Election 2010: Early Returns Mixed for Transit

Early returns from ballots so far show mixed results for the races that we’ve endorsed.  The results will change as ballots continue to be counted, so here’s a rundown of whether our endorsements are ahead or behind. You can view full updated statewide results here.

Patty Murray (United States Senate)*
Marko Liias (21st District, State Rep. Position 2)
Chris Reykdal (22nd District, State Rep. Position 1)
Joe Fitzgibbon (34th District, State Rep. Position 2)
Bellingham Proposition 1

Initiative 1053**
Initiative 1107**
Charlie Wiggins (State Supreme Court Justice, Position 6)*
Jake Fey (27th District, State Rep. Position 1)
Geoff Simpson (47th District, State Rep. Position 1)

*Indicates toss-up.
**We endorsed ‘NO’ votes, so these initiatives are currently passing.

Be Bullish on Community Transit

North Link Alternatives, from 2005 (Sound Transit)

Community Transit is in trouble. Like almost all transit agencies, they have implemented deep cuts with more to come, and no relief on the horizon: unlike most other agencies, they are out of taxing authority without action by the legislature.

However, there’s a lot of reason to be hopeful about CT’s future, for one reason: North Link.

Link serves a variety of purposes, and as a result it’s often not optimized to beat the express bus every time, particularly if passengers have to transfer. There are many opinions about that, but it certainly does make it less desirable to eliminate service that is somewhat redundant with Link, even if it’s not as reliable and less frequent.

In this case, a large number of CT Commuter buses are traveling a congested freeway between Lynnwood and Seattle with few or no stops. Link will likely have no segments at-grade with arterial traffic and therefore run at 55mph, and serve both the U-District and downtown Seattle on a single line. The 2005 issue paper indicates a 29 minute travel time from Lynnwood to downtown via I-5 and 30 minutes via Aurora, in either case faster than today’s buses with higher reliability. In the 2020s, CT could eliminate or truncate a whole class of routes and cut a huge operating expense without negatively impacting the passenger experience.

Of course, Sound Transit and North Link  have budget woes of their own. However, within the Snohomish subarea it makes sense to rob every other program to fund high-capacity transit, as its existence will transform the ability of CT to serve local travel needs.

Community Transit Reviews 2011 Budget

"CT Layover Site", by Oran

The Community Transit board discusses their 2011 budget and modified six-year plan Thursday in Everett. The budget envisions a cut of 26,846 hours (4.39%) with a resulting annual ridership decline of 160,000, or 1.6%. This doesn’t include a planned 7,617 hour increase in ST service. The cuts reflect a 4.35% drop in total revenue. That service hour cuts are mapped to the revenue shortfall so closely is a triumph, of sorts, of overhead cost control.

The budget document is astonishingly detailed. Among the more interesting factoids and cuts:

  • 17 layoffs, 3 eliminated vacant positions, and two fewer Sheriff’s deputies on staff
  • Swift ridership is at about 3,300 per weekday, well above projections, and is the most productive route in the system at 21.5 boardings per service hour. CT is pursuing grants to study a second Swift line.
  • Paratransit spending will increase as the State cuts the Medicaid travel subsidy.
  • The local and commuter “Bus Plus” schedule books will be consolidated into a single volume, saving $100,000.

We already discussed some of the service changes coming for next year.

The 2008-13 plan is being revised due to revenue changes since it was written, but it is not a complete rewrite.

Sign Up for Transit Alerts, Already

Photo by Oran

After the 2008 Snowpocalypse Metro put a lot of resources into improving snow response, particularly with respect to rider communication. On cue, the 2009-10 winter was a mild one.

The coming winter is supposed to be a bad one (consider today’s weather as a preview), and Metro is making a bit of a PR push to get people to subscribe to information flows of interest to them:

• Sign up to receive Transit Alerts for the routes you use most often;

• Check the print and online timetables for snow route maps; (www.kingcounty.gov/metro)

• If the weather is bad, check the color-coded status map on Metro Online before you travel;

I subscribe to alerts for routes that matter to me, and can testify that they aren’t overly clogged with “nothing to report” messages or other fluff.

Is Route 4 Redundant?

Ghosts of Route 4 Past (1972 Seattle Transit) – Photo by the Author

During the recent discussions of Martin’s proposal to improve mobility in the Rainier Valley, one of the central ideas to emerge was redundancy. Transit agencies shouldn’t have routes that compete with each other for the same origin-destination pairs. Whether you agreed with Martin’s proposal or not, it came from his recognition of this type of inefficiency.  Services that directly compete with each other for ridership cannibalize their own resources while diminishing productivity, frequency, and connections.

As a postscript to that conversation I’ve often wondered about the utility of Route 4, specifically whether its southern half could be eliminated and its resources distributed elsewhere.  Though in 2007 it had the highest ridership per mile of any Metro route, I have a distinct impression that it no longer serves any unique transit market and in fact diminishes the performance of Routes 3, 8, and 48, all of which serve unique destinations.  From 3rd/James to 23rd/Jefferson, the shared 3/4 provide 7-15 minute headways until 1am.  Once the 4 turns south on 23rd, it duplicates the 48.  From its turn at Dearborn it runs in a couplet on 24th and 26th, needlessly threading the needle between 23rd (Route 48) and MLK (Route 8).  Worst of all, it inexplicably terminates 1/2 a mile from Mount Baker TC, foregoing any connectivity with Link, the Rainier Valley, and other points south.  To serve Mount Baker TC, the only missing infrastructure is either a 1/2 mile of trolley wire along MLK or a left-turn trolley switch at Walker/Rainier.

What market does this route serve that could not be better met by more frequent gridded service?  As far as I can tell, perhaps only Judkins Park to Harborview.  From its southern terminus to downtown Seattle, Route 7 and Link provide some of the most frequent service in the region.  To the Central District, Routes 8 and 48 are faster and twice as frequent.  From the Central District to downtown, Routes 3/4 provide peak 7-15 minute headways, or there is half-hourly service on Routes 14 and 27.   The 2-4 buses per hour on Route 4 could be used to provide 15-minute headways on both the 14 and 27, or to provide all-day, 7-minute service on Route 3 as far as 23rd, with perhaps every other bus using Route 4’s Queen Anne terminus.  Do we need Route 4?