Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Independence Day is quickly approaching, which means that area transit agencies will be running Sunday schedules throughout the region.  As usual, this is bad news for our Snohomish County readers, as Sunday service translates into no service.  The same goes for Kitsap Transit.  For everyone else (see links below), we haven’t heard of any planned special event service, which will make tomorrow no different than an ordinary Sunday, service-wise. Unfortunately, this means that peak Independence Day activities will be picking up just as service levels begin tapering off.

Family 4th at Lake Union even echoes this lamentation (emphasis mine):

Buses will be running on a reduced holiday schedule, limiting the number of buses operating, scheduled stops, and amount of guests they can accommodate after the fireworks. All guests arriving to the park by bus are encouraged to prepare an alternate method of return transportation.

As I’ve already editorialized, I’m of the opinion that July 4th is one of those holidays where not only extra service is warranted, but free service** as well, as we’ll have thousands upon thousands of revelers crushloading the limited service we do have running.

If you’re weighing your options, Link will be making its last southbound run from Westlake at 11:37pm, which should be enough time for Lake Union revelers to get to the station (viewing from the south end of the lake is encouraged!). For everyone else, prepare for long waits and lengthy walks.

*Links: King County MetroSound Transit, Pierce Transit, Intercity Transit, Everett Transit

**Everett Transit will be the only agency to go fare-free tomorrow.

50 Replies to “Independence Day Service Alert”

  1. Zipcar is providing shuttles between Gas Works and South Lake Union. That’s presumably a better means of getting between the parks than, say, taking the 30 and walking quite a ways both ways, and would get one to the SLUT and then to Link.

    1. Thanks for the heads up. Do you know how late those shuttles will be running?

      1. Pedestrians will beat the SLUT all night, anyway. You don’t expect them to stay off the tracks, do you?

  2. What would happen if, on holidays, KCM, ST, CT, ET, IT, PT, and WSF, all ran free weekday service?

    1. Skipping WSF for a moment because it’s a special case, most people would still drive throughout the day because it’s “more convenient” and “faster”. People might take advantage of the “free” buses to go to the fireworks — people who wouldn’t otherwise take transit — but the result would be that the buses before and after the fireworks would be even more overcrowded than they already are.

      If WSF were free, the ferry system would take a significant hit to its revenue, when it already can barely keep up with its expenses. It must take a lot more fuel to run a ferry carrying cars than a bus carrying pedestrians. Lots of people would take “free” ferry rides throughout the day, because excursion on the water are popular in themselves, and so are day trips to Bainbridge and Bremerton. It the walk-on count goes up, it would make the holiday look like peak hours. If the drive-on count goes up, the waits for the ferry would be two hours rather than one hour, and of course the ferries can’t fit any more cars anyway (except in the way off-hours like 10:30pm). The drive-on count would go up because that’s $20 a driver would be saving, but on the other hand the drivers know there are long waits so they may decide it’s not worth it to wait all day for a free ride.

      1. @Mike Orr:

        WSF has a dedicated staff member who collects fares and does so as the passengers wait for the vessel to arrive. Someone else steers the ferry.

        Since Seattle Transit got rid of conductors, “one-man operation” has led to situations like the one we will see today

        The bus transit agencies are going to offer free rides anyways, as those of us who actually use the system well know. Either through driver apathy or the inability to load through the front door and unload through the rear door(s)

        (Why can’t North American buses have a door in the actual rear of the bus like most European models do?)

        Rapid Ride, Swift, LINK and Sounder could still collect fares because again, like WSF, they have a mechanism to pay before the vehicle arrives and they “use all doors”. But hopefully these too would be free as an incentive not to bring cars (which require storage) into the city and the ability to have a couple without risking a DUI or worse.

        Or are we so worried about “profits”?

      2. Let’s step back and ask why we’d offer free service on holidays. (And I did not notice the “weekday” part, so I assumed Sunday schedule.) It has some merit as a marketing gimmick. It won’t help reduce DUIs much because (1) we don’t have comprehensive night owl service that can get everybody home like in Europe, (2) anybody who can afford a drink can afford bus fare, especially since we’re talking about a special occasion rather than every day.

        Buses and Link are basic transportation to get around town. The ferries like a commuter service: a way to make extra-long trips feasible. Why should we make those free?

        “Weekday” service means all the commuter routes and relief runs would be operating. These have no purpose when offices and colleges are closed. People still take the 512 to Everett to get to Grandma’s house, but they’re not going to take the 229 to Phantom Lake, or at least we shouldn’t run a peak-express bus for just three people.

      3. So, there are two separate issues here. One is making transit free on holidays. The other is adding service to accommodate demand. I’ve said above that free days aren’t worthwhile except as a marketing strategy. Re event service, Metro should treat firework displays like ballgames and Bumbershoot, and have extra shuttles and runs before and after.

        Re all-day holiday service, this really comes back to the Sunday schedule vs Saturday. There’s no reason for such minimal service on Sundays anyway. Use the Saturday schedule on all Sundays, and on holidays too. Possibly with a later morning start time, but midday and evening service should be like Saturday.

      4. Ignore the previous message; it was posted in the wrong place. Reposted below.

  3. The ferries forget about it that ain’t happening but i think a lot of commuter buses would be empty.

    1. Commuter buses don’t run on holidays. That’s why the transit agencies use “Sunday schedule”, because it’s easier than explaining to people which individual runs will be cancelled.

    2. Snohomish County riders aren’t completely without transit.

      The 512 is running today, which makes me want to head up that direction, which I wouldn’t do if it were the 510 and 511.

      It sucks that those who have regular rides on Snohomish County DART to their jobs and to dialysis have to come up with alternative arrangements today.

      Note the construction warning on Link service. Trains will be running every 20 minutes Friday evening and Saturday morning. If boarding at Mt Baker or Beacon Hill Station, use the northbound platform.

      Cue the histrionics about what an inconvience it is to have to wait up to 25 minutes, without knowing when the train is actually coming. Cry me a river, says the South Parker who has to wait up to an hour, or more, for his bus to get to civilization.

      1. The difference is, your South Park bus has a schedule, so you know when it will come, so you have the choice to get to the stop on time, and not have to wait there for an hour. For Link, there is no schedule, so a rider has just as much chance of getting there right as the train does as they do getting there and having to wait 20 minutes.

  4. Sherwin, you are sooo right – it didn’t used to be like this with Metro – now we have these holiday schedules dotted throughout the year when back in the day, it used to be either ‘reduced’. July 4th and December 31st are definitely two holidays when extra buses should be laid on. I feel the same for major sporting events and even late night theater too. Buses to the Eastside remain limited at night – especially to Issaquah and Redmond.

  5. It’s really a boneheaded move by KC Metro to not provide service when they know there will be an overly big demand. Hey if they ran enough buses they might even be able to charge fares and make money. But I’m sure KC Metro doesn’t want to do that.

    1. Metro doesn’t make a profit on any of its routes. One where everyone boards at Gasworks Park will (a) generally not pick up any additional passengers once it fills up at the park; (b) take just as long to get over to I-5 as all the pedestrians walking in front of it; and (c) have a long slog along anything except the freeway for an hour after the pyrotechnics stop.

      This is one night special buses would simply compete with people walking long distances rather than competing with car trips.

      Once you get outside the perimeter of the flash mob, then a little extra service on normal routes becomes mobile enough to be useful, but it certainly doesn’t turn a profit.

    2. KC Metro does not determine KC Budgets. If the County Council doesn’t budget for special events – then the budget doesn’t happen. All it takes is money. Talk to your KC Council rep if you have an issue. Blaming Metro for not coming up with money it doesn’t have the power to raise is folly.

  6. One way it could be looked at is a social justice issue. I happen to live right off the B Line, and two July 4th’s ago I took a packed to the gills 253 home after the fireworks. Many of the people who live near the B Line are lower income and not providing adequate bus service gets rid of their opportunity to experience the fireworks and festivities. Of course there is free parking at Bellevue Square, but what if you don’t have a car?

    I also live near the 271, so last year I chose to take the 271 home rather than a packed 253. The 271 had four people on it because the area it serves is higher income or the service is so much less useful that people drove or stayed home.

    This year I’m hoping I can get back from Seattle in time for the 12:25AM B Line bus. It should be doable, but I’ll have money for a cab just in case.

      1. Cheap ferries to Vashon and the San Juans are a social justice issue, too. Cheap access to boarding in a courteously quick manner, not so much.

      2. Well,let’s look at this from a social benefit perspective rather than Vulture Capitalistic one that the U.S. is so inclined towards today, shall we?

        More people go to the fireworks, more people enjoy the festivities and see more and more of their neighbors and fellow travelers on this planet. More of them can have a couple of drinks (profits to the restaurants with their huge mark-ups on booze, taxes to the state, bigger tips to staff forced to work today) without fearing a technical DUI and all the misery that brings. A few might get tipsy and obnoxious, yes, but only if establishments serve them, or they carry their own supply in a flask, but then they are at the mercy of patrolling police, security guards and who ever else has one of those newfangled car-phones that you can carry with you now.

        Today at the local celebrations that I was able to reach without a car, I saw a group of Buddhist monks volunteering to sew the names of individual participatory groups in a local parade to the standard city-created banners each parade participant carries in front of them. I couldn’t get drunk because there was no alcohol for sale and the open carry laws are quite onerous near me.

        Had I not gone to the festivities, I could have instead stayed inside, easily gotten smashed off a bottle of Jack, and listened to re-runs of Rush Limbaugh and Micael Savage.

        Which would have given me a more accurate “picture” of America?

        In which situation might I have then gotten behind the wheel of a car and driven around fully intoxicated?

        Yes, not only do people have the right to see fireworks, they ought to be able to afford to get to the fireworks or any large civic event without having to qualify for a car loan or be gouged by private parking lots all the while impacting those who actually live near the place the fireworks are visible from (which is not all luxury property, I can assure you!)

        And when large events happen, fare-collection on buses as installed for everyday use, is not practical.

      1. I just came back from the fireworks at Bellevue Downtown Park on Rapid Ride B, and the bus was packed completely full leaving BTC. The driver had to turn people away; he said there was another bus leaving soon. (And judging from the signs along the route, another B left about five minutes behind us.)

  7. Presuming that Metro’s crappy Sunday AM 17/18 schedules don’t make me miss my flight, I will be taking advantage of the MBTA’s free let’s-smoothly-transport-1-million-people-in-less-than-an-hour service tomorrow night.

    1. d.p., If you are reading this, could you bring back a few of those free Charlie Cards for the ST Board and the county council?

      1. Brent,

        Rush hour in a T station:
        Roving employee with pockets full of CharlieCards, handing them to anyone who so much as glances at the fare chart.


    2. Even if you do miss your flight, the free service on the MBTA Silver Li(n)e BRT bus from Logan to the city should be in effect all week, paid for by Massport, the airport authority, to encourage people to not bring their car to the airport where it requires storage at minimum $30k per spot.

      1. …Thus diverting the clueless onto the Silver Line, and making the trip on the better-in-every-way Blue Line for those of us who buy an $18 weekly pass even nicer than usual.

    3. If Metro’s “crappy schedules” make you miss your flight, it’ll be your own goddamned fault, because YOU HAVE THE SCHEDULES AHEAD OF TIME.

      1. The “crappy” schedules to which I refer are two routes running half-hourly, yet scheduled only 7 minutes apart for no good reason.

        So your customers — and remember, Beavis, they are your CUSTOMERS — who are getting up early and packing and cleaning and locking up with the stress of knowing that the slightest unexpected interruption will mean being on a bus 23 minutes later and on an airport train up to 33 minutes later, which is a >50% variance in the recommended arrival time for a flight.

        Sound Transit gets this. Thus the 10-minute headways, all day, 365 days a year.

        Metro doesn’t get this. Thus the terrible interlining between even major destinations.

        And you, as always, don’t respect your customers enough to even try to get this.

      2. Anyway, I made my bus, train, and plane without incident, and of course I had no trouble at all on the Boston end where they have a mass-transit agency rather than a blame-shifting agency.

        Anyway, thanks for your “concern”.

      3. d.p.,

        You’d better get down off that cross. We’re all out of nails.

        Spare me the lecture/accusations about how I don’t understand or appreciate customers. I not only drive buses – I ride them – AS A CUSTOMER. My wife, my daughter both have ORCA passes and as neither drive are customers. For years before I became a driver I rode buses for thousands of miles as a regular user. On top of that (gasp!) I encounter thousands of customers each week – and care very deeply about their experience riding not only with me, but as transit users in general. So the ongoing shtick about accusing me of not being customer-focused because I suggest that maybe – just maybe – folks might want to take a drop of responsibility for their own commuting experience? Well, it’s getting old.

        Unless you are going to insist that any and all information be spoon-fed to people, or insist on continuing to make bizarre complaints like there isn’t enough time between transfers for you to get something to eat as a huge systemic problem (oh, the HUMANITY!), then what we have here is another example of unreasonable expectations.

        FYI, planning a trip to the airport down to the minute, without allowing time for the usual and unexpected delays – is sheer folly. If the difference between 7 minutes and 30 minutes (that’s 23 minutes for you math whizzed out there) is a deal-breaker on catching a flight? THEN YOU DIDN’T GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME, DUMMY!

        Customer appreciation doesn’t include stuffing one’s head up one’s alimentary canal and insisting that the entire world bend to the unreasonable will of the most extreme.

      4. Short version: “Blah blah blah blah, I have infinite time so everyone else should too. Lousy headways and stupid interlining don’t bother me, so they shouldn’t bother anyone else either. Sure, 90% of the Seattle public avoids Metro like the plague, but it’s just because they’re big complainers!!”

        Like I said, you drive for a “blame-shifting system” rather than a mass-transit survivor. Sorry you’re so thin-skinned about it.

      5. For the record, and to defend myself against charges of “misrepresentation”, I shall state the obvious:

        People with cars do not leave for the airport 2 hours and 30 minutes before their flight times.

        But if I don’t do that,
        and you don’t do that,
        and everyone else we are working hard to encourage to use transit doesn’t do that,
        then we’re all “dummies”.

        Nice, self-appointed spokesman for the Metro drivers’ perspective.

  8. When the heat wave happens the “smart grid” goes down and the workers go on strike.

    When expensive transit is really needed…it isn’t there for us.

  9. One of the unfortunate consequences of transit agencies subsidizing transit trips is that it creates a very strong temptation to make value judgements on precisely which trips are most worth subsidizing. For instance, most people should be able to agree that subsidizing transit so that the poor can get to work can be justified under the grounds that it is cheaper than leaving large numbers of people unemployed, where they would be forced to live off of the generosity of the rest of society. However, there are many who would argue that subsidizing discretionary trips, especially entertainment, is much less justified because, after all, someone who can’t get to the fireworks live can always watch it on TV or find something else to do – a lot less serious than someone who can’t get to work.

    Of course, it is not practical directly enforce a “transit is for work” attitude, nor is such direct enforcement even desirable, given that the marginal cost of a passenger filling an empty seat on a bus is much less than the fare that passenger is paying to ride the bus. However, transit agencies can and do make value judgements favoring work trips over other trips by arranging their schedules so that there is lots of service during the times most people are commuting to and from work, but little or no service during the times when lots of people are traveling, but to shopping and entertainment, rather than work. For instance, no one can seriously argue that the real travel demand in Snohomish county on a Sunday afternoon is equivalent to travel demand in Snohomish county at 3 in the morning. Yet, had Community Transit’s schedules been based on actual travel demand, that is precisely what the people who run the agency would be saying. Instead, what they are really saying is that the taxpayers are grudgingly willing to fund just enough transit for the poor to get to work, but since most people do not work on Sundays, there isn’t enough people commuting to work on Sundays to justify service, given that people who want to do non-work trips are expected buy their own car and pay for their own gas, rather than depend on the generosity of the taxpaying public.

    While driving is, of course, subsidized too, subsidies for driving generally do not incur such value judgements because, once built, a road becomes automatically available for all use, both work and non-work, at all times of day.

    To be clear, I do NOT support the transit-is-only-for-getting-to-work argument. If we want to solve the problems of traffic congestion and neighborhoods turning into a sea of parking, we need to reduce the extent to which middle-class people feel compelled to own a car in order to participate in society. And this means reliable transit wherever people travel, including trips to and from entertainment events, not just work.

    That being said, there will always be Norman’s out there, who will argue that transit subsidies, especially for non-work discretionary trips, are a criminal waste of money, and it would be good for the transit community to have rebuttals prepared to make against such arguments. Ultimately, it is the public that authorizes the funding for transit and the more people that can be convinced that a comprehensive transit system is justified, the better a transit system we all end up with.

  10. So, there are two separate issues here. One is making transit free on holidays. The other is adding service to accommodate demand. I’ve said above that free days aren’t worthwhile except as a marketing strategy. Re event service, Metro should treat firework displays like ballgames and Bumbershoot, and have extra shuttles and runs before and after.

    Re all-day holiday service, this really comes back to the Sunday schedule vs Saturday. There’s no reason for such minimal service on Sundays anyway. Use the Saturday schedule on all Sundays, and on holidays too. Possibly with a later morning start time, but midday and evening service should be like Saturday.

    1. Mike,

      I respectfully disagree; I believe that free transit service does in fact reduce DUIs. I cite as an example every transit system which sees ridiculously higher demand on New Year’s, July 4th, and other holidays when transit is free. All of those people could have been doing something else; many of them would have been driving.

      As far as why this works, there are a few reasons:

      – Psychologically, “free” is very different from “cheap”. People will go to great lengths to minimize the number of times they actually hand money to other people. Driving “feels” free, especially if you don’t have to pay for parking. Most people don’t think about the gas they’re consuming — it only feels expensive when they actually fill up.

      – Practically, many people who rarely take transit will not be “equipped”. They don’t like waiting; they don’t know how to pay, or what other protocols to follow; they certainly don’t have an ORCA card. They will be much more likely to ride knowing that they don’t have to deal with paying, or transfer slips, or anything like that.

      – If you go to multiple destinations over the course of the night, and you have to pay each time, and there are multiple people in your party, the cost can add up. Four people making four one-way trips is $32 — at that point, it really would be cheaper to drive (albeit more dangerous).

      – Not directly related, but the spike in demand from making transit free on a holiday generally means that the provider must run much more service. In Boston, the MBTA essentially runs better-than-peak service on the Green Line well into the night. If Metro ran frequent routes at 5 minute frequency, a lot of additional people would decide to ride, because they would waste much less time waiting. (This is always true, but it’s especially relevant on holidays when those people would likely otherwise be drinking and driving.)

  11. Re commuter routes, this also gets into our segregated land use. If there were more residential and retail mixed into the office parks, it would make sense to keep some commuter routes on holidays because people would use them. But many office-park districts have nothing else — even the convenience store closes at 5pm. So there’s no reason for transit in the district on holidays, because nobody wants to be near the office on a holiday.

  12. Two simple questions: Why should Metro have to pony up extra (and unbudgeted) service for these events given that there are a number of private companies (Horizon, Starlight, MTR Western, SP Plus, etc.) standing by, and:

    2) Why in the world should it be free?

    Looking forward to thoughtful responses.

    1. “Why should Metro have to pony up extra (and unbudgeted) service for these events given that there are a number of private companies (Horizon, Starlight, MTR Western, SP Plus, etc.) standing by[?]”

      “Why in the world should it be free?”

      I think that a good answer to these two questions, is that KCM, ST … should provide free, weekday-level service, because:

      ^ It is a good opportunity to attract new ridership. If a driver learns that there is a free ride to the Family 4th on Lake Union, it is likely that they will take it. If the driver has a good experience, it is likely that they will ride again. If the driver rides again, the driver becomes a rider. If this ride were not free, KCM, ST … would miss the opportunity to attract (a) new rider(s). If this ride were provided by Starlight, it would be useless, as Starlight is a charter service.

      ^ It reduces traffic, collisions, and carbon dioxide emissions. If a driver learns that there is a free ride to the Family 4th on Lake Union, it is likely that they will take it. If a driver is not on the road, it is likely that traffic is reduced. If a driver is not on the road, it is likely that when they are tired, and want to get home, a driver will not rear-end another driver, or something. If a driver is not on the road, their car will be at home, emitting 0 lbs of carbon dioxide. If this ride were not free, it is likely that there will be more traffic, more collisions, and more carbon dioxide emissions.

      However, these arguments can be complimented, these ways:

      ^ There are other ways to attract riders, like advertising, and word-of-mouth.
      ^ There are other ways to prevent collisions, like training drivers better, and providing free hotels, so drivers are not driving tired.
      ^ There are other ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, like having more efficient cars, and not driving as far.

    2. Metro doesn’t have to do anything, but as a community, we should be eager to spend a small amount of money to save a number of lives. And if you don’t think that free holiday-night service will save lives, read my post above, or go to Boston on New Year’s and ride the T.

      I understand that Metro’s budget is strapped, but the City of Seattle has a public safety budget, and this would be a fine use of some of that money. I bet that an extra 2% sales tax surcharge on all restaurant and bar sales on the 4th of July would more than pay for the extra transit service needed for that day.

      To me, this is less about “who owes whom”, and more about working together as a community to provide a useful public service.

      1. It’s a public good; therefore the public should have an interest in providing it.

        I think the case for having private transport companies provide holiday service is every bit as strong (or weak) as having private transport companies provide standard service.

        Convince me why we shouldn’t outsource all of Metro’s operations to a private company, and then I’ll tell you why we shouldn’t outsource holiday service.

        (For what it’s worth, I’m entirely serious. I think privatizing operations would be a good thing. I just don’t see a need to make an exception, in either direction, for holiday service.)

      2. Aleks, meet Brick Wall.

        Good luck getting him to understand transit as a “public good” rather than as an “arbitrary thing on whose operations the public need has no bearing.”

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