A London bus driver experiences the life of a bus driver in Manila. And I thought Bangkok’s traffic, buses and life of the poor was tough, Manila’s is tougher. This is more than just driving buses. This is plain survival.

76 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Toughest Place to be a Bus Driver”

  1. That show is really fascinating. The traffic seems worse than Bombay even.

    1. Just wanted to take a moment to express approval of the new Orion coaches; I rode a 128 this week for a couple of miles. Sitting on a patio on the street and listening to them pull away from a stop in front, they sounded about halfway between a trolley and a D40LF. Very like the new DE60LFRs, although the engine note changes more. Significantly quieter than the old 40′ coaches both accelerating and cruising at street speed.

      The seats aren’t as comfy as the old ones but they’re better than Vancouver’s or SWIFT’s or Link’s and they do the job just fine — less padding but better contouring. More importantly, I can actually sit straight in them, whereas I have to sit at 45 degrees on Metro’s Gillig’s; my knees touch the seat back in front, but it’s doable. Probably sucks for people who used to be able to sleep in the old high backs, but hey, welcome to my world.

  2. Does anybody know why ST doesn’t allow pets on its busses or trains, while Metro allows small ones on if you can carry them and big ones on if you pay their fare? It seems like pets are usually well behaved (better so than many people that I see), and if we want people to start abandoning their cars, isn’t it important that they be able to take their dog to the park etc?
    Any thoughts?

    1. One guess is that ST’s purpose is to connect PSRC-designated growth centers which generally speaking are fairly far apart. That means pets would need to be able to behave for longer periods of time than on many Metro routes. A dog that can hold it between the Central District and Capitol Hill may not be able to between downtown Seattle and Redmond, for example.

    2. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that ST also wants to keep it’s buses in a nicer condition, longer. Given that ST’s seats use woven fabric (vs. Vinyl [mostly] on Metro), keeping them free of Pet hair would be difficult.

      Also, for people who are allergic, sitting in the same bus as a dog or cat for 30 minutes would be unbearable.

    1. It looks like your standard ex-urban sh*thole to me, barely distinguishable from many other developments created during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against lower density development (I do live in suburbia, after all) but these areas seem purpose built for the automobile – every other mode of transportation is an afterthought.

      I’m not familiar with Covington so I wasn’t able to quickly locate an “Old Town”. I’ve found that in many cities the “Old Town” is where I prefer to hang out. Kirkland and Issaquah are good examples; “Old Bellevue” is another, although slightly too upscale, example. A quick look at Google maps reveals a list of the typically depressing and soulless businesses that inhabit such areas. Care to change my mind about Covington?

      1. Covington and its ilk are also great examples of 1990s/2000s “white flight” from the “travails” of the cities – but, guess what? There are crack labs out there in those woods, bringing crime and and degradation right to the doorsteps of those “refuges” from the cities. Unintended consequences again…

      2. Actually that Starbucks is one of my favorites. It’s one of the few where the people are friendly and the baristas actually remember me and what drinks I like. That little sitting area is sometimes full of locals (Saturday was our “heat wave” day, so most of them were inside in the air conditioning).

        The whole area on the street and in the interior road through the mall has really nice restaurants and malls.

        I don’t have a problem with places being “for cars only” — in fact, I have long been an advocate of bike, peds, cars each having their own separate road networks.

      1. At the very end there is a lone cyclist in the cross-walk (and yes, that’s legal in most places, provided you yield to pedestrians – If you happen to find one anywhere)

      1. He doubtless rode the 168, which I gather is his own home route.

        The Spirit of Norman says, “You could fit 55 of those cars-worth of people into one bus and cut down the traffic congestion.”

    2. For contrast, here’s a video shot from the outside deck at the Essential Bakery Company on 1st Avenue South in Georgetown:

      1. If I had to move (kicking a screaming) I’d pick Georgetown over Covington. Obviously public transit has succeeded in reducing the zombie automobile traffic there to a level where you stand a chance of surviving riding a bicycle on the street and traffic levels don’t assault your senses if forced to leave the cocoon of your automotive interior. If displaced to Covington so that the county could rebuild where I live with new affordable housing I’d trade in the Subaru on a Humvee. What’s the rear mount 50cal option add to the base price?

  3. Universal bike lanes: the only way to mass cycling?

    A major academic study has spent the past couple of years looking in depth into why people cycle (or don’t cycle) in four English towns. I won’t go into the research too much here, simply as I’ve written a separate news story on it, which will be up soon – I’ll link to it when I can.

    But I wanted to consider its main conclusion: the UK will never get anything close to a European-style mass cycling culture without some major (and to me, seemingly unlikely) changes, notably the construction of proper-width, segregated lanes on all main urban roads.


    1. John, you’d be wise to be skeptical of *anything* that purports to be the “only way to” do something. I was shocked to see how many cyclists in London were willing to ride in their rush hour traffic without any discernible cycling specific improvements with the exception of their Cycle Hire bike share scheme.

      1. We stayed in the Covent Garden area a few years ago and I was impressed with a number of cycle paths that had been pushed through on which I say the range of users from messengers to bankers. Surprisingly more bankers. What surprised me was how they took ROW traffic signals for granted. I guess motorists over there haven’t figured out that yellow means speed up before it turns red :=

      2. This study though seems to be a repeat of the findings in Oregon.

        And it reflects the evolution that European cycling star countries like Denmark and The Netherlands went through from bike lanes to fully segregated cycle tracks.

  4. The passengers were all well-behaved. Everyone paid their fare. And when I google “Bus Blind Woman Attack” I see a blind passenger being punched in the face on a bus in Seattle, not Manila. Maybe it’s not the toughest place to drive a bus.

    1. That’s because if you don’t pay, the other passengers will get upset with you, PLUS the driver will stop the vehicle, and kick you off the jeepney. (which lengthens the trip for the other passengers.)

  5. I like this video. I am familiar with the way things are in Manila. Even just walking you risk your life.
    I have driven a van over there. Terrified me. Luckily I didn’t have to pick up passengers and had a native giving me directions where to go.
    It does make you realize that eventhough we have problems, they are nothing compared to the problems over there. The roads are safer and smoother. (yes, even when we complain about potholes) Drivers (for the most part) obey traffic rules.
    And one that hits us out of the ballpark… Our pollution controls make life here much better. You don’t realize how much better until you actually experience the difference.

  6. Is anyone here satisfied with the crop of candidates for Seattle City Council?

    Even the challengers (except Meacham) are saying it’s time to move beyond the tunnel debate. Well, I say it’s time to move beyond the moving’ beyond meme.

    Candidates, what are your plans for how transit will continue to get through downtown smoothely when the viaduct shuts down? If you say the tunnel will take care of that, then please don’t even bother running. You just haven’t done your homework.

    That goes double for the incumbents. What’s your plan to get people into and out of downtown after the viaduct closes? Come up with an answer, or take the opportunity next week to make your retirement official.

    1. Are the challengers mostly pro-tunnel (in which case they’re more of the same) or anti-tunnel (in which case they provide a choice).

      1. How about those of us in the area that are PRO-tunnel and PRO-transit? We, and there are quite a bit of us, believe that the best way is to have a tunnel AND have a good public transit system. You can have a vibrant waterfront AND be able to move people around. You’re never going to get people out of their cars–$5 per gallon of gas proves that–so the tunnel can be for cars and a better transit system for the rest of us. In this country, there’s gotta be a way to design both. If China can build roads AND a rail system, surely we can, too.

      2. Dian Ferguson told the 34th Dems she wants to speed up the tunnel. I guess that’s a choice, sort of.

        Michael Taylor-Judd continues to support I-5/Surface/Transit. I’m sorry I forgot to mention him.

        I’m a little bit disappointed both Dian and Michael have signed onto John Fox’s call to displace Yesler Terrace residents twice: Once into temporary housing off-site and once back onto the current site.

        Maurice Classen is pro-tunnel. Bobby Forch is also pro-tunnel. I suppose Michael could sneak through by being the only anti-tunnel candidate running against Jean Godden.

        Searching for Sandy Cioffi’s almost-campaign at least yields hints that she is pro I-5/Surface/Transit, but definitely for tearing the viaduct down.

        Unlike Dian Ferguson, Fathi Karshie disagrees with Sally Clark on the tunnel. Fathi also plans not to raise any money.

        All I can find on Darryl Carter-Metcalf is that he hasn’t raised any money. At this point, Darryl is the only candidate standing against Tim Burgess.

      3. Cinesa,

        Could you point to any pro-transit proposals (not mere statements of being pro-transit) by the pro-tunnel candidates?

      4. Brent, thanks for the summary of the candidates. I haven’t heard about any of them, probably because I don’t watch TV and thus don’t see the ads.

        Cinesa, we can do that if we come up with the money to (A) close the tunnel’s funding gap, (B) pay for any cost overruns in the tunnel, and (C) raise additional money for better transit. The bills will come in that order, so if there’s not enough money to go around (because local governments are still in recession and there are anti-tax initiatives going around), it’ll be transit that loses. In contrast, the surface/transit option includes transit (probably adding to RapidRide and a downtown streetcar), so we’d be ahead even before we start raising money for C.

      5. I really believe a big chunk of what needs to be done downtown is more a matter of political will than of money. How much does it really cost to close off 3rd Ave to cars 24/7? How much does it really cost to rebuild 3rd Ave as four lanes of busway? (properly aligned so all the stops are close to tunnel entrances)

        For that matter, how many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb?

        A: One. You ask her/him a question, and she/he goes around in circles.

      6. Brent,

        Off-hand, I don’t know of any specific politicians who are pro-tunnel and pro-transit. I do know that many politicians want a mixture of transportation choices for ALL constituents. And yes, that does include Single Occupancy Vehicles. If you read my various comments through the months/years on STB, you’ll see that I am far more pro-transit than pro-SOV, but that doesn’t mean I am anti-car.

        Personally, I believe that 1st and 3rd Avenues in downtown Seattle should be transit only, with the exception of a few delivery vehicles relegated to only a few hours per day for their businesses. There should be no on-street parking in downtown Seattle, only parking garages, so there is no blocking of traffic. There should be an extra tax on personal vehicles that get less than 20mpg AND tax rebates for personal vehicles that get over 50mpg, motorcycles included. Current roads should be improved/maintained far more than they are today. A sidewalk should be a minimum of 6 feet wide so people can walk on it comfortably without bumping into walls or falling onto the street. Sound Transit should find a way to complete LINK to Lynnwood and Redmond in less than 10 years and Metro should find a way to feed into the LINK stations like other cities do around the world. And the right political leaders will find a way to make all that happen.

      7. All the real candidates have websites you can peruse. I encourage you to do so, contact the candidates, convince them of your positions, and get them to post those positions publicly, not just in an email to you.

  7. My original comment regarding the Rapid Ride B stops at 120th & NE 8th was off topic so I’ll respond to aw here:

    My comment:

    … the RR B realignment is going to eliminate the stops in both directions and ALL service to NE 8th & 120th near the new Bartell Drugs, Home Depot, Best Buy, Uwajimaya, and my favorite Eastside Indian restaurant. Normally I’d say folks can walk the 4 blocks from the Overlake Hospital stop at 116th, but there is no sidewalk along the south side of NE 8th and crossing over to the other side requires multiple crossings of very busy streets…

    If I were going to add one stop to RR B, this would be it, along with a Queue jumping light for RR B to get the jump on traffic in the General purpose lanes [eastbound on NE 8th].

    Aw’s comment:

    It looks to me from arial photos (see map) that there is sidewalk most of the way along the south side of NE 8th between 116th NE and 120th NE. But if I were going toward the Best Buy or Home Depot, I’d take the driveway at the Burger King to the grocery store parking lot and cut through there. There’s a walkway that goes through the middle of the lot, past the Starbucks and onto 120th NE. For Bartell, you can approach from the back along the access road and go through their parking lot.

    It looks that way, but it doesn’t exist the whole way. That sidewalk is interrupted by multiple parking lots. The whole area is generally unfriendly towards pedestrians. While you *can* walk through there it’s not convenient. As for a wheelchair user, forget it since they’d have to go along NE 8th to get across the RR tracks.

    This really seems like an oversight that I wish I’d caught earlier.

    1. Keep in mind that the City has major plans for redoing this entire area and I believe it’s funded and going to happen “real soon now.” It could be (this is a guess) that Metro didn’t want to invest in a RR stop only to have it bulldozed in a year or two. I would expect that after the redo things will be much more pedestrian friendly and with all the development the City is hoping to attract to the 120th corridoor a RR stop will be added. Other than Bartell’s I don’t see a lot of use for this stop. That place is such a wasteland now I didn’t even know a Bartell’s existed and I wouldn’t go there even in a car. Aren’t there a couple in DT Bellevue and one over in Crossroads on NE 8th plus a Walgreens on NE 8th at 140th. Not many people taking the bus to shop for big screen TVs or lawn mowers. Best Buy is saying they’re going to leave because the City want’s to lop off a corner of the store for ROW.

      1. There is a significant amount of offices south of NE 8th that feed into 120th.

        I remember going to a planning meeting and NE 6th may be extended across I-405 and onto 120th Ave. If I remember correctly, a concept was for the B line to use NE 6th to 120th and then turn onto NE 8th.

        The NE 4th LID is not yet funded. Anything can happen with the current council…

      2. “Other than Bartell’s I don’t see a lot of use for this stop.”

        I’d argue 120th is more used than 124th – and keep in mind that I will use the 124th stop to get over to East base (along with a walk along 124th which has no sidewalks :(

        I’m hoping your assertion about Bellevue’s plans for the area happening “real soon now” but I’ve seen a lot of plans for pedestrian and cycling improvements to Bellevue and frankly haven’t seen much. To me, it all appears to be lip service.

      3. Bellevue street projects have started to pay attention to cycle paths. Two members of the Transportation Commission are very pro bike and avid riders. Part of the problem is projects planned ten years ago were only completed in the last few years and planning back then was pretty dismal. Newer projects have decent bike lanes but it’s a patchwork quilt that unfortunately won’t be completed for 10 or 20 years. Pedestrian improvements are much quicker to realize because you get a major benefit with a 1/4 to 1/2 mile corridor. That sort of distance on a bike is just annoying.

      4. Not like Seattle. Bellevue has made it pretty clear that some streets are going to be devoted pretty much exclusively to traffic and separate, often parallel ped/bike routes created. One issue I keep trying to keep at the fore is that a pedestrian path does not equal bicycle infrastructure. There is a grand scheme in the ped/bike plan. It’s far from perfect. The good news/bad news is the it’s going to take a long time (10+ years) to implement but that gives plenty of time to work on making improvements. The NE 15/16th plans are starting to look pretty good in my opinion. The Main Street make over will be sweet but that’s not even funded yet beyond a small amount to continue conceptual design. Here’s what it said in the Growth Management Report to the PSRC:

    2. The whole 8th/116th area is extremely anti-pedestrian. The missing sidewalk segment on 8th is one example (I guess parking spaces are more important).

      Worse is the crossing of 405 along 8th St. On the east side of the freeway, you’ve got a 2-lane entrance ramp, engineered to encourage drivers to speed onto the freeway without regard for people trying to cross (they didn’t even bother to paint a crosswalk). With one of the lanes being a right-or-straight lane, as a pedestrian, this means that you can’t cross the entrance ramp if there’s any cars going straight, lest they decide to turn onto the ramp and run you over.

      The west side is a little better safety-wise, but you then have to cross through two traffic lights which are mistimed for pedestrians and have extremely long cycles.

      With the recent construction of the 10th St. bridge, there is finally a safe (albeit a bit out of the way) walking route across the freeway.

      1. Yep, NE 8th is an autozone. The new NE 10th is a good bike route in the evening. NE 12th/Bel-Red will be better… eventually (years). 116th is OK north of NE 10th up to Northup and with a jog gets you up to NE 70th (could use some improvements for sure).

      2. I don’t have a problem with NE 8th and NE 4th being “Autozones”. Given the state of Bellevue traffic, trying to shoehorn bikes on those streets would be problematic at best. Give me one uninterrupted North/South (NE 6th?) and One or two East/West cycle tracks or really wide MUPs through the city and I’ll be happy. I don’t mind riding on sidewalks for a block or two to get to my destination as long as pedestrian density allows for it. Additional enforcement (for aggressive cars and bikes) would also be welcome.

      3. I think you’ve got your compass rotated there ;-) Anyway, NE 6th (east/west) I believe is slated to go through to 120 at some point. I’m not convinced that’s a great idea. The farthest it could go (actually as NE 5th is 124th. Look at the map and you see that not just the terrain but the fact, Glenndale Country Club, Kelsey Creek Park and Woodridge Park form a contiguous green zone almost to I-90 and the Mercer Slough overlaps these parks west of I-405. NE 8th and the Lake Hills connector are all there ever will be (I hope) for cars. A bike trail could be installed to connect Main. All it would take is a bridge over the BNSF tracks and then a switchback trail like there is going up the hill from the grade school at the southern end of West Sammamish. There’s already the Lake to Lake trail. NE 15/16th will have a cycle path. Old Redmond road is very bike friendly; easier grade than the 520 trail. The 520 trail is OK but getting farther east than where it turns north at Overlake needs some help (it can be reasonably done cutting through the MS campus.

      4. I was referring specifically to DT Bellevue, West of 405. Your ideas for the broader area are worthy though, even though I believe them to be a pipe dream. Hopefully, I’m wrong but after biking through Bellevue to various points for almost 30 years I have reason to be skeptical.

      5. Yeah, best case things are better in ten years than they are now and decent by 2030. NE 10th is good today but I that will change for the worst when the braids project is done and be a no bike zone when the half diamond to the north is built. Hopefully NE 12th will be upgraded for bikes by then and connect with the NE 15/16th corridor through Bel-Red. Main Street isn’t too bad now and at least improved bike access is part of the planning process but don’t expect anything of ten years. North/south I don’t even know if there’s a plan for DT Bellevue.

    3. I drove past that area today, and it’s worse than I imagined. I had thought that it would be a viable option to detour through the parking lots, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. That crossing of the BNSF corridor is the worst. Right about where someone would want to cross the tracks, there’s an ecology block in the way; I’m guessing that someone in a wheelchair would need to get out in the street to cross the tracks.

      On the sort of, almost bright side, ST will be adding at lease a small bit of sidewalk at this point when Hospital station is built.

      1. The BNSF crossing in streetview. Yikes! Be sure to bring your off-road wheelchair.

        BTW, that’s three ecology blocks, just in case one isn’t enough.

  8. Anybody else try to use Link last night after the U2 concert? Mike Lindblom’s Twitter Feed had a few mentions. A friend of mine who was there had a round-trip ticket but decided against trying when she saw the crowds. Apparently ST had a 2-car train waiting for folks but no mention of how well the crowds were handled. It’ll be awesome when they can do 3 or 4 car trains for post-events. 2016?

    1. I keep hearing 2016 as the date 4-car trains can run, but the tunnels from Capitol Hill Station will be done long before then, and the tracks will be laid before the stations are built.

    2. Nope, I hoofed it, along with thousands of others. I did see several hundred people on Columbia waiting for West Seattle buses. Not sure how long that took to clear out. My friends waited over an hour just to get in to their parking garage to get their car, and then another thirty minutes waiting to get out. No one was going anywhere fast last night.

      1. No kidding about not going anywhere fast last night.

        There was stop and go on northbound I-5 after the concert. Seeing a mob trying to board a 66 made me very, very glad I drove (despite the long waits out of the garage/onto I-5) instead of taking my chances on transit.

      2. Until North Link opens, there really has to be some provision for giving transit priority ROW on I-5, not just special entrances.

      3. “Seeing a mob trying to board a 66 made me very, very glad I drove (despite the long waits out of the garage/onto I-5) instead of taking my chances on transit.”

        This is so sad… It just doesn’t seem that difficult to schedule overload trippers for events like this. Knowing that you won’t be stuck waiting for the next bus in an hour would make a lot of people choose a bus, hopefully with prioritized ROW, over driving. Then again, at $30 or $40 per parking spot around the stadium, that’s a lot of tax revenue for the city, Metro, and ST. Maybe Metro could figure out a way to rent out extra spaces in the employee garage to goose revenue even more…

    3. One of my friends grabbed a NB bus (I think it was at the ID Station) and said it was very painless to get back to the downtown Nordstrom’s where he parked. My GF and I walked north with the rest of the seething mass of humanity (which finally thinned out around Cherry/Columbia) with the thought of grabbing a cab back to Madison Valley, but finally decided it was such a nice night we might as well walk the whole way.

    4. It was interesting to see about 100 people get on northbound at Stadium station after the Mariners’ game this afternoon. Went from being a comfortably loaded train to being crowded. Hope these crowds show up as higher counts in the stats for June.

    5. I had to wait 15 minutes (just missed a SB train) but made it on no problem. Most everyone at ID got on but everyone at Stadium was left behind. It looks like they did have an extra trip as I saw a train go by 5 minutes after I got off. I still think they’ll need extra trips during 15 minute service intervals, even with 4-car trains, but at least there won’t be as much anxiety about whether you will be able to get on.

  9. I recently returned from a 2 week trip to Europe (travelling exclusively on public transit), so it has been discouraging to come home and read the last couple weeks of STB posts at one time. Not only are we in Seattle so far behind European cities, but we are making choices currently that will perpetuate that status. (On the positive side, our urban transportation is far ahead of chaotic, poor, American-influenced cities like Manila.)

    I visited 4 cities of various sizes on this trip: Paris, Prague, Barcelona, and Vienna. All four have fully-underground metro systems, even Prague with 1.4m metro area residents. None of the station entrances took an entire two block faces (as proposed for Roosevelt). Many stations have multiple entrances, separated by blocks, with mazes of long underground passages. Passages so long and complicated, that I have come to appreciate simple stations with a single center platform and direct escalators/elevators to the street.

    Prague, the smallest city, had a significant tram network. The tram system was fully integrated with the bus routes; the only difference was the superior ride quality, higher capacity and stronger physical presence on the street. Most track was shared with general traffic, so there was no speed difference in comparison to the buses. I support developing a streetcar system in Seattle, but we should be realistic about its actual advantages re bus. Our trolleybus network performs a similar function now: enhanced physical presence on the street and a unique, iconic mode of tranport.

    I have much more to say, so I will write up trip reports over the next few weeks on my blog Build the City.

    1. Regarding the station entrances and footprints to the underground trains, do those cities have the same sort of requirements that we do for access by disabled persons? Are they legacy lines, or recently built lines?

      1. There may not be ADA laws, but in every city besides Prague all platforms could be reached via elevators. Many stations had multiple entrances, and multiple mezzanines, so it takes some effort to find the elevators. The elevator could bring you onto the street a block away from the stairway entrance.

        I don’t recommend Prague as a destination for handicapped persons.

      2. Not every platform on the Paris Metro is accessible by elevator either. Probably not even the majority. Only newer or recently rebuilt stations have elevators.

      3. With the exception of U4 and a good portion of U6 (which were built prior to WW2 as Stadtbahns), Viennese U-Bahns have all been built since the 1970’s. I wouldn’t consider it a legacy system at all.

        Vienna, I believe, has even more extensive tram system than Prague.

    2. (On the positive side, our urban transportation is far ahead of chaotic, poor, American-influenced cities like Manila.)

      Actually, it may not have been covered in this video, Manila has a pretty nice rapid-transit rail system, and has for 20+ years. I rode it a while back and it was crowded but fast. Given limited resources, it’s excellent.

  10. Quick question about the Cap Hill station for U-Link, I was walking by and looking into the pit the other day and it seems like the station is wider on the north end of the box (closer to John.) Are there going to be turn around tracks there? I tried consulting a popular search engine for a design PDF to no avail. Can anyone shed light/link me?

    1. As far as I know there are not going to be turn-around/crossover tracks there. There are a few PDFs of cross-sections here, but unfortunately not one for the platform/track level.

      Bruce had supplied a link to a PDF with more technical drawings on another post several weeks ago, but I don’t have it handy. It did mention that there would be crossover tracks at a few points between Westlake and Husky Stadium.

      1. If there isn’t a crossover at Capitol Hill, there won’t be one anywhere else between Westlake and Husky stations except for the one that’s already in the PSST. AFIK, there will be crossovers at each of the stations in the North Link extension.

        I too looked in vain for that platform level plan view of Capitol Hill station. I know I’ve seen a drawing showing the crossover box at the Brooklyn station from the 10% design, but I’m not sure I could find it again.

  11. The Seattle rap group Blue Scholars dropped their much anticipated Cinemetropolis album today online and in track 3 they make a reference to the effect the train system had on the valley. — not quite a compliment. But, I’m lovin’ the album.

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