“Route 42 will no longer serve this stop. Route 48 will continue to serve this stop as usual.” “Route 48 will no longer serve this stop. Route 42 will continue to serve this stop as usual.” (Photo by Oran)

In the past week I have witnessed 2 groups of transit passengers grow bewildered, frustrated, and then angry when attempting to make a simple trip. Their mistake? Listening to and/or reading official information, information that in each case was incorrect. The first case involved 4 persons wanting to get from the Paramount Theatre to the Airport. Incorrectly going down to Convention Place, they might have noticed their error if not for the following 3 announcements [paraphrased from memory], made at very frequent intervals:

  • “Please stand back and allow other passengers to exit the train before boarding; thank you for riding Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail.”
  • “Please stand behind the yellow, textured strips until the train comes to a complete stop.”
  • “Proof of payment is required prior to boarding Link Light Rail. Tickets may be purchased from the Ticket Vending Machines on the upper level.”

Of course, these announcements are completely inaccurate in every respect. These passengers were left to deduce for themselves, against all evidence to the contrary, that there are indeed no trains at Convention Place, there are no textured yellow strips to stand behind, and there are no Ticket Vending Machines on the upper level. I noticed their dilemma as they panicked at failing to find the non-existent TVMs, and finally I was able to direct them 4 blocks west to Westlake.

In the second case, last Tuesday I was waiting for the 5:39pm northbound Sounder from Tukwila to Seattle. Sound Transit recently switched the platform assignments on afternoon Sounder trains, and the afternoon trains now generally stop at the opposite platform. (ST has been good about publicizing this). However, Amtrak Cascades train 509 (Seattle to Eugene) arrives in Tukwila at 5:42pm. As my northbound train was arriving on the southbound platform, about 10 passengers waiting for Amtrak started to question on which platform their train might arrive. One rider noticed a green railroad signal heading south from the northbound platform, and he and a couple of his friends started sprinting down the ramp to change platforms, while a family of 4 stayed put on the southbound platform because of a sign reading, “Amtrak Cascades Service Begins on June 1, 2001. Trains South to Portland will board this platform.” I don’t know how their story ended, or if everyone got on their train, but again they were left to panic, run, and make quick decisions because information was either missing, outdated, or incorrect.

Other anecdotes abound. Last week I saw a passenger waiting at 26th/McClellan waiting for a #38 bus that no longer exists but still has a signed stop. The “42 to Rainier View” sign graced the I-90 freeway station long after LINK opened. Multiple maps downtown still point unsuspecting tourists to the defunct Waterfront Streetcar. The SLU streetcar maps abound in errors, showing the 74 bus on Westlake Ave, and listing both the 174 and 194 (not to mention grammatical oddities at streetcar stations, such as the lovely “Arriving in Now”).

This is inexcusable. While mistakes are to be expected, especially with quickly changing rider alerts, many of the above examples have been in place for years. There is no excuse for having an Amtrak sign that speaks to us, in the present tense, from 2001. In the case of Convention Place, it cannot be the case that we have no choice but to announce services that do not exist, every other minute for years, just because the same information happens to be valid somewhere else (the rest of the Transit Tunnel).

Passengers have a basic right to coherent, usable, correct information. Because people instinctively trust authority, especially in relatively benign information environments such as transit, saying something incorrect is far worse than saying nothing at all.

106 Replies to “Passengers Have a Basic Right to Correct Information”

  1. Great article, Zach. You are correct, this is inexcusable and should be corrected immediately. Wow. In the case of Convention place, unreal.

  2. I recall the time I pulled up to a zone in the peak PM, opened the door, and was asked when the 80 bus came. Not knowing that route, and being behind schedule I said something like ‘Oh, it comes every 15 minutes or so… shouldn’t be too long’, then left.
    About a block down the road I suddenly realized the 80’s are all night owls. I felt horrible, but couldn’t very well go back.
    I was a new part timer, and vowed to never give directions unless I really knew. One thing I figured out is there are at least two route experts in the back of every bus. The PA is a great tool to get passenger help on stops, connections, or places to eat.

  3. You’ve hit on a fundamental issue for our time.

    Unfortunately, current legal thinking suggests that no, you do not have a “fundamental” right to be told the truth. [ot]

    If you want the expectation of truth to be a foundation in our culture, expect a long and hard slog well beyond your lifetime.

    1. So, ads on the buses can be untruthful, so long as they do not offend a county councilmember?

      1. Apparently so and your remedy is to campaign to replace said councilmember(s). I don’t like it. But that is the state of things these days.

    2. Our right to free speech includes the right to lie a good deal of the time. I think this is generally a good thing. The truth in many cases is not easy to discern. In the case of military honors a person puts his word against that of the state, specifically one branch of the military. It seems likely in the US today that the military’s account of its awarded honors is accurate and truthful, but contradicting the state’s account of truth is an important right. It’s similar to the right of a convicted man to proclaim his innocence, or even someone that’s previously pled guilty or no-contest. I’ve actually done this myself, though only for a traffic violation (I entered a guilty plea and paid the ticket by mail thinking I was guilty, then later learned that I was not guilty under the law… had I known this I still might not have contested the ticket, because it wasn’t a very large ticket and I was the only witness to key evidence in my favor).

      If you knowingly lie to trick someone out of money (or similar) that’s typically fraud. If someone lied about military honors when soliciting donations that might be fraud; if someone lied about military honors on an application for a job, college admission, or award, it would probably at least be cause for dismissal or discipline.

      In my opinion a corporation’s speech or speech about a corporation by its officers or officers of its competitors, should almost always be considered commercial in intent, and that charges of fraud or defamation would apply for most lies told in this regard. On the other hand speech about a corporation by people generally unconnected to it is typically editorial and protected from charges of fraud, defamation, etc. Unfortunately corporate lawyers are able to turn this on its head. Tenants complaining about their landlords are threatened with libel suits while Nike can lie about its foreign labor conditions in advertisements with impunity.

      1. I don’t believe that any of these concepts do (or should) relate to public information put out by government agencies or contractors.

      2. I agree that in many cases gray areas exist and sometimes it is through the contest of differing opinions that truth might be discerned in the balance. But in many cases, the truth is laid bare through clear evidence. For example, in the case of Military Valor, it is a “good” that is created and bestowed by our Government so the final arbiter of who has and who doesn’t have Valor is our Government. They provide the tangible proof of that Valor in the form of a Medal, ribbon or a certificate and an entry into the servicemember’s record. So, it is not simply the word of a person against the government. Is there a possibility that a service members record could be altered or forged? Sure. We may have seen that with the previous Commander-in-Chief’s service record.

        Because there is no legal requirement to “tell the truth” in public, you can also have a scenario where the Valor of a person is stolen from them as was the case with Senator John Kerry when his service record was impugned in a barrage of political attacks. Never mind the fact that it is there in black and white as to what his military assignments and accomplishments were, when the “Swiftboat Veterans for ‘Truth'” were finished with him, many people were left skeptical of the Senator’s record.

        I hope for a better world in which we can deal honestly with each other and that the truth of a matter is weighed more than the political objectives of a particular group or individual.

  4. So who is responsible for those announcements at Convention Place? It’s ST’s message, but Metro still owns the tunnel correct?
    Most of the other issues seem to be Metro’s. The truly annoying thing is most of those (like the maps being wrong) could be fixed with a sticker covering over the wrong info. It would cost like 2 cents.
    The only conclusion I can come to is they just don’t care.

    1. That, or nobody has pointed the problems out to them. We’ll see how quickly the misinformation gets fixed.

      1. The announcements at Convention Place have been broadcast for quite some time. I don’t use that station all that often, but I remember it in early/mid 2011.
        Why should riders have to point it out to them? Aren’t Metro/ST employees down there daily?

    2. I suppose Convention Place shares a PA system with all the other tunnel stations. To me, this is an understandable and minor problem (granted, I don’t use that station).

      How would you propose to fix the problem? Turn off the speakers? Spend a lot of effort to use appropriate announcements for a station that is due to close in four years?

      1. So it’s acceptable to provide incorrect information for 4 years? I don’t agree at all.

        Why do we need any announcements at Convention Place at all? Other transit centers don’t have any PA systems. If you need one for emergencies, than yes, turn the speakers off. If the building is on fire, turn the volume up and make an announcement.

        Nobody is saying they should spend any money. They could spend some thought on what riders experience though.

      2. aw: Could you provide a reference that says CPS will close in four years?
        Wishfull thinking will not make it happen.
        Necessity will, and I see zero evidence that buses will be removed when ULink opens.

      3. No matter what the technical reason for this error, if nothing else it could be solved using a big black marker and a plastic sign, writing “Ignore the announcements, we’re too poor/incompetent to announce correct information. If you hear a message about a fire, however, I’d leave the station just to be safe.”

      4. “Why do we need any announcements at Convention Place at all?”

        Indeed. I’m a frequent patron of Convention Place, and I can’t think of a single time I’ve heard an announcement besides the aforementioned irrelevant Link announcements. If there is an emergency or a service change, there are plenty of security staff on hand who could announce it with megaphones.

      5. How about program the stations individually? They did it for the nine non-tunnel stations. What’s the problem with programming another five? It’s not like they’re not adding more stations in the future.

      6. Convention Place Station is going to close in four years! That’s news to me. What’s going to take its place? Sound Transit could fix it, but they likely feel they have bigger fish to fry.

      7. Not so crazy. If you take a look at CPS, there are still light rail tracks there. Here today – gone tomorrow.

      8. Convention Place will close when the last bus leaves the tunnel. That could be 2016 or 2021.

      9. I’d like to see a Bruce Nourish special on DSTT operations, throughput, and possible outcomes in either 2016 or 2021.
        There seems to be a lot of mis-information flying around as to what the ‘Plan’ is.
        I’m sure Metro and ST have an agreed upon list of routes likely to be curtailed, ended, or restructured. It would be nice to share their thoughts with a group of people that are smarter than the average bears.

      10. My impression is Metro doesn’t even make a decision until it’s preparing the first proposal. It takes dedicated staff time, and the planners have been busy with RapidRide C and D and the changes in June and September, and next year RapidRide E and F will take a large chunk of their attention.

        I would like to hear what Metro is leaning toward, but the fact is it may change before it’s decided, and that would anger people who were going to get upgrades and then don’t. Plus it would mean four years of controversy, like how our presidential cycles have come to.

    3. The messages are all tied in to the Variable Message Signs, which are controlled by the Link Control Center (which manages joint operations in the tunnel, as well all of Link), which would seemingly place the blame on Sound Transit. But, then again, Central Link is run by Metro under contract, and I think that means the LCC has Metro staff in it.

      The VMS system in the tunnel is configured horrible, anyhow – none of the station’s show their actual name (just ‘Downtown Transit Tunnel’), and the train arrival messages are comically off at Westlake Station for southbound trains. You’ll be told the southbound train is arriving in two minutes, right as it pulls out of the Pine St. stub, arriving 20 seconds later.

      It makes me wonder if the tunnel is setup as one ‘zone’ for the signs. Regardless, it’s confusing and not helpful at all.

      1. I totally agree. The signage in the downtown tunnel is basically useless! It is in no way helpful. Why don’t ST and Metro take cues from other transit systems around the world? Even basic things like arrows painted onto the tunnel wall in each direction telling you which station is previous and which station is next are missing. And seriously, the “Downtown Transit Tunnel” thing bothers me so much! What a waste of an electronic sign!

      2. I can’t tell you why ST/Metro has the signs programmed as they are, though I can guarantee you it involved lots offerings and regulation. As to changing them, it is something an issue of priorities. Do we want busses to be able to pull out of base with the route data they need and a working radio, or the VMS signs in the tunnel to be customized to each station – especially given that the tunnel didn’t even have those signs for ~17 years, and yet got along fine?

        I’m not trying to justify Metro’s inability to innovate, move quickly, or get “basic things” right at times. Indeed, I’d wager many staffers are as frustrated as we are, but can’t do anything about it. At the same time, there are priorities, and while the signs aren’t exactly “right” all the time, they aren’t exactly wrong either. Ultimately, I think this is just yet another example of deep-rooted governance issues in our local transit agencies that can’t be easily or quickly patched, IMHO.

      3. …and the mess of typos in that comment are my Punishment for trying to comment via my cell phone. Mea Culpa.

      4. Whoever set the signs up took the lazy way out and did use the single zone setup. (We can send to a single speaker if that is needed.) I will have to wait till I hear back from my boss about how or if I can change them.

    4. The fix will cost about $40. that would be the cost of the time to make the changes. (not really a quick fix)

  5. WSF is guilty of this too.

    Those ferries never took me their signed destinations.

    I’m guessing that new ferry “to Kennewick” won’t either.

    1. How is this? keep in mind many of the names used have historical meaning, not just major cities in Washington. Most actually have meaning to Native Americans in the area. Also people know the name of the boat isn’t where the boat is coming or going.

      1. Sorry John,

        My post was meant as a joke.

        Surely you have heard the tales of tourists trying to take the ferry to Spokane (or wherever), because that’s what it says on the board just below the pilot house?

        (Especially back when the M/V Spokane was usually found on the Seattle-Winslow run).

  6. Good posting, Zach. Now, what do we do to correct the problem? Very likely, the situation stems from the fact that there is no one individual whose responsibility it is to keep communications accurate and updated.

    Like everything else about both Metro and Sound Transit operations, the condition of transit communications is the responsibility of King County government. I’m forwarding link to this posting to the entire King County Council, and the County Executive.

    For a town and region with so many people in “communications”, this one really is inexcusable.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I believe Metro has a phone number for receiving these sorts of administrivial complaints. 206-553-3000. (Why encourage the county council to intervene in the smallest of day-to-day Metro affairs? If that’s what you ask the council to do, you might just get your wish. Oy!)

      Oh, and even though it doesn’t say it *everywhere* you may want to wait until business hours to call. The last time I tried during off hours, I got a recursive series of prompts that didn’t actually allow me to leave a message. I keep meaning to report the problem, but I only remember to do something about it when they are closed.

      1. I believe the idea is that the Council is ALREADY involving itself in day to day administrative minutia when they feel like it. Why should they get to meddle whenever and wherever they wish, but then get to wash their hands of those things they find boring or inconvenient to deal with?

        In for a penny, in for a pound. The Council should either divest itself of the ability to constantly meddle or they should get used to being constantly asked to intervene.

      2. “Why encourage the county council to intervene in the smallest of day-to-day Metro affairs?”

        Because the problem is systemic. “A systemic problem is a problem due to issues inherent in the overall system, rather than due to a specific, individual, isolated factor.”

        By calling Metro and having them correct little mistakes, one mistake at a time, won’t correct the underlying problem.

      3. There are a lot of much worse systemic problems as a result of the Council being *able* to easily intervene – in scheduling and in service apportionment.

      4. Beavis, what is this aspersion at Councilmember Dunn, without a complete sentence attached? When it comes to wasteful service apportionment, it seems the inner-city councilmembers are every bit as pork-minded, and responsive to those who scream the loudest for their unproductive front-door stop and one-seat duplicate-head ride as the suburban ones (and don’t get me started on the problems with single-member gerrymanders).

      5. I have occasionally left comments about wrong stop signs, etc. on the Metro Customer Comments page and most the problems were taken care of (eventually).

  7. The next step is to figure out why this problem exists, and how to correct it. My suspicion is it won’t be so easy to fix. Why is there an information problem at Metro? It’s not a question of man power. It’s not a question of the man power being underpaid. It’s not a question of there’s no money in the budget for correct information. In my opinion, it’s ingrained in their culture. The employee who goes the extra mile gets paid the same as the one who phones it in. If you can’t be fired or even get in trouble for doing your job poorly, why try?

    1. This weekend the city of Redmond held a summer fair called Derby Days. Signs were posted at the transit center telling passengers where to catch their rerouted buses. One of the signs directed people where to catch the route 253 … a route that was deleted last fall.

      1. I took the B to and from Derby Days on Saturday. The B stopped at a different place because of road closure, but the signs didn’t say anything about it. I only realized Metro’s mistake right before the bus left without me.

      2. OBS does not account in any way for reroutes, so voiced announcements and internal signage will continue to indicate on-route stops, even if the bus is re-routed to bypass those stops.

      3. If OBS see’s the bus go off-route, it stops talking, or at minimum the driver is supposed to turn it off. I suppose if the reroute was close enough to the normal route the system could make the assumption it’s GPS data is a bit off and keep making normal announcements, though.

      4. If it only goes a block or so off route it does NOT stop talking. It may announce stops that are closed.

  8. The platform assignments are based on the BNSF dispatcher, not Sound Transit. They will normally use the West side platforms for Southbound movements and the East side platforms for Northbound movements. If there is heavy traffic, dead/stalled train then that can always change.

    Passengers for example in Sumner and Puyallup are used to getting off on the East side of the platform because Amtrak typically catches up to the 4:45 and 5:17 Sounder. Since Sounder will head towards FHS and Amtrak stays on the low line, Sounder will almost always diverge South of Auburn Station (Pacific) for the last 2 mainline stations.

    In the case of Tukwila however, it is quite a hit and miss situation. The Amtrak conductor has no way of communicating with the ST Security or Station Agent, which notifies passengers there what platform to use. Going by the signals alone will never give you an 100% guess on what track the train may be on. Since the crossover is just North of Tukwila Station, the dispatcher could and most of the time, will hold Amtrak for Sounder and cross Sounder over at Black River Jct.

    Until the permanent station is completed though, this will always be the case for arrivals at Tukwila and even then, most likely will not solve the overall issue of what track the train may arrive on.

    1. Actually this changed recently. Peak service will use the east tracks and off peaks will use the west tracks, both am and pm. For example if you leave Kent for Seattle in the morning at Kent station you’ll board on the platform adjacent to the buses. In the afternoon you’ll use the same platform on the way back. The conductors can communicate with sound transit about track changes and the agents are usually on top of it.

    2. “The Amtrak conductor has no way of communicating with the ST Security or Station Agent, ”

      I hear that the McCaw family of Centralia has invested in a line of mobile car telephones that are not only possible to carry on your person, but also use multiple channels possibly solving some of the capacity limitations of even the Improved Mobile Telephone Service:


      Perhaps Amtrak, “ST Security” and/or the Station Agent could look into getting one of these contraptions?

  9. This is a very important issue – and I hope it gets the attention of Metro management as some similarly raised issues have from time to time. As a driver, I find it particularly frustrating, as it is an issue over which we have no control, yet see the immediate consequences as we attempt to serve confused passengers.

    From a driver’s perspective, it’s been particularly problematic of late. With RapidRide installations, route revisions, and the coming BusPocalypse at the end of September (RFA goes away; RR C and D lines going in, muliple route eliminations, new routes, and revisions), those little zip-tied signs seem to be everywhere – and wildly inaccurate waaaaay too much of the time.

    One thing the public should know – in most cases (particularly with temporary stop closures due to construction), drivers are NOT NOTIFIED of individual stop closures or their associated temporary zone placements (if any). This means that we often get the information about a stop closure – and directions to the temporary zone – the same way everyone else does: we show up to a stop expecting it to be open, see a sign, and get out of our bus to read it. Unfortunately, this means that we often get the same bad information as everyone else.

    Bad information – if widespread enough as it is in this case – ultimately makes GOOD information suspect. End result: many drivers will stop at closed zones because there are people standing there despite the “zone closed” sign (we really don’t like passing people up to see them waving and yelling in our rearview mirror). They may then stop AGAIN at the temporary zone located some distance away, slowing things down and adding to the confusion (but not passing people up).

    Here are some examples of bad information issues that I’ve seen in recent months:

    -During Rapid Ride installation at the Alaska junction, signage directed people to a nonexistent temporary zone. When regular signs were replaced – they were installed backwards west-bound, having the 22 and 54 stop at the forward bay; the 55 at the rear bay rather than the other way around.

    -Queen Anne and Mercer St. west bound had a sign up for WEEKS announcing that the stop was closed, and directing people to a nonexistent temporary zone about a block west. I called this in several times – and did an Operator Service Request (green form) to report the confusion, which was repeatedly noted by numerous passengers. Apparently construction of the Rapid Ride installation had been delayed, and nobody bothered to remove the stop closure sign – allowing it to become relevant only several weeks after it had initially been posted.

    -Temporary stop closure signs placed for event reroutes often remain up, sometimss indefinitely

    -Just this last weekend in West Seattle, the zone at 42nd and Alaska east bound (across from QFC) had signs identifying it as closed, and directing people to a temporary zone “between 40th and 41st”. In reality, the temporary zone was placed just down the same block (between 41st and 42nd) from the “closed” zone. Rignt up next to it in fact.

    This kind of thing is RAMPANT at Metro, and makes the entire system look bad. Zach is right. There is no excuse for this. It’s just plain incompetence.

    1. So, you don’t believe your superiors when they say things will go smoothely on October 1? Have you brought this up with them?

      The ad implying your bus ride will become faster if you spend $5 on an ORCA still seems to be up, in spite of being patently untrue. I guess no county councilmember was offended by it.

      1. Nobody is claiming that things will go smoothly September 29 (the actual start of the next service period). We are being told to expect issues.

        EVERYONE’S ride will be faster if more people get ORCA cards, that much is a no-brainer.

      2. From an information board at the base: “Loaders will be used in the P.M. peak – Metro operators will be at select stations in the DSTT to pre-tap Orca cards”

        Hmmm…. Interesting… Anybody know more?

      3. “Have you brought this up with [ your superiors ]?”

        Yes, many of us have. But that’s a little like saying to a Microsoft employee that they can fix issues in Windows by “reporting it to their superiors”. Microsoft is a bigger ship, for sure, but the same principles apply. There are competing forces pulling management in multiple directions (lawyers, Council, conflicting requests from different groups, etc…)

        At some point you get tired of banging you head against the wall but many of us keep trying.

    2. To be fair …

      Metro has to rely on multiple variables when determining to close/relocate a stop for construction. Oftentimes the schedules will change … or other things will happen and nobody informs Metro … hence stops closed before they need to … or without any advanced notice.

      With the number of bus stops in the city … I would imagine that keeping track of which stops are open/closed and which have notices or have had them removed (or have them needed to be removed) is a daunting task … and with tight budgets I can see why there are errors.

      What I don’t get is why the drivers aren’t notified … would seem to be pretty easy when a driver gets their assignment for the day … not only would it help them … but then they can provide the info to confused passengers

      1. Not buying the excuses – especially when Metro is specifically TOLD (by either Operators or passengers) about specific issues, then proceeds to do NOTHING. Yeah, it’s complex-but it’s not rocket science. The individuals who place those stop closure signs are District Supervisors (we have a fleet of ’em), and when a driver reports a problem, all Metro has to do is dispatch a DS to that location with some wire cutters and the ability to move a couple of cones. They don’t.

    3. “drivers are NOT NOTIFIED of individual stop closures or their associated temporary zone placements (if any)”

      I’ve seen this on westbound Pine Street two or three times this summer, as all the apartment construction periodically closes bus stops.

  10. When they first closed the 99 stop at the ferry terminal due to Alaskan Way Viaduct they didn’t even bother to post a “route change notice” or alerts, or anything. Several people were standing around trying to figure out where they were supposed to go. It took weeks to remove the stop from the maps and for the one bus away app to update.

  11. Related, I wish some the platform-related announcements didn’t go to all the speakers. For example, if you’re standing (or walking) right outside the Westlake station exit at 3rd and Pike, you’ll hear the “Please stand behind the yellow, textured strips until the train comes to a complete stop” announcement. This is aural clutter. No one in that area needs to hear that announcement.

    1. Going further, I’m not convinced we need any audible announcements in any of the tunnel stations. Any service information Metro or ST need to communicate with customers can be done with electronic signs, which is much less obtrusive than speakers.

      1. Yep. Demanding no audible announcements is folly, and not just because of the ADA issue. Providing information in multiple formats is simply user-friendly.

  12. Not to pick nits over vocabulary here, but “right” is a rather strong word that comes with a price tag. If correct information is a “right”, then it has to be provided in Spanish, Mandarin, and Braille.

    I agree, though, that passengers should have a “reasonable expectation” to correct information, and haven’t been getting it for years in the case of the embarassing tunnel announcement system (which totally failed to get timely re-route info out during the previous two snowpocalypses, and of course, few complaints were received, since Customer Service was shut down).

    1. Maybe it’s better phrased as a negative construction such as “Passengers Have a Right *Not* to Be Misled” rather than the positive construction Zach offered (“A Right to Correct Information.”) The idea is not that riders are entitled to a certain quantity of information, per se, but rather that they are definitely entitled to trust the veracity of that which they are given.

      1. Please see my post above. The court has ruled we don’t have that “right.” But, I’ll agree we do have a “reasonable expectation” of not being mis-lead. We can then act on that expectation by holding our government accountable.

      2. The court has NOT so ordered when it comes to information emanating from government-affiliated sources, so the argument there is moot. I agree with Zach – when it comes to info from Metro, the public has a RIGHT to accuracy.

  13. A favorite of mine is the RapidRide real-time arrival signs. Not all of the stops have them, the ones that do aren’t always functional, and the ones that do work often say ** REFER TO SCHEDULE ** instead of giving times. The problem is that there is no schedule to refer to for RapidRide. It may as well say, “Meh, a bus will show up eventually in the next 10 or 15 minutes.”

      1. Exactly why I keep harping on about it. Maybe I should start calling customer service and say, “Hi, I’m calling to refer to the RapidRide schedule.”

        Onebusaway continues to show arrival times for RRB even when the stop display doesn’t,though I don’t know if those are from the secret Metro schedule, estimated from something, or just made up.

      2. Beavis, kindly tell me what time I can expect Rapid Ride B to arrive at Overlake Transit Center between 7am and 10pm tomorrow. When real time arrivals are down, as they have been for several days now (and often are at other times), I have no way to know if the next bus will arrive in 5, 10, or 15 minutes. This information informs my decision of whether to wait, catch a less convenient bus, or walk.

        I’m well aware of the “schedules” you linked to. Knowing the headway of the route is nice. Knowing when the bus will ACTUALLY SHOW UP is what is important to riders, particularly when the headway drops mid-day and in the evenings. 15 minute headways are way too infrequent to not give a schedule. Even 10 is borderline.

        Metro runs other services at frequencies equal to or better than RapidRide and still manages to provide a schedule. For example, the 41 is more than twice as frequent as RapidRide at peak, and yet it has a schedule. If RapidRide is Metro’s premium brand, it should have at least as much information available as other routes to encourage people to ride it. Maybe it’s not needed at every stop most of the time. But it should be somewhere.

        The most frustrating part is that, as Velo says, Metro HAS a schedule for RapidRide. The drivers obviously have scheduled start times for their runs. They’re not just guesstimating, “Did I see my leader pull out 10 or 15 minutes ago?” This data exists, but it is being intentionally hidden from riders.

        Keeping the schedule a secret from riders while at the same time telling them to refer to it when there are problems, is, as Zach points out, bewildering and frustrating. I am tempted to call it disrespectful as well. People who feel bewildered, frustrated, and disrespected by their transit system are unlikely to ride again, and may even vote against future transit funding. If we need more funding for transit, which I believe we do, then Metro needs to do a better job of making accurate information easily available to riders.

      3. The schedule is not a “secret”, and the entire point of RapidRide is that headway largely eliminates the need for schedules anyway. Transit advocates have long advocated the abilty to simply show up at a stop and be able to expect a ride within a brief amount of time. If you’re quibbling over a matter of minutes – may I suggest you bring a book, or simply stop and smell the roses? Some people are never happy. Take those few extra minutes and simply enjoy life.

    1. The RapidRide signs are another example of incorrect information. Several times I’ve seen it say a time longer than the bus frequency (e.g., 22 minutes when the bus should arrive within 15 minutes), and then an actual bus arrives 10 minutes later. Or (at BTC) it says 22 minutes when the bus is right there, and then three minutes later the bus opens its doors and boards passengers.

  14. I have to agree with this post. Each of the agencies – SDOT, Metro, ST, are pathetic which is comes to providing good information, and unwilling to change.

    The system map has CT Swift as route 100, even though CT never lists the Swift route as 100. I wrote to Metro about this situation and they actually wrote back to me refusing to the change the label.

    The same thing happened with the Downtown frequent transit map. Its doesn’t show routes 510, 511, 545, even though it shows the 16 which is much less frequent. I told them about it, and they said that would not change the map. Apparently they are more interested in putting buses operated by their agency on the map than buses that are actually frequent.

    Even RapidRide is a nightmare waiting to happen. They have one fare payment system for some stops, and another fare payment system for other stops. They can’t afford to put Orca scanners/ticket machines at each station, but they do have the money to put huge shelters, newspaper boxes, etc.

    1. My God.

      This is systemic failure and DOES need to be escalated to elected officials.

    2. Actually the fare payment system is the same at all stops. It’s called ORCA. Those scanners probably cost less than the shelters. Keep in mind – a lot of those shelters are going to be vandalized and even destroyed when operations start.

      1. Actually the fare payment system is not the same. In some stops you scan Orca at the station, in others you scan Orca on the bus (and therefore have to board at the front, rather than at any door)

      2. And in both cases, the fare payment system is the same. You use ORCA. The ability to scan on the platform in some locations is a convenience – not a “different system”.

      3. It is a very different system. Stations are POP between 6 am and 7 pm. Non-stations are PAYE. Those trying to get a free trip will use the stations. I’m amazed Metro hasn’t dropped POP entirely for RapidRide.

  15. Remember that Metro’s budget has been slashed, cut, trimmed, and then cut some more. There may not be enough personnel on the team that manages this information to do an adequate job.

    1. There are. The issue isn’t staffing – it’s communications. Issues are reported and not dealt with on a daily basis.

      1. You seem to know what’s going on. How many staff are assigned to customer communications at Metro?

      2. Go look at King County’s employee directory for Metro’s Marketing & Service Information group, responsible for the website, printed timetables, maps, etc.

        There are eight people doing information production, 4 people doing distribution, a few in sales & marketing and their supervisors.

        Then there’s the Customer Service group for the public interaction side of information (customer service offices, lost and found, telephone, complaints/commendations) with a lot more people.

  16. At the Tukwila Link stop I have a hard time figuring out which platform to wait on for a train that will go to downtown Seattle. I don’t know if it’s just myopia on my part or leftover confusion from when the trains could depart from either platform, but I still find it confusing.

  17. I do want to praise Metro in general for their signage however. When I was in Boston in the early nineties the only indication of many bus stops was the T “No Parking” sign. There would be no indication of what bus would stop there or what destinations it might take you to. You really had to pick up schedules to have any chance of learning the system. Metro’s posted schedules at most stops is a huge benefit.

      1. At least there is a sign. Boston area bus stops used to be indicated by a band of orange paint on a telephone or light pole.

  18. It’s been my observation, as somewhat of an insider, that nobody does Quality Control on rider information. Nobody’s in charge, nobody takers responsibility, so of course nothing gets done when problems arise.

    There are no consequences for people putting out bad information to riders or intending riders, nor for failing to fix problems when they’ve been pointed out. No QC.

    Nothing will change until executive management demands QC, but they won’t because they don’t see the problem — they don’t ride transit!

    And I’m still waiting for somebody in transit management to respond on this thread, acknowledging the problem or otherwise responding candidly to the issue.

  19. Probably the most important post this blog has ever had. Good work Mr. Shaner.

  20. What a great post, Mr. Shaner. I was a rider of Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) this academic year, and WTA did great with information.

  21. I’m a bit late to the game, but I think in some areas Metro does a pretty good job with information, and is lacking in others. When it comes to service changes and requesting feedback on them, they seem to do a pretty good job. The changes are explained on a nice website, and public hearings are held. Surveys are available, outreach sessions are held, comment cards are accepted, and results are communicated (although the results are usually that they won’t make needed changes due to a small but well-organized group screams).

    Most of the complaints on this post have to do with signage and rider information, which probably does need some work. Its a big job, and there probably isn’t a single person responsible for rider information, and this may be one area that gets dropped due to limited resources, so follow-through doesn’t always happen and shoulders get shrugged.

  22. I wasted 90 minutes waiting for a nonexistant bus after a Mariners game because of unclear signage (and OBA was as erroneous as ever).

  23. Tunnel control here. I will be forwarding the link to the appropriate person and I hope to get this corrected this week. (I may be the one stuck with fixing it, so it may not be until Saturday, my next day in the control room.)

    Sorry, I don’t get to read the blog very often and just came across this. I do not know of a good point of contact besides the complaint line (Metro’s).

  24. If a person was standing on the southbound platform at Convention Place Station and look to the left, they would see jersey barriers sitting over the rails. If they look to the right, they will see the “DC” barriers sitting over the rails. rather difficult to get a train there wouldn’t you think?

    (E-mail has been sent.)

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