, ORCA e-purse users could be said to be discriminated against NOW, since they invariably get shorter transfer windows and can’t get good-from-9PM-until-dawn slips (there will be no tears from me when those disappear; let the drunken frat-boys pay twice, and stop letting the night buses become rolling homeless shelters).

      6. Its obvious to me that many of you have not had the “oppertunity” to scrape the bottoms of your pockets for bus fare (admittany this was 20 years ago when the fare was less than a dollar, but neverless) and really cannot come to understand some of the challenges of those who are not as privilaged as most of us are today. Now mind you, when i grew up if you were on the “dole” you really dident have the finer things in life, like you see so much of today. So mabye my take on the situation may be slightly dated.

        The biggest point i have to make is that Cash fare and ORCA fare should be the same, and provide the same benefits across the board. This includes Rail, Fixed Route, and ADA paratransit services. I like to pick on ADA paratransit services because from what i have seen, its almost the forgotten ORCA stepchild. I wasent aware Metro actually was accepting ORCA on it, as last time i had looked it dident appear that anyone was. And with ADA paratransit and its clientel you do have to be rather overly sensitive to their needs. I keep hoping this forum will attract transit professionals and intellegent converstations, however I keep getting dissapointed.

      7. Z,

        Encouraging *everyone* to use ORCA means better use of our sales tax money, or maybe even some sales tax relief.

        Sales tax, as I suspect you are aware, hits the poor the hardest.

      8. I think the point was it’s really hard for the… damn what’s the politically correct term… disadvanteaged? to make use of ORCA. My very limited experience was coming home from the Museum of Flight. It wasn’t a whole lot of museum patrons on the bus (there were some). Other than the museum volunteer that got on with me I think there was one other ORCA user all the way into Seattle. The bus was packed, on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t want to say I can predict income levels by site but my prejudiced reality was this wasn’t a lot of philanthropic billionaires riding the bus. Looked like working folk to me.

      9. Z, I really don’t understand your objection that ORCA somehow hits the poor harder than cash. Is it the $5 card fee ($3 if you have a reduced fare permit) or the $5 minimum e-purse load amount? Because that’s the only way ORCA costs more to use than cash. You have a one-time expenditure, and then you have to scrape up five bucks every time your card runs out. I think you may respond that scraping up $5 (versus just $1 or $2.50) is a problem for many folks, and I agree. Personally I think both those things should be changed, though less for social justice reasons than because they discourage ORCA adoption. I’d like to see the cards be free to reduced-fare riders, perhaps with some sort of reduced price for low-income users. (Some transit system (I can’t remember which) charges $5 for their smart card, but it comes with two free rides, effectively making the cost for the card just 50c or so. I think that’s a great idea.) And perhaps the $5 minimum makes sense for credit/debit purchases to cover transaction costs, but for cash purchases I don’t see why there’s any minimum at all. (I would hope that cash EBT cards can be used at TVMs…)

        But other than those two things, ORCA is the same as cash. Except that it’s easier and faster to use, and it allows free interagency transfers. And for folks who don’t have a whole lot of money or are bad at managing what they have, it can be advantageous to have transit fares on ORCA rather than in cash: if your transportation budget is cash, it’s easy to dip into it for something you don’t really need like a burger or a soda, but when it’s on ORCA, you can’t dip into it for discretionary spending; you may not have any change, but you still have a bus fare to get back home or to work.

        This could also be advantageous to agencies & organizations looking to help the needy. Currently a lot of groups give out bus tickets, which are often sold for cash that probably goes to buy drugs or booze (at the least, it’s not going to pay bus fares). If such agencies could use ORCA like EBT, they could ensure the proper use of scant resources, and could use the savings to do more good. I’d love to see organizations giving out ORCA cards instead of ticket books. They could give out one per person, then arrange some sort of on-site reload system, where they could load extra money on clients’ cards periodically. That way they would know that money was going to transportation and transportation only, rather than just giving out ticketbooks and hoping for the best.

      10. I doubt KCM has done a study on boarding time, but most anecdotal evidence that I’ve heard (and experienced) suggests ORCA is faster. Jeff Welch wrote the following on his blog: “As an Operator, when a big patch of ORCA users gets on – they get on quickly, with only the occassional “Try Again” pause – much quicker than waiting for folks to fumble for change or find their old-style PugetPass or scrip ticket.” Speed and convenience are the main benefits touted by virtually every agency that adopts smartcards.

        And, again, your fears seem unfounded. Various agencies that serve many, many more people than KCM have been using smartcards and offering discounts over cash. MBTA in Boston serves 3x as many people and offers 15-50% discounts for CharlieCard users. MTA in NYC has discount passes available only on card. If this were illegal, and someone were going to sue, it probably would’ve been done by now.

  13. 4. An end to socialized and/or regulated parking, possibly a higher commercial parking tax.

    A review of TDM strategies applied at Bellevue Commute Trip Reduction sites (Lazar, 2009)

    Without a disincentive such as parking pricing, CTR programs generally achieve only a 0-5% shift away from drive-alone modes. In Downtown, charging for parking is associated with a 20% lower SOV rate. Every $4 increase in monthly parking cost is associated with a 1% lower SOV rate.

  14. Sound Transit/ORCA really needs to re-work how payment credits to an account. 24 hour crediting of payment is totally wrong.

  15. Martin, I really do want to thank you for taking up the “more standing room” mantle, despite the objections of the Mike Orrs and the Alexjonlins on this forum.

    Just because something — in this case gigantic seats with minimal aisles and zero standing room — is familiar to Seattle riders doesn’t make it defensible. Often quite the opposite.

    Why not do away with the folding seat in the wheelchair space entirely, removing an entire step from the wheelchair-boarding process (and likely making room for a faster and more user-friendly strap-in system as well) and creating a great deal of standing room when there are no wheelchairs present?

    1. Perhaps because the front seats are reserved for the elderly, and others who would take longer to wade through the standers to get to seats? And no, the driver can’t just drive on while someone who is a high risk to fall and get injured is still moving toward a seat.

      1. Thus the multiple additional sideways facing seats that exist on every bus in addition to the pointless folding ones.

      2. Thus the multiple sideways-facing seats that exist on every bus in addition to the pointless folding ones!

    2. Fewer seats & more standees won’t really save that much space unless we can get some serious rider behavior changes:

      1. Most standees continue to wear their backpages/bags/large purses – this takes up a lot of extra space.

      2. Standees congregating near the doors make it difficult to get on/off.

      3. What I call “fear of touching a stranger syndrome” – seems to be especially prevalent in Seattle.

      4. Most standees don’t pay attention to people needing to move past them to get off.

      5. Most riders like to do something (read, play with phone, etc.). It is hard to do that while standing – you have to be constantly bracing for hard braking/acceleration.

      1. 1-4: At present you literally can not be standing on our buses without exacerbating these problems! Having more standing room would go a long way toward addressing all of the above.

        In the meanwhile, go stand on LINK, which is already helping teach riders to the etiquette of standing, moving past others, and boarding and exiting quickly.

        5: Most riders will (and should) accept less multi-tasking capability in exchange for a much faster ride. Again, the mentality of “settling in for the long haul” even when just going 2 or 3 miles is incredibly counterproductive.

        (Of course, as an average Bostonian, I can fiddle with my iPod, make a phone call, and maintain perfect balance without having to grab a strap or lean against any fixed objects. I have a wide stance and fantastic ankles.)

      2. “Most riders will (and should) accept less multi-tasking capability in exchange for a much faster ride.”

        So how much faster will it be? How far will you be able to go in 15 minutes? Can you guarantee this? Or will we be trading seats for a miniscule 3-5 minutes of travel time, and then have to stand for 20 or 30 minutes because the benefits were overstated?

      3. I’d rather stand for 25 minutes than sit for 30.

        Multiple times a day.

        Every day.

        As long as I live in Seattle.

        That’s hours of my life I’m saving!

      4. Unless you’re talking about those who pull out their laptops on a trip to Redmond. Because that’s a completely different phenomenon.

      5. Some 20+ minute rides: #358 from 85th to either downtown or Aurora Village; #30 from UW to either Sand Point or Seattle Center, or from Sand Point to Fremont; West Seattle Junction or Alki or White Center to downtown; #48 from UW to 85th/Aurora (45 minutes from UW to Columbia City), #66 from UW to Northgate.

        BTW, I do understand that standing takes up less space. I’ve attended churches where standing is the norm, and the only chairs are along the walls for elderly people. You can fit a hundred people in a third the space of a church with pews. But attending a religious service is different from riding transit. When I ride transit, I want to sit down and relax and read, not stand impatiently waiting for the trip to be over.

      6. You and I are just different, Mike. Even if I’m reading a newspaper, listening to a personal favorite album on my iPod, or engrossed in text messages, an artificially slowed transit trip still irks me to my bones.

        Wouldn’t it be amazing to zip along from 85th to downtown or from UW to Northgate so quickly that you didn’t even notice you hadn’t settled in?

      7. The only time standing has impact on travel time is when it’s so crowded you have to slide past people one by one to reach the door. Some runs are routinely that full, but most are not.

        The reason it takes so long for a bus to get from downtown to 85th, or from UW to Northgate, is not because it’s overcrowded but because it stops every few blocks. That’s why I’m in favor of Swift on several corridors, and wide stop spacing for Link. We already have narrow stop spacing on buses; what we don’t have is a limited-stop alternative.

        Most buses I ride have no standees or only a few standees. But if you eliminate half the seats or more (like in Vancouver with a single seat on the left and a double seat on the right), all those people are forced to stand for no benefit. And if the bus takes 20+ minutes, and you’re transferring to another bus that also takes 20+ minutes, that’s a long time standing.

        Overcrowded runs need more buses. Or maybe we can eliminate some seats on those routes only. But don’t take away seats on other buses simply because you think standing is more manly.

      8. All the routes Mike listed except the 30 and 48 are already in line for either RapidRide or Link, and the Link run – UW to Northgate – has only one or two intermediate stops (much as some of us wish there were more, but I doubt UW to Northgate would take 20 minutes on Link even with half-mile stop spacing), and everyone here already agrees that RapidRide has too many stops.

        I will agree with Mike’s last sentence: if there isn’t a lot of standing and the trip takes a long time anyway, don’t eliminate seats. But it’s not like the 70-series is exactly starving for frequency. (The 48 is more problematic.)

      9. Mike,

        The fact that you think Vancouver eliminates “half the seats or more,” when “a single seat on the left and a double seat on the right” suggests they only have 1/4 fewer should show you how much space gets opened up by a pretty marginal reduction in seats.

        And yes, of course seat removals should go hand-in-hand with stop reductions, changes in fare payment and multiple-door usage policies, etc.

        But I’m going to take issue with your suggestion that the tiny aisles don’t slow down buses that have mostly seated passengers. All the time, I see people with backpacks or groceries or higher-than-average personal girth negotiating a trip from back to front more slowly than on any bus I’ve ever seen with a more open floorplan. This is especially true on the models with aisles thinner than the seats themselves. If a double seat actually has two occupants, one’s legs invariably stick out, making passage even harder.

        And even if most occupants are sitting, there are plenty of occasions when someone heads to the back just as someone else is coming to the front to exit. Only routes on which everyone rides end-to-end (those would be “transit center” routes, not urban ones) escape this aisle-passage dance.

        And Morgan,

        Sadly, when Seattle Transit Blog posted interior photos of the RapidRide demonstration bus a while back, it appeared to have a seating arrangement identical to the current one. So no circulation improvement there, even on the most high-volume routes, and even though RapidRide’s frequency improvements will be too negligible to reduce per-bus passenger loads.

        And who wants to bet the non-“Station” stops on RapidRide will remain one-door-only?

      10. Oh, I forgot about dogs in the aisles! Thanks to the dog that completely blocked the tiny aisle on the 15 today for reminding me of that one!!

        I’m sorry to say, Mike, that this is one of those arguments where the preference of Seattleites, including yourself, is rooted in familiarity rather than any true notion of what works better. Which is why interior vehicle floorplans, like stop spacing and routing choices, are better left to seasoned (non-local) experts than to “public comment.”

      11. DP, thanks for your thorough arguments. I still don’t agree but I see your point further.

        “And who wants to bet the non-”Station” stops on RapidRide will remain one-door-only?”

        I think the non-station stops will be little used. On the Bellevue route, the existing buses don’t stop there half the time, and when they do stop it’s only one or two people getting on/off. So as long as they don’t have to walk through a crowd of standees, it’s OK. (I have never seen such a crowd on the 230/253, but it may be more of a problem in Pacific Highway.)

        And of course, the front-door policy is in the evening when there’s the least likelyhood of standees. (These buses never go downtown, so it’s never pay-as-you-leave.)

      12. “yes, of course seat removals should go hand-in-hand with stop reductions, changes in fare payment and multiple-door usage policies, etc.”

        OK, if it’s part of a comprehensive change, and if seats are removed on selected runs rather than across the board. I’d want to see the removal criteria though.

        If the bus is less than 75% full (one person in half of the double seats), then switching seats would not increase standees and it would be fine. Likewise, if the bus is less than 50% full, then switching to single seats on both sides would be fine. It’s the in-between case that’s the problem, when you force people who were sitting to stand.

        If the bus is already crowded with standees, the problem is really insufficient buses. (Or a late bus or one that broke down, but these point to inadequate redundancy if it happens frequently.)

        Short routes are a different case than long routes. Forcing most people to stand may be OK for downtown-to-Capitol Hill, but it’s a different thing if you’re traveling over five miles. And especially if you’re doing it every single day rather than just occasionally. I get on the 71/72/73 in the north end of the U-district in order to get a seat, and I’m glad I don’t have to ride the 358 every morning. (Yes, Link will change things, but these are the examples I’m most familiar with. And Link won’t affect the crowding on the 30 from UW to Fremont.)

        Separaring short trips from long trips requires two different routes. Currently Metro uses the same routes for both (11, 43, 49). A circulator from downtown to 23rd could absorb the short-distance trips, and it could have few seats. But that would require adding routes, which Metro has been reluctaant to do.

      13. Mike, we should probably retire this thread, since it’s so far down on the main page that only you and I are still checking it. I might even feel the need to repost a couple of the prior arguments the next time standing capacity is discussed, just for the sake of thoroughness.

        But as the Ballard RapidRide corridor is my primary area of expertise and discontent, I want to let you know that the “stops-not-stations” will be a problem on this route problem, especially if all exit and entry (even monthly passholders) continues to be through a single door. And the continuation of Metro’s 2×2 seating habit on the RapidRide vehicles will certainly contribute to the problem.

      1. Sorry. You defended the “very nice seats” (with which I have many spacial as well as cleanliness problems) in a related prior discussion. I think I might have incorrectly extrapolated about aisles and/or conflated your comments with those of Mike Orr.

        My apologies!

      2. I was saying that I think that for the seats that are on buses, they, they should continue to use our very nice seats and they shouldn’t be replaced by different kinds of seats. But that’s a whole separate issue from whether there should be more standing room on crowded buses. They should start with a pilot seat-removal project on some 40 foot etbs, because those tend to be extremely crowded, esp te 3 and 4.
        Actually, I seem to remember there being a pilot project like that a couple years ago, does anyone remember that?

  16. Perhaps because those front seats are for the elderly, and other people who would take a long time to wade through the standers to get to seats?

    1. Thus the multiple sideways-facing seats that exist on every bus in addition to the pointless folding ones!

      [duplicate response to duplicate post, just so you’ll definitely see it]

  17. Ordinarily, if a transit system, which is designed to work in the most dense part of an area, is failing to elicit ridership, you might question the underlying premise of the whole system.

    That is, density apparently does not equal successful transit, therefore, more density does not equal more success.

    1. Bailo’s density-measurement protractor works in reverse. His population-measurement ruler works in reverse too.

    2. The transit has to be appropriate for the density. If you have high density but a low level of transit, it doesn’t work. Again, if we had San Francisco transit (every 15-20 minutes, except night owl every 30 minutes, and more east-west routes), we’d have San Fransico levels of ridership.

  18. It seems to me that your #5 is key, and would be incredibly cheap to implement (far cheaper and easier than the RapidRide system seems to be taking). While Seattle’s topography makes routing difficult, it also has the benefit of forcing many routes through the same choke points (U-District, Pike/Pine, West Seattle Junction, Ballard Bridge, etc.) Using a similar color coding as Bellingham’s Go system (which combines multiple route #s into a specific color), it seems that frequent, easily identifiable service, could be implemented to MOST of Seattle’s denser areas. The 70’s essentially already work like this to the Ave area. The 15 and 18 could easily be a Downtown Ballard Line, and of course a West Seattle Line would be simple.

    Sure, some regular riders would still opt to wait for the specific bus that gets them closest to their destination, but for someone just trying to get to the area (for a neighborhood walk, street festival, farmer’s market, etc.) this system would work wonders.

  19. I ride the bus everywhere and it is my main method of transportation, so I understand and have a lot of experiences riding them. Here are some of the problems that I believe turns people off from taking the bus:

    1.) If you are a new, you better know where you are going and check where your stop is in advance. Even if you use the official trip planner, there is no way to tell where to stop or which stop is coming up other than the names of streets, which are sometimes unannounced. Some routes have stops that are miles apart, so if you miss it, you are screwed!

    2.) New bus users need to be careful of routes that have the same route number, but going in towards different places. For example, route 28 has the same bus number for two different final destinations.

    3.) Buses are not reliable and are often late, sometimes by nearly half an hour or not showing up at all. There are many factors at play here, but this is a pretty big problem. Heck, even the light rail is late some times! Just catch a ride from U-District to Downtown Seattle via the 71, 72, 73, or whatever and you will see what I mean. I’ve seen many times where multiple buses come at exactly the same time, one after the other.

    4.) Fares are confusing. My mom wanted to take a ride on the bus and we weren’t sure of the fare, even after checking the official Metro website. If you ask any bus rider what the fare is, they will probably say, “I think it is…” blah blah blah.

    5.) The pay as you leave and pay as you enter concept is a mess! All it does is slow down service even more. I am not suggesting that I have a solution, but I just think that it is terrible. I’ve seen many times, in a pay as you leave service, where a bus stops for a passenger, and then waits for that passenger to walk all the way to the front of the bus, look for his/her fare, then continues on. Also, in instances where the bus is jam packed, it’s impossible to get up to the front, so you bare the embarrassment of shouting “BACK DOOR!” in hopes that the driver will hear you and allow you to get off and pay by reboarding, otherwise you’re stuck trying to go through a tiny aisle.

    Anyways, that is all that I can think of, but I am sure that I can name many more. I’ve been to Vancouver, BC and rode the buses there. Their system and operation is much better, in my opinion.

    I wish Seattle was more denser.

    1. The coming installation of card readers at all doors should help. Operators will have to learn to trust their ears when they hear the correct beep at the rear of the bus.

      Does anyone here have experience with all-door card readers in other cities, how they have worked effectively, and what entrance/exit/payment formats have been duds? Let’s save Metro the cost of a consultant, or some junkets, if we can.

    2. The crazy thing is, now the official 71/72/73 schedule has lots of times southbound throughout the day where there is a 20 minute gap then the 71 and 72 come at the same time. It drives me crazy, if they’re going to find efficiencies in the routes they really need to adjust the schedules so they can maintain consistent frequency.

      1. This was mentioned by a KCM employee during the Q&A at Jarrett Walker’s brown bag at Great City as one of the perils attempting to increase efficiency without having a good understanding of the system you’re working with. Apparently some consultant looked at the 71/72/73 ridership numbers and schedules and recommended eliminating some runs. They treated the three routes as independent entities and failed to see that those routes were designed to work together to provide UW—Downtown trips every 10 minutes or so, not just to provide transit to, say, Wedgwood or Lake City. And no one in charge at Metro had the sense to say, “Wait, this recommendation doesn’t make sense when viewed in context”. And so some runs were cut, leading to 20 minute waits followed by buses less than 5 minutes apart, effectively breaking one of the best routes KCM had.

        Someone mentioned that if KCM went with a different numbering scheme, this might not’ve happened: if instead of 71, 72, 73 they were something like 71A, 71B, 71C, it would have been obvious that they were not really independent routes but rather variations on the same route meant to work together.

        All of the above is vaguely recollected, so I might be getting the details wrong. But in general, it was a lesson in how not to improve bus efficiency. And since at least some folks at KCM are aware of it, hopefully it’ll get fixed soon enough.

      2. This phenomenon is simply the result of letting a computer ‘optimize’ the bus hours assigned to a route, or family of routes. The planners have worked to standardize the 70 series from the U-Dist to CBD with consistent headways, at the expense of some service hours. The computer really doesn’t give a hoot, just as long as it costs less.
        Auditors 1, Riders Zip.

      3. Of course, as one bus gets crushloaded, and another trails empty right behind it, that savings will go up in smoke.

      4. My dad was telling me that a few decades ago (probably under Seattle Transit and not Metro) the current 70s were the 7-Wedgwood, the 7-Lake City, and the 7-(i assume Maple Leaf, maybe Jackson Park) respectively. But then they stopped giving routes names.

      5. So when will Metro acknowledge the mistake and confirm that it will be fixed in the next scheduling? Or add some short-73s to fill the gaps. Metro could revise the schedules mid-season; it has done that before.

  20. I think all of these will increase ridership.

    The better question is “What are the top ways to increase ridership without additional $$$?”

    Several posters have mentioned this – a full scale blowup and revamp of the system is in order. You can carry more folks with the same amount of resources, and leverage some of the HCT elements coming on line.

  21. Simplicity and consistency seem to be the answers to everything transit. I for one would feel sorry for anyone coming from out of town and thinking they were going to use mass transit in Seattle. I’ve lived here for 10 years and it’s till bewildering and I ride it every day.

    I once decided I was going to be a tourist in Seattle, stay downtown and uses buses to see the sites. After two hours of trying to figure out how to get to the places I wanted to go I gave up and drove from my house.

    Simplicity – no free ride zone maybe better just tap on and tap off like the Sounder. Let it calculate your trip. Always pay at the same end of the bus. Always get on and off at the same end of the bus. Bus routes don’t change depending on the time of day. The IT/Pierce 603 is insane if you want an example. And please make the route planner actually find ANY address! It can find my house but very rarely anything else. Fix Metro maps. Copy CT if you have to, God knows it’s the only thing they do right.

    Consistency – Same routes all the time. Come often enough that I don’t have to plan for transfers. If I walked out of work and caught the first bus it would take me anywhere from 50 minutes to 2 hrs to get home depending on *when I walked out. I finally put in routes home from work at 30 minute increment so if I were leaving at 5:30 I’d take route A and transfer at B etc…

    Buses overall are a sucky experience. However, about half of my reasons for not wanting to ride the bus can be removed just by organization.

  22. What about signs at major bus stops saying when the next bus is coming?

    Another application of that: I was in Queen Anne without a car recently, and while getting there by bus was easy getting back is very confusing. You have no idea where to stand. The thing is, pretty much every stop is downtown bound on some line. But then it’s frustrating to stand at one stop and wait a while while seeing buses going the other way you could have caught. (Incidentally, I used OneBusAway but didn’t realize I was on the wrong side of the street, and anyway most people don’t have smart phones.) So next bus signs would be great, and here they would be even better if they also informed you if another downtown-bound bus would be coming to a nearby stop sooner. If Metro had this, they could probably reduce service frequency to Queen Anne (say, by removing the redundant 3) while making it feel more frequent.

    Are there any other parts of Seattle where the bus choices are similarly confusing? I mean, I guess there are plenty of situations like places near the intersection of Thomas & 19th, where you don’t know whether to wait for the 43 or the 12, this can really create a paradox of choice situation for people where no matter which they choose they feel certain they’re waiting longer than they need to be and wouldn’t it be so much easier if they just drove.

    1. The thing is, pretty much every stop is downtown bound on some line. Not really. Outside of Downtown, most stops on one side of the street are served by only outbound buses, and the ones on the other side are inbound. Even on Queen Anne, I think there’s only one block where you could get that confused, and that’s because the bus turns around right nearby. But I’m pretty sure all the stops around there are still all outbound or all inbound, not mixed.

      If the stop you were at was a “major” stop, it should have had a paper schedule, which would have said where the buses were headed, no fancy electronics needed. Many minor (and especially outbound) stops don’t have schedules, and if you’re not familiar with a route, you might not know what side of the street to stand on, but your suggestion to put signs at major stops wouldn’t help in those instances. But I do feel your pain somewhat (I think); personally I’d like to see rough times to terminals at the tops of paper schedules (e.g. “~30 mins to Downtown”) so that even if I didn’t know the routes, I’d know to take, say, the 49 and not the 43.

      As for the confusion factor, drivers frequently have to look up routes to locations they’re not familiar with; why wouldn’t bus riders do the same? Folks new to the region often get stuck in traffic on Road X because they don’t know that Road Y goes the same place faster. The same thing happens to bus riders. Eventually, the driver wonders “Where does that road go?” and the bus rider wonders “Where does that route go?”, and they go exploring, or they look it up. You start taking 99 instead of I-5, and the 49 instead of the 43. There’s always going to be a learning curve, but there’s only so much you can do.

    2. I was in West Seattle recently and was irritated by the lack of schedules at stops on California Ave SW between the Junction and Admiral District. (I knew which direction to go to catch the bus I wanted to catch, but wanted to know whether to stop and wait or keep walking.) Hopefully Metro will be consistent (and proactive) with introducing these new-style bus stop signs that show the destination right on the sign.

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