54 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Joni Earl”

  1. Joni rocks!

    I like the annual open houses on service improvements, as it gives me the opportunity to once again ask for consolidation of the 510 and 511 into more 512 service so that we can get more tolerable headway to, from, and within Snohomish County. The budgeters know that would be cheaper, but they see such consolidation as a service retreat. They are WRONG! It is a major service IMPROVEMENT!

    … and to ask why the 560 still exists west of the airport. When I get on the 180 or 560 at the airport, I see nearly complete turnover in the ridership. I get the feeling Metro is deluding themselves that there is a market for one-seat rides between Kent and Burien, and ST is afraid of pulling its brand out of West Seattle, even when its bus line there makes no sense. ST may also be afraid of pulling its brand out of Burien, even though the 560 won’t be able to compete with the F Line very well.

    Bus service between West Seattle and the airport SUFFERS because ST is too timid to pull the plug on a bad route. If ST got rid of the 560West, Metro would have to fill the gap, and could do so easily with the 120 extending to the airport. That would serve West Seattle and Burien so much better. The 560 is designed to give Vashon riders a reasonably quick ride to the airport, but Vashon Island isn’t even in the ST service area.

    It also gives me another opportunity to beg, one more time, that the 545 and 255 use the same path through, and same stops in, the Central Business District. Upstairs, downstairs, I don’t care. But repair that trunk, please. There is a huge difference between coordinated 15-minute headway and split-up half-hour headway.

    I must confess: I used to have little confidence in Sound Transit to build decent passenger train service. I didn’t become a true believer until Central Link opened. Just over two years since the line opened all the way to Airport Station, we’ve seen ST come up with, and approve, a plan to expedite opening 200th St Station; we’ve seen four tunnels getting bored, including two under the canal, seemingly without hitch (knock on wood), getting past the most dangerous hurdle in the construction of Central Link; and making quick work of Kemper Freeman, Jr’s, legal shenanigans.

    While I’d love to see U-Link open faster, I’d be even more thrilled if Brooklyn Station (or more) could open at the same time as U-Link. Opening Brooklyn Station in 2016 would be the jewel in the crown of Sound Transit’s, and Joni Earl’s, storied accomplishments.

    1. The notion of a peak-only route (the 560) serving the airport seems particularly strange. Where is the surge in peak-hour traffic on the 560 west of the airport coming from that justifies running the route during the peak, but not other times, especially since peak-only service is the most expensive type of service to provide, since you have a lot of deadheading and have to hire part-time bus drivers?

      I doubt it’s travelers, since there aren’t significantly more flights leaving and arriving during rush hour than other times. While there are a significant number of jobs at the airport, the airport is a 24-hour facility, so I wouldn’t expect a peak-hour surge there like you’d find in other employment centers. And while I guess there could be a few people transferring to the 574 to go to Tacoma, I again highly doubt that’s happening in significant numbers.

      1. I also doubt many airport workers live on Vashon. But I do think a decent chunk live close to the 120 (and certainly more than live along the 560).

      2. The 560 is the only decent route for West Seattle dwellers to get to the airport.
        I can’t say it any other way.
        Please don’t give me your “take this and transfer to that” line of crap while I’ve got luggage to haul and a plane to catch.

        Also, IMO, if there was not a fare discrepancy, ST could pick up a lot more passengers doing travel within West Seattle.
        As it is, many ST560 pass empty while people wait for a MT54/22/128 to move about the peninsula.
        I am sure that is because of the extra cost of the ST560.

        IMO, it is a stupid turf war played with the time and energy of the citizenry.

      3. Wasn’t ST560 a Greg Nickels invention? I once rode it all the way from Sea-Tac to Downtown Seattle when it still did that.

        Didn’t it have some kind of funny KCMetro-pass friendly fare structure like the ST550 nee KCM226 did?

      4. Yes, FWIW, the 560 is the best route from West Seattle to the airport, because it is the *only* route from West Seattle to the airport.

        But it is still mostly empty, and misses the major constituency that goes to the airport from West Seattle on a regular basis: blue-collar workers (such as you can find a lot more of along Delridge Way).

        I’m not arguing that West Seattle doesn’t need a direct route to the airport. I’m arguing that West Seattle deserves a more frequent, and more direct, route to the airport, i.e., the 120, extended to the airport.

        In essence, I’m arguing for a route that will enable *more* West Seattleites to have a one-seat ride to the airport.

      5. @FWIW:

        “Please don’t give me your “take this and transfer to that” line of crap while I’ve got luggage to haul and a plane to catch.”

        Every neighborhood in the Puget Sound area would like to say the same thing. And if we appeased every one of those voices, but would have a non-stop one-seat bus to the airport from every conceivable neighborhood. Unfortunately, we do not have infinite resources and if we tried to do that, we would either have to way overserve the airport, at the expense of everywhere else, or have a hodge-podge of buses that run so infrequently as to be practically useless. So, why is West Seattle in that it deserves a special express to the airport, while neighborhoods like Auburn, Des Moines, and Northgate don’t.

        Furthermore, under Brent’s proposal with the extension of the 120, travel to the airport would still be a one seat ride. It might take a little bit longer with the extra stops, but you’d make up the extra time on the bus with less wait time at either the airport or the bus stop.

        As to the fare difference, I doubt it’s nearly as big a deal as you make it out to be. Off-peak, ST is just 25 cents more expensive than MT and peak, I believe, it’s actually cheaper. No one who isn’t very poor is going to watch a 560 go by to wait for a slower bus going to the same place, just to save 25 cents.

        Ultimately, the reason why people are riding the other buses over the 560 is because either:
        1) The other bus comes first because it’s more frequent
        2) It has a stop closer to where the person wants to get off.

    2. If ST got rid of the 560West, Metro would have to fill the gap, and could do so easily with the 120 extending to the airport.

      And transit service in the densest parts of Burien would be much improved by a frequent, short, all-day one seat ride to the Link/RRA spine.

      It’s totally win-win. And all you have to do is figure out a legal and politically viable way to take service hours out of ST’s budget and put them in Metro’s. And without violating subarea equity.

  2. Impressive interview, Joni. And speaking as someone who uses both LINK and ST Express buses extensively, you can be very proud of your part in the critical founding years of an impressive new transit system.

    Now could your passengers, especially visitors whose first impression of our region may very well be a light rail ride from the airport, please have access to the exact type of regional all-day pass issued by Portland Tri-Met?

    I’ve personally been buying monthly passes for years. However, I’m frequently asked by newly-arrived visitors where they can get a day-pass- which is generally the first thing I do when I arrive in another city.

    So it’s a personal embarrassment to me to tell them we don’t have any such thing- and worse to try and explain why. Because transit is such a major part of my own life, this matter exemplifies the worst thing in our transit’s general culture: the willingness to accept policies that defy common sense. For years.

    I really think, Joni, that this is something you can personally take care of with a single statement to the Sound Transit Board- which as you note, comprises every governmental agency involved. Please just do it.

    You deserve lifetime credit for the agency you head, and for your part in it. But this is could be the accomplishment for which you’ll be most affectionately remembered.

    Mark Dublin

    1. For years? ORCA has been in place less than three years. It seems like we’ve already forgotten the huge accomplishment that is ORCA, and the inter-agency agreements that made it possible.

      Could you list some of the day passes you want the ORCA day pass modeled on, and links to the details of how they work?

      1. TAP in Los Angeles is a multi-agency RFID, but it so far only offers a Day-Pass for sale that is valid on LA Metro, not any of the other participating agencies. If there was an ORCA that was valid only on KC Metro (and LINK) but not the other agencies, that might work.

      2. Brent:

        Check out: http://www.trimet.org/fares/index.htm

        My favorite:

        “1-Day Pass

        Valid for unlimited rides on buses, MAX, WES1 and Streetcar in all 3 fare zones until the end of the service day. ”

        Every time I get off NW Cascades in Portland, walk out station door and cross the street beside Greyhound. Paper ticket now. Could just as easily be put on an e-card. Especially an ORCA card in Seattle.

        I would also be glad to pay more than present $5.00- which in Portland provides transportation that includes many miles of light rail. If Seattle honestly needs more than that for what we have, and are building, fine. Set a price.

        But if Portland can let me buy a day’s transportation with one click of a button, so can Seattle. Am I right we’ve got a better economy?

        Problem here isn’t forgetting anything. It’s remembering that we’re not just talking about the three years of ORCA here. Portland’s passes, and our refusal, go back pushing thirty years.

        Three decades of excuses get old. For something completely electronic and digital, three weeks is a geologic age. ORCA could have had the day-pass from the get-go.

        Fact is, TVM’s have a button for day LINK day passes now, for $5.50, twice the single fare Westlake to the Airport. Making those passes also good on Sound Transit Express buses wouldn’t even mean going “interagency”, to clear up the really inexplicable hassle of why a pass isn’t even good on a bus the same color as the pass.

        I took this occasion to raise this particular issue precisely because I think Joni Earl now has the personal ability, and the position and the authority, to get this long-standing piece of interagency detriment to regional transit out of the way.

        Long overdue, and priceless for the precedent it will set.

        Mark Dublin

      3. $7 seems a justifiable amount for a train/bus/streetcar day pass that covers all Pierce Transit, Metro, and Sound Transit services excluding Sounder. I doubt there are many riders on a typical day who spend more than $6 of their e-purse, unless they are riding Sounder, Community Transit express, or a ferry.

        $7 is just enough to keep the day pass from undercutting the two-zone peak monthly pass. (If a two-zone commuter is riding four days a week, four weeks of day passes is $112, vs. $108 for the monthly pass.)

        Throw in a rebate of $1 off the ORCA card for each day of day pass purchased at the time, and I think the agencies would come out ahead.

        Still, this won’t lead to more widespread ORCA use. But it will hopefully convince more tourists to opt for transit as their method of mobility while visiting the Pacific Northwest.

      4. Ack! I forgot that ST multi-county bus fares went up to $3.50. $8 is the day pass amount that would keep such a day pass from undercutting the multi-county monthly pass. With a $1/day ORCA rebate, the pass plus new ORCA would cost $12 for one day, $19 for two, $26 for three, $33 for four, and $40 for five days. Is that low enough to convince tourists to rely on transit for the duration of a convention?

    2. As a public transit rider/enthusiast/advocate/activist and a visitor to the Puget Sound Region, I can understand how it’d be difficult to have regional day passes due to the number of agencies in the region. (Sound Transit, Metro, Pierce, Community, Everett, South Lake Union Trolley, and there’s probably others I forgot. Also, do you include Intercity Transit? And/or Kitsap/Skagit/Island/ferry system?) They all have different fare systems and structures and I can understand how there would be winners and losers by switching to a universal price system.
      As for using the combined system, I find ST easier to ride than any other system in the region. No question about what route to ride between two points, how much it’s going to cost or when to pay. And their route book is invaluable.
      One caveat about TriMet’s day pass is it technically isn’t the only day pass in the Portland Region–C-TRAN sells a $6.70 day pass that’s the only one good on their express routes between Clark Co. and Portland (equal to the cost of two express trips). It’s also good on TriMet.

  3. One other request for Joni: Please publish the Link scheduled departure times. It’s hard to sell truncating bus routes to feed into Link if people don’t know how the connection will be timed. This became abundantly clear at Metro’s open houses on their restructure proposal. I believe failure to publish the times is costing ridership, both now and in the future.

    1. +1

      Totally agree. They operate Link to a schedule. It’s probably the most reliable service ST operates. It’s ridiculous not to publish the schedule.

      1. Isn’t LINK supposed to be on a kind of floating schedule? Meaning, every 7-10 minutes at ‘this’ time of day, every 10-15 minutes ‘this’ time of day? And with the display at every station, you know when the train is coming. What is the point of having a printed schedule except to know when the first and last train will be?

      2. The trains actually run on a schedule, designated in the union pick cards. The pretense of not running on a schedule is an accounting trick to increase on-time performance on paper.

    2. While published schedules for Link would help, there are still a lot of factors that will make the train->bus connection difficult, especially in SODO. For example, you’re catching the future route 50 in SODO to go to Alki and the Link train is scheduled to arrive in SODO 4 and 14 minutes before the bus does.

      Ideally, you would catch the train arrives 4 minutes before the bus and Link is reliable enough so that most of the time, it would probably work – assuming the bus arrives randomly 0-5 minutes late, you would have an average 6.5 minute wait time for the bus and you’re on your way.

      However, every once in awhile, the Link train is going to get stuck behind a post-ride-free-pay-as-you-enter 101/106/150 bus and be delayed just enough so that an on-time #50 buses passes by SODO without you right before the Link train approaches. Now, you’re stuck in SODO for a half-hour (or a full hour if it’s an evening or Sunday), waiting for the next bus.

      Even if the next bus is a half-hour away, once you’re stuck in SODO there’s really no good option other than to just sit and wait for it. Backtracking to downtown and taking an alternate route would probably take longer. Calling your significant-other-with-a-car to come pick you up might be a little faster than waiting for the bus, but when you factor in the time to walk to the car and drive out of the neighborhood, it won’t be much faster. Calling a cab would be similar as well. In fact the only decent option if you’re stuck at SODO is to hop on the bike you brought with you for this contingency, but if you’re going to lug a bike along anyway, you may as well just ride it all the way to/from work, and not bother with public transportation from the beginning.

      Even if getting stuck in SODO only happens 5% of the time, assuming you make the commute 5 days a week every week, it will happen to you an average of one day each month. Even if, on paper, 30 minutes spread out over an entire month is not that much on a per-day basis, the prospect that once a month, you’ll be sitting in SODO for a full half-hour, with no advance knowledge of when it’s going to be until it happens, is something that most people would find completely unacceptable.

      Catching in earlier train to avoid this risk isn’t a good solution either. Even if you known Link is arriving in SODO 4 and 14 minutes before the bus, taking the earlier train means a 14-minute wait in SODO in the common, everyday case when everything is on-time. If the train is on-time and the bus is late, that 14 minute wait could easily turn into a 20+ minute wait.

      The bottom line is that the proposed Link->50 transfer in SODO is absolutely nuts and will continue to be nuts even with a posted Link schedule because workable connections require either high frequency or airtight reliability, of which we have neither. The one period in which the transfer is somewhat tolerable (the peak where you have 20 minute headways), is the one period in which the transfer isn’t even necessary because the 56X bus will be available instead.

      My biggest suggestion to Metro to making this transfer work (and is really the only solution I can think of that is affordable given our current budget situation) is to pick one out of every 3 trains (one out of 6 when the 50 is running once an hour) and designate that trip as a “timed connection” trip. This would mean that the #50 bus would aim to pull into SODO station about 3 minutes or so before the train actually arrives, at which point it would wait until the southbound train actually does arrive and everyone who wants to make the transfer has done so, then depart for West Seattle. Of course, the schedule for the 50 would need to spell out the times for these timed connections in plain English, so you know exactly when to leave every tunnel station downtown if you want a smooth connection. Yes, this brief layover would slow down trips going all the way to West Seattle from the Ranier Valley, but by making the #50 bus deviate to SODO station to begin with, we’ve already decided such trips are unimportant anyway, and such trips would still be faster post-restructuring than today, where you have to backtrack all the way downtown.

      1. There is no reason to have a timed connection between the 50 and Link at SODO Station. There is a river of buses coming along the Busway and 4th Ave S. Waiting for the train northbound, instead of catching the next 101, 102, 106, or 150, would be silly. Waiting for the train in the downtown stations, instead of catching the next 101, 102, 106, or 150 southbound, would be equally silly.

        There is a lot more reason to have timed connections for the 50 at Columbia City and Othello Stations, with certain train runs indicating which station has the sooner eastbound 50 connection.

        The outbound connection to West Seattle on the 50 may be a long wait if you miss a bus. But the inbound connection should take a couple minutes, at most.

      2. I agree – for the inbound connection, everything is frequent enough so a timed connection isn’t necessary. It’s the outbound trips where a timed connection is essential to make things work.

        If I were making the downtown->Alki trip without a timed connection, I would likely at least consider 50->[something] inbound, but outbound, I would almost certainly go for other options, such as the C line or the water taxi, followed by a long’ish walk to Alki at the end. While the walking might make it slower than Link->50 (assuming everything runs on time), a one-seat ride followed by a 20 minute walk is far less stressful than a two-seat ride which asks you to roll a pair of dice where snake-eyes means you sit in SODO for half an hour. Even if time constraints making walking too slow, I can still reserve the option to run.

      3. The 50-to-Link connection is no worse than the bus-to-bus connections that have long existed in Metro. The proper solution is to make all transit more punctual, specifically by restoring Metro’s contingency fund so that it could send replacement buses when one breaks down or gets stuck in traffic.

  4. I saw some new Orion hybrid coaches running on the 4N tail this morning signed “training coach.” Will they start running the Orions during weekends on the trolleys for construction instead of the Gilligs?

    1. they had one on a 9X the other day … might be subbing for buses getting OBS

      1. Eventually the Orions will replace the gillgs. not a 40 foot gillig to be found at south base you can expect to seepre Orions taking over at other bases.

  5. What’s with the Bus VS Pedestrian incidents over the past few weeks? Are drivers not paying attention, trying to run a yellow light, or are pedestrians just being stupid?

      1. I think there’s been three in the past two weeks, including one today at 3rd and Pine.

      2. The incident at 3rd & Pine, along with the Bellevue fatality, were last Thursday. I’m not seeing any articles on a third passenger incident.

      3. 1pm Sunday, at 3rd and Pine, a woman was hit by route #120 bus in front of McDonalds.

      4. The one in Bellevue was very strange. Person seemed happy, regular rider, thanked the driver and then somehow ended up under the wheels of the bus after de-boarding. Almost sounds like a heart attack at the curb. I can’t imagine someone hiding and pushing the person under the bus and suicide by bus doesn’t make any sense. Only other thing I can think of is something on the bus caught clothing or a purse strap and drug her ending up with her under the wheels. That would be a nightmare.

      5. The Times reported that at BOTH 3rd x Pine incidents, the bus had a green light and the women stepped in front of it while it was moving.

        No details on the Northrup x 10th fatality, though. That one is quite confusing – no one seems to have seen how she got under the bus. She was a regular rider and it was her regular stop. The stop is after the intersection, so if she was crossing the road, she would have done it behind the bus at the 10th St crosswalk, rather than in front of the bus, where there isn’t even a sidewalk. And if she did cross mid-block in front of the bus, it was still daylight out and the driver should have seen her.

    1. the ones at 3rd/pine … pedestrians just walked in front of the buses that had the green light.

      probably too busy using their phones (I do not know if they actually were but it would make sense)

      1. That’s what I figured, idiot pedestrians. I see that all the time when I’m downtown. When the light is red, they will still cross the street and then get upset when a car honks at them. We all have to share the road, so when it’s your turn, go ahead, but when it isn’t, then stay on the sidewalk! One of the worst intersections is in front of the Pike Place Market. Pedestrians even get an ‘all-walk’ signal, but whenever I’m there, I always see pedestrians crossing during the red, blocking traffic. The other is between Nordstrom and Pacific Place, pedestrians blocking traffic as they cross during a red light.

      2. Rumor has it the operator involved in yesterday’s accident had a green light but saw the person coming and was able to slow the bus enough to avoid killing them.

        This is a very common scenario – One that we watch for. That said, we’re human so our eyes can only take in so much.

        FYI: We are always taken off the road for a drug test if somebody is injured in an accident. When you hear a driver is being tested, you should not assume guilt until you hear about a positive test. Believe me, you’ll hear about a positive test – they are very rare based on the stats I’ve seen.

  6. Since this is an open thread I’d like to chime in on CT’s new bus schedules.

    So far the 113 has been consistently 6 minutes late. Eventually that got pushed to 18 minutes late (it’s come on time for me once). They eventually put up a sign saying that they were moving the schedule 7 minutes later to match the ferry. The problem is that the bus started running 7 minutes late WHILE the schedule on the pole had the old time, the website had the old schedules and the online trip planner had the old schedules. A sign on the post said the new schedule wasn’t going to start for another 2 weeks. It’s been nearly impossible to make transfers at Ash Way because of this.

    In addition the new 196 runs on time for the first 5 runs per day. From that time on it starts loosing time and by the evening it’s a good 20 minutes late. I asked the driver and she said it’s that way every single day because it’s just not possible to run it as fast as scheduled.

    You’d think CT would have driven the route first.

    1. This is why CT needs to join the 21st century and start participating in OneBusAway. If even Pierce Transit can afford it, CT should have no excuses.

  7. Looks like Togo will be breaking through into the Capital Hill station real soon … possibly tomorrow night sometime!

      1. Which is of course the front-page headline on today’s Seattle Times.

        Of course if the answer is “no” it probably won’t be considered newsworthy.

      2. The DBT, whose scale is unprecedented, will endanger dozens of buildings in Pioneer Square. Somehow, I don’t see that making the front page of the Seattle Times.

  8. In Praise of…

    The 180 from SeaTac. Coming home from Denver, was able to catch the second to last bus back to Kent Station. OBA said 4 minutes late when I got to the southbound station, and then updated real time as it arrived. This handy bus supplies one of the most valuable East-West transit links for me…making it possible to avoid $15 a day parking and $50 cab rides to go the nine miles to SeaTac. Why this bus does not run more often, I do not know. Also, like LINK from the airport it’s poorly presented, and the signage is poor.

    The Orion bus. The seats are well spaced so it was very easy for me to bring my mid-sized piece of luggage and be able to place it between the benches without having to take up two seats. I love the Orion bus — it’s perfectly adapted for an environment like Kent, where many people use the bus for shopping, carrying large goods, as well as commuting.

  9. I’ve been following this whole Kirkland railroad-to-trail thing and I even spent some time walking along the tracks this past weekend. Very interesting experience.

    Do the people who want to re-use the rail line not understand that there are serious engineering issues (getting over/under 405, replacing wilburton trestle, various grade crossings) standing in the way?

    1. I’m one of those people that advocate for keeping the option of rail trasit open. I’m well aware of the challenges. It was easier before the I-405 widening and the daylighting of the Wilburton tunnel. Bellevue to Renton is a lost cause, but Bellevue to Kirkland (or Totem Lake or Woodinville or Snohomish) shouldn’t be.

      The Redmond spur is probably a lost cause too, but the ROW might be useful for an East Link extension northward.

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