68 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: New Sign Needed”

  1. Typical. This is just an argument for better bus stop signs and maps. The new interchangeable signs are definitely an improvement. Perhaps if this hasn’t been replaced in 4 years is representative of the stop usage.

    1. No, it represents Metro not being up on things. It’s a popular transfer point between Rainier Valley and the Eastside; it cuts off 20+ minutes compared to transferring downtown. I saw that sign several months ago and thought, “Well, the 42 doesn’t go to Rainier View any more.” I couldn’t remember if the 42 and 39 even served that stop at all. I could understand Metro forgetting an obscure sign somewhere, but not at a regional transfer point.

      1. Could it be that most people who use the stop just know where to go for the bus that meets their needs? How many people even look at the sign? Probably just those waiting for a bus on I-90.

      2. I mean, obviously no one is going to catch a 42-Rainier Beach or 39 there, since they won’t come. The question is not whether users can understand that the sign is wrong, its whether it is acceptable for Metro to keep a sign this accurate for this long, and the answer is that it is not.

  2. I have found that Metro is very responsive when contacted directly about this kind of issue. For example, when I have contacted them about a bus shelter being newly and heavily tagged, it’s usually painted-over within a week. With tens of thousands of signs throughout the county, some are going to slip through the cracks. Help from the public is sometimes the only way they’ll know something needs to be fixed.

    1. Agreed, they’re usually fixed pretty quickly, though you don’t have to look far to find errors. After the last service change, the timetable at the 4th/Pike stop showed the 43 only coming once per day (!). In my parents neighborhood in Renton Highlands, the stops for the 111/909 were backwards, southbound stops giving you times to downtown Seattle and northbound stops giving you times to Renton TC/Lake Kathleen. Haven’t seen if those have been fixed.

  3. Is there a difference between Rainier Beach and Rainier View?

    Speaking of better signs it would be nice if the buss tunnel had better signage to which street each end of the platform went to. For example large hanging signs over the south stairs at Pioneer Square than say Cherry on the North, Yessler to the South. Include James on whichever on works best for going up to 1st hill.

    Also, use some cheap blue and white paint, not the gold flake mother of pearl SDOT uses on the bike boxes, and paint the bay designation on the roadbed so people unfamiliar with the layout will see as they are going down the stairs that; there are different platforms for different buses and they know which one to run for if cutting it close.

    1. Rainier View is the neighborhood a little to the south f Raibier Beach up on the hill. Rainier Beach is, obviously, down at the water.

    2. +1 on the street signs in the tunnel stations. I know which way to go because I’m well-oriented to the direction I’m going and the stations’ orientation to the street grid & specific streets. But to the newbie, it can be confusing.

      I think the reason those bike boxes are so expensive is so they stand up to wear and tear – they would have tire tracks through them in a couple weeks of they used paint. Not defending, just a possible explanation.

    1. That’s a really good idea. The stops all have unique IDs that various apps like OneBusAway use. They should add a sticker to every sign, so you can easily type it in. And and SMS service that will let you use it without a smartphone.

      1. OneBusAway has SMS, Text “onebus stop_number_here” to 41411.
        http://onebusaway.org/p/Tools_SMS.action

        Speaking of though, how do you all deal with lack of stop numbers and schedules at some places? I have a little card in my wallet on which I’ve written some stops that I use a good bit but it’s a bit of a pain. Maybe a downloadable list?

      2. I use the OneBusAway phone (voice) interface. It has a stop lookup function (by route number) and a bookmark function where numbers 1-9 are assigned to them so I can quickly get to them. I then program OBA on my speed dial.

      3. You should just be able to use your Droid camera to scan the code (bar code, RFID) and have OBA do the look up instantly.

        Yes, in fact, that’s it…just embed the rfid chip in the concrete somewhere so the destructive types can’t get at it.

  4. If @d.p. happens to be reading, I took a 15 back from Ballard at 12:40 on Friday and I didn’t see or encounter anything that makes me think a streetcar through Belltown wouldn’t work.

    Also, I’ve spent a little more time walking on 1st Ave recently, and I’ve observed that the narrowest part of the road is from Lenora to Union. Outside of that part, the lanes look normal-width and the parking is mostly behind painted lines or in bulbs and doesn’t crowd the moving lanes. Parking within that area basically renders one lane unusable, and on weekends it’s a common southbound choke point because there’s lots of traffic that is forced from two lanes to one while the two-lane northbound is moving freely. You could make a good traffic-management case for getting rid of that parking independent of a streetcar.

    1. The problem for the First Ave streetcar is from Lenora to Pioneer Square, not Belltown, particulary on Mariner game days. The only way to create a useful streetcar (from a mobility point of view) through that section is with a dedicated right of way.

      1. I disagree. Traffic flows freely through 1st Ave except during rush hours and game days. During rush hours it’s slow but steady. Around game days, all of downtown turns into a parking lot, and that’s the only time when a streetcar would be a pretty poor means of transit, and even then it’ll be no worse than a bus.

        I don’t think one can justify taking a dedicated lane for that limited problem case. And the only hope of ever getting a dedicated or restricted lane on 1st Ave is to install streetcar service in traffic and then get downtown property owners to buy in — by proving its utility in practice.

    2. Belltown certainly needs something. The buses through there are often crowded, slow, and unreliable.

      Given the passenger volumes a streetcar is probably justified as well as an eventual LRT line to Ballard via Belltown and LQA. I’m not going to argue alignments other than to say 1st Ave could be made to work. I assume any new streetcar lines will most likely involve extensive street reconstruction along the lines of the First Hill line.

      A possible thought would be a 1st/2nd couplet which wouldn’t be as ideal as keeping the line all on the same street but it would be easier to get a single exclusive lane on each street. A further benefit would be activating 2nd outside of the short section in Belltown where it actually has some street life.

      Of course there are many improvements short of a streetcar that would help buses too. BAT Lanes, stop reduction, signal priority, bus bulbs, etc.

  5. Usually no longer used route numbers are taped over at bus stops, but often the outline of the old numbers are visible through the tape. I have often wondered from where to where went Route 40 (outline still visible on 35th Avenue).
    Is there such a thing as an ‘archive’ of former Metro routes, what routes went where?

    1. If I remember right, the 40 went from View Ridge, down 35th along the old 25 route, up 65th to I-5 and straight to Boeing Industrial.

      1. I think that’s right–when I was a kid, my dad used to take the bus to work by Boeing Field from that neighborhood. Back when Seattle was a town where everybody’s dad worked for Boeing, I’m sure a lot more buses went direct to Boeing Field.

    2. Of course, the original Route 40 went between the University District and Sand Point. It was a through-route of Route 30 when that was the name of the current Route 44. Route 30 operated between Ballard, University District and Laurelhurst. Some trips, after arriving from Ballard would continue as Route 40.

  6. There are still alot of signs about the Waterfront Streetcar all over downtown Seattle. Underneath the AWV there are still track-crossing warnings and many downtown maps (such as the one at the 5th/Pine bus stop underneath the Monorail) still show the line unchanged. If I were a tourist I’d be disappointed and puzzled to find out that these signs pointed me to a half-hourly regular metro bus.

      1. Hah, I Cork there is the clocktower on St Anne’s known uniquely as the Four Faced Liar since all of the clocks are wrong except at Noon and Midnight. Sort of unique to have clocks like that. They never were meant to act as atomic clocks.

  7. This is a good case for the use of lcd next bus displays. Not only will they update with current routes for the day but tell you when they will be there. Of course the tagging. On the sign is a good reason why we can’t have these nice things

    1. Outlaw Spray paint like Chicago has. Bus stops rarely have graffiti on them here in Chicago, and mostly the city stays pretty clean despite having tons of ugly walls that would make great places to tag(might even make them look better… *sigh*).

  8. Open thread question, possibly for Brian Bundridge: Physically, what track improvements would be required to run the South Sounder line (Tacoma to Seattle) at 30 minute frequencies, two ways, 18 hours/day, 7 days per week? Has any report or study envisioned that level of usage? Would a third main line be sufficient? Would 2 separate passenger rail tracks be required in the BN ROW? Or could it be done now with advanced train control and BN’s cooperation?

    1. You probally would have to double track the union pacific line and move the frieght trains off the bnsf. Possibly a 3rd main track to rainier (auburn stn for stampede pass) plus probally improvements from black river jct to king st station to keep the freights and pax seperate

      1. So half a billion $ give or take?

        Keep in mind: (a) Sounder’s O&M cost per boarding is triple what Central Link is now, when it’s not even half built out, (b) Sounder’s alignment misses Federal Way and the route 99 corridor completely, (c) South Link will eventually provide (electric) rail service on a dedicated line from Seattle to Tacoma at a fraction of the O&M cost of Sounder, (d) once the Point Defiance bypass is complete there will be 7 daily Amtrak trains from Seattle to Portland and back that will presumably be eligible for ST’s rail pass program, giving Seattle-Tacoma (but not Kent or Puyallup) travelers many more time options.

        I don’t mean to hate on Sounder, and I support its continuance as a commuter service, but given a stack of money to spend in the South King subarea, spending it on South Link is a far, far better investment.

      2. Well, both the I-5/SR99 and the Maple Valley corridors are important and high ridership. A huge number of people (and transit users) live down in the Tukwila-Kent-Auburn area, and South Link won’t serve them at all. I think it would be reasonable to have half-hourly service down from Seattle to Auburn (not all the way to Tacoma) all day long, with perhaps a couple extra stops in there, and better bus connections. That would drive the cost per boarding down, if lots of people who currently take the 150 would take Sounder.

      3. Perhaps I should clarify a little. In general, light rail is high cost up front, then low O&M per boarding, versus busses which are low up-front and high O&M. Sounder is financially like a bus — a pretty expensive bus at that. It’s always going to be that way, partly for technical reasons, but mainly because the ROW is shared with freight, so it must compete financially with the value of freight service.

        The only way to fix that is to build a dedicated ROW. And if you’re going to do that, why build it to freight standards or deal with the railroad when you can build it to light rail standards, controlled exclusively by ST for less up front cost and less O&M cost into the future? Built it as a spur out from S 200th St or something like that.

        Besides, look at the ridership numbers:

        https://seattletransitblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/spr_2009_ridership.jpg

        If we’re going to look waaaay into the future at a big capital project in South King, it would surely be extending a hypothetical West Seattle line out to Burien.

      4. Good point. But until we can make a big capital investment down into the Maple Valley, I think we should run better commuter rail service down to there. And light rail to Burien may be closer than you think; if the City of Seattle passes a ballot measure for light rail to West Seattle in a couple years, an extension to Burien could be part of a regional ST3 a few years after that! I agree, that and light rail to Federal Way should be the main South King priorities (although there may be other ways to serve Burien; ST did a study a few years ago of a Burien-Tukwila-Renton Link line and found it would get 20k riders a day).

      5. Perhaps I should clarify a little. In general, light rail is high cost up front, then low O&M per boarding, versus busses which are low up-front and high O&M.

        Not true. Link costs 3X more to operate than a Metro bus. So, for it to break even (forgetting the cost of capital) it needs 3X the ridership. That’s not happening. Trains scale up (when you have demand) really well. They don’t scale down. Link can never compete on a cost per boarding with a bus running the one car trains which it finds are perfectly adequate most of the weekend and after 9PM weekdays. Compared to Sounder or express buses what is the cost per mile? Sounder would be astronomically more expensive if ST was solely responsible for maintenance of the ROW. That’s the dirty little secret with the NE Corridor. It actually loses money (a lot of money) when you factor in the maintenance costs hidden from the Amtrak operations budget.

      6. Keep in mind that commuter rail improvements are synergistic with intercity passenger rail. Improvements made for Sounder can help Cascades (and won’t make freight rail worse).

        Also, in negotiating new train easements for Sounder with BNSF, they now pay a pile of money to be able to run the trains, and BNSF will make improvements as they see fit to keep the trains on time.

      7. “So, for it to break even (forgetting the cost of capital) it needs 3X the ridership. That’s not happening.”

        That’s not happening yet.

      8. “That’s the dirty little secret with the NE Corridor. It actually loses money (a lot of money) when you factor in the maintenance costs hidden from the Amtrak operations budget.”

        How are the maintenance costs for the NEC hidden? Amtrak owns the majority of the track and is responsible for maintenance along the corridor.

      9. “How are the maintenance costs for the NEC hidden?”

        They’re not considered operating expenses. Also, there’s probably plenty of deferred maintenance given Amtrak’s financial situation. Just look at the causes of delays on the corridor: tree limbs falling on rails and catenary, signal failures, power failures, etc.

      10. @Bernie I should have been more precise. It’s obviously true that you need heavy ridership before you realize the benefits of a dedicated light rail system. My point was that (a) Sounder’s costs do not scale that way because it is not on a dedicated right of way and (b) given the hypothetical choice between building dedicated light rail versus some complicated heavy rail partnership, I strongly prefer the former.

        I note in passing that Link’s cost per boarding at $6.75 is already less than ST’s busses ($7.27) and Metro’s busses are $3.70. Given that Link is in its infancy, and has yet to open two of its busiest stations, I feel optimistic about its future cost-effectiveness.

      11. It would be a fair chunk of change, but i dont think you can escape the fact that you need to provide better service down the Kent valley as well. You could built light rail, however the cost for property acquistion for a totally new ROW would be high, monitarily and politically (if you were to use an exisiting ROW, like the old PSErY aka interurban trail, or even an elevated structure along the BNSF. Which is why you would choose to expand Sounder over building new.

      12. Wait a minute. Link cost per boarding is already below that for ST express.

        “Not happening” indeed.

      13. The ST expresses really have nearly twice the cost per boarding of Metro? I’m surprised it’s that bad, but I guess having limited stops and lots of freeway travel will do that. Not as many opportunities for churn (one passenger getting off and another boarding and taking their place) on each trip, and those buses are probably awful for fuel economy at highway speeds.

      14. Also, I think they try to make express commuter buses like those not be standing room only much of the time, while there’s much higher tolerance for standing room only on local in-city travel.

      15. @alexjonlin I wish Metro would realize that. Lots of seats (and comfy ones at that) make a lot of sense for limited-stop express service over long distances. But for crowded in-city routes with lots of on-offs along the route, it’s much better to trade seats for standing space to enable movement within the coach. It would make dwell times so much shorter if people didn’t have to fight their way through an aisle barely wide enough for one person.

  9. I think like one poster said; Metro doesn’t know about a problem unless its reported.

    I attend Cascadia Community College, and at the main transit hub (properly, UW Bothell & Main Entrance), the stop flag [improperly] indicated that the 511 stopped there, and it left off the 522, which [correctly] makes a stop there.

    It’d been there a couple weeks, and in the interests of helping infrequent transit riders, I called Metro’s customer service line, at 206-553-3000, and reported it. The [telephone] operator was very polite, and thanked me for reporting it. It’s been fixed, and looks awesome.

    Moral of the story, if something looks wrong; find some white tape and a Sharpie. Seriously though, report it.

  10. Regarding Sounder… Last thing I heard, EMD stopped producing passenger locomotives–especially the F59PHI–about three years ago.

    So, what would ST order for its Sounder service expansion–MP36’s or P42’s?

    1. ST wants to piggyback on Tri-Rail’s contract. Tri-Rail sent out RFBs last year, but I don’t know who they were awarded to.

      1. Out of curiosity (Brian or anybody?) for a trip length of less than 100 miles, is the use of this type of heavy locomotive really necessary? Could they get by with a smaller design similar to what is used in Britain?

        Also, while Link might one day in 75 years make it to Tacoma, it certainly would take a long time to travel there at current design speeds. Sounder gets from Seattle to Tacoma in about an hour or less with few stops. Also, Sounder in my opinion serves a distinctly different population than SouthLink would e.g. Sounder serves the Kent Valley and communities east of the Kent Valley and of course, Puyallup, Lakewood and Tacoma.

        I also think that Sounder should have frequent service on the order of what was mentioned above e.g. 30 minute headways 18 hours a day. But I’d also bump that up to 20 minute headways 10 hours a day. and have an inter-modal transit center at Boeing Access Road to link with Central Link and buses.

      2. Link will probably be in Tacoma in more like 20 years.

        I appreciate that South Link serves a different area to Sounder. What I’m saying in the thread above is that Sounder scales like a bus (it’s not cheap to add more capacity, unlike Link). It’s also way more expensive than a bus, so each sounder train takes away several busses from the Kent valley. No one has showed me ridership numbers (or densification likelihood) for that area that justifies doing that off-peak.

        Just because a railway line goes through a city doesn’t automatically mean we should be running passenger trains through it every 20 minutes all day. There has to be a LOT of riders to justify it.

      3. All speeds serve a primary market effectively but break down at longer distances. Link to SeaTac is 37 minutes, so my estimate for Link to Tacoma Dome is 80 minutes. (Others have suggested down to 60 if it’s all-elevated, but we’ll have to see what the engineers say.) Meanwhile Sounder is 58-59 minutes, the 594 is 50 minutes, and driving is 30 minutes (without traffic). So the express buses will still be needed at rush hour, and ditto for Federal Way-Seattle.

        Whether Link can replace the 577 and 594 off-hours depends on whether the public will accept a longer travel time in exchange for greater frequency. 5-10 minutes longer is acceptable to most people (and is what Metro did with the 194), but longer than that starts to be too much. Although with the budget shortfalls and rising price of oil, ST may eventually have to say, “It’s Link or nothing, get used to the travel times.”

        Kent, Auburn, and Puyallup are in a different transit corridor than 99. The 150 takes 60 minutes to Kent, and a bus from SeaTac or (future) 240th to Kent would have to be express and frequent to even match that.

  11. Is Metro looking at getting the 71/72/73 back on a clock face schedule (as Oran often complains that it is not)?

    1. Don’t forget the 74, in the peak-hour direction, as part of the interlining. (What does the 74 do when it isn’t in revenue service? Wouldn’t it be useful to be two-way, since commuting is going in both directions?)

      1. Look at the trips on OBA, near the bottom where it says “Continues as…”. If I recalling correctly many of them continue as inbound 73s from 65th. Some also deadhead back downtown (or back to Sand Point in the mornings) and run another 74. Yes, this does seem like a waste, but it’s faster (and thus cheaper) and more reliable to deadhead than to run anywhere in service. Keeping this in mind, Metro allows customers to ride deadheading coaches. They won’t make stops to pick anyone up (save for on 520) so you pretty much have to be on, or have boarded by he time the coach reaches the terminal of the revenue trip before the deadhead. You can’t ride inside the base, but if it’s possible to drop you off outside the base you can ride to there (no place to drop off outside Norh Base).

  12. Since this is an open thread I’d like to point out a bill in the WA house & Senate that could help transit funding:

    The creation of a public bank!

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1320&year=2011
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5238&year=2011

    With a discussion here:
    http://www.truth-out.org/washington-state-joins-movement-public-banking67119

    The creation of a public bank would allow the bank to buy Washington State Bonds at lower interest rates than are offered on Wall Street. Or to issue loans based on future tax revenue. Also at a discount.

    Since we are using the tax revenues that we have currently collected and any rainy day fund that might exist in the future, we can borrow money from the Fed at near 0%, and loan it to WA state infrastructure projects. This could seriously cut the cost for building things like this blog’s favorite, light rail.

    Why should we let private firms set the bond interest rates when the buyers of those bonds are only interested in the money they make from us, vs WA citizens who are only interested in paying back the money owed and borrowing at the lowest interest rate possible. Which at the moment is near free thanks to the Fed’s stimulus and QE programs.

    So I urge the members of this forum to call their representatives and support these bills.

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