A Different Route


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. Continue reading “A Different Route”

Chartapalooza: Aurora versus Dexter

King County Metro 26 on Dexter
King County Metro 26 on Dexter

In the posts I’ve written about the proposed Fall 2012 restructure, one complaint I’ve heard repeatedly is from Route 5 riders in Greenwood and points north, regarding diminished reliability and speed in exchanging Aurora for Dexter, due the attendant exposure to delays from the Fremont Bridge and Fremont traffic generally.

Fortunately, Metro collects data that can allow us to quantify the effects of this change, and I’ve assembled charts that will allow readers to do just that. There are two timepoint pairs involved:

  • 3rd & Union to 34th & Fremont (and vice versa). This is the travel time of the 26/28 pair from Downtown Seattle to (and from) the heart of Fremont.
  • 3rd & Pine to 38th & Fremont (and vice versa). This is the travel time of Route 5 from Downtown Seattle to (and from) its closest current stop to Fremont.

The additional travel time of about one minute between Union and Pine conveniently offsets the approximate travel time from 34th to 38th, so these charts provide an excellent travel time and reliability comparison between the current alignment of Route 5 and the proposed reroute to Dexter. Some points to bear in mind, when reading these charts:

  • Express service on Greenwood and Shoreline via the Aurora bridge will operate during the peaks, in the form of either Route 5X or 355.
  • The underlying data run from February through May, so neither the speed and reliability improvements from the Wall/Battery bus lanes, nor from the Dexter reconfiguration will be reflected in this data.
  • Arguably the most precise timepoint comparison just to compare Aurora and Dexter would be from Aurora & Denny and Dexter & Denny to Fremont, but that data doesn’t exist (as far as I know). On the other hand, these two timepoint pairs most accurately characterize what riders experience under the current 5 versus the proposed revised 5.

Charts after the jump.

Continue reading “Chartapalooza: Aurora versus Dexter”

Action Alert: Bellevue Hearing on the East Link MOU

Option B, 112th Ave SE Crossing

Next Monday, Bellevue will hold another East Link public hearing, this time in response to city’s approval of the “flyover to trench” alignment along 112th as well as recent updates to the MOU with Sound Transit. The MOU, which outlines the shared tunnel-funding agreement, has actually already been approved by the ST Board provided that the Bellevue city council will reciprocate the move within two weeks time.

The hearing might possibly be one last-ditch effort by East Link opponents to try and halt the project. But if you’re interested in seeing East Link come to fruition, this is a meeting you’ll want to attend. You can RSVP with TCC here.

News Roundup: Viaduct Edition

Photo by Zargoman

This is an open thread.

Streamlining Service in Broadview

King County Metro 28 in Broadview
King County Metro 28 in Broadview

Perched on a ridge north of beautiful Carkeek Park and west of Bitter Lake, Broadview enjoys a broad view of Puget Sound — sort of like living on Sounder North — and shares the quiet, leafy feel and chip sealed, sidewalk-less roads that characterize much of north Seattle past 85th St. Homes here are exclusively single-family, and tend to be on lots a little larger and more widely set-back than streetcar suburbs, but this neighborhood feels similar to walk through, possessing a mostly-intact street grid and houses in a jumble of styles and ages and states of repair.

Broadview is served by two Metro routes: 5 and 28, and the express variants 355 and 28X. Route 5 currently operates on Aurora and Phinney/Greenwood before splitting, with half of the trips continuing straight up Greenwood Ave to serve Broadview, Bitter Lake and Shoreline, terminating at Shoreline Community College; the other half continue to Northgate via Holman Rd . Route 28 currently serves Dexter and Fremont, then jogs west to 8th Ave NW before heading up to Whittier Heights, Crown Hill and Broadview, terminating on 145th St near Aurora.

Notably, due to the absence of suitable roads, Route 28 operates three blocks west of Greenwood Ave, on 3rd Ave NW, for most of its alignment north of Crown Hill, even though no intervening terrain feature acts as a barrier. I’m not sure when this alignment was created, although it goes back at least to the 80s and streetcars existed south of 85th St on both 8th Ave NW and 3rd Ave NW.

Long-time readers can probably guess where I’m heading with this, after the jump.

Continue reading “Streamlining Service in Broadview”

Sally Bagshaw’s Bus Trip


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.

Continue reading “Sally Bagshaw’s Bus Trip”

Aurora: A Case Study in Frequency versus Coverage

358 passing mural at North Park C Store
Something old, something new.

Much of the debate surrounding many of the recently-proposed Metro restructures boil down to frequency versus coverage: given Metro’s tightly-constrained operating budget (among other reasons), Metro can’t operate numerous frequent closely-spaced fixed-route services. Rather, Metro must choose between numerous infrequent routes that attempt to provide service within a few minute’s walk of almost everyone’s doorstep, and a smaller number of frequent routes that focus service on ridership centers, serving riders in less-productive areas either with peak-only service or requiring them to walk further.

In addition to policy concerns and value judgements, there are some general empirical observations that can inform these debates. One I wrote about recently is that more-frequent routes are often much more efficient to schedule than infrequent routes. Another, which I plan to address in this post, is whether riders — regardless of what they tend to say in public hearings — prefer frequent, direct routes, with simple schedules and service patterns, or a selection of less-frequent routes that might minimize walking or slightly reduce travel time but run less frequently and only at certain times.

Conveniently, Metro performed a restructure that can serve as a test case for this question more than a decade ago one of its most important and highest-ridership corridors, and I have obtained historical data to show the results of this change. History, data and analysis after the jump.

Continue reading “Aurora: A Case Study in Frequency versus Coverage”

Tomorrow: Open House for Fall 2012 Service Change

King County Metro 2 by Seattle Public Library
King County Metro 2 by Seattle Public Library

Tomorrow, from noon to 2 PM at the Seattle Central Library, King County Metro will host an open house to provide information and obtain feedback about the initial proposal for the Fall 2012 service change. It is the first in a series of similar events that will be held throughout the city over the next two weeks. These events are a great opportunity to communicate directly with Metro staff, to learn why these changes were proposed and for you to explain how they will affect you. I highly recommend attending at least one of them if you have the chance.

Full announcement text and future dates after the jump.
Continue reading “Tomorrow: Open House for Fall 2012 Service Change”

Simple Map of West Seattle Transit in 2012

Would people perceive Metro’s proposed restructure differently if it were presented like this?

Schematic map of proposed 2012 service restructure in West Seattle
Click to enlarge

The depiction of routes and categories of service & frequency have been simplified for the purpose of this map, which took about ten hours to produce from sketch to post.

Addendum 6:40 pm: For those who want to see ALL service in West Seattle, including those that only run during peak period, see this map.

Mike O’Brien’s Commute


I want to share my recent experience as I rode Metro’s Route 5 north to the Greenwood neighborhood and how this corridor would be different if Prop 1 passes. I ride transit throughout the city, but I frequent routes 5, 44 and 358 the most because they all serve my neighborhood. Route 5 stands to benefit significantly if Proposition 1 passes next week. The route connects the major job centers and transit hubs of Downtown and Northgate, the neighborhood business districts of Phinney Ridge and Greenwood, Shoreline Community College, and significant residential populations along the route.

The Phinney Ridge/Greenwood/Broadview corridor is called out in the city’s Transit Master Plan (TMP) for speed and reliability investments which Prop 1 would fund. So, what exactly does that mean? It means investing in a series of infrastructure investments along a transit corridor to make the bus service operate much more efficiently. Here is a undown of some of the investments slated for this corridor:

  • Bus Bulbs: Bus bulbs are a brilliant low cost/high return investment. There are 35 locations identified in the TMP where bus bulbs would be installed along Route 5. The benefit of bus bulbs is easily illustrated.Anyone who rides the bus is familiar with this experience. When the bus pulls out of traffic to pick up or drop off a passenger, it only takes a few seconds, but often the bus is trapped by passing traffic, forcing the bus to wait up to 30 seconds or more before there is an opening to re-enter the travel lane. This happened on my trip north, but could be a thing of the past if Prop 1 passes. Bus bulbs extend the sidewalk or passenger platform out to the travel lane, allowing buses to quickly drop or pick up passengers while remaining in the travel lane. Then the bus can be on its way without waiting for traffic to clear.
    Click to Enlarge

    On average, each bus bulb can save up to 8 seconds for a bus. With 18 bulbs in one direction, that’s 2.5 minutes off of each trip, every day, indefinitely into the future. These minutes alone add up to a regular commuter, but they also bring significant savings to the system. Route 5 makes about 75 trips in each direction on a weekday. The minutes saved add up to over 1,600 service hours for this route. Those 1,600 service hours saved can be re-deployed to add more service to the system every single year, without us having to pay for additional service hours year after year.Aside from providing a travel time benefit, when bus bulbs are paired with crosswalks, they serve to narrow the crossing distance of arterials, making it safer for pedestrians.

  • Transit Signal Priority. The TMP calls out 14 traffic lights to be modified for transit priority in this corridor. Buses are given priority at a light when an approaching bus signals to the traffic light, causing the light to stay green if it is currently green until the bus passes, or switching to green earlier if the light is red. It is estimated that these changes will save up to 10% of wait time at each signal. This means more time saved for bus riders, and more service hours for the system. Continue reading “Mike O’Brien’s Commute”