57 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Importance of Standards”

  1. Am I the only one missing updated Link ridership numbers?
    John Niles and STB used to report monthly Avg.Daily Boardings, but the last time was for March ’12 with 23,379. ST has always put out the QTRLY numbers, showing 1st QTR for this year at 22,585.
    We’ll have to wait another month to get 2nd QTR trends, which only gives four data points for the entire year. Maybe this doesn’t really matter anymore now that Link has been running for a full three years, but I’m getting a little burned out on station names and cutsie cartoon clips.
    I’m eager for some more good old ’cause and effect’ debates over what works and what doesn’t. Even the Link Before and After Study (due out after 2 years of operation to the FTA) won’t be out for ?? months for public consumption. Pretty stale reading by that time.
    OK, rant over. TOD anyone?

    1. What more is there to say that hasn’t been covered in the umpteen-million comments already?

      1. Thanks. I think I was following a dated link at the Metro page.

        For the operators out there: How much slower is a typical cash-and-change fumbling vs. an ORCA tapping?

      2. “not good enough for an agency trying to show how transparent and responsible they are.”

        Why not? It’s not as if month-to-month changes are that dramatic and the data is there if someone bothers to ask for it.

      3. Actually there there has a fairly dramatic change month to month and it’s been opposite bus ridership. It would be interesting to know if that’s continuing. It’s also interesting to note daily variations that point to sporting event ridership; apropos given that Seattle is currently in a grand arena debate. Link ridership had been pathetic compared to projections but 10% year on year growth is pretty damn good for a line more than 18 months old. Has that fizzled?

      4. @Brent,

        Re: “fumbling for fare”, the delay from folks who only relaize that there’s such a thing as a fare as they board (despite having lots of time to get it ready as they waited for the bus to arrive) is significant. On a Friday or Saturday night when a good number of fumblers are inebriated, their cumulative effect can delay schedules up to a half an hour.

    2. Here is the monthly update on U-Link construction for June.

      None of the performance measures for Metro have been updated since February, but then, they aren’t under the same microscope that Link is.

      BTW, do you know the rough cost per platform hour to run a Metro bus? I want to come up with a good opportunity-cost-analysis of charging $5 for ORCA.

    3. Yeah I’m with Zed. Don’t get the fascination with daily. weekly, monthly ridership numbers. And there’s certainly no lack of transparency or responsibility in posting quarterly numbers.

      If you want more granular data just ask for it.

      1. Well, there’s my answer. Only two people give a crap.
        So ST, four times a year is good enough.
        Could someone let me know when the Before and After is out. I love to read reports based on really old numbers (Jul09-Jul11). Then because it takes a year to plan and implement a service change for buses, it will be about four years to make some meaningful corrections, then another year to see if they were of any use.
        Turning battleships sure is tedious.

      2. I thought the purpose of the Link numbers was to endlessly debate whether it should have been built in the first place, and then whether to mothball the project (or do you mean something else by “turning battleships”. It seems like only critics of the project obsess about getting instant numbers, so why should ST lead with its chin?

      3. Turning battleships refers to the time it takes to determine a problem, then get the ship going a different course, that’s all.
        Metro and ST seem to take forever to make changes for the better to increase ridership and efficiency.
        Before and After data ended a year ago. Maybe another year before the results are released to the public, and another year to mull over the results and plan for service changes to correct feeder routes to Link.
        Decisions on new Link Stations are being made on models that aren’t working very well to predict ridership. Maybe we don’t need some of these monster stops, that consume buckets of cash and take years to build, when the Vancouver style station would be just fine. Maybe frequency can be changed to better utilize the asset.
        But questioning Link is akin to declaring you’re a commie before the House UnAmerican hearings by McCarthy.
        So, I’ll just check the progress 4 times a year and life will be good.

      4. Sports reporters give daily reports. I guess people with a passing interest are more than satisfied with a season wrap up. I’d have thought “transit geeks” would be the most appreciative of monthly reporting. And reporting in a timely manner speaks to agency efficiency. They’re using automated counting, take over a month to report it and often come back a month later and revise the numbers. That really looks like amateur hour. “Lead with their chin”… only if the news is bad.

      5. Asking an innocent question to ST or Link critics is akin to asking “Have you ever …. with a communist?” Wow.

        Metro/ST are collaborating on laying out the path for TOD at Northgate Station. They’re collaborating at looking at how to end duplicate-head between Kent Station and downtown (to be timed with the two new Sounder runs, for which the board just approved the purchase of the permanent rights, BTW).

        I’m frankly much more interested in real-time bus arrival signs at the stations than real-time accountability data, when you already know they don’t do precise ridership counts on Link.

        And I totally understand why government agencies engage in good marketing practices. We demand it of them.

      6. Mic, in less time then you spent moaning about it you could have requested the numbers yourself. That’s what someone who actually gives a crap would do. The monthly numbers were only posted here because one of the blog contributors did the work.

    4. I agree, I am always interested in seeing Link’s progress in increasing its ridership. I don’t understand why everyone’s so angry about that question.

  2. I wanted to share that Epic Transit Journeys has been down for the last couple of weeks. If someone could pass word on to Evan Sirosky so that I can finish the edits to Seattle-Portland via RT and CAP, it would be much appreciated.

    1. CAP stopped running between Tumwater and Centralia a few months ago so I don’t think it’s possible anymore…

  3. Open thread time. knowing that the road bed on i5 through seattle is well past its service life and needs to be replaced and that this is a billion dollar job. What should be done to improve transit/hov/carpools on this corridor? it would seem that completing the hov lane on i5 south from Northgate to downtown is a must for afternoon traffic.

    1. I was in Fort Collins this past week and around the Denver area.

      One thing I noticed is that with their extremes of heat and cold — blizzards in the winter and 100 in the summer — while there was some road work going on, I never saw any major cracks in the road and I saw zero potholes.

      They use their roads quite extensively as Denver is the only area with any type of rail transit. A lot of it is truck traffic and also they instantly clear the roads after a snow (and I mean instantly…like 4 hours later even the side streets) with plows, salt and chemicals.

      Yet…no potholes or major rework.

      How come?

      1. There’s lots of major rework in the Denver area; you just didn’t happen to see it.

        Because they rebuild roads more frequently (which means much more expense) you don’t see major cracks or potholes the way you do in places which rebuild their roads less frequently.

        Roads fall apart fast. Yoou can have consistently high-quality roads if you rebuild them frequently, and Colorado does. But it costs a very large amount of money. So most places skimp on it (which saves a lot) and allow the roads to degrade further before rebuilding.

      2. Well, like I said, I was there and I drove a lot and I didn’t see potholes.

        But this is Seattle Transit Blog.

        What does going some place and seeing for yourself have to do with anything when there’s a study and a hyperlink to deny the truth before your face.

      3. I live in Denver, and I can assure you that there are plenty of potholes and roadwork. In fact, a couple weekends ago at least one highway had a closure due to extreme heat.

        Likewise, after it snows Denver plows arterials fairly quickly, but definitely not the side streets.

    2. Yeah, any bus coming from the north end (510, 511, etc.) after the express lanes switch gets bogged down in traffic; makes it unreliable and frustrating :(

    3. I’m less concerned about the road bed and more concerned about traffic flows. I think the express lanes and the collector/distributor at I-90 need a fresh engineering effort. Given our traffic volumes and the need for HOV lanes both northbound and southbound 24×7, there has got to be a better way than closing 3 lanes to inbound traffic from noon – 6am.

      1. “Second” to request for cost of platform time. Especially with approaching end to the Ride Free Area, and extra especially with plans to use bus fareboxes in the Tunnel, would like to be able to publicize cost to the public of transit delays.

        And as a regular 511 passenger who loses wages over late buses, would like to see Everett and Lynnwood ST routes in the Tunnel, and all-day southbound bus lane from northgate to CPS.

        Again, dollar amount for lost time would be really helpful. For me, it’s currently fifteen dollars an hour. Would like to be able to present an invoice.

        Mark Dublin

      2. unless sound transit agrees to shift operators from community transit to king county metro I don’t think you’ll see the 511 in the tunnel. But I would like to see one lane in each direction turned into an hov lane (not including the express lanes).

      3. Why split the 51x series from the rest of the CT commuter fleet? especially northbound?

    4. What should be done is to remove the elevated structure completely and restore surface-level connections along the corridor. The resulting road will still be a major traffic-magnet for a while, so, sure, drop an HOV lane on the sucker.

    5. Rip it out. Interstates shouldn’t go through cities anyway; resign I-405 as I-5 and replace what’s left with a local road.

      I suppose you might need to need to retain the freeway from the north end until the south side of the ship canal in order to avoid throwing even more traffic at the bottlenecks of the ship canal bridges, though.

  4. And Firefox can’t play a lot of videos. No support that I can see for HTML5. Firefox is the biggest POC I’ve ever used.

    1. That’s odd, since I’ve never had a problem with Firefox playing videos, and the current version ranks second of the big four for supporting and rendering HTML5.

      I suspect a lot of the issues people have with FF isn’t the browser itself, but the boatload of add-ons they’ve installed to block ads, javascript, etc.

  5. I love that that guy took the time to point out such a small detail that probably no one else noticed.

    1. Not quite, d.p.
      From Ben Kabak’s “Second Avenue Sagas”:
      This station, along with some others, has an uneven staircase that has long been a part of station lore. No one had bothered to fix it until today.

      1. It linked article suggests the MTA truly wasn’t aware of it until this video went viral.

        Hours after that happened, it got fixed.

        So even though I’ve communicated how detrimental Elliott & Mercer is for the vital Ballard transit spine to Metro and SDOT (both directly and through a respected STB writer), what I really need to do is to shoot a video of the Metro driver putting his bus in park and doing four minutes of calisthenics in the doorway* and then get it it go viral?

        And then Metro and SDOT will give a shit about a massive waste of driver/customer/citizen time?

        (*Yes, this happened, just last week.)

      2. Just read your own 2nd Ave Sagas link, which concurs with the NY Times that the MTA didn’t know about the step until the viral video.

        Metro and SDOT both know about the 4.5-minute Elliott & Mercer light.

        And they know the #2 sucks.

        And they know ORCA resistance wastes time and resources.

        And they know their current RFA elimination plans won’t cut it.

        And they know, and they know, and they know.

        So how come they never fix?

      3. Well, it’s obvious. The squeaking you and some others are making isn’t very loud, so there’s nothing that needs a grease job.
        A viral video would certainly get some heads to look up from their pile of papers, maybe even get a few to turn down the volume on their I-pads.

      4. So, what we really need is videos showing people boarding quickly with ORCA, painfully slowly with cash and change, then pan to all the other buses waiting behind. Viral. Problem solved.

      5. Sadly not quite interesting enough for virality, Brent.

        The complete workout routine while waiting for the light to change was amazing, though, and would have viral potential. Wish I’d filmed it.

      6. @d.p.

        Solve how? You excel at identifying problems. How about suggesting a solution or two?

      7. Beavis, did you not notice when that red light went from 75 seconds to 270 seconds during an SDOT project about two years ago?

        Having a 15 second green arrow every 45 seconds worked. Now it doesn’t.

        When I alerted Metro planners and an SDOT representative to it, none of them had any idea there was such a long red light on such a major transit corridor. That means that drivers [cough, cough] had been complacently twiddling their thumbs at the light for a year, never reporting it to their superiors.

        SDOT’s official reason for the lengthening of the cycle is for better throughput of outbound afternoon/evening traffic on Elliott. This is demonstrably faulty logic, as:

        – There is never consistent outbound traffic through the entire 4.5 minutes. Not even at 5:05 PM.
        – The extra “unhindered” outbound throughput just backs up at the Ballard Bridge anyway.
        – When the outbound traffic finally gets a red, it lasts for 45 seconds, whereas it used to come more frequently buy last only 15 seconds. Elliott therefore backs up more during the (infrequent) reds then it did under the old pattern.
        – The simultaneous release of 4.5 minutes of pent-up traffic onto Mercer actually worsens Mercer’s problems.

        Drivers complain about “unrealistic” scheduling, so Metro just sent a bunch of service hours into padding schedules and layover times, including on the 15/18. But apparently drivers don’t think its a problem to wait 4.5 minutes at a red light that until recently was 83% shorter.

        The solution is simple:

        1. In the short term, put the light cycle back the way it used to be (15 seconds of green every 45 seconds).

        2. In the long term, give RapidRide vehicles absolute signal priority at this intersection.

        Seriously, Beavis, why promote a “frequent” headway-based service if you have a 4.5-minute arbitrary delay right in the middle to mess it up?

      8. Clarification: entire cycle used to be about 75 seconds, including for traffic coming from that little Roy Street stub. The red light for turning onto Mercer was never more than 45 or 60 seconds (depending on time of day) until SDOT decided to mess it up.

    2. Awesome followup, d.p. Sadly, this happened between writing and publishing this post!

  6. Is STB going to endorse for the primary in the 36th LD? I saw the Times endorsed Tarleton today… not exactly a publication whose endorsement holds much sway with me. I want a progressive who really gets the land use, environmental and transportation issues we talk about here.

  7. Goldman affiliate loses control of 11 Seattle and Eastside buildings

    Whitehall Street Global Real Estate, a Goldman Sachs real-estate arm, borrowed about $900 million to buy the 11 buildings five years ago, before the recession hit.

    Since then the portfolio’s occupancy has dropped from 96 percent to about 60 percent,

    CT Investment Management of New York, the servicer representing Whitehall’s lenders, said a receiver is needed because occupancy in the buildings continues to decline

    Why are developers starting new office buildings and condos? Oh yeah, the Feds will bail them out when they fail.

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