My impressions are that Metro did a good job today of communicating snow routes and various changes as the day went on. The agency came off as organized, prepared, and all on the same page. Moving every route to a snow route set the appropriate expectations for riders and helped minimize confusion. Drivers were jovial and professional.

Improved communication will not wipe away severely inclement weather and our collective inability to commute through it. While Monday gave us a chance to all sigh about how our bus came at a random time in the morning or how the afternoon was a complete mess, the only response to those complaints we love to share is that there is no fix. Snow will hurt transportation in Seattle. More rail would help, but rail has also its own problems. The way to avoid getting snared in gridlock when it snows: don’t commute.

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@myballard: Wow, Seattle Police just told @KIRO7Seattle that 200 Metro buses are stuck in the snow.

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Seattle Weekly: Light Rail Kicks Metro’s Butt in the Snow.

In short, the trains have been running absolutely normally — seven to 15 minutes apart, with no added travel time.

That doesn’t necessarily mean light-rail riders never have to worry about inclement weather. Patrick says freezing rain presents a particular danger due to the overhead electrical system used by the trains. If ice forms on the wires, that could cause a breakdown.

But Patrick says there is a solution: Sound Transit can run the trains all night long, rather than stopping them between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as usual. That should keep the ice from building up.

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@mckoss: bus jack knife across the 520 bridge

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@SoundTransit: Link light rail trains will run all night to keep the tracks clear. Passenger srvc ends @ 1.

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@westseattleblog: Metro says full service even on snow routes will be impossible tomorrow so their advice is STAY HOME STAY HOME STAY HOME

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Seattle Times, The long, long bus ride home to West Seattle:

Four hours after he boarded the No. 22 downtown, he was reading through a circular and wondering if the Mariners were in fact seriously interested in trading for the Diamondbacks’ outfielder Justin Upton. We all just hoped we’d reach West Seattle by the time any deal might be consummated.

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University of Washington: The UW Seattle and Tacoma campuses have suspended operations and canceled classes for Tuesday.

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@seattletimes: I-5: Seattle’s newest parking lot http://seati.ms/hO1kkk

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CHS Capitol Hill Seattle, 11:06PM – Olive Way: Bus graveyard – From Darcy:

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@seatransitblog: The degree to which you can continue to live normally with weather like this is a rough measure of your transportation sustainability.

32 Replies to “Monday’s Snow Day Montage”

    1. Nice video. Thanks for that. I didn’t watch the whole. I skipped ahead in parts. But I didn’t hear any stop announcements. Maybe I just skipped over them, but if none were made before any of the stations, I thought stop announcements were required by the ADA. Can the Link operator turn off the announcements?

      1. I just heard one at 4:02 announcing arrival at TIBS…maybe you should spend a little more time listening before you try to poke holes in LINK. You’ve been at the game long enough you should know someone will check and correct you.

      2. Brett, you are right, I went back and heard it. BTW, I wasn’t poking holes. This was an honest question. I thought I heard somewhere that operators can switch off automated stop announcements on LINK and BRT buses. That’s why I asked. And a 2nd BTW, I’m not anti-light rail. I’m pro-light rail. I just don’t care for this alignment. I actually want to see light rail grow in this region.

  1. Has SDOT’s goal always been “to achieve bare and wet pavement on specified streets within eight to twelve hours after a lull in the storm”? I can’t be the only person who figured that the point of SDOT’s pre-treating and salting was to keep Level 1 and 2 roads passable more or less from the get-go, not after a half-day delay.

    I can’t wait to see the postmortem on this storm. So far it’s not looking any better than 2008.

    1. In 2008 the roads were still impassable long after it stopped snowing. Back then they were aiming for a “hard-packed surface” that basically translates as “ice sheet.” I’ve personally seen SDOT trucks out in the last couple hours plowing and salting and you can see the difference where they have been.

      I’m really frustrated with the kind of people who vote to repeal sales taxes, whine about increased parking fees, and then demand a level of snow response on par with Chicago.

  2. I decided to bike to SR-520 from 148th and 51st in Redmond at 4:30pm and when I boarded the 545 to get across the bridge the driver demanded I pay a fare. Most drivers will take cyclists across the bridge free of charge, but not this one. I guess it’s up to the driver’s digression. Hey Mr. cyclist I see you are trying to save money, reduce road congestion and help save the environment, well I (bus driver) don’t care and am going to charge you $2.50 to get across a bridge that is impassible by bike. Was this driver just a complete a** or does Metro not care?

    1. Matt Morrow,
      The only place that cyclists ride on the 520 bridge, or anywhere in the system is between Montlake and Evergreen Point because there is no pedestrian/cyclist way on the bridge like I90. This driver charged you accordingly as Sound Transit sets the fare. The driver wasn’t an a**, Metro does care but they aren’t going to give you a freebie. Personally I think Metro should be charging the cyclist between Montlake and Evergreen Point as well simply because you are using a service just like everyone else.

    2. I believe the free ride across the bridge is also only on buses that say “To Terminal” or “To xxx Base”. Any regularly scheduled bus requires a fare at all times.

      1. Correct, all regular service coaches are supposed to collect a 2 zone fare for crossing the bridge.

        @Mark – The free ride on “To Terminal” or “To xxx Base” is designed to get cyclists who just want to cross the bridge to take buses that would typically be empty. That leaves racks on the in service coaches for those who intend on taking a particular bus to its destination.

        During the summer, I’ve even allowed multiple cyclists to bring bikes onto my deadheading bus since there aren’t other passengers to worry about. That’s a gray area though – Probably not PR material, but who knows…

      2. It’s too bad they don’t have a “cross the bridge” fare for bicyclists, say an even $1. I know they had a free fare while they rebuilt the sunken I-90 bridge but in these times I’m not expecting a free ride but a single station hop seems unfair to charge the full two zone rate.

    3. If only the original bridge had had a sidewalk wide enough that you could actually use without being hit by cars. But that was 1970s thinking.

  3. On my commute home yesterday Sounder was delayed by 30 minutes by a frozen switch, and then there were 7 Route 2 buses stranded together at 18th/Union and everyone had to walk the rest of the way home. Despite the wind and low-level misery of it all, everyone was in good spirits and was thanking the drivers for making the effort.

  4. My commute between downtown and the U District took 1.5 hours or so yesterday afternoon.

    Our 72X operator was cracking jokes and keeping spirits up. She was outstanding!

    On the ship canal bridge we passed a 401 with a crush load – stuck on the ice. The chains all day, were definately the right call.

    Overall, my hat is off to Metro staff given the conditions.

  5. The two drivers I had yesterday did a great job all things considered, but there seems to be a communication problem. I was riding the #2 to Madrona around 7pm. We got to 18th Ave & Union St where there were 6 other #2 buses lined up at the top of the hill (there was a pileup of cars about halfway down the hill). There was also a #2 to Queen Anne at the bottom of the hill. Is there no way for that first #2 driver to contact the base and give them a status update, so the other buses could be turned around?

    How many #2 buses are out on the route at one time? With 8 #2 buses just sitting there for hours I can’t imagine there many others, if any, still in operation.

  6. My commute from downtown to Bothell took five hours last night.

    Starting at 3:40pm, it took me 30 minutes to walk from Lower Queen Anne to downtown. This is the same as any other day. But then it took me two hours to get from 3rd and Union to Boren and Olive on the 522, thanks to the closure of the I-5 express lanes. And we were stuck before we could get onto I-5 and the driver suggested we consider other options. I did, and ended up walking from that point to the U District (I was walking faster than traffic on Eastlake) to attempt to catch the 372 at Campus Parkway. Which I missed. By ten seconds. Then I took a 72 which was blocked by a 73X spinning its wheels on the lower Ave. I got off and started walking, realized I’d left my hat on the bus, and decided to go to the University Book Store to buy gloves and a new hat. When I came out, the 73X was just driving by with the 72 right behind it. So I got back on the same 72, retrieved my original hat, and had a pretty uneventful ride to the Fred Meyer on Lake City. Then I had to wait some 10-15 blizzard-wracked minutes for the 372 to arrive and take me slowly but uneventfully to downtown Bothell, where I completed my journey with a one-mile walk home. 8:40pm.

    I’m sorry but this was not a functioning transit system. Clearing the I-5 express lanes should be the city’s top priority. Not having those lanes created a massive bottleneck at the north end of the transit tunnel. De-icing techniques needed to be in place earlier on all bus snow routes. If a bus can’t make it up a hill because of ice, either the snow route needs to be changed or that road needs to be cleared faster.

    What did work? Light rail. This was the biggest advertisement for accelerating light rail construction north and east I’ve ever seen. University Link alone would have cut my travel time in half. I simply would have gotten off the 522 the second it got stuck at 9th and Olive, walked to Westlake station, and made my connection to the 372 some 10 minutes later. Knowing the conditions and possibility of delay, I probably wouldn’t have gotten on the 522 at all.

    Lake City Way also seemed to be in pretty good working order, despite having compact snow and ice. It was slow going but it was going.

    It’s not just the transit system that had problems. My aunt’s commute from Seattle to Tacoma took 11 hours and she was driving. But transit service should be the transportation backbone that people can rely upon, so that people who might normally drive would gladly use transit as an alternative because it is professionally run and is more reliable. We have a long, long way to go before that happens.

      1. See, that’s what I don’t get. If it’s safe in one direction why isn’t it safe in both directions?

        My Snowpocalypse story: When SU closed I decided to take the 64 home as soon as possible to beat the roads icing up. I did procrastinate a little, but I would later learn that didn’t matter; I still got to 12th and Jefferson at 5:13, one minute after the posted time of the penultimate 64 leaving Providence/Swedish Cherry Hill. I figured the 64 shouldn’t be terribly late because Providence is the start of the route and it’s almost visible from 12th, and Jefferson was virtually empty (aside from a bunch of backed-up 3’s and 4’s). But all I saw was a 193 and a 90 turning onto 12th. Eventually around 5:42 one driver told all the people waiting there that all the buses were turning… she gestured down 12th but said “I haven’t seen one in an hour” which made NO sense taken literally (never mind the 64’s snow route still going up Jefferson as of the last timetable I picked up) and recommended I go to 12th and Jackson.

        So I get there a little before 6 and for a while the only buses I see at all are two back-to-back 7’s and a 14 going east and I start getting worried about the other routes. Finally around 6:12 or so a line of buses appears and at the front of them is a 64! Miracle of miracles, I’ll have a fairly quick ride to the U-District/Roosevelt!

        Except it’s three and a half hours before we get on the freeway. The 4th Ave bus lane is the slowest lane on 4th (repeatedly, every lane except ours would move at a green light, at least a little) and I count being passed by three other 64s that I didn’t have the foresight to get on. (The driver told one person who was waiting in vain for a 24 that she had started her run at 3:30, so somehow it took her three hours to get to 12th and Jackson, even with the 64’s posted snow route having limited First Hill service…) Metro communication left a lot to be desired; I didn’t realize we weren’t getting on the express lanes until the bus decided not to turn left onto Terry, and not even the driver knew what a lot of the backup was about. Eventually another driver told her that buses were having trouble climbing up the hill on Olive right before the freeway on-ramp, which, until I realized we weren’t using the express lanes, was mystifying to me. Had the express lanes been open, buses could have had a virtually flat trip from Olive and 8th up Howell to the express lane on-ramp, or even been detoured onto Pike, where the bus lane ends and created a bottleneck, for a completely flat trip to that on-ramp. I still think some of the commuter buses should have been rerouted to use the Mercer or University Street on-ramps, or even avoided I-5 entirely for some distance.

        But wait! Once we got on I-5 it took us another hour to get past what turned out to be three jacknifed buses near Mercer. Yes, it took us an hour to get from OLIVE to MERCER on the FREEWAY. Again, send some buses to the Mercer on-ramp or away from I-5. Incidentially, both the regular and express lanes southbound seemed to move relatively smoothly… so why were the express lanes kept southbound again? The freeway moved relatively smoothly from there to right before the 45th Street exit, but the bus’s “ABS FAIL” light came on right before we got on I-5 so we never moved faster than 10 MPH (others were doing 20) and still passed other cars and buses that were backed up but actually moving a little. I felt guilty about asking to get off at 45th Street Freeway Station – I live just north of 55th, the driver wasn’t used to getting there from the normal lanes, and quite surprisingly, no one else wanted it – but it was 11:10 by the time I got off and I wasn’t waiting another half an hour to get to 65th. I feel sorry for the poor saps stuck on the Community Transit buses and Sound Transit 51x’s; lord only knows what ungodly hour they got home, possibly not long before it was time to leave for work again if it weren’t for work probably being cancelled!

    1. Yep, the difference in service levels between Link and the bus system was astounding. Link was basically unaffected; whereas the bus system had its issues for sure (some routes were OK).

      It’s a great advertisement for Link. Unfortunately the local press was having so much fun talking about all the problems with rubber-tired transpo that they totally failed to mention that steel-wheeled transpo was still up and running almost normally.

      How did RapidRide and Swift fair?

  7. “@seatransitblog: The degree to which you can continue to live normally with weather like this is a rough measure of your transportation sustainability”

    Snow actually hasn’t affected me much. Walked from my home in Capitol Hill to work downtown yesterday and today, stopping to help push a couple stuck cars. Girlfriend had a 7:30 am flight to get home for thanksgiving, so drove her to LINK at westlake at 5 am. Apparently, LINK was smooth and she was there with extra time. She would’ve walked except for the early hour. I’ll be walking to LINK tonight to catch my flight back east. We need more rail.

  8. Got to and from work like a dream with no delay, played in the snow, visited my favorite grocer, it’s been a really fine time here in the snow-covered Emerald City.

    That being said, could this and 2008 be what it takes to get the city behind a massive in-city comprehensive rail and subway plan? Two major shutdowns in 2 years seems startlingly close to the results of the Great Blizzard of 1888 which helped push Boston to create their subway and solidified support behind the NYC Subway.

    Blizzards and snow have often spurred on the great cities of the world to build subways. Let’s do it already.

  9. It would help greatly if metro’s snow routes would be complete. Most maps don’t show the whole route.

  10. The #16 was running fine again today. Got to head into work later than usual, so took a walk around Green Lake in the cold. Saw multiple #16 buses go by pretty regularly, and then saw the 358 and several sanding trucks go by on Aurora. While I, too, would like a light rail option for the northend (and it needs to go all the way up through Shoreline!), I have to say that I am pretty happy with Metro right now. Snow routes were communicated, the alerts I signed up for have been sent my way, and the drivers have put up with some pretty nasty crap out there and kept in good spirits. I know that not everyone has had the same luck that I had with my routes, but given the conditions, I think they did very well. Additionally, I used to live in a city in the intermountain west whose idea of bus service in a storm was to shut down completely and send their drivers home so that they could avoid overtime pay and L&I costs in the event of a wreck. Believe me, walking the 7 miles home in a raging snowstorm was no picnic – I’d much rather be stuck on a bus, where at least you’re somewhat protected from the elements.

  11. My office sent us home around 1:15. My 358 got me home in about the same amount of time it normally takes. Moral for employers: when things look like they might turn bad, send your workers home early. That half-day of no productivity is going to pay huge morale dividends when people realize their boss helped them avoid a 6-hour commute.

  12. Yes, the Link was unaffected by the snow.

    Unfortunately it was impossible to get to the Link, because the anemic offramp from 518 to 99 was jammed with accident-blocked traffic.

    Despite the benefits of mass transit, we’re still hopelessly car dependent here.

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