Photo by Atomic Taco

Riders who frequent the downtown transit tunnel (DSTT) during peak hours are commonly prone to lapses of frustration and impatience when a slow crawl of buses often lead to increased travel times, and even missed transfers.  A lot of what affects joint operations and just tunnel bus operations in general is the placement of the bus bays.

The current configuration separates buses by origin/destination regardless whether or not the route is inbound or outbound—east King buses stop at Bay B heading north and Bay D heading south, while north and south King buses stop at Bay A heading north and Bay C heading south.

Because routes don’t stop according to pick up/drop off patterns, the current configuration leads to a lot of operational issues, including but not limited to:

  • Buses that stop at the front bays can get stuck behind buses stopping at the rear bay.   Since drivers in the rear of the queue aren’t obligated to open their doors until they reach their respective bays, this sometimes results in lost time for passengers and missed transfers.  Often during peak hours, buses will get so backed up into the tunnel that drivers can’t open their doors anyway.
  • If a queue of buses waiting to enter a station forms with an rear bay route at the lead, outbound front bay buses at the back are prevented from picking up passengers simultaneously.  Since buses aren’t stopping at the same time, dwell times are staggered, increasing overall travel time and delay through the entire tunnel.
  • When buses waiting to enter a station do backup into the tunnel, signals prohibit trains a station back from entering because the DSTT’s blocking system only allows either train or bus to be in a segment at one time.  One bus backed up into a tunnel can trigger a cascading domino effect that affects reliability for all vehicles traveling through and entering the DSTT.

While Metro could solve a lot of these problems by eliminating the bays and having all buses pull up as far forward as possible, it would come at a disadvantage to commuters who like to be neatly separated by destination.  And with a long single line of buses stopping at one bay during peak hours, you would probably need new rules about how far back in the queue a bus would have to be before not having to open its doors again*.

With the tradeoffs, it’s not clear to me what an optimal bay configuration for the tunnel is.  At the very least, I would advocate for all inbound routes to pull up to the front bay since drivers would be primarily dropping off.  As someone who agrees that there are too many buses in the tunnel anyway, I like to think that a one-bay configuration might work with diminished peak volumes, but given Metro’s stance on the issue, changing anything in the DSTT would be tough to bargain.

*Current Metro policy states that a bus third in line or further back at a stop must open its doors when that bus reaches the stop at the head of the line.

81 Replies to “Reconsidering Bay Configuration in the DSTT”

  1. Having only one set of bays on each platform would reduce the cost of implementing a conversion to proof-of-payment, by cutting in half the number of ORCA readers for buses needed to be installed on the platforms. Sound Transit could install the readers to convert the 550 to POP inside the DSTT, and then negotiate the cost sharing if and when Metro decides to join the experiment.

    If there were only one bus bay, I suppose that would be a better solution to transfer runners than only having inbound buses or outbound buses on a platform at one time, and we can expect the runners to be coming in the forward direction.

    One additional ADA touch: Braille-and-numeric keyed bus request signs, with audio components, that could light up the requested bus on a sign very noticeable to drivers. This would be open to any rider who needs to wait at the front bay and not have to move to other front doors down the line. Let the bus come forward to the rider. The cost of these would be yet one more reason to have only one set of bays per platform.

    As for the trains, the best thing to do is just run the longest trains possible (four-car in 2016), and let headway increase to match ridership. I realize how silly my question was about getting more cars so that four-car trains could run in 2016. Four-car trains can do anything the three-car train algorithm could have done, but with a 33% penalty on headway. Train capacity would be the same. Bus capacity would be maximized. Operating costs for both would be less.

    And, of course, move the 255 upstairs to join the rest of the SR 520 trunk.

  2. It seems like the only way to avoid having rear-stopping buses delay the front-stopping buses is to assign buses to bays as they enter the tunnel, not on a permanent per-route basis. If there’s a train and then two buses and then another train, the first bus should be assigned to the front bay and the second bus should be assigned to the rear bay. The order of buses would need to be recorded at each end of the tunnel, and each platform’s existing electronic signs could show which buses will be arriving in which order and stopping in which bay.

    1. The original plan was to have buses hold momentarily at the tunnel staging areas and move through the tunnel in platoons — first platoon for the far end bay, second platoon stopping at the middle bay. Platoon launches controlled by the signal system, or manually by a supervisor.

      For reasons unknown to me, this was never implemented. Maybe now is the time.

      1. It would be pretty easy to do, if forward bay buses pulled into the right hand waiting queue, and back bay buses pulled into the left hand queue. They could each look over to the other lane and let the right lane buses pull into the tunnel first, when it empties, then the left lane follows.

        They would hardly have to pause at all, just queue up by bay location. Maybe Metro would have to install a go/no go light to hold them up, but I figure the drivers could manage fine.

      2. oh, and while the buses are waiting for the train to exit, they’d queue up naturally anyway. Just need to separate the two groups of buses so that they aren’t interleaved at the beginning of the tunnel.

      3. This is the best solution IMHO. One of the things the bay configuration does is get people standing in the right spot, which in theory should help reduce dwell times once we’ve got other problems out of the way.

        I’d like to know why this was never implemented. Even something as simple as leaving it to the drivers to manage with clear instructions (Two from the right queue, two from the left queue, repeat.)

      4. We kind of do this entering from CPS. When I’m driving a 550, 212, or other Bay D route, I look at the bays to my left and drag my feet a bit if I see buses to the left. It can work when operators are patient and cooperate.

  3. Inbound buses should definitely pull all the way forward. I have always thought this! Some operators actually do take it upon themselves to do this, regardless of the general rule.

    I am really in disbelief that Metro has not addressed this by now. I’m actually an East Base operator. I’ll see if I can find out if the rules can be broken or not…

    1. How do you know when a rider needs to get off at a certain bay, and has an ADA reason to do so?

      1. Ada passengers are only a consideration if they are boarding an outbound bus. Metro expects all passengers to be able to walk at least two blocks without assistance. If they can’t, they need to use access. Tunnel platforms are about two blocks long.

      2. If a person is blind, they need to be able to identify where they are. Re-training would be necessary to make this happen.

    2. I do this any time I know there a bunch of buses in the tube behind me, otherwise I just stop at the assigned bay. I’ve been doing this ever since we started sharing the tunnel and have never heard a peep out of a supervisor.

      I’ve done the reverse as well – When driving an inbound 71-73 if I get stuck behind a 550, 212, or other Bay D coach, I just pull up snug and open the doors to let everybody off – I then make an announcement that I can stop further down the platform if anybody needs me to – it’s rare, but some folks do request it. I also look out for folks at the other end of the platform looking to go further in the tunnel.

  4. I’d suggest 10% or 20% fewer buses in the tunnel, to reduce jams. Hasten the conversion of Third to bus-only at all hours.

    Also, change the federal agreements so that buses and trains can run closer together. I’d guess this might reduce delays by a minute or so overall.

    1. If the buses and trains could be at a platform simultaneously, consider the two permutations.

      1) Train leading, buses trailing: That would cut the platform space for the buses in half, unless some wierd variable-bay scheme were attempted.

      2) Buses leading, trains trailing: I’m not holding my breath that the FRA would go for that. Or the ATU, for that matter. If I were a bus operator, I wouldn’t want a train pulling up right behind me. :{

      1. I agree on 2.

        As for 1 I think the issue is more related to keeping buses a full signal block away from trains in the tunnel segments (a full tunnel segment) and requiring buses to wait for trains to fully exit the station signal block before they can enter. This is how trains operate but there is no reason to put such restrictions on buses.

        Buses should be able to enter signal blocks before the train has fully left it. I think it is okay to say that buses should only start to pull up to the platform once a train starts to leave, but the current system is just way to onerous and is artificially reducing the capacity for some semblance of “safe” operations.

        A partial technical fix for problem 1 and 2 would be to double the number of signal block segments by cutting them in half so buses/trains can essentially follow each other closer, which theoretically increases capacity and reduces delay.

      2. Adam: Changing the way the signaling works sounds expensive, especially considering that the buses are only “temporary” anyway.

      3. @Michael it would be. I should have said I don’t think that will ever happen. Metro is already having enough problems with the signalling system. I’m sure they don’t want to make it any more complex than it already is.

      4. “A full signal block away / a full tunnel segment… This is how trains operate…”

        Except in Boston. Or SF. Or Philly. Or any of dozens of European semi-tunneled pre-metro systems.

        In all the above, operation is by line-of-sight in stations, with much shorter signal blocks between. Only blind corners have absolute segregation (requiring clearance of the preceding block), and even then it’s a matter of dozens of feet rather than hundreds.

        Basically, if you can see the train in front of you, go ahead, and just don’t hit it. Pretty straightforward.

        SF Muni installed some semi-automation a few years back. Trains can still pull right up behind one another in stations, but the system won’t let more than one vehicle open its doors simultaneously. It has been a disaster.

        Rob goes into greater detail on the Boston example about 2/3 of the way down the thread, but it bears repeating up here.

      5. @DP you’re totally correct. This systems are mostly trams (part streetcar part LRT) and older. I don’t think it is very likely that they would ever be built like that now… not that I think that is right or wrong. One thing to also keep in mind is the weight difference of a art bus vs Link. If a train hit a bus it would be worse than a train hitting another train because of the weight difference.

      6. Yeah, I’ll pass on #2. If I slump over the wheel and slam into a train because of a medical emergency, you’re going to have a lot fewer injuries than if the reverse happened. (And yes, I know there are safeguards to prevent that from happening – It’ just an example)

      7. Adam [belatedly, should you happen to stumble back here]…

        If I’m not mistaken, most of Germany’s tunneled pre-metro upgrades have come online or been significantly expanded within the last 25 years. This kind of operation was not even in question… the tunnels were built out of a need for maximal frequency and unimpeded close headways, so doing anything to undermine that would defeat the whole purpose of the project!

        I just fail to see the fence-around-the-fence system overdesign as “progress,” even in the American mindset you describe. “We can’t do what has worked in Boston for 115 years. We must triple the minimum headway! Progress!!”

        The only Green Line accidents in recent memory have resulted from extreme driver negligence — texting while driving (sad but true), blowing through a blind-corner red light (that was working properly). The Green Line carries 1/4 million people per day, and this sort of thing happens perhaps once every five years. The damage and injury from these events pale in comparison to the nightmare failure of the fully-signal-blocked automated train control in Washington, DC.

        So for much more money, Seattle gets something more delay-prone, now and in perpetuity. Where’s the progress?

    1. Go ahead. I’ll hopefully have a post next week that is on a similar topic but we’ll see.

      1. I hope we can go beyond debating which routes belong in the tunnel to the topic of how to get the fastest movement for buses through downtown, in general.

        For example, should more of the routes be live-looped, in a manner similar to the 577/578?

    2. Great, thanks.

      I think there’s general agreement that the tunnel is currently congested in the peak and underutilized off-peak, and also that we should try to maximize the utility of the tunnel by putting the busiest routes that can benefit from the tunnel (mostly I-90 and SODO busway busses) in the tunnel.

      Another important constraint is that Sound Transit does not want to run any more busses in the tunnel, because the debt service on the tunnel is allocated proportionally according to how many busses each agency runs there, and ST does not want to pay more money. Setting aside whether, given the financial disaster impending at Metro, this is the right line for ST to take, any reorganization of the tunnel routes needs to be a musical chairs game with only Metro routes.

      One thing that anyone in West Seattle or Downtown knows is that since the long-term lane reduction on the viaduct started, the viaduct is routinely gridlocked southbound in the PM peak, and this backup extends through the on-ramp at Columbia all the way back up to 3rd Ave. Were it not for the bus lane and queue jump at 2nd & Columbia, it would be almost impossible for busses to get onto the viaduct at all.

      Even with those things, the congestion makes it hard for busses to turn right from onto Columbia, which, due to the number of routes that make that turn, causes bus congestion 3rd (some artic drivers take up two lanes to make that turn, blocking 3rd southbound completely) A few weeks ago there was an accident on the viaduct that closed another lane, which reduced it to a parking lot, in turn causing busses (to West Seattle and otherwise) to back up from Columbia to Pike, with delays of up to 40 minutes on unrelated routes.

      So in short, the viaduct is now a disaster area for Metro, becuase West Seattle busses are appallingly slow and unreliable in the peak, and those problems are now spilling over onto 3rd.

      There are other issues with the viaduct routing. More service is being provided from the north end of downtown to the north end of West Seattle than from the south end of downtown and SODO to West Seattle and Burien, when there is plenty of demand between those places. Metro’s system map for West Seattle is a tangle in part because the route pattern is split between the viaduct, 1st Ave S, 3rd Ave S, 4th Ave S, the SODO busway and the viaduct.

      We could arguably fix or improve all of these things — with some tradeoffs, of course — by kicking out all the peak-only commuter routes from the tunnel and putting all or most of the service to West Seattle and Burien in the tunnel and down the busway, while consolidating the current mess of 2x and 5x routes into more frequent routes that cover the same areas.

      So the obvious tradeoff here is that the 5x routes and 120 will be slower in the off-peak than they are on the viaduct. Going southbound, they will be subject to closures of the Spokane Street swing bridge. The I-90 peak busses will not enjoy quite as good of a connection as they do from the tunnel.

      But in the peak, routes to West Seattle will almost universally be much faster and more reliable, and 3rd Ave will function much better southbound. West Seattle routes will be on a much more comprehensible pattern that provide more frequent service to a greater area. The tunnel will be utilized much better.

      This tradeoff seems to me to be quite worthwhile, although I’m only an occasional visitor to West Seattle. What does everyone else think?

      1. The connection from the Busway to the West Seattle Bridge is somewhat clumsy. You don’t want to put buses on the lower bridge, and have them be subject to delays from both bridge openings and freight rail crossings.

        In the long term, West Seattle buses will probably be consolidated to 1st Ave S once the Spokane Street Viaduct project is finished. The new onramp is set to open this fall.

        In the extreme long-term, they’ll likely hop on 99 at Atlantic, instead of at Columbia.

      2. Oh wow, yes, that’s much better. Is 1st Ave S reasonably free flowing most of the time? If they did some stop reduction in SODO that could be a good way for West Seattle busses to serve the south end of downtown and SODO without too much of a time penalty.

      3. It goes without saying that the 255/256 should be kicked out.

        I’d also like to see more busway buses moved into the tunnel, including the 34/39, and maybe the 177, 190, and 196. (Potentially the 124 could also be re-relocated into the tunnel and busway.) Ideally, there shouldn’t be any Metro buses that need to deal with the light at Royal Brougham.

        As far as kicking out peak buses, I only half agree. For buses that are peak-only modifications of (or supplements to) regular routes, I’d prefer to see those routes kept together. Thus, the 34 and 39 should go in the same place. Similarly, I’d keep the 74, 76, 77, and 102 in the tunnel. But I agree that we should kick out the I-90 peak buses, and have them follow the same route as the 554. And the 301 and the 316 should follow the same downtown routing as the 522.

      4. Peak-only busses are a waste of space — they’re why the tunnel’s half empty most of the time. Trading I-90 peak-only busses for peak-only busway busses isn’t worth the effort.

        The 39 and 34 don’t perform particularly well, not are they well designed routes, given the existence of Link in the RV. The 34 is almost certainly going to get the chop in February, and the 39’s ridership probably couldn’t fill a 60′ coach, and you can’t run 40′ coaches in the tunnel.

        We shouldn’t be trying to maximize the number of routes that use the tunnel best; we should be optimizing the number of people who benefit most from the tunnel.

      5. You make a fair point about the busway buses.

        Still, I’m not sure why you’d want to kick out the 74/76/77/102 (if, indeed, you do). That’s just going to create more confusion. Right now, people know that, if you want to go to the U-District in the fastest way possible, you go into the tunnel. If you kick out the 74, that’s no longer true. And it would be awfully strange for the 76 and 71 to have different downtown routings, and likewise for the 73/77 and 101/102.

        It’s not that I’m trying to maximize the number of routes in the tunnel. Rather, I’m trying to maximize system comprehension and trunk frequency. To the extent possible, I want to build frequent corridors with consistent routing. So a bus like the 76, which is arguably just a super-express 71, belongs in the same place as its sibling.

        The real problem, if one exists, is that the tunnel’s alignment and lack of trolley wires makes it hard to find better candidates. The only all-day I-5 routes I’m aware of that aren’t currently in the tunnel are ST routes. The 66 doesn’t see sufficient ridership for the tunnel. The 43 needs wires. The West Seattle buses will (as Lack points out) use 1st, and anyway, decoupling the West Seattle buses from northbound buses could potentially wreak havoc with through-routing and bus utilization.

        Aside from a massive detour and/or skipping a number of important stops, what other Metro buses would you put in the tunnel that would take the place of the 74/76/77/102?

      6. I should clarify. The peak only busses that I’m referring to are the 21x and 22x I-90 routes that, while important, have no full time all-day peers in the tunnel, and arguably make the most sense on 2nd/4th with the 554 and most of the other suburban routes. Also I’d kick out the 301 and 316 as I don’t think they’re hugely utilized, but the 7x peak-only routes are well used and it makes sense to keep them there.

        Knowing now about the Spokane Street viaduct project and having taken a walk down 1st Ave S, I’m totally sold on the idea of putting all the West Seattle routes on that.

      7. It’s kinda annoying when Metro and ST make policy decisions based on how to edge out the other agency for more money. You’d think their overlapping boards would put a stop to that.

        If I understand Velo correctly, then it is ST we should be lobbying to request that the 554 be moved into the tunnel, which would then cause Metro to move the 255 out.

      8. Bruce,

        After February (if the cut-list makes it through unscathed), there will be only three 4th Ave I-90 Metro routes that won’t be in the tunnel: 202, 214, 215.

        The 202 has only four morning and six afternoon peak-direction trips that run through downtown. The 214/215 have only sixteen morning and fifteen afternoon peak-direction trips.

        Now that the 554 is dropping from 15- to 20-minute midday headway, the cost to ST to move the 554 into the tunnel should drop by about 30-35%.

        With a little less inter-agency squabbling, I-90 and SR 520 trunk consolidation (which I find to be more important, from a rider-convenience perspective, than just moving all the all-day routes into the tunnel and all the peak-hour routes out) is within spitting distance.

  5. I’d say that you want two bays:
    – The back bay is for buses whose trips begin in the tunnel; this gives a reliable place in the middle of the platform for people waiting for their bus
    – The forward bay is for buses whose trips are ending in the tunnel; this allows passengers who need to transfer to see the loading buses as they go past, and gives them a better chance of attracting that driver’s attention, if they are coming from the front.

    -jeff

    1. That doesn’t solve the backups, though. You could then have inbound buses waiting to drop off as outbound buses are loading.

  6. Seems to me that if you created one large bay and had all buses pull as far forward as possible, you’d need to increase the dwell time of that bunch of buses to allow for transfers, deal with riders standing in the wrong part of the platform needing to get to the opposite end, and to allow for slow-moving riders (hobbled, old, ADA, carrying large packages, etc) to reach their bus.

    Basically it would result in the center sections of the platform bulging with waiting passengers…unless we had real-time arrival information so that people knew the order of incoming bunches of buses. My RTA soap box is pretty worn out though, so I’ll stop now.

  7. My most frustrating experience in the tunnel is when I am just waiting for whatever bus comes next so I can quickly get to the other side of downtown. Generally I wait at the back of the front bay and have good luck, but on numerous occasions the first bus to arrive was at the back bay and even after running to the other end the bus pulls away and does not let me on.

    1. I always stand slightly upstream of the middle. Because you’ll have a bit more time to get to the downstream bay. I don’t think this problem goes away no matter what happens, as long as there are buses in the tunnel. Consider cross training to help your speed – maybe start using the escalator on the way down instead of the way up.

    2. I always stand at the north/south bays because they’re more frequent than the east/west bays. And if I’m going northbound I take a bus that’s continuing north (usually 71/72/73) because it stops at the normal northbound bay at Convention Place. The buses that don’t continue north often loop around and stop at the side bay, which means waiting in the bus while it turns and loops, and then walking further when you get off the bus.

  8. One thing I didn’t see mentioned earlier (I admit I scanned so may have missed it) is the effect bays have on people who use the tunnel to circulate between downtown stations. When I do that I find myself constantly running to the other bay, because I want to catch the next bus regardless of bays.

    Someone mentioned that the original tunnel operating plan would have staged buses at either end, and released them in the proper order so that two buses would stop at the front bay and two at the rear one. It was never implemented because (1) only one of two planned dual power bus purchases was made to there were never enough tunnel buses to make it necessary, and (2) subsequently someone determined that there were problems with the original staging plan that I’ve never been able to learn about.

    Now, though, there’s no reason to operate 2 bays. For buses, the tunnel is just one more downtown street, and unless skip stops were possible there’s no economy to using both bays without staging and sorting being done. The better plan is to have buses stop at a single bus stop using normal operating rules, meaning that a fourth bus (pretty rare) could need to stop a second time, but would not hold up other buses or trains from entering the station.

    One more thing – if you’re ever in Boston’s Park Street station where the Green and Red lines meet, take a moment to watch the green line light rail operation. They operate on a 50-second headway with one and two-car trains, with line of sight operation in stations and with passengers circulating across the tracks continuously. If anyone wonders whether our light rail operating rules are maybe a little too conservative, you just have to see the scrappy operations that other cities with mature light rail lines have been happy with for decades. Between Metro’s inertia for change, and ST’s conservative operating standards, even the easy and obvious improvements (let buses pass again!) don’t get made to iron out the challenges of joint operation.

    1. Speaking of bus passing (using the center lane), was there a rationale given for discontinuing the practice when light rail operation began?

      1. The rationale as I understand it is that some light rail standards person decided that no vehicle should come within so many feet of the “envelope” the LRV travels within. This, even though LRV’s are bound to a track (so they don’t wander horizontally like buses), and so there is less likelihood of a collision than there has been for a couple of decades of bus operation.

      2. One of the dispatchers told me that it screws with the signaling system if the buses leave a block in a different order than they entered it.

      3. Using the center area would interfere with how the two directions are able to operate independently of each other.

        More importantly, if a head-on bus-train collision, even a sideswipe, did occur, the destructive force would be much larger than for two buses bumping heads, partially because the train stopping distance is much longer.

  9. With superior tunnel connections to I-90, SODO busway, and half-time to I-5 at the north end, those are the routes that should use the tunnel, and the 520 routes should be on the surface. The agencies should negotiate the debt service separately, and that shouldn’t be used to create operating inefficiency.

    If the AWV is clogged, maybe Metro should have a standing reroute that can be used by any buses that would otherwise use the AWV. Since there are no stops served, that reroute can be implemented whenever needed (like the 545 used to operate on Northup/NE20th sometimes when 520 was jammed.)

    Another thought on tunnel operation would be for Link trains to always pull completely forward – and then let buses pull in behind the Link train and start their boarding and disembarking. This could mean the following signage and operation practices: Link area is designated at the forward half of the station in each direction. There is only designated bus bay for buses that are leaving downtown, and it begins about a third of the way from the front. Buses that are terminating in downtown always pull as far forward as possible and only stop once. Buses that are beginning their route pull as far forward as possible, but not past the 1/3 point marked as the bus bay, and also only stop once. People waiting to board buses wait roughly in the middle while Link passengers wait at the front.

    1. “The agencies should negotiate the debt service separately, and that shouldn’t be used to create operating inefficiency.”

      Well, yes, that’s nice, but not the reality of it. Metro wanted ST to put the 522 in the tunnel, but they only wanted the 550 and told Metro to deal (as I’ve heard it). That’s why the 255/6 is in the tunnel.

      “Since there are no stops served …”

      There is an extremely busy stop at Columbia & 2nd. That said, for just one stop, Metro could create an alternate stop on 3rd and have a supervisor slap a temporary sign up on Columbia on the other on those days when the viaduct is completely hosed. Metro should do this regardless of any bigger restructure. That still doesn’t solve the general problem of PM peak routing and the fact that running through SODO is faster and more reliable most of time, and will be for the foreseeable future.

  10. One bay would require too many runners without increasing dwell time. At every stop, if a 550 is at the end of 5 buses, every rider would have to run past 5 buses to get to the bus they want.

    This could be mitigated, however, if the bays had a display of which order the buses are in as they enter (and presumably leave) the tunnel. Riders would read the signs and stagger themselves accordingly. Maybe add notations on the ground signifying the waiting area for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd buses.

  11. Here is my suggestion:

    Consolidate northbound bus service into a single bay (see details below).
    Retain the two bays southbound.

    The reason to consolidate bays northbound comes down to the following reasons:
    1.) Bay B has significantly less use in the PM Peak than does Bay A. The volumes at Bay B in the PM Peak is 10-15 trips an hour (Routes 255 and 550), while Bay A has 40-45 trips an hour (Routes 41, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 77, 101, 106, 150, 301 and 316)
    2.) The tunnel capacity northbound is less than southbound capacity due to the train clearing that occurs at Westlake that drives up train dwell times and creates a backup of buses entering Westlake.
    3.) Most passengers waiting at northbound platforms are waiting for buses and not light rail due to the fact that light rail ends in the tunnel.

    For the consolidated northbound stop, I would propose the following operational parameters:

    The bus flag would be at approximately the same location as the pylon for light rail, which is about 100-150 feet from the head of the platform. Customers would be encouraged to congregate at this location.

    Buses arriving at the station would look into the mirror to see if there is a bus following. If there is a bus following, the bus would pull one bus length past the flag, to allow two buses to load behind the first bus. If no bus is following, then the arriving bus would stop at the flag.

    **The one exception to this rule would be when there is a visually impared customer at the flag, in which all buses would stop at the flag instead of pulling past. (This rule is already adhered to by drivers who are the second coach in line).

    The benefits to this situation are as follows:
    — Three buses can load simultaneously
    — The third loading bus would not need to stop again since it is within one bus length from the stop flag.
    — Customers boarding the first bus are actually closer to a door than customers boarding the third bus since they can enter the rear door which would be 20-25 feet in front of the flag.
    — More riders would enter the rear door of buses reducing dwell times given that the rear door presents two pathways (one forward and one backward) to filling up the bus rather than the one pathway (backward) through the front door (the aisle way is also more narrow in the front making it single file as opposed to the possibility of boarding side-by-side in the rear).

    Ideally, the tunnel would be fitted out with information regarding the positioning of buses at the platform upon arrival. Since the buses are first in/first out of each station, information could be provided at downstream stops that the bus in the first position would be Route A, in the second position Route B and the third position Route C. This would give customers a chance to move into position prior to the bus arrival (and thereby reduce dwell times further). I know this system is used elsewhere (I can’t remember exactly where). However, given the long-term plan to remove buses from the tunnel I doubt such an investment would be made by Metro or Sound Transit. But how about a web app using One Bus Away????

    As for the reasons to not consolidate the stop southbound, it comes down to the following reasons:
    1.) The bus volumes are more balanced between Bays C and D.
    2.) There are more light rail passengers waiting, so distributing customers along the platform reduced congestion on the platform.
    3.) Volumes are higher since there is no train clearing.
    4.) Buses can be “sorted” somewhat at Convention Place Station given the three bay structure (Bays I, C and D). If Metro wishes, buses at Bay C should move first, buses at Bay I move second and buses at Bay D should move third. This would allow buses at Bay C to be first in the “tube” while buses at Bay D would be last in the “tube”. Buses in Bay I should go in the middle since they are primarily discharching passengers and can stop between Bays C and D. I believe there is already a sign at CPS encouraging drivers to yield to buses on the left. However, this allows buses in Bay I to proceed buses in Bay C which is suboptimal. Also, I’m not sure that sightlines at CPS are good for this given that I routinely see buses from Bay D “cutting off” buses from bay I.

    Anyway, a bit long winded, but I think we could really improve things with the proposed consolidation of bays northbound. (Additionally, I believe the three bus loading could potentially be used on surface streets in downtown Seattle to improve dwell times).

    Thanks for reading!

  12. The buses should be sorted by bay as they queue for the tunnel at peak. This plan never should have been dropped.

  13. From a casual observer standpoint I think just having all buses pull as far forward as possible and do a second stop if they are outbound and more than 3 buses from the front would fix many of the current congestion issues in the tunnel.

    Beyond that I’d like to see the peak-only routes kicked out of the tunnel and replaced with routes offering all-day service. Ideally this would include relevant ST routes as well as MT routes. It does seem to me that capacity through downtown, both on the surface and in the tunnel could be better optimized.

    In any case something needs to be done about the Northbound charlie foxtrot in the tunnel during PM peak extending into the early evening.

  14. As a former DSTT bus operator and a current Link operator I suggest the following:

    1. All inbound service stop only once as far forwsrd as possible at each station. I was told in a meeting last year that their is reluctance to adopting this policy due to ADA rules – but every bay has appropriate markings to make this unnecessary. IMO all other policy changes are inneffective without this change especially during peak periods.

    2. Properly stage all outbound service at each end of the DSTT. At CPS this is already done except for proper signal use or supervisor dispatching to ensure that a platoon is formed before entering the DSTT southbound. In addition – all inbound service arriving at CPS needs to use bay I to maximize the number of inbound only bus platoons or the ability to slip in an inbound bus into a platoon of outbound busses to fill up the platoon. At IDS – outbound busses entering from Royal Brougham need to be staged before entering IDS station – only inbound busses proceed direct to the IDS platform. It would be very easy to plug bay B outbound service behind a mini platoon of inbound service. Metro may need to reconsider IDS staging layover requirements to implement this change because it would require at two IDS staging lanes be open at all times one for Bay A and one for Bay B service.

    3. Eliminate hard timepoints in the DSTT – there should be no busses waiting for time at any station in the DSTT ever. Nor should there be any bus going at less than the maximum safe speed through the DSTT ever. This goes hand in hand with – after bus doors are closed they are not to be opened again – bus must proceed.

    4. The signal system for busses in the DSTT has different signal aspects to indicate different instructions for “lead” or “trailing” busses – but in the training that I received before rail operations began in the DSTT there was little or no instruction on their use. Currently both aspects seem to be treated as proceed – often resulting in too many inbound busses or front bay outbound busses getting behind a rear bay outbound bus – made more complicated when a train proceeds through. Additional training on bus signals perhaps would decrease the number of times this happens. Dispatching at both ends would help here too.

    5. Fix the ghost bus problem with the smart tag system (the system that identifies busses entering and exiting DSTT segments). There are too many times that the smart tag system fails to read a bus into or out of tunnel stations. This prevents other busses from following a ghost bus into a station (IDS from staging area) and trains from entering or leaving a station (numerous locations – worse where there is a line of sight issue preventing train operator from seeing segment ahead).

    6. Add a security guard to sweep the other LRV at Westlake station at least during peak periods – this would reduce the dwell time of trains arriving at Westlake to less than that of any bus.

    7. Implement POP on busses. Add metro fare media to TVMs.

    Any of these ideas would streamline the “flow” if train and bus traffic through the DSTT reducing delays and increasing the overall throughput.

    1. I obviously support most everything you’re saying here, Jeff.

      Could you clarify point 7? Are you suggesting the tunnel routes be converted to full POP, or just through the tunnel up to the first non-tunnel stop?

      1. We should experiment with several options – anything to end the long dwell times for outbound service loading through one door after 7PM.

        Since ending the RFA is a political decision – we need to find a way move fare payment away from the farebox at DSTT stations. Making it possible to purchase Metro fares at TVMs could help at all times. Further incentivizing ORCA over cash would help too.

        The status quo is unacceptable – lets try out some alternatives!

    2. Also, while the TVMs probably could be programmed to generate Metro and ST Express bus tickets, is it really worthwhile to program the TVMs to do that? Are there that many riders who would not stand to benefit from just getting an ORCA?

      1. True – but we seem to be stumbling on finding a way to get more cash customers to adopt ORCA (debated on another thread).

        No one has suggested a way to correctly account for ORCA transactions on busses in the DSTT without tapping ORCA on the bus – which doesn’t solve the one door loading problem after 7PM (ORCA does save time over cash fumbling though).

        If the RFA was ended in the DSTT this problem would get worse without some way for ORCA to register on the bus (would you still have to tap when leaving the bus?)

        My limited mental capacity hasn’t come up with a solution either – thus the suggestion to add Metro fare media to TVMs. I assume this is still possible. I remember that TVMs did issue two types of paper tickets for a time when you could purchase a monthly/weekly/multi day pass at sounder stations. the tickets either were paper only and the passes had a mag stripe.

        You are correct that it may not be cost effective. I only suggested it as a possibility.

    3. Why is it necessary to have a security guard “sweep” the trains at Westlake station? There’s an automated announcement that it’s the last stop. You can add that the train is going out of service. Then if someone really wants to remain on board, at most the penalty is that they’ll be sitting in the train for about 10 minutes while it is parked in the pocket track and the operator changes ends. Within about 10 minutes they’ll be back on the other side of Westlake. So what if they sat in the train for the 10 minutes.

      Most other transit systems that I observe do not have someone sweep the train at a terminus – they just make sufficient announcements. It might be different if the train is going to the yard, but if it’s coming back into service shortly, at some point you can let the person who ignores the announcements have a minor consequence.

      1. The train isn’t just being swept for passengers who didn’t hear the message. It’s being swept for scary detritus that might be bombs. The process ain’t going away, and it does create a little bit of a bottleneck going northbound through Westlake Station.

      2. I don’t see the subways or PATH trains in NYC being swept that way

        So we’re worried that someone wants to blow up the Pine St stub tunnel on a train with no one aboard?

        Memo to terrorist, board the train with your explosive on the southbound track at Westlake so you’ll be past the sweep. You can alight at University St and leave it behind to go off between Pioneer Sq & Int’l Dist to cause the most damage.

    4. Unless POP on buses goes to a fully off-bus payment system like SWIFT, you’ll want to be careful with this idea. It only takes a couple of unprepared tourists with wadded up bills to clog up the system. Cash fare on board the bus needs to be more expensive and/or not available in the DSTT during peak times. That’s a tricky policy to get right.

      1. I’m assuming any proposal to convert the tunnel to POP assumes no cash payment is allowed on buses in the tunnel.

        A sign with a dollar and some change, a red circle, and a red slash through the middle , should get the point across. Post it at the marker, with a good map to all the TVMs.

        If everyone is forced to get an ORCA rather than a printed ticket, they might add some additional value and get their money’s worth by planning on taking more bus trips.

        Also, add some more languages to the loudspeaker announcements. This is Seattle.

      2. “If everyone is forced to get an ORCA rather than a printed ticket…”

        As much as I like the potential of ORCA there are plenty of times where one-use fare media. Think of somebody who’s car breaks down and wants to use the bus to get home. Make cash more expensive to incentivize ORCA use but passengers should always have the option.

        I like your no cash sign idea. Assuming Metro & ST can agree virtual fare gates, painted on the floor, like here and here, would make fare enforcement in the tunnel a snap.

      3. “there are plenty of times where one-use fare media” … “is appropriate”.

        There are also plenty of times where a forthcoming edit feature will be appropriate.

  15. Ideally we would remove the buses from the tunnel. Better scheduling and mabye evn holding of buses in peak times might be required to help allievate the situation. During less busy times schedule Arrival only buses to arrive and form a train at the same time, same with buses departing. During more busy times, hold them into approprate waves inbetween link trains. Also i agree with some prior posters that said that peak service needs to be removed from the tunnel in favor of all day service, and really all non suburban service as well. aside from LINK trains that is. Another idea i’ve had is to build a facility similar to NY’s PABT or SF’s Transbay Terminal at CPS, offering muliple layers of bus boarding parking. Metro service could hold down the basement where the tunnel is now, and the street level, with Sound Transit the first level above that and Greyhound and intercity on the deck above that. Just a though, you could have layover space and theres enough room for several platforms. I suppose you could even build a LINK station there if you got creative enough.

    1. Buses still carry the majority of the tunnel traffic, no? Shoving all of that traffic (bus and pedestrian) onto the surface without replacement service on Link seems like a very, very bad idea.

      Focus on trimming and combining routes in the tunnel and moving passengers over to Link as new stations come on line. At some point, probably when Roosevelt & Northgate open up, the balance will tip.

  16. Inbound buses should be able to stop anywhere, preferably in the stretch between the bays. Also, there is plenty of space for passing in the tunnel, so why don’t the buses use it? Allow southbound passing at Westlake and northbound at King Street, but forbid passing when leaving or cutting in front of a bus that is leaving so the buses naturally form platoons that will work nicely for the rest of the tunnel.

  17. The avenues in downtown are pretty much empty during the off peak hours, day and night, and during rush hour flow quick quickly.

    I think the Bus Tunnel was the first of the Great Boondoggles of Seattle that over-planned a relatively simply, working and dispersed system and centralized it for no good reason…and made transit worse.

    Maybe it still serves a purpose as a light rail only tunnel, although the point of “light” rail is to be inexpensive and quick to built. The opposite of what was/is done in Puget Sound where they took an easy technology and turned it into a convoluted mess.

    1. Bailo Fact Checker:

      ITEM. Traffic is heavy peak hour, before/after ballgames, and whenever there’s an accident or parade. Pioneer Square is a bottleneck at 2am Saturday and Sunday. Otherwise, traffic is light evenings and weekends, but the DSTT is still faster due to the lack of stoplights. I don’t know about midday weekdays.

      ITEM. Many taxpayers think the DSTT was the smartest thing Seattle ever did in the 80s and 90s, regarding downtown transportation. It made life much easier for those who use the tunnel routes, and it prepaid a significant chunk of a future subway cost. The tunnel may have been designed less than ideally, and it can be debated how much travel time it saves, but it’s not a boondoggle under any criteria. For boondoggles, see Safeco Field and Qwest Field, although even there they’re being used.

      ITEM. “Light” rail’s main distinction is that it’s lower capacity than heavy rail. The only light rail systems that are quick and inexpensive are those built like a streetcar, all on the surface. Those are slower and less effective than Seattle’s light rail. Link is a hundred times more effective than Sounder, by the way, because you can catch it every ten minutes rather than a few times a day (weekdays only).

      1. Man, do I ever…standing in front of the Bon on 3rd you could see buses stretched as far as your eye could track, south on 3rd. And they didn’t stop coming.

        I lived through the tunnel construction. Bailo’s cluelessness is remarkable; I can’t imagine anyone who was here before and after didn’t recognize the many benefits to transit riders from the tunnel construction.

  18. Alright, I’ve perused some of these comments, but I’d like to make a simple point. Let’s have the county divided into four parts (NW, SW, SE, SW), and then have buses depart from four different points downtown to their various destinations.

    Example: Route 1 goes to Shoreline, Route 2 goes to Duvall, Route 3 goes to Maple Valley, and Route 4 goes to Burien. Let’s have Route 1 (Shoreline) on 1st Avenue, and Route 2 (Duvall) on 3rd avenue. Then, let’s put Route 3 (Maple Valley) on 2nd Avenue, and Route 4 (Burien) on 4th Avenue. This would make it so that, within a tenth of a mile, one can catch a bus to any part of the county.

    Ideally, we’d simplify the routings to work as so. I invite this idea to all possible dissection. :)

    1. Don’t forget that 2nd, 4th, and 5th are one-way. So any route using one of these streets also needs to use another.

      In a sense, the system already works this way. All north I-5 routes (including 520 routes, but excluding tunnel routes) use 4th and 5th. All I-90 routes (except for the tunnel routes) use 2nd and 4th. All northwest Seattle routes (i.e. Fremont, Ballard, Shoreline) use 3rd.

      If you’re saying that we should rationalize the current system, and consolidate corridors (e.g. by moving the 255 upstairs and the other I-90 routes downstairs, or by designating either 2nd or 5th as the transit street and handing the other over to cars), then I agree. But I don’t think a full-scale overhaul is needed. It’s just details.

  19. I suggest having multiple bays at each station with a digital route number display at each one. Install a system that tracks which buses enter the tunnel, and which order they are in. Then, display the routes across the platform in the order that the buses will enter. The same information would be displayed at all four tunnel stops, since the order of buses doesn’t change between stations. This gives everyone enough time to get to the right bay before the bus arrives, and doesn’t hold up the buses in the rear.

    1. Many of the components to do that already exist. The signalling system already tracks buses and their order. We have the variable message signs and announcement system on the platforms. Hook the two up. Then add signs for each bay.

  20. While they’re at it, they should reconsider it elsewhere, taking into account the most-common transfer patterns. For instance, at Aurora Village Transit Center, the express bus to downtown Seattle is as far away from CT’s Swift as possible, similar to the eastbound local (#331), while routes that don’t have such transfer activity (e.g., the U-district bound #373) are closest. The signage at Lynnwood Transit Center is far superior, but I was told that Sound Transit staff had to be talked into it. Even so, having some general info at all transit center, such as SOUTHBOUND, is always helpful.

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