1962 Seattle Worlds Fair Space Needle by Douglas Coulter
This is an open thread.

89 Replies to “News Roundup: Blast From the Past”

    1. There are some areas where there is a decline in suburban/exurban growth and an increase in the core city area. Look at Minneapolis, for example. In 2006, Hennepin and Ramsey counties (where Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively, are located) were white on the map, indicating +/- 0.5% growth. The surrounding counties were mostly all in the >2% growth range, and the next level out was in the pink slower growth range. Now we see a reversal of this trend. The two core urban counties have moved up to the pink range. The immediately adjoining counties have moved *down* to the pink range, and the outlying counties have gone down to white.

      In California, the fastest growing areas in 2006 were the inland areas away from the traditional population centers. In 2011, growth rates throughout most of the state have evened out more. The inland areas are still growing, but not as fast as before. The coastal areas, on the other hand, have gone from stagnant or declining back to growth.

      1. Yep. It’s not too hard to go down the east coast and see where the red/pink still is (assuming you know where they are on a map): Portland, ME; Boston, New York, DC, Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte, NC, Atlanta; Charleston SC…etc. I believe those are all cities. Even in SC, where I spend a lot of time, the growth is concentrated in the largest metro areas: Greenville, Charleston and Columbia. Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Indianapolis also jump out.

        The biggest area in red is in western North Dakota, due strictly to the oil boom there, and the fact that the state’s population had been in severe decline for decades. I drove through that area last October and the little towns in the oil areas have turned into trailer cities. Of course, whenever they get done there, the plains will return to their former empty state.

      2. I dunno…this just seems like there is less migration if anything. There is a lot less dark red and dark blue and much more white. That just looks like stagnation. The article starts off with (hope I don’t blow this blockquote tag):

        So the article is saying it’s so easy to move now because the “official” recession is over? Please! The two dates are just before the bubble burst and today. Ummmm…hate to break the news but home prices are still very depressed when compared to 2006. The only people selling (and moving) are those that have to.

      3. Looks like I did blow the blockquote tag, or rather what came after that. :)

        Anyway, the article suggests that because the “official” recession is over that means it’s easy to sell your house (and therefore move). Please! The only people that are selling and moving are those that have to. Move along, nothing to see here.

      4. There are multiple trends happening all at the same time. Yes, general stagnation and lack of population movement is one of them. However, among the people who are moving, heading towards cities and away from rural areas is also happening (suburbs have kind of been in the middle of this trend). There are yet more trends, regional trends like the oil boom in North Dakota.

      5. That’s why I think the scheme for locating the one remaining High Speed Rail corridor makes sense. They intend to run it inland and then make turns towards LA and SF at the end.

  1. Eastside Easement.

    Is there any reason why this cannot be used for Sounder or Amtrak as an alternative to the often out of service north Seattle coast route?

    Given that LINK will have stations on it, if we made this the Amtrak corridor, not only would it be less prone to mudslides (if at all) but you could relocate the main station for Amtrak to Bellevue and have people disembark to LINK for all destinations.

    1. It could potentially be a detour route, but the current state of the track is single-track and deteriorated. The track was recently severed at Wilburton although I haven’t seen it so I don’t know what that means. Does it mean the trestle bridge is gone? In any case, that section would have to be reconnected.

      Its potential future use depends on how the ROW is developed. I’ve heard reassuring things that they’ll leave space for future commuter rail even if a trail is built, but it depends on whether that actually happens.

      1. The Trestle bridge at Wliberton is still there and in place
        The line was severed crossing the South Bound 405 when they pulled out the tunnel.
        I have heard that about 1/4 mile of track was removed in the severing.

        As a Bypas for Everett and the mud slides, the Trains would have to turn North at southcenter to reach Downtown Seattle

        The railbed from Boeing in Renton South to the mainline is still BNSF, and Leases would have to be arranged to get Amtrack to the Mainline, and into Seattle.

      2. It’s not really a “lease” since BNSF owns both the regular track and the detour, and it’s just compensating for its inability to provide contracted service on the regular track. Just like when a section of highway is closed, there’s a routine detour to nearby streets. BNSF and Amtrak may have to sign an agreement, but Amtrak shouldn’t have to pay full rate (or arguably anything) to use the detour track.

    2. Biggest reason besides the severing of the line already is lack of speed, imho. These tracks weren’t meant for high speed passenger rail, and getting them up to that is going to take oodles of cash.

    3. The presser did say that new track would have to be built, so this is far-future stuff anyway. The few maps I’ve seen make it prime for connecting into the South Sounder at Tukwila, then working northeast from there. Good to see ST investing in it, though.

      Sometime in the next few years, ST should conduct a feasibility study for preparing the corridor for use. Loads of wonderful questions for us straphangers: Light rail or heavy rail? DMUs? LRVs? Multimodal transfer points? Connections to existing services? Bumps for Amtrak, Sounder, Link ridership?

      Gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling…

    4. I thought Kirkland also purchased the section of the corridor within their city limits and are planning to construct a bike/ped trail so that most likely rules out any possibility for rail on the corridor unfortunately.

      1. They did. But the land is rail banked so they idea is development would not preclude reestablishment of freight service in the future and they also plan to work with ST to be compatible with transit use if that ever becomes relivant:

        What: On Friday April 13, 2012, Ownership of the 5.75 miles of Kirkland’s segment of the Eastside Rail Corridor, now called the Cross Kirkland Corridor, was purchased from the Port of Seattle by the City of Kirkland. The Cross Kirkland Corridor has long been recognized by Kirkland residents and business owners as an opportunity for connecting neighbors, businesses and for creating active (non-motorized) transportation options though Kirkland.

        The City’s Transportation Commission will be initiating a Master Plan Process that will guide future enhancements to the corridor over the next year. In the meantime, the City will be taking some initial/immediate steps to improve the usability and safety of the corridor. For example, concrete barriers have been placed where the corridor crosses streets to prevent automobiles from entering the corridor. Starting next week, a 6 foot chain link fence will be installed on the railings of the bridges over NE 68th Street and over Kirkland Way. The fences are an interim improvement that will add to the safety of the bridges.

      2. If we were going to spend a hundred million dollars to upgrade that track, we could spend the same thing to fix the slide issues (and have lots left over).

  2. With regard to the elimination of the RFA (which I believe will be completely unenforceable), what do other cities do to help those who can’t afford to pay move around the city by transit? Are circulator buses common in other cities?

    1. Well, in Europe they usually just make sure the minimum wage is large enough, disability benefits are large enough, and welfare is generous enough that people can afford to pay. Sigh.

    2. Pittsburgh has a Free Zone, but it also has a hefty cash surcharge outside that zone.

      Also, Island County Transit is free, and the intra-county buses in Mason County Transit are free.

      1. Pittburgh’s free zone is partly paid for by local businesses, interestingly. Businesses are paying an “estimated foregone ticket revenue” amount to make the extension to the North Shore free.

      2. @Nathanael: I’m not sure if you’re trying to note similarity or difference with our situation, but the Downtown Seattle Association pays for the RFA here (sort of). They just don’t pay enough (their payments have not risen over the years as Metro’s fares and costs have) and Metro is finally calling them on it.

    3. Isn’t TriMet about to eliminate their downtown RFA, too? (I’m pretty sure it only covers MAX trains, though – no buses.)

  3. Re: “Metro and city agree to downtown circulator to offset impact of RFA elimination on poor, no commitment on speed and reliability mitigation for everyone else.”

    That was premature reporting by Publicola that other media outlets picked up and ran with. The free circulator option as mitigation for people with little or no income is coming out on top as the preferred option by the county, city and human services agencies, but nothing has been decided yet. Lots of details to work out on routing, size of vehicles, hours, cost sharing. But, if it happens, it would very likely be free for anyone to ride. So, instead of having every bus in a wide area be free, you’d have one free route.

    Also, we’ve been looking at other cities, and can’t find any others that still offer an entire free area. Even Portland is doing away with theirs. Love to hear if you know of any in the U.S.

    1. Plenty of smaller cities offer free buses, and one even offers free gondola transit. But just because other cities are size aren’t doing it doesn’t make it a bad idea.

      I can’t imagine business people running to lunch or a meeting or shoppers heading across town waiting 20 minutes for a free bus. Or the poor for that matter – they’ll likely walk rather than wait. This makes the circulator a bus for disabled poor that need to cross downtown – a fairly small market share. If that pencils out, great. But make sure to get low floor buses!

      1. That Park City service appears to be summer-only and one — maybe two — routes. We’re looking for agencies that have multiple routes free in a defined area.

      2. I doubt you’ll find another city with anything like Seattle’s Ride Free Area. But then I doubt you’ll find another city our size in the US with our bus ridership numbers. It’s tough to get people on that first ride on a city bus, and the casual use of the RFA is a great way build familiarity.

      3. If this is actualized, it won’t be because it “pencils out”, it’s a political compromise.

      4. Between the smell, the unreliability, and the delays from cash fumblers and bike-loaders, the tougher challenge is getting people on that second bus ride.

        Metro’s numbers are not impressive, Matt, so get over that argument. Despite its downtown-centricity, 60% still arrive downtown in their cars. And 90% of non-commute in-city trips are still taken in cars or on bikes. Using Metro’s “success” as a justification for maintaining the status quo is not going to win you many arguments.

    2. What do other cities offer the poor, both in terms of mass trips to social service agencies, and scattered trips throughout the county?

      1. Look to Europe on this one. They’ve got us beat, big time. France, Holland, Germany, etc.

    3. One problem that I see with the end of the RFA is this –

      When the Ride Free Area started, it replaced a cheap downtown-only system (the “dime shuttle”). Now, the RFA is being replaced by… a full $2.25/$2.50 fare system?

      Unless a trip is of a certain distance (although exactly how many city blocks that distance is, I don’t know), I think a lot of casual downtown riders might feel like they’re being treated like saps if they have to pay $2.25 just for a lunchtime or shopping errand trip.

      (Also, the frequently suggested elimination of paper transfers probably wouldn’t remedy this problem too much. Assuming, I guess, that all this is actually a problem, and not just a feature of the overall plan.)

    4. Linda,

      I pointed out Pittsburgh’s Free Zone in my comments to Metro.

      I also listed a few other cities with cash fare differential. Please read my comments to Metro.

      1. Pittsburgh is not a model for mass transit. Their lauded “BRT” is nothing but a bunch of urban bypasses for the benefit of a few suburban commuter expresses. Not surprised they’d have a similarly dumb pay-as-you-leave system.

      2. It does concern me why Metro would be looking for other examples of Ride Free Zones, rather than other examples of how other downtown areas work without such a zone. Are they trying to make the transition work, or are they trying to convince the council to change its mind?

        It is doubly concerning (for different reasons) that in their search, they failed to find Pittsburgh, which has been mentioned a few times on this blog, and probably in comments they received from several of us. Are they reading the comments, or just tallying positive and negative responses to the limited proposals already on the table?


        Getting back to the issues Metro ought to be looking at, can someone from Metro offer us reassurance that there are plans in the works for the following:

        (1) enabling all doors to be in use for most of the boarding and deboarding process, especially (but not limited to) downtown?

        (2) incentivizing ORCA use on ALL boardings (especially downtown)?

        Deboardings can be sped up throughout the system with a simple canned message “You may now exit at any door.” to be played when everyone boarding has done so and there are several people left to alight. That should cost almost nothing and save lots.

        While backdoor ORCA assistants will be needed downtown more in the afternoon, stationing them at transit centers in the morning can yield large service-hour savings. It’s obviously much more expensive than the canned message, but should far more than pay for itself in saved service hours. (And it may be one of the few ORCA incentives Metro is contemplating.) Of course, moving the transit center function to train stations, instead of forcing lots of riders to have layovers in Renton, would obviate much of the need for backdoor ORCA assistants.

        In the short term, the utility of backdoor ORCA assistants can be measured by stationing some at Northgate and S. Renton P&R during both peak periods, long before September 29.

        For point (2), there is no particular reason the ORCA incentive has to be in denominations of 25 cents. Since it is electronic, it could be, say, seven cents. Figure out what the budget allows for, but do something to turn ORCA from a “hardship on the poor” (which is nonsense, since nobody is being forced to use it) into a tool for slightly lower fares. And then come up with a way to distribute a bunch of ORCA for free to those who actually can’t afford the card, but *after* the fare differential is in place, so we don’t just end up with a bunch more in the landfill.

        If an n-cent differential proves insufficient to get a massive shift to ORCA boardings, then increase the value of n until the shift happens.

        Oh, and one more suggestion on ORCA availability surveys: On the next survey, quiz respondents on whether they knew the various places where ORCA is already available.

  4. First ride on one of the new low-floor 40′ coaches (#7070, doing the 16) today.

    Why is the back door located where it is? Seriously, if it were either moved up 2′ or back 2′ the seat spacing on the door side of the coach would make so much more sense. As it is, the seats directly behind the back door have no leg room (same is true on the other side of the coach). I’m sure there are reasons why they can’t move the door, but man.

    Other than that, seems pretty solid. Feels airier than the current low-floors (are the windows larger?) and the new seats are surprisingly comfortable. Good amount of storage under the seats in the rear section on the sides as well.

    1. I rode one this evening – also the 16. I agree about the legroom but I do think that’s a good location for the rear door for when the RFA ends and everyone will be exiting that way. I did like the extra window area.

  5. September service change hearing report.

    The hearing was hosted by the King County transportation committee. Some councilmembers and Metro planners were in attendance. Metro gave a presentation summarizing the changes. Some 30-40 community members spoke. Less than half of them even mentioned the September service changes; the rest blasted the closure of the RFA. Two people denounced ORCA cards. One said ORCA is a detrement to the poor and an inconvenience to occasional riders; the other said the cards break too easily and it’s not her fault if the card stops working and that drivers shouldn’t give her static and there shouldn’t be a $5 replacement fee.

    I spoke in favor of the changes as a whole, especially the 18 and the 50. I lamented the loss of the Queen Anne restructuring, and asked the council to tell Metro it expects to see more extensive reorganizations next year. Because the people who speak up for the status quo are often thinking only about themselves, while those who would benefit from the reorganization often don’t realize it until it’s in operation so they don’t know to speak up. On the other hand, I said the Fremont and Jackson area changes (5, 26, 28, 27) did not have as obvious benefit as the other changes, so it’s just as well to rethink them later. I said the VA hospital driveway detour should be eliminated.

    Three or four people spoke against the (withdrawn) Queen Anne restructure; nobody else spoke for it. Two people objected to the minor restructuring of the 3N and 4N that did survive. A couple people said the 2S and 2N should remain together. One said the 10/12 should remain together because otherwise the 12 will lose its only accessible stop downtown. Two disabled people (one blind and the other wheelchair-bound) urged the preservation of the 14’s Mt Baker tail (between Link and Mt Rainier Drive), saying they won’t be able to get around without it. West Seattle reactions were positive. A couple people complained about the loss of the 3:30am trips for getting to early-morning jobs; one person suggested pushing the 2:15am trips later to perhaps 3am. (My response: that would also help bar patrons and staff get to the bus after last call, although for them 2:30 or 2:45am might be better.) A couple people complained about the Magnolia changes and the loss of a Magnolia-Nickerson-SPU connection. Two people agreed with me that the VA driveway detour has to go; nobody defended the detour.

    Half the people spoke only about the RFA, and they said that many others would have spoken but they turned away when the registration lady told them the RFA was off-topic for today’s hearing. Several of the RFA speakers were homeless-advocates or social workers, so their appearance was a coordinated campaign. They said people in shelters in Pioneer Square need to get to social services in Belltown, and they need free transit, especially in bad weather. They said it’s unconscionable to cancel the RFA. Two said a circulator shuttle would be OK if it’s 15-minute frequent, and if it goes to Harborview too. One said it should be a full-sized bus, not a mini-bus or van, so that non-homeless people would be willing to ride it too.

    The ORCA comments demonstrate that the transit agencies and county have failed to convince these riders that ORCA has any benefit. They see ORCA as an imposition that wasn’t asked for.

    1. Well, they’re right. For an occasional rider or visitor ORCA is a pain. Metro and other transit agencies should do more to add incentive to switch to ORCA.

      1. I don’t understand this sentiment. ORCA can be obtained in many places and holds value like cash. What’s not to like?

      2. From their perspective, if it’s cash-equivalent, why not just use cash and then you don’t have to go obtain a card and pay $5 for the privilege. Inter-agency transfers don’t matter to them because they rarely ride anything except Metro. Speedier boarding does not seem to be a concern for them, or at least they don’t grasp that it’s possible. When you’re poor, $2 is a big deal because it means bus fare or a meal, and speedy boarding seems unimportant compared to that.

      3. That $5 premium for purchase is just an error. It’s enough to prevent most people from buying ORCA. As long as a single ride with ORCA is more expensive than a single ride without it, you’ll never get universal adoption.

      4. Then the correct way to drive ORCA adoption is to eliminate paper transfers and make cash fares higher. Of course they’ll have to make places to obtain and reload ORCA more ubiquitous.

        One thing that I’ve observed in my travels is the extensive gaming of paper transfers. Last week, a woman had an envelope where she pulled out the color of the day. Apparently, drivers don’t pay to close attention when people hide the letter of the day.

      5. I think most drivers, unless they’re rookies spot the transfer scammers a stop away. But it’s not their job to be fare enforcers and a large percentage couldn’t afford the fare anyway so all Metro would lose is ridership numbers not revenue.

      6. “Then the correct way to drive ORCA adoption is to eliminate paper transfers and make cash fares higher.”

        Even if you do this, as long as there’s a $5 upfront fee to get the card, it’ll still be cheaper for someone who’s cash-constrained and thinking short-term to pay cash for a single trip. You’re not gonna raise the cash fare to $7.50.

        The fare media itself needs to be free. All the cities with successful universal adoption do this.

        A few have a *refundable deposit*, which appears to be less effective than free but more attractive than a nonrefundable fee.

        I would watch the effect of the “No Fee Card at Saar’s Marketplace” promotion; it may be very effective.

      7. It is true that several fairly successful systems charge a premium for the card, such as Hong Kong; but they all have to also accept cash.

      8. Whereas London has a *refundable* deposit (mainly to discourage throw-aways — the card was free initially) and is approaching 80% utilization.

      9. They need to get the distribution cost of the ORCA card down. The card if I remember right costs less than $2 but distributing it costs more. I’d say find a way to get it to be almost free, make sure you can get it *everywhere and then get rid of cash transfers.

      10. It isn’t a simple matter of bringing down the marginal distribution cost of each card. The whole contract was for roughly $69 million over 10 years to the vendor, and that has to be paid off somehow, so Metro and ST are counting on making a profit off each card. $2 barely covers the marginal cost, and fails to subsidize the cost of free cards that are handed out. Remember that the senior and disabled passes cost only $3. If the regular cards are reduced in price, the rebated cards would also likely be reduced, and likely become a marginal loss per card. In all likelihood, the reduced cards are already probably a marginal loss per card due to administrative processing expenses.

        I don’t think lowering the cost of the card would have much impact on the math of convincing a traditional cash fumbler to get one, without first giving some sort of per-ride rebate for using the card. Even then, the existence of paper transfers may cause many to hold out. And as long as vouchers are being handed out, we can’t get rid of the paper transfers. If we go to a general POP system, we’ll still have to hand out paper slips to cash payers, so the slips aren’t ever going away completely.

        But I digress. Keeping our eyes on the prize of making the transition work means making sure a per-ride fare rebate or differential of some sort is implemented before September 29 arrives. That doesn’t seem to be happening. The transition is going to be a big hit to Metro’s budget due to lost service hours because they won’t do what it takes to make the transition work.

    2. From my perspective, ORCA is awesome. I think implementing it across such a large number of agencies was a huge accomplishment. Watching people board a mid-evening 101 in the tunnel last night and I wondered how long it would have taken them if they all had to fumble for cash.

      That said, the problems with it are annoying. I’ll join the chorus for more ORCA vending locations. I know it is happening, but it is so slow. And as others have said, there needs to be an incentive, period. For regular riders, maybe you should get 5-10 cents on your e-purse for each time you tap! Something for visitors is required as well (1, 3, 7 day passes or something).

      1. There are several basic things that ORCA planners missed that a number of other cities use.

        1. ORCA trips should be cheaper across all modes. My example is the London Underground – cash trips are often 2-3 times the price of an Oyster card trip.

        2. Why isn’t one of the Seatac Airport Link TVMs inside the airport itself? As in, before the skybridge into the parking garage? It seems a little trivial, but there’s psychological value to it. People will buy their tickets inside when the option is there to them.

        3. Gotta have fixed-duration passes. 3-day, 5-day, 10-day, doesn’t matter. The fact that these don’t exist is a travesty.

        Then again, they did some stuff right – at least 90% of Sounder riders have them (anecdotal evidence), I see enough fare enforcement on a regular basis to not try my luck and not tap in, and let’s face it – getting ORCA started in the first place is a huge deal. We’re talking about minor problems – ORCA does work across all major transit modes in the region, period. It may not work as well as we’d like/hope, but it wasn’t that long ago that ORCA was a pipe dream.

      2. Pricing incentives have a *very* good track record of encouraging shifts in fare media usage.

      1. The 3N (1st W & Raye) is deleted and its service hours moved to the 4N (Galer St). The speaker said it’s hilly between the 3’s tail and alternate bus stops. I walked around that area last year and didn’t think it was steep.

    3. Brent,

      Thanks for the ORCA contract information. Do you happen to know whether the $6.9 million a year (average) amount will change after the 10 year vendor contract ends?

      I wouldn’t expect the vendor cost to go away completely, but if this cost were to drop once the system turns 10 years old, maybe there’s be more wiggle room for pricing then.

  6. Circulator routes might work well if they are marketed to all, are very frequent and are a visually distinctive part of the network. A good example of this is Perth (Australia)’s CAT lines, which are three free circulator lines that serve the city’s CBD on a very frequent level. They are color coded, have distinctive livery and stops (the stops have real-time schedule info and even have audio announcements as to when the next bus is due, if you push a button!) and serve an area relatively similar to Seattle’s CBD. As tourists we never needed anything but the CATs and the train to Fremantle on the coast; it was pretty obvious that locals used them heavily as well.

    (map here): http://www.transperth.wa.gov.au/TimetablesMaps/PerthCATLiveTimes.aspx

    Perth is similar to the Seattle area as the transport system has buses, trains and ferries, and an 8(!)-zone fare system based on distance from the CBD.

    1. I’m very skeptical of circulator routes. If it operates at anything more than 10 minute frequency I see anyone that can afford to pay to pay. No one is going to wait 10 minutes for a bus that takes them from Pioneer Square to the ID when buses are on 3rd every few seconds.

    2. If some riders care nothing about the time of their fellow travelers when they fumble change, why would 10-minute headway on a cirulator bus be too slow for them?

      A larger bus may be in order, but keep it off 3rd Ave as much as possible, except where it is serving a destination.

      If the circulators create previously nonexistent one-seat rides among social services, that should be a win for the poor. If the circulator runs much longer hours than the RFA was in effect, that should be a win for the poor. If these agencies have to use up fewer of their limited free vouchers for intra-downtown trips, that should be a win for the poor.

      There is no reason a Free Zone should be needed from a social justice standpoint. There is no reason this transition should be hard on the poor.

      (But then, there is no reason this transition should cause a net loss of service hours, and yet, if Metro does nothing more than the current plan, that is what will happen, and they know it.)

      1. When the RFA zone goes away, the poor will still ride for free on buses within downtown. They’ll simply get on the back door when it opens to let people off. The police won’t be called. The driver won’t hold up the bus. He won’t even get on the PA to tell people to come up and pay. He’ll shut the doors and drive. The RFA will still exist for those who can’t or don’t want to pay.

  7. When someone “delicately grip[s] one of the handles on the bus with a tissue,” I have trouble believing they ride enough to have something meaningful to say about transit. The psychologist in this story appears a bit sheltered.

    She sort of seems like an early twentieth century anthropologist investigating the curious, exotic culture of bus-riders from the outside.

    1. Ha! Someone else hit on what I was going to say… just couldn’t fit it into a short sentence.

  8. “Population growth in fringe counties nearly screeched to a halt in the year that ended July 1, 2011. By comparison, counties at the core of metro areas are growing faster than the nation as a whole.”

    Translation: exurbs are out, cities and close-in suburbs are in.

  9. RE:One Bus Away issue

    As long as its an open thread

    Have you ever had it tell you that a bus was coming that in actuality wasn’t coming and in all likely hood did not arrive?

    This morning I was looking for a earlier bus that I wanted to pass by (too crowded) and one bus away was telling me it was 3 minutes away, 2 minutes away, then arrived then departed 2 minutes ago, etc. However the next bus that I caught was crowded more than usual and a saw people that I normally see on the earlier bus leading me to believe the earlier bus never came. Is this one of many flaws of One Bus Away?

    1. Yes, it happens all the time these days. You can’t trust OneBusAway results like you used to be able to.

  10. How to increase new ORCA users and usage: Add a lottery element to it. Every month, at random, an ORCA user will win X amount of dollars. Let’s say $1000. It’s more psychological than anything. People who don’t already have the card will want to get one, and people who have one will tend to use it more. And all for only $12,000 a year. And I would bet the same type of transit rider who still doesn’t have an ORCA card is also the same type of person who loves playing the lottery.

      1. Or maybe a points system? Every time you tap you get a point. You can redeem your points for free rides or other gear.

      2. Hong Kong’s transit system’s Octopus Card also offers rewards points, and the card can also be used “for payment at convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, on-street parking meters, car parks, and other point-of-sale applications such as service stations and vending machines.”


    1. I don’t know about the $1000 though … maybe a free month pass auto-loaded onto your orca card?

    2. They could also make some $$ by having other branded Orca Cards (like Sounders/Seahawks/Mariners) … that usually works for everything else

  11. Hey so yesterday I was coming out of my apartment building and saw 2 cop cars behind a Metro D60HF. So of course I went to check it out, and it was some teenager getting arrested.

    The interesting part is the bus was displaying route 661. Does anyone have any idea what that route is?

    1. 661 is a route that runs between North Base and the SoDo bases. I think it is shuttling drivers back to North Base in the morning so they don’t need to deadhead a bunch of buses back up, and then returning drivers to those buses in the late afternoon. It has a few scheduled stops (SoDo, I-5 & 45th, I-5 & 145th), but I imagine it’s rare for anyone to board it. Probably a pretty quick trip, though!

  12. Has anyone here ever had a rear door ‘stick’ in such a fashion as that article describes? You’d think it was an epidemic in NYC. IME: The doors on RR and Swift buses work extremely well, as do all ST express 60 footers. I can’t speak to the Bredas, as I don’t travel on any of their routes.

    1. Yes, the rear doors on the M86 would stick frequently when I used to ride it to school.

  13. Between Metro failing to do anything to prepare for the elimination of the RFA and their gutting of the Fall Restructure, is there any reason to keep faith with the agency?

    Maybe not getting the MVET was a good thing. Maybe Metro needs some actual lean times in order to make itself a functioning transit agency.

    1. Where did you get the idea Metro isn’t preparing? Just because it hasn’t announced a final plan doesn’t mean it’s not putting together one. The Council set the end of the RFA a year in advance precisely to give Metro time to study traffic patterns and put together a plan. You can’t expect Metro to have a plan already when the Council just suddenly changed the policy out of the blue without warning. Since then, Metro did a simulation one afternoon of “enter at the front, exit at the rear” in the DSTT to gauge what the effective tunnel capacity would be without the RFA, and has done similar studies on 3rd Avenue. Metro, Seattle, and ST held an open house to get public input on their mitigation ideas, which include possibly kicking some tunnel buses upstairs. The county transportation commission will hold a hearing on the RFA next month I think.

      As to whatever should replace the RFA for intra-downtown trips, that’s Seattle’s job to decide, not Metro’s. The RFA exists because Seattle is paying Metro to implement it. But the rate has not kept up with inflation, which is why it’s a money drain for Metro. So Seattle will take its subsidy and apply it to something else. Maybe free Metro routes, maybe free vans operated by a social-service organization, or maybe nothing. Seattle has to decide that, and if it asks Metro to operate it, then Metro will have to decide whether to agree to.

      “Lean time” cutting of bus service would just strand more people, and make everyone else even more wedded to their cars, which would make it even harder to transform the city into a non-driving majority.

  14. Regarding electric cars: Lord knows I’m no scientist or engineer. I’m not even that into electric cars, but from what I understand, coal plants are hard to turn on and off, or even throttle back, so a lot of energy is wasted overnight, while the plants are so ewhat idle. If electric cars were to charge from a coal plant overnight, wouldn’t that make the plant more efficient?

    Also, isn’t it easier to regulate one smokestack (at the power plant) than a few hundred thousand? (in cars)

    1. We use almost no coal in Washington, and are phasing out our last coal plant. It’s not really an issue in our region.

      1. Electric cars if they are to be anything other than a niche will be sold nationwide. There’s lots of cars in Texas,36.8% coal, Michigan 59.2% and Ohio at 82.9%. The electrical grid, like the atmosphere covers all 48 of the continental United States. The NW no longer has a monopoly on the BPA. That said it will still be more efficient and less polluting than hundreds of millions of infernal combustion engines.

    2. Coal plants aren’t that hard to throttle back. In fact in our region they are used primarily just for peak power. Washington gets 8.4% of it’s electricity from coal, about equal to nuclear 9.1% and natural gas 10.4%. The coal plant isn’t closing for many more years and it’s actually just being converted to natural gas which is still a producer of greenhouse gases.

      While we do generate 65.3% from hydro those kilowatts are tapped out. Any increase in demand will have to come from fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. Snohomish PUD is building a small hydro project but we’ve decommissioned the much larger power plant on the Elwha and I expect river restoration will take priority as damns other than those required for flood control reach their design lifespan.

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