This is a cool video via TransLink’s Buzzer Blog that documents the construction of Vancouver’s first skytrain line. I learned more than a few things from this video, but what I enjoy most is seeing shots of Vancouver from 25 years ago. Consider this an open thread.

H/T Bruce Macgowan

47 Replies to “Going to Town”

    1. The report says that holiday spending is back. It doesn’t say unemployment has come down yet. And this spending may be specific to the holiday, because people have deprived themselves for two years and were impatient to have a “normal” Christmas again.

  1. Would it make things easier if Metro only had one peak fare period per day? Instead of an AM peak and PM peak, would it be possible to eliminate the PM peak and collect all the peak fares in the AM hours? With just one peak period, Metro’s one zone fare before 9am would theoretically be 50 cents higher than the regular fare after 9am. Effective 1/1/11, with one peak period, one zone fares would be $2.75 before 9am and $2.25 after 9am. But I suspect that Metro collects more money during the PM peak than during the AM peak, so the single peak fare might have to be plus 75 cents in order to be revenue neutral ($3.00 before 9am). Two zone (single) peak fares would also need to go up from $3.00 to maybe $3.75 or $4.00 per ride. But overall, I think having just one peak period would make the system simpler and easier to use. Comments?

    1. I’ve always wondered what the true motivation for a peak fare was.
      A. Spread the demand for transit service over a wider span of hours for greater economy. It assumes workers have flexibility in their work schedules to accommodate the shift in start and end times.
      B. To reduce demand for buses during the busiest times of the day, so that HOV lanes are slightly less congested.
      C. To charge more for those that have regular jobs, and can afford the bump.
      D. To acknoledge the higher cost of bus service when congestion is the greatest.
      E. Because somebody else did it, and it sounds like a real money maker.
      Z. To make the system more complicated than it has to be, thereby reducing the number of riders, which limits the number of buses and drivers to worry about, because running a transit system is a lot of damn trouble!

      1. Mike, how about:

        D1. To attempt to recover some of the added costs of increased service during peak periods: more buses, bigger bases, more operators, supervisors and mechanics.

      2. Most of the transit systems I’ve encountered that charged per trip (as opposed to a daily pass) had peak fares because that’s when demand is highest. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, and I don’t get all the complaints about the complexity of the price structure.

        My biggest gripe about ticketing in Seattle is the lack of London Underground-style platform access control on Link. It can’t be done in the tunnel until U-Link, of course, but I don’t see why it can’t be done elsewhere. Once you have that, fare dodgers have to physically jump over a barrier or trespass on the tracks to get on the train, and one security guard on the platform will catch 99% of that.

        Also, specifically in the case of Seattle, a lot of commuters seem to have passes from their employer so they don’t care about peak rates. I actually have a question about that… are the usage costs paid for by someone or are the agencies just taking a flat rate per card?

      3. That’s it. Metro didn’t have peak fares in the early 80s, it was 40c one zone and 60c two zones at all times. It added the surcharge because the extra runs at peak hours dramatically increase expenses, especially the peak-only expresses. This is also the argument why ST doesn’t have peak fares, because most of its routes are more steady throughout the day. It may also be why Metro dropped the zone surcharge off-peak: it has to serve the whole county anyway, and long trips don’t cost more than short trips if it doesn’t cause an extra bus to be added.

        One could ask, why not put a surcharge on the peak-only routes instead? Or let them absorb 75% of the cost, and a general fare increase for the other 25% (to cover the additional runs on all-day routes). The answer is that nobody was thinking that way, at least nobody I heard.

      4. Mike Skekan: It’s interesting to note that peak service generally has much higher farebox recovery than off-peak service. Is this exclusively because of the higher fare? I doubt it; buses tend to be more crowded at peak, and it stands to reason that crowded buses should have better farebox recovery than less crowded ones (since additional boardings have a low marginal cost ). In fact, Metro’s performance reports confirm that, the Westside frequent arterial routes during peak have the highest ridership, highest frequency, and highest farebox recovery of any routes in the system.

        So I’d say that the most likely cause is actually a combination of A and C. Metro sets higher peak fares for the same reason that HOT lanes charge more money at more congested times, and for the same reason that San Francisco uses demand pricing for its parking meters. Peak bus service is a relatively scarce resource, and the best way to ration that resources (i.e. to regulate demand) is by raising prices. As a direct consequence, customers who are price-sensitive will be more likely to use bus service at times when it’s less in demand.

        As far as Z, I know you were joking, but I don’t actually think anyone at Metro is *trying* to make the system more complicated; I think they just don’t know any better. Or rather, there are many criteria by which Metro evaluates its bus network (e.g. geographical coverage, frequency, span, avoiding transfers), but simplicity is not one of them.

        Bruce: The last I’d heard, proof-of-payment (even with the greater risk of fare evasion) was actually cheaper than fare gates for a system the size of Seattle’s.

        Mike Orr: In general, I’m not a fan of extra complexity, but I do think it would be worth it to charge a premium fare for express buses, especially once Link opens. Boston does this, as do many other cities, I believe. The idea is to recognize that one-seat rides to downtown are a luxury that some people are willing to pay extra for, and that downtown workers are very likely to be okay with paying that premium. Once U-Link opens, for example, running the 545 between downtown and UW Station is completely superfluous… but if some people are willing to pay an extra $3 to skip the transfer, why not let them?

      5. Alex: Interesting point. As peak routes have better farebox recovery, then one could make the point they are more efficient, therefore fares should be lower to reflect the full buses, or at least charge the same as off peak.
        In other words, maybe congestion and higher operating costs are offset by more riders per whatever, cancelling out each other.
        That eliminates all my whimsical reasons, except C, which is to charge whatever the market will bear.

      6. Again, I think that A and C are two sides of the same coin. Higher prices accomplish the dual goals of bringing in more money and reducing demand to manageable levels. (Have you ever been on a jam-packed 73? Now imagine for a second that there were no fares at all…)

      7. Aleks: if we charged a premium for peak-express buses, we could make the buses a different color or give them special route numbers like 6xx so they’d look like a different kind of service. Although that’s much easier to do when the routes are brand new than when they’ve been running for thirty years.

  2. Meanwhile back in Seattle circa 1983…oh yeah, that’s right…

    Makes you wonder what Seattle would look like today had this city made a similar choice as Vancouver.

    1. I’ve heard the name floated around a few times in my life, but never really learned about him until my visit to the New York Transit Museum this summer, where I watched a video about the building of the Triborough Bridge.

      His story is most certainly interesting, to say the least. I think I’m going to go pick up a copy of “The Power Broker” tomorrow.

    2. Read The Power Broker. It’s long, but incredibly engaging and interesting. He did terrible things, but it’s impossible not to admire him in some way, because when he wanted to build something, he just built it.

      1. I think the most important lesson from Robert Moses’s legacy is that not all infrastructure investment is good, even if you leave aside the issue of cost. Sometimes, the world is a better place because some piece of infrastructure wasn’t built (e.g. the LOMEX). Sometimes, the world could be made a better place by getting rid of some existing piece of infrastructure (e.g. the Embarcadero).

        This is the reason why, as much as I don’t think the DBT is worth it, I think that it’s far better than a rebuilt viaduct. It’s not just about the money. The DBT isn’t worth it, but the viaduct would be a blight on the city, and I wouldn’t want to build another one even if it were free. (Of course, the approaches to the DBT fall in the same category.)

  3. Here’s a thought [Comment Deleted Warning Sign blinking yellow…I know] but I’m in the bus tunnels quite a bit, and I was thinking…do we need a Bus Tunnel or a Pedestrian Tunnel?

    The thinking is this:

    We only really need to get on the buses at either end of the tunnel (since none of them are “thru routes”…they begin or end at the tunnel.

    There is not need for every bus to make all the stops in the tunnel.

    What I would do instead is have a People and Bike Tunnel.

    In the tunnel, in one tube, we would have two long moving sidewalks, like at the airport…going back and forth between the stations.

    Then, I would use the other tunnel as a free walk, jog and bicycle path.

    If we had moving sidewalks, walkways and bike tunnels, it would be the solution to moving people safely around Seattle.

    1. Two problems. Where do you turn the bus around once it’s in the tunnel? Second, the trains are most definitely going to be going through end to end all the way to the north and splitting ~50/50 to the east and south (assuming East Link gets built).

      1. I’ve always wondered why tunnel buses aren’t through-routed. Why not have the 70-series head down to Kent/Southcenter? Or have the 550 turn into the 545?

        I’m guessing there’s a good reason for this — maybe the routes would be too long otherwise. On the other hand, there are already some long through-routes in the system (the 26/124 must be pretty long, right?), and the tunnel does a lot to reduce delays in what would otherwise be one of the most congested parts of the trip.

      2. Longer routes have lower reliability. Also, coupling two routes together gives you less flexibility for changing frequency on the two parts of the route. As it is, some routes may continue from their end terminal as another route, but only on some runs, not throughout the day.

      3. @Aleks It might just be my imagination running away with me, but I wonder if they chose routes that are likely to get the chop as Link is built out? Of the routes in the tunnel, 71, 72, 73, & 74E can be replaced with a faster transfer when U-Link is built. Same for the 41, 76, 77 and 317 once we get to Northgate. The 106 (via Ranier Beach) & 150 (via TIBS) could already be done that way if headways on Link were short enough. When East Link is complete, the 550 would be discontinued and the 212, 216, 217 and 218 could be done as transfers at Mercer Island.

        The only one that seems a bit iffy is the 301.

      4. @Aleks,

        A reason for not coupling bus routes in the tunnel is trying to match bus speed and train speed going through the tunnel. Because of Link’s 8-door boarding/alighting, it has a natural ability to go faster than buses. Have lots of boarding and alighting on each bus at each station, and Link will really get slowed down.

        @Bruce, I agree with your pattern recognition. However, the 106 is unlikely to get truncated, since it provides local service all the way from RBS to downtown. That said, we may be imagining other truncations that may end up not happening. Don’t get me started on Metro’s and ST’s plan to have most of the buses bypass UW Station, leaving a 3-5 minute walk from these routes to get to the station.

      5. @Brent I see what you mean about the 106. Apparently the 101 & 102 also go through the tunnel (I missed them and a couple of 2xx busses above.) Those are express through to the county line and seem like obvious candidates to rearrange at first glance. But according to their schedule they take 20 minutes from downtown to MLK & 129th, whereas Link takes 25 minutes to MLK & Henderson, so people using them would add 10 minutes at least to their commute.

        People using the 7x busses don’t seem to get that bad of a deal, though. According to the North Link documents, it will be 8 mins vs 22 mins Link vs bus to 45th & Brooklyn. I admit it’s not a one-seat ride, but if the service leaving the U-District is frequent enough, it should be a wash, timewise. Of course, Brooklyn station will be a couple of years after busses get kicked out of the tunnel :-(

      6. @Bruce: You’re correct that many of the tunnel routes could be truncated, but there are many other routes (especially commuter routes) that could also be truncated, but which aren’t in the tunnel, like the 303, 304, 306, 308, 311, 312, and 355.

        Also, you forgot the 255/256; South Kirkland P&R isn’t getting Link service any time soon. You could make the argument that it could get truncated at UW/Montlake, but if so, that opens up tons of other routes that could be truncated but aren’t in the tunnel, like just about every 520 route. (Like Brent said, I do think that these routes should all be truncated, but I’m not holding my breath that it will happen.)

        @Brent: So your argument is that, if buses were through-routed, then dwell time would be increased, since people would be getting on and off buses, rather than just one or the other? I guess that makes sense. But that doesn’t explain why buses weren’t through-routed before Link was in the tunnel.

        And anyway, it seems like there’s a much simpler way to solve this problem: Declare that the tunnel is a ride-free zone for trains but not buses (i.e. the opposite of today), and institute a rule that tunnel buses can only be boarded from the front and exited from the rear. This would allow boarding to happen just as fast as it does today, and it would also result in fewer buses in the tunnel (since you’re not duplicating service from the north and south lines), which means fewer delays. And, since the train would be free, no one would board a bus just to ride from Westlake to ID, which would further reduce the number of people boarding at each station.

        Of course, the real problem is that so many commuter buses head into the tunnel. This sucks for two reasons: it makes the tunnel super-congested during peak but underutilized at other times, and it means that there are certain destinations which you can’t reach from the tunnel at certain times of day. As I’ve said many times, I would like to see all the commuter buses moved out of the tunnel and onto 3rd Ave (which already has tons of peak capacity), and move some of the frequent-arterial buses to the tunnel and some to other avenues.

      7. I think they should make the whole tunnel paid, and have people buy tickets or tag ORCA cards for buses as well as trains. If they want a free ride downtown, they can take the surface buses. Of course, fares would need to be coordinated.

      8. @aw: All of your points are even truer for buses outside of the tunnel, yet lots of those buses are through-routed. And like you said, through-routes are sometimes skipped, and buses are turned back at downtown, during periods of high volume/congestion. My only question is why Metro uses through-routing for most routes, but skips it for the tunnel routes, even though they should actually face less congestion (and thus have higher reliability) than surface routes.

      9. I believe the plan is to keep the 41, 71, 72, 73, & 74 in the tunnel at least until Link opens to Northgate (2021). OTOH more tunnel capacity is going to be needed for trains between 2016 and 2021.

        I’m hoping once North Link opens that Metro & ST do a large scale service reorganization in North Seattle. Ideally as close to a grid network with rail transfers as is possible.

        At worst I expect the 7x routes will turn at the campus parkway transfer point once North link opens. Though that misses some real opportunities like taking the North tails of both the 48 and 71 to create a new crosstown route with a connection at Roosevelt station.

        Personally I’d like to see all 520 routes exit at Montlake & stop at UW station except at AM & PM peak. The trick is to manage Link demand such that the trains don’t end up too full, especially at peak. Of course this would require that the WADOT, SDOT, ST, Metro, and UW plans for the Montlake area take transit access by buses seriously and provide convenient stop locations, keep transit from being stuck in traffic, and provide layover space.

      10. @Aleks Many of the high-frequency arterial busses are ETBs that can’t run in the tunnel. Also, the exits of the tunnel aren’t really well placed for busses going on to Queen Anne, First Hill, Central District or up the 99. I agree that the tunnel is underutilized outside of peak times, but I don’t think there’s much that can be done about it.

        I’m also not sure I agree about shifting arterial busses off of 3rd. Once the 15/18/21/22/56 are moved from 1st to 3rd, basically all the arterial busses through downtown will use 3rd. That’s nice from a usability perspective. 3rd is also optimized for bus use with minimal on-street parking and lots of dedicated bus curb space (at all times.) 2nd & 4th have bus lanes that turn in to parking off-peak. That arrangement is much more friendly towards routes that only run on-peak.

        Now that I think about it, I wonder if that is in fact how Metro arranged the current downtown routes. Hmmm.

      11. Putting more stuff in the tunnel: There are a number of ST buses which could easily be rerouted to the tunnel, such as the 510, 511, 522, 545, and 554. I’ve heard before that there might not be enough hybrids to put all these in the tunnel, but I know that ST just ordered a bunch more hybrids (I’ve seen one on the 545 — they’re cool!), so maybe they could do it now.

        Re 3rd Ave: Yeah, you’re right. I forgot that the other avenues are also optimized for peak service, just in a different way than 3rd is. The main thing is just that I don’t want any peak-only buses going into the tunnel.

    2. How about we just close I-5 at both 405 merges, and turn it into a Pedistrian and bike thoroughfare instead?

      Much longer than the bus tunnel.

    3. Clearly JB is trolling as usual, but it would be nice to have more pedestrian tunnels branching off from the mezzanines of the downtown Link stations. I love the University St exit that drops you right onto 2nd Ave. A tunnel to the SLUT from Westlake would be a great start.

      1. It would be nice if 3rd were truly transit only and for several blocks the street level were dropped such that we had a pedestrian mall (left open enough that a ventilation system wasn’t required for diesels). Of course, the small problem with that is there’s already a tunnel under third. Since this was a cut and cover project I wonder if the thought of a two’fer ever occured to anyone during the design/build phase?

      2. The transit tunnels are bored, at least they look that way. Or were only the stations done as cut’n’cover?

        Another cheap thing they could do to make 3rd Ave a better transit corridor is extend the rush-hour car prohibition up to maybe Battery Street. On the rare occasion that I take busses at peak times, they always get snarled up at Virginia, and it’s going to get worse when they move the 15/18/21/22/56 from 1st to 3rd. I’m not sure if making it transit only off-peak will make much difference tho’, it’s busy but not choked at those times.

      3. I wonder if they could work out a contract rezone with a developer to raise the height limit on the Bank of America property if they contribute towards a tunnel extension from the Metro floor of Westlake Center to the streetcar plaza. Also, I saw that they want to look at extending the Westlake Station mezzanine to the south side of the 3rd & Pine in the future, with entrances close to 2nd. If they have a 2nd Ave Tunnel for a future light rail line, the mezzanine could extend all the way down to 2nd and maybe even 1st.

  4. Interesting though from crosscut:

    “Pending cuts in Metro service will produce momentum for another comprehensive statewide bill to raise taxes for transit and roads, aiming at a 2012 ballot, when the presidential race will bring out lots of Democratic voters. The struggle between transit folks and roadsters will supplant, at last, the Viaduct wars. One possible dimension of this fight: scaling back Sound Transit’s plans in order to divert some of their taxing authority to struggling bus systems.”

    1. Also, I read recently that gas is expected to reach $5.00 a gallon by then. That would be a huge factor as well.

    1. They first rolled it out on RapidRide A Line in October. At the press event, Metro said all buses in the system should have automated stop announcements and signs in 18 months. So by April 2012.

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