Last Saturday I missed an hourly connection from Seattle to Kennydale (550–>560) because of an affable and knowledgeable 550 operator. My bus was held for 4 minutes at International District Station while the operator proceeded to plan 2 riders’ trips to far-flung places. In those 4 minutes she told these riders how to purchase and use ORCA Cards, described several route alternatives, discussed interagency fare structure, and made various small talk about the weather.

As many transit grievances are born out of personal anecdotes, I spent the (delayed) ride to Bellevue thinking about what level of humanity we should generally expect from our transit. By all accounts the driver who forced me to wait an hour in South Bellevue was just being a decent human being, using her considerable knowledge base to inform misguided riders in need. Yet in doing so she was being a terrible transit operator.   More after the jump.

I am convinced that transit should be a cold, impersonal beast surrounded at the fringes by humanity. Transit is a public utility with a utilitarian job to do.  Transit’s job is to move — with calculated, finely-tuned, ruthless urgency — as many people as possible in as little time as possible. Customer service, intelligible and intuitive information environments, trip planning, real-time information, etc… are all critical needs, but in any sane system they are needs that must be addressed before a trip is taken.  Customers should have the expectation that transit moves people and thus will not wait upon individuals.*  Riders should approach a vehicle not with “I’ll just ask the driver” but with “I had better have my act together before I board.”

We already expect this from rail.  LINK and SLU operators do not answer questions, and Sounder conductors have limited interaction with passengers.  But on our buses, even on RapidRide or in fixed-guideway areas such as the DSTT, we still have a regional culture that says boarding a bus is an opportunity for conversation and the taking of personal time from others, whether for unprepared cash payment, spontaneous route planning, direct complaints, haggling for free rides, getting operators to open their doors between stops, or accommodating bus-slapping runners.

What’s worse is that this culture extends to administration and planning as well. We have talented people in this region who know exactly how to plan a great system, but they are genuinely handicapped by political structures that inherently favor opposition over support, precedent over possibility, and particular exceptions over general dynamics.

I don’t really know what can be done about this.  Reducing the demand for delay-inducing behaviors is difficult, but the solutions are all well known: separation of operator and passenger (even on buses), off-board payment, level boarding, a cashless downtown,  fare simplification, and reducing network complexity (eliminating routes/boosting frequency/making transfers more intuitive).  And, of course, a subway.

*With exceptions for the mobility-impaired, where social justice concerns call for additional patience.

269 Replies to “(Im)personal, Rapid Transit”

  1. My most recent trip inbound into the bus tunnel, our operator opened the door a second time or waited for runners at every single stop – this on a bus during afternoon peak that was terminating at Int’l District, with another bus trailing us. Let’s see how that goes when the RFA is eliminated.

    I find it incomprehensible that with the elmination of the RFA our agencies couldn’t come up with at least an in-County daypass for riders who don’t have a monthly pass.

    They sure did a great job of listening to feedback and making the system simpler for non-pass holders. We’ll continue to have paper transfers on Metro but not ST buses, and no daypass for County residents coming into town to do business for a day. What could possibly go wrong.

  2. There is nothing I hate more than unnecessary delay. I don’t want drivers to have a chat when they hand-off to another driver. I want them to hand the keys over, take note of any problems and get on with their job.

    Same with passengers. The less interaction between passengers and drivers the more efficient the system becomes. Even passenger-passenger interactions can cause delay when people get so caught up in a conversation they forget to prepare for their stop.

    1. “There is nothing I hate worse than unnecessary delay.”

      Really? War, famine, poverty, disease, hatred, genocide – all pale when compared to “unnecessary delay”?

      Perspective, people. This whole thing smacks of spoiled rotten Americanism. Read a book. Smell the roses. Hug your kids. Above all – switch to decaf. Life is too short to waste so much negative energy on this crap.

      1. More the case where some of us have lived in other parts of the country and world so know for a fact our system doesn’t have to suck to extent it does now.

      2. It’s basically the worst system in North America (that anybody would try to claim exists for anyone but the transit-dependent).*

        Delusion isn’t making it any better.

        *(Yeah, it’s better than Houston, or Phoenix, or Indianapolis, or any place where no one expects transit to be more than a “loser cruiser”. Frankly, with its tiny mode-share — yes, even in Seattle proper — and travel times that are often longer than biking or even walking, Metro is not even half a step above that dismissive epithet.)

  3. AMEN.

    I have no problem with a bit of humanity–waiting 10-15 seconds for a runner if the bus is on time or ahead, answering a simple question (no, you want the other direction, cross the street, etc) but far too often, Seattle transit operators go far beyond this.

    I suppose one thing would be to better incentivize ORCA card use by making them free and easier to acquire and load, and changing the transfer timing structure. If I’m planning to use a bus in about 2 hours, I keep the card in my pocket and pay cash, in hope of a generous transfer.

    1. +1 generally. Although I think waiting for runner should be contingent on the time of day. If its peak hour the bus shouldn’t stop for runner, as there is probably another bus coming relatively soon. But at night (after 8 to 9), especially leaving downtown, buses really should wait when the next service may not be for another hour or until morning.

      As for giving directions, there isn’t a simple answer, but as a general rule drivers should try to offer simple answers to questions even if there less precise. If a passenger asks whether a driver goes by Seattle Center the answer should be “yes” or “no” not “I go three blocks away from Seattle Center,” or “I go to 1st and Denny” which is effectively a “yes” answer only far more confusing to the passenger. Also if a bus is leaving downtown the passenger should be referred to costumer service, or others waiting at the bus stop if the answer isn’t simple or the driver does’t know the answer to the question.

      I understand the frustration of the Seattle bus culture that deemphasizes efficiency over other considerations, but until the bus network is more coherent and better information on routing is available at all stops (many don’t even have the schedule) these sorts of delays are inevitable and necessary. Zach’s critique of Rapid Ride though is spot on.

      1. I will wait for runners if they are reasonably close to the stop depending on time of day. If they are half a block or more away, I will not. If I am running behind, I will not. If they simply are nowhere near a stop and stick out their arm as if to hail a cab, I will not. If they get on the bus at a stop further ahead (either having ran or gotten a ride from a sympagthetic motorist passing by) and browbeat me saying “I know you saw me sticking out my hand – why didn’t you stop?” I will tell them that I was not early, they were not at a stop and that a bus is not a taxicab.

        Mileage varies on Vashon, however.

      2. This is one of the things I dislike about KCM, and one of the things that I liked about WTA.

        The WTA posted arrival times in a uniform and clear way, at all stops, and I really appreciated it.

      3. Too many stops here to estimate or post what time a bus will arrive at each and every stop along the way. Many people tend to mis-read what we have, however. Example: waiting on 8th Ave. NW at 58th for the 28, many people ignore where it says “bus leaves NW 65th at. . . “, not realizing it will be a few minutes beyond that before the bus gets to their stop.

    2. I’m OK with drivers occasionally waiting for runners if the bus is on time or ahead of schedule, and I’m OK with making (some) greater allowances for can’t hurry because they have a disability, have young children with them, etc- that could be me someday.

      That said, there’s too much waiting for people who just weren’t at the stop at the right time, and I’ve seen waiting for 1 runner turn into waiting for more runners after the first one, then more waiting after that. E.g. Everyone at the stop boards, the driver closes the door, is ready to go, then notices someone running for the bus, decides to wait, opens the door, and waits. Meanwhile someone further down the street notices that the bus is there and runs for it, the driver waits for the second person, and the because of all the waiting, everyone has to sit through another light cycle. Finally the bus leaves the stop, but the driver waits for runners at a couple other stops on the route, adding 5-10 minutes to everyone’s trip.

      Ideally, Metro would decrease the pain of missing a bus by increasing bus frequencies to the point that missing a bus wouldn’t be such a big deal.

      1. Even on routes with good frequency you run into “runners.” Seems like people can’t wait 15 minutes for the next bus…..

      2. @John Slyfield

        Sure, even if buses were arriving every 2 minutes, you’d still have runners. Some people will be (or believe themselves to be) in that much of a hurry, or believe the buses should act as their own personal taxi.

        I don’t want to spawn a huge subthread on the topic, as the concept is fuzzy and context-dependent, and has been debated to death here, but in general, I wouldn’t consider one bus every 15 minute to be “frequent” service. If I know I have to wait 15 minutes for a bus, then I’m wondering if I have time to grab a coffee or run an errand before it arrives. If the bus comes every 5-10 minutes, I’ll be more comfortable with waiting.

      3. Absolutely. And to clarify, “if the bus comes every 5-10 minutes” means you can depend on the bus actually coming every 5-10 minutes. This does not include buses that are scheduled on paper to run every 10 minutes, but, in practice tend to get bunched so you end up with two back-to-back buses every 20 minutes.

  4. Metro used to instruct drivers that their priorities were (1) SAFETY, (2) SERVICE (3) SCHEDULE. Was your driver “old school”?

      1. And “old school” comes under “antiquated” and “demonstrably counterproductive” (for, you see, Metro’s “old school” instructions have yielded one of the crappiest transit “systems” in the universe).

        When you defend the discredited, your own credibility suffers, Beavis.

      2. I don’t believe that “Safety, Service, Schedule” in order of priority has been “discredited” at all. The !lternative is. . .?

      3. Safety, Schedule, Service. And schedule is really a big part of service, but not vice versa, so it makes sense that it should come first. That, and the fact that schedule affects every single rider whereas service as it’s construed here, “customer service” basically, is mostly an individual matter.

      4. Shane, here’s the problem: ask the folks who received the information from the driver if they received good service and they’d answer “yes”. Ask Zack or any other commuter so naive, inexperienced, or just plain stupid as to plan a commute where a mere 4 minutes delay causes them to miss a connection, and they’d say “no”.

        Putting “Schedule” ahead of “Service” as a general prioritization would be a huge mistake, leading to poor(er) customer service in day to day interactions, as well as risking a greater number of accidents as drivers rush to meet increasingly impossible schedules which already prevent us from getting basic meal and bathroom breaks.

        Meanwhile, it gives people like Zack, d.p. and others (you) an excuse to blame the driver when the bus is late, even when that has nothing to do with anything the driver has any control over.

        Bad idea.

      5. Stay classy, d.p. Meanwhile, re-read Zack’s post and we’ll have a conversation at that point about who is “playing victim”.

      6. Beavis, I think your argument is actually making my point. Those two people who had their routes mapped out probably thought the service was great, but everyone else, including people who weren’t on such a time crunch, thought it was poor. I’ll bet almost every person on that bus was annoyed by how long they had to wait for the bus driver to help those people, and many were probably asking “why can’t those people just check the map/schedule?” So by referring those people to the schedule and telling them he had to be on his way, he’d be providing good service (or not providing bad service, at least) to a much greater number of people, including the future riders who he hadn’t picked up yet.

        I don’t think anyone here is trying to lay the blame at the feet of bus drivers, which it seems like is the reason for your defensiveness. This is just a discussion about how much weight keeping a schedule should have versus being as helpful to individuals as possible. It’s my belief that most people would prefer that the schedule carry much more weight.

      7. “I don’t think anyone here is trying to lay the blame at the feet of bus drivers”

        Uh – are you kidding me? This entire thread, from the OP article to the comments in support, are ENTIRELY about trying to “lay the blame at the feet of bus drivers. From Zach’s story (which at this point I believe to be b.s. – it never happened the way he described) saying that the driver “was being a terrible transit operator”; to d.p.’s trollish accusations that drivers system-wide drive too safely accompanied by boorish obscenities and tiresome insults – to the Bailo Paradox wherein he ENTIRELY DISAGREES WITH ZACH AND OTHERS ON THIS THREAD in one way by BLAMING DRIVERS for not creating ENOUGH delay so that he and people like him to cant be bothered to consult a schedule at all but prefer to run for a bus after “spying” it through a chain link fence and then get so pissed off that they slap the bus as it is pulling away because the driver didn’t have the “courtesy” to hold up 60 people who DID read the schedule to wait for his irresponsible self.

        Not laying blame at the feet of drivers? That claim is just bizarre. That’s EXACTLY what’s happening here – and drivers lose no matter what we do.

        Of course, it’s much easier to do that, and it’s STB’s M.O. It’s much easier to accuse drivers of being slow (makes no sense at all) than to admit that our schedules have been mangled to the point of being mostly impossible. It’s much easier for Bailo and his ilk to stomp their feet and whine and cry that the mean old bus driver didn’t wait for them as they ran from half a block away rather than holding everyone up to wait for them. It’s much easier for people to point at the person they SEE (which is not the Chief, the Scheduler, the Administrator or even the members of the King County Council’s Committees regulating transportation), which is the driver. This avoids the inconvenience of becoming informed, considering complexities and realities of trying to keep a bus on schedule, or taking responsibility for getting themselves informed or even buying a freaking watch.

        Not laying blame at the feet of drivers? Yeah, right. Go back and read this stuff again.

      8. You are taking this way to personally. It seems no one can criticize Metro at all without you getting defensive.

        Yes, we understand, drivers are merely cogs in machine, we get that. Now we want to make the machine run better, so lets start tweaking what we can (say putting more priority on making schedule and less on negative feedback from riders who didn’t get a 5 minute oral system guide) to get the system we want.

        If it helps you keep your cool, keep reminding yourself that we are discussing ways to change the rules the drivers have to follow instead of the drivers themselves, b/c that is really what we are discussing here.

      9. Here, let me try and be more clear.

        Whether it is intentional or not, this is how many of your posts come off:

        *Someone criticizes a Driver*
        Beavis: You don’t know anything about driving a bus! That driver had no choice due to the rules and regulations! You need to shut up and just be glad for the system we have!

        *Someone criticizes a Policy*
        Beavis: You don’t know anything about how a transit system works! The rules and regulations are there for a reason! You need to shut up and just be glad for the system we have!

    1. Matt, feel free to criticize Metro (I do). Feel free to criticize the behavior of some drivers (I do). the criticism is valid, you’ll see no defensiveness from me. Write a whiny screed based on what I believe to be a lie (a 4 minute delay at a tunnel station would have the LCC in fits – it never happened) and yeah, I’ll move to inject some reality and perspective from the other side of the steering wheel into the story. I suggest you review my responses to the not too long ago post criticizing Metro for providing inaccurate customer information. I was and am 100% on the side of the OP on that one, and find Metro’s record of providing information to the public – be it by signage, web or otherwise – to be one of shameful incompetence.

      Zach’s tale (and it is a fairy tale) makes a specific accusation against a driver – even calling them “a terrible driver” for taking time to provide information to customers.

      I don’t think that I’m out of line at all in challenging that line of thought. And why in the world isn’t there a single one of you save one other bus driver challenging d.p.’s boorish or “defensive” behavior? Speaks volumes.

      1. Beavis, yes, I have seen you criticize the Metro office and their actions (or lack thereof), but any time a driver or driver operations are criticized you always rush to the defense.

        And d.p. is d.p. Like John Bailo, he’s part of the scenery of STB. He’s posted here enough that no one takes him seriously anymore. Everything is the MOST HORRIBLE THING EVAR!!!111, it’s a wonder the guy hasn’t died of a heart attack yet. It’s just how he is. No one really says anything, b/c really, what is there to say?

        That said, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t sometimes or even usually have a point (a difference between him and Bailo), as in this case. It’s just that he makes issues bigger than they usually are, always sees the worse possible outcome, and has a very caustic demeanor.

  5. A bus is not a taxi. Unfortunately, way too many riders and even many operators don’t understand this.

    Perhaps in the era before the Internet it made sense for drivers to provide this kind of service – many riders were new to transit, the system was hard to use if you didn’t have foreknowledge of the route structure, information was not easy to find.

    These days, there’s really no good excuse for boarding a bus without having some clue of what you are doing or where you are going.

    Personally, buses stopping or holding for runners is the most annoying behavior of all. I believe once the bus closes its doors, that’s it, no more people are allowed to board. If you run and just barely miss it, that sucks, but you do not have the right to put your own convenience ahead of everyone else who is already on the bus. That peeve is followed closely by giving directions or advice to people who are standing outside the bus at the stop.

    1. Many riders still are new to transit; they’re the ones this post is talking about. A significant percentage of riders are occasional. Eliminating questions or cash-based fares (unless there’s a fare machine at every bus stop) amounts to saying transit is not for occasional riders. That won’t stop them from trying to get on the bus, because they’re going by their memory that “Buses everywhere are cash on entry and ask the driver how to get somewhere.”

    2. As to stopping for runners, it’s important to be reasonable. If the bus closes it doors, but can’t move anywhere because the upcoming traffic light is red, and the runner comes while the light is still red, it imposes absolutely zero delay on other passengers to open the doors and let him board. I personally have taken advantage of this several times, especially on buses with slow sections in which a reasonably fast runner can run to the next stop to barely catch a bus just missed at the current stop.

      1. If the bus is still at the zone, yes. If it has left the zone and the person demands entry at an intersection well outside the zone, then no. The applicable phrase is “you missed the bus”.

      2. Agree with Beavis (what!?), except for when the bus is early.

        Yeah, early. Which happens a lot on mid-day or early-evening 17s (among other routes) now that the schedules have been over-padded for the benefit of the slowest drivers.

        If you’re 2 minutes early, you’d better believe I’m going to demand to be let on at that next red light, even if you’ve “left the zone”.

        Also, in the evening, a flick-open-the-door-and-jump-on-as-long-as-you’re-quick is unlikely to cause a big delay and is an appropriate recognition of the fact that low frequencies and few options are a problem.

      3. If a bus is really early report them. If on the other hand like so many others and you can’t read a schedule properly and only think it’s early, then do a better job of educating yourself. NO schedule has been “over-padded”. Your ignorance is showing again (no surprise there). Feel free to act like an ignorant ass and “demand” to be let on at an intersection (unsafe, illegal and against policy). My response would be to flip on the external P.A. and cordially let you know that we don’t board passengers at intersections – only bus stops. So good luck with that.

      4. NO schedule has been “over-padded”.

        Definitely says something about the credibility of Metro drivers, and certainly of you…

  6. In a lot of ways, I agree with Jarrett Walker that it doesn’t make sense to prefer one mode over the other. However, there are a number of real ways — some more tangible than others — in which this country simply won’t ever let buses become as good as trains, or trains as bad as buses. This is one of them.

    I think the core of the issue is that the driver is also the fare enforcer (to an extent), which means that everyone who rides a bus needs to interact with the driver. In contrast, on most trains — even most streetcars — no one interacts with the driver.

    Aside from the slowdowns, this also has the effect of “humanizing” transit, in a bad way. Read all the New York Times articles about those “wonderful” transit services in small towns, that only come once an hour, but are fantastic because they provide mobility to populations (such as the elderly or disabled) that otherwise wouldn’t have it. There’s a natural tendency to think of the bus driver as a social worker. No one thinks about train operators that way. Instead, we understand that the operator’s goal is to go as fast as possible, and we judge anyone who interferes with that.

    If you could change that perception, then I think you’d have a chance of seeing real BRT here. Until then, I think that rail has a real advantage, even if it’s one that isn’t directly related to the technology.

    1. Basically, this.

      The Green Line’s Achilles’ heel, as you know, is front-door entry on the surface stops. But no one chats up the driver or asks time-sucking questions. The simple fact of being (clearly, to everyone) a “serious” high-volume service kicks the passengers into swipe-and-move mode.

      Unless you’re willing to go Full Curitiba on your BRT — including the perfectly level and gap-free platforms, with the wide subway-like doors — you’re never going to get something that behaves like rail. Jarrett is basically wrong on this.

      And even Curitiba is building a subway.

      1. Bingo.

        I will note that all the “successful” examples of “BRT” are being replaced with rail, one at a time. If it’s high-volume, rail is just better. Buses are fine for low volumes, but low volumes don’t justify BRT.

      2. And yet the limited-stop 57 bus is much, much faster than either the B or C lines for the portion where they overlap.

        Perhaps our focus should be on making the right-of-way work better and reducing unnecessary stops (a much bigger Achilles’ heel of the non-D Green Line branches), not on worrying about the occasional overly loquacious driver.

      3. limited-stop 57 bus is much, much faster…

        Disallowing inbound pickups and outbound exits for a mile and a half will do that.

        But do you know how screwed the 57 would be if 90% of passengers along the shared corridor weren’t on the adjacent train? Same goes for the 39 and the E. Like the 1 and the 66, those buses cannot scale even when they throw a ton of vehicles at them.

        (Plus, have you ever stayed on the 57 through Brighton Center at a high-traffic hour? Oh…my…god!)

        The problem with the B Line (in particular) is that its streetcar heritage has prevented the T and the city from ever making the tough decisions to stop-diet east of Packard’s Corner or to implement signal priority. The center reservation gets a smaller window than the pavement lanes (because left turns must be segregated, whereas for the buses they can be simultaneous with straight movements), so the sense of making slow progress on the train compounds.

        This drawback of center reservations has been observed elsewhere as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/510_Spadina

        On the other hand, the town of Brookline recently did a complete makeover on Beacon Street, including lots of lane re-channeling and adjustments to signal timing. The C line is now observably and palpably much faster than the B, even without any formal priority.

      4. I can’t disagree with anything you say there. You’re much more reasonable when you’re discussing transit systems other than Seattle’s.

        I’d just point out that our “worst system in the country” includes a center reservation, incorporating no fewer than 13 signalized intersections, where it’s unusual for the train to ever stop outside of the passenger stops.

      5. Actually, the 57 hasn’t been limited-stop since 2006. I don’t think that changes your point, though — most people use the Green Line for local service and only ride the 57 if they’re continuing onto Brighton Ave, and so the 57 is faster by virtue of having much lower ridership.

        That said, the Commonwealth Ave line is also a textbook example of how not to build a fast service. Between Kenmore and Packard’s Corner, there are 8 stops — that’s one stop every 0.2 miles. And that average is thrown off by the nearly half-mile gap between BU West and BU Central — if you skip that, it’s almost 1/8 mile average gap between the remaining stations. In contrast, Metro aims to have 1/4 mile spacing for local bus stops, and Link’s average spacing is over a mile. (That has its downsides too, but speed is not one of them.)

        When the train stops twice every block — once in the middle to pick up / drop off passengers, and once at the end to wait for turning cars — of course the bus will be faster.

      6. Yeah, I made an off-hand mention of their refusal “to stop-diet east of Packard’s Corner”, but didn’t want to bog down the main point by going into greater detail.

        Here’s the greater detail: Sometime around 2004, they actually did stop-diet the B Line, in conjunction with renovating/raising the platforms at key stops as part of the Green Line accessibility project.

        But incredibly, they based their decisions on which stops to delete almost entirely upon boarding numbers, with no regard to geography. So every stop between Packard’s Corner and Kenmore Square remained, because that segment as a whole has such high demand that each individual stop technically “performs well”, even when it is way too close to the next one.

        At one point during the platform renovations, they closed both B.U. East and B.U. Central, consolidating service at a temporary platform on the block between the two. Unsurprisingly, the improvement in service was immediate and dramatic, and literally no one was inconvenienced!

        I’m convinced that if this had happened under current (relatively sensible) MBTA management rather than under the nepotists who ran things in 2004, they would have changed plans and made the combined stop permanent.

  7. “*With exceptions for the mobility-impaired, where social justice concerns call for additional patience”

    Well there are limits there too, I’ve been on jammed U-District-to-downtown buses many times when old, addled, disabled vets in wheelchairs turn what should be a 15-second stop into a 5 minutes plus one. I don’t care how sympathetic they are anymore.

    1. Kicking the infirm off our buses and giving them separate but equal hourly service is the obvious solution.

      1. I assume you’re being sarcastic (this would be a poor solution, and expensive, and hourly service is certainly not equal). The obvious solution is low-floor, kneeling buses. Man those lifts are slow. That’s not the disabled vet’s fault, that’s just Metro’s lack of funds. They’ll change out those slow lifts over time.

    2. What really gets me are the people who are so disabled as to take forever to load but only ride the bus one stop downtown. Especially when their power chair could have covered the distance in the time it took to load them on the bus. The ETBs seem to have a lot of this sort of behavior (though I’ve seen it on other routes on Third or in the DSTT)

      Of course there isn’t much you can do about it other than to buy more low-floor coaches and to start adopting passive restraints system-wide.

    3. I experience many more delays from cyclists who show up having never laid eyes on a bike rack before, and who also possess a profound inability to read instructtins on how to mount their bike.

      1. Securements are not required on rail for trains usually operate on a fixed right-of-way (the tracks). Buses are not.

    4. The time it takes to operate the lifts on our low floor buses is a lot less than on our high floor buses (think new flyer 2400’s (i think – late 1990’s) and gilligs. Rapid ride b c and d feature (or will) passive restraint systems. For me the time it takes to load a wheelchair is only slowed by people unwilling to give up their seats.

      1. True dat. Low floor buses have undeniable load speed advantage, even for the able-bodied. That and lift breakdown issues are much more rare, and since the ramp can easily be raised or stowed manually, largely irrelevant.

      2. I’m a paraplegic wheelchair user in my 30s and my major pet peeve is when drivers try to be too helpful. On the high floor busses, once I’ve tapped my orca I can raise the seat and strap myself in before the lift is stowed. With the low floors I can still do it myself quicker than with driver assistance. Throughout all of my walking years, I remember how annoying it could be when I was late getting somewhere or trying to make a transfer and a wheelchair would board the bus. I always felt like a piece sh while cussing under my breath, another gd wheelchair. When I take the bus now, my major motivation is to get on quickly and let the bus proceed.

        I have a good understanding with my regular drivers and they’ll let me on the bus without even unbuckling their seatbelt. More often then not though, the driver will try to “assist” strapping me in when I could have done it quicker myself. Quite often, the driver will go “set up” the securement area for me before even dropping the lift, which saves zero time for me.

        Anyways, that’s my rant. I wish drivers would ask if you need help before spending time and holding up the whole bus. I know that you may be a veteran bus driver but I gaurantee that I have more experience securing my chair than you.

      3. Thank you, Gmer. Being “too helpful” can be presumptuous and patronizing… and in the end, not even be all that helpful!

      4. I usually set the straps up ahead of time by clipping them to the top of the nearby seat, and waiting to be asked (or offering if it looks appropriate) to assist with strapping in. I will usually go ahead and lift the seats unsolicited, as the latches tend to stick and it can be done quickly while the wheelchair user is boarding. I once attended a lecture by disability advocate with cerebral palsy Norman Kunz who described a trip to the airport as being subjected to an “attack of help”.

        That said, back in the realities of lose-lose situations for drivers, some wheelchair users (and even other passengers) will complain if you DON’T automatically offer to help.

      5. Gmer, I (former driver) was always extremely happy to see wheelchair users like you. Unfortunately, they are the exception. Many users are not capable of strapping themselves in, and there are a few more who could do it but don’t want to be bothered.

        I would typically do things in the following order, which I found by trial and error minimized the time delay of loading a wheelchair, so that it would be between 60 seconds (able, cooperative rider) and 3 minutes (worst case):

        1) Drop lift. While lift is dropping, ask seated passengers to move.
        2) While the user is positioning his/her chair on the lift, raise the seat and place belts within reach.
        3) Raise lift and allow user to position his/her chair in the securement area. If user is slow during this step, secure lift once he/she is safely clear of it.
        4) If user secured his/her own chair, secure lift and proceed. Otherwise, secure chair with readily available belts (thanks to step 2).
        5) Secure lift and proceed.

      6. +1. This should be encoded into official training and procedure. It offers the maximum attention to time constraints (helping lift seats and position belts not to be patronizing, but simply for expediency) and for the person with a disability to provide for themselves without it being automatically assumed help is needed – while standing by if it is.

      7. +1E09 to David. As a retired 3/4 driver for many years, that procedure is your only hope of ever getting a break on the tail end of a route. Once you get down a couple of minutes on a route with 10 or less minute frequency, your hard pressed to make it up.
        2 minutes on 8 min. headways, is 25%. So now you’re picking up 25% more load, which soon turns into being down another 2 minutes – or 50% more load (we’re full now). It’s the classic snowball rolling down the hill, getting bigger as it goes.
        Driver actions should be schedule driven. Running early, be a nice guy. Running late, drive the fucking bus.

  8. Zach, I think this is probably the most valuable post this year, and very well timed, considering proposed changes in fare collection for this fall. Very pertinent responses, as well.

    Your 550 driver’s instincts were absolutely right. Unfortunately, her training left out a critical set of skills.

    The “Safety, Service, and Schedule” stricture originated in a context: thirty years ago, when the agency was new, Metro was trying to impress upon drivers that the company did not expect them to “give up their life to be on time”, like the brave engineer in the folk song.

    I think Metro also assumed that in those years, the natural unspoken inclination of most transit drivers was to make schedule first priority- at a time when the traffic situation still made this possible.

    As with many operating skills, most drivers eventually learn to “inform and transport” at the same time- like walking and chewing. But it’s wrong to leave this to time. Instruction should make sure every driver has learned this before they finish training. And re-train drivers who still need to learn.

    And thanks also for calling attention to a crucial reason not to even try on-board fare collection in the Tunnel this fall. Every game night, you can watch farebox collection become farebox conversation and negotiation cause five-minute dwells.

    The Tunnel was designed for every passenger to be in possession of a both a fare receipt and all critical trip information before arriving on the platform. Anything else makes people miss connections.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Five minute dwells? Try 15 or 20 minute dwells at IDS. I notice a lot of drivers won’t even bother trying to collect fares at IDS after a game lets out in order to get the coach loaded and out of the station as quickly as possible.

      Heaven help you if you either have a driver who is very insistent about everyone having a fare or who is overly helpful with route and transit information. Look forward to a 2 minute conversation with every other person boarding.

  9. Including LINK passengers on following trains, who all paid before boarding and can’t talk to their drivers!

    Mark

  10. I agree entirely. In other cities I think passengers would revolt if the whole bus were being held up in such a way.

  11. Switching away from pay as you leave on outbound CBD services is the craziest decision Metro has ever made. Yes, you get some fare cheats with pay away, but the extra operating cost from pay as you enter in the CBD will more than eat up any additional revenue, and downtown will become a Bedlam.

    Insane.

    1. You evidently did not get the memo about the ride free area being eliminated as of September 29th. All riders must pay or show proof of payment at the start of their trip which means when they board. As it is in the present system huge numbers of people cannot get the concept of paying as you leave if the bus heads out of the CBD.

    2. The present system is confusing because it’s unnatural to pay as you leave, and even longtime riders sometimes walk off or pay twice when it changes based on time of day. An effective transit network needs to be simple and easy to remember. Pay as you enter is just as important as frequent routes, kneeling buses, etc.

    3. Some real inherent problems with “Pay as You Leave”:

      1. It’s counter-intuitive, causing hesitation, which multiplies service delays.

      2. Since RFA only applies in Downtown Seattle, even on same street, payment procedure will be different on different buses.

      3. Worst of all: While driver can tell boarding passengers to have a seat and find their money, and continue in service. Deboarding passengers must often look through pockets and purses- and the bus can’t move ’til discovery, discussion, and payment are finished.

      Payment on leaving may be tolerable on express bus between Downtown and a single or very limited set of outbound destination. If there’s no other way to avoid using bus fare boxes in the Tunnel, would be an acceptable solution.

      But for a PM rush hour Route 7 or 43, 60′ bus with standing load, even when drivers let passengers use all doors and bring their passes to the front door to “tap”, major service delays always result.

      Mark Dublin

      1. 4. Pay-as-you-leave is especially confusing on westbound #44 trips. From the customer’s perspective, it is completely random whether the bus will be in pay-as-you-enter mode or pay-as-you-leave mode.

        5. Pay as you leave forces the entire bus route, once the bus leaves downtown, to operate using only the front door, which means everybody must exit the bus before anyone is allowed to enter, which means more delays at every stop. This even applies to route #44 trips that originated from route #43, which contributes to route #44 being slow, unreliable, and full of bunching.

      2. The 44 is a great example of why this is confusing. There’s also a lot of confusion around 7pm when folks boarding a bus that has originated in the RFA aren’t sure whether to pay as they enter (if the bus was scheduled to leave Downtown after 7 or pay as they leave as if the bus had been scheduled to leave Downtown before 7. At least this should go away in September.

      3. Of course they could always read that little sign that faces them as they enter the bus. I’m just saying. But yeah – looking forward to September 29, at least as RFA elimination goes.

  12. I hope one day when all of you need assistance in some capacity from your driver – they shut the door in your face and drive off, especially you Zach.

    What comes around goes around.

    1. +1. What complete horse shit. If 4 minutes is the difference between making a connection and missing one, then you should catch an earlier bus. Even minor tr!ffic delays and change fublers can cost 4 minutes of schedule time. Sheesh, what a d!mned whiner. For drivers, the situation is lose-lose. Either we’re not helpful enough, or we’re TOO helpful.

      1. You’re right about facts of traffic life, Operator McGee, and I also personally used to hate those “see me” notes from base chiefs, always delivered just before I had to go on rush hour duty in 90 degree heat.

        But the public has every right to demand- from the transit system, not individual drivers- that schedules mean what they say, meaning all the priority transit can get, and also all the training and support drivers need.

        The idea that “loaders” can prevent the damage that fare-box use in the Tunnel is going to inflict on the system isn’t very bright. But change the title to “Station Agent” and the job description to answering the very questions drivers don’t have time for, and work should have been posted twenty years ago.

        And look at the extra demands this way: It gives you a good come-back any time somebody talks about privatizing your work or otherwise cutting your pay. Transit driving, and especially Tunnel driving, requires the outlook of a lifetime career professional.

        This isn’t temp work.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Have to say I agree with this. The fact that you missed your hourly connection means that you don’t value your time enough to choose a solution that works for you.

        Perhaps advocating for real onboard or in station customer assistance professionals might make buses run more efficiently. Perhaps advocating for better and more frequent connections might reduce your wait times and risks of missing connections. Perhaps paying higher fares or having our taxes structured in such a manner that our transit systems can do those things might mean you get a better transit connection.

        But everyone is more concerned about themselves and what is making THEM late. Perhaps the solution for you is to get a car and drive so that you alone can be responsible for being on time and that your grousing is confined to yelling at other drivers from your car seat.

        Until then, I want our operators to be helpful to transit users, potential, new or seasoned.

      3. Dudes, there are cases where an hourly bus connects to an hourly bus or a half-hourly bus. That causes the total trip time to magnify by the number of transfers. The main problem here is infrequent buses.

      4. We have station agents at king street station and all south line sounder stations. They are always quite helpful.

        My question for the OP is how much of a layover were you scheduled for at south bellevue park and ride? Because on saturdays the 550 has 15 minute headways.

      5. I question the validity of the entire story – from the actual time the driver took to give customers information (I’ve seen many complainants experience an odd sense of time dilation when they feel frustrated about delays of any kind) to the claim of having to wait an hour for a connection. How about it, Zach? What were the exact times of day involved here? What schedule points?

    2. -1

      I’m not a self centered prick and have respect for other people’s time. Therefor I plan my trips ahead of time, use the tools provided to me, and sometimes just call a friend.

      In other words, your threat is an empty one.

    3. Nobody said anything about slamming the door in somebody’s face and driving off although I’m not beyond doing just that when needed. (Customer continuing to demand answers to a question I do not know the answer to, I’m running >5 minutes late, and I can see multiple buses behind me and/or a Link train waiting in the tube)

      If I know a quick answer, I’ll gladly give it. Otherwise, I direct them to the information sources in the tunnel I know about (schedules/maps on the wall, customer service/schedules at Westlake, or Metro’s phone number). If they continue to press me for an answer I simply say, “I’m sorry but I need to go” and point back to the passengers and/or buses/trains stacked up behind me.

      1. Agreed. There’s a lot of space between spending 4 minutes routing out someone’s entire trip and slamming the door in their face. A few seconds is usually completely fine, but at a certain point you’ve just gotta say “I’m very sorry but I’ll have to refer you to the schedule and maps behind you – my passengers depend on me arriving at my stops on schedule.”

      2. That’s a great answer. I think there’s a world of difference and context between ‘rush hour in the tunnel’ and ‘9 PM on a Tuesday night in the neighborhoods’, too. I’ve been riding Metro long enough that I almost always know exactly where I’m going, where to transfer if needed, etc. But there are people who don’t, and to the extent the operator can help those folks reasonably quickly, that’s a huge win for Metro’s image.

        And, yeah, some of the comments here do smack of over-sensitivity to time spent waiting. I know it sucks if you miss a connection, but other than that…

    4. Wow, I was gone today and couldn’t reply to any of this. I apologize for not being clearer. This post wasn’t a petty gripe about a missed connection, I just led the post off with that anecdote because it got me thinking about the transit equivalent of “forced errors” and “unforced errors”, this being the latter. Sure, a 4-minute connection shouldn’t be relied upon, and if I’d missed it due to traffic or whatever I’d have deserved my fate. But I chose to chance it. The article wasn’t intended to be about that one little story, it was just an illustration. 4-minute variability is par for the course, but an operator *deliberately* delaying a bus 4-minutes AT ONE STOP to converse with people who weren’t even passengers on that bus but merely on the platform at IDS, THAT”S what was unacceptable. I’m not naive.

      1. You may not be naive – but you are a liar. There was never any 4-minute conversation, nor any hour long wait because of a missed connection. This story is fabrication.

      2. On Saturday 550s to Bellevue arrive at SBP&R at :13, :28, :43, and :58. Southbound 560s arrive at :32. :32-:28= 4 minutes.

        You can hate my story and think me naive, but I’m not a liar. And again, it was an anecdote that gave occasion to a general abstract thought about transit policy more broadly. If I had left the story out entirely (as it seems I should have) and spoken in general terms the argument would have perhaps stayed more on-topic. I’m sorry to have offended you so, but my story was truthful down to the letter.

      3. Experience – and a suspicious lack of detail provided in the story. 4 minutes is a long time. Both buses and train operators call the LCC when there is more than 1 minute delay on an entry signal. 4 minutes would have everyone from IDS north to CPS on the horn, and a supervisor on-site (there’s always one at IDS) at that driver’s door.

        Also, not sure how there could be a 1 hour wait for a missed connection when the connecting bus runs half-hourly.

        It’s a fabrication.

      4. “Also, not sure how there could be a 1 hour wait for a missed connection when the connecting bus runs half-hourly.”

        The 560 runs hourly on Saturday.

      5. If anyone is confused like I was, check the time stamp. Zach’s comment somehow got moved above the others.

      6. Fine, Zach. Those buses have GPS, and the data for the very trip you’ve described can be retrieved. Oran knows how – I’ve seen him do it. So what time did you board, and at what station, exactly? Let’s pull the data and check out your story.

        Hey – I bet I can even contact the driver of that bus, and have her take a look over here so she can see what’s being said behind her back. Heck, she might learn something from the feedback and stop being such a “terrible driver”. Or maybe you’d like to meet with her in person and tell her your story and share your thoughts face to face?

        So what do you say, Zach? What time did you board, and at what station? Let’s get that data.Meanwhile, you should probably connect with Bailo philosophically. He seems to think that schedules should be irrelevant, and that buses should wait for someone who “spies” it, starts running like hell and slaps the bus (bad bus! Naughty!) as it pulls away because the mean old bus driver didn’t delay 60 people so that he couldn’t be bothered with actually being at the stop when the bus was scheduled to be there.

      7. Memory could be failing me (you are one of the brighter and most tech-savvy ones here at STB). Someone here has posted actual AVL and/or GPS data to back up claims of a delay before. At any rate – the data exists somewhere. We can find it, if we have some specifics from Zach as to what bus he got on at what time.

      8. Oh, you must mean Bruce Nourish. He got actual on-time performance and ridership data from Metro. Although that’s generalized data, not for individual trips on a specific date.

        What I’d do if I were Zach and really annoyed would be to record the entire bus driver-passenger conversation on video.

      9. “What I’d do if I were Zach and really annoyed would be to record the entire bus driver-passenger conversation on video.”

        Which wouldn’t really do much except maybe a general “try to keep service moving”. Metro’s mantra is “Safety, Service, Schedule”. Drivers who answer customer questions, even for an extended period of time, are more likely to receive praise than admonishment.

  13. Any detailed trip planning should be directed to metro customer service. Any orca questions should be directed to orca customer service. these employees have all the information needed to answer the questions properly.

    An operator’s job is to drive the bus safely and keep it on schedule

    1. You’re making the presumption of perfect knowledge. Who the heck is metro customer service? Where are they? How can they help me versus the real live person in a uniform right in front of me? Which direction is north or south in the tunnel? Which way to the airport? How do I buy a ticket? etc. All of those may be perfectly obvious things to you and me, but in my travels and helping countless clueless people, they aren’t obvious to lots of people.

      Now, I’m a seasoned traveler and I know how Metro can help me, but even I’ve asked a driver a question or two, and on at least one occasion, the driver failed miserably in providing accurate information. People are only human after all.

      1. That’s why there ought to be designated information desks at major stations, with “station agents”…

        …well, anyway.

      2. If there were only some automated way to do this–perhaps some interactive displays similar to an ATM or ORCA machine. It would be similar to a “trip planner” but with the default set to the current station and the current time. It would say something on the screen like “Hi! Where would you like to go?”, have a touch screen with buttons for major destinations and a way to enter destination info for locations not listed.

        Once the destination was pressed/entered, it would give you the next two or three options for your trip much as trip planner does and give you fare information, perhaps even in multiple languages if desired. If it were integrated, it could even ask you if you wanted to purchase an ORCA card or — please, FSM, someday soon — a day/multi-day/week pass. Now you’d know that from the station you’re in there’s a train/bus in 4 minutes connecting at X for bus Y.

        You’d locate these machines at all major stations and tourist areas – tunnel stations, the airport, the ferry terminal(s) and perhaps the transit centers. This would be a pretty intuitive way for people to get info without needing to ask anyone. There will always be a few who can’t figure it out, but it would minimize this.

    2. Metro really is confusing. Many times downtown I’ve had to tell visitors how to get from Greyhound to Westlake or Amtrak to Greyhound, or from Westlake to the Pike Street bus stop, etc. Fares are even worse. “Before riding the train you have to go up to the machine and get a ticket, but it’s a better deal to get an ORCA card but there’s a $5 fee, and you have to tap the card on these yellow boxes before and after a trip.” Or when they ask what the bus fare is, “Well, it’s around $2.25 now, but if you go outside Seattle between 4-6 or if you take Sound Transit it’s more.” Or, “It’s free now within downtown, but after 7pm you’ll have to pay. (Punting on describing the RFA boundaries, hoping it won’t affect their trips.)”

      1. Isn’t every city’s bus/train system confusing for a tourist? Yes, Metro and Sound Transit can seem daunting for a visitor to the area, but it is incumbent on those who live here and use transit to familiarize themselves with the idiosyncracies of each system.

      2. No, Lightning. I can state from experience that most cities’ urban train systems are completely straightforward for a tourist — not confusing at all. Piece-of-cake easy. Commuter train systems to the suburbs tend to be somewhat less comprehensible.

        I’ve even seen one bus system which wasn’t confusing for a tourist. London. Completely transparent. Massive amounts of information at practically every stop, all accurate.

        Los Angeles’s bus system was also only mildly confusing. (I ignored the Locals and took *only* Rapids.)

        Everywhere else I’ve been (and I’ve been a lot of places) the bus system was completely unintelligable and not even worth trying.

    1. +1 And I make sure to express my gratitude for them waiting the few seconds it takes me to board. They more than make up for it when barreling down I-90 at warp speeds.

      1. How can we “barrel down I-90 at warp speed” when our buses are governed at 65 mph and the schedule assumes we can do 60?

      2. 65 is “warp speed” compared to the slow lanes sometimes. I think Charles was offering kudos for drivers for taking advantage of clear freeways to make up time.

      1. Driver sees runner stop running. Driver shuts door and takes off. Everyone happy except runner. Runner calls customer service and reports driver. Driver gets complaint in file for “missed stop boarding”. STB grousers praise driver for keeping bus on schedule-but don’t bother to call in commendation to counter complaint. Every situation lose-lose for driver.

      2. @Beavis McGee

        It might be cool if OneBusAway had a “Driver Feedback” feature that detected which bus the rider is on, put that information in an email, and let the user write a short message to Metro/ST thanking the driver for whatever, then sent it to Metro/ST’s customer comment email address. People could write their comment while still on the bus, so they’d be more likely to give positive feedback.

        Of course, human nature being what it is, it would still probably be used more for complaints than praise. People just enjoy complaining.

      3. An innovative idea nonetheless. Still, I think that even the current expansion of options for customer input (web, e-mail, cell phone access, etc.) has so watered down the feedback loop as to make customer feedback a largely unreliable metric at best, and completely useless at worst. One exception I think are general complaints not motivated by personality conflicts, such as complaints about buses running late. That type of complaint incidentally is up DRASTICALLY since the new “efficiencies” began being built into schedules.

      4. Oh, give it a fucking rest, Beavis.

        They cut a handful of unproductive services in June, and now suddenly the 18 has some trips padded to over 30 minutes between Market and Pike. That’s a ridiculous amount of padding for 5 miles.

        And you know what. Some drivers are still habitually late!!

      5. …while other drivers are habitually on-time or, thanks to the all that wasteful padding, even early.

        Might this be because some drivers just aren’t as on-the-ball, and shouldn’t be allowed to drive high-volume routes?

      6. And yes, I do mean that I have observed particular drivers being slow and lackadaisical every single time I get on their bus, and have begun to recognize other particular drivers who always drive well.

      7. Or I dunno – THE FREAKING BALLARD BRIDGE OPENS ONCE IN AWHILE. Not taking the bait, d.p. Much more revealing to let you be you, while the otherwise reactive S.P. censors turn an uncharacteristic blind eye. Stay classy, dude.

      8. Yeah, um, you missed the part where I said that I ride the 18 enough to be able to recognize the habitually late and the habitually punctual.

        Can’t blame that on the Ballard Bridge, can you, “dude”?

        Let’s face it, Beavis. You think you and your peers are infallible, you think nothing is wrong with Metro’s basic manner of conducting itself, and you make a habit of lashing out on S.T.B. at anyone who dares suggest otherwise. You are a sad, sad man, “dude”.

      9. You’ve demonstrated a profound lack of ability to or interest in recognizing anything that doesn’t fit into your narrow, bitter, narcissistically negative world view, and that’s about it.

      10. This from the guy who keeps talking about the nightmare of receiving a customer complaint.

        Given what a caustic, obvious asshole you are, the fact that you still have a job suggests to me that customer complaints mean nothing.

      11. I’ll agree with d.p. here. There are drivers who can keep a run on time whereas other drivers would have the run get further and further behind as the run goes on.

        There should be a way to identify these drivers and perhaps pair them with drivers who are always on time for tips etc. Of course that is if the union and management can work that out..

      12. There should be a way to identify these drivers and perhaps pair them with drivers who are always on time for tips etc

        Or put them on routes with less traffic. I agree with d.p., though: when you ride the same routes often enough, you’ll learn who the punctual and non-punctual drivers are. (And, of course, sometimes the punctual ones are late because of traffic! But in general, some are better than others).

        The notion that some people are better at their job than others is utterly banal; true of any workplace in the world. Why Beavis McGee would pretend that metro drivers are somehow different from the rest of the human race on this front, I have no idea.

      13. Nicholas: The new route 40 is a potentially very helpful route, but it’s going to be a catastrophuck without really excellent drivers. The system of “driver picks” needs to be replaced by one of assignments for operators who have proven they can get the job done.

      14. What exactly are these “non-punctual” drivers doing differently from their “punctual” counterparts? I don’t question the realities of qualitative differences between drivers – what I do question is the idea that any driver would deliberately run late due to incompetence, inattention, or bad habit. There are so many disincentives for running late – from angry customers to lack of bathroom and rest breaks resulting from running behind – that I just can’t see it. I also see customers – daily – who automatically blame me through their open hostility when the bus is running late.

        One day, driving the 5/54 I was delayed getting to West Seattle because of issues between Shoreline and downtown. As a result, my follower – who started their run downtown rather than as the 5 from the north – was in front of me, with me running 20 minutes late. At Alaska Street, I was right behind the bus that should have been running behind me. At the Fauntleroy stop, my follower stopped to pick up a waiting passenger, who waved them off. Instead, he waited and got on my bus. I asked the man if the bus in front of me was refusing passengers. “No,” he said (sneered contemptuously, really), “But THAT driver is 20 minutes late. I don’t want to be on that driver’s bus!” I then told the man that the joke was on him then – because I was the one running 20 minutes late, and that it had nothing to do with my driving.

        Passengers take it out on drivers when the bus is late regardless. They routinely assume that the reason the bus is late is driver incompetence, discounting the fact that there are miles of obstacles and delays that they haven’t witnessed because they haven’t been on the bus to see them.

        So yeah – when you guys start pointing fingers at bus drivers for buses running late, I call bullshit.

      15. d.p., part of the reason people like driving for Metro is that they can pick their own work. And part of the reason they stay there is that the work gets better with seniority. You’re promising to give Metro’s best drivers the worst work, with no way out. Are you ready to pay the extra taxes to raise those drivers’ pay to keep them from quitting when they realize they’re doomed to driving A-runs on the 7 for the rest of their careers?

        In my slightly more than 3 years as a full-time driver, I moved from nightmarish early-evening runs on the 7 and 44 — exactly the kind of work you say should be done only by the most “effective” drivers — to daylighters on the 71/72/73 and 15/18/21/22/56, which were much easier to drive on time, and which I loved. I quit because I decided to change careers. But if I had wanted to stay, I would have been dissuaded if you told me I had to do that horrible work for 20 more years.

      16. I don’t question the realities of qualitative differences between drivers–I do question is the idea that any driver would deliberately run late due to incompetence, inattention, or bad habit

        Beavis, why assume deliberate? The vast majority of incompetence is not deliberate, and the human beings often make deliberate efforts to break bad habits (that rarely succeed). Again, you seem to be suggesting that a workplace dynamic that is a near-universal in human societies (some people are demonstrably better at their jobs than others) simply doesn’t apply to Metro drivers. Why? What is so special about Metro drivers, or this particular job, that makes it so different from any other work environment?

      17. David L, that’s a good point, and some version of that worry was actually in the back of my mind as I made the original argument. Maybe offer differential pay for good drivers to drive when needed? I don’t know. Fairness and effectiveness are often at odds when addressing personnel challenges, and there aren’t easy solutions.

      18. djw, “pair them with drivers who are always on time”

        No such thing. No driver is “always on time”. Not possible. Anywhere.

      19. djw, you didn’t answer my question. What are the “non-punctual” drivers doing differently than the “punctual drivers”? Traffic conditions, passenger loads and events, and differences in run schedules are the driving factor behind whether buses run on time – not whether the driver is heavy enough on the gas pedal.

      20. Living near the start of all of my “home routes”, all of the observed behaviors that make some operators later than others happen while I’m on the bus. This does not apply to any pre-existing conditions (i.e. delays on the prior run), though lesser drivers are even more likely to be late from earlier trips than more adept ones, because mistakes compound.

        Just to name a few:

        – Refusing to pull out until every passenger is seated (even perfectly able-bodied ones).

        – Letting single-occupancy vehicles merge in front of the bus “to be nice”, when the bus clearly has the right of way. (Another example of being overly accommodating to one person at the expense of many.)

        – On the 44 and the 17, getting stuck for multiple light cycles in the right lane (behind right-turners), even when the left lane is smooth sailing.

        – Being the guy who still “prefers” not to open the back door ever.

        And those are just the quantifiable examples. Sometimes, you just have a palpable sense that a driver is having more trouble pulling out from stops into traffic than most other drivers in similar traffic conditions. And that one really adds up.

        Metro could easily keep records of how good or poor each driver does when on certain routes at certain times of day. Patterns would emerge, and they would not be ascribable to exceptional circumstances.

        If you’re going to have high-volume, high-frequency routes, they need to be staffed by those who can handle them! System management 101, “dude”.

      21. -refusing to pull out until all riders are seated

        We are instructed to do this. If. We don’t and a passenger claims injury from a fall, we are penalized.

        -letting SOV’s merge

        (Such as on the Ballard bridge)
        Every other vehicle is the norm. You are asking drivers to risk accident by being more aggressive and cut people off. Bad idea.

      22. Not just at the bridge. Lackadaisical operators stop to let SOVs in along Leary all the time, seemingly just because the cross-street drivers are having trouble merging on their own. Not warranted. Stop holding their hands, and maybe they’ll finally learn how to drive in a city.

        At the bridge, I’ve seen many operators let two or three mergers in front of them. Even after a bridge opening, which would be the appropriate time to be MORE aggressive, since your passengers didn’t have the option of cutting around the side streets.

        Per Oran’s example, cities that have always been crowded know that if you don’t make every effort to keep moving, you won’t keep moving. All but the best Metro drivers would be eaten alive in NY, Boston, SF, or Chicago.

        Seattle is crowded now, and unlike those other cities, our transit is 95% dependent on those increasingly competitive thoroughfares. Adhering to your version of “safety and service before schedule” is proving disastrous. Adapt and improve, or don’t be surprised when people distrust your competence.

      23. d.p., your comments (these most recent ones anyway) remind me of an experience I had a few months ago. I was driving an inbound 54, and a woman getting off the bus at 2nd and Seneca chastised me for not using the “Bus Only” lane on the north bound viaduct between the W. Seattle freeway and Lander.

        Thing is, if I *had* used the bus lane instead of the mainline, I would have arrived downtown 7 minutes early – which we’re not allowed to do.

        Same thing often happens on the inbound 15, 17 and 18. Ballard, Leary Way and 15th and Leary (start of the Ballard Bridge) are close enough to the beginning of the route that on some days it’s a challenge not to arrive at 15th and Leary EARLY. In other words, things they tell us to do in training which include “become extra helpful”, “use the slow lane” and “hang back and miss a couple of traffic lights” come into play – which aren’t about dawdling but about KEEPING THE BUS ON SCHEDULE.

        So you – like that woman giving me crap for not using the “fast lane” and throwing my schedule 7 minutes hot where there’s no good place to hold for time downtown – simply don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

        Another type of passenger you remind me of is the one who shouts “WHY ARE WE JUST SITTING HERE? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GET MOVING???”. Usually there are one of two answers for that one: 1) “Ma’am, I’ll be leaving in about 2 minutes. I’m a bit early at this time point.” or 2) “As soon as the light turns from red to green, Sir.”

        Like #1, you’re clueless as to the realities of keeping a bus on schedule. Like #2 you’re an impatient hothead quick to demean and jump on a bus driver simply because you believe yourself to be the most important person in the universe.

        Good luck with that approach to life. “Dude”.

      24. Oh my God. Beavis, you just explained that Metro is deliberately padding schedules and then encouraging bus drivers to dawdle in order to avoid arriving early.

        That’s no way to run a bus system.

        (1) If you reliably show up early, the schedule should be shortened.
        (2) If you occassionally show up early, you should be able to park the bus and wait for your scheduled departure time. If there isn’t a place to do that without interfering with traffic, SDOT should MAKE a place to do that.

        Nobody is going to thank you for keeping them on the bus longer than they need to be. NOBODY.

      25. Beavis, that is the very “over-padding” that you just denied existed, you [ad hom]!!

        And you are the one who’s always acting put-upon by the “tight” schedules, demanding longer run-times and layovers.

        You are truly the poster child for shitty public transit that no one in their right mind would want to ride.

      26. Wow, Beavis. Things have changed a bit (I guess with viaduct construction). When I used to drive the northbound 54/5, it had the second tightest schedule I drove regularly (after the southbound morning 106). I was pretty good at staying on time on most routes, but I drove those northbound trips with my foot to the floor and was usually 5 or so minutes late arriving at SCC even if I ran into no unusual traffic.

        Nathanael, like everything in life, scheduling is a compromise which is not always done exactly right. Tighten the schedule too much and people will complain because the bus is unreliable and always late. If you leave it a bit looser, the driver may have to dawdle a bit on the best days, but reliability and consistency will be much better (and as a bonus, the driver will be happier and less stressed). Some routes are pretty much impossible to schedule just right, because there is a huge amount of variability in travel time. The 5 (attached to the 54) is one of those.

      27. Nathaniel,

        Nope, and yet another individual who doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about. Just because a bus may occasionally run early between time points doesn’t mean that the schedule is “padded”. On the contrary, it means that it may be an exceptionally light day. Schedules between West Seattle and downtown try and allow for typically congested traffic along both the West Seattle freeway and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and arriving early is a rare occurrence usually caused by unusually light traffic (this has a tendency to happen on Mondays a lot). The alternative would be to not have enough time in the schedule – which would cause the bus to be late most, if not all of the time.

        In other words what you call “padding” and call for “shortening” would make more buses more late more of the time.

        You have no idea what you’re talking about.

        As to sitting and waiting for the schedule to catch up without interfering with traffic – one place where this can happen is 3rd and Pike when traffic is for some bizarre reason NOT screwed up on Aurora and a bus happens to make it there a couple of minutes early. The other place is 2nd and Seneca, when there’s light traffic on the viaduct. Where exactly would you suggest SDOT create a place for buses to hold (all the while with passengers on board twiddling their thumbs)?

        Like d.p. – you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

      28. “you [ad hom]!”

        Classy stuff. Keep it coming.

        One more time – slow, so even the brain-dead (you) can understand:

        Choke points and high traffic corridors call for additional time to PREVENT BUSES FROM HABITUALLY RUNNING LATE. When those choke points and high traffic areas are unusually clear of ordinarily heavy traffic, this can result in a bus running early. Near the beginning of a run, when passenger loads are unusually light, this can also happen. The rest of the time the bus is more likely to run closer to on-time or even a bit late.

        You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You’re also not a very nice person. Don’t you go changin’.

      29. David L.,

        Things have changed – namely the partial destruction of the viaduct, shifting it down to 2 lanes, and installing s-curves and slower speed limits. Schedulers have responded by building a bit of additional time into the 5/54 in both directions to allow for congestion, lane blockages, etc. Game days also tend to screw things up a lot.

      30. d.p., it’s pretty rich that you would accuse Beavis of name-calling right after you labeled him a “[ad hom].”

        You often have valid points. But your argumentative style undercuts any power that your points have.

      31. “He’ll yell at you!”

        No, I am polite and professional with my customers.

        “He’ll call you names!”

        LOL. The name-caller here is you, d.p. I am polite and professional with my customers, and have been more respectful here on this thread to you than you deserve.

        “He’ll admonish you for having basic common sense!”

        I don’t admonish anyone, other than those foolish enough to step in front of my moving bus. Those folks will hear from me about the danger of doing something like that. Folks with common sense are never a problem, but you wouldn’t know, as you lack any of that yourself.

        “He’ll whine about you later on the internet!”

        LOL.

        “He’ll make sure the schedule accounts for every possible slowdown!”

        Yes, because everyone knows that drivers write the schedules (rolling my eyes). “Common sense” indeed.

        “He’ll drive really slow to give you time to savor the smell!”

        Only if we’re driving by Ezell’s.

        “He’ll never admit mistakes! No, he never makes mistakes! If you think he did, it must have been your mistake and you must be sub-human!”

        An interesting fantasy. You should write fiction. Oh – that’s right. You already do.

        “Hope you’ve always left an extra hour for your connection!”

        Metro advises an additional 5-10 minutes on either side of a scheduled departure. That seems reasonable to me. More fiction from d.p. Not particulary GOOD fiction, but not everyone can be Ernest Hemmingway.

        “The Beavis Bus! Have You Cursed Your Fate Today!?”

        Ride with me and experience the horror that must apparently be having me as a driver. Yep. There’s me and there’s Adolph Hitler. If you really want to have that joy, I’ll be on Route 5 number 28 this afternoon. I drive the 21X (21 number 2) in the morning. On Saturdays I drive the 56, 18, 15 and 22. On Sunday’s it’s a straight through 5 and 54 (5 number 9, which road reliefs at 3rd and Pine north bound at noon).

        You’d be most welcome on any bus I’m driving, as is anyone else. Customer service is why we’re here, and contact with the wonderful people of Seattle (the occasional knucklehead notwithstanding) is the reason I love my job. Well, that and being eggregiously overpaid despite being underqualifed, uneducated, rude, yelling at people, generally incompetent and all that other stuff I guess.

        See you on the road!

      32. Weekday combos, Beavis? Jeez, I’m sorry.

        I was never able to avoid them on Saturday, but I picked two weekday combos for just one pick, and quickly decided I’d rather drive the 7 (the old all-the-way 7) straight through.

        Fortunately, when I went through, there were a bunch of new full-timers right behind me, and by a couple years in I was able to pick decent daylighters on weekdays and Sunday.

      33. David L,

        Beavis does literally nothing on S.T.B. but accuse others of ignorance and/or malicious intent for daring to suggest that Metro is in need of operational improvement — that we shouldn’t hand over hours of our lives (in the form of “extra leeway”) for the most basic of journeys.

        I get the brunt of his loathing for daring to defend myself against his charges.

        Whether or not he is a [ad hom], his behavior here is breathtakingly [ad hom]-ed. I am not afraid to call a spade a spade.

      34. I actually don’t mind the weekday combos. I don’t live too far from downtown, and the routes are pretty good ones. I’ve always liked W. Seattle to north end runs, despite the schedule challenges. Next shakeup should be interesting though. These STB types will find all kinds of new issues to blame on drivers. Good times.

      35. d.p., actually I do lots of stuff on STB – including talking up the idea that Metro is badly in need of policy overhaul and operational improvement.

        [ad hom]

      36. d.p., I’m perfectly capable of reading Beavis’s posts and seeing for myself what he does on this blog. And you’re just not being fair or reasonable. You need to deal with the fact that he, and pretty much every other poster here, comes across as more reasonable, civil, and fair-minded than you do.

        I often disagree with Beavis on service changes and what will work best for riders, but he presents the driver’s point of view thoughtfully and fairly, and I’m sure even without having (knowingly) ridden his bus that he’s a very good driver.

      37. David,

        Just on this thread, Beavis has claimed:

        – that people only think he’s late (or early) because they can’t read schedules properly

        – that people are too stupid to use a bike rack

        – that the best transit requires 10-15 minutes extra for every transfer you make

        – that there is no punctual transit anywhere in the world

        – that there are no drivers who are consistently more expedient than others

        – that there are no current routes, at any time of day, with excessive padding

        – that even slower schedules should be the default

        – and that to be a bus driver is to be under constant attack

        These is what $90/month will get you in transit in Seattle.

        I have no responsibility to accept that as “reasonable”.

      38. d.p. – there you go again, telling blatant lies. I have never claimed that cyclists are stupid. There are first time bike-rack users who haven’t been thoughtful enough to prepare themselves with the knowlege of how to operate them – slowing the bus down.

        To be a bus driver IS to be under constant attack. That’s just reality.

        I said 5-10 minutes, not 10-15. This is Metro’s own recommendation as well. Other stuff too, but gotta get to work so I can cheerfully, safely and efficiently continue to serve fine folks like you – even if you do have a problem with the truth.

      39. Actually, Beavis, you have frequently called people names (ranging from “unprepared” to “spoiled”) for not wanting to take an earlier “just in case” bus for every trip they make.

        Doing so would usually mean adding 30 minutes to your schedule for the sake of a transfer! Saying you advocate for adding 15 was actually rounding down!!

  14. Let’s not forget there is real value in having someone available to answer your questions. To say our bus system is confusing would be to greatly understate the issue. Our bus system is an absolute nightmare for most riders that haven’t ridden daily for years.

    Yes, this value doesn’t help Zach out at all. He’s an experienced rider and commuter, probably has the One Bus Away app, and knows the system like the back of his hand. But someone new, trying to not use their car to go to the dentist, and isn’t able to leave right when her printed-out directions told her to might gain great value from a 10 second exchange with a bus driver. I’m not talking about a 2 minute conversation like Zach described – just “Do you go past Olive?”.

    We have thousands of transit experts, accessable to anyone on the street. There are dozens of problems with buses, but I’m not sure I see this as one.

    1. Let me also add in my personal experience. I’ve ridden buses in Seattle almost daily for about 6 years now, and I’ve run into the situation Zach describes very, very rarely. Delays are far more likely to come from traffic, and will soon come from slow payment.

    2. Hmmmm… If we have to pay for operators to be ORCA scanners, we should at least require all questions be directed at them between buses.

    3. In my experience the delays are worse and more frequent on routes used by a lot of tourists. In the summer the 16 is frequently slowed down by groups of tourists going to the Seattle Center who ask a lot of questions on the way in and then need to root around for change on the way out. A one or three day pass aimed at tourists would do a lot in terms of reducing some of this.

      1. +1 to this – my (mythical) kingdom for a King County Councilmember who would take up the day pass issue!

  15. Zack, I’m sure you’ve been on buses where a call goes out to the drivers asking, for example, all connecting buses at the Northgate TC to wait for the route 41 which will be arriving shortly. Do you believe this type of service should be discontinued because passengers on the waiting buses might be late in making a connection themselves?

    1. Northgate is the main transfer center in its area. The 41 is the big trunk route and a large number of trips involve transfers to and from it. Many other routes aren’t frequent and aren’t really running to major transfer nodes. At Lynnwood they’ll hold other buses small amounts of time for the 511 but not the other way around. That’s probably best for the most people.

      1. Let me boil down your answer. You are saying that sometimes it’s okay to create delays in which some people may miss connections. In other words, delay one bus to help one person = bad. Delay many buses to help many people = good. Do I have that right?

      2. Sam, no. What Al was suggesting is that holding a few (less frequent) 3XX buses for a few minutes so (many) passengers can connect from the 41 is likely to be the most utilitarian solution, based on extra minutes added to passenger commutes. It’s a math equation, not a moral issue.

        Think about it this way: Let’s say 4 3XX buses wait an extra five minutes for a 41. They have an average of 15 passengers each. That’s 60 passengers, 5 minutes each–300 total transit minutes lost.

        Let’s say that 41 has 25 people looking to make connections to those busses. But those buses all have a 30 minute headway, so if we don’t hold the busses, all 25 of those people lose 30 minutes (actually, 25, since the bus they’re catching is 5 minutes late). 25 times 25 is 625
        total transit minutes lost–almost twice the loss of the other scenario.

        Now, I have no idea if these numbers are accurate but it’s certainly plausible that holding the infrequent buses is the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ solution in these cases. It’s not hypocritical or problematic to suggest such decisions should be made with some sort of utilitarian calculus in mind.

  16. Here’s my impractical and costly (unless you recruit volunteers) method for getting more people to take the bus and solve for the frustrations you express…

    Put additional people on the bus (and at high traffic stops). Porters (docents? tour guides?), if you will.

    They help to insulate the driver from the riders,
    become the baddie who tells the driver not to wait,
    answers question between stops,
    helps people get payments processed quickly (or while already in motion),
    helps people who need assistance board and deboard(?) quicker,
    provides extra security for riders and
    humanizes the transit system far more than the driver possibly could.

    I have not ridden a bus since college in the 90s, but once took the journeyed from PLU to Seattle, got off way too early and had a long walk to the ferry terminal. I have a negative impression of buses (probably unfounded) an yet will take my kids on Link as an inexpensive tourist attraction. Just spent the week driving from Federal Way to Tacoma, Seattle and Olympia visiting touristy place like museums and stuff because our special needs child does best when he can be in his own be each night (and there’s years worth of great stuff to see her locally) but darn if that wasn’t a lot of time spent in the car and tentatively navigating areas I was unfamiliar with, only to be greeted with helpful, friendly, knowledgable people once we arrived. I’m not sure if the bus would work for us, but I can imagine that same experience on board a bus.

    1. I’ve seen a similar system in Istanbul, Delhi, and a few other Asian cities. The driver just drives, and the cashier takes money, gives change (!), and gives directions. Much of this happens after people have boarded and the bus is underway.

      Oh, to have the budget for such a system. But labor is quite a bit cheaper in those cities than here. When most of your costs are in the equipment, you want to keep the equipment moving constantly no matter how many people you need to hire. When most of your costs come from labor, you minimize the number of people you need to run the system.

      1. “But labor is quite a bit cheaper in those cities than here”

        More costly labor is yet another reason to keep the buses moving. That said, our litigious society doesn’t help. I’ve never seen a detailed list of what Metro pays out for judgements every year but from the stories I hear, that can’t help the situation.

        And then, there are the $20,000-$45,000 parking stalls that Metro and Sound Transit keep building. Effectively handing each passenger $4-$8 per day to passengers who park at one of these monoliths blows my pay, including benefits, out of the water. (Credit Bernie for the ‘Handing each passenger $$’ idea, BTW)

      2. This is the system which we used to use in the US (long, LONG ago) for streetcars and trains: separate driver and conductor. It’s a good system.

        Now, in Docklands Light Rail in London, which is a fully automated metro, they don’t have drivers, but they still have “guards”, who answer questions, give directions, etc…

      1. Nah. The fumbling occurs once the bus is in motion. I’ve seen this on German and British buses – you buy your ticket on the bus, once it’s moving (if you don’t already have a pass or a ticket). I assume it’s a POP system, though I never saw anyone checking tickets.

        Yes, liability might be an issue here, as granny is trying to pay and the bus slams on the brakes.

      2. I’m pretty much ready for the eletronic surgical implants that register automatically when you pass a sensor. This might also cure people of standing so close to the edge of the curb downtown, lest they be charged for every bus passing by.

  17. THANK YOU for this post. I just moved to here from New York last year (and have lived in Chicago, LA, etc.), and the whole customer service thing on buses has been really the only thing I find frustrating about living here. In Chicago or NY, if you ask a question to the bus driver, you would get a clipped, irritated response, because they don’t view it as their jobs to play tour guide or to have small talk — just to get folks (everyone) where they need to go as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    1. yes, and imagine my Seattle sensibilities when encountering eastern rudeness… We still have some humanity around here.

      1. Maybe I don’t get the culture ’cause I’m from Chicago, but… it seems to me it’s pretty rude to keep a bus full of people waiting while you ask questions of the driver… especially in a tunnel station full of information on the transit system!

        Have you ever seen people in supermarket aisles in Seattle? Standing right in the middle blocking the way while they ponder their groceries, not thinking that other people might have to get through (in most places people look around themselves and make way as necessary)? It’s utter selfishness, a lack of consideration and forethought. Sometimes to do the right thing you have to think before you act, not just apologize politely. Anyway, if I said, “Excuse me,” to someone doing that in anything other than my most pleasant voice I’d be the rude one by Seattle social norms.

        FWIW my brother’s fiancee is from around New York and doesn’t think New Yorkers are rude. They’re direct and straightforward; they don’t do the Seattle passive aggression. Maybe they’re a little impatient. But maybe that teaches people to be considerate of others’ time, which seems a rare virtue on the west coast.

      2. No Charles, what you have is a set of small town priorities which place a high value on superficial niceties in mundane daily interactions.

        Having lived extensively in New York and Paris for work, I can tell you that the people living there have every ounce of humanity Seattle residents do. Perhaps more. Sure, they might honk their horns or brush you aside on a busy sidewalk. But once you scratch the surface of the daily commute, I found an awful lot of helpful, loyal, and decent people.

    2. On the other hand the global rudeness was one reason I left the east coast. Polite, well-informed drivers are an asset for Metro in my opinion.

      1. Meh. Back east, I could get where I was going. I’ll take that over bland pavlovian social accomodations, thank you very much.

      2. Ah, but refusing to budge while ambling along in the passing lane somehow makes us more polite? Hardly.

        People back east don’t have a monopoly on rudeness. We Seattleites just suppress our aggression and save it for a later date where it festers and grows worse. They get it out of their system and it dissipates quickly. I’ll take the Mediterranean method of processing emotions over the Scandinavian method any day.

      3. People in NYC are very willing to show their fellow travellers how they think they are #1 A-OK.

        They use that very special hand signal.

      4. East Coasters are super-helpful — they just value time. If I ever needed to be rushed to the hospital, I’d want to be in the Northeast, not Seattle…

  18. It should also be pointed out that Zach’s driver could very easily receive a commendation for such behavior while those of us who are more ruthless (but polite) rarely receive a pat on the head for keeping service moving. This is really a cultural issue that needs to be changed from top to bottom. Policy is changing – In the tunnel, we are only supposed to open our doors once and then GO and I’m pretty sure I’ve read “Don’t wait for runners” somewhere. That said there is still a fair amount of the old “Three S’s” culture hanging around.

  19. Hey, just noticed: couldn’t somebody going for the 560 take off some of the pressure by waiting for the 560 at South Bellevue P&R?

    Would also help if ST routed the 550 along 112th NE- where the 560 now runs, and which will be the EastLINK route, and makes for better express routing.

    Saved time enables stop for excellent espresso at the Vovito cafe in the Bravern, half block north of Bellevue Transit Center. Desperate necessity for 560 ride through Renton.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Zach was trying to connect at S Bellevue P&R.

      Also, the 4th/Bellevue Way stop on the 550 has extremely high ridership, because it’s the main way for people from the west side to get to Bellevue Square. A lot of people would get upset if you took that stop away.

  20. Hmm… complain to Sound Transit, and tell them that the 560 needs to leave Bellevue 5 minutes later than it does. Alternately, take the 101 to Renton TC and catch the 560 there like normal people do.

    Sorry, not terribly patronizing to those who take a frequent service route from downtown, with 4-5 minutes leeway on connections.

    1. I’m guessing that Zach’s experience happened in the evening, when the 550 is only half-hourly.

      Despite the repeated assertions of some ill-tempered Metro employees, it should not be the customer’s responsibility to waste an additional 30 minutes of life on every journey, “just in case”.

      1. it should not be the customer’s responsibility to waste an additional 30 minutes of life on every journey, “just in case”

        This, a million times this. I am not ill-tempered when I occasionally miss a close connection, because this area is full of horrible traffic and it can’t be avoided. And if I’m going to a job interview or some other thing where it’s crucial I must be on time of course I’ll give myself extra time. But if the damn trip planner says a connection should work, I should be able to make it most of the damn time. Traffic is one thing; Metro not honoring the claims its own trip planner makes is another thing altogether, and not something we as citizens should tolerate.

      2. The expectation that a bus will not run 4 minutes or more late “most of the time” is unrealistic in any city, anywhere in the world, with any type of transit from taxicabs to trains to buses to aircraft.

        Get real.

      3. Zach never said his bus was precisely 4 minutes late.

        He just said it was 4 minute later because of the interaction he witnessed.

        Dollars to doughnuts that the official connection time was more like 10-15 minutes.

      4. +1 d.p.

        Mr McGee, I think the important thing to remember here it that it was an easily avoidable 4 minutes. I will not throw up my hands and settle for inferior transit service. I will vote, advocate, and yearn for anything that will bring us closer to transit service as it can be and ought to be.

        And yes, there are parts of the world where an urban metro train running four minutes late would be wildly uncommon.

      5. First sentence: “Last Saturday I missed an hourly connection from Seattle to Kennydale (550–>560) because of an affable and knowledgeable 550 operator.”

        How, exactly, does this prove that he only left 4 minutes for his transfer? These four minutes were simply the final straw.

        Everyone who uses Metro has experiences like this. Five bad-luck moments (missed lights, slow bike loader, etc.) and you’d still have made your connection. But then the 6th delay (some clueless person) happens and your chances are shot.

        If you don’t understand that our transfer penalty is high, and that your driving expediently could be the difference between a good day and a bad day for many of your riders, then you really shouldn’t be driving a bus.

      6. To me, the fact we live in a city with a bad traffic situation that will pretty regularly make buses 5-10 minutes late is all the more reason to avoid unnecessary delays like the one cited in the original post. Counting on a 4 minute connection is silly, but if my plan involves a 10-15 minute connection, I think it’s reasonable to expect drivers to prioritize the schedule such that I have a chance to make it if traffic allows. Connections are hard enough in a city with disastrous traffic; more than most cities we can’t afford other unnecessary delays. Our traffic problem makes the behavior of the driver Zack describes more problematic.

      7. @Brendan: I agree that this 4 minute delay was avoidable. Zach could have decided to intervene and answer the questions instead of letting the bus driver field the questions for 4 minutes.

        “I can help you with that. Where are you trying to go?”

        That would have let the driver drive and allowed Zach to make his connection.

      8. Beavis, in Japan train delays are measured in *tenths of seconds*. A four-minute delay in a train is grounds for full refunds and probably firings.

        Please broaden your parochial view of the world. Yes, buses which have to wait for personal cars (because people in personal cars are considered more important) are going to be unreliable — but your claim that nobody stays on schedule, not even trains, is just bogus.

      9. And yes, Beavis, practically every city in Germany (and also Switzerland for that matter) runs their trains on-time to the minute, upwards of 90% of the time. Try visiting sometime if you ge the chance.

        Unlike Japan, in Germany they consider one minute late to be within tolerances. (Not four.)

      10. The Stockholm transit system offers a refund for a taxi ride if delays in the system will cause you to be more than 20 minutes late. It’s not 4 minutes, but basically if a bus doesn’t show up for 15 minutes you can get in a cab and file for a refund later. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I’ve never really have chance to.

  21. Perhaps drivers wouldn’t be called on to tour guide if signage didn’t utterly suck, or wasn’t completely missing. And I don’t mean missing because something happened to it…though that happens too…but missing because no one thought to put it up in the first place.

    I have traveled extensively and ridden transit in many places I don’t speak the language, or even understand the script used to write it, but the worst experience I’ve ever had in finding my way to where I need to get on transit was the first few times using the tunnel downtown. It’s ridiculous. Throw in a loop of mostly useless audio announcements for the cherry on top.

    Why is it that buses and (I think LINK) don’t include signage in the ad runners above passengers showing a simplified route map with a simple straight line with dots contextualizing stop relationships? It doesn’t have to be a true map. Every other system I’ve been on tries to make it easy for riders to see if the stop in their directions is next, three stops ahead, or two back. Very simple way to eliminate a lot of unseasoned rider stress. Stress that frequently leads to operator questions.

    And sure, there are sometimes fold out maps on buses, but the map designer needs to be fired. They are nearly incomprehensible without deep contemplation.

    Not to mention the dirth of current…appropriately weather proofed…price, route map, and schedule information at stops. Great, we’re all geeks here with smartphones, that know how to use them. But not everyone has them, and even a lot if people that do (hi Dad) are hopeless at using them. Smartphone technology does not give Metro and ST a pass on screwing up Transit System 101.

    1. Because there are over 300 routes, 4 systems and buses are used on multiple routes, not just one.

      1. LA has more routes than that, and more operators, and LA’s transit system is pretty comprehensible even to a tourist. Sure, there are giant maps and schedules from *three or four different organizations*, but it’s not too hard to figure out, even if you have to connect from LA Metro to Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.

        Seattle Metro administration clearly just doesn’t know how to run a big-city transit system.

      2. Again, that’s because LA is organized in such a way that there’s only a very few routes tourists would actually use.

        That’s not as true in Seattle, where there is a beautiful view almost everywhere and most destinations in the city are popular with tourists.

        Metro could do a better job, but it’s not that easy a problem.

      3. For the most part, everything the tourists do is between downtown and Queen Anne, with possible trips to the Ballard Locks, to Gas Works Park, and a chance of some sort of entertainment on Capitol Hill.

        Most out-of-town visitors to L.A. find their needs in the rectangle between downtown and Santa Monica, south of the hills and north of Venice Blvd. But that rectangle is huge — 15 miles long by 4 miles wide — roughly the same dimensions as the entirety of Seattle proper.

        Make no mistake: L.A.’s pared-down, straight-lined approach to transit handles these dimensions far, far better.

        Seattle could so easily be handled with about a dozen and a half ultra-high-frequency routes to and between its major quadrants, with lesser services filling in some of the more topographically difficult gaps.

        We just don’t.

      4. You forgot Alki, the Vashon ferry, the ID, Volunteer Park (SAAM), Madison Park (and the Arboretum), Magnolia, Green Lake, the UW, Seward Park, and the Museum of Flight — all major tourist destinations, all in different directions, at various times during the summer.

        Where were the most tourists when I drove? The 3/4 and 16. But they were present in substantial numbers on an awful lot of routes.

      5. You’re probably correct to add Alki and the Arboretum. Many visitors have business at or around UW, but it’s hardly a tourist mecca. The I.D. is downtown. Volunteer Park/SAAM is not particularly touristed (and I mentioned Capitol Hill anyway). Discovery Park/Magnolia, Seward, Green Lake, and the Vashon Ferry aren’t even blips on the tourist radar compared to the likes of Kerry Park on Queen Anne.

        Regardless, your entire list fits in an area a fraction of the size of the area L.A. covers with its “very few routes tourists would actually use” (to use your own words).

        The problem is not the disparate geography. The problem is the “awful lot of routes” — again, your own words — creating unnecessary headaches for trips as basic as “this part of the city to that one”.

      6. Many visitors have business at or around UW, but it’s hardly a tourist mecca. </blockquote?
        Huh? You really thing more people visit a one acre park for it's view than come into town for Husky Football? Then you've got the thousands of prospective freshmen every year coming to tour the campus with family. During the summer the dorms are used by numerous camps. The Medical Center draws lots of out of town families of people admitted for treatment. Plus the Henry Gallery and all kinds of events open to the general public held at Kane Hall. And the UW Streetfair is the longest running street festival in the nation.

      7. Well, that certainly got mucked up in the html; teach me to hit Post without previewing!

        You really think more people visit a one acre park for it’s view than come into town for Husky Football? Then you’ve got the thousands of prospective freshmen every year coming to tour the campus with family. During the summer the dorms are used by numerous camps. The Medical Center draws lots of out of town families of people admitted for treatment. Plus the Henry Gallery and all kinds of events open to the general public are held at Kane Hall. And the UW Streetfair is the longest running street festival in the nation.

      8. I never said that the U-District wasn’t a major destination (in fact, I said it was), but a lot of the uses you cite draw people from the greater Puget Sound region, who arrive with at least some understanding of the geography of the place and the way things relate to one another.

        That’s very different from a “tourist” in the sense that Nathanael uses to make his original point: someone who shows up having no clue how the city is arranged, being handed a comical tourist map at the hotel, and then either finding the transit system legible or illegible based on its merits and how it addresses the geography it serves.

        Again, David L said it himself: “LA is organized in such a way that there’s only a very few routes tourists would actually use.” And yet those routes manage to cover the touristed corridor of about 60 square miles — far bigger than the entirety of Seattle proper!!!

      9. That should be: far bigger than the entirety of the area between any parts of Seattle that could even remotely be considered as drawing tourists. Sorry for the shorthand. (Though Seattle proper is no longer than the Santa Monica-L.A. corridor and not much wider, even counting the water.)

    2. In many cases, other passengers on the bus or waiting at the bus stop can be extremely helpful tour guides. And, unlike talking to the driver, hopping on the bus, then asking other passengers for advice while the bus moves delays no one.

      1. +1. And in many cases passengers who have been riding the route for years may be more knowledgeable than the operator who may drive the route once a week or less. When passengers answer questions for other passengers in my earshot, I always thank them for “helping out a neighbor”. It’s behavior worth encouraging.

    3. Signage? People can’t read the signs that are there. A guy boards the 15 downtown, the front and side signs say “Ballard” and his question to the driver is “Do you go to Ballard?”. People regularly get on the express bus with a sign that says “Express” and can’t understand why the driver won’t stop at Interbay. People are stupid.

      1. Which is why making the bus automatically announce the route number and destination on the outside and stops on the inside is a good thing, not just for the blind.

      2. … And people still ask the driver the route and destination even after the automated announcement has clearly stated both.

      3. Although the automatic announcements are helpful (as Oran said), I think that they can also be a sort of prompt for delays. For instance, if there’s an announcement for the “WA State Dept. of Widgets” stop, riders will know where to get off the bus for WDOWidgets, but they may have no idea at all how to get to get to the actual place. So some folk’ll naturally ask the driver, because they’d know, right? (After all, they drive past it all the time.) It’s not that these riders are stupid, or lazy, but just where the heck is… that… place….

        A lot of those announced destinations can be 2+ blocks away from the bus stop, and have signage issues of their own. Which probably doesn’t help.

        Unless there are directions posted on kiosks or something like that for those common destinations that are announced as the bus approaches a stop, I think that even if the automatic announcements can save time in some cases, they might might also cause some fresh distractions and delays.

      4. Announcments should feature the official stop name and nothing else.

        The location of the official stop (marked by name) should be featured on the official transit system geographical map, which should also include the various “destinations” and feature. The maps should of course be available on every single bus and train as well as in every station.

        Of course, the route structure has to be straightforward enough to create useable maps rather than spaghetti.

  22. Welcome to the professional bus riders “pity-party” convention.

    Assuming we all pay taxes in one form or another, we all support public transportation,and private transportation through road building and the building of park and rides, free parking on the streets in neighborhoods. Society is on a never-ending course to attempt to make it easier for everyone to get around. Should buses and other public transportation have exclusive right-of-ways so they can haul their riders around more efficiently. Well, not any more than truck drivers hauling produce, and other consumer goods, nor any more than SOVs commuting or going vacation tours. We all experience delays no matter how carefully we plan our routes.

    None of these systems sprang up in a day, but are the product of generations of changing needs and life styles. Perhaps in 20 or 30 or 50 years these problems will be resolved and it most likely won’t be in any manner mentioned above.

    That said, I drove school bus for a couple of years in the early 70’s and firmly believed then, and still do now, that the driver of any vehicle used to transport a varying public clientele, should be isolated from the masses and attend only to safe operation of the vehicle. If fare collectors, discipline managers or information assistance providers are required, they should be budgeted for and provided. Until society as a whole demands this, it will never happen.

    1. A bus hauling riders is not the same as a truck hauling produce. First of all, humans have schedules and places to be at a certain time. Produce, by contrast, doesn’t care how late it gets where it needs to go, as long as it doesn’t start rotting before it gets there. This is why Amtrak (at least on paper) get priority of freight trains. If a box of toothbrushes get stuck in a 6 hour traffic delay, it’s no big deal. If a trainload of human passengers get stuck in a 6 hour traffic delay, it’s a very big deal for those people.

      Second, exclusive lanes for buses do not provide a benefit for the exclusive few who ride them. Rather, they provide anyone the option to bypass traffic congestion by traveling in a mode that does contribute to causing more congestion. An exclusive lane for the bus gives people an incentive to take the bus over driving when traffic is at its worst, which means fewer cars on the road, which means less congestion for people that drive. During rush hour the 520 HOV lane moves more people per hour than a regular lane, even though a much smaller number of vehicles use that lane.

      Third, as Zach pointed out, any sane bus network is going to involve trips that require transferring. And if we want bus trips to be competitive with car travel for a wide class of trips, not just trips to a small handful of destinations, we need transfers to work with as few delays as absolutely possible. If buses are unreliable, transfers become very brittle – 5 minute delays can cascade into hour-long delays. If buses are reliable, a 5 minute connection can actually be depended on.

    2. “If fare collectors, discipline managers or information assistance providers are required, they should be budgeted for and provided. Until society as a whole demands this, it will never happen.”

      There used to be conductors.

  23. As I echoed similar sentiments in a previous post, the issue is also a reflection on how we transmit information. Riders (particularly in the DSTT) should be able to plan trips without having to ask the operators.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that customers have a right to accurate information, as described in that earlier post and comments. Accurate information is not a luxury, but a necessity; not an option but (should be) a mandatory feature in any transit system. On the other hand, as the saying goes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Most – if not all – questions put to operators on a daily basis have answers no further away than the nearest bus stop sign, usually a few feet away. Nevertheless, many will express their informational laziness by looking for answers of the oral variety. They may also ask questions based on faulty assumptions (buses do not have an “open channel” radio that gives us privvy to information throughout the system that will tell you when the next #8 is coming when we’re driving the 18, for example).

      This is reality. Another reality is that people expect operators to give it our best shot in providing an answer. Yes, we need to let the questioner know we’re time-limited, but providing concise information on the fly while operating a crowded bus in heavy traffic with festival goers, tourists, homeless drunks alongside everyday commuters tends to pull one’s attention in multiple directions.

      Give us a break. Criticize where called for. Complain (through official channels) when affronts are eggregious. But for crying out loud, dumping on us for being TOO HELPFUL??? This is a new low, even for the driver-haters at STB.

      1. Considering its dominance by engineers and Microsofties, it should not be surprising that the writers and most commenters lurve to stick it to union labor. It’s part of the mindset.

      2. I don’t think it’s about anti-unionism. More like vocational classism, and the attitude is hardly restricted to Microsofties (actually I’ve had good experiences with Microsoft folks, and VeloBusDriver used to be one).

        Bus drivers are often seen as “untouchables” in the local vocational caste system. Despite the fact that many of us are college educated, had former white collar careers, and are far from the bottom of the intellectual bell-curve, the opposite is often assumed, and we’re treated accordingly.

        Not one of the job’s perks, but thankfully it tends to be the exception to the rule. I love (most of) my customers.

  24. London buses -used- to have the driver in a separate compartment on the bus, with a conductor handling passenger interactions.

    No more. The Brits are nothing if not fanatical about statistics; surely somebody has studied what happened to bus schedules after the “efficiency” improvement in London?

    1. London also installed a humungous amount of information at an enormous number of bus stops. More than I’ve ever seen anywhere else.

      Schedules in London seem to be doing OK. I would question whether the cost of maintaining the informational displays at the bus stops is larger than the cost of conductors, though!

  25. Run announcements in the tunnel such as
    “ORCA cards may be purchased to ride buses and trains”
    “Please have your fare ready”
    “Complain to Metro that we don’t have cell phone signal here” (I’m serious about this one)

  26. Yesterday, I took Sounder in from Kent Station 5:00pm to see the Mariners game. I parked at Kent Station and had my dinner at Mama Sortini’s. After the game, I spied the 150 Southbound pulling into it’s first stop on the SODO busway (I was more than halfway up Royal Brougham, but I could look through the cyclone fencing of the bus yard).

    I darted to reach it figuring there would be a line of passengers holding it’s departure. Plus there were two Metro representatives there at the station who do some crowd management, answer questions etc.

    I got to the station while the bus was still there. The Metro reps saw me running to catch the bus. However, it still pulled away and I gave the right rear corner a slap to no avail.

    I understand that buses have to meet their time stops. But in this instance:

    1. There was a game and buses run late.
    2. Although these buses are “timed” there are numerous occasions where I have pulled into a transit point like Kent Station and watched my connection pull away (with no signaling between the bus drivers to hold up for transfers).
    3. There were two — TWO — metro reps there whose job it is to manage passenger boardings to optimally get people away. I was out of the game early and it would have made sense to try and get as many people like me on the early bus. At least one could have signalled the driver to wait and open the door. Total travel time lost, 5 seconds.

    But what happened was I had to wait 30 minutes for the next bus, by which time a lot more people had queued up, so this bus was jam packed. It was also 4 minutes late according to OBA. The point of having people to manage boardings would be to feed as many people into open buses as soon as possible.

    1. JB, as this was the first stop for this bus – why didn’t you consult a schedule and be at the stop on time rather than dashing for it when you “spied” it? Given that you didn’t exercise the miniscule amount of personal responsibilityu involved in reading a schedule-doyou really have a;y credibility to complain that an on-time bus left without you? Also, what exactly did you hope to accomlish by adding the dick move of slappiing the bus? You know the number one cause of pedestrian deaths by buses? People running to catch departing coaches and falling under the wheels. Face it-by your own admission you weren’t at the stop (you were having dinner). Take some responsibility for yourself. You missed the bus not because drivers or platform minders neglected to hold up the bus for you, but becauseso you couldn’t be bothered to consult a schedule.

      1. That is not the first stop…it is the first stop after the 150 exits the tunnel.

        Also, since you didn’t read or failed to comprehend or recognize the rest of my post, I will not bother to rebut.

      2. Was the bus on time according to its schedule or not? What was the point of slapping the bus? Why should the bus have waited for you – and risked delaying people on board? I comprehend just fine. Not answering is a pathetic copout, and ignores the fact that you’re expressing values contradictory to Zach and others – that SCHEDULE (getting that bus moving as soon as possible) should supercede SERVICE (waiting for late-runners and delaying everyone as a result) as service delivery priorities.

        Can you really do no better in your response?

    2. I don’t think I would be able to stomach waiting a half hour for the 150, to then take another hour on top of that to get to Kent (there’s a reason I choose not to live in Kent).

      But if I were in your situation, I would seriously consider taking Link the airport, then catching a cab, once I saw the 150 leave without me.

      Ultimately, the unfortunate lesson here if you need a reasonably quick and reliable ride home from a Mariner’s game, don’t depend on the 150, but find a way to use Link. This may involve driving to TIBS or playing hide-and-ride near one of the Ranier Valley stops.

  27. A note on the obvious: JB you seem to be complaining that there aren’t enough delays. Like I’ve already sais-for drivers, it’s a lose-lose situation. JB will complain that a bus left on-time, leaving him behind-while if Zach were on that same. Bus he’d complain if the driver waited for you (and all the other runners along the route).

  28. One of the unfortunately realities of our transit system is that, contrary to what the schedule may say, there is no such thing as a timed connection. What I mean by this is that however the two schedules happen to be aligned, it’s always bad – if the connection time is long enough so you can be reasonably assured of making your connection if the first bus is late, it’s long enough to be an unreasonably long amount of time to wait of your first bus isn’t late. The only way connections can work is either the second bus must be very frequent (meaning you are willing to stand at the bus stop and wait for the worst-case wait time), or the first bus must be extremely reliable (currently, I don’t think there’s a single bus reliable enough to meet this standard – even if there is absolutely no traffic on the road, all it takes is a few change fumblers or fare arguers or one wheelchair user and the bus becomes several minutes delayed).

    After being burned by this a number of time, I’ve gotten better about planning trips I care about to avoid a dependency on precarious bus connections. Here are a few tricks I’ve used, which have proven to be quite helpful in this regard:

    1) Use your own muscle power for short portions of a trip.
    Trip segments under one mile can usually be walked in less time than the worst-case wait time you must allow for in your schedule to utilize a bus. If you have a bike, or even a skateboard, this threshold increases to 2-3 miles (or maybe even more), depending on hills, road conditions, how unreliable the bus is, etc.

    2) Don’t be cheap on taxis.
    Using a taxi for the shorter segment of what would have been a multi-bus trip (or, possibly the whole thing) can save yourself a lot of time and stress. And if it’s a trip you only need to make a few times a year, the financial impact is negligible in the scheme of things. Even a 10 mile taxi ride costs what most car owners spend every week just to fill up their gas tank. And shorter trips will cost less.

    3) Don’t be shy about asking people for rides.
    When coming from from most places where there are other people around, finding someone driving by you neighborhood who would be willing to give you a ride is relatively easy if you are willing to ask. This is especially useful during evenings where bus service is particularly spotty. It is not uncommon for an impromptu carpool to save a net hour or more of travel time, when all the waiting is taken into account.

    1. So the best way to cope with our bus system is to:
      1. Be a Ped
      2. Be a hack
      3. Be a mouch
      OK, I can get behind that.

  29. Well after today’s Sounders game, there was still a lot of Sounders traffic on the buses. We took a 26 from 3rd and Union that was rather crowded. By the time it got past Denny there were people standing. The driver let a 28 pass it between Denny and Mercer and then, at the stop just north of Mercer, passed up four people waiting at the stop, we presumed because there was another 26 behind us which was, also presumably, empty. Only the 26 behind us, seeing us pass the four people at the stop, did not stop at the stop at all. Causing our bus driver to stop on the next block and wait for the four not happy people to catch up and get on.

    I have no idea what was going on.

    1. The 26 and 28 will routinely “leap-frog” down Dexter. Also, when a route’s follower can be seen behind us because we’re running late, we’re permitted to skip every other stop until we catch up with the schedule or the follower disappears from view. Sometimes, the follower won’t catch on to what you’re doing (a down-side of no bus to bus communication) and pass people up as well. I have had this happen, and never felt so strongly the urge to throttle a fellow operator. Sorry that happened to those folks left behind. The following 26 driver screwed up.

  30. As a former transit operator myself, I have found that the best operators are those who understand that they are part of a system that needs to work as seamlessly as possible. Operators need extra training to understand good transit system principles, and how to work together to maximize the system as a team. All too often I have found that metro operators seem to compete with each other for road space instead of working together to help the system function better.

  31. While I agree with the point that bus drivers should be more concerned getting the bus somewhere on time than providing customer service, I’m left wondering why you didn’t intervene. If you are on a tight schedule, why didn’t you say, “Come over here and I’ll help you with your questions” instead of letting the bus driver field the questions and delay the vehicle?

    There are plenty of people who need help figuring out how to navigate the system and odds are, one day you’ll be in those shoes too (if not here in Seattle, somewhere in the world). If the regular users of the system are willing to speak up and answer questions from other passengers, then there is no need for the bus driver to answer questions. They can drive the bus and the lost passengers can talk with you to figure out those questions. That would be a win-win in my eyes. I know that when I’m in a rush and I see someone with questions, I do exactly that.

    1. It doesn’t sound like this was an option for him because he was riding the bus that the operator was on, whereas the people getting helped by the operator were not taking that bus.

      But you make a good point, that usually there are plenty of people who could explain how things work as well as the bus operators can, or close enough to it. Unfortunately it would probably be seen as a bit rude to butt in and say “Hey, I can answer that for you!” Maybe most people would respond in a friendly way, but the worry that you might offend the person in some way can be a deterrent. Probably more importantly though, my experience is that people who ask for extensive help from the bus operators usually don’t end up getting on the bus they received the information from. They stand there asking questions while the operator explains everything to them, then the bus moves on while they stand there waiting for the correct bus or walk away to the correct stop.

      1. Oddly, on the same 26 ride I describe above, there was someone on the bus who wanted to get to 46th and Phinney. The passengers did take over the question-answering from the driver and the conversation continued for essentially the whole ride. The problem, at least in my opinion, was that there was a lot of misinformation provided. There really is no good way to get to that intersection on the 26; he could either walk from Fremont and 34th or, I suppose, take the 44 from 45th and Latona, but he really should have just gotten off the bus at Denny and walked over to Aurora to take the 5 or, failing that, the 358.

      2. As for the risk of being perceived as rude, so what? This entire post is based on the premise that asking bus drivers for information that goes beyond a yes/no is socially unacceptable on transit, which is to say that the people in the post are being rude. The two outcomes of offering them answers to their questions is either 1) You getting there on time and answering their questions or 2) You pointing out that they are causing socially unacceptable delays for others and that their length questions to the bus driver are unacceptable. That would have a far more direct and immediate impact than writing an article on the internet.

        If they don’t need that bus, of all the places the bus tunnel is the one place where it doesn’t matter. It makes virtually no difference if they ride to the next stop with you (about 4 minutes) and then make their connection there.

        @Breadbaker: It’s true that misinformation may be provided, but if a person doesn’t do their own homework then that’s a risk they run. Half of the people asking questions probably have a smartphone in their pocket that could give them the answers they need in -literally- five clicks. I’m sympathetic to them only to a point. ;)

      3. “As for the risk of being perceived as rude, so what?”

        An interesting approach. Do you really think that drivers should be trained not to care if they are perceived as being rude?

        As it is, every customer comment gets forward to the driver, and discussed with a Chief. It’s a humiliating experience, particularly when a customer embellishes their complaint with blatant falsehoods – and you have to defend yourself against them sitting across a desk from your supervisor without the accuser present.

      4. That’s not what I’m suggesting at all. I’m saying that the rider, in this case Zach, should speak up at the risk of sounding rude.

        “Hey! I’m trying to make a connection! Could you step on the bus so we can get moving? I can help you with those questions…”, is a perfectly acceptable thing to say in this situation as a passenger. If they are offended that you called them out on delaying the bus, so what? That was my point.

        I understand that bus drivers have to be nice, but if we want a system that isn’t delayed by questions to the bus driver and don’t want to get bus drivers in trouble, then we as riders have to be willing to interject ourselves in that conversation and let the bus driver get back to driving. If we as riders don’t speak up, then how can we complain about the delays that result?

  32. I recently moved from London to Seattle and was really impressed on the courtesy of the bus drivers here. Sure they might make you lose a connection with their nice behavior (and losing 1 hour connection is a pain!) but so far they waited for me on the stop or provide good advice on routes. In London they are obliged to keep on schedule. I’ve seen them closing doors on old lady’s faces and dont open doors for people who was running to get them.
    Here they are sociable and nice, thus a bit inefficient but collect more passengers in a run than if they were rushing. In London they hate you and you hate them. You miss connections because they leave early or ignore you. Not sure if it is a good price to pay.

  33. A coworker shared a story with me this weekend about how his bus waited at a stop in front of a nursing home for 10 minutes while three of the residents fumbled with their change and asked questions and didn’t sit down. He had figured out his trip so that he would have a 16-minute layover when transferring, so between the 10 minutes at the nursing home, a 4 minute delay, and a person using a the wheelchair lift, he watched his every-30-minute connecting bus pass by while his bus was waiting at a light. Then of course the every-30-minute bus was delayed and he had to wait 40 minutes for it. You can bet that next time, he’ll just drive instead.

    I like being polite and saying thank you as I get off the bus, and having a polite driver who says “hi” when I get onboard, but the helping-lost-people thing needs to be approached more carefully, because helping one person could mean ruining the day of another.

    I think this is a sign that Metro should do more to educate riders, like having better information at major transit hubs, or doing outreach to infrequent riders (like the folks at that nursing home, apparently).

    1. Sounds reasonable to me.

      But just for broaching the topic, you should expect defensive Seattle types to respond as if you just punched three adorable old ladies in the face.

    2. Bottom line – don’t trust the bus for trips that require a transfer unless:
      1) You have a flexible enough schedule at a 30 minute delay is no big deal
      2) You have something to occupy your time near the transfer point where you can spent 1 minute or 1 hour, depending on when you actually arrive.
      3) Your connecting service is frequent.

      1. Since (3) we don’t have any truly frequent services in this city, and (1) and (2) are unacceptable for the vast majority of people, you are basically saying:

        “Don’t trust the bus for trips that require a transfer.” Or:

        “Become a one-seat-ride fanatic.”

        Which is not an unreasonable response. Just an utterly unsustainable one!

        And now we’re back to Zach’s original point, which is that this is what we encourage when we value “individual service” over actually getting anywhere quickly. It is the precise opposite of what we should want to encourage!

  34. Man, I feel drained after reading through all that. This is one of the craziest comment threads I’ve gone through…but, pretty interesting and entertaining. I guess my takeaway (and experience) is that our transit services perform really well if your not cutting things too close, which I am frequently guilty of, but it still works reasonably well when you’re in panic mode. However, if I was king of the transit, I would definitely install a POP only system.

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