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Lots of stuff to watch this year!

61 Replies to “Looking Ahead to 2012”

  1. Would really love it if Soundtransit would offer a public walking tour of the fist finished tunnel

    1. I’m imagining a giant fist careening through the dirt from the U-District to Capitol Hill.

  2. Over Christmas, I went for a drive through the Snoqualmie Valley, via Bothell, and was impressed by the sheer quantity of HOV/bus lanes on 522.

      1. And, for once, WSDOT appears to have hit their predicted numbers. Everything I’ve read says the numbers are right about what they expected which means that you still have ~45,000 people a day paying the tolls. As others tire of the slog that I90 has become, no doubt some will decide to suck it up and pay the toll.

        The Sunday morning like driving conditions on a Friday evening will just be too tempting for many.

      2. In fact in some sense the toll is too low, given that the type of person who could care less about $180 a month would care equally as less about $300.

      3. That’s why the tolls are variable: to capture the people for whom $180/mo and $300/mo are distinguishable.

      4. Can anyone recall the number of vehicles that “showed up out of nowhere” back in the early 1990’s when the Homer Hadley and the Lacey V. Murrow finally came back “on-line”?

        It was something like 40,000 and came as a shock to the local traffic modeling community.

  3. * 11 new ORCA VMs are being purchased by Metro, including one that the staff at King Street can point straight at, so they can focus on selling the specialty ORCAs. I suggest they actually space a few ORCA VMs around downtown, as too many riders don’t consider a trip to the Westlake underground shop or the King Street service window convenient. The ORCA VMs could be located there for a few months around the October upheaval, and then moved to transit centers etc. later.

    * The Ride Free Area goes away in October, and with it, the ever-annoying PAYSTTE. Lots of service hours get saved *if* Metro et al can keep the buses flowing through downtown as fast they do now. See first point.

    * Rumor once had it that Metro paper voucher books (unfortunately misnomered “ticket books”, which creates legal problems for fare enforcement) would go off the shelf this year. At this point, their sale appears to continue as normal, though I suspect few people buy them anymore.

    * Vouchers (misnomered “free tickets”) start getting mailed out to King County car tab payers. How this ends up affecting the budget is a wild guess.

    * The truth value of the rumors that the bus bays in the DSTT will be consolidated into one bay in each direction per station may be revealed in February.

    * King County employees can no longer use their employee passes to ride the bus for free. You have to have a flex pass, which has ORCA embedded. Everyone else has to go through the qualification process. Some may have to bargain to get free bus passes back as part of their union contract negotiations.

    * The phasing out of annual RRFPs is completed. Riders who no longer have such passes will be paying $243 this year instead of last year’s $99. That’s a whopping 145% fare increase.

    * Metro youth fares start 67% higher than last year (up from 75 cents to $1.25).

    * The free transfers are good for half an hour less than last year. When the RFA closes, they should drop by another half hour, to match Pierce Transit.

    * ORCA is no longer accepted on the Olympia Express, effective today.

    1. “The free transfers are good for half an hour less than last year. When the RFA closes, they should drop by another half hour, to match Pierce Transit.”

      In other words, we’re increasing the incentive for people to pay with cash, rather than with Orca. Brilliant!

      1. The way paper transfers are implemented, it’s simply good for either morning, afternoon, or night, depending on how it’s punched – the hard time period length is only for Orca-card transfers. The result is that someone going downtown for an hour-long shopping trip who pays cash inbound can ride free outbound by showing the paper transfers. Using Orca, that person would have to pay twice, unless the return trip falls within the transfer period. Shortening the transfer period increases the liklihood that someone using Orca will have to pay twice, while someone using cash who stays downtown for 2-3 hours or less still only has to pay once. This amounts to a 50% discount incentivizing people to pay with cash – exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.

      2. Except that if you pay with an ORCA e-purse you can ask for a paper transfer, and thus get Metro’s transfer span.

      3. Huh? Wait… huh?

        When I first read that on Brent’s list, I figured we had to be talking about tightening the paper transfers and enforcing their expiration times better.

        Are we really talking about shrinking the ORCA transfer to 90 minutes, and then to 60?

        Does Metro actually not know that their system is full of in-and-out trips (current 2nd-swipe-as-you-leave) that wildly exceed 90 minutes, whether or not they’re supposed to?

        Does Metro actually not realize that molasses-slow routes and 30-minute headways mean 2nd boardings more than 60 minutes after 1st boardings are a regular fucking feature of their service?

        Is this a New Years Fools joke?

      4. @Mike: Metro doesn’t advertise that fact, and some drivers have looked at me rather quizzically when I’ve asked for one, so to use that as a defense for shortening the ORCA transfer window is a bit ridiculous. Also, it’s my understanding they only do that at night, when handing out OWL transfers.

        But it should be noted that Metro’s official policy is a 90-minute transfer, and has been for as long as I can remember. (From the website: “You may ask for a free transfer, good for 90 minutes,” and “You can use it for 1½ hours.”) But since Metro drivers just set the expiration at the beginning of the route and based on when they’re scheduled to reach the terminal, if you board a 48 at the beginning of the route, you’ll usually get a transfer good for 3 hours; board the same bus near the end of the run, you’re liable to get a 90-minute transfer.

        Can anyone tell me why Metro operators can’t or won’t adjust transfer length en route? Operators in most every other city do it just fine, why can’t ours?

      5. Andreas, re: Metro’s published 90-minute policy for transfers (which, BTW, is worded to apply to paper only):

        The difference is that, even if all drivers started tearing paper at precisely 90 minutes, they can still exercise some discretion when inspecting those they are shown. If a bus is 15 minutes late, its driver will obviously be more lenient about transfers that expired 15 minutes ago. If stuck in a great deal of traffic on a P.A.Y.L. route, they can similarly ignore an expiration time about which they otherwise would have been a stickler.

        ORCA can’t do that. Late bus, no-show bus, slow bus: you get double-charged for the pleasure of your sub-par ride.

        The logical and just order of events is plain as day:

        1) Fix the transit system. Make it so that you can actually get to any destination (or close enough not to need another transfer) within 90 minutes.
        2) Get everyone paying using the same system (incentivize ORCA).
        3) Then pare back the ORCA transfer window.

        We’re not even close to accomplishing (1) or (2). Jumping the gun and penalizing riders with (3) is nothing short of thievery. The slowness of our transit already steals our time; now it wants to steal two more dollars as well?

      6. d.p.: I mostly agree with you on the course of action, though personally I think the single step of eliminating paper transfers would also work. But I must make two comments.

        First, If a bus is 15 minutes late, its driver will obviously be more lenient about transfers that expired 15 minutes ago. For lake of a better word: LOL. Maybe twice in 15+ years of riding Metro have I been waved on without having to pay my full fare because a bus was late—2 minutes or 45, most operators don’t seem to know the difference. It’s not their fault, and even if it is, you still have to pay.

        Second, If stuck in a great deal of traffic on a P.A.Y.L. route, they can similarly ignore an expiration time about which they otherwise would have been a stickler. Actually, Metro’s paper transfers explicitly state one need only reboard (not deboard) before expiration, so there’s nothing for drivers to be sticklers about. Though, of course, that’s the beauty of PAYL: even if a driver gives you a hard time, instead of arguing the rules of the transfer, you can just get off the bus. Which actually works just as easily with an ORCA card as a transfer: just don’t tap.

      7. Oh, shoot. I left out the word “paper”.

        There is no plan by Metro to tighten the ORCA transfer period beyond the current 2 hours.

        Metro paper transfers are torn to be good for one and a half to two hours beyond the end of the route. Pierce Transit makes the cut at an hour to an hour and a half from the end of the route, even though a larger percentage of their routes are hourly.

      8. @Brent: So you meant that Metro’s just started to enforce its own longstanding policy? I just hope more operators get the memo on this one than have gotten the memo about, say, back door usage. Otherwise I imagine a minority of drivers are going to start handing out shorter transfers, other drivers will keep handing out the ridiculous ones, and before long the ones who do short transfers will get so tired of taking crap from riders that they’ll just revert back to the long transfers. (That’s actually the best-case scenario. The other likely option is that we just wind up with a system where, even more than ever, transfer length seems entirely arbitrary depending on driver, time of day, point in route, etc.)

      9. An email I got from Metro last year implied that the length of paper transfers had been shrunk from 2 hours to 1.5 hours. I don’t care a whole lot who got the memo, since most riders don’t notice the difference and aren’t encouraged to stop their change-fumblin’ ways just because of it.

        I also don’t mind that some drivers insist on not opening back doors after dark. I would rather that the drivers do what they feel is safe than what they feel is dangerous policy. Until we get universal roving fare enforcement, I don’t begrudge drivers who refuse to open the rear door(s).

        If you want a guarantee of getting a transfer worth over an hour and a half, there is an option for that, and its one that will make your fellow riders happier.

        Metro’s main justification for keeping paper transfers (which is to reduce the resistance to route restructures) doesn’t seem to be relevant in real life. I have yet to hear anyone oppose the elimination of a one-seat ride based on the argument of the cost of a transfer. With ORCA, that excuse is moot.

        So, once these eleven new TVMs have been placed, I hope the County Council takes a look at how small the percentage of riders is that aren’t getting ORCA because the card is “too expensive”, and just eliminate the paper transfers. Then, the drivers will certainly get the memo and won’t have to be the ones taking the flack. I pray this will all happen before October of 2012.

      10. The issue with restructurings is not past ones but future ones. There has only been one override-one-seat-rider-protest restructurings so far, the Eastside one last October. The first major Seattle restructuring that may actually avoid caving to one-seat-rider protests is October 2012 (RR C and D), followed by Oct 2013 (RR E), 2016 (University Link), and 2021 (North Link). Metro seems to think — and I agree with this — that moving service to more frequent core routes is more urgent than eliminating paper transfers now. Nothing bugs people more or dissuades them from riding as much as having to wait 25 minutes for a bus.

      11. Can we have confirmation that the 30-minute reduction is for Metro transfers rather than ORCA transfers?

      12. Confirmed: The 30-minute reduction was for paper transfers only.

        I promise never to forget the word “paper” again.

      13. Brent: PHEW!

        Andreas: I’m pretty sure that the longstanding policy really was “two hours,” so the current website statement does in fact amount to a change. Though it sounds like it was made under the radar.

        Brent: You sound a bit agnostic about whether this paper-transfer slimming should be emphasized. I think it should.

        PAYL drivers can remember to accept transfers that were good when they began their route. Late drivers should know to accept transfers that expired when they should have arrived. But all other drivers can now start to be sticklers about paper and they have a new rule to point to (and a 2-hour ORCA alternative to suggest).

        If, at the very least, I stop seeing drivers dole out all-night transfers at freakin’ 7PM, then I’ll consider that an improvement. (If you’re a frat-boy going out to get smashed on a weekend, then you can no doubt afford to pay the fare each way.)

        Re: rear exit deniers: Inconsistency, in all its forms, is to blame for a lot of what’s wrong with Seattle public transit. If a passenger almost misses a stop just once because a driver refuses the back door, that passenger will head to the front from then on. Counterproductive lesson learned!

        The rear door should become a presumed option. When the Ride Free Area and PAYL disappear, the rear door should become the default point of egress, with automated reminders coming out of the speakers. Exceptions should be only be allowed under extraordinary circumstances and with the driver required to clearly articulate a reason.

      14. “But all other drivers can now start to be sticklers about paper and they have a new rule to point to (and a 2-hour ORCA alternative to suggest).”

        Except for one small detail: Metro’s overriding policy for drivers is “NO Fare Disputes”. That’s not to say there aren’t some of us who will be a little more pushy than the suggested “ask once if you feel safe”, however you CANNOT assume that it’s the driver’s responsibility to enforce fares. If you want universal fare enforcement, you need fare enforcement officers throughout the whole system, which is expensive.

        Our job is to get people to their destination safely and with reasonable courtesy – nothing more. Anything we do to enforce fares is above and beyond and puts us at risk. When you realize that Mark Mclaughlin was killed because of a fare dispute, you’ll understand why Metro has this policy.

      15. Let’s wait and see whether the transfer time actually changes on the ground. The policy may say 2 hours or 1 1/2 hours but drivers have been giving out 2-4 hours forever. When I first started riding Metro the back of the transfer said “One-Hour Pass (transfer)” even though I’ve never, ever received a transfer for just one hour. So 1 1/2 hours may be lame but it’s better than Metro’s 1980s policy.

  4. Passive restraint slots come to the rest of the RapidRide fleet, but nothing more than that. Word I’ve heard is that most of the fleet is too narrow to accommodate the slots properly. The RapidRide buses are, too, technically, but the fact of ambulatory riders entering and exiting mostly at the rear doors makes it okay.

    1. How is the fleet too narrow? Most of Metro’s low floor buses are the same model Vancouver uses and they’ve had passive restraint for years. CT has passive restraint on their newest regular buses too.

      The bigger issue is whether they’re structurally able to install then or not.

  5. Another big piece of transit news would be the start of construction for the First Hill Streetcar.

      1. Funny!

        FWIW, I didn’t start out as a mark-up fiend. I tend to write in bulk, even when I’d rather be pithy, and I started to notice that my points were frequently misinterpreted by skimmers — often presuming that I was suggesting the opposite of what I had actually said.

        I know it’s my fault for being wordy, but in lieu of meticulously re-editing every fleeting thought to publication standards, I found I could at least bold a few keywords and indicators of emphasis. I guess it’s become my trademark.

        I’ve never, to my knowledge, bolded an entire paragraph (at least not intentionally).

  6. Will 2012 be the year the Transit Riders Union finally takes off – and maybe even make a mark on transit advocacy in the Puget Sound region?

    1. Not if it insists on maintaining low performing routes at the expense of adding service where demand is greatest and supply is lacking.

      1. Has the Seattle Transit Riders’ Union actually done that? I attended one meeting, and while they emphasized poor and working-class riders, they also acknowledged that some restructurings may be necessary and light rail isn’t categorically a bad thing. Their main focus right now seems to be on collecting more people’s views about transit and Metro’s performance — asking people on the street or in their houses, people who don’t pay attention to transit planning. Have they made any recommendations that would jepordize the October restucturing substantially, for instance?

    1. The signs at the stations were screwed up on Thanksgiving. It said the next bus leaving BTC would be in 25 minutes (twice as long as it should be). I didn’t know if there was a holiday reduction so I started walking — and two RapidRide buses passed me within the next two stations. So if the station signs are confused, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google is confused too.

  7. Your current transit news from your transit news correspondent Haywood Jablomey.

    Sound Transit remaps the 574 route to connect with the Sounder which goes in the OPPOSITE direction. So for those people traveling from the Airport to Seattle who want to transfer to the Sounder they can now do it at Lakewood… 35 miles from the city.

    Pierce Transit after a massive service hour cut adds the 400 route to duplicate the service offered by the Sounder. Sound Transit counters by canceling a portion of the 578 route that duplicates what the PT 400 duplicates of the Sounder route thus saving tax payers $12 which is handed over to Piece Transit and immediately applied to it’s million dollar shortfall easing the tension between Piece Transit and all the cities that pay for it but it no longer services.

    Sound Transit add Sunday service to the 578 for all the people who can’t connect to it using Sounder or Pierce Transit 400 due to there not being any weekend service on either.

    Sound Transit discontinues the downtown Tacoma portion of the 586 because countless other services cover that route including the Oly Express which doesn’t stop at Tacoma Dome on hours ending with consonants on days ending in y (unless it’s raining then there’s a 50/50 chance due to the letter y not always being considered a vowel) resulting in 605 riders to the U District moving from a 2 seat ride to a 3 seat ride either 30%, 35% or 48% of the time.

    Sound Transit extends Sounder south to get closer to 820 parking spots which couldn’t seem to squeeze near the 2283 already available stalls at Tacoma Dome Station thus encouraging people to drive south to park so they can catch the Sounder north back past their houses giving working husbands and wives a second chance to wave to their spouses and check on their lawns. Nobody else notices since the Oly Express still won’t make any sort of intelligent connection to the Sounder effectively keeping the 59x buses annoyingly full.

    To discourage people from taking the Sounder Commuter Train Sound Transit has doubled the frequency of both the 590 and 594 in commute direction only thus making better use of empty parking spaces in the city that so far have not been fully utilized because in the past the buses were busy carrying people around. Coffee shops expect to see an increase in ticket sales from the hordes of ST bus drivers milling about during the day. It’s been proposed that cardboard “Occupy Wall Street” signs be added to their uniform so people won’t notice they are in fact employed bus drivers with nothing better to do.

    Afraid that there may be some good news buried in the changes somewhere for at least ONE line Sound Transit has doubled the service runs of the 592 bus but stops short of actually delivering passengers anywhere useful. Options are to take the Sounder, walk a block to board the Link and travel one or two stops further north or south. Proposed changes are intended to either leave 592 riders stranded or irritated. Either is acceptable. Rumors of a conspiracy by Jamie Oliver to force long transit connection in an attempt to “slim Americans down” go unfounded. Rumors of him being awarded a second TED prize for an upcoming speech however just will not go away.

    Not to leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth Sound Transit has added ONE extra ST 510 run per day to Everett. It isn’t presently clear at what time a day it runs and it’s existence hasn’t been proven.

    And that’s it for this week folks. Have a happy new year.

    1. It was so clear the other night, I saw Nibiru coming toward Earth! Be afeared, folks, be very afeared!

  8. When are they going to add more North sounder trains? That don’t leave ass-early in the morning?

    1. I think that the line is maxed out at four–I don’t think there will be any more. They do run too early, though. The other day I got to Edmonds to collect my sister from the Kingston ferry and was looking forward to seeing a Sounder. It was all of 8 AM and when I looked at the schedule, realized that the last one had already passed through. I’m hoping they will at some point at least spread out the schedule a little more.

      1. One of the biggest improvements would be to delay the 113 up the hill at Mukilteo by 5 minutes or make the northbound train slightly early. Doing so would make it possible for people that actually live in Mukilteo to use it. As it stands anyone riding home that didn’t drive to catch it will wait for an hour. Having a schedule mismatch counts out a possible 20,000 people who may want to ride the train. And yet, nobody notices.

    2. I suspect, only guessing here, that Sounder North has been written off as not-worth-improving until the mudslides and the single-track areas can be addressed. Perhaps once those are addressed more attention will be paid to it.

    3. I believe there was no money in ST2 for additional Sounder North runs; it was assumed they’d remain as-is. That’s partly due to the landslide problem, partly to the single track, and partly because it misses Snohomish’s main population centers (besides Everett). Link, extended by ST Express, is a longer term solution.

  9. I am glad to see that progress is being made extending the rail line south to Lakewood. That’s one step closer to getting the Point Defiance Bypass into operation for Amtrak Cascades.

  10. That Lakewood facility is quite impressive. Would I be correct in guessing that it will serve about as many riders per day as any random bus stop on the Ave?

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