Update 3:40 pm: Metro just announced they’re staying on snow routes the rest of the day.

Update 2:30 pm: Some ST bus routes are delayed. It’s all tracked here.

Update 11:10 am: All Pierce Transit buses on snow routes.

It looks like Metro made the right call last night to plan on AM snow, as snow is down and sticking in many areas of Seattle. All Metro routes remain on their snow routes. Route 90 — a snow-only route — is currently operating with 3 buses an hour. Link light rail seems somewhat unaffected thus far.

So far — and we’re still early in what could be a cold, icy week — Metro is having a pretty good performance. This is a far cry from the chaos of Snowpocolypse 2008. Metro will be severely challenged, however, if the slush on roads freezes tonight as some expect.

For OneBusAway users: Metro has further taken the step of shutting down real-time data to services like OneBusAway, since the data is inaccurate when buses are on reroute.

Tell us how things are for you in the comments.

87 Replies to “With Snow Sticking, Metro Still on Snow Routes”

  1. As of 9 am the roads on top of Queen Anne Hill are clear, where vehicles have traveled. On Queen Anne, this is a non-event up to this point.

    If I remember correctly, “Snowpocolypse 2008” had over a foot of snow built up on the ground. Let’s wait until there is a foot of snow accumulated throughout the Seattle area before we start comparing this to the snow event in 2008.

    1. The problem with the 2008 event was that Metro was caught with their pants down, reacting to events instead of acting proactively to ensure unexpected service interruptions wouldn’t occur. For example, the 554 I caught that morning two years ago had only one chain, though thankfully it didn’t have any problems making it to Mercer Island (where I foolishly thought I could catch a 550 to Bellevue, not realizing half of those bendy buses had done the slinky thing en route).

      So, Metro has already improved upon what happened two years ago by “playing it safe,” announcing well in advance that buses would operate on snow routes and equipping the vehicles with chains. I can’t fault them for that. I just wish Sound Transit would have mirrored Metro’s alerts for the ST routes they operate so that 554/555/556 riders who looked only at ST’s website this morning would have found an alert that snow routes were in effect for those runs

      (It seems to be to be a reasonable assumption to look at the website for the agency whose name is written on the bus when seeking information for delays/reroutes; heck, ST could have at least provided a blurb saying, “not all routes maybe listed, be sure to also check KCM/PT/CT websites…” As of this post, some three hours after I boarded a 556 at Issy TC, there still has not been a ST rider alert posted announcing 554/555/556 snow routes are in effect.)

    2. In 2008, hundreds of buses were stranded/jackknifed all over King County during rush hour when the snow started coming down. You don’t need a foot of snow to tell you that they weren’t prepared.

      Metro’s response and preparedness for severe weather today is a far cry from 2008.

      1. Nonetheless, even with the better preparedness today, we have no way of knowing if it would have made any difference if we actually got a foot of snow today. So far, today’s weather is nothing compared to 2008. Up to now, the weather is not a real test of Metro’s ability to handle snow.

        As of right now — 10:35 am — the streets on Queen Anne Hill are completely clear. In 2008, there was about a foot of snow on all the streets on Queen Anne. There is no comparison between this event and 2008, so far.

      2. Even if “Metro” handles snow well, buses will still run late, less frequently, and have accidents. These are not functions of incompetence, but functions of reality. There appears to be an expectation that if Metro is doing it’s job right, then all buses will run – on time, and without incident. Unless and until buses fly, they will have the same kinds of problem as similarly sized vehicles (and more). Physics gets in the way of fantasy every time.

      1. I don’t keep normal counts. I only counted this time because you happened to ask when I was on a train. I thought you might have that info.

        I can tell you that the snowy landscape from Link is beautiful.

      2. I’m sorry Norman that I don’t have the info you want but I provided what I can. You’ve mentioned before that you’ve been keeping detailed counts on Link passenger loads. It’d be nice if you shared. Thanks.

      3. You’re the guy who won’t offer feedback directly to ST, so I don’t see where you have much wiggle room to complain when others are not “very helpful.”

      4. What time did your train leave Westlake, Oran? I need that to be able to make any meaningfull comparisions with my data.

        What is your impression, aside from your passenger count? Do you ride Link regularly around this time? If so, you should be able to give us some idea of if today’s trains seemed fuller or emptier than normal, without an actual passenger count. What about the stations you passed? Were there many people at the stations waiting for trains compared to a fair-weather day?

        If you ride Link often at all, you should be able to give us some idea of whether or not today seemed like a “normal” day on Link, or if it seemed heavier or lighter passenger-load wise.

        As for the snowy landscape — that is beautiful from wherever you happen to be when it snows. That is what I was referring to as being helpful.

      5. Norman and everyone else: we’re not going to allow any more discussion about Link passenger counts or any other perceived ridership metrics in this thread. Thanks for helping us out by staying on the topic of snow service.

  2. The 4N was running on Taylor (as of 8AM) but with significantly fewer buses, so they are crowded. Headways appear to be about 20-30 minutes.

    The roads on Queen Anne were entirely clear of snow, except for a couple of sections. No problems at all for the bus.

    1. I rode in, and saw a few dozen bikes on my way. A winter wonderland on the Burke. Just take the hills at walking pace and you are fine.

      A lot more pleasant that standing on the 74’s snowroute on parking lot that is Montlake right now.

    2. The mood on the trail was really great. Lot’s a smiles and “good mornings”. Snow puts people in a good mood, I think.

      1. I was thinking the opposite – snow was jamming things up under my fenders, and I periodically had to hop my bike to clear it.

        I was feeling jealous of the mountain bikers with nobbies and no fenders.

        slicks worked fine, but I had to use my feet for brakes, Fred Flintstone-style, a couple of times. ;)

    3. I saw several out while I was driving the 36 this morning. The numbers were down but then again so was the number of cars.

      I rode to the store: http://yfrog.com/n6snowridej

      It wasn’t too bad. If it snowed more around here I’d invest in studded tires but as it stands, I’m looking for any excuse to use the Subaru I can. That said, I didn’t use it to go to the store.

      1. You are a brave soul. I whimped and drove the Subie to work. Made the mistake of waiting until 5:30 to come home at which point the roads had completely iced over. I had no problem with traction but had to take all the back streets to avoid other cars not so winter ready.

        Did they chain up buses today? It didn’t seem that way on the eastside. Chains do little to no good on solid ice. In fact that create more problems. Seems like years ago the articulated buses at least had wheel sanders. Is that still the case?

      2. Some old artics have sanders but Metro doesn’t fill them. I don’t recall the issue. My bus this AM was chained up on both the rear and center axle. I had no major trouble getting around but it wasn’t really that bad and the roads were still slushy.

        FWIW I whimped out too and took our Subaru to work. The store run was strictly an exercise in “could I have ridden in” – The answer was a definite “yes”, even without snow tires. That said, I’ll bet tomorrow would be a different answer.

        I may invest in a set of snow tires for the future – After seeing the afternoon rush hour on TV News, I may want to take my chances biking home in weather like this.

      3. I’m pretty sure the Breda’s have sanders, although I can’t remember ever seeing them being used.

        Their is at least one company that makes a 4-wheel-drive articulated bus, maybe Metro should look in to that during their next procurement cycle.

      4. I remember the sanders in operation but that was 20-30 years ago. They seemed to work really well but maybe that was only when they were working. Doesn’t seem like a tough technology to master; steam locomotives uses them := One of the great benefits was the buses ended up sanding the problem areas of all the major arterials way faster than city sanding trucks could get around.

  3. I waited at my usual stop (Earl Avenue NW at NW 85th Street) this morning for the 18 express as according the map in the printed schedule, there should be a snow route loop west on NW 80th Street, north on 28th Avenue NW and east on NW 85th Street and then continue as per regular south on 24th Avenue NW. Only the bus(es) never came. I walked east to the corner of 85 and 24 and a [local] bus was at that stop. Hate as I do to take the forever local, I was already late and hopped on. The local 18 REALLY has to eliminate some stops as many are very close together which only lengthens the on board time. Tomorrow I’ll head to the stop at 24th Avenue NW and NW 83rd Street and skip my usual stop on 85th.

  4. When I commuted thus morning at 5:30 the chains were grinding away on bare pavement, bur the driver of the 2 was great about making announcements. I got really lucky in another way…the detour meant I had a one-seat ride from Madrona to King St to catch Sounder.

  5. Did they really have to cut off OneBusAway? Wouldn’t it still have worked for non-affected parts of the routes (or at least of routes truncated at the end but with unaffected middle sections)?

    It’s going to make the 1st half of my trip to the airport really unpleasant.

    1. Read the OBA post about how the data works. The only routes for which the data would still be accurate are those whose snow route is 100% identical with their regular route. Any reroutes at all will make all data after (not simply during) that reroute inaccurate, and those inaccuracies will compound as the bus continues running throughout the day. So even if the only portion of your route that you ride is on its regular route, the data for that portion would still be inaccurate.

      It’s worth noting, though, that there are routes whose snow route is indeed identical to the regular route, and for which the data should still be accurate. If you ride the 44/43, for example, I think it’s definitely reasonable to be annoyed that Metro pulled this move.

      1. Of course, it’s worth noting that if a bus’s route from base to terminal changed during a snow event—even if the route per se didn’t change at all—that would throw off the data. Ditto if a coach that’s now running on a snow-unaffected route started out on a snow-affected route. It would be interesting to know what if any routes don’t change at all during adverse weather routing.

      2. Are they still attempting to keep to schedule at the snow-route’s starting point?

        I.e. If the route normally begins at 105th, and the snow-route starts at 85th, are they waiting to leave 85th until the time shown for that stop on the schedule? Or have the schedules been thrown completely to the wind?

      3. d.p….there is snow on the roads…don’t hold yourself or us to a schedule that is impossible to keep on dry roads.

    2. I think it was a good call on their part. It’s annoying but until they get GPS tracking the data really is junk.

  6. It’s clear that some Metro drivers aren’t familiar with the published snow routes, even on the route they’re operating! For instance, I tried to take the #11 to downtown this morning, and instead of taking 23rd to Olive, the driver continued down 23rd and was forced to make an illegal left onto Madison! I’ve heard similar stories from other riders, so hopefully Metro can work out these kinks before a bigger storm hits.

    1. The person who was driving the 56X this morning around 6:10 missed the turn onto the low-level West Seattle Bridge and ended up on West Marginal Way (I don’t know if it’s possible at that point to turn around and backtrack to the turn).

    2. My #11 driver inbound did the snow route correctly, and waited on MLK just south of Madison for the folks at the stop on Madison to cross the street and board the bus.

      I’d suggest we look at this morning as a rehearsal for a possible January 2011 Snowpocalypse. Good on you, Metro, for making this decision last evening!

      1. My 255 driver skipped the Totem Lake snow route section but followed the Lk Washington Blvd snow route. He helped a lot of people with transfers to the 230, 234, 540. So far I’m pleased!

    3. Matt,

      Very few of us are familiar with the snow routes as we don’t drive the snow routes. We aren’t even given the routing until the snow routes are ordered. I drove a 28 inbound yesterday from 85th. The snow route takes the 26 Y 28 off Dexter and moves them to Westlake and then to 9th then Bell. You can’t turn onto 9th because of construction, this information wasn’t provided to us. Not knowing the streets I waited until Denny way to turn right then once I was committed to the turn realized that I have to make an illegal left turn onto 9th to get back on route. I’m not sure, Matt, how you expect Metro to work out the kinks as they don’t know the streets that are under construction on the snow routes and there really isn’t any point to tracking the information for the couple of days a year that the snow routing may be used. What you are suggesting takes time and manpower. Lets see, not things Metro has in abundance. Did the operator deliver you safely to your destination…?

  7. I don’t think it was Metro’s fault, but I had an amazing(ly bad) ride to the U-District on the 49 today. It seemed as though police came to shut down a lane of 10th Ave E from Roanoke to Miller, and flag traffic around. I think I spent 30 minutes waiting on 10th to get around…nothing. I thought there was an accident but it was just police cars blocking the lane. The bus was crowded because from what I could tell they’re not running artics on the 49 route today, and then when we got to Miller the bus driver didn’t pick up the people who were waiting there. I think there would have been room, so I’m not sure why, other than to keep traffic moving. I hope those people caught a bus.

      1. There was a minor fender-bender at around 8:30 on 10th Ave northbound going over 520. The morons stopped in the middle of a snowy, bumper-to-bumper hill to exchange pleasantries instead of making the turn and turning off on a side-street. An ambulance passed them at the same time, making them a double-hazard. The ambulance may have been a signal of a more significant accident further north.

        This one block stretch was actually the worst part of my commute because cars were driving unpredictably.

        I just got off and walked to sidewalk with my bike. Take no chances with irritated and late drivers in weather.

  8. I didn’t realize they had cutoff real-time data and waited for a bus on Phinney for quite some time even though when i got to the stop it was “two minutes away”. Kind of annoying, but it was a non-essential trip, so not too much of an issue for me. I then saw that 5 lanes of Aurora were blocked off this morning due to an accident and figured that was the cause.

    Totally off-topic, how is there no barrier between NB and SB lanes on the Aurora Bridge or through the Woodland Park area on Aurora? This has been a head scratcher for me for years.

    1. The lanes on the bridge are only 9.5′ wide, and they don’t widen much if at all through Woodland Park. Jersey barriers are nearly 3 feet wide at the base, so they’d probably require taking a half a foot off of each lane’s width, which would probably make the bridge even more dangerous than it is without a barrier. Even new steel barriers require 2 feet at their base. Through Woodland Park they could probably narrow the sidewalks to get the needed space, but widening the bridge is a much more expensive proposition. They’ve apparently discussed it, but the money’s not there.

      I gotta say, though, in 16 years of living in Seattle, I can’t recall hearing the phrase “head-on collision on the Aurora Bridge” all that much, nor do I recall the bridge being closed for fatality investigations very often. Perhaps the obvious danger posed by the lack of a barrier has actually kept the number of collisions down, as drivers generally avoid the center lanes or only use them with above-average caution.

      1. Actually, new technology makes a one foot footprint possible and has been in place on the Spokane Street viaduct for years. But it is still too tight on the Aurora bridge unless they go to two lanes.

      2. RBC, though they were installed over 10 years ago, the one-foot median barriers you refer to are considered “temporary”. The ongoing widening project not only widens the viaduct lanes from 10′ to 11′, but also replaces the 1′ temporary median with a 2′ permanent median.

  9. Given that real-time info is impracticable with their current location technology, I would at least like to know what the headways for the snow routes are. It makes a big difference to know whether I can expect 4 buses an hour or 1.

  10. This morning, southbound on University Way, not one 71, 72, or 73 appeared between 8:25am and 9:20am.

    The 373 made its appearance. The 71 snow shuttle made a brief appearance (it turns west at the top of the Ave). An out-of-service Terminal bus went by. 48s were constantly heading south one block over on 15th Ave NE. Northbound 7Xs were in ample supply.

    Finally two 72s appeared together. The poor driver of the first (completely packed) bus had the task of people telling at some stops that another 72 was right behind him. Still, a few folks refused to listed and shoved aboard.

    I’d still like to know if the 71 and 73 routes were just stuck/delayed or if the drivers decided to make up their own snow routes. The published snow routes show all three of these routes as still using the Ave.

    1. Maple Leaf was a huge mess this Morning. Nearly 2″ of snow on the ground by 8:30 I didn’t see a SB bus for nearly an hour until the 373 you mentioned stopped.

  11. So the route announcements on the RapidRide – aren’t those tied to a GPS/ realtime system? Is that system designed to provide feedback to Metro? And isn’t it supposed to go system wide?

    1. Whomever at ST that is updating that page and claiming 556 currently has “no service disruptions” didn’t spend 45 minutes standing at Bellevue TC waiting for one to show up before catching a 271.

  12. Took the 28X this morning, which was 20 min late. We were stuck behind the Aurora backup, so the trip took about 50 min.

    While moving to the snow route seemed prudent, having the chains on was a little overkill, IMHO.

    1. This is a total guess but I think the problem with chains is they take a while to put on/take off so they kind of have to guess one or the other and go with it. The chains totally eat up the road, but once a bus is stuck you can’t put chains on.

      1. Running chains on bare pavement not only chews up the roads — it also destroys the chains in pretty quick order. Just a stupid thing to do all around.

      2. If we had more rail transit it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Oslo, Stockholm, Berlin, Zurich don’t grind to a halt every winter.

      3. I would imagine that running chains on bare pavement does pretty bad things to the tires, also.

        In the Seattle area, we probably average around 3 days per year when there is snow on the roads. This is not a major problem. When it snows, clear the main roads, and run buses without chains. If the roads can’t be kept clear (maybe one or two days per year), then put chains on the buses. But running chains on bare streets is just flat-out stupid. And pretty expensive, with all the damage they do to streets, chains, and tires.

        When the chains break from running on bare streets, they probably chew up the wheel wells on buses pretty good, also.

      4. When it starts snowing hard enough, no amount of plowing can keep a road clear. Go ask the guys who try and keep Snoqualmie Pass clear. So running buses with chains on bare pavement isn’t automatically stupid, its a judgement call. If they don’t chain up and things are horrible, then we have 2008 all over again and half the fleet is jackknifed or in the ditch. If they do chain up and nothing happens then it looks stupid but at least the buses are still running, albeit slowly.

        And Adam’s right, it takes a long time to put chains on one bus, let alone 1,000 buses. Metro has essentially two times during the day when they can attempt to chain up the buses (early morning/the night before, and after the AM peak), and doing it the night before/early morning of is far preferable because you don’t need to shuffle buses around to get it done. Personally I’d prefer a little caution and preemptive attempts at dealing with potential bad weather.

  13. Can anybody, preferably somebody from the Washington State Department of Transportation, tell me why, year after year, the I-5 express lanes are shut down every time we get heavy snow?

    It seems to me this is when transit needs these lanes the most. Transit agencies must be losing fortunes over this, let alone the cost in time and discomfort to thousands of passengers.

    Seems to me, if these lanes can’t handle car traffic in snow, best thing would be to close them to everything except emergency vehicles and buses. Is there any good reason not to do this?

    Mark Dublin

    1. A story I read today said the I-5 express lanes were open — they just stayed open south-bound all day, instead of reversing to norhtbound in the afternoon. WSDOT has good reasons for doing this, according to them. I think I would go with WSDOT’s reasoning for this.

      But, accoridng to the news, the I-5 express lanes are open all day — they are not shut down at all.

    2. WashDOT closes the express lanes mostly because it requires extra resources that are better utilized elsewhere to keep them clear of snow and ice, and clear incidents. They also pointed out today that they are leaving them southbound so as to avoid the hour-long closure that is required to switch directions, which a) takes extra staff, b) requires even more plows to keep the road clear while no one is driving on it, c) plays with the possibility that the gates ice up and require two hours and even more staff to clear instead of just one.

  14. Saw Metro route 209 in the ditch this morning between North Bend and Snoqualmie. Everyone was safely off the bus by the time I drove by. It didn’t appear that the bus had chains on, but I didn’t get a real close look at it.

  15. 71x NB left Westlake at 4:33pm today.

    Instead of hopping on I-5, it went over to Howell and the driver told us s/he was calling in for permission to take Eastlake and/or Fairview instead of getting on I-5. Ended up taking Eastlake, which was completely packed with traffic.

    It reached the top part of the Ave at 6:00pm. Nearly the entire trip was spent in the parking lot known as Eastlake.

  16. The 3/4 are not running at all onto QA – 5 buses are stuck at the top of 5th Ave N because the lead bus is into the side of a white box truck that somehow ended up sideways across the westbound lane. Doesn’t look like a severe crash but more of a “coming together” – needless to say they aren’t going to be moving tonight.

    1. Man. Sat on 522 for 20 minutes and didn’t move. Finally bolted at 4pm and rode my bike home. No express lanes made for very, very slow going heading north.

  17. I fail to see how this is a far cry from Snowpocalypse 2008. It’s the busiest travel time of the year and our city has shut down again. Can we please have a mayor who understands that it snows here?

    1. You can’t just blame any one person for this. Even if Obama was our mayor he couldn’t change anything. This is just the fact of life and people need to learn to live with it.

  18. Downtown Seattle streets seemed bare when I left it around 5:45 pm. At Intl Dist Station, 2 of the 550s that passed by were only able to take 2 more people. The third one was packed to the point that holding on was optional. In downtown Bellevue a lot of the streets were frozen, as if they didn’t treat them with deicer. One 550 (the brand new buses) was stuck on the slope on NE 4th St before 110th Ave. Mine spent 3 minutes slowly chugging up. I waited only 5 minutes for the 535, which was not chained up. NE 6th leading to the direct access ramp was covered in snow. Later the CT coordinator instructed drivers to avoid the direct access ramp and use NE 8th to get to the transit center. 405 NB was crawling all the way, getting slower and more packed as we proceeded north. I made it home around 7:15 pm.

  19. Do we know how well all the other transt modes fared today? Link, Sounder, Seattle and Tacoma Streetcars, Monorail, the ferry system?

    1. According to SoundTransit’s website, Link has no delays. Makes sense. The trains clean the tracks themselves and if they’ve installed track warmers (or made some other mitigation) then they won’t have to worry about icing overnight, either.

    2. Link worked beautifully all day, didn’t look like the Seattle streetcar ran much past 9pm — the tracks were completely filled with snow around 11.

      1. I saw both streetcars (6pm, Monday) stuck in traffic northbound on Westlake between Denny and Mercer. The massive traffic jam attempting to get to Mercer St. meant those streetcars were stuck in that section for at least an hour. And therefore, no southbound streetcars at all during that period. The streetcar would work fine if it wasn’t impacted by traffic.

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