Bolt Bus has chosen Seattle-Portland as its first route outside of the Northeastern corridor. Fares will be between $6 and $9 normally, but if you reserve your ticket on the opening day service on May 17th, the fare will be only $1 (at least they were for me). Bolt Bus, which is owned and operated by Greyhound, will operate four buses per day, each with wi-fi, power outlets and large seats. You can even bring your bike for free if you board the bus early. In all, I think this is a very welcome development.
Any longtime bus rider has noticed that Metro tends to place its stops so that buses must pass through the intersection before they open their doors. That’s great for runners, but not so great if your transfer whizzes by on the cross street. It turns out that there are several great reasons for this. The folks in Metro’s Transit Route Facilities Department explained:
The jurisdictions through which Metro operates are the authorizing agencies for each stop location. While Metro doesn’t have a policy for stop placement, farside (after the intersection) stops are preferred because: it eliminates conflicts from vehicles making right turns in front of stopped buses; it encourages passengers to cross behind the bus; and it leaves more curb space for neighborhood parking. Also, where we have Transit Signal Priority in use, farside stops are preferred so that we can provide advance detection to the traffic signal.
While this policy is sensible, I wonder if it shouldn’t be tweaked under certain circumstances. There are, of course, truly unique cases like the 554 in Chinatown, but I wonder if the system’s gradual shift to frequent corridors with less frequent crossing service demands a change.
Specifically, missing a frequent-to-infrequent transfer is a bigger deal than the reverse. I’m inclined to believe that in spite of all the reasons provided above, the frequent service should stop before the intersection, maximizing the chance of catching the feeder.
Consider the example of Rainier Ave. and S. Othello St, where the (infrequent) 39 crosses the (very frequent) 7, pictured above. Riders coming from the Seward Park area and seeking a transfer to the 7 are not greatly inconvenienced if a 7 breezes by while they are stopped at a light: the next is perhaps 10 minutes away. Coming back on that 7, though, there’s a premium on getting off the trunk service as soon as possible in case a 39 comes by.
Of course, that frequent trunk service really ought to have signal priority, and if if it does this whole discussion is for naught. But since we’re apparently far from ubiquity even in Seattle, much less in the suburbs, this is a little thing that Metro could do to make riders’ lives a bit easier.
In my quest to find an example of this configuration, I discovered it’s much rarer than you might think; but as we progress towards a transfer-based system the current policy will make it more and more common.