Route 255 on NE 160th St by Oran

Travel has continued to be treacherous all day, with ice causing problems for Link and SeaTac. For travel and disruption information follow the links; King County Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, WSDOT, SDOT, SeaTac. We’ll be tweeting and retweeting information throughout the day.

[Update from Sherwin 3:41pm – The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the region until 4am tomorrow morning. The freezing rain has now turned to snow for most areas, so expect more delays into the evening and tomorrow as well.]

70 Replies to “Ice Open Thread”

  1. The BNSF mainline has had all sorts of problems, too. Switches have been frozen and many Sounder and Amtrak trains have been severely delayed or canceled, both yesterday and today.

    I’d have hated to be on Cascades train #501 (SEA-PDX) this morning. It took 70 minutes to get from Seattle to Tukwila, ran decently well until almost Olympia, then had to turn around and return to Tacoma, where I presume passengers will be bused to PDX if conditions permit? Oh, and it seems that Train 500 (EUG-SEA) is stuck in Centralia too.

    1. My Dad got stuck on train 500 this morning. He still hasn’t arrived – last I heard they were sending buses to Centralia.

  2. From the Seattle Times (URL is very long, so I won’t put it here):

    “Icy conditions playing havoc with light rail service

    “Update: Sound Transit Sea-Tac station is temporarily closed. Service from Seattle’s southend, however, is back up with a train leaving from Columbia City station into downtown after about a two hour delay.

    “Earlier, our transportation reporter Mike Lindblom was at the Columbia City Link light rail station where more than 100 rail passengers waited inside one of the trains for up to an hour before being told to get off and take a bus into downtown.

    “The train operator said that the northbound train had lost electrical power. Earlier, according to a passenger, the driver had said there was ice on a power line.

    “This comes on top of other problems with rail this morning, including an earlier stall inside the Beacon Hill tunnel.

    “Riders complained about scant information online from Sound Transit, including the agency’s text alerts.

    “”I get alerts on my phone. They just totally posted one that says it was normal,” said Joy Dunay, trying to get downtown.

    “The stoppages are in contrast to Thanksgiving week 2010, when Link stood out by running flawlessly with full trains of travelers to the airport. It broke its weekday record by hauling 29,000 riders a day.

    “Going southbound Thursday morning, riders waited up to an hour in the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Spirits were generally mellow, though at least one man gave up to seek a cab. When a train left around 9 a.m., it carried about 125 people, as riders had accumulated from missed trips over the course of an hour.

    “Because there is no cellphone service in the Tunnel, people had trouble communicating with their employers and friends.

    “”What do you do? Right now, I’m happy I’m on the way,” said Patrick Allen, heading to work as a Chase personal banker near Othello Station.

    “Crews were running trains all night to sweep ice off the overhead power lines, but Thursday’s freezing rain has been persistent.”

    1. additionally, if you go to the ST web-site, it doesn’t even mention anything weather related…nothing…

      1. my bad…there is a tiny little yellow link…would be nice to see more info right up front…

      2. There is nothing obvious on the Sound Transit website to tell users where/if there are service problems. I actually had to go to THIS blog and follow the link to the Sound Transit site which had any service issues under the SCHEDULE folder. Who’s the idiot that decided to put the service disruption info under the schedule tab? Where’s the quick info people need to know about their bus or light rail? Sure, I get email notices about some info that I need but it is always incomplete. Sound Transit definitely needs to step up their game for these emergency situations.

    2. Ice buildup on the overhead wire is the problem.

      They’ve been keeping trains running overnight to keep it from building up, but apparently not frequently enough. I’m surprised they don’t just put some methanol deicer in a supersoaker and and hose down the stretch of catenary keeping the train from moving.

      I get alerts on my phone. They just totally posted one that says it was normal

      THIS is getting to be a pretty big issue. And I’m hearing a lot of it. Some unplanned, nonstandard delay/reroute happens, and it doesn’t go out to the alert center. Just like my experience Monday when the 48 was truncated, but apparently the only ones who knew about it were the drivers.

      1. I caught a train just after ST sent an email saying that normal service had resumed on Central Link yet my train sat at the Columbia City station for 30 minutes. Nothing was communicated with riders onboard except to that we were “experiencing delays” and that they appreciated my patience. ST’s rider information during emergencies, snow, etc leaves a lot to be desired.

      1. Why does it matter? Being a curmudgeon for the sake of being curmudgeonly is getting a bit old, don’t you think?

  3. Sounds like the Monorail is out of service thanks to ice. The SLUT’s seems to still be running.

  4. If only the city were this car-free year round! Oh well, I’ll enjoy the breathable air and quiet walks into work while they last.

  5. KCM’s Twitter feed indicates that the 3/4 were not running up Taylor as of 3 hours ago – I still wish the Metro snow & ice page would say so if that is still the case.

    Downtown streets actually look worse than yesterday, even though there isn’t much snow coming down. Drivers don’t seem to be having too much trouble though.

    1. The arterials are fine. It looks a lot worse than it really is. SDOT has been salting the ice, and the snow’s all been beaten into slush by the traffic. The side streets and alleyways are the only places where traction becomes a serious issue – so long as you can get to the main road and have a decent set of all-season tires, conditions are fine. No chains required.

    1. Could they use the downtown transit tunnel?

      Do they take longer to load and unload passengers, due to the stairs for the upper deck, or not?

      How do double-deckers do going up and down steep hills?

      Double Decker buses have greater capacity than articulated buses, so, if there are no disadvantages, I would say Metro should start using double-decker buses on many routes, also. Perhaps ST, as well. Is there some particular reason why they aren’t?

      1. They’re too tall for the tunnel.

        On boarding:

        The agency also did a dwell-time study for the Seattle Department of Transportation to determine if the taller buses took more time to load and unload on downtown streets. The answer was no, according to Community Transit. “In fact, the shorter length of the bus compared to articulated buses helped to keep vehicles from “blocking the box” at rush hour,” the agency reported in the Community Transit blog.

        Not sure about steep hills.

        Double deckers are rare in the US. CT is one of three public transit agencies in the US using them regularly. CT has the first Buy America complaint double deck bus, possibly leading the way for other agencies to get their own.

        Reliability will improve as CT gains more experience with them.

      1. Until they catch fire.

        That aside, the MCIs are the worst accessible buses. The floor is too high. The wheelchair lift takes 5-10 minutes to load/unload. Their seated and non-existant standing capacity is lower than a double deck bus yet it takes up more street space. They only have one narrow door.

        The only good thing about them aside from not sucking in the snow is the ride quality though I’d argue that the top deck of a Double Tall is close and I get a view.

      2. I’d love to see ST replace the MCI coaches with double talls. The ride quality of the MCI coaches is nice, but the difficulties in loading and unloading, especially if someone needs the lift, greatly offset ride comfort.

        If Thomas makes a hybrid version they could make a great alternative to articulated coaches on most ST, CT, NT, and PT routes.

  6. I can see I-5 from my living room window and I have yet to see a plow. My wife was downtown today and I was around capitol hill yesterday and saw no evidence of any streets being plowed. I know this is anecdotal and I know the city and county don’t have many plows, but what have they been doing with the ones they do have for the past 2 days? I’d assume that plowing I-5 and downtown would be a top priority, but it sure looks like it hasn’t been done. What gives?

    1. I can see they are plowing along the #1 route up QA. Don’t expect to see bare pavement after they plow. That would require heavy use of salt and bigger plow trucks at this point. Snow that lands during commute time gets compacted and is harder to remove. It’s always better when the plows have a chance to get at the snow first.

    2. SDOT only plows designated snow routes (map). Orange is all lanes plowed, blue is one lane each direction plowed, and green is salted only.

      IIRC, SDOT’s is able to make a complete circuit of the snow routes 2 or 3 times a day.

    3. From my neck of the woods SDOT is doing a SUPERB job in plowing and spreading salt (or whatever deicer). There is basically a bit of slush in the roads, but I’ve been able to travel on arterials without any problem whatsoever. Yes I grew up driving in Spokane, and yes I have good tires, but I think they’ve kept in front of it pretty well. Trucks are going by my house every 15-20 minutes. Can’t speak to the rest of the city.

      1. I arrived back in Madison Park around 16h00 to see two (clearly leased – no City decals or other municipal ID) graders working in tandem to clear Madison between the Arboretum and the lake – have never seen that before. The KC Metropolitan Omnibus Company’s #11 has only been running sporadically today with fewer artics in evidence – they clearly learned a lesson yesterday afternoon.

    4. SDOT doesn’t plow I-5 AFAIK, they leave that to WSDOT crews.

      OTOH I’ve seen plenty of SDOT plows today, they are out on the roads doing their job.

    5. The city did a GREAT job plowing and sanding and salting. I saw them out in force in ways I have not EVER seen them out in the past. “What gives” is that your eyeballs fall on a limited area over a limited time.

  7. I think this sort of inclement weather raises some questions regarding the superiority of one-seat rides versus forced transfers between buses and Central Link light rail.

    How many people would prefer to just stay on a (presumably) warm bus all the way to downtown, even if it took longer, rather than be bused to a Link station and be forced to get off the bus, walk to the Link platform in freezing rain and wait in the cold and wind for a Link train?

    Even in “normal” Seattle winter weather of 40 degrees and rain, is it really worth saving a few minutes of trip time to have to transfer from a bus to a light rail train at an outdoor station, rather than just stay on the bus for the entire trip, even if the one-seat trip on the bus took longer?

      1. A lot of people who had one-seat rides were forced to transfer when Link began operating, and some bus routes were changed to “feed” Link, instead of continuing as one-seat rides.

        Particularly in winter weather, was that an improvement, or a worsening of the transit trips for those people forced to switch from a one-seat ride on a bus to a transfer at an outdoor Link station?

        Judging from your comment, a one-seat ride would be preferable to most people, since you seem to consider a one-seat ride to be “ideal.”

        I am not talking about some unrealistic “ideal world”. I am talking about what used to exist for many people, but changed to inflate Link ridership.

      1. How fast can you walk in these conditions? Sidewalks on Queen Anne are not cleared, as far as I can see. And the few people I see walking around are not making very good time.

        And just how long do you like being outside in freezing rain?

      2. Obviously I was dressed for the weather, hat/coat/gloves etc.. Not the most pleasant time to take a walk, for sure, but that’s kind of what weather is.

        It would have been colder waiting motionless at the stop rather than walking. And I have to presume that waiting for the weather-delayed bus would have put me in the cold for longer, since my walking route was the bus route, and the bus never passed me.

        Of course, this delay might not be due to the snow, the 48 is just that bad. Even though I’m riding from a stop less than 2 miles of plowed, salted streets from the route’s origin.

        However, if we had reliable bus position information, i.e. GPS, OBA could have eliminated my outdoor wait time, and then the one-seat ride would have been superior.

      3. Meh. Sidewalks generally are not cleared on top of QA, but it’s not bad at all. I got in my regular three-mile walk every day this week, and it took no longer than usual.

    1. Link has overall performed much better than the buses in bad weather. It’s only ice that finally brought Link to a halt, and we haven’t had this much ice for twenty years. Maybe they’ll run overnight trains more frequently now (and tell passengers they exist). But buses have been stalled, thrown way off schedule, and rerouted off their snow routes since Sunday.

      We can’t design a full one-seat ride system just because it snows one week a year. That means for 51 weeks a year, people aren’t using transit because it’s infrequent, and it’s infrequent because it’s trying to support so many one-seat rides. One-seat rides do nothing for the thousands of people who don’t live near a one-seat bus line or it’s not going their direction.

      1. There were thousands of people who actually DID HAVE one-seat rides, before some bus routes were changed to force those people to transfer to Link to inflate Link ridership.

        I am not talking about a “full one-seat ride system.” I am talking about the people who actually DID HAVE one-seat rides are are now forced to transfer to Link at outdoor Link stations.

        And, as I made clear, this is not uncomfortable only in the snow, but in cold, windy, rainy weather, which is common in our area more than “one week a year.”

      2. Nobody is ever “forced” to make a transfer. There is always the option to walk, bike, or run the shorter portion of the trip. And, yes, a 1-mile walk to a ride on Link is much, much more comfortable than a 1/2-mile walk plus an excruciatingly slow rider of the 7. If it’s cold and windy, that’s a solvable problem if you wear proper clothing. I commuted to work today with a hat, gloves, rain jacket, rain pants, and thick, warm socks. And in spite of doing a total of 2+ miles on foot traveling to and from bus stops, I never felt cold.

      3. Portland gets much more freezing rain than Seattle. How does MAX perform with the frequent freezing rain storms? I don’t remember hearing about outages when I lived there 15 years ago, but they only had one line back then, getting ready to open the extension to Hillsboro.

      4. Norman, people all over the country do this every day, inclement weather doesn’t stop us for a second. Put on a hat gloves and long underwear, and take a bus to a train. Mind, some parts of the world have heaters on the platforms to compensate for sub-zero temperatures at times, but Seattle’s weather doesn’t compare to much of the country, much more transit dependent places, Like Chicago, New York, Boston. Chicago’s grid network makes it the second most used transit system in the country (3rd largest city) because you can get anywhere very quickly since busses feed trains to get downtown. I have about 8 choices to get from home to school. I can take, the 29 from my door to my school. That takes 45+ minutes. I can take the 29 or 65 to Grand-Red, and take the train to Sox-35th, that takes 25 minutes. I can take 29/65 to grand, red to roosevelt, and green from there to 35th if I don’t feel like walking as far and that takes ~ 27 minutes. Without the grid network and feeders to trains it would take me 45 minutes every day to get to and from school(IIT). That would flat out suck. One-Seat-Rides are not all they are cracked up to be, and hanging out at a train station waiting for 5 minutes is No big deal at all. Just dress appropriately.

    2. Sorry for my bad memory, but who has to transfer to Link who used to have a one-seat ride? The Rainier Valley reorganizations were minimal, which is why there are so few feeders to Link. You can get from any part of Rainier Valley or Beacon Hill to downtown on one or two buses, I think. Rainier to SeaTac and Beacon to Seatac are new one-seat rides that didn’t previously have bus connections (without transferring downtown or in SODO). Former 194 riders can take Link, the 574, or 577/578 (faster than the 194!) depending on their origin/destination.

      1. UW to S Graham St is now particularly painful and used to be a one-seat ride on the 48.

      2. Well specifically it’s a mile walk from Columbia City station, or a Link transfer plus a .6 mile walk.

      3. I think Metro should have kept the 48 going to Rainier Beach rather than moving its tail to the 8. But still, it doesn’t force you to transfer to Link. It just forces you to transfer to another bus. Link is just there as an additional option. And when U-Link and North Link open, it will be significantly faster than the 48 for going from Columbia City or Mt Baker to the U-district.

  8. I’ve seen a few buses pass by southbound on 15th Ave S in Beacon Hill on a section (north of Beacon Ave) where there are no bus routes. I don’t know if 14th (where they usually run) is messed up or if these are deadheading or what. Buses are all over the place!

    1. “Fare Evasion” has been frequent this week on the #11; I prefer to think of it as customer service, given the irregular and unpredictable schedules and running times. Sort of like getting an extra drink in a bar if the bartender spilt a beer on you.

      1. I remember fares being free on earlier snow days. I think it happens when the snow comes up unexpected and the buses aren’t chained.

      2. The driver of the 9x I took this morning just had a “Ride Free Area” sign up and wouldn’t let anyone pay. Said the bus was late … I had no idea if it was since I just went to the stop and waiting … ten minutes maybe? I didn’t try to time it by schedule.

  9. Have been watching 12th and Pine all day and seeing buses get stuck on the hill. Be aware if you are taking a 10 or 11 Eastbound past Broadway.

  10. I got on the 248 towards Redmond/Avondale this morning at Willows and Redmond Way just outside downtown Redmond on what I consider a slight hill and, for the first time this week (I’ve ridden it every day to work this week) the bus driver told me that I wasn’t supposed to board buses during snowy/icy conditions on a hill, only at the bottom of a hill. I told him that I’ve boarded the bus every day this week under similar conditions at the same stop with no problem and he told me that was irrelevant because that’s Metro’s policy and I should follow it. I realize that the bus driver is correct but, at the same time, I don’t believe that where buses stop during snow routing should be at the discretion of the bus driver because what is considered a ‘hill’ to a driver may not be a ‘hill’ to me, especially when the pavement was clear on Redmond Way when I was picked up.

    My question to everyone is this: has Metro or any other local transit agency considered any sort of standard procedure for which stops to skip for a given route? I realize that a list like this would be difficult at best to include in a paper schedule but perhaps this document could live online with the online version of a given route’s schedule with a reference to this online document in the paper schedule? I’m aware that a project of this magnitude will take ages but I think that taking the guesswork out of which stops to use during snowy and icy weather would go a long way to making bus service during these periods transparent to all and thus more palatable and keep more people off the roads. (steps off soapbox)

    1. I should add that what I mean is that the schedule online spells out explicitly which stops for a given route will be skipped.

      1. The “schedule online” does not account for the reality of on-spot conditions. Depending on the type of bus and road conditions – a driver may not want to stop on a hill because they might not get going again. Quit your whining, and recognize that gravity is a factor.

    2. We pay these operators well to make professional decisions away from supervisory eyes. Accept their decisions, and wait on the level in the future.

      1. Fair enough….my thought was just that we seem to generally know which stops are the bad ones in this weather so why not try to take the guesswork out of it. Perhaps not all winter storms are the same. I realize that drivers have to make decisions based on a lot of factors so there isn’t necessarily a cut and dry way of saying where they can stop.

  11. I just helped get someone’s 4 wheel drive SUV out of a parking spot on QA’s south slope. They had stopped to pick up somebody and were facing downhill in a parking spot on a steep street. Unfortunately, there was at least an inch of ice under the snow on the road, so they couldn’t get traction and there was a car on the downhill side of the spot so they couldn’t move forward. It was hard work breaking up that ice.

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