118 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Glide”

  1. Do you think they will eliminate ALL paper transfers as well as Upass stickers by the end of 2011? (random questions)

  2. I’m curious, has anyone gamed out the possibilities of splitting up King County Metro? What are the pros and cons, and what might arise in its place? And is it something that public transit advocates should want?

    Pros I see include decreased bellyaching and finger-pointing between the resulting regions, more explicit accounting for inter-regional tax transfers, more performance-oriented (not politically oriented) planning and more internally coherent strategies inside those regions. Indisputable cons for everyone include more fragmentation and less co-ordination between regions, and a presumable lack of paper transfers between regions (not much loss in my view). Seattle would, I assume, lose tax revenue. Service in rural and exurban King County would almost certainly cease, and probably be seriously cut back on the eastside, except maybe commuter service: anti-transit folks would not mourn this loss, but pro-transit people might.

    There’s also the general argument about transit being a public good. People in the city and close-in suburbs who use commuter busses make it possible for people further away to drive in; if they didn’t do so, the roads would simply be unusable. I recently moved from Phoenix where (a) a willingness to build out without limit, (b) a willingness to build wide-open, high-capacity roads to service those areas and (c) an unwillingness to invest significantly in public transit of almost any kind have combined to provide an example of what happens when a region embraces car dependence. It’s really not pretty and it’s one of the main reasons why I left. I think everyone has a stake in making that not happen, even if they would never use transit. If the burden of subsidy falls entirely on the cities that choose to pay for it, people in the rest of King County are freeloading.

    To put it slightly differently, you could say that voters (for whatever their opinion is worth) have ratified a regional approach to transit with the creation of Sound Transit.

    I imagine the resulting system would be as follows: Seattle, Shoreline and probably most of the cities south of Seattle would elect to stay as part of a Greater Seattle Transit, the eastside cities would run their own services or contract with Seattle to run the commuter service, and the far-flung places like Kent and the unincorporated areas would just stop services and repeal the transit taxes. I suggest this outcome because (it seems to me) the south King cities have more political support for public transit. more existing service, more lower-income residents, and perhaps most importantly, they aren’t where most of the aforementioned bellyaching comes from.

    One question I can’t answer, but am interested to hear what other people think of is: How would Metro’s assets be divided up? It doesn’t seem likely to be an amicable breakup, and Metro’s rolling stock represent multi-million dollar liquidate-able asset. If the assets were divided up by the county, whichever group got a majority would simply be able to cut out the rest, and having looked at the previous public spats about allocation of Metro’s resources, I could see the debate becoming acrimonious enough for this to happen.

    1. Well, I remember when there was a Seattle Transit and then Metro was created but then had to be folded into the county because its governance was considered unconstitutional. Kinda puzzling because its governance seemed similar to the current Sound Transit board. Gee, I hope Kemper Freeman doesn’t get any ideas from that.

      1. I thought folding Metro into King County was just a cost-saving thing? Metro was a separate entity for a long time – like 30 years.

      2. Too complicated to get into tonight, but suffice it to say the ST governance model does not replicate Metro’s. The Metro board was ruled unconstitutional based on the Board of Estimate decision, concerning one part of New York City’s bicameral legislative authority. The Legislature was well aware of Board of Estimate and Metro decisions when they crafted the ST board, so…not to worry.

    2. One of the reasons behind the proposed Seattle Streetcar Network is that the City would own the infrastructure and control the operations instead of having Metro calling the shots.

      If the County Council decides to scrap the trolley network, it might be a good idea to look into keeping the network as a City-owned operation. Assuming that the County votes to eliminate ETBs, the City should be able to buy the overhead wires for scrap value. Then the City would need to buy a new trolley fleet and there would need to be some interesting negotiations over revenue and cost allocations. Plenty of pros and plenty of cons to mull over.

    3. I’m a strong proponent for exactly this [Bruce]. Most of the problems that Metro has come from a fundemental conflict of their priorities. There are certain technologies and operation strategies that work well for the suburbs, and a different set that work well for cities. As most of their constituents live outside Seattle, city-style operations will always lose. From a fairness standpoint this is fine – those that have more votes should win in a democracy. From an efficiency and livibility standpoint in the city, this is unacceptable. A seperate city-level transit authority would find itself well funded and well supported.

      “Seattle would, I assume, lose tax revenue” I believe it’s currently somewhat balanced on the funding side. Seattle has more service and pays less taxes, but makes more in fares and costs less per rider. With the current political environment, I’m not seeing the tax side increasing at the county level which should leave Seattle with the advantage. Plus we can tax ourselves much easier than the county can (esp. since we have more of a love of transit than the county).

      1. Matt, I completely agree with you in theory, but then why do you think Seattle Transit ended up merging into Metro?

      2. Thanks, Zed! That was really interesting.

        Here’s a statement I found particularly crazy:

        “Suburban communities complained that Seattle got the bulk of transit service, while Seattle residents felt that the West Point treatment plant and the bus tunnel had been imposed on the city for the benefit of suburbanites.”

        I guess I can imagine why Seattle might not have liked the tunnel when it was being built — as I understand it, downtown was a mess for several years. But still, it seems like such an obviously good idea (and with five in-city stations!) that it’s hard to imagine that Seattleites would actually have been opposed to having a tunnel.

        Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder what buses went through the tunnel when it first opened. Maybe it was all suburban buses?

  3. Some of the seats in Metro’s older Gillig buses seem new, as if they’ve been replaced. Has Metro been replacing worn-out bus seats lately? If that’s the case, I applaud the effort. It’s a night & day difference (mostly in feel, not appearance) between a sagging, lumpy, unsupportive old seat and a firm, supportive new seat. I especially applaud the piecemeal basis on which seats are replaced, given Metro’s budget problems. People tend to fill the window seats first, so they get more abuse than the aisle seats, so the window seats need to be replaced sooner (which is what I’ve noticed).

    1. All I know is that ya’ll are lucky to have soft seats… just had a 50-minute Muni ride across San Francisco on an articulated Breda on Geary Blvd. Very hard seats.

      1. I loved the service in the 38 Geary but yeah, the seats were hard plastic and often times I had to stand. But those hard bucket seats guarantee I won’t slip right off during sudden movement. The same cannot be said for Metro’s seats.

      2. Chicago CTA has hard seats with fabric sorta similar to Link. When the CTA picked up a fleet of 100 brown and yellow buses from Metro several years ago, people were agog at the comfy cushy seats. All those buses are gone now but they did fill a stop gap until the CTA’s order for new articulating buses came through.

    2. Yeah, I’ve noticed selective new seat cushions on the Gillig trolleys. As every regular rider knows, there are some really bad seat cushions out there. One seat I had on a 3200 series seemed like it had a metal bar inside, which I felt on every little bump.

      I appreciate the effort to make things a bit more comfortable.

  4. [Yes, I know that I am one of Seattle Transit Blog’s eternal suppliers of outrage. You don’t need to tell me. I wish it weren’t the case… if only there weren’t an eternal litany of transit malfeasance about which to be outraged.]

    To the eternal defenders of Metro:

    The following is a brief list of experiences that I have had in the past week:

    1. I began observing the omnipresent posted reminders of next month’s latest fare increase. Fares will now be $1 higher than they were just four years ago. (This pencils out to an 80% increase in the off-peak fare and a 67% increase in the one-zone peak fare (but a mere 57% increase for the disproportionately resource-sucking two-zone peak express runs.)

    2. Thanks to bunching on both the 28 and the 44 and the resulting missed connection between them, I had a 45-minute trip from Fremont to Ballard, carrying heavy items. (45 minutes is that same amount of time needed to walk this distance; sadly, I was carrying those heavy items.) (Efficiency, dwell times, and schedule management remain the worst of any American system it has ever been my pleasure or displeasure to ride.)

    3. I saw drivers “generously” give passengers all-night paper transfers as 6:45 pm. On two separate occasions. (Metro refuses to even consider elimination of paper transfers, and encourages transfer abuse while flogging pass-buyers, ORCA users, and responsible riders for ever-higher fares.)

    4. I spent 30 minutes on a bus that smelled like an entire homeless encampment had died on it. The stench lingered on my clothes and in my nostrils for more than 12 hours afterward. Only a shower and a load of laundry fully removed the traces. (Thanks to pay-as-you-leave and explicit instructions that drivers enforce neither fares nor behavior, Metro has literally no minimum standard of rider decorum. Only on Metro – not on TransLink, nor TriMet, nor SF Muni, all in cities with persistent homelessness – is what I experienced deemed “normal.”)

    I am not employing hyperbole to suggest that, in any other city – especially one where the entire populace uses transit rather than just abstractly endorses the notion of transit – where there existed such grossly unacceptable conditions, with no improvement in sight, and with purported “improvements” like RapidRide only underscoring the agency’s embarrassingly low standards, any attempt to raise fares further would lead to calls for the transit administration’s heads.

    Both feet down. No more. Further fare or sales tax increases should be a political third rail for an agency so bad at what it does. At least until it takes highly visible steps with quantifiable results to improve – eliminating paper transfers and pay-as-you-leave would be the obvious ones.

    And yet everyone lies down and takes it. What is wrong with Seattle? Really, I want to know.

      1. I hate to agree with Norman ever, but that’s basically the message that Metro (and the county and state bureaucracies) continue to send.

      2. Who are these “eternal defenders” of which you speak. All I see here is objective observation and subjective whining, and maybe occasional pats on the back for Metro drivers, but who here have you seen blindly defend Metro?

      3. See: Tim, of course.

        But also anyone who rationalizes and parses each Metro policy and priority as if it exists in a vacuum, ignoring their cumulative drain on urban mobility in this beleaguered city.

    1. You complain about efficiency and yet you want to ban any funding increases, eliminate the ride-free zone, and make drivers into fare enforcers–all of which would worsen efficiency.

      1. I’m unconvinced that eliminating the DTRFA would hurt efficiency, at least if efficiency is defined to include getting as much at the farebox as reasonably possible. It would make downtown boarding a bit slower but I’d much rather have that than the casual fare-evasion we have now. I’m pretty sure every other bus service in the known universe makes you pay on entry.

    2. I think you’re reactions are a bit strong. For one thing, you cite large percentage changes in Metro fares but you and I know that any change in a relatively small dollar amount represents a large percentage movement. Over the course of 10 or 15 years, what is the average annual increase in Metro’s fares? Probably lower than inflation.

      Metro’s farebox recovery versus cost per passenger movement is something in the low 20’s percentage wise. The ability of Metro to utilize other additional funding sources is limited and perhaps the political milieu of SOV drivers and libertarian latte drinkers who with their media enablers create this climate where Metro is left with trying to extract those resources from the actual users rather than those also from those who benefit from the resource savings that transit systems create. e.g. de-cluttering the roads for car drivers.

      So let me ask you, when you encountered the missed connection between the 28 & 44 is that a “regular occurrence” or an occasional thing? Could the fact that Metro doesn’t yet have the resources to have frequent trips on urban bus routes affect your travel experience? Have you provided feedback to Metro about this problem?

      I agree with you that Rapid Ride is a low ball effort for a BRT system but I remain optimistic that they will learn from the “A” line and perhaps improve their other lines usability.

      1. Charles, $90 per month is not a “relatively small dollar amount.” $90 per month is a huge amount to pay for something that doesn’t work. $90 per month is when people start thinking about driving again. I know I am.

        There are essentially two kinds of public transit in the world:
        – that which is good enough to keep the urban populace using it throughout life; and
        – that which is bad enough that it is considered the domain of the young and indigent, as something to leave behind when your station in life improves, as something no longer worth bothering with when you reach the age at which your time and sanity are more valuable than your money.

        At $90 per month, we still have the latter.

      2. Also, to legitimately answer your legitimate 2nd-paragraph question: The bunching is an extremely “regular occurrence;” missed connections and long waits for bunched buses, therefore, happen regularly too.

        The 28’s problem, of course, is a very long and very complicated through-routing with the 23 and the many, many bottlenecks along both routes. The 44 is much shorter and only sometimes through-routed. With trips on the 44 having nearly doubled in the past few years, it serves as an excellent example of why throwing more trips at a route without improving the underlying conditions of that route (stop placement, light timing that favors cars over buses) and the wider problems of Metro operation (one door only, cash payment, interior spacial arrangement) is a total waste.

        On the other hand, it also suggests that 15-minute headways on a truly core service are still grossly inadequate and frequently turn themselves into 30-minute bunches. (This is a lesson that RapidRide promises not to learn — having seen the details of West Seattle and Ballard RapidRide, I simply cannot share your optimism).

        “Could the fact that Metro doesn’t yet have the resources to have frequent trips on urban bus routes affect your travel experience?”

        What one needs to remember about routes like the 28 that date from the streetcar era is that it’s not a matter of “doesn’t yet…” 80 years ago, these routes all had hundreds of streetcars on them, at all hours, with 5-minute headways. The streetcars enjoyed a 90% share of transit trips, supporting high frequencies even in low-density areas. That’s why these legacy routes worked, and why transfers were easy, even if the vehicles were relative lethargic.

        When you’re down to 30-minute headways and heavy competition with other transit modes, reliability and the perception of ease of use are nonexistent. And transfers are horrible. And sticking with the status quo doesn’t nothing to improve future prospects (“doesn’t yet…”) as you and Tim seem to believe.

        This blog is occasionally home to inspired imaginings of route consolidations and gridmaking, of rebuilding the system from the ground up, of eliminating every time-sucking inefficiency that sucks the wind from our transit sails in one fell swoop. But no one at Metro thinks that way. They’d much prefer to add a couple of extra runs, here and there, on the Titanic.

      3. “Over the course of 10 or 15 years, what is the average annual increase in Metro’s fares? Probably lower than inflation.”

        In 1992 peak fares were $1.10 and $1.60. Someone else can do the math. :-)

      4. Does that mean off-peak was 85 cents in 1992? $2.25 marks a 165% increase.

        I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen 165% inflation in the past 18 years.

        I’m very sure we haven’t seen that kind of increase in median wages.

      5. Zed says:

        In 1992 peak fares were $1.10 and $1.60. Someone else can do the math. :-)

        Well, that works out to about 5.5% per annum for one zone and 3.7% per annum for 2 zone fares through 2010. 2011 shows 6.4% and 4.4% respectively. Of course that will taper off in 2012 or until the next fare increase. Slightly more than official numbers for inflation which have averaged less than 4%. I choose to lend credence to numbers published by “Shadow Government Statistics” which shows CPI at much higher levels > 8% average. http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts

      6. “Does that mean off-peak was 85 cents in 1992?”

        You’re really testing my memory, but yes, I believe off-peak was $0.85 and $1.10.

      7. @d.p.

        You said: “I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen 165% inflation in the past 18 years.”

        A gallon of gas averaged $1.10 in 1992.

        The average cost of a gallon of gas today is $3.15.

        That’s MORE that’s MORE than a 165% increase.

    3. I’m sure you group me in with the “eternal defenders of Metro” but it is my intent to explain things from an attempted neutral point of view, which is often difficult given your constant bellyaching. If you understand why things happen, you are potentially less likely to complain about them.

      1. For the record, your county executive is against the “annual 25 cent fare increase” and believes a more sustainable funding method needs to be found in addition to many efficiencies being implemented.

      2. You poor baby.

      3. Maybe you should confront those passengers and tear off the bottom half of the transfer.
      3 again. For all you know, those transfers were only used once after they were handed out, thus making them no more valuable than a transfer cut at two hours from the end of the terminal.
      3 once again. You didn’t mention where this was or what route it was on. Recall that Metro’s policy is for the transfers to be cut at two hours after the bus arrives at the terminal of its route. With through routing, this could have easily been past 9:30. A transfer is considered an OWL transfer if it is to expire past 10:30. I’ll agree that this particular situation is a stretch, however it is not as abhorrent as you make it out to be.

      If you haven’t already, please review Metro’s policies.

      4. What exactly is your complaint here? That the operator “allowed” persons with foul smells to board the coach? Metro has very strict guidelines on when transportation may be refused (see the above link to read all of them–you can count the reasons on one hand).
      If you’re complaining that the bus stunk, get over it. That’s part of being in public.
      Furthermore, the operator of the coach spent much more time on board than you did and probably went home with a worse smell in/on them.
      If you are aware of a method that will “de-stinkify” the bus, I encourage you to pass along your secrets to Metro. I’m sure that after 30+ years of operation there’s something they’re missing on how to remove stench.

      I enjoyed your last two paragraphs. They were based solely on opinions and no facts.

      1. “believes a more sustainable funding method needs to be found ”

        What is a more sustainable funding method than the sales tax?

        The only one I can think of is fares. And if ridership falls in a recession, meaning fare revenue falls, then they should reduce service to reflect the lower ridership, thus cutting costs to match the reduction in revenue.

      2. What is a more sustainable funding method than the sales tax?

        One that isn’t volatile. Sales tax is volatile. Despite my name being Tim, I am not an expert on taxes.

      3. “What is a more sustainable funding method than the sales tax?”

        As onerous as it may be to some, bring back the MVET. It was the loss of the MVET due to I-695 that gutted Metro funding in the first place. Back when the State Supreme Court struck down I-695 as unconstitutional, the legislature had the opportunity to split the difference and invoke a reduced, but fairer MVET. As it happened, the politicians feared for their jobs, and imposed $30 tabs anyways. Metro has scrambled for years to reduce the collateral damage from that decision, but the clock was ticking all along. Now with the added pressure of the recession’s affect on local sales tax revenues, the chicken’s are finnaly coming home to roost.

      4. “What is a more sustainable funding method than the sales tax?”

        As onerous as it may be to some, bring back the MVET. It was the loss of the MVET due to I-695 that gutted Metro funding in the first place. Back when the State Supreme Court struck down I-695 as unconstitutional, the legislature had the opportunity to split the difference and invoke a reduced, but fairer MVET. As it happened, the politicians feared for their jobs, and imposed $30 tabs anyways. Metro has scrambled for years to reduce the collateral damage from that decision, but the clock was ticking all along. Now with the added pressure of the recession’s affect on local sales tax revenues, the chicken’s are finally coming home to roost.

      5. All tax revenues, including the MVET, go down in recessions. Why would any source of revenue NOT go down in a recession? In a recession, people lose their jobs, and less money is spent on everything, including new cars. Tne newer the car, the higher the MVET. When people stop buying new cars, the average value of all cars drops, so the revenue from the MVET drops.

        But, why should car owners pay for transit? The MVET money should be used to pay for roads, which buses need, also.

      6. Tim, you are the very archetype of the eternal metro defender, and your “attempted neutral point of view” reveals your wilfull ignorance of your own subject position: a lifelong Washingtonian, a recent UW grad, a relatively young person who hasn’t traveled enough and hasn’t lived anywhere with a significantly different transit arrangement long enough to learn its lessons.

        The metric is very simple: 2-3x slower than driving and a minimally pleasant passenger experience is a reasonable trade-off for the cost savings and not having to find parking; 5-8x slower and a grossly unpleasant passenger experience is not.

        Every time you defend Metro routing, Metro scheduling, Metro driver habits, Metro fare collection, Metro’s negligible efficiency improvements, etc, etc, etc, you contribute to the latter.

        In other cities, Tim, I wouldn’t feel the need to be on a transit blog! Transit is there, it works, you don’t even have to think about it. In your Seattle, not so much.

      7. @d.p.,

        You said: “Tim, you are the very archetype of the eternal metro defender”

        Yeah, he said you’d say that.

        By the way – why didn’t you put the packages down and rest your arms?

      8. “Yeah, he said you’d say that.”

        Well, occasionally even Tim gets to be right about something. ;-)

        “By the way – why didn’t you put the packages down and rest your arms?”

        28: crush-loaded.
        Layover: wet out, nowhere to put them down.
        44: shortest segment (time-wise) of the journey.

      9. “But, why should car owners pay for transit?”

        I have two very easy answers:

        1) Because if I eliminate that bus in front of your car, there’s a good 30-40 people who will be driving cars in front of you instead. Some might even drive slower than you do or have older cars that are not friendly to the environment (or your lungs).

        2) Because if the other riders can’t afford to get a car to get to work, then they’re probably working a low-income job or they’re a student. I hope you won’t mind if your office isn’t clean in the morning, there are fewer open registers at the store, your supermarket isn’t restocked as often, or it takes longer to get your latte.

      10. In other cities, Tim, I wouldn’t feel the need to be on a transit blog!

        What exactly are you accomplishing by “being” here?

        I guess you expect every trip on every route to be perfect. Maybe that’s what “D.P.” is–“Do Perfect”.

        Read this. You’re so stuck up it’s not going to change your opinion, but it’s a good read anyways.

      11. I’m interested to see your rebuttals for my responses. So far all you’ve done is repeated that the bus is slower than driving. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what all of your posts say.

      12. “I’m interested to see your rebuttals for my responses.”

        Tim, in all your posts on this thread, I’m struggling to find a single assertion about transit design or operations that meets the argumentative criteria necessary to address with a rebuttal. You’re very good at citing policies and statistics — indicators and descriptors of how things are, rather than than why they should be that way.

        So let’s address that PSTransitOperators post to which you linked. The author is sympathetic, but his or her whole premise is flawed. He or she (like you and like Metro administrators/defenders in general), offers a false choice between: retaining a schedule hyper-padded in acquiescence to the “reality” that buses are frequently very, very late to their termini; or adopting a too-tight schedule that exacerbates lateness on the next runs and stokes rider anger.

        So what variables remain unchanged between the two options:
        Scattered, labyrinthine routes, perhaps? And their (directly corollary) 30-minute headway default? Just for starters.

        If you want to dramatically shrink the width of your on-time measurement’s standard deviation — if you want your buses to be less late, less often — consolidated and straight-as-possible routes with actual high frequencies are the way to do it. Suddenly, you can adopt tighter schedules on your core routes without putting your drivers in a bind. (That your riders’ transfer penalty shrinks dramatically is just the cherry on top!) This gets plenty of airtime — along with statistical evidence and real-world examples — on Seattle Transit Blog and in places like Human Transit. So where the hell is it in the above-linked discourse, or Metro’s, or yours!?

        “So if you don’t like it, why do you use it? If I didn’t like the grocery store by my house, I’d shop at another one.”

        That’s an atrociously inept analogy, Tim. If only I were able to choose another transit agency that performed the same essential function as Metro, but did it in a superior manner (like the preferred grocery store). But Metro has a monopoly on this function. Think Washington State Liquor Control Board, or Seattle City Light.

        Any of the other (non-automobile) options require a pretty drastic change in lifestyle — hello, bicycling at night, in the rain, in low-visibility situations! — and likely a change in geographic scope.

        Since you mention it, though, I’ve always been someone who walked quite a bit in good weather. Metro’s deficiencies have led me to walk much further in inclement weather than I might have in the past, even though (and I know this will shock your parochial worldview) Seattle’s a comparatively hostile pedestrian environment as well — poor street-lighting at night, long light cycles for cars and short ones for hoofers, weird hang-ups about jaywalking, long stretches of indistinct low density residential that exacerbate the psychological sense of distance, and so forth.

        Walking — sometimes as much as two miles — is frequently faster than Metro. Which, of course, doesn’t say much for Metro. But walking, like biking, can’t replace public transit entirely. This is (yet another) of your false choices.

        “…since you’ve lived in other unnamed cities where everything is perfect.”

        Read my lips, Tim: Metro is bottom-of-the-barrel. You would have to travel deep into the grain belt, the bible belt, or the sun belt to find cities of comparable size that do it worse. The fact that you continue to treat the idea that “better transit is out there” as a hypothetical or a fantasy merely reveals how ill-experienced you are!

      13. You’re very good at citing policies and statistics — indicators and descriptors of how things are, rather than than why they should be that way.

        Because why is subjective and/or beyond my knowledge (I don’t work for a transit agency). Some things can be taken two ways, for instance Portland’s change of the Fareless Square. Previously, all transit vehicles within the “square” were free. After the change, only rides on light rail vehicles are free. Based on your previous comments, I’d make the assumption that you think this is a good change–(potentially) more fare revenue and faster boarding among other things. However, many bus riders will see this as a bad change as if they want to travel within the square without paying they’ll have to wait for a train. I’m indifferent in this issue since I rarely visit Downtown Portland.

        I can’t remember if you are in the “we should have ORCA readers on the platforms of all DSTT stations” group. ST spokesperson Bruce Gray enlightened us that the reason for this was security. Since there are no readers on the platform, the platform is considered a fare paid zone, and any person without valid fare is considered trespassing. This can help remove certain individuals that are likely to cause problems. So while it is an inconvenience for many riders, it is a benefit to all riders for increased security. But again, you’ve lived other places that did things differently and obviously THAT way is the ONLY way and despite us having our reasons for doing things OUR way it is still WRONG.

        Miscellaneous tardiness and lateness: Score another point for me, I was right again.
        A) I’m curious, did you also review reasons why the bus could be late? Note that almost all of them are beyond the control of the operator. Unless you can provide some other reasons why the bus is late, I’m now assuming that you label our transit system as “a complete failure” due to the incompetence of the many car drivers in our area.
        B) It seems convienent that there’s always a late trip for you to complain about.
        C) Not all routes have 30 minute headways.
        D) I used two of them (181 and 180) today and despite the 180 being 8 minutes late, I made the connection to the on-time 181 no problem. Which leads me to belive you’re trying to transfer at un-timed transfer points. I’ll explain, not that it matters to you: route A and route B are to arrive at the same stop (or ones within a short distance of each other) within a certain amount of time. Route A is a “trunk” route and route B is a “feeder” route. The schedules for both routes are written so that A will arrive before B so that passengers can easily transfer to B to get to their final destinations. If route B is running on time but A is late, the passengers on A that want B will miss the connection. This is your worst nightmare and the source of Metro’s complete lack of intelligence–how could a bus be late??? Oh the humanity!
        Getting back to timed transfers–if you’re on route A and are running late (which is actually NOT a regular occurrence–some trips actually DO run on time), notify the operator that you intend to transfer to B and the operator will place a call asking B to hold for you (and others). If it is within a few minutes, the request can usually be accommodated. The decision is up to Metro’s coordinators (dispatchers) and not the operators. However, holding route B is kind of a catch 22. Everyone from A makes the transfer, but you delay everyone on B who is either trying to get to their destination on time or possibly connect to another route.
        Keep this in mind, however your vague route references lead me to believe you’re transferring at un-timed transfer points–points where two routes stop at/near each other but the schedules aren’t written for the two to meet each other with any planned certainty. This is often the case with multiple trunk routes. I’m not a service planner so that’s about all I can say.
        Now why aren’t these other timepoints timed? Well you explained to me that “why” doesn’t matter, but I’ll just remind you that you can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. You may be trying to make a journey that few other people try to make. In your mind, this is Metro’s failure to deliver a good service, but in my mind it’s spending money effectively. We could run our Eastside routes at 5 minute headways, but if they’re only carrying less than 5 passengers right now why spend the money on something that only a couple of people could take advantage of? The greatest good for the greatest number. How many people would use a Crown Hill to First Hill route to get from one to the other? Probably not many, and there are already options to get between the two. Again, doing the best you can with the cards you’re dealt. On behalf of everyone in the world, I sincerely apologize if you don’t get everything perfect. Also, reverse peak often gets the shaft. It sucks. Try riding a deadheading coach some time; they’re amazing.

        “Labyrinth routes”. This one should be fun. Just because you are new to the system (you’ve only been here a few years, right) does not mean that Metro is new to the routing. Many of these routes have been the same for years and years. Since the early 90s, we’ve had a tracking system that tells us where every bus is. In a nutshell, the system combines odometer readings with fixed beacons to determine the location of the coach. For example, if we know a coach is running on route 16 and it has traveled 500 feet from the start of its route, we know that the coach is still pretty close to the ferry terminal. Beacons are placed at strategic points along the route and once a coach hits one of those we know exactly where it’s at as opposed to “7,000 feet from the start”. Each coach gets polled roughly every 90 seconds for its location. This information is stored in a database and has detailed records for each trip including timestamps. It’s easy for service planners to look at trends over time, and surprise surprise, update the schedule. I don’t know of any specific updates that have been made since I never get to hang out with the service planners, but I do know that Sound Transit analyzed some of this data and noticed that a lot of the Seattle-Tacoma weekend routes were consistenly arriving early, meaning the layovers were longer than scheduled. With scheduling tweaks, service planning was able to take the same amount of platform hours and give us all the service that we already had plus some 578 service on Saturdays. Nifty, eh? But your bus is still late so you don’t care about any of that. Yep, we’re both thinking the same thing right now–the world revolves around d.p. and nothing else matters.

        On my grocery store analogy–yes that’s not the perfect analogy. But there are other options for getting around. As you mentioned, biking is one. Riding in the rain at night can be hazardous. If that does not appeal to you, don’t use it. There are plenty of people that do it, and they’re fine with it. But for you it’s out of the question, so you’ve made the choice to not use it. Thus far, Metro is not out of the question, so you continue to use it. If it was truly as bad as you say it is, you’d lump it in with that “so bad I won’t use it” category and you wouldn’t use it. But you still are, so it must be doing something right.
        By the way, public bus transportation, privately owned automobiles, walking, and bicycles are not the only forms of transportation. You’re missing quite a few–many of which do not require a “drastic change in lifestyle”. OK maybe actually they do–carpooling will make you lazy :P

        Regarding pedestrian facilities–Seattle is a walk in the park (pun slightly intended) compared to South King County. Come down here and walk around for a while–it sucks. Rarely do I see a car stopping behind the stop line. Or maybe our laws are different–the stop line is a suggestion and the REAL stop line is the inside edge of the crosswalk. That’s where most people stop. Nobody respects “the box”.
        Once you’ve explored this hell hole known as South King County, go even further south to Pierce County. Seattle will then look wonderful to you. Get this–in parts of Pierce County the only way to get around is by car, and if you want to bike you have to use I-5! No joke–to get through Fort Lewis you have to drive or ride your bike on I-5, which would be scary as ____!

        As you have correctly identified, I am young. I am not as experienced as you claim to be. I have not lived in as many cities as you have claimed to lived in (all of which have gone un-named). I have not developed skills that you have–cynicism is one of them.

        If you think Metro is the bottom of the barrel, I invite you to travel throughout Snohomish County on a Sunday. While you claim Metro is impossible to navigate, Community Transit actually is impossible to navigate since they have no Sunday service! Could explain how Metro ranks lower despite providing much needed weekend transportation?

        Second-to-last question: if the quality of life here is so bad, why are you still here? You claim that you’ve lived in other cities before, so obviously there are jobs in multiple places that require skills that you posses. Maybe the pay on this Seattle job is great, but what’s the point if you’re miserable while doing it? Go back to one of those top shelf transit agencies where nothing deviates from the schedule.

        My last question, and I hate to ask what seems to be such an obvious question, but where are you deriving your on time performance from? Your metrics seem pretty exact, which leads me to believe you’re using a system like One Bus Away. But for some reason I have a hunch that you’re reading the timetables posted at the stop. Look closely at these timetables, you’ll notice that many of them are written for a previous stop. For example, the timetable at NE 41st & University Way NE lists the time the bus departs NE 45th & University Way. When I catch the bus at 41st at 9pm on a Sunday, it takes the bus about 2 minutes to get from 45th to 41st. At 4pm on a Friday afternoon, it takes at least 5. Reasons include high traffic volume, jaywalking pedestrians (forces the bus to stop and wait for 5-10 seconds), wheelchair ramp usage, idiot customers holding up the line, and fare disputes among many other things. So yeah, just double check that.

      14. Tim,

        I think you might have misinterpreted what d.p. meant by “labyrinthine routes”. His specific complaint (which I share) is that many Metro routes are designed to provide one-seat service between two neighborhoods which are already served by other, more direct routes. Because the Metro bus network is littered with these routes, the effect is that our highest-frequency routes run 4-6 buses an hour at peak, rather than 10-12.

        For example, consider the 43. From downtown to Olive Way, it parallels the 14 (and the 10/11/49 for part of the way). From Olive to 23rd/John, it parallels the 8. From 23rd/John to the U-District, it parallels the 48.

        Now, imagine an alternate system. Denny/Olive/John/Thomas is served exclusively by the 8. The 10, instead of heading downtown, switches to 12th at Pine and provides much-needed service to that corridor. 23rd/24th is served exclusively by the 48. Pine/Madison is served exclusively by the 11. And all of these buses run every 5-6 minutes at peak, and every 10-12 minutes off-peak.

        Yes, this would mean that many people would need to take two buses to get downtown instead of one, or would need to walk slightly farther to get to a downtown bus. (Though the opening of U-Link will mitigate that.) But because the buses would run so frequently, the transfer penalty would be far lower. Who cares about switching buses if the other one will be there almost as soon as you get off?

        You might argue that we couldn’t afford the frequencies necessary to make such a system work. But I know we can, because alexjonlin made a map of a Seattle “frequent bus network”. :) He replaced every current Seattle route with a new grid-based network of super-frequent buses, and his new system used no more service hours than the current system.

        But even barring that secondhand evidence, it stands to reason that we could do better than we’re doing now. For example:

        Stop sending every bus to downtown. The 49/7 takes an approximately 20-block diversion to serve downtown, and also takes a huge penalty for traveling on super-congested downtown streets. If it were easier to transfer at places outside of downtown, there would be no need for all these diversions.

        Dramatically curtail commuter-only routes in favor of frequent, all-day routes. Commuter routes are expensive — lots of deadheading, lots of drivers making full-time pay for a part day’s work.

        Streamline routes. I always find it amusing that there are four Fremont Ave buses, and yet between 34th and 39th, Fremont Ave has no bus service at all. This would be easy to fix — just run the 5 from downtown to Fremont via Dexter, then up to Woodland Park via Fremont Ave. Then you could send the 26 over the University Bridge (or terminate it at Pacific), instead of making a giant detour through Wallingford.

        Similarly, most of Pacific/34th/36th/Leary has no bus service, even though this is an almost-unbroken arterial connecting some of Seattle’s densest areas (UWMC, lower Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard).

        Get rid of milk runs. There are a number of buses entirely within city limits which run half-hourly, or even hourly, at the best of times. This just isn’t worth either the complexity or the operating cost. Metro lists about 30 corridors with frequent service, and all of these score very well on its performance report. In contrast, you have routes like the 25, 35, 37, 38, 51, 53, 57, and 79, which score exceptionally poorly on virtually every measure. I understand that there’s a desire to serve transit-dependent populations, but for many of these routes, there’s an easy-to-use alternative with much more frequent service. Eliminating these redundant and poorly-used routes, and redirecting the funds to improve parallel and well-used service, would make the transit network both much simpler and much stronger.

        You might take issue with some of the specific changes I listed, but I think the basic principles are sound. I would happily sacrifice 2/3 of our current routes in exchange for tripling the frequencies on what remains.

      15. Tim,

        You wrote a lot. I’ll get to the first few points; the others may need to wait until the morn (or maybe the gist of the first few can suffice).

        “Because why is subjective and/or beyond my knowledge…”

        But stating that things are the way they are because they are is not helpful. It neither acknowledges flaws nor points to possibilities for improvement. Repeated recitations of the status quo come across as a defense of the status quo.

        “Some things can be taken two ways, for instance Portland’s change of the Fareless Square. Based on your previous comments, I’d make the assumption that you think this is a good change–(potentially) more fare revenue and faster boarding among other things.”

        Actually, it’s a good thing because it shows evident of deductive reasoning. The Fareless Square is well-covered by rail lines (three of them crisscrossing just a couple of square miles, all but the streetcar with high frequencies). One can get anywhere within the Square for free with a negligible effect on dwell times. MAX is proof-of-payment, so the fare inspectors simply check outside of the Square only. Buses, on the other hand, see a whopping reduction in efficiency with an increase in boardings, and require the operator to enforce the fare.

        In Portland, logic has prevailed. In the DSTT, we’ve got fast-loading trains (technically) charging, while slower-loading buses are free. At night, the tunnel is the worst of all worlds.

        “Since there are no readers on the platform, the platform is considered a fare paid zone, and any person without valid fare is considered trespassing.”

        And here you’re completely wrong. Since it’s currently free before 7, and since buses are pay-(as-slowly-as-possible)-on-board after 7, the platform is never a fare-paid zone. What you erroneously describe is actually a much better plan: platform as fare-paid, at all hours, buses and trains. You could even install turnstiles… for security! But none of that is even on the table.

        “Miscellaneous tardiness and lateness: Score another point for me, I was right again.”

        Despite your bullet points and links galore, I actually can’t figure out what you’re claiming to be right about here.

        Did you even understand my point? Gridded systems, with fewer, straighter, and ultra-frequent routes, don’t see the degree of variation in trip time that we do. 10 minutes late (in many cities that would mean bunching) is about the maximum level of lateness under normal circumstances. So if you build in 10 minutes of leeway at the terminus, it’s more than enough. Metro has buses that are so frequently 20+ minutes late that you suddenly need 20+ minutes of leeway at every layover or you have problems. It’s wasteful.

        BTW, the above comparison should be taken as caeteris paribus — all (other) things being equal. I’m discussing only the effects of core-routing/frequency; I’m not impugning Metro drivers’ abilities for the purposes of this comparison.

        “Not all routes have 30 minute headways.”

        No, but most of the ones that do would be better off consolidated to form 15- or 10-minute trunk routes. Meanwhile, the routes that do have 15-minute frequencies — a pretty paltry percentage by the standards of a city our size, especially in the evening — tend to already be trunk routes that would do better with 7-10 minutes.

        As I’m sure you’ve seen written before, this doesn’t have to mean more service hours. But it does have to mean better service hours.

        I’ll defer to Jarrett Walker for more detail. Here’s one of many illustrative posts on the matter: http://www.humantransit.org/2010/11/connections-vs-complexity.html

        “Timed transfers…”

        …might be fine for the suburbs. If you need them in the city, you’re doing it wrong. And unfortunately, Metro does attempt timed transfers in that most buses are intended to pass through downtown on the :00s or the :15s. Of course, your 1st bus is always a couple of minutes late, and you can’t quite make it to your transfer point, and you’re stuck waiting another 30 minutes or more.

        No, timed transfers are a horrible way to approach urban mobility. Frequent service, and gridded service that might allow non-downtown transferring (and avoid the dual bottlenecks of entering and leaving the core), make timed transfers obsolete.

        (Please see Oran, Aleks, and Bruce’s quite productive parallel discussion at the very bottom of this page.)

        “‘Labyrinth routes’. This one should be fun. Just because you are new to the system (you’ve only been here a few years, right) does not mean that Metro is new to the routing…”

        I’ve been here 4 years, I rarely drive, and trust me, I have an excellent sense of geography. But yet again, you seem inclined to believe that because something has been a certain way for a very long time, there must be value in that inertia.
        http://metro.kingcounty.gov/cftemplates/show_map.cfm?BUS_ROUTE=075&DAY_NAV=WSU is a reliability nightmare that has been discussed here before.
        http://metro.kingcounty.gov/cftemplates/show_map.cfm?BUS_ROUTE=025&DAY_NAV=W makes no sense at all, especially as a route with limited service hours.
        http://metro.kingcounty.gov/cftemplates/show_map.cfm?BUS_ROUTE=008&DAY_NAV=WSU between Jackson and Yesler. WTF?
        http://metro.kingcounty.gov/cftemplates/show_map.cfm?BUS_ROUTE=016&DAY_NAV=WSU — oy!
        http://metro.kingcounty.gov/cftemplates/show_map.cfm?BUS_ROUTE=024&DAY_NAV=WSU — holy crap!
        And, of course, there’s all of the zigzagging in and out of downtown, grossly exacerbating the downtown-tranfer penalty and wasting innumerable service hours: Broad b/t 1st and 3rd, the Pike/Pine/Spring/Seneca/Madison/Marion/etc. If Metro administrators had to suffer these things even once, they’d be out hanging new wires to straighten the routes the next day!

        Re: South King County comparisons:

        One of the many, many drawbacks of a consolidated urban and suburban transit system such as the one we have is the need to even make such comparisons. They’re apples to oranges. If you want to compare apples to apples, you must come informed about how things function in comparable urban environments. You readily admit that you do not.

        And finally, on lateness: “Reasons include high traffic volume, jaywalking pedestrians (forces the bus to stop and wait for 5-10 seconds), wheelchair ramp usage, idiot customers holding up the line, and fare disputes among many other things.”

        Progress! You admit that there are drawbacks. So how do we mitigate these things? “Idiot customers” do less damage when cash payment is strongly disincentivized. A simpler system that requires less “Are you the one that goes to Lower Queen Anne? What streets do you take?” mitigates the idiots’ impact too. “Wheelchair ramp usage” need not be as slow as it is here: more open floorplans, usage of all doors, and elimination of the folding chair (allowing easier-access belts) make a shocking difference; wheelchair loading in NY is a 35-second affair.

        Jaywalking: for the record, you and most native Washingtonians have this backward. The worst delays come not from the occasional guileless traffic-blocking jaywalker, but from the dozens of law-abiding pedestrians who didn’t jaywalk when they could have safely. When their “turn” finally comes, they flood the street and prevent any cars from turning right or left. The bus gets stuck behind those non-turning cars (and in many places is prevented from turning itself). It’s a statistical fact that traffic flows more smoothly in cities where (safe) jaywalking is pervasive. Seattle’s obsession with jaywalking strictures may be it’s single most backward conceit!

      16. 25 is pretty bad. I’d love to see it go. About the only thing it does is serve Montlake. Otherwise the 75 is just as good, and a 71/2/3/4 to 75 transfer is much faster from Children’s to Downtown.

        16 is great–got me to Northgate from Downtown one morning before the 41 was running. That’s what you get when 41 is out of North Base–if it was out of Central Campus you wouldn’t have that problem. But Central Campus only has so much capacity, and the 41 requires a lot of coaches.
        41 is probably my favorite route. I’d love to see 1/3 or more of the stops in Lake City eliminated and make it a BRT route. It’d work beautify northbound, not so sure about Southbound. TVMs are expensive.

        And I was right that you’d say I was wrong.

        Not sure why comparing SKC to Seattle is so bad. It’s Metro you’re whining about, not Seattle. Or is it?

        Nothing about Community Transit?

        Gridded systems: Haven’t seen alexjonlin’s map, though I don’t know how useful I’d find a grid system. I guess what you’re pushing for is a route that say, ran back and forth across 85th? Dunno when I’d use that–I see myself going north/south with slight jogs east/west and not the other way around. I’m not a service planner.

        “Since there are no readers on the platform, the platform is considered a fare paid zone, and any person without valid fare is considered trespassing.”

        And here you’re completely wrong. Since it’s currently free before 7, and since buses are pay-(as-slowly-as-possible)-on-board after 7, the platform is never a fare-paid zone. What you erroneously describe is actually a much better plan: platform as fare-paid, at all hours, buses and trains. You could even install turnstiles… for security! But none of that is even on the table.

        Nope, I’m right. Read it and weep. Still don’t believe me? Check out the whole chapter. Fatigue made me call it a “fare paid zone” which is not what it is. Guess I was thinking of our floppy headed friends to the north.

        Bottom line–my point is that there are reasons why some things are done the way they are done. The reasons might not be immediately apparent, and regardless, I’m not sure what whining in blog comments does to solve them.

      17. Fare control: Tim, I think you may have misread Bruce’s comment. I’ll quote the interesting part:

        ORCA readers ARE coming to a DSTT platform near you. By the end of the year we’ll have new heads on all the DSTT platforms.

        Here’s why we don’t have ORCA heads on the Link platforms outside the DSTT. It’s a bit of a tangled tale, so stay with me.

        The DSTT is not considered to be a fare-controlled zone, for the reasons that d.p. pointed out. If you think about it, that would simply be unenforceable. Anyone could just say “No, I’m waiting for this bus, which I’ll pay for when I get on.”, and that would be that.

        This is why most DSTT platforms *do* have ORCA readers, and why the fare-paid zone signs that you see at other stations don’t appear in the DSTT.

        Link platforms that are not shared with buses are considered fare-controlled zones, and so what you’ve said fully applies there. But for the time being, this does not include the DSTT.

        Grid networks: You say, “I don’t know how useful I’d find a grid system.”. I claim that you’re biased by your experience with unreliable, infrequent routes. I don’t mean this as an attack; I only mean to say that the benefits of a grid network can only be seen when routes are super-frequent, which not a single route in today’s network is.

        The basic principle which leads to grid network design is this: How can we maximize the number of destinations that riders can reach in a reasonable amount of time?

        This is different from Metro’s current guiding principle, which is this: How can we maximize the number of destinations that riders can reach from downtown in a reasonable amount of time and without transferring?

        Imagine, for a second, that every bus in Seattle ran every 5 minutes, all day. I know this sounds ludicrous, but bear with me. Now, imagine that the north tail of the 48 was connected with the north tail of the 71, so that you had a single east-west crosstown route. To go downtown from Ravenna, you’d have to transfer to a bus (eventually Link) somewhere in the vicinity of 65th/15th. But since both of those buses run every 5 minutes, who cares? When you get off the first bus, you’ll be waiting an average of 2.5 minutes until the next one arrives.

        And here’s the real beauty of the system. Today, if you want to go from 25th and 65th NE in Ravenna to 25th and 65th NW in Ballard, you might take the 71 to the 48 to the 18. Google estimates that this journey would take 46 minutes: 23 minutes of bus time and 23 minutes of waiting. And since people hate waiting, they might choose to skip the three-bus thing and instead take the 71 downtown and the 18 back out, which is a huge waste of resources (for the system) and a huge time sink (for them).

        But with the grid system, you would take one bus west and one bus south. Total time, assuming the bus travel time was unchanged, is 25.5 minutes. That’s almost 20 minutes faster than the current system! (And FWIW, these are some of the shorter directions. Google gave me lots of other crazy routes that involve the 75, 68, 31, etc., some of which took up to an hour. All for what should be at most a 25 minute journey.)

        Just about any journey where neither the start or the end are in downtown would be faster under such a network. I routinely go from Fremont to Capitol Hill, and the relative infrequency of the 8 makes this much worse than it should be. Same for Capitol Hill to Upper Queen Anne; Fremont to Ballard; etc. The only convenient trips in Metro’s current network are trips that we’ve explicitly designed for. In a grid system, every trip is convenient.

        Now, I did say earlier that this works only if every bus runs every 5 minutes. In practice, slightly less frequent routes wouldn’t be the end of the world — 10 minute routes mean a 5-minute (total) waiting time for the average journey, which isn’t the end of the world. But 10-minute frequencies on every Seattle route would be extremely expensive.

        How do I propose we afford this? Well… by cutting lots of ineffective routes, and implementing the other reforms I described above. Some of them (deleting the 25) are easy. Others (deleting the 43) would be harder pills for some to swallow. But as I said before, I’d happily delete 2/3 of the current routes for 5-minute frequency on what remains. For anyone who isn’t willing to structure their life around a transit schedule, the infrequent buses already might as well not exist.

      18. I would be hard-pressed to improve on anything that Aleks has written here.

        Tim, I encourage you to read Aleks’ last post closely — both the mathematical examples and the guiding transit philosophy. But more importantly, I encourage you to travel. It can be hard to imagine transit that you don’t have to think about — transit that just shows up — if you’re never experienced it.

        A few corollary thoughts:

        “…The benefits of a grid network can only be seen when routes are super-frequent, which not a single route in today’s network is.”

        This cannot be emphasized enough. What passes for high-frequency in our system — 15 minutes — still falls way below the frequency threshold needed to eliminate the hiccups of high-demand routes: unpredictable demand spikes, wheelchair loadings, and externalities like traffic. At 7-minute frequencies, you manage to spread the service-stunting interruptions around; one bus is less likely to encounter the full litany problems that compound delays.

        With high frequencies, anything beyond a slight variation in trip time is abnormal. With low frequencies, massive fluctuations on trip time are distressingly common.

        I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, “but 7-minute frequencies sounds like a lot of expensive, empty vehicles.” That’s where the route consolidations come in. Consolidate the demand, consolidate the supply, and smooth out the bumps. As an added bonus, total demand will rise: more intuitive systems with better perceived reliability garner higher market share. They just do!

        “Metro’s current guiding principle, which is this: How can we maximize the number of destinations that riders can reach from downtown in a reasonable amount of time and without transferring?

        I think that Aleks is being too generous here. Thanks to the inverse relationship between frequency and reliability, our fractured downtown-to-all-points routes do pretty horrendously as well.

        A summation of the experience I had just yesterday, hopefully delivered with some degree of brevity and a minimum of residual anger:

        I was in Wallingford. All I needed to do was to return to Ballard, drop some things off in my apartment (1 block from Ballard & Market), and head to downtown Seattle.

        1. My ride on the 44 took 35 minutes. That’s time spent on the bus itself, not including the wait. To go 2.5 miles. There was traffic, but not that much traffic; it would have taken 10-12 minutes in a car. If they ever build the “proposed” U-District-to-Ballard Link spur, the same trip would be 4 minutes. 35 minutes was the result of each and every “minor” occurrence that slows Metro down accumulating on a single trip.

        2. Had my 44 been faster, I would have had plenty of time to drop things in my apartment and make it back to the bus stop before the daily “inbound Metro service death period” that happens between 5:40 and 6:10. Thanks to the 44 nightmare, I was left (according to OneBusAway) with 2 minutes to spare.

        3. Managed to get to my place and back in exactly 2 minutes. Missed the 17 by 5 seconds.

        4. At this point, the rain became a downpour, and I started frantically checking OneBusAway. The next 18, scheduled 25 minutes later, was already predicted as 15 minutes late. The 17, 15, and the 28 were all equally late. So no matter how far I was willing to walk — no matter how drenched I was willing to get — there was no way I was getting on another bus with the next 40 minutes.

        5. I walked all the way to the 28 (more than a mile away), because it was predicted to be the least late. I got soaked to my bones. It was still pretty late.

        6. Total time from Wallingford to downtown via a literally-2-minute Ballard stopover: 90 minutes!! Because fractured systems don’t work!

        “Not sure why comparing [South King County] to Seattle is so bad.”

        Because, like the adage implies, an apple’s intrinsic properties — texture, taste, acidity… density — are very different from those of an orange.

        Yes, transit is run by the same agency in both places, and yes, that’s at the heart of the problem. An agency with a sprawly suburban mentality can never envision pervasive, intuitive, non-schedule-bound urban coverage, and so it can never provide such coverage.

        But taking cues from cities that have made urban transit work is far more valuable than positing our urban transit as “slightly better than its suburban complement.”

        One other thing, Tim. You clearly care about transit and about mobility, so I really don’t take any pleasure in being harsh with your positions or dousing you in my “cynicism.”

        But I think you need to stop taking Metro’s ridership guidelines, statements of policy, press releases, and litanies of excuses at face value. These documents are not the “neutral” statements of fact as you seem to believe and reiterate. Each is a carefully deliberated case of spin, intended to communicate a single message: “We are not as bad at this as it seems we are.” And, implicitly: “Please keep using us, even though our fares are through the roof and our service never seems to improve in any recognizable way.”

        They are not employing spin maliciously. But they are employing nuclear reactors worth of spin. (When I draw contrasts with friends in Boston, I tend to say that the MBTA is a relatively competent transit agency that happens to despise its own customers, whereas Metro’s problem is benign incompetence.)

        What they don’t seem to realize is that spin doesn’t matter, because you can’t spin away your customers’ daily experience.

        Again, there are only two types of transit:
        – good enough that people keep using it by choice;
        – bad enough that people abandon when they value their time and sanity too highly to continue

        You can’t spin away the latter; you must aim at the former, and you must get there.

      19. [Okay, I’m really pretty sure I back-slashed out of that bold HTML. Still decently legible, so I’m not going to re-post and make the thread even longer.]

      20. “[Okay, I’m really pretty sure I back-slashed out of that bold HTML. Still decently legible, so I’m not going to re-post and make the thread even longer.]”

        There’s your problem. You should have used a forward slash. (at the same time, I sure hope I found the right ‘Reply’ link for this lengthy third-level reply).

      21. Yes, forward slash indeed. As you know, I do tend to use a ton of markup (for emphasis!), so I’m accustomed to forward-slashing.

        Most likely I was typing too fast and didn’t notice my mistake — I usually seem to average one unforgivable typo per paragraph on S.T.B., and it seems to be made worse by the font and 8-line simultaneous-visibility limit of the entry box. But I’ve also had the 2nd halves of really long posts turn bold for no reason in the past, so it’s possible this wasn’t my fault.

        There will be an edit feature, someday. Long before Seattle rapid transit is rapid.

    4. I’m not from Seattle either and get exactly what you’re talking about. In Seattle, everyone kind of gets to do whatever they want to do whenever they want. There really aren’t standards here, so our expectations are the lowest common denominator.

      It’s not going to change, by the way.

    5. Metro refuses to even consider elimination of paper transfers, and encourages transfer abuse while flogging pass-buyers, ORCA users, and responsible riders for ever-higher fares.

      Not true. Metro did consider that and continues to consider when the time comes i.e. ORCA is in widespread use.

      This is what Metro had to say about eliminating paper transfers in their Regional Fare Coordination Report:

      Coordination Opportunity #5: Eliminate paper transfers

      No longer provide paper transfer slips to customers who pay a cash fare to ride a Metro bus.

      Discussion: Operator issuance and inspection of paper transfer slips can slow operations. Paper transfers also represent a source of potential abuse and fare evasion. Community Transit, Everett Transit and Sound Transit have eliminated paper transfers altogether. Metro customers continue to try to use paper transfers on other agencies’ services, resulting in customer confusion and fare disputes. By using an ORCA card, customers will still be allowed to make both intrasystem and intersystem transfers.

      The 2009 Transit Performance Audit recommended that Metro consider a number of fare policy changes, including elimination of paper transfers, to generate additional revenues to assist in funding Transit operations (Recommendation A12c).

      Budget impact: The impact that elimination of paper transfers would have on Metro revenue and ridership would vary greatly. If ORCA achieves such significant market penetration that cash fare payment is minimal, the revenue impact of eliminating cash transfers would be negligible since ORCA provides transfer benefits for e-purse fare payment. Metro has been able to achieve service design efficiencies by building a service concept based on transfers. Without very significant market penetration by ORCA, the elimination of paper transfers could result in rider opposition to transfer- based service design, ultimately leading to increased costs that could outweigh any additional revenue.

      Recommendation: Continue to work to maximize ORCA penetration and to monitor e-purse versus cash fare payment.

      1. The GFI fareboxes have been able to issue time-stamped transfers since they were installed in the mid-1990’s, and do so in EVERY OTHER CITY IN WHICH THEY ARE USED.

        Why can’t Seattle-area transit agencies take advantage of this feature?

      2. As Erik says, on every other transit system with a modern fare payment system (e.g. smartcards and such) that I’ve encountered, the bus fareboxes will simply print out a transfer that’s stamped with the correct date and time. Passengers who want to use these to board are required to stick them in the farebox, not simply flash them.

        This, plus a 15-20% fare penalty for riders who pay in cash, would seem to solve all these problems at once. The fare penalty discourages riders from using inefficient payment mechanisms. Automatic transfers that can’t be flashed will slow down boarding slightly for people with them, but there will be fewer (since the fare penalty will have pushed most riders to ORCA), and there will no longer be any lost revenue due to people reusing transfers.

      3. Thanks for this, Oran. Although I’m not sure I’d conflate “bringing it up” with “considering it,” it’s still a good start.

        Sadly, for those like myself who are fed up with Metro, there are a few stunners in there regarding Metro’s self-image and satisfaction with the status quo:

        “Metro has been able to achieve service design efficiencies by building a service concept based on transfers.”

        They’re kidding, right? With 30-minute headways, convoluted routing, bottlenecks galore, and consistent tardiness, Metro achieves one of the world’s least efficient tranfer-based systems. A trip requiring a tranfer takes easily 5-8x as long as the same trip in an automobile (in a reasonable system, that number might be 2-4x). There is already, “rider opposition to transfer-based service design,” and its because Metro’s current tranfer-based system design is crap, not because of transfer-slip policy.


        “If ORCA achieves such significant market penetration that cash fare payment is minimal, the revenue impact of eliminating cash transfers would be negligible since ORCA provides transfer benefits for e-purse fare payment.”

        …But then it goes on to be, essentially, laissez-faire about achieving such market penetration. Aleks takes about two sentences to achieve full ORCA adoption and solve the problem. Metro just wants to wait and see.

      4. d.p., in my opinion, the fastest way to get people to switch to ORCA is to get rid of paper transfers. All the agencies that eliminated them have a higher ORCA usage rate than Metro’s. Nothing is a better incentive than having to pay double or triple in cash versus pay once for seamless electronic transfers.

      5. Agreed. And that’s why I would take pains to distinguish “discussing it off-handedly in the footnotes of a report” from “seriously considering it.”

        When you and I are kings…

      6. So if you don’t like it, why do you use it? If I didn’t like the grocery store by my house, I’d shop at another one.

        There are other ways to get around besides buses. I know that you claim that every time you get on a bus the driver greets you with “Hello, buy a car!” but there are other ways too. But they’re probably not good enough for you since you’ve lived in other unnamed cities where everything is perfect.

      7. Above was meant to be a reply to

        It’s the little s*%t like this that does, in fact, accumulate to create the dysfunctional system I have to suffer every day. (And that most choose to avoid.)

      8. Getting rid of transfers for cash-paying users could cause problems, though. First, as someone pointed out, this will create a sizable group of users who (for financial reasons) will try to avoid transferring at all costs, and that will create even more of a disincentive for Metro to rationalize routes.

        And second, let’s say that the ORCA-less riders do transfer. Now they’re paying cash twice, and slowing down two buses!

        That’s why I like the disposable card system that Boston uses (and other cities too). It’s significantly faster to use than cash (if not quite ORCA speed), avoids the fare-evasion problem, and yet also avoids penalizing transfers.

      9. That is why there is some merit to Metro’s concerns and cautiousness. While it’s easy for you and me to say “just do it”, the political and operational reality is much more complex.

        The ORCA distribution and service infrastructure is still sparse. Without it, even if a low-cost, disposable paper ORCA ticket, one that was supposed to be launched along with its more durable plastic card, was available now, it’d be difficult to get. All major transfer points and transit centers should have at least one card revalue/vending machine. Every neighborhood should have at least one refill location.

      10. That is why there is some merit to Metro’s concerns and cautiousness. While it’s easy for you and me to say “just do it”, the political and operational reality is much more complex.

        Definitely. It’s never as easy as we’d like to think.

        The ORCA distribution and service infrastructure is still sparse.

        The reason that Boston’s system works so well is that every bus (and Green Line train) is a disposable CharlieTicket generator. You can even put $10 or $20 in the farebox, and get back a ticket for the remaining $18. Obviously, we don’t have this infrastructure now, but it would have been great if we had built it.

    6. Another thing for d.p.:

      I’m posting from my phone so finding a link would require more effort than I’d like, but you seem very concerned about fare revenue. Recall that earlier this year our County Executive ordered a systematic evaluation of fare evasion. Operators enforced fares according to policy and recorded all types of evasion. The finding was that it cost Metro somewhere in the tens of millions annually. When your operating budget is hundreds of millions of dollars annually, this isn’t as huge of a gap as you make it out to be.

      1. My bet is that paper-transfer-based “soft” fare evasion — an overly generous transfer given by a driver, or a transfer clearly past its expiration but tacitly accepted by the next driver — got recorded as “legitimate fare paid” under that study.

      2. Confirmed. Hyper-generous transfers would not have registered in the study. And my hunch is that “A” button only got pressed for expired transfers when the expired-tranfer abuse was beyond the leeway that Metro drivers are accustomed to accommodating.

        But most bothersome in that study is “Cost of Fare Evasion” section, which basically says that Metro’s fare collection system is so convoluted that any accurate calculation of the costs is impossible. (It then process to generate numerical presumptions out of thin air — 30% of fare evaders would stay home — and use them to make such a calculation.)

        Or, y’know, you could eliminate paper transfers, at which point fare evasion would become exceedingly easy to calculate.

      3. Sometimes drivers will issue transfers past the 1:30-1:59 prescription if a bus is running late and/or if passengers are in danger of missing connections due to obstructions (emergency vehicle responses, etc.).

        It’s a common courtesy that most people would consider to be a GOOD thing.

      4. Beavis, I wasn’t kidding or exaggerating: they were all-night transfers at 6:45 PM!!

        And ORCA transfers are 1:59 from the first tag. So what you’re describing is a perpetual fare penalty for ORCA users — not a great way to encourage a switch from the less-efficient to the more-efficient fare-payment medium.

        It’s the little s*%t like this that does, in fact, accumulate to create the dysfunctional system I have to suffer every day. (And that most choose to avoid.)

    1. What’s most impressive is that they created this out of space that you might not have given a second glance in its last incarnation!

    2. Alex, if I remember correctly, you once made a Google map of a complete Metro service restructure, where all routes were grid-oriented and super-frequent. Do you still have that map?

      1. Yep. Pretty good summary. My photos were taken from the 56th story of the Westin Tower (9th photo down).

  5. Sorry, I’ll have to disagree on #4. Metro isn’t unique in lack of rider decorum. SF Muni is worse. Have you ever seen anyone “whip it out” in someone’s face and press it against their cheek on Metro? It has happened on SF Muni. SF Muni is also far beyond B.O. — there’s no polite way to say this, but their vehicles smell like straight-up piss. I agree Tri-Met is more civilised, haven’t been to BC since 1989 so no comment on TransLink.

      1. Yeah, and at least 80% of Metro buses don’t smell awful, but we specifically remember ones that do.

    1. When I was on Valley Metro in Phoenix, a homeless guy passed out and pissed himself on the seats across the isle. Fortunately, the floor was grooved so it flowed straight towards the door, and the bus was so late that the next one was right behind.

    2. Hmm… I’ve seen some pretty bad sights and smelled some pretty bad smells on Muni. But in my experience, the normal-rider-to-dregs-of-society ratio has been higher on Muni than Metro, owing entirely to its higher total market share within the urban area. So the bad experiences have always seemed the exception. Here, they are sadly much closer to the rule.

  6. I grew up outside of Philly, where all the transit is run by Septa. Everyone there bitches and moans about Septa all the time, about like you’d expect, but in my opinion they run a pretty fantastic service. Commuter trains, Buses, Trolleys, Light rail, Subways, you name it. Philly and the surrounding metro area have a pretty fantastic transit system, especially compared to what we’ve got here.

    Not that I’m complaining per se. I can’t get enough of Link, and I take the trolley or the bus every chance I get. I’m just anxious for us to get our system built out in my lifetime, and at the rate things are going,… I sometimes think a lot of the problem could be that if you’ve only ever lived here you might not have ever been exposed to a full blown transit system, so you don’t know what you’re missing.

    Anyhow, anyone have any ideas on how we can get more transit, like, yesterday? Maybe we need to start a new political party!

    1. AFAICT (but I’m new here, I might be wrong) there’s no shortage of support for transit investment by people who actually live in the areas (Seattle and Puget Sound generally) where transit makes sense to build. The big problem is the Idaho West we’re attached to, i.e. everything east of the cascades. Without eastern Washington, we wouldn’t have to deal with Eyman initiatives and other assaults on transit and government services generally. (On the other hand, we might also have turned out to be California North, bankrupted in large part by our public sector unions. There never seems to be a happy medium in American politics.) I’m not sure what we can really do about this.

      And I agree about more fully-grown systems; it seems like we fight so hard for so little here. Whenever I visit the UK I admire the coverage of the Underground — and the fact that its advertising and farebox revenue cover its running costs.

      1. KC Metro and ST should cover their operating costs with farebox revenue and advertising, also.

      2. Can’t reply to the below, but yes, Metro should join the rest of the world and allow advertising on its buses and shelters.

        It’s basically free money that we’re turning down….for some reason.

      3. True, but my point is that his initiatives wouldn’t have a chance if eastern WA weren’t attached to us.

    2. The former shareholders of the for-profit
      Reading Company:
      Pennsylvania Railroad:
      and the Philadelphia Transportation Company:

      are glad you are enjoying their investments and would like to speak with you about getting their money back after being forced into insolvency by the federal governments Marxist road-building projects of the 1950’s to today.

  7. Sister-in-law on Beacon Hill asked me today about some weird results she obtained from Trip Planner. She wanted to ride a local bus up to the Beacon Hill Station and then Link to the Airport. Trip Planner had her get off at Tukwila Station and transfer to the A route Rapid Ride — adding 15 minutes or so to her travel tim. Obviously she knew better but still, why such a result?

    I tried several hypothetical connections to travel to the Airport and got the same thing. No matter where I started from, TP always said to get off at Tukwila Station and xfer to the A route, except for those time when it said ride the 125 to White Center and transfer to ST 560!

    Any help for us, ST and Metro folks? We know you read this blog.

    1. The problem is simply this: Metro’s Trip Planner is extremely outdated and should be scrapped. Even if you can get beyond the heinous interface, the results are almost consistently worthless.

    2. It’s especially funny when it wants you to transfer to a suburban express to go from one part of downtown to another. I live a few blocks outside downtown, and it often wants me to take one of the suburban buses on Olive/Stewart rather than the trolleybuses that exist, er, for getting to downtown.

  8. Daily Rant:
    Two new TBM’s just arrived in Tacoma, with a 3rd on the way next spring, according to the PI. http://blog.seattlepi.com/transportation/archives/230596.asp
    I question the practice of sending millions of dollars overseas, when we have a TBM manufacturer right here within the ST taxing district. http://www.robbinstbm.com/
    Surely the price difference, plus freight cannot be that significant when we have a struggling economy right here at home.
    What’s the value added to keeping those dollars at home, circulating right here with the ST taxing district, and keeping high-tech jobs going? If I were a Robbins employee, living in Kent, paying ST taxes, or any number of merchants they support, I’d be really pissed.

    1. Thanks to the USA’s participation in the WTO (World Trade Organization), we cannot favor US based “competitors” over foreign bidders particularly when Federal money is involved. That is why the US Air Force has to consider bids from Airbus on par with Boeing. And why so much of our industrial capacity has vanished – literally ripped out and moved overseas.

    2. I have to say I disagree. Sound Transit’s job is to build transit infrastructure, not prop up a particular local business. If some economic development fund wants to chip in the difference between the bids, then fine. But let’s not further stretch a bad budget situation by not selecting the best value.

      1. When did they repeal ‘Buy America’ laws, or extra points awarded for minority contractors, or other FTA ‘strings’ attached to FFGA provisions that at least attempt to keep tax dollars circulating around the local region?
        Every dollar spent here, has something like a 7-10 multiplier effect on the local economy. That’s a lot of tax base ST could count on, if it wasn’t for the bidding process of “just award it to the lowest bidder”, regardless of the merits, and move on. Why do you think Talgo or other foreign manufacturers are building assembly plants in MN or FL to attract business?
        Sorry, but I don’t think WTO threats trumps a strategic investment award process.

      2. Sound Transit put out tunneling contracts, not a contract for TBMs. It’s up to the winning contractor to acquire the TBMs. If ST took anything other than the lowest qualified bid, they wouldn’t be acting in a fiscally responsible way.

    3. Do you realize how many factors there are in such a decision? Availability, speed, reliability, sizing, past experience, foreign industrial or export subsidies, exchange rates…I could go on and on. If price and local economic impact were the only considerations, its possible a different decision would have been made.

      As Martin pointed out, ST is a transit agency, not an economic development agency.

  9. Someone suggested in the RTTF meeting in November that Metro eliminate the Ride Free Area. Does anyone approve of this?

    1. I’d approve only if they:
      1. Implement all-door boarding for ORCA card users.
      2. Have more fare enforcement/transit police to check for proof of payment.
      3. Have a downtown free shuttle like the Rt 99 waterfront bus.

      1. I think the vast majority of people on this blog and who comment at public input sessions for Metro want to can the RFA (me included). In reply to Oran:

        1. Is front door only boarding really that bad? Also, boarding both doors would have to be a DT only policy. It’s not cost-effective to put transit cops in less busy areas, and a not having someone back there is an invitation to exactly the kind of casual fare-dodging we’re trying to stop. It could be very efficient to police downtown, officers could just keep riding back and forth on different busses on 3rd Ave.

        2. Agreed.

        3. Agreed. What would you think of a Route 99 replacement that did something like the following: Take the 99 route from Chinatown to Broad Street, up Broad Street to the Seattle Center, along Denny and down 5th Ave to the Westlake Center, down Stewart to 1st Ave, down to Yestler where it would rejoin the 99 route? This route serves all the old streetcar stops, and also connects to LINK (twice), Monorail (actually duplicates it – might cannibalize) and the SLUT, and hits some of the biggest tourist attractions downtown (Westlake, Seattle Center, the Market). It serves areas that aren’t going to get streetcar service in the future (the waterfront, Broad St, 1st Ave).

      2. Bruce, I should’ve clarified that I want to retain all-door boarding within downtown, not implement it systemwide, because of what you said about enforcement.

        For an example of why front-door only is bad, look at buses in the tunnel after 7 pm. It is ridiculous that we spent all this money building dedicated right-of-way and stations only to have people single file on to a 60-ft articulated bus that can get pretty crowded. Before they recently changed the rules, you could only exit through the front door, which is also ridiculous.

        Bring back the dime shuttle! On second thought, I’m not too concerned about not having a free shuttle bus. I like that route though I’m not sure how the tour bus companies would react to such a proposal. I’m also wary of long one-way loops.

      3. First, why can’t we just have people enter in the front and leave in the back, like most other cities do? It’s not quite as efficient as boarding at all doors, but it’s pretty close.

        Second, and more importantly, I don’t think the RFA would be nearly as necessary if not for the fact that far too much bus service centers around downtown. If crosstown travel were easier — i.e. if we had a real grid network — then downtown wouldn’t see the crush loads that make the RFA seem so essential for efficiency, since that ridership would be distributed out to many other parts of the city.

      4. We can have both! Enter front and leave back works well in every other city but it has its limits. People in San Francisco want to implement proof-of-payment and all door boarding on buses. See this Streetfilms. De-facto, many people already board Muni through the back doors even though there’s a huge “STOP Back door boarding is illegal” sign because the buses are so crowded. I did that on a number of occasions because I already paid my fare and don’t want to squeeze through the front.

        By Seattle’s hourglass figure geography, a lot of N-S buses will continue to converge downtown, even under a distributed grid network. (I like your comment above about reorganizing the network) You have all the suburban peak commuter routes (Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit) which greatly outnumber the amount of frequent all-day routes, something that won’t likely change until Link reaches out farther or some other efficiency reorganization forced by the need to cut costs. As an aside, if all the commuter runs were cut back to shuttles off a major trunk route, that makes a stronger case for rail.

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