Photo by Oran

As the academic school year progresses, one thing that is a common problem aboard UW-Downtown 70 series express service is what I like to call recurring peak demand— that is, constant spikes in demand that occur regularly throughout the day as riders come and go from the campus.  This happens right around the middle of the hour when many classes are turning over with floods of students and faculty.

Unlike the very typical model of peak demand where the highest ridership loads occur in the morning and afternoon peak, recurring peak demand generates high loads at regularly occurring intervals all day.  Traditional planning strategies like peak trip adds, or overlay service, are inapplicable since the true peak periods are spread throughout the day.

There are three ways I think you can try to attack this dilemma:

  1. Recurring peak overlay service – There are a few examples where Metro currently implements a peak overlay on top of regular service when demand is highest, AM and PM-only 212/218 Eastgate service being one.  A recurring peak overlay is the same idea in principle; additional service when the demand occurs regularly.  This could mean an hourly UW-Downtown only route leaving the U-District on the half-hour.  The downside to this is an additional cost in service hours.
  2. Schedule restructure – The 70 series are currently a scheduling nightmare.  Four different routes with different terminals are combined for roughly even headways of 7-10 minutes during the mid-day.  A cost-neutral strategy could entail lengthening the headways (slightly) for the base (non-peak) periods and redistributing the savings to add trips in the recurring peak periods.  This would be no picnic for schedulers, however; you’d have to adjust schedules and headways accordingly for each individual route without compromising service.
  3. Emphasize alternatives – The last solution is more of a marketing exercise than it is a planning one.  Though veteran transit riders know that there are other ways to get between Downtown and the U-District, the 70 series remains the prevailing choice for most the University community’s transit-riding populace.  There are terrific alternatives with much more capacity, however– the 66 on Roosevelt and frequent services at Montlake (255/545) as well as at I-5/45th (510/511).  While these don’t exactly share the common express corridors with the 70 series, they remain viable options for riders coming from other points in the U-District.

Since riders usually never have to wait for more than two buses anyway, I can’t imagine any of these strategies would be very high up on the priority list.  However, I think it reflects a unique pattern in travel demand for a major urban center like the U-District.  The problem, of course, will eventually be solved with U-Link, but until then, creative ideas to manage the corridor’s dynamic ridership demand are all fair game in this arena.

72 Replies to “UW-Downtown: The Dilemma of Recurring Peak Demand”

  1. The solution, both pre- and post-U-Link is to restructure service in northeast Seattle. As I pointed out in a previous post, it’s almost always much less efficient to schedule infrequent services with different trip lengths than one frequent service.

    The most straightforward way to do this was alluded to in the 600k cut scenario:

    * Delete the 25, 26, 66 and 77 67.
    * Move the 71 to Latona.
    * Terminate the 71, 72, 73 in the U-District
    * Boost the 70 to match the frequency of the 36 and through-route those two.
    * Create a route 80X that serves the alignment of the 66/67 from Northgate to 45th St then runs express either on I-5 or Eastlake. Run this with the same frequency and span of service as the current 71/2/3 group.

    When U-Link enters service, just delete the express section of the 80X, call it the 80, and terminate it in the U-District.

      1. 80 is the number that Metro proposed in the document, which is why we’re all using it. The same document proposed cutting all existing night owl service in favor of owl trips on existing routes, thus freeing up the 80 numbers for regular routes.

      2. Yeah, that’s a minor problem. But rather than maintaining the existing 8x numbering for owl routes, I’d rather we rename custom owl routes 81 to N1, 82 to N2 etc like every other city in the universe. Even better, restructure night owl service to eliminate custom routes as much as possible. Most of Metro’s current owl service is horribly badly structured.

    1. The 80X doesn’t sound much different from the current 66, especially on Eastlake. A big reason the 66 isn’t more popular, besides the half-hourly frequencies, is that it doesn’t run on the Ave or 15th, which makes it out of sight for many UW commuters.

      You also forgot to mention fixing the 72’s weirdness.

      1. The main difference is the I-5 routing (and shifting service hours from the 67 to the 66).

        Not sure what 72 weirdness you’re talking about, but that same Metro document also proposed deleting the 72 and 73 in favor of turning the 372 and 373 into all-day locals. So it might get fixed for free.

      2. In a perfect world, almost everything the 72 does could be done by an all-25th route – the 68, 372, or redirected 72.

        A straightened and redirected 347 would make a better replacement for the 73 than the zig-zaggy-in-Shoreline 373.

      3. The 80X not going to University Way is a negative. It does make a difference in ridership, both because Roosevelt/11th is further away and because it’s less urban (less pleasant to wait there, and you can’t duck into a shop while you’re waiting). But that doesn’t mean it should be off the table. It does mean Metro will need a PR campaign to point out its advantages: more frequency at the same stops, less turning, and pre-shadows Link. (And it would actually make Link look better when it opens, because Brooklyn station will be closer to campus than 11th is.)

      4. The tradeoff for Roosevelt vs University is lost ridership from further north (due to a several minute deviation with crap reliability) or lost ridership from UW riders being made to walk three or four short blocks.

        Past experience shows that riders will walk much further for reliable, frequent, direct all-day service (I am writing a post about this very point) than infrequent milk runs to their doorstep, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be the case here too. The 66’s sleepy ridership between downtown and the U-District is because competing express service is faster and runs three or more times more frequently, and competing local service is only a little slower and runs twice as frequently.

        The current 66 is a very stupid route.

      5. The Ave is an anathema to reliability. I once tried doing a 542->72 connection when I was attending a class in Ravenna, and OBA would tell me the 72 was 10 minutes away for 20 minutes. The Ave only has one lane in each direction, in-lane stops, and on-street parking – a perfect storm for slow-moving buses.

        I say put it on 15th. Sure there’s a little bit of a hill, but it’s one lousy block away.

      6. I guess I’d question whether the UW super-express should be tied to the basically-local Northgate segment at all.

        For local service, sure, have a single route which goes from downtown to Northgate via the U-District. Hell, I’d just as soon tie it with the 49 instead of the 70, to have a single “Link shadow” route. In my experience, 10th Ave E is actually more reliable than Fairview/Eastlake for local service, and the lack of direct Capitol Hill-Northgate service is arguably a major deficiency in the current bus network.

        But for the peak expresses, does the demand really match up? There’s an almost insatiable amount of demand from downtown to UW and from downtown to Northgate, but a relatively smaller amount directly from UW to Northgate. 6 express buses an hour from downtown to the U-District is too few, but that many local buses from the U-District to Northgate seems like it would be too many.

      7. I feel like you guys missed the point of my recent piece about Queen Anne, namely that it’s much, much more efficient to schedule one frequent route than a bunch of infrequent ones with different termini. It doesn’t matter that you may be overserving part of the route (in the case of Queen Anne, it’s the segment from Boston St to SPU, here’s it’s Roosevelt and points north), because those extra buses are FREE, in fact they SAVE you money.

        Northgate via Roosevelt is easily the strongest all-day demand corridor going north out of the U-District, plus this will help stimulate transit use on the future North Link corridor, and the transition from Roosevelt/11th to Eastlake is much smoother than the transition to the Ave from Eastlake.

      8. Bruce,

        I understand your Queen Anne piece, but I think the situation there is very different. In Queen Anne:

        – The length of the route extension is a mile (short).
        – The routes already overlap for a large portion, and so the reliability characteristics are very similar.
        – Queen Anne Ave and Boston St is not a natural terminus, or a terminus for any other route.
        – The 3 and the 13 each have roughly equal levels of demand.

        For the 80:

        – The length of the route extension is 3.4 miles (long enough to be its own route).
        – The routes you’re talking about joining do not overlap for any portion, and they have very different service patterns (one is a freeway express and the other is a local). Thus, the reliability characteristics are very different — the south segment would get slowed down by I-5 traffic, and the north segment is subject to local traffic on Roosevelt.
        – 45th and 15th is already a major terminus; in fact, tons of routes already make the trip between downtown and the U-District (and not all of them have wires).
        – The 71/72/73 have roughly 3x the ridership of the 66/67.

        If you assume that the 80 would run something like 8 times an hour (since honestly, there’s the demand), then extending it to Northgate means an extra 30 platform miles per hour. I’d have to see the numbers before I could be convinced that adding those hours is free.

        I see this as much more analogous to the situation with the 2 (or the 48, for that matter). These are two separate routes, that effectively serve two separate markets. Aside from electrification, it seems like all the arguments in favor of splitting the 2/48 apply equally well here.

      9. The “different character” of routes doesn’t enter into it, and the 71/2/3 only have higher ridership than the 66/67 because of the U-District-Downtown segment, which is slammed all day every day; ridership on the tails of those routes is nothing special.

        Restructuring Eastlake allows you to turn three routes with 15, 30 and 60 minutes headways into one 10-minute headway route, AND fix the interline on the 36. Changing the 71 to run on Latona allows you to delete the 26 with maybe only some additional peak service. Merging the 373/73 pairs trades two 30-minute routes for one 15-minute route. Currently, the 66/67 operate every 15 minutes in the midday, now they would operate every 10; this isn’t crazy overservice, and it’s almost certainly no cheaper to turn those buses back somewhere else, and there’s no better all-day demand corridor to tie the downtown express segment to.

      10. Bruce,

        I think we’re talking past each other.

        I completely agree with almost every detail of your restructuring plan. The divergent tails of the 71/72/73 do cause a huge problem, and like you said, restructuring them into a single frequent route will dramatically simplify things and save lots of money. Your Queen Anne post’s arguments absolutely apply here. Having a single super-frequent route between downtown and the U-District is a fantastic idea on all accounts.

        The only detail I disagree on is this:

        it’s almost certainly no cheaper to turn those buses back somewhere else, and there’s no better all-day demand corridor to tie the downtown express segment to.

        I think that it *would* be substantially cheaper to have one trunk route from downtown to the U-District, and a second trunk route from the U-District to Northgate. The extra platform miles from the U-District to Northgate aren’t free, and the demand isn’t yet there. The downtown to U-District route could easily support double the frequency of the Northgate route. Instead of boosting frequency to Northgate, I’d rather spend those service hours making the 80 more frequent.

        I don’t see why you need to tie the downtown express segment to any route. Why can’t it just stand alone?

      11. Provided the routes do not become unreasonably long, and all segments are sufficiently reliable, it is always cheaper to tie route segments together. Fewer driver breaks are required, there’s less farting about at the terminal. Moreover, we aren’t just trying to minimize platform hours here here, we’re simultaneously trying to maximize productivity. Of course, this is somewhat approximate, as we can’t maximize both exactly. Providing a direct connection on the 66/67 corridor to Downtown will get more ridership than two routes where everyone is forced to transfer in the U-District.

      12. Fair enough. I guess I’m not convinced that the 80 would necessarily be reliable enough (when you can’t use the express lanes, that is).

        Also, no one’s going to use the 80 to get downtown from Northgate TC, since they have the much faster 41. And by definition, the 80 super-express isn’t useful for getting anywhere between the U-District and downtown. So realistically, we’re talking about trips from the area between Roosevelt and Northgate to downtown, and vice versa. That segment currently has 30 minute service to downtown (since every other bus already stops at UW).

        Is booting it to 10 minute, or even 7.5 (what I’d like to see on the 80), really worth it? Again, I’d really have to see numbers before I’d be convinced that it would save money.

        If anything, I’d rather see the 43 (or 49) extended up Roosevelt to Northgate. That way, you have a true Link local shadow route. As it is, it seems like a darn shame that we’re building a train connecting Capitol Hill and Northgate, and yet there isn’t a single bus that goes between these two nodes. And they both have roughly similar levels of demand, in stark contrast to the near-unlimited demand on the 80.

      13. Also, no one’s going to use the 80 to get downtown from Northgate TC, since they have the much faster 41

        The 41 has shit frequency after 6. Just throwing that out there.

        Of course, no one’s going to use ANY buses to go Northgate-downtown after North Link gets there, so that point is really moot. Local connections should be prioritized on this route, rather than express links.

      14. I think Aleks is right in this case. Until North Link is built the express service between the U-District and Downtown will be necessary, probably at a daytime frequency of 8 buses per hour. Between the U-district and Northgate the highest frequencies that could justified are 10 minute frequencies. Thus, considering that the Ave is a much more central and urban and thus better location for U-district buses then Roosevelt, and that there are numerous alternative routes that a Northgate, Roosevelt, U-Distict route could be through routed with, it seems these two segments are a bad match for each other.

        A better match would be with a broadway route (49), an Eastlake route (70), or a 23rd avenue route (48S) all of which could justify 10 to 15 minute frequencies. In addition, it should be noted that many other local NE Seattle Routes terminate in the U-District making it critical that the downtown express service is as reliable for easy transfers between express routes to and from downtown and local routes. Throw in the fact that Route 41 already covers service between Downtown and Northgate and there is no good reason the through route the University Express and a U-district to Northgate route.

      15. “The Ave is an anathema to reliability.”

        The Ave is doing very well, actually. With its stop consolidation and bus bulbs, buses get through it faster than they do on either Roosevelt or 15th. One small thing that would help is to route it on Ravenna Boulevard rather than 65th.

    2. Run this with the same frequency and span of service as the current 71/2/3 group.

      Based on what Sherwin’s saying, I’m not sure that would be good enough. You might want to run extra buses around the half hour, even if it came at the expense of slightly longer headways for the rest of the hour.

      Of course, completely agreed that it wouldn’t be possible to do that without breaking the link between the extremely busy downtown/U-District corridor and the not-very-busy 71/72/73 tails.

      Create a route 80X that serves the alignment of the 66/67 from Northgate to 45th St then runs express either on I-5 or Eastlake. Run this with the same frequency and span of service as the current 71/2/3 group.

      I’m not exactly sure if you’re proposing this, but it seems extremely unlikely that Metro would get away with routing the 80 (or any similar bus) away from University Way and from campus. To a first approximation, that’s where all the demand is. It seems much more likely that the bus would take University Way between 65th and Campus Parkway. At the very least, it would stay on the Ave until 45th or 50th.

      1. Yes, I should have said “same or higher”.

        As to the second question, if people don’t want to take the short walk to Roosevelt to catch a downtown express (80X), they can take the slow bus (70) from 15th Ave NE. Riders currently heading north on the 66 already have to to that (although, admittedly, they do current have the option of waiting 15 minutes and taking the 67 from closer to campus).

        The problem is that diverting to 15th or (worse) the current routing on the Ave would be a terrible time-sink, as traffic on both 45th and the Ave are terrible. It would add significantly to the trip time for minimal increase in ridership.

      2. The thing is, we’re not talking about Queen Anne, where you have four parallel corridors that have enough collective ridership for one. We’re talking about the busiest single corridor in Seattle. And most of those riders, by far, are either going to the UW campus or to the U-District.

        The 66 is virtually the only bus that goes anywhere near the U-District without passing by the Ave. (I’m not counting buses that just pass by on I-5, which aren’t intended to serve the U-District or UW.) Everything else — including the 25, 30, 31, 43, 44, 48, 49, 65, 68, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 271, 372, 373, 540, 542, 556, and at least a dozen peak-only and CT routes — is designed to pass through 45th, the Ave, 15th, or Campus Parkway. In many cases, that’s done even though it represents a significant diversion.

        And of course, the Ave between Campus Parkway and 45th is such a destination that Metro is building a subway station there.

        I’m not even arguing about whether the diversion *should* be there. I just can’t imagine Metro deciding that they’re going to relocate the express service that has been there for such a long time.

        Now, having said all that, you’re obviously right about traffic patterns. But what about diverting at 65th, and taking 15th from there to Campus Parkway? That seems like you should avoid the worst of the traffic.

      3. The 71/72/73’s jog down the Ave may save people a few minutes of walking, but it’s not actually saving them any time. For example, my own personal experience has shown that the travel time from Eastlake to 50th And University is actually just as fast, if not faster, on the 66, than on the 71/72/73 – the extra time walking is compensated by the fact that the 66 gets through the U-district more quickly.

        That being said, I believe the biggest losers of moving the main bus route to Roosevelt would be not the riders, but the businesses along the Ave who depend on buses going right by their front door for visibility to customers. They would obviously argue vehemently against any such moves. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s fair to impose service delays on everyone passing through the U-district but not actually going there just to help a few retail stores along the Ave make money.

  2. I don’t think it’ll be solved with U-Link. It’ll take North Link and the bus restructure that comes with getting the Roosevelt station open.

      1. Given the choice between an express-lane bus from 45th and the Ave to downtown (or vice versa), or a slog down 15th and Pacific, I think most people will pick the former…

      2. * For most parts of central campus and half of west campus, it’s closer to walk from UW station than to transfer to a bus to 15th.

        * For half of west campus and the west edge of central campus, the 71/72/73 are closer and within walking distance.

        * For those going to northwest Seattle on the 44 or 48, there’s a transfer at UW station.

        * For those going to the Ave, only railfans will go to UW station and transfer, the rest will take the 71/72/73. But if the 71/72/73 remains overcrowded, or conversely if it’s undercrowded and Metro reduces its frequency, then Link would attract a few of those riders.

        * For those transferring to the 30, 31, 68, 75, and many other routes, UW station will be a hardship. It’s too much overhead to transfer to a bus to Campus Parkway and then transfer again. Only dedicated railfans will use it. For the routes that go through campus, you can walk to the HUB and transfer, but those routes are intrinsically slow.

      1. I’d guess it’s a combination of UW students that live in SLU and Eastlake, Amazon employees that live between SLU and UW, and people that live in Eastlake going downtown.

    1. Brooklyn station will prove to be the most popular station serving U District simply for the walk shed both in the residential units west and north of campus as well as the many on campus buildings near NE 15th. If one is going to anything on campus from Red Square and north, Brooklyn station would be the most convenient.

      Last week, I had occasion to go to the Microsoft Atrium at the UW CSE/Paul Allen Building near the fountain from a 70(ish)X bus from the Ave and then afterwards walking down to the bus stop along Pacific near Montlake (a rough approximation of the walk to Husky Stadium Stop) and I concluded that Brooklyn would still be easier to get to than Stadium.

      Of course… YMMV…

      1. It’ll be better after they improve the area and put in the pedestrian bridge. Most of my junior and senior year classes were in More Hall (across the street from CSE). Unless I had things to do on the Ave, I would not walk to Brooklyn to catch Link to go downtown.

      2. It’s also downhill to UW Station vs. uphill to 43rd from the CSE building. I think when the station access is finished it’ll be a lot easier to go to Stadium station than Brooklyn.

  3. I personally try to avoid taking the 7Xs from downtown … when I do go to the U District I always take the 49 (or the 43 when I can catch it on BWay and Terrace streets)

    1. I normally take the 71/72/73 when the expresses are running, and 43/49 when they aren’t. But it’s gotten to the point that I’ll sometimes take the 43/49 just to avoid the irritation of (A) standing, (B) being passed up, (C) pushing through the standees to get off at Convention Place, (D) waiting two minutes at each stop, (E) bottlenecks on I-5, (F) missing my transfer because a crowd of people are getting off the bus and paying, and (G) not knowing if I’ll be passed up today or the bus will be late and I’ll miss my transfer.

      1. I have to agree. I used to take the 71/72/73 buses downtown before I knew better because they stop close to where I live and, on paper, run frequently all day. But after a few experiences of slow slogs down the Ave, 15+ minute waits for buses that are supposed to come every 10 minutes, and severe overcrowing, I now only uses these buses when at least 3 out of the following 4 conditions are met, if not all 4:
        1) The bus is running in express mode (no stops all along Eastlake)
        2) The I-5 express lanes are open in the direction that I am travelling
        3) It is not be a weekday afternoon or evening (~5-10 PM), as the bus is horribly overcrowded during those times
        4) I am transferring in the tunnel to either another bus or a Link train (no need to walk down the stairs).

        In the past several months, I’ve had the stars align for a 71/72/73 trip exactly once, which was a trip to the airport at 6:30 AM on a weekday morning.

        At other times, I will do almost anything else. Depending on what mood I’m in and what comes first, I’ve done the U-district->downtown trip on routes 43, 49, 66, 255, 510, 511, and 545. When I really care about getting downtown quickly, I either bike the whole way (~25 minutes door to door) or call a cab.

    2. I stick with the 70-series because I just don’t want to run a mental program and OneBusAway when I want to travel downtown-U District. I shouldn’t have to think about it.

      1. I’m with Oran.

        This is the trunk line, the mentally mappable line, the already high volume line, the supposed high frequency line. This is the one that should work and that people have a right to expect will work.

        It’s perfectly nice that the 510/511 offer express alternatives, some times of day, in some directions, if you’re lucky and if OneBusAway is working for them. But they’re exactly the kind of “alternatives” we should be discouraging: the kind that might overcharge you if you haven’t earned a PhD in ORCA website functionality (unless you waste every other rider’s time asking the driver to futz with the reader), the kind that might give you an unanticipated excursion to Everett if you misread the schedule (unless you waste every other rider’s time asking the driver “do you stop at” questions).

        Encouraging that sort of alternative is all about making transit harder when it should be easier.

        If you institute off-board fare payment for tunnel buses and at all U-District stops, many of the 70-series’ problems go away. That’s what should be advocated.

      2. The 49 is 15-minutes until 9pm, and the 43 (southbound to Broadway) is close to that. So that’s easy to remember, if they’re not too far out of your way.

        I’m all for frequent trunk routes, but the 71/72/73X are overwhelmed, and it’s not going to get better until University Link and North Link.

        I’ve always felt that riding the 511/512 between UW and downtown is a kind of abuse. I’ve ridden so many routes like the 358 where half the riders get off at 46th. They have other route choices and several frequent routes, but Shorelineites have no other way to get downtown. That’s an exaggeration of course, but it shows the resentment of people who live on 85th and further north, who get crowded out by all those 45th trippers looking for an express.

      3. The 511/512 is a bad option because the neither the service pattern nor the fare payment is standardized properly. But it’s hardly abuse.

        They have other route choices and several frequent routes, but Shorelineites have no other way to get downtown.

        Translation: “Everyone should take the slowest option; no one should get to be fast, ever.”

        This is the evidence of abuse. Abuse of you, at the hands of Metro. Do you have any idea how warped by years of Seattle’s lousy-transit culture this statement reveals you to be?

        The 49 and 43 are crawlers. It almost doesn’t matter how frequent they are; it’s a crime that that should ever be the preferred option for a trip all the way downtown.

        The 71-3 are only “overwhelmed” because of poor management, a lousy payment system, and buses that should have been open floor-planned for improved standing capacity and interior circulation decades ago like every other major metropolitan system.

        Excusing Metro and calling the slowpoke alternative “adequate” is like forgiving a DUI because the driver only ran over one of your feet.

      4. Oran, it says a lot about Metro that they’ve never tried to do this.

        Just like it says a lot about Metro that they’re about to undertake a massive route restructuring, but 30 minute headways remain default under the new plan.

        Just like it says a lot that its RapidRide network — supposed to fill the high-demand void and originally sold as the same level of quasi-BRT the B-Line achieves — fails the all-door boarding and open floor plan tests, and keeps getting its headways downgraded. 15 minutes is now the default, 30 minutes keeps creeping earlier into the evening.

        It’s not that there isn’t anyone at Metro who “gets it.” It’s that they’re clearly not in charge.

      5. MO: They have other route choices and several frequent routes, but Shorelineites have no other way to get downtown.

        DP: Translation: “Everyone should take the slowest option; no one should get to be fast, ever.”

        Actually, it shows that people want expresses from 45th. From Ballard, Greenwood, Wallingford, and Aurora as well as the U-district. That’s why I support Swift and wide Link stop spacing. Because all these people who want to take an express are forced to take a local, or go to the U-district or Aurora and transfer. (And the 46th/Aurora stop is not very pleasant, and a longish walk from the 44 stop.) The unidirectional peak expresses don’t help because they’re not running when you want them or they’re going the wrong way; they only help a small segment of the population that works downtown.

      6. To be clear, there should be Swift on 15th W and Elliott, stopping only at Dravus and Denny Way and perhaps Belltown. The 358 should be more frequent, have a good transfer station at 46th, and an elevator stop for Fremont. There should be a limited-stop bus from UW to Ballard, either via Wallingford or Fremont. The UW expresses running alongside the local is what other neighborhoods have needed and never gotten. Not just to downtown, but between all urban villages. UW to Mt Baker too. Link will provide several of these, and it can’t be built soon enough. But not all neighborhoods can be on Link. They need something like Swift.

      7. Here we go again with the ultra-express overlaying the ultra-local.

        Mike, that’s basically what we have. And you’ve seen how well it serves the people.

        We need fast, frequent, easily-internalizable, that can get anyone between any part of the city (not just downtown) as long as they stop expecting service to their front doors.

        We don’t need to push the vast majority onto milk runs so that a handful can get non-stop benefits. But that’s what overlays with 2-mile stop spacing does, invariably.

  4. Great picture Oran! The only thing that’s ugly is the skyscraper streetlight on the right hand side. Why when there’s plenty of low level lighting?

    1. The low-level stuff is designed/installed as pedestrian-scale lighting, not roadway lighting. I imagine both the spread and power of those lower lights would be insufficient to properly light the road on their own.

  5. Part of the problem, which I fear would undermine attempts to implement “recurring peak overlay service,” is that Seattle transit riders are unfamiliar with the concept of waiting for that empty bus that’s right behind the full bus.

    I presume this results from Seattle’s dearth of ultra-frequent core routes. In cities where core surface lines come every 5-7 minutes, bunching is inevitable, and not nearly as problematic as bunching on 10-15 minute routes.

    A healthy percentage of regular riders learn to wait for any trailing bus they can visually confirm is coming if the lead bus is overcrowded. (Being able to do this is another great advantage of systems that avoid overlapping routes; if you see a bus coming, you know it’s your route even if you can’t read the sign yet.) The lead bus then gets to proceed without having to slowly squeeze on every soul, and the patient are frequently rewarded by an empty, comfortable bus that might even pass the first one.

    But groupthink is requisite to make this work: if only one person waits behind, this does nothing to speed up average service on the line. A whole bunch of people must make this choice in order to ease pressure on the lead vehicle.

    Frankly, I don’t blame Seattle riders for their reluctance not to get on the first bus, as trailing buses are strangely averse to passing. They might even go out of their way to miss lights so as to lag behind. A rider might miss a connection on the trailing bus that he would have made if he’d suffered the packed one. I have no idea why Seattle drivers do this; leapfrogging buses can literally be twice as fast as a bus-chain in which the first one does all the heavy lifting.

    This plays out every afternoon on the 15, which runs a 3-bus overlay right when Ballard High School lets out: 2:44, 2:49, 2:53. Invariably, the kids just keep filing onto the first one (which winds up 10 minutes late), overflowing onto the second one (5 minutes late), while ignoring the third one (empty yet still shadowing the others). This circus train plods all the way through Interbay (joined by the the 2:53 bus 18). Yet somehow, as late as it is, the packed bus always seems to get downtown before the ones stupidly lagging back. It shouldn’t, especially if you wanted to teach the young riders a lesson about self-distribution.

    Until this city learns a thing or two about how high-frequency lines function best — something that sadly won’t happen as long as the term “high frequency” is subjected to semantic abuse — don’t expect “overlay service” to work as intended.

    1. For me, “visually confirmation” has usually been the key. With so many overlapping routes and hills and routes that take a lot of turns, visual confirmation that a bus is right behind is rare. Plus if I’ve already waited 25 minutes for a bus, it’s really difficult to be told to wait even just 2 minutes more. But either way, as you point out, since Metro drivers rarely pass the lead coach (and on ETB routes it’s usually impossible to), there’s rarely any time savings in waiting those extra 2 minutes anyway—though one will at least be able to sit down.

      What I’d really like to see is Metro start using readerboard messages like “Sorry, bus full”, which is common in Canada. I feel like a basic acknowledgement and explanation from operators goes a long way. Even just getting a “there’s one right behind me” hand-sign from a driver (usually pointing back with the thumb) makes me feel less angry about being passed by than when a driver doesn’t even seem to see me waiting.

      1. Metro actually has a “Bus Full” message that alternates with the route-destination display. I’ve seen it used a few times, particularly after games at the stadiums.

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