As Chair of the Parks and Seattle Center Committee, I regularly take the bus to community centers and Parks meetings. I want to experience for myself how long it takes to get to a neighborhood on the bus and see what the ride is like.

The problem with taking the bus from downtown Seattle, where I live and work, is that it’s relatively easy to get OUT of town after work, but substantially more difficult to get back INTO town after a late evening meeting. On a dark or rainy night, I admit this makes my decision to take the bus more challenging.

Monday evening I took the bus to Interlaken Park at the north end of Capitol Hill. Hopping on the Metro Route 12 at 5:06 p.m., I jumped off at the end of the route on 19th Avenue E and E Galer Street about 25 minutes later. (For you walkers and joggers, Interlaken Park is a 51.7-acre park, a densely wooded haven on the north end of Capitol Hill. It’s a gem.)

Route 12 is an electric trolley bus with frequent service to Capitol Hill – roughly every 10 minutes during commute hours, every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes later in the evening.

Route 12 was standing-room-only this evening. Two darling children dressed for Halloween crowded into one seat across from me with their mother; a young man in a strap t-shirt offered me his seat when I got on. I appreciated his kindness. More after the jump.

As we passed over I-5 on Madison Street I noticed that cars on both the north bound lanes and the south bound lanes were crawling along. When our bus crossed Boren Avenue. I saw that vehicles going both directions were at a dead stand still. Without dedicated bus lanes, buses were every bit as stuck in the traffic as cars.

As my bus strained to get up the hill behind start-and-stop traffic, I thought how much better we could make this route with additional funding from Proposition 1.

Among other smart investments – funds received from Proposition 1 will be used to improve transit signal priority on many routes which use Madison St, including the Route 12, resulting in faster service for thousands of passengers.

In some corridors, a bus-only lane during rush hour will increase both service reliability and speed,thereby making buses the easy choice for commuters. I’d certainly take the bus more frequently if I KNEW I could get where I was going faster than if I drove my car, searched for a place to park, paid for that place to park, and walked to my destination.

One of Metro’s goals is to improve productivity, meaning attracting more riders and filling up more buses. Imagine being able to walk to your stop, get real time information about arrival of your bus, and know with confidence that the next bus is less than five minutes away. Even if you had to do errands after work, being able to get around faster than you could in your car would be a real incentive to take the bus first.

We can move toward these goals if we vote YES for Proposition 1 and invest in our transit infrastructure. We know that fixing what is broken and finishing what we started makes plain sense. Letting our infrastructure deteriorate further is truly a wretched response that we’ll pay for later.

Please join me in supporting Proposition 1. It’s a wise investment for all of us including those cute trick-or-treaters on my bus.

The author is a Seattle City Councilmember.

11 Replies to “Sally Bagshaw’s Bus Trip”

  1. I’m in favor of Prop 1 and appreciate Councilmember Bagshaw’s great work. Quick point though. Dedicated bus lanes do make a lot of sense for improved transit reliability. However, buses are at least mobile and can change lanes. Why on earth are we planning our street car network in shared lanes?

    With this said, vote for Prop 1. It’s not perfect, but its better than the alternative.

  2. Thanks for the posting, Sally. But I don’t think I have to tell you this:

    Planning, signalling, and paint stripes are necessary hardware. But for people to move through any commercial area in Seattle, you and your colleagues on the Seattle City Council will have to pass legislation reserving lanes on public streets to transit vehicles only, at least during rush hours.

    The street space is there- waiting for the vote to clear it for transit.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Paint is cheap. Transit lanes aren’t really a question of money. They are a question of political will.

      I’ve heard even vocal critics of bike lanes (as opposed to general car lanes) say they wouldn’t mind bus lanes instead of bike lanes. I’m not saying replace the bike lanes with bus lanes, just that I think the politicians are making incorrect assumptions about what they perceive to be the unpopularity of taking a lane for buses.

      Oh, and don’t forget to get the cars out of the way of the SLUS.

  3. “One of Metro’s goals is to improve productivity, meaning attracting more riders and filling up more buses. Imagine being able to walk to your stop, get real time information about arrival of your bus, and know with confidence that the next bus is less than five minutes away. Even if you had to do errands after work, being able to get around faster than you could in your car would be a real incentive to take the bus first.”

    That capability is already here! Use OneBusAway You can get information on a smartphone, a regular phone or at home you can use the web interface to get real time arrival information.

    KC Metro has taken over the operation of OneBusAway from the designer, but so far they have not chosen to publicize it. It’s the only bus information that I use. KC Metro’s own web site as well as their telephone information is really pretty bad and for some stops and routes just doesn’t work at all.

    1. KC Metro is not OneBusAway’s operator. They and ST and PT are paying the UW to maintain the service.

      Now that they are paying for it, they might as well publicize it more. Pierce Transit is a good example of OBA promotion.

    2. While a whole lot better than nothing, the unfortunately reality is that OneBusAway is only as reliable as the bus route is itself.

      I see proof of this every time OneBusAway says a bus is 5 minutes away and 5 minutes later, there’s not only no bus, but OneBusAway says it’s still 5 minutes away.

      There’s a fundamental problem here, is that OneBusAway is not magic – it can only know the bus’s current location and it can’t be aware of other factors, such as how many light cycles it will take to clear an upcoming intersection, or whether a wheelchair will get getting on or off the bus at the next stop. In other words, if the bus’s current location is anywhere from 1-10 minutes away from your stop, depending on traffic, OneBusAway can’t do any better with that information than post a big, blue “5”.

      While the ultimate solution, of course, is transit signal priority, queue jumps, off-board fare payment, etc., in the short term, it might be interesting if OneBusAway could give back ranges of times, instead of a single number that implies that OneBusAway knows exactly how long it will take the bus to get to your stop.

      In other words, if the current location of the bus is such that, based on historical data, there’s a 95% chance that the arrival time is between 1 minute and 10 minutes, just say “1-10”. If a more reliable adjacent route has a 95% chance of arriving between 4 and 6 minutes, say “4-6”.

      Such reliability information is also hugely important for trip planning. For example, Google’s trip planner currently claims a 48->545 transfer will get you from Green Lake to Redmond in 59 minutes (,+Seattle,+WA&daddr=Redmond,+WA&hl=en&ll=47.657988,-122.238178&spn=0.086949,0.222988&sll=47.643795,-122.234275&sspn=0.173944,0.445976&geocode=FbWG1wIdPWq1-CHdokRTy5-cmQ%3BFYRy1wId2JK4-Ckj7gAgrQyQVDHyBNjF6pADXg&vpsrc=6&dirflg=r&ttype=dep&date=11%2F02%2F11&time=8:19pm&noexp=0&noal=0&sort=def&mra=ls&t=h&z=13&start=0).

      However, anyone who’s actually ridden the 48 before knows that the 12-minute connection at Montlake that Google believes is safe, is actually quite dangerous because the 48 is often very late and the paper schedule is based on some very optimistic assumptions on how long it takes to travel through the U-district. In reality, the trip that Google claims to be “59 minutes” actually has at least a 25-30% chance of being a 90 minute trip, depending on whether the 48 and 545 are early or late.

      Needless to say, someone who knew this would be a lot less likely to take this trip by transit than someone who didn’t. A carless person making the trip might even consider taking a taxi to the 545 stop to avoid the 48’s reliability problems. I, myself, for example, have made several taxi trips to downtown simply because I couldn’t trust the 70-series buses to get me there in time for a connection I really needed to make, the frequency for other competing routes wasn’t good enough, and I wasn’t willing to solve the problem by leaving home way early. I will continue to do this until U-Link opens in 2016 (and yes, this is far cheaper than buying a car to accomplish these same trips).

      So, in short, I’d like to see trip planner software and OneBusAway, be honest about the reliability of our bus routes, allowing us to take a quick glance and instantly see which bus routes are reliable and which bus routes aren’t. This would result in a more informed public making travel decisions and could possibly even spur the city to make the necessary improvements to fix the least reliable, most crowded, routes. These numbers might even convince some people on the fence to vote for Prop 1 or a similar measure in an upcoming election.

  4. please see Metro 2012 restrucutre concepts; they are testing the notion of shifting route 2 to the same corridor as Route 12; there would eight trip per hour between 1st Avenue and First Hill. There would be inconvience for some riders, but a very frequent corridor on Madison Street.

    as Dublin wrote, the allocation of lane space and signal time is up to Seattle.

  5. I realized tonight as I was driving from 24 Hour Fitness in Kent that even late in this low density town I could take the 168 there and back…until round 11 pm. Add in my bike and using OBA for timing and I could minimize time spent in the rain…

    I guess what I am saying is that even with low density towns if you have clustered apartment complexes plus points of interest along central routes, you can have “urban pockets” but maintain open space and low cost living.

    1. Very true. Well, except for the low cost part; I know places where such living became really popular, and it promptly became high cost. *sigh*.

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