I took a different route to work Wednesday morning. Instead of the Metro #3 or #4, I hustled down to lower Queen Anne and hopped on the #8 bound for Capitol Hill.

I chose this route because the Queen Anne-to-Capitol Hill-to Rainier Valley route will receive significant improvements if the voters approve Proposition 1 next week.

I caught the 7:38a.m. trip at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue North and Mercer Street, just a minute after OneBusAway told me it would arrive. Of course, with Prop 1, instead of relying on a bus app (as great as it is), riders could just look to the real-time information signs that display when the next bus is coming.

Efficiency improvements from Prop 1 include transit priority traffic signals and curb bulbs at stops so buses can pick-up and drop-off without having to pull to the curb. Metro reports that the average speed of a bus in Seattle is between 6 and 8 miles per hour. The improvements will help increase these speeds to 10 to 12 miles per hour, a significant difference if you’re trying to get to work, home or school.

One of the first differences I noticed as we traveled east on Denny Way toward Capitol Hill was the age of my fellow riders; much younger than my regular transit experience to and from work. Most looked like students on their way to Seattle Central Community College or Seattle U. We had the usual collection of office workers, too.

What if this bus had a little device that would change the traffic signals for our benefit and turn them green to keep buses moving faster? That would help a lot along a congested street like Denny Way. Proposition 1 will make that investment, improving travel times for all riders. More after the jump.

After we got to the top of the hill I realized I needed to get off the bus (thank you, OneBusAway), since I wasn’t actually headed to Rainier Valley, so I could transfer to a downtown bus. I executed that move flawlessly. My transfer bus (Metro #49) arrived seven minutes later. While I waited, my mind took me back to the 1950s when my mom and I rode the bus from our Capitol Hill house to downtown. The stretch along Broadway was my favorite because it was so familiar, but the view toward downtown when we made the turn on Pine Street was the most exciting. At my young age, the big city looming before us represented drama, something new I dreamed about exploring by myself someday.

Transit services like Metro are so important for cities. They move large numbers of people comfortably and efficiently. They provide an excellent alternative to single occupancy vehicles and help protect our environment. They provide vital transportation services for thousands of people who can’t afford any other option. That’s why investing strategically, like Proposition 1 calls for, is so wise even in tough economic times.

A lot has been said about the regressive nature of vehicle license fee, but investing in transit and good transportation infrastructure is one of the best things we can do for our low-income neighbors. Better service, faster service, more efficient service, these are values that help everyone.

The author is a Seattle City Councilmember.

23 Replies to “A Different Route”

  1. I remodeled my living room and put in gorgeous oak hardwood floors. Yeah, so what if the roof leaks and the foundation of the house is crumbling. I have got ten years to pay for this remodel. I have my priorities right.

    1. Huh? I don’t even know what you’re trying to say.

      Is bus service supposed to be the hardwood floor in that metaphor, or the leaky roof?

      Also, bamboo makes a way nicer floor than oak. You should remodel immediately.

      1. You know what I am trying to say.

        The roads and bridges that transit and bikes and cars are using are crumbling. Yet, these deficiencies are not, in my very humble opinion, being addressed sufficiently. Rather, bus bulbs and bus pads and bike markings will be constructed on roads that are shot. Traffic lights will be synced on srteets that are shot. NO EXPANDED BUS HOURS. In West Seattle, I guess they may repair Beach Drive. Oh, funny, Beach Drive is slated to lose all bus service next year.

        What I am trying to say is: I will vote “no” on a transportation measure for the first time in my 60 years of existence.

        P.S. I like oak, you like bamboo. Whatever. But the leaky roof will destroy any of the two.

      2. Transit is about as basic of a public service as you can get. These improvements aren’t hardwood. They’re the roof.

        Regarding roads & bridges: SDOT is churning through their street maintenance backlog, and is getting exactly the funding they asked for in this measure. It is not reasonable, nor practical for them to go on a 1 year spending blitz to clear out a backlog that took half a century to create. They’ve got a plan, they’ve got the budget, they’ve been catching up since BTG passed, and they’re going to be totally caught up in 10 years if Prop 1 passes. And if you care about road maintenance as much as you say you do, you should already know these things.


        We’ve been over this before, many times. Efficiency improvements amount to the same thing. If you take a 15 minute headway route, and make it 15 minutes faster, bam, you’ve just freed up an extra bus, all day, for free, forever. Bus bulbs, TSP, and transit lanes free up service hours, period. It’s far more cost effective than just paying for extra service hours, because you spend the money once and get the benefit forever. This is not a new concept.

      3. No, Lack Thereof, they have NOT been keeping up with the backlog of street maintenance.

        Transit runs on ROADS. The sky is the roof, the streets are battered.

        Please, do NOT talk down to me, I DO NOT like it. Don’t tell me what I should already know. The streets are battered. Period. Prop 1 does little to address that. IN MY OPINION.

        If you disagree vote “yes”. Spare me the bamboo floor crap. You know what I was talking about, because you sure as “hell fire” got right to YOUR point.

        SDOT totally caught up in ten years? Truly, you have got to be joking!Maybe McGinn’s bike striping program will be totally caught up in ten years. But not road and bridge maintenance.

      4. Rod N. (Hi John),

        Prop 1 might not increase bus service hours, but it *will* increase bus service, by enabling more (and faster) runs using existing hours.

    2. You’re wrong, a proper analogy would be…

      Prop 1 is about installing more energy efficient windows and CFL bulbs, sealing leaks in the basement, repairing dry rot, and a good mopping and vacuuming, etc. It’s about preserving what we have and being more efficient about it.

      1. Adam,

        I respectfully disagree. I agree with most of your message above, with one major exception. Prop 1 does not adequately preserve what we have. I have thought long and hard about this, and to me, that is a major issue.

        I won’t be singing the blues if Prop 1 passes, however. Even if it passes I will happily pay my 60 dollars a year times three cars. Don’t get up in arms, the Fiat and Saab mainly sit in the garage. I am retired and walk alot and always take the bus downtown. I am always happy to pay for transportation projects. I just believe this one could be much better, and that a better one will come along if this one fails.

      2. Adam,

        Thank you. But I am not missing the point. This is a huge tax. Though perhaps many of you do not want to hear it, it is a VERY regressive tax. I can afford it. But, in my opinion, Prop 1 is not a good expenditure of transportation money. Seattle roads are in poor shape. I, personally, will vote for a proposition that will spend a major portion of the money on transit and road repair.

        Those are my thoughts on this matter. And, no, I am not saying this because I hate taxes. I love spending my tax dollars on transit/transportation. I always vote for that, schools, parks, even the damn stadiums. Quality of life.

        Again, this is the first transportation bill I will vote against in my 60 years of existence.

        And, fortunately, for my Seattle Transit Blog fellow readers, that is the last thing I will say on this issue.

      3. “I, personally, will vote for a proposition that will spend a major portion of the money on transit and road repair.”

        Sweet, so you voted for this, right?

      4. “In my opinion.”

        The great Seattle fallacy.

        If your opinion is demonstrably incorrect, then just adding those three cute words doesn’t put it on par with those whose opinions are driven by fact.

        Bridging The Gap has, in fact, allowed SDOT to begin catching up on their massive maintenance backlog. Thus the construction you see on a regular basis, all over the city. Your “opinion” that the backlog is increasing is not accurate.

        You’re completely welcome to harbor erroneous opinions. And I suppose you have the right to make stupid decisions based on those erroneous opinions (though you hurt yourself and everyone else by doing so). But no one else needs to give your provable incorrectness “equal air time.”

      5. In your words, DP, “begin catching up”. Lack thereof says “totally caught up in 10 years if prop 1 passes”.

        I say nowhere close in ten years. And I will leave the three cute words out. OK now DP?

        Please save your sarcasm for your own generally well written articles. Kindly, don’t unload it on me. I voted “no” on prop 1. No on Prop 1. No. Got it?

        Prop 1 does not meet my transit/transportation standards. Does not meet my standards. Yours perhaps. But not mine.

        So, when it fails, as it SURELY WILL, go back to the drawing board. D.P.: the more I read your trashy blurb below, using words such as stupid, erroneous, the more entrenched I get. Oddly, I agree with most of your positions. But I do not agree with your assertion that Seattle’s roads and bridges are well on their way to being mended. So, please, trash someone else when they disagree with you. Cause I am done. And voting “no”.

  2. Scheduled trip time on the 8 was 14 minutes. Considering how unreliable the 8 is, if you had to be somewhere on time you’d probably be there 10 minutes early, making this section of the trip 24 minutes.

    You should have taken the Harrison St. Gondola. It would have shaved about 16 minutes off this trip. Made every work day in both directions that’s 139 hours of your life back a year. Converted into 8-hour days that’s 17 vacation days you’re giving up every year.

    Actually, the #3 is about a 33 minute trip to city hall. Walking down the hill (~8 min), taking the gondola (~7 min), transferring to the light rail line (~4 min avg), and riding to the Pioneer Square Station (~5 min) would save you about 9 minutes, even though you have to walk a significant distance to the gondola, go so far out of your way, and transfer once.

    Sorry, I’m totally for Prop 1, but I think it’s also time to take some bigger steps. That 139 hours of life wasted a year on the #8, multiplied by who knows how many potential riders, is a huge loss of productivity for our city.

    1. Matt,

      I spent several hours on the Portland Aerial Tram a couple of months back. Wikipedia has some background and figures on it. Might be good place to start serious analysis.

      Also, have any STB readers got experience with similar tramways in Europe?

      Assuming soils, geology, and seismology would permit the aerial structures,decision might come to something like this: what would be the relative total cost of permanent 24-hour fully-reserved transit lanes for the congested route-miles of the Number 8?

      All over Seattle and the rest of the region, the lanes are already there. But since they’re packed solid with cars, nobody can use these lanes for travel. Including and especially people in cars.

      Agree with you about need for bigger steps. But wonder how many of these steps simply mean a majority of voters changing their minds about what constitutes “highway use,” and what city streets are for.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I’d absolutely be in favor of converting a lane each way on Denny to transit-only. But let’s be realistic – Seattle is severely limited in E-W routes, and Seattle would have to take several large steps away from carthink to give up half of the Denny corridor.

        Now, looking at a simple cost/benefit analysis of buses vs. gondolas on this corridor:

        Gondola: Assuming 3 stops.

        capacity of 40 buses in each direction per hour, less than a minute between vehicles, 7 minute trip time, ~$20M capital cost, stops 1 mile apart, 6 operators per 8-hr shift.

        Buses, without their own lane: Let’s assume 6 buses, running just this route, and they can run an average of 4mph:

        capacity of 6 buses in each direction per hour, 10 minutes between vehicles, 30 minute trip time, capacity of stops only 1/4 mile apart, $2.7M capital cost, stops 1/2 mile apart, 6 operators per 8-hr shift.

        Buses, with their own lane: Let’s assume 6 buses, running just this route, and they can run an average of 10mph:

        capacity of 15 buses in each direction per hour, 4 minutes between vehicles, 12 minute trip time, capacity of stops only 1/4 mile apart, $2.7M capital cost, stops 1/2 mile apart, 6 operators per 8-hr shift.

        So the bus-with-exclusive-lane is approaching the gondola example. Frequency isn’t as fast, trip time is slower, but stops are spaced closer and it’s cheaper. If we can politically make that happen, it would be a fine compromise. Or we come up with the money for a gondola line and increase the amount of people we can move E-W without any real political battles.

      2. Denny must have 2 GP lanes for practical reasons – one lane as a queue for the I-5 onramps, and one through lane for everyone else. However, I think the E/W bus route problem could be fixed once the street grid is reconnected over Aurora. If we could shift the 8 a block or two north to, say, Thomas, and give it a priority signal to merge back on around Minor, we might be able to do it.

        Honestly, I have a feeling Denny/Mercer is going to be a whole different ballgame in 2015. The Mercer project will be done, Broad will be dead, and John, Thomas, and Harrison will all be reconnected. Making long term plans for the Denny corridor right now would be crazy – even if there are traffic models for the new street grid, I wouldn’t trust them, since this will shake up the whole flow of things.

  3. Tim,

    When I first moved to Seattle in 1981, I was 12 years old. Coming from a small town in Oregon, it was awe-inspiring to see the towering skyscrapers of downtown Seattle. We lived in a tri-plex on Wallingford Avenue near 40th. One of my favorite things to do was to spend a Saturday riding the bus. My mom would give me the $1 for the all-day pass and away I went! I would catch the 26 or 16 to downtown and then catch the first bus I saw just to see where it went. I sure went to lots of different places! I don’t know if kids do it nowadays, but I was able to go to Southcenter on my own, Bellevue, even Federal Way. No need to see where the northern routes went to since it seemed there was nothing north of Aurora Village, but then suddenly I discovered route 340 which would take me on a different route to Southcenter via Bellevue. It was such a great sense of independence that kids these days probably don’t understand or appreciate. Now as an adult, I know where things are in the city because I grew up exploring the whole area.

    1. I did something similar although I started when I was 16. I rode several routes to the end to see what was there. Then I stopped doing that for many years because I didn’t want to see another 30 mph road with only houses along it. But now as people have been discussing certain routes, I’ve gone back to ride the 2, 5, 14-S, 24, 28, 168, and 240 — routes I haven’t ridden for 20 years or never been on before.

      1. Transit Geek Alert!

        Even recently, I’ve spent a day riding the bus/rail. Bus 41 to downtown, LINK to Sea-Tac, Rapid Ride to the (silly) mall in Federal Way then back to Sea-Tac, LINK to Columbia City for a late lunch, 7 to Pioneer Square for some shopping, 15 to Pike Place Market for some dinner fixin’s then 41 again back to Northgate for the drive back home.

  4. a regressive tax takes a decreasing portion of income as incomes rise.

    the TBD VLF may be regressive, but is not sufficient to show that the same $60 is applied to low value and high value vehicles. regressivity is relative to income, not cars. there is also a positive correlation between the number of cars in a household and its income. Census figures show that 17 percent of Seattle households have no vehicle and most of them are poor.

    the entire tax structure in our state is regressive. the TBD menu is not an exception, as it follows the rule.

    Does Seattle want to invest in its transport? if so, then it must raise funds from the revenue measures allowed it by the state. cities, counties, and transit agencies are creatures of the state government and subject to its rules.

    that the transport needs are vast and the TBD $60 VLF funds only a small portion of the need is not a very good reason to vote no. we need to get started. that the current measure will only address a small portion of the sidewalk deficit is not a reason to vote no. it is a reason to vote yes and get started.

    the gas tax is the best method to fund roadway maintenance. but the city and its TBD are not allowed the gas tax. the state has that authority. the counties have authority to ask voters to approve a local option gas tax at 10 percent of the state rate. we should be demanding that the county do so. all the 39 cities of King County would get a share by formula; all need more tranport funds. the gas tax is efficient, fair, and easy to collect. it is subject to the 18th amendment of the state constitution. it is ideal for maintenance. the TBD funds are not subject to the 18th amendement and are flexible.

    vote yes.

    Seattle will soon have to ask its voters for additional revenue to fund the seawall, Mercer West, the Elliott-Western arterial where the AWV is now, a new Magnolia Bridge, and $1 billion for sidewalks on arterials that lack them. this ask will pale next to Prop 1.

  5. “I caught the 7:38a.m. trip at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue North and Mercer Street, just a minute after OneBusAway told me it would arrive. Of course, with Prop 1, instead of relying on a bus app (as great as it is), riders could just look to the real-time information signs that display when the next bus is coming.”

    The real time signs would have the same information that you get from OneBusAway.

    1. “The real time signs would have the same information that you get from OneBusAway.”

      And the information would be available to casual riders that don’t know about or use OneBusAway.

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