One drawback of DART service that I forgot to mention yesterday was that the vans aren’t equipped for onebusaway. A DART line is the only one that brings me to my employer’s front door but I’ve fallen out of the habit of using it.

A short-haul, infrequent line that is also unreliable and also has no real-time information is basically unusable if you have other options, in my case a carpool or bike. It’s enough to make me realize how awful it must have been to use most bus services in the 70s and 80s, especially in the suburbs.

When I was a kid in an East Coast suburb in the 1980s, the county bus was simply not something people took if they had an alternative. The frequent and reliable train, however, was just fine. I’d always presumed that was some sort of mode snobbery, but after experiencing those conditions, I think it made a certain amount of sense.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that onebusaway is awesome and transformative.

23 Replies to “DART and OneBusAway”

  1. There’s no reason they couldn’t be equipped. But when the equipment was purchased, there was no business need for it, so no money was spent.

  2. I couldn’t agree more about Onebusaway, it’s revolutionized my relationship with Metro. Between OBA and my Orca card I’m probably dropping an easy $300 a year with Metro et. al. these days, versus maybe $20/year beforehand. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s using the system a lot more now that’s it’s gotten so much easier to deal with.

  3. Metro’s current vehicle locator wouldn’t work on variable route service. It’s based on vehicle distance traveled since passing known beacons, so it’s dependent on knowing the distance of the route, and the distance from one stop to the next. If the route changes, the information is no longer accurate (hence why OBA isn’t available when there are reroutes).

    Now, when the GPS based system is implemented, it might no longer be a problem.

      1. It is being installed on coaches, though I’m not sure when it will be fully deployed. Metro expects it to be complete by the end of Q2 2012.

        Coaches with the new system installed are still showing up on the old system. I’m not sure if they’re injecting data in to the old system or running them both parallel.

      2. I can’t wait until the bus location feed comes back up! Visual representations of where the bus is located is a lot stronger than textual representations.

      3. Alper, you mean this?

        I was on a 545 the other day with the automated stop announcements, which I assume means it had the new GPS system. The OneBusAway arrival time for it was off (late) by over 5 minutes, closer to 10 I think. When I got to Redmond I transferred to a 245 that, by coincidence, also had the announcements and a wildly inaccurate OBA time. It may have just been a coincidence, but it seems likely to me that there are some bugs still to be worked out.

      4. Yeah, but the publicly-accessible feed (hosted by UW) has been down for a year which makes app development based on real-time location difficult.

  4. “A short-haul, infrequent line that is also unreliable and also has no real-time information is basically unusable if you have other options,”

    That’s why DART is installed mainly on the outer fringe where no fixed-route buses are available.

  5. There are two beautiful Dart Routes, 914 and 916, that run right outside my apartment complex. They serve residents here without cars especially the elderly and mobility challenged and bring them to the supermarkets like Top Food, where they will wait for them to get on with their groceries. It is definitely a “milk run” that takes it time winding around Kent, but the one time I took it, the seniors seemed to like the joyride…

    1. The ‘Shopper Shuttle’.
      Frog logo “Hop on Board” :)
      Lot’s of senior housing in downtown Kent, with residents trying to get to the Senior Center on Canyon, or up the hill to lots more shopping and activities.
      A legacy of the Kent Transit Advisory Board, under Mayor White.

    2. Same with the 913 for me. Although service has been reduced to commute times on weekdays (was Mon-Sat morning through early evening), it is a better alternative than walking the mile to the nearest 150 stop. That’s what I have to do when I’m on my way home from work around midnight.

      It’s also great for my wife who works a couple days per week at Kent Station.

  6. As someone who lives in Seattle, an important use case for me of buses in the suburban fringes is a way to get home if I’m out there on my bike and run into mechanical trouble. Most of these buses only run during the hours I’m sitting at my desk at work and, hence, aren’t useful to me, but there are exceptions, such as the Saturday trips on routes 118 and 209. Even though I’ve never had to use those buses, I still appreciate that they’re there for me if I need them when I ride my bike to places like Vashon Island or Snoqualmie Falls. In these trips were converted to DART service, I would no longer be able to use them for this purpose because it’s impossible to predict in advance where a tire or deralliur will decide to go.

    I realize that this is not the primary use case the service exists for, but nevertheless, I will miss it if it goes away, in spite of not riding it.

    1. There are a few bus and train routes in Chicago that I only ever used because of bike breakdowns.

      Another thing I did in Chicago (because the “Metrasphere” was a pretty good approximation of the extent of the urban sprawl) was to ride a Metra line out to its end, bike to the end of another Metra line, then ride back into the city. I haven’t done this in Seattle, but there would be some interesting trips to be had.

      1. When I lived in Silicon Valley, when I had bike breakdowns, or ever car breakdowns, I was more or less stuck walking. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and didn’t really know the bus system that well since it wasn’t all that useful… also, it didn’t run very late at night, and a couple of my breakdowns happened at night. I had to walk home once about 5 miles and once almost 10 because of unfixable bike tire flats (down there they do what Snohomish County does: sweeps road debris into bike lanes, like they’re just shoulders with guys on bikes painted in them… which is pretty much what they are…). Also, 4 miles home with groceries when my car’s ignition broke, and 4 miles to work to get my spare key when I locked myself out of my house (both times I knew the bus routes and walked along them but it was late at night and no buses came).

    2. I always carry my ORCA card when I ride because I know at worse, in an unfixable wreck say, I can chain up the bike, and ride the bus home from almost anywhere.

      1. That’s what happened to me. My scooter broke down in SoDo, so I had to take the bus the rest of the way to work. Sure, I was a half-hour late, but well worth keeping that card in my wallet!

  7. To all commenters above: Good work for making the case for maintaining line-haul service. DART has its place as a complement to regular scheduled service, but it’s not a substitute for it. Furthermore, DART has always deserved better equipment than it’s gotten to date.

    Vehicle in the picture is more like a freight-van than a bus. I always hated driving those things. The vision from the driver’s seat is terrible, and the motor is loud and smelly. Very sorry to hear, incidentally, that Metro has had to pull the new vehicles it bought. From the outside, they looked like nice little buses.

    The United States of America used to manufacture vehicles that were well-designed, simple, and tough. How do we resume that tradition after several decades’ abandonment?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Are “simple” and “tough” compatible with the current necessity for “fuel-efficient”. The cars in those days guzzled gas like an alcoholic.

    2. The United States of America used to manufacture vehicles that were well-designed, simple, and tough.

      I don’t know if I’d agree with you there. A 1970’s era car rarely made it to 100,000 miles without needing at least a valve job (Dodge slant-sixes and small-block Chevys aside). Nowadays you can expect 2-300,000 miles out of a vehicle without ever having to open the engine.

      From the drivers seat of those new Workhorse vans, the view is absolutely terrible. You can easily lose a pedestrian or two in the blind spots. Even a generic cutaway van chassis is far better, in terms of visibility.

  8. For what it’s worth, in 1967 when we lived in East Africa, our family sedan was a Citroen sedan. It looked more like an airplane than a car. It sat six people comfortably, and had suspension that smooth out a washboard road like a linear mountain range at sixty miles an hour. Its aerodynamics not only left the rear window dust-free at that speed, but gave it, I think, over 30 mpg. Four cylinder engine.

    In the 1970’s, the Flxible company, which built part of Metro’s old transit fleet, built a recreational vehicle which would have been a good size for paratransit, that also got extremely good mileage on a Chevy Corvair engine.

    Since the beginning of the metal-aircraft age, it’s been possible to make ground vehicles efficient, light, and very tough. Only requirement is that these points are important to the client, which in the decades of cheap gasoline, they haven’t been. Remember, the Burlington Zephyr was out of the ’30’s.

    Mark Dublin

    1. A little research corrected some very old memories. Ultravan is listed online as a Corvair vehicle, advertised at 15 mpg in 1967. Still, was designed by an aircraft engineer, and had very low fuel consumption for a machine of those years, with that much room.

      Citroen DS 19 listed at 27.8 miles per gallon. Again, compared with US cars of that vintage very easy on gas. And could easily handle roads which regularly destroyed US sedans which our embassy often favored. Same with 3-cylinder Saabs, from a company that builds Swedish jet fighters. Saabs also regularly competed in the East Africa Safari road rally over those same awful roads, but faster than family driving.

      Aircraft experience doesn’t always guarantee transit success. Boeing Vertol cars had trouble with the dirt and abuse which are standard features of urban passenger transportation. But tricks like putting cooling intakes where they won’t suck powdered carbon and copper into electric motors are teachable skills.

      The people who designed the A-10 close-air support plane could probably handle a steetcar or a trolleybus.

      Mark Dublin

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