Photo by Atomic Taco

Perhaps the most pressing concern about the September elimination of the Ride Free Area (RFA) is the likelihood of severely degraded peak-hour travel times within the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Without significant mitigation, the already precarious mixed bus-rail operations of the DSTT are certain to get much worse.  Of particular concern are northbound trips in the PM peak, as each crush-loaded departure (particularly to Northgate and the UDistrict) will require at least an additional minute of platform time to accommodate fare payment, in addition to the mandatory and time-consuming inspection that each Link train makes before proceeding from Westlake to the Pine Street Stub.

The DSTT currently operates approximately 1,500 trips per day, 750 in each direction. Median overall headway is every 3 minutes in the morning and evening, every 30-60 seconds in the peak, and every 2 minutes mid-day. This offers impressive capacity but – like closely stacked dominoes – precious little room for error. Bus and train breakdowns, cash fares, overly discursive drivers and passengers, overly restrictive train/bus separation requirements, and wheelchair/bike accommodation, can and do cause cascading delays whose magnitude is far greater than the sum of the individual behaviors.

In the absence of instituting proof-of-payment (POP) in the DSTT, it is clear to me that the transition to Pay-as-You-Enter will require reducing overall tunnel bus frequencies in order to avoid a total breakdown of service reliability.  Thankfully our agencies are able to “tunnel” or “surface” routes with far less public process than is normally required when a service change is being considered. As someone who commutes from Convention Place to Tukwila every day – in which my mornings are a reliable 30-minute breeze and my afternoons a variable 50-minute headache – I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking in big-picture terms about the proper role of the DSTT in our regional transit system. Below are 5 principles – roughly in order of importance –that I offer as one model for determining which routes to keep underground.

Principle 1: Common corridors should be served by common stops.
Principle 2: Keep routes slated for future LINK conversion.
Principle 3: Remove local routes.
Principle 4: Until the DSTT is rail-only, keep all-day express routes to regional transit hubs.
Principle 5: Except where it conflicts with Principles 1 and 2, remove peak-only routes.

What would the DSTT look like under these principles? And would it solve the capacity problems that will be brought on by the elimination of the RFA?

 More after the jump…

Principle 1: Common Corridors

Let’s say you’re in Chinatown at 4:30PM and you want to get to Eastgate Park & Ride. You have two choices: do you go to International District Station and wait an average of 5 minutes for a 212/216/218? Or do you wait an average of 7 minutes at 5th/Jackson for a 211/215/554? Surfacing all Eastgate/Issaquah/Sammamish/North Bend service onto 2nd and 4th avenues would decrease peak headways for Eastside riders from 4 minutes to 3 minutes and remove 10+ buses per peak hour from the tunnel.

Or let’s say you’re leaving the new Nordstrom Rack at 4:30PM and you are getting picked up by a friend at Evergreen Point. Do you go to Westlake for a 255? Or do you go to 4th/Pike for a 250/252/257/260/265/268/311/545? Surfacing the 255 to 4th/5th Avenue would create a common stop for all SR520 service. Why make riders choose and halve their potential frequencies?

Implication: Routes 212, 216, 217, 218, and 255 would be surfaced.

Principle 2: Keep Future Light Rail Routes

At destinations slated to become LINK stations, interim tunnel bus routes should strive to create a sense of “corridor permanence” in the minds of riders.

Implication: Routes 41 (Northgate), 71/72/73/74 (Brooklyn), 76/316 (Roosevelt), and 550(Bellevue) would remain in the tunnel.

Principle 3: No local routes

Route 106 is the only local route in the tunnel. Riders destined to Renton are much better served by Routes 101/102, and under the September service changes Route 124 is moving to serve Georgetown alongside the 106. Both routes should serve 3rd Avenue to give Georgetown riders frequent service.

Implication: Route 106 would move to 3rd Avenue and interline with Route 124.

Principle 4: Keep all-day express routes.

There is important value in all-day, frequent, express service to suburban transit hubs.

Implication: Routes 101/102 and 150 would remain in the tunnel.

Principle 5: Except where it conflicts with Principles 1 and 2, no peak-only routes.

Implication: Routes 77 (Maple Leaf/North City) and 301 (Shoreline) would be surfaced. Route 301
could travel alongside Route 358 on 3rd Avenue as far north as 3rd/Pine to give Aurora Village riders a choice of local vs express. Route 102 would remain in the tunnel as a minor variant of Route 101.

Under a hypothetical scenario like this, the tunnel would be reserved for regionally important corridors, peak-period runs would be reduced by 30-40%, and off-peak runs would be reduced by 20%. This would properly align common service onto common corridors, , would hopefully reduce enough runs to mitigate the effects of Pay-As-You-Enter, and would improve LINK’s reliability and ridership.  For intra-CBD trips there would still be a bus or train every 1.5 minutes in the peak and every 3-5 minutes off-peak.

Metro is working very hard on a post-RFA implementation plan for the DSTT, and this post is not intended as any sort of counterproposal (there is nothing as yet to counter), but merely as a planning exercise to filter routes by a set of specified criteria to see what operational impacts might result.  I have been generally impressed with the thoroughness and scope of Metro’s outreach efforts related to the RFA, and I am hopeful that Metro and ST will implement changes that leave us, at a minimum, with no net increase in travel times.

111 Replies to “Which Routes Should the DSTT Serve?”

  1. like your ideas … but it will still all be for naught … if Metro/ST cannot sequence the buses in the right order. Too many times a bus enters the station and immediately stops blocking 5-6 buses in the tunnel behind it. there really needs to be a better system of sequencing the buses by their designated stop bays in the DSTT stations than there currently is.

    I also do not see why the separation between link and buses behind the trains are still so large … I can understand in the beginning when it was all new … but I do not see what the FRA (or DOT) is worried about? do they think a bus driver will not notice the LRVs and slam into the back of the train? wouldn’t that mean that they’d also be likely to hit the back of another bus?

    I can understand why link LRVs need to stay some distance behind buses (newton’s law of motion and all) as they require greater stopping distances and can’t “get out of the way” being on rails and all … but you’d think that the separation rules might have been relaxed with what … zero LRV/bus incidents since service on Link began?

    1. Surfacing the 255 and other Eastside routes will partly solve that problem because Bay B will become solely a bay for dropping off passengers on the 550. I could see it axed entirely. I could also see Bay D merged with Bay C because it would serve only one route, even though the 255 being Bay B’s only route hasn’t resulted in that bay being axed.

  2. The result of surfacing tunnel routes will be even more congestion on the surface streets. There’s no getting around the fact that elimination of the RFA is going to increase travel times in the CBD, both on the surface streets and in the tunnel.

    1. The best solution for increasing capacity would be to eliminate all dead end Metro trips through the tunnel during peak hours. Example: all the 70 series routes flow through the tunnel and terminate at IDS, turn around and head back north. If some of those buses were to through-route during peak hours as route 101, 106 or 150, quite a few discharge-only trips through the tunnel would be eliminated. There might be some implications to schedule reliability, but tunnel capacity would be increased.

      1. The time to board and deboard a bus would double at each platform. Capacity might be increased, but travel time through the tunnel would certainly be increased, especially for the fast-boarding-and-deboarding trains. An extra train or two would be required to maintain headway due to the lengthened travel time.

      2. That’s a nice idea, and it gives us “free” capacity, but there might be administrative barriers there. I suspect some of those south-end routes are assigned to a different base than the U-district routes. I’m not sure, but I have a hunch through-routing routes that normally run out of different bases is administratively difficult.

        In the end, “discharge-only” trips through the tunnel are the least time-consuming ones. There’s no change-fumbling, all doors are used, and they can pull all the way to the end of the platform. So if it can’t be done, no great loss.

      3. Not all buses would be able to through route, but, for example, some of the peak only trippers could be scheduled to leave South Base, travel from Kent to downtown, to the U District and then back downtown and back to Kent and back to South Base. If there are some administrative barriers that need to be eliminated, then I suggest Metro get working on that quickly. Through-routing would eliminate some–but not all–of the dead end trips through the tunnel.

        It is possible to board and deboard at the same time. If passengers leaving the bus use the 2 rear doors and boarding passengers use the front door, both can happen simultaneously.

      4. “discharge-only” trips through the tunnel are the least time-consuming ones.

        So, would it maximize tunnel capacity if all bus routes in the tunnel were discharge only and all outbound buses boarded on the surface? You could add or maintain more “half routes” for a longer period of time in the bus tunnel. Maybe even continue dual use after East Link proves to move far less people from the eastside than buses.

      5. I haven’t seen discharge-only buses employed as a tactic. But it might be useful to designate inbound buses as “Deboarding Only”. That way, everyone can leave at any exit, without waiting for the all-clear that those boarding have done so. “You may now exit at any door. Thank you for riding Metro.” This would be particularly helpful during morning rush, and not require any additional FTEs. [Nor does it have to wait until September 29 to be tried.] Oh, and be prepared with the voice announcement “This bus is deboarding only.” for those trying to board who don’t or can’t see the “Deboarding Only” sign.

        Those wanting to take an intra-tunnel trip would just have to wait a minute for the next outbound bus, or for the train and save 25-75 cents. Anything we can do to encourage using the train for intra-tunnel trips is a time-saver, especially when mobility devices are involved. [And using the train is safer for those travelling in mobility devices, for the most part.]

      6. Signing the inbound buses as “deboarding only” I don’t think would have a significant impact. Inbound buses already have very few boardings in the tunnel – the only boarders are people grabbing free rides between stations – and those boardings are not going to hold up the tunnel. Odds are that even after taking the time to let the handful of short-trip boarding passengers get on, those inbound buses are going to be sitting behind one or more outbound buses, waiting for them to finish loading.

        The advantage you get by through-routing inbound and outbound buses is not one of platform delay, which will always be dependent on the farebox speed of outbound riders, but one of platform space. It could potentially reduce the number of buses that have to stop and wait in the tunnel segment because there’s no room at the platform.

        Of course, implementing passing could have a bigger impact.

      7. Thru-routing the 71, 72, and 73 cannot be a serious option. Those buses as so unpredictably late getting into downtown, especially during the afternoon peak when the express lanes are closed, and they have to use Eastlake, but are still crowded as ever. If you tried to thru-route, say, a 73 turning into a 101, the inevitable result would be 101 riders facing an interminable wait for the bus (in a tunnel with no OneBusAway access, even for riders with smartphones). This would never fly.

    2. There wasn’t any significant increase in surface congestion when the tunnel was completely closed for Link conversion, so I wouldn’t expect to see any significant increase in surface congestion from moving some of these routes to the surface now.

      And Link is of course carrying some of the passengers that previously were forced to use surface buses during DSTT conversion. So I view this as a non-issue.

      All most all of the increase in surface congestion that will occur will be from the effects of eliminating the RFA, and not from surfacing these routes.

      1. All most all of the increase in surface congestion that will occur will be from the effects of eliminating the RFA, and not from surfacing these routes

        But we’re doing both. Each problem compounds the other.

      2. All the routes were surfaced during DSTT conversion with little to no impact. Doing so again won’t produce any “surfacing related” congestion, particularly since Link is already picking up some of the ridership demand.

        But eliminating the RFA will certainly produce congestion on the surface.

      3. Eliminating the RFA will cause a manageable amount of congestion on the surface with the existing buses. We’ll be looking at delays, but if Metro does nothing it will still kinda-sorta work.

        But if you add surfacing routes to that, 3rd Ave changes from “congested, but flowing” to “complete clusterfuck”. And we will have to surface buses, because in Metro’s simulations, the tunnel suffers worse than the surface from the loss of the RFA.

  3. I like the idea of the Proof of Payment (POP) for all buses that run thru the tunnel. With the POP for buses and Link leaving the DSTT, this will help.

    1. POP only works if fare inspectors can move freely about the cabin and check everyone’s fare quickly. Cruchloaded buses defy this strategy. Inspections have to happen on the platform.

      Plus, it requires a significant capital investment that has zero chance of happening before September 29.

      1. Buy some of those parking meter things, convert them to spit out tickets (like CT and the SLUT), and have drivers inspect the tickets when boarding. Or reprogram the existing ST TVMs to let people buy 2-hour bus tickets (again). Also, start a huge “exit though the rear” campaign as well.

        The infrastructure is already in place, we just need to utilize it better.

  4. The other constraint is that Metro and ST pay for the tunnel based on their share of trips. So if you toss out a bunch of Metro routes and leave the 550, that’s more money ST has to cough up. In my opinion, it’d be worthwhile.

    So looking at this from the perspective of agency convenience rather than rider convenience, you’d like to reduce peak hour pressure while using spare capacity the rest of the day. A route like the 66 could replace peak-only routes, observe principle 1 with respect to the 70-series, and keep funding broadly neutral.

    1. You could also see it as following principle 2, because even if the 67 is kept, I see the 66 replaced by the 67 when U-Link opens. It’s possible to take it to within a few blocks of all three North Link stops.

  5. Nice work Zack. Two of Metro’s most senior route planners are retiring shortly, you should look into it. Your good!

  6. i imagine this is more political than anything. for instance, why is 255 the ONLY bus that uses 520 that is a tunnel bus? why is 554, the ONLY all day, all I-90 bus, not in the tunnel? I think it would be beneficial to adjust your statistics to show ridership and bus runs ONLY in the peak period since thats really the critical period where a system breakdown occurs currently. you cannot compare all day runs to peak only runs. and you double counted the 71, 72, 73. by my counts, during AM peak hour(6am to about 9:30), 71,72,73,74 combine for a total of 24 runs combined which is less than the 212/216/218 group which combine for 43 runs during that same AM peak period.

    I understand the importance of keeping all day routes in the tunnel, but combining the 71/72/73/74 together and not combining the 212/216/218 together doesn’t work, they are very similar in that they all leave Seattle heading for a central transfer hub and then branching. Also, unleashing 43 busses onto an already congested 4th ave in the AM and 2nd ave in the PM doesn’t make a lot of sense. with headways of about 4.9 mins per bus (210 mins/43 runs) there will be just as poor traffic conditions on the street. Presently there are close to 120 existing runs during the AM peak on 4th ave which is a headway of just about 1.75 minites and adding another 43 runs that are full busses will drop that headway to 1.3 mins per bus. At this point, its not a question of headway, its now a question of actual physical room to put these busses on the street.

    This is a much more difficult problem to solve than just making a 5 point process. I would recommend researching to see why certain routes were promotoed to the tunnel in the first place. 218 used to be a street bus and 3 years ago it was put in the tunnel, probably because almost every run is full

    1. Where should one research this? Metro to my knowledge has never published their DSTT priorities.

    2. If you move the 554 into the tunnel, you better also move the 214 and 215 there. I can see why you’d do it, though, because in addition to Eastgate and Issaquah Highlands in the peak, it would make the decisions faced by Mercer Island commuters easier at all times (though that would also require moving the 202 and similar routes to the tunnel as well).

    3. I think you overstate this problem. Unlike the tunnel, buses can stack on the street without too much of a problem. They can also pass each other or skip stops. That’s simply not possible in the tunnel. More over, the tunnel has HCT running and that outweighs individual routes. The tunnel problem is real and must be adequately dealt with.

      1. I’m not sure buses don’t “stack” better in the tunnel. When buses really stack on the street (several buses that need to use the same stop right in a row), the ones at the back get stuck behind traffic lights and have to wait even longer.

        This happens at 3rd/Pine often enough, for example. I don’t know how its total bus volume compares to a tunnel stop; it feels like less. Its passenger volume is certainly less.

        Of course, there’s no real reason buses couldn’t pass eachother in the median of DSTT stops. Even with no signalling system it would probably be safer than lots of on-street movements. I’m sure there’s some regulation…

    4. “why is 255 the ONLY bus that uses 520 that is a tunnel bus?”

      It’s not about the highway, it’s about the cities on the other end. The intent was to spread the benefits of the DSTT to as many parts of the county as possible. The DSTT provides all-day service to Bellevue, Renton and Rainier Beach, Kent and Southcenter, Kirkland, UW, Northgate, and SeaTac. It can’t serve the northwest (Aurora or Ballard) because the north portal is too far east. So it covers a pretty good swath of the county. The peak-only routes should have never been put in the tunnel, then there’d be room for another all-day route such as Issaquah or Burien.

      “why is 554, the ONLY all day, all I-90 bus, not in the tunnel?”

      Because the 554 didn’t exist when the tunnel opened? The DSTT opened in 1990; ST was created in 1999. The 550 replaced the Seattle-Bellevue segment of the 226 and 235. (Although I don’t remember taking those routes in the tunnel?) Most other ST Express routes were completely new. Before the 554, the 210 was very much non-express from Seattle – Mercer Island – Newport Hills/Somerset – Issaquah – North Bend.

      1. The 255 was through-routed with the 226, so that may be why it’s in the tunnel, because the 226 was there. There was no all-day Seattle-Redmond express until the 545 was created, and the Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond route (253) and the Seattle-Kirkland-Redmond routes (251, 254) were never in the DSTT.

      2. “The intent was to spread the benefits of the DSTT to as many parts of the county as possible.”

        And, therein lies a lot of the problem. This desire to spread the benefits out is in direct contradiction with the notion that routes headed to common destinations should share common stops.

      3. Destinations are activity centers, not park n rides. The tunnel works well for the main all-day routes to the U-district, Northgate, Bellevue, Renton, Kent, and Seatac. It was never intended to contain all the myriad routes that serve certain park n rides. That’s an automobile-centric routing that hinders transit’s ability to get people to pedestrian destinations and transfers, because most P&Rs are not within walking distance of anything and don’t have good transfers. The tunnel buses serve the P&Rs too if they’re on the way, and the P&Rs are located where several buses can go by them.

        Mercer Island has a dual identity being a smallish destination (only a few people are actually going to the island) and a central P&R. You can’t expect all the dozen routes that serve the MI P&R to be in the DSTT: they would fill the tunnel by themselves. the 550 is “the” main route to MI P&R and SB P&R, and it’s frequent except evenings/Sundays (when most of the alternative routes that could be in the tunnel aren’t running anyway).

  7. I wholely with pairing route designations together, above our below surface. In principle 2, I would pair route 66 with the two routes serving roosevelt. I play that game all the time of where to run to for service north to that area. I assume that because the 66 is inclined and serves the ferry terminal that all those routes should be in service above ground (unfortunately violating the principle but keeping like destinations together). Thanks for the well timed and thought through post.

    1. Pairing buses on the surface makes more sense because it’s all buses, and no train is being slowed down. And also because it helps keep the action going at all doors.

  8. Does this problem disappear once U-Link forces all buses to the surface? Or is that an opportunity to greatly trim the number of bus routes in the tunnel to those which derive the very greatest benefit? (Freeway routes, the U-District expresses, etc.)

    In the meantime, it’s going to require a minor miracle of transit planning and execution to keep things running smoothly. I’m all for requiring proof-of-payment for tunnel stops — No ticket? No ride. (Get an Orca!) The side effect is that this will probably require an addition infusion of TVMs in the tunnel.

    1. you mean East Link. The only change that the opening of ULink will create is that the NB trains won’t sit at Westlake while they are searched … and possibly the 71/72/73 might stop.

      East Link will drive all buses out of the tunnel.

      1. not entirely true, there’s a possibility that ST will build the connections to eastlink in preparation FOR eastlink (in the intl district staging area) right before central link opens up (since the tunnel will be closed on weekends for testing and such probably). the connections may be built as direct fixation rather than embedded track to act as a passive safety measure to keep rubber tired vehicles from entering the tunnel. if this happens, there will be no staging areas and no access for busses into the tunnel.

      2. yeah … East Link will remove the buses … not ULink … as the op suggested

      3. Not necessarily true. There is currently some debate amongst the planners about whether or not ALL buses should leave the DSTT when U Link opens.

        I’m betting this won’t happen until the 2nd or 3rd service revision after U Link opens, but it will happen.

      4. As of right now, the track is to be embedded from the Rainer Station to ID Station.

        Kicking buses out at the opening of ULink does not make sense. Too many other heavy-used routes (41, 550) rely on the tunnel for smooth, fast operations and don’t go where Link goes. Additionally, ULink will most likely bring longer trains, not necessarily more frequent one (but ULink is set up to be operated w/ incredible frequency should ST ever want to).

      5. here is the track plan for the East Link / Central Link junction just south of the IDS

        of note: there will be 4 switches between the two lines … don’t know how this will affect Link service during construction (there are ways of using temporary raised track to bridge construction work)—Central-Link-IDS-Junction.jpg

        don’t know if this is still current, but is part of the East Link EIS.

      6. It’s not that you couldn’t maintain Joint Ops after U Link opens, it’s that it becomes increasing pointless to maintain Joint Ops after U Link opens.

        Look at the data provided. If most and/or all of the peak only runs get surfaced when the RFA goes away, and if routes like the 71/72/73/74 get restructured as Link feeders instead of duplicate service (U to DSTT segment), then at some point it becomes pointless to maintain the overhead of Joint Ops just for a few bus routes.

        Yes, the 550 and the 41 have lots of DSTT cycles, but maintaining Joint Ops for just two routes is pointless.

        It’s coming. The future is a bus free DSTT.

      7. While I would love for the 71/72/73 to get restructured in 2016 and hardly expect to ride them myself anymore, I wouldn’t hold my breath, as people will gripe about having to transfer from bus->train no matter how slow and crowded the bus is and how fast the train is.

        Best case, we get a service restructure with a truncated 71/72/73 feeding into Link, with the service hours used to provide more frequency on all those routes, plus others like 65, 68, 70, 75, 372, and 373, with the service hours of the 372 and 373 extended to operate all day everyday, including weekends.

        What I fear will be the actual case is that the bus network will remain essentially the same. The train will still be great for people going specifically from downtown to the UW, but anyone going to north of the UW will still be stuck on the slow and overcrowded 71/72/73.

      8. “if routes like the 71/72/73/74 get restructured as Link feeders instead of duplicate service (U to DSTT segment)”

        I don’t think it’s feasable because Pacific Street is already pretty crowded.

      9. “here is the track plan for the East Link / Central Link junction just south of the IDS”

        Thanks. Hmm. Northbound pocket track for trains from Airport only. I wonder what they plan to use that for.

    2. University Link will probably not be sufficient to retire the 71/72/73X but it does raise another possibility. At least half the riders are coming from campus and could just as easily walk to UW station. And they probably will because they’re sick of the overcrowding and delays on the 71/72/73. This means the ridership on the 71/72/73 will probably drop by half, and thus they could be made less frequent, which would lessen the capacity problem in the DSTT. (The people who will continue to ride the 71/72/73 are those coming from the Ave, from further north, or transferring on the Ave.)

      1. Gordon, that plot is old. The most recent design discusses incorporating a DF pocket track in the middle of IDS and switches adjusted to accommodate that.

      2. One thing that I would really like to see fixed in a post-Link world is the forcing of nearly everybody north of the U-district to endure a 20 minute slog from one end of the U-district to the other in order to get downtown.

        For example, if you live in Wedgewood, your primary route to downtown should something akin to 65->Link (*), not a slow 71 bus all the way.

        However, there are two changes we need to make to the service in order for this to really work:

        1) Streamline the 65 route to get from Wedgewood to the UW station faster. This means cut the deviation to 40th Ave. that never should have been added in the first place. And take Montlake to Pacific St. like the snow route does, rather than going up the hill through campus. Yes, traffic on Montlake can sometimes be bad. But that only happens in the southbound direction and since no one is going to be getting on the bus there anyway, when traffic is bad, you can still take Steven’s Way as an alternate route to bypass the congestion, while still staying on Montlake on days when traffic is moving. I would make it the ultimate routing decision here the driver’s call on a case-by-case basis. I would expect Montlake to the route of choice at least 95% of the time. Heck, when all is said and done, we could even rebrand the 65 as a RapidRide route.

        (If we did this, it might make sense to preserve the current route 65 as an overlay route during the peak, for those that want to walk a little less far. But off-peak, the streamlined route should be the way to go).

        2) Re-allocate the 71’s service hours into a more frequent 65. The 71 really doesn’t go anywhere the 65 doesn’t go, but through the Link connection, the 65 is more useful than the 71 in getting downtown. The 65 and 71 both have an all-day headway of 30 minutes, so re-investing the 71’s service hours into the 65 would yield an all-day headway of at least 15 minutes. However, the 71 today has double the end-to-end running time of the 65 (~60 minutes vs. ~30 minutes) and the streamlined 65 would be cheaper to operate than the current 65. So, the existing service hours should be easily good enough to boost the headway of the revamp’d 65 to every 7.5 minutes peak, 10 minutes off-peak. Which means a bus to connect with every train. This is extremely important for that crucial train->bus connection on the way back to be reasonable.

      3. goodluck … you have a link to the latest drawings for EastLink at IDS?

      4. asdf,
        The ridership on the 71 boards/exits between Campus Parkway. Very few of the passengers are going to/from Wedgewood.

        Even with U-link I don’t expect to see much drop in the ridership of the 71/72/73/74. To the extent it happens it will be in the reverse commute direction (North out of Downtown in the morning and South to Downtown in the evening).

        Campus Parkway, University Way, and 15th NE are much closer to both clusters of dorms on campus and to most off-campus student housing than UW station.

        Sure UW Station to downtown will be faster than Campus Parkway to downtown when the 71/72/73/74 are using Eastlake inbound but having to take a long walk or make a transfer will discourage a lot of people from using that option.

      5. Make that “… boards/exits between Campus Parkway and NE 65th …”

    3. provided that Metro discontinues the 71/2/3 … considering Link won’t go where they do until Brooklyn station is opened (don’t know very many people who want to go to Husky Stadium when there isn’t a game.

      The UW stop should have been built at Campus Parkway at the very least … where most people seem to want to go … and where the buses all go

      1. I think most students wanting to go Downtown or Capitol Hill or King Street will be happy to make the 6-10 minute walk (that they already make to Brooklyn/University/Campus Way) to save themselves a half hour, over capacity, and unreliability.

      2. It would have helped immensely for Brooklyn to open in 2016, but that’s not how Link’s funding came out. University Link is courtesy of a budget surplus. North Link was approved only in 2008.

        Some people will certainly take the 43/48 from the Ave to UW station, and I myself might. But people will be less willing to transfer twice (once on the Ave, and again at UW stn) or to do a walking transfer.

      3. I live in north Capitol Hill, so the 49 is actually a surprisingly convenient way to get to the U-District — the door-to-door time is often about 15 minutes. And not only is the bus relatively frequent and reliable, but I can wait for it indoors, at both ends, at one of many stores or coffee shops.

        When U-Link opens, either I walk to Capitol Hill station (5 minutes), wait for the train, then deal with the open-air transfer to the 43/48 and the slog up Pacific… or I take one bus that brings me straight to my destination.

        Having said that, once U-Link opens, I know I’ll never take the bus downtown again. That part is very nice.

      4. The 49 is surprisingly quick from the north end of Broadway to the U-district. Enjoy it now because its frequency may be lowered when Brooklyn station opens, when at least some of the riders switch to Link.

      5. I expect to see some drop in ridership on the 49 between the U District and Capitol Hill after U-Link opens and especially after North Link opens. For riders on North Broadway it may be faster for them to take a bus to Capitol Hill Station then ride to Brooklyn rather than go North on the 49. But even when ST2 is fully built out there still will be a need for local service between Capitol Hill and the U-District in this corridor.

        That said, I expect there to be a huge drop in ridership between Capitol Hill and downtown once U-Link opens. The 10, 11, 43, and 49 are all painfully slow between 3rd avenue and Broadway. Hopefully Metro restructures service semi-intelligently rather than listening to the “don’t change my route” crowd.

      6. @Chris: When North Link opens, sure. But in my experience, it’s often faster to go from 45th/15th to Broadway/Roy on the 49 than to go from 45th/15th to UWMC on the 43/48!

  9. I’m all for proof of payment, (I’d like it everywhere, ideally) but in the tunnel, how does the payment system differentiate whether you are riding the bus or getting on the light rail, since they can be different fares? Could ORCA just assume that if you don’t tap out at a link station that you have taken a bus? That could cause some fare evasion for people riding link all the way to the airport, but only $0.25 or $0.50. Separate ORCA readers for bus and link seem complicated. Any other ideas?

    1. Tap on at the station, tap off for both bus and rail. Don’t tap off == max fare. I’d like to see the bus system move to distance based rather than drawing a line down the middle of the lake. The county wide zone ST uses works for me but I’m sure it creates similar issues at the county lines.

      POP could also just be tap on at the station for rail, tap on on the bus if riding Metro or ST Express. Fare enforcement would be on the bus/train. Or, buses remain pay as you leave. I don’t think fare evasion from people riding just in the bus tunnel would be that big a deal.

      1. I’ve tried to create a multi-zone system mock up. It’s pretty messy. Although, I’d be interested in proposals. It should be at least three zones to Kent on the 150 (Seattle — Zone 1, Tukwila — Zone 2, Kent — Zone 3). This would mesh well with the distance in Vancouver for Translink.

    2. Tapping off would either require ORCA readers at the rear doors, or the rear doors would not be able to open at all. More ORCA readers are way too expensive for Metro, and we’re trying to get the rear doors to open more often, not less.

      1. The only difference from pay as you leave currently would be that you’ve tapped on in the tunnel which somewhat simplifies the multizone set-up. Eventually I think every bus should have two readers. If the rear reader is located smartly most people can tap off before the bus comes to a stop. I wonder if there’s any cost saving in having the second station be just a “dumb terminal” terminal that piggy backs off the main reader?

        Alternately, add readers for major stops/stations. At minor stops there’s no real time penalty. It would still be expensive but no nearly as many required as adding a second reader to every bus Pile out the back door and don’t tap out you’re going to get hit with the maximum fare.

      2. It’s still millions of dollars for ORCA readers that Metro doesn’t have.

  10. In order to speed up the security inspection at Westlake, have four people do it. One person wakes up the sleeper while the other three cover the lengths of the cars. [This can be tried before September 29.]

    When they aren’t clearing the train, they can pick up their ORCA readers and tap ORCA at rear doors.

  11. The Metro planner I talked to at the open house said they were only considering moving a couple peak-hour routes upstairs. They’ve probably already decided which ones, if they decide to move any at all.

    An ST planner told me Metro had to notify ST 180 days ahead of time of any service changes they plan in the tunnel. That deadline has now passed for the September 29 service change.

    1. Yeah, the plan is probably already set. But if that’s all they do…a couple peak routes removed plus maybe Bus Bay removal (all buses pull all the way forward)…the DSTT will perform miserably. Posts like this give the eventual results something to compare against.

      1. Also, if they get it wrong in September and the system breaks down, they can get it right in subsequent service changes in February and June 2013.

    2. They really should move ALL peak only buses out of the tunnel when the RFA goes away, but Metro seems to be dragging their feet a bit. But I think eventually they will get the message.

      1. so im curious what the current 100% capacity is for the tunnel. the tunnel is equally as useless when its over utilized as when its underutilized.

  12. I’m still not convinced Metro is ready for this transition. I’m actually overwhelmingly convinced it is not.

    I’m also not convinced the RFA would ever have gone away without the pressure from the council. Nor will paper transfers or the lack of e-purse incentive go away without pressure from the council.

    So, the pragmatist in me would like to suggest a compromise: Delay the elimination of the RFA until the opening of U-Link, but have it still in law that the RFA goes away at that time. In the meantime, set deadlines for (1) the elimination of the fee for buying an ORCA; (2) the elimination of paper transfers; and (3) the creation of differential fare rates between cash and ORCA fare payment for all categories of boarding except free boardings.

    1. Of course, once a deadline is set for making ORCA free (with a minimum fare produce purchase), people will wait until then to buy any more, so it may as well become free ASAP.

      That’s the largest bit of low-hanging fruit that won’t rile up passengers or human service agencies, while creating a dramatic bump in ORCA use. I still contend the lost revenue for card purchases will be made up for by the service efficiencies increased ORCA use will enable.

      1. While I support making ORCA free, there is the issue of people being careless with or even throwing away the cards. I suggest *one* free ORCA per person, $5 for replacement unless the card is defective and appears not to have been damaged by the customer. Of course, this means ID’ing purchasers, which may be seen as intrusive by some. They can pay $5 for the privilege of anonymity….
        Speaking of ID’ing ORCA users, maybe a Human Services ORCA (maybe we can give it an upbeat name like “HumanCard” to somewhat counteract the likely stigma) could be developed which would double as an ID to obtain services which require ID (as many services for the poor do). The HS ORCA could also be reloadable with as little as one fare, so that an agency which wishes to give the holder one fare to come to an appointment, for example, can do so without having to use paper tickets.

      2. The lost fare revenue stream will far surpass any cost of wasted cards. (Though I do philosophically wish we could afford to have a low-income ORCA.)

        The administrative cost of giving out only one free ORCA per rider will probably also cost more than the production cost of the cards.

        So, I can live with a few wasted cards if it means we remove the largest hurdle to getting ORCA into the hands of 99% of riders.

      3. John Charles Wilson: London deals with this by having a *refundable* deposit for their Oyster card (I think it is $3 last I checked?). If you turn the card in, you get the entire deposit back. (I believe this includes accidentally damaged cards — if it doesn’t it should.) If you are careless enough to lose it entirely, then you don’t.

        TFL specifically said (though I don’t have the quote handy) that it was to encourage recycling, discouraging people from throwing the cards away as litter, which people tend to do with magnetic-stripe cards (most people are slobs).

    2. Would it be too much to ask also that the transit agencies come to an agreement on a universal fare zone system? Or agree to go back to one?

      The same exact (travel) route shouldn’t cost $3 on Metro and $2.50 on ST.

  13. Seems to me it would be cheaper to retool the ORCA readers to accept bus fare in the tunnel. Or treat Link fare as bus fare. Then do like the Link and RapidRide and do fare enforcement on the buses themselves. Then your concern about fare collection delay is reduced dramatically by the ability to prepay. RapidRide buses don’t have to wait nearly as long because of that fare model. Probably the only thing RapidRide does (partially) well.

    Maybe they should just replace most bus tunnel routes with a higher-frequency RapidRide route. (I kid, I kid. Well, actually, no, I don’t.)

    They could maintain the tunnel itself be free, too. Tap on in the tunnel, tap off in the tunnel, no charge.

    1. It makes complete sense to sell bus tickets (transfers) at the TVMs, even if people aren’t required to use it. The tickets have the expiration time printed on them, so they can’t be reused later like the traditional Metro transfers.

      1. For much less effort, the TVMs could give away ORCA cards, and just charge the cost of the bus ride. With the free card comes a free 2-hour transfer from the time of tap, rather than the time of purchase.

  14. “Why make riders choose and halve their potential frequencies?”

    Great point, Zach. I deal with this other places than just downtown, too. OneBusAway removes some uncertainty about which stop I should head to, but it’s a lot more difficult to check multiple stop numbers without a smart phone.

  15. This reminds me, when is the service contract for the tunnel due to be renegotiated? Some time this year, right? I’m interested to see what changes come about from that.

  16. Regarding congestion on surface streets I suggest police be stationed at turning bottlenecks such as 4th and Olive/Stewart to direct vehicles and traffic during peak hours. I walk by here all the time and frequently only a few vehicles get to turn right while pedestrians are using the very long crosswalk. Buses stack up on 4th and delay many riders. I think this would be a relatively inexpensive way to increase corridor capacity and rider satisfaction that even fancy signal timing and sensors could not reliably achieve.

    1. So the police would ticket jaywalkers?

      Hrm, we’ve tried that in seattle…

      Bus islands would work well also like at 4th and Washington and less in the long term than paying for police every day at every intersection. Problem with that however is that the island would have to be HUGE if more busses start using the streets.

    2. My biggest gripe about the 3rd avenue transitway is the lack of enforcement, especially in the afternoon. There should never be a day when active enforcement is invisible from 3-6 PM, unless there’s been a serious emergency nearby.

      1. Lloyd, i think you’ve uncovered a good part of the reason why so many busses are in the tunnel. When you have that many people milling about waiting, its easier to patrol a place with at most 4 points of egress. Easy for security to see whats going on and quickly asses situations. It’s well lit at all points of the day and no places for people to really duck and hide in. Notice that the elevator doors stay open when not in use? Why wouldn’t you serve some of the busiest routes in this facility. Especially at PEAK HOUR TIME…

      2. Goodluck – I’m not talking about sidewalk civility enforcement (though we do need more of that) I’m talking about keeping the GD cars off of 3rd avenue during the rush hour (actually 0500-2200, please) – the number of flagrant violators given verbal warnings is astonishing. I want a bike cop at every intersection with a rapid way of writing ticket after ticket after ticket to the clowns who cannt read or understand that “Do Not Enter” means just that!

      3. “Notice that the elevator doors stay open when not in use?”

        This is a nice touch which should be suggested to other agencies nationally — very few have incorporated this in their elevators. I would definitely consider it a feature.

    3. A simple protected right-turn signal, similar to the one at 6th and Pine, would do the job well.

    4. Or simply change all signals at intersections with high pedestrian traffic to operate like the ones at First & Pike or First & University. Giving pedestrians their own signal phase does wonders for reducing conflicts between vehicle traffic and pedestrians.

  17. Is the time-consuming sweep on northbound Link trains at Westlake really required? How about if the announcement were a little more forceful “This is the last stop. All riders please disembark. This train is going out of service.”

    If anyone stays onboard, after about 5-10 minutes they will be right back at Westlake again as the train begins its southbound journey. It’s not a mistake someone will make more than once but it really isn’t a big problem. Subways systems around the world don’t employ an army of sweepers at terminal stations even when the train will go through a reversing process. In the event the train is going directly to the yard, that’s when you need to sweep it, though such a sweep could even be done after reversing or at Stadium or Sodo where it’s not blocking tunnel operations.

    1. The first sentence is automatically announced. I see people getting up and ready to exit the train after hearing that only to stand and wait for a bus to clear the platform. Many operators also play the last two.

      Just go up to Vancouver BC’s SkyTrain. Or the Sea-Tac Airport satellite train system. None of them have sweepers, or even operators!

  18. One downside of removing the I-90 routes from the tunnel is that there is a dedicated bi-directional busway taking them to I-90. It certainly makes more sense to have I-90 routes in the tunnel than SR-520 routes which have an awkward routing between CPS and I-5 all the time.

    1. We will lose the investment in the dedicated ramps to I-90 and the I-5 express lanes. That’s sad, but of course the solution is to have built Link in 1990 or 1972 or 1945.

      (Although we are getting a better system than we would have gotten then, due to the advances in light rail technology, and the newfound willingness to make it more grade-separated and fewer stops.)

      1. Well, at least the ramps will end up being Link ramps, so not totally wasted.

  19. Another DSTT-related question–

    If U-Link forces all DSTT buses to the surface, what will become of Convention Place Station, the only bus-only DSTT station? It’d become completely moot.

    1. It’s annoying that there is still no answers to this question. It would be a waste to leave that portion of the tunnel out of use. Before the East Link route was settled as heading north towards Lynnwood I was hoping they’d add a rail segment (basically a stub) to Convention Place. East Link, I had hoped, would terminate there and be the only route to use the station.

      1. Link cannot serve CPS for two reasons. I can’t serve CPS because it wouldn’t be deep enough to cross under I-5. Secondly, even a spur to CPS as a terminal won’t work, because the grade of the segment from the Stub Tunnel to CPS is too steep for trains.

    2. I don’t think anything formal has been proposed for it. Generally speaking, Metro wants to keep the underground bus area as a base for downtown layovers and whatnot. There has been talk about opening up the air above it to development. But nothing official, and I don’t think Metro even wants to think about it yet with everything on their plate now.

  20. I would like to add a 6th principle which is to take advantage as much as possible of existing infrastructure that makes getting into and out of the tunnel easy and quick. We have a wondeful ramp allowing buses to move directly from the tunnel to I-90 without getting bogged down in stoplights and our choices of what buses to operate in the tunnel should take advantage of this.

    Under this principle, buses that use I-90 (e.g. 554) should operate in the tunnel and buses that use 520 (e.g. 255) should be moved out. Buses that use the I-5 express lanes can also go in, but they would get lower priority than the I-90 buses because the express lanes only run in the proper direction half the day.

    This principle also implies Zach’s first principle of common corridors having common stops. Of all the principles, the common-corridor one is the mot important.

    So, if I were in charge, I would move the 554 into the tunnel, along with whatever 2xx routes serve I-90. To make room, the 106, 255, 301, 304, and 316 would each go upstairs. If the contract means ST has to pay a little bit more of the tunnel cost, so what? In the long run, the tunnel is going to become all ST anyway. And as a taxpayer, I see ST and Metro’s money basically coming out of the same pot.

    1. Another way you could interpret this principle though is that the routes that uses the tunnel the most (ie all day frequent routes) should have priority in the tunnel, maximizing the number of buses that use the tunnel. If you take out all day routes then the tunnel would have a larger portion of its capacity unused during the middle of the day.

      Also one issue with I-90 routes is the imbalance of the flow, with the 212/216/218 all northbound in the morning and then all southbound in the evening. Unless this can be balanced out with buses in the opposite directions, you’re under utilizing the tunnels capacity during peak periods.

    2. The 41 has extra trips during the peak, which run through the tunnel in the opposite direction from the I-90 routes.

      1. While moving the 554 into the tunnel makes sense in theory, it has up to this point been politically untenable because ST refuses to take on the costs of putting additional routes in the tunnel. And because Metro stands to lose the most from tunnel inefficiencies, the onus appears to be on them to make changes that make the tunnel work.

        To me there seem to be two complementary strategies for metro to take to address these concerns. The first is to surface certain routes more or less as proposed by Zach. By reducing the number of metro routes in the tunnel ST’s share of the bill will increase (it is done by percentages) and maybe this political pressure would get ST to operate additional routes (like the 554) in the tunnel. Either way Metro ensures that the tunnel doesn’t get clogged.

        The second is to fix the fare system in the tunnel such that payment does not have to be made while boarding. This would be fairly simple. Treat all southbound (and I-90) boardings as two zone fairs. Assuming the 106 is surfaced, only the SODO busway stops and the rainier stops would be one zone southbound destinations, and ORCA readers could be added at low cost for those who want to tap off. Similarly treat all north bound buses as one zone fairs as these routes (except a negligible segment of the 316) are all one zone routes. Then ORCA readers installed on northbound platforms could charge one zone fares and ORCA readers on southbound platforms (or other parts of the station could charge two zone fares). Similarly fare inspectors for LINK and Metro could patrol station platforms and have their readers programed such that those on a southbound platform must have two zone proof of payment and those on a northbound platform one zone.

        Of course all this would be made far simpler if Metro simply fixed its fare system such that cash fares were more expensive than ORCA fares and that all bus tunnel routes (including LINK) had a flat one zone fare.

  21. I like the idea. It just makes practical sense. Hopefully something like this will also be taken seriously by Metro or else the whole system will meltdown. Although, I do kind of like the 255 ending up in the tunnel.

  22. I once rode the SkyTrain all the way out to King George station and back. I dutifully stepped off when the robovoice instructed, walked over to the other platform and boarded a different car.

    Much to my surprise, there was someone already aboard. He was intoxicated and asleep and he slept through whatever turnaround procedure his car went through.

    I just shrugged and sat down. At least he wasn’t driving.

    But I do have standards when putting up with drunks. A few stations later, the guy fell out of his seat and proceeded to sleep on the floor. This was in violation of my standards regarding drunks, so I pressed the emergency strip.

    The car stopped at the next station and the doors opened. When you press the emergency strip, the car will stay there just like that until manually released. Special lights flash on the outside. With one touch of a strip, I had stopped the entire SkyTrain line!

    Two security officers stepped on and removed the gentleman. They reset the car and away we went. Total delay was about three minutes. I can only assume that every station had security staff hanging about to handle these incidents. Or at least handle idiots who press the strip and say “What’s this do, eh?”

    So, no sweepers, no operators, but two security staff at every station.

    1. It’s amazing how many station security attendants you can hire if you don’t have any drivers….

  23. There wont be nearly as much homeless/druggie/riffraff wasting time on the buses… did anyone ever think of that? People may say that’s mean… blah blah bla. I work downtown everyday and I see how much (majority part- lots of bad apples that make the traffic smell and wasted rants make me HATE riding the bus anyways) of them get away with almost murder and I have to say they have it pretty easy riding the bus not paying fare, smoking crack, the list goes on and on… I say have them walk everywhere if your all about saving the homeless have them exercise(downtown isn’t that big), if the have places to go and be actually pro-active about their lives. Prove to them its not easy being homeless, it sucks and you will not get a free ride, anywhere.

  24. Metro has announced its planned administrative route changes for September at the HaveASay subwebsite. 218 and 301 are moving upstairs.

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