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This is an open thread.

99 Replies to “News Roundup: Apparently Not Enough”

  1. Keeping things in perspective is always difficult. Reading the W.Seattle overload story gives the impression of lots of bus riders, and lots of demand for more.
    Looking at the screenline data table, says there are fewer than 1,000 bus riders per hour coming or going in the peak hours of the day.
    1,000 riders per hour can be carried on two Link trains, or half hour service.
    My point is this. The difference between servicing an area with true high capacity transit can be many times that needed, when looking at existing travel behaviors. West Seattle gathers riders from over a huge geographic area on small vehicles, then funnels them into the destinations with few transfers required. More of that is appropriate for a place like W. Seattle.
    Making the leap to a single spine trunk route for them, being fed by lot’s of feeders requires much out of direction and 2 seat rides that are really not justified by the total demand.
    The bigger lesson here is our ‘leap of faith’ judgement that lines to Lynnwood and beyond, or Federal Way and beyond will do anymore for the I-5 corridor, than a train to W.Seattle will do for the various bus lines feeding Seattle.

    1. Going North I think the demand is there to make Lynnwood a success, maybe not quite the ridership numbers ST is throwing around but enough to justify a rail spine. For that matter the demand is probably all the way there to Everett.

      Going South Link doesn’t have enough of an advantage over express buses and the transit demand just isn’t there to drive ridership. The line should really stop at S. 200th or Highline CC.

      Going East to Redmond will help East Link and the P&R at Marymoor will likely prove popular, but it won’d be a blow-out ridership-wise.

      As for an Issaquah spur while the buses in this corridor are largely full during commute hours I’m not sure the ridership is enough to justify the expense of rail. More West Seattle really.

      On the other hand the politics are such that South King and Pierce will want Link to go to Tacoma, East King will want the Issaquah spur, and West Seattle will want a line if Ballard gets one.

      1. Well, the fat lady is getting ready to sing again (early scoping for LRT to Federal Way)
        So, we’re starting down the road in 2012 to nail down routes, stations, and technology for a line that can’t be built without another major tax hike until nearly 2030. I guess some consultants need something to do or some pols in S.County need a bone.

      2. … or maybe legislators need shovel-ready plans they can carry to DC to get federal funding.

      3. Indeed, the entire purpose of AA is to pursue federal funding for what ST can’t afford on its own.

        Meanwhile, mic is as usual incensed that some riders might not be consigned to crappy buses forever.

      4. No, no, no Martin. That’s not the “entire purpose of AA is to pursue federal funding for what ST can’t afford on its own.” You need to seek a 12 step AA withdrawal program if you really think that. AA is about studying realistic alternatives that improve things in a cost effective manner.
        That kind of thinking is what gets us really idiotic transit projects like Sounder North. It’s not free money, even from the feds. We are the Feds. We are the State. We are the locals. We are one.
        My point started out being that the size and scope of transit must be nimble enough to fit the situation. Link to W.Seattle is like purchasing jack hammers to hang pictures on the wall.
        Locking in a preferred alignment and screening out TSM improvements to Federal Way and beyond, 10-20 years before you can realistically build them just is not prudent.
        Hell, major corporations would laugh you out of the board room if you wanted start eliminating sales and manufacturing options a generation in the future. Most planners and economists can barely tell us what will happen next year with any certainty.
        Now, try unraveling the mess that spending 1/3 Bil on Sounder North has gotten us into, with 6 times the operating subsidy of a bus, and it all sounded like a great idea back in the early 90’s when SnoTrans was all giddy about commuter rail.
        Spending billions on transit that doesn’t work is killing transit in the Puget Sound.

      5. And how many will get stuck on the Slow Bus to Hades forever and ever so that a handful of long-distance commuters can get their train?

        Doesn’t sound like “incensed” to me. Sounds like “common sensed”.

      6. Mic, Sounder North really looked like it would work before anyone thought about mudslides (huge, huge issue), and before BNSF restricted the operating hours. I don’t know if either of those issues can be addressed. :-P

      7. And how many will get stuck on the Slow Bus to Hades forever and ever so that a handful of long-distance commuters can get their train?

        There is no framework where the money going to get Link to Snohomish County would have been used for Ballard. None. You might as well try to impose a tax in Germany to pay for Sound Transit.

        A proper high-capacity line will stop CT from running all those peak express routes and transform the situation there.

        As always, you and mic have no alternative, no plausible path to a better system, but spend all your time opposing the best thing on the table. Tim Eyman thanks you.

      8. “back in the early 90′s when SnoTrans was all giddy about commuter rail.”

        Who was giddy about commuter rail? It was the anti-tax people who pushed it, saying we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to leverage the existing tracks and low start-up cost of Sounder, and saying how much more sensible it was than expensive Link. Plus the fact that it could be started up quickly, so that people could see benefits for their money without waiting a decade. Others like me thought it was a waste of money because it would never go to neighborhood centers or run every 10 minutes; better to put the money into Link which would be a better long-term investment. But the anti-tax people (and those living along the Sounder line) succeeded in getting it into ST1, and ST couldn’t really say no, could it? I wouldn’t say ST was giddy; it was just glad there was something it could accomplish, and it was happy that Sounder gave an early rollout it could point to.

        So it was those penny-pinchers who look only at up-front costs rather than long-term costs that pushed Sounder, plus the people living along the line who didn’t really want to give up their cars and live on transit and walking, but just wanted to park in the P&R and go to the city weekday mornings and come back in the afternoons and didn’t think of anything beyond that.

        Ach, Sounder makes me grouchy sometimes. I don’t mind Sounder South because it’s getting a lot of use, and I do ride it when I can. It is amazing how it cuts travel time to Kent and Auburn by 2/3, even if it’s a slowpoke when it gets to Tacoma. But Sounder North, ah, is harder to justify…

    2. 1,000 riders per hour can be carried on two Link trains

      If West Seattleites don’t like standing on buses, they sure aren’t going to like riding on a Link train with 166 people per car. Given the extra ridership Link and the continued fast growth of the area around the Junction would bring, I think two-car, 7.5 minute trains just like those we currently have on Central Link would have reasonable loads of 75 people per car. Off-peak is the bigger question… can West Seattle sustain train service every 10 minutes middays and nights?

      1. Try 125 per car in the peak (4 car trains x 125 = 500) which is well below ST’s peak period service factor of 2.0, or 1 standee for each person seated.

      2. There is no way ST would run 4-car trains to West Seattle. It would be a waste of equipment.

      3. I think you are not appreciating the differences between train and bus travel.

        Firstly, buses are much more affected by other traffic – sudden stops, swerves, general speed increases and decreases. Trains are much less likely (hopefully never) to need to emergency stop, so the ‘risks’ of standing are much lower.

        Second, I think you’ll find people are willing to walk or travel further to get to a train station than a bus stop. That itself could increase ridership of a train line compared to the current set of bus routes.

        Finally, trains are hopefully grade-separated for most or all of their route so trip and arrival times are much more reliable, enabling proper connecting services (i.e. one that actually connect, unlike the nightmare connections today to/from a RR bus).

    3. “a single spine trunk route for them, being fed by lot’s of feeders requires much out of direction and 2 seat rides”

      Any West Seattle train will surely have stations at Alaska Junction and Westwood Village, and likely Avalon, Delridge, and White Center. So it would have the same transfer points as the D and 120. We don’t know if all peak expresses would be eliminated; an Alki-Admiral loop may survive because it’s the furthest from the stations. In any case, a 2-mile express-and-deadhead from West Seattle is less of a big deal than a 15-mile express-and-deadhead from Lynnwood.

      “true high capacity transit can be many times that needed”

      That’s a problem only if the goal is filling trains. If the goal is providing fast/frequent service all day and evening, then it’s a public benefit even when the trains aren’t full. We need trunk lines to the north, east, and south; that’s just a given. We can argue about where they should terminate. Light rail to Lynnwood will make the region more inclined to be transit-oriented than not having light rail to Lynnwood. Light rail to Everett may or may not be past the top of the cost/benefit curve; there are good arguments both ways on that. A frequent 574 could be an effective bridge between South Link’s terminus and Tacoma. Peak expresses from Tacoma and Federal Way will be inevitable no matter what, because of Link’s 10-minute handicap due to the Rainier Valley detour.

  2. I recently traveled to Istanbul where they have a real BRT line with dedicated roadway and very frequent service. The buses are a mix of double-articulated buses (~90 feet long) and normal articulates (60 feet). They run in the center of a chronically crowded freeway, with stations at cross streets.

    Two observations about the system: Whatever claims anyone may make about how many buses/hour can use a lane, from a practical point of view the capacity of the busway is about 3 buses per 2 minutes, or 90 buses per hour. This is because of the stations. The typical dwell time of each bus at each station was about 2 minutes. The stations were long enough that three buses could pull up and load at once. Of course unless they deploy as fleets, it means you cannot serve varied destinations very easily as the stations were crowded enough you couldn’t get to the right bus within that dwell time. Each bus only stopped once, but the volume of people alighting and boarding meant it took about a two minute cycle time for the three buses. In some cases the next buses were queued up waiting in the busway for the previous buses to leave, so the busway was pretty much operating at its maximum possible capacity.

    Even though the general roadway was crawling, and the buses move faster than other traffic when moving, overall speed was about the same for SOVs and buses due to the station dwell times.

    This system has like 20 miles of dedicated ROW so it’s a major BRT line done right. I can’t help but wonder if it would have been better built as LRT – Istanbul has a couple of LRT lines that run as 2 double-articulated (so 6 sections total) – they call it tram and it runs mainly on dedicated ROW with occasional street running esp. in historical sections. It seems to run at 2 minute headways on the main section.

    When BRT is done right it probably ends up with similar capacity to LRT at similar costs (though LRT would have higher capacity with longer trains due to shorter dwell times and faster loading.) At which point the superior ride would support LRT.

    Of course what we call Rapid Ride here isn’t BRT at all.

      1. At that point, build LRT. Trains are just better for high volumes.

        This is what makes most BRT pointless. It’s not worth building big heavy infrastructure unless you have high volumes of passengers, and if you have high volumes of passengers, then you want trains.

        On the other hand, if you can somehow build BRT without building big heavy infrastructure — perhaps by just repainting some lanes with the word “BUS LANE” on them — then it’s probably worth it for the lower-volume corridors.

      2. Multiple parallel platforms then require much wider right of way which isn’t available in the Istanbul application. They use a center platform and the buses run in the opposite direction as general traffic.

        I agree with the previous comment – high infrastructure investment is justified with high rider volumes, and at that point rail has multiple advantages, especially including level boarding and wider doors and usually wider carriages

      3. Nathanael: There are a few reasons to sometimes prefer BRT. One example is when you want to avoid technology-driven connections. Consider something like the SLU streetcar. A rider who wants to go past Fred Hutch needs to transfer to the 70, or take the 70 the whole way. Or consider the situation we’ll have with the First Hill streetcar, where we’ll have similar situations on Broadway (with the 49) and Jackson (with the 7/14/36).

        If you have a single logical corridor, but there’s only enough density to support high frequency/capacity on part of it, then a busway can allow you to get the advantages of separation on the part of the line that needs it.

        This is also useful when you have a number of local services converging on a single corridor. If the central corridor demands high-capacity service with 5-minute headways, but there are 4 separate branches that don’t need nearly as much capacity, then using a busway allows you to build dedicated infrastructure only for the central portion.

        It’s also possible to have a corridor which demands exceptionally high frequency, but not necessarily high capacity. That is, you might need a vehicle to come every 3-5 minutes, but you only need capacity for about 1,500-2,000 people per hour. In that case, running a double-decker bus every few minutes would give you both the capacity and frequency you need, at a potentially lower capital cost.

      4. “If you have a single logical corridor, but there’s only enough density to support high frequency/capacity on part of it, then a busway can allow you to get the advantages of separation on the part of the line that needs it.”

        True, but I contend that this is an extremely rare situation, and only happens if there’s massive branching of routes after the center of the line.

        Density usually doesn’t drop off suddenly like a cliff; it fades out. If there’s enough density to support separation in the center, the amount of density on the ends of the lines is usually high enough that a rail line is supportable, if marginal.

        If you’ve got the “trunk and 27 branches” topology, which often happens when there’s a single bridge or tunnel and low density on either side of it, then you probably do have a decent case for a busway.

      5. “It’s also possible to have a corridor which demands exceptionally high frequency, but not necessarily high capacity. That is, you might need a vehicle to come every 3-5 minutes, but you only need capacity for about 1,500-2,000 people per hour.”

        This is certainly a possibility. This may not even require a bus lane depending on the amount of car traffic. If it does, it calls for paint saying “BUS LANE”.

    1. Riding the new Orion buses on the 150 from Seattle to Kent, I find that the ride is comparable to the smoothness of LRT. In fact, given the rattly nature of LINK on some of the inclines…perhaps superior.

      1. You shouldn’t have any Orion buses on the 150. They are all New Flyer D60LFRs or D60LFs built between 2008 and 2012.

        You may have encountered Orions on the 164, 168 or 169 headed up to East Hill, or on the peak commuter buses going up there from downtown.

        I ride both the D60LFRs (on the 106) and Link regularly. The notion that the buses are more comfortable than Link is absurd. They may ride a bit smoother on perfect pavement, but they are way more cramped, way less smooth longitudinally, and prone to bumps.

      2. Perhaps I was mentally comparing them to the old white and yellow buses which were like going down Niagara Falls in an oil drum.

      3. OK, that made me laugh. Good old Bredas… 53 mph all the way down I-5, and no bump damping to speak of. Surprisingly, they are actually kind of fun to drive. They steer well and are very forgiving of ham-fisted driving (more so in diesel mode than in their current trolley-only setup). But they’re not ideal for the passengers, to put it mildly.

  3. AmtrakCascades has a fare sale for Seattle to Portland tickets: $16 each way, must purchase by the end of today (10/25) and travel between 11/27-12/18.

    1. Speaking of which, I was looking at Cascades trips to BC around New Years.

      $88 each way. Seems a bit pricey for something that is a 2 1/2 car trip.

      1. That’s because it’s New Year’s. Amtrak tickets are priced based on how full the train is. Trains for a holiday weekend sell out a month in advance, or have only a few expensive seats available. The minimum fare to Portland or Vancouver BC is around $24 (and I’ve paid $20 before), and the maximum is around $88. Vancouver is slightly more expensive because of Customs. The best time to get a low fare is in the low travel periods (roughly Oct 1-Nov 15, and Jan 15-April 15), and midweek rather than weekends. Whenever Amtrak is especially concerned about low ticket sales, it has a sale, as in this one. This one is a blanket sale for the low travel period, but sometimes Amtrak has sales for just a certain Tuesday-Thursday in one week.

        Three years ago in November I took a last-minute train trip to Chicago. I bought the ticket in person just five hours before departure, and it was around $300 round trip. That’s more than the cheapest 21-day advance airfare ($228), but far less than a last-minute flight (around $600). The train was a quarter full, meaning I got a double seat to myself and half the double seats were empty. Except one 8-hour period in North Dakota when the train filled and I had to share a seat. I normally take trips in the low-travel seasons, both for the cheap fares, better service, and less stress.

        Checking the fares now, tomorrow’s train to Chicago is $159, and a return train on Tuesday is $209. If I checked a few more dates I may be able to find a westbound for $159.

      2. Trains for holiday weekends in the summer, or at Thanksgiving, can sell out even more than a month in advance. (Though when that happens, Amtrak has enough advance warning that it sometimes manages to scrape up extra cars so it can sell more seats.)

      3. “Except one 8-hour period in North Dakota when the train filled and I had to share a seat.”

        That’s very interesting. So the Empire Builder is being clogged with North Dakota traffic, taking up seats which could otherwise be sold end-to-end. This is probably due to the oil boom.

        If we had some kind of national transportation policy, Amtrak would be running an extra train which just goes from Chicago to North Dakota, or even just back and forth in North Dakota (depending on how long the train was full for) — but as it is it takes years to get agreement from BNSF to run the extra train, Amtrak has no extra cars to deploy, Congressmen complain about the funding, and so on and so on…

      4. The only people I know who’ve taken the Empire Builder are a couple of Norwegian entertainers who use it to get to/from North Dakota when they’re in the country.

      5. The Empire Builder regularly has its heaviest ridership in Montana and North Dakota because there’s no other east-west transit there. The nearest buses are 90 miles south on I-90/94. There are north-south buses in the largest towns, but it’s still a long detour. It’s not even Greyhound between Billings and Minneapolis because Greyhound dropped the route a decade ago. (Smaller companies replaced Greyhound, probably state-substidized.)

      6. @ John Bailo

        “Speaking of which, I was looking at Cascades trips to BC around New Years.

        $88 each way. Seems a bit pricey for something that is a 2 1/2 car trip.

        Where did you see this? The range for Seattle to Vancouver BC is between $39.00 and $68.00 one way.

      7. I’ve never understood why Amtrak would ever have capacity issues. Store a few empty passenger cars somewhere, and add them to the train when seats are predicted to start filling up. Sure, there might be staffing issues with sleeper cars (seems like they have an attendant per car), but I would imagine you wouldn’t need an additional attendant for the cheap seats. Especially for SEAVancouver or Portland, where there are no sleeper cars. Even if you need to hire seasonal workers, the extra tickets surely would fund an extra paycheck or two.

        Yes, there would be some extra cost, but we’re talking capital costs with little extra annual costs (storage, a bit of maintenance). Actually, storage might be next to nothing, since they could store these most anywhere. Even the capital costs would be low, since we’re talking about a box with seats – you don’t need another engine.

      8. “Store a few empty passenger cars somewhere,”

        That’s exactly the problem. There aren’t any extra passenger cars any more.

        The cars from the 1950s are mostly illegal to use now. They were designed with steam heat (got a steam engine?), generators driven by the wheels, and toilets which dumped straight onto the track (banned by the EPA in the 1980s). Conversion of these cars to meet modern requirements is an expensive process; Amtrak converted all the best-condition ones in the 1970s and those are now falling apart due to age and use.

        I can enumerate all the new orders of passenger cars since the 1950s. They are all in use. Amtrak doesn’t have any extras.

      9. Oh, and Amtrak’s been starved for funding for most of its history, so it simply hasn’t been able to order as many new cars as it would like. And Amtrak’s access to loan funding is very limited because it’s not profit-making.

        Cars are not just boxes with seats; the underfloor gear (wheels, bogies, suspension, electrical) actually costs money. The boxes themselves (the shells) are pretty expensive, too. (And yes, the shells from the 1950s are corroding out and can’t really be reused.)

      10. Matt: The history of Amtrak’s fleet is an interesting one, and you might be enlightened by going through it. Amtrak has never, repeat never, had enough new cars. Every single car order has ended up being “shorter” than Amtrak would really have liked — fewer cars — because of budget concerns.

        The most recent order was in the 1990s, the Viewliners, and ended up being 50 cars (versus a planned 500 or more). These were to replace cars from the 1950s. Amtrak is now ordering “Viewliner IIs”, which are also replacing cars from the 1950s (and some from the 1940s).

        A consortium of states is ordering additional bilevel coaches which will arrive in 2015-2016, which should give Amtrak some spare capacity. And Oregon is getting a couple of new sets of Talgos before that. California is rebuilding some antique commuter cars as a stopgap because of the extreme shortage of passenger railroad cars.

        FYI, before you ask, we can’t import foreign railroad cars for three reasons: our loading gauge is different; our platform heights are different; and the FRA requirements are very different from any other country except Canada.

        Incidentally, VIA Rail, which is being run to fail, snapped up many of the obsolete and disused cars from the US, and imported disused cars from other countries — and they can’t really find any more, either. NCDOT renovated a bunch of cars out of *museums* — that’s hitting its limit too.

        There is an actual shortage of passenger rail cars in the US.

      11. @Jim Cusick

        Gee…you’re right! How did that happen!? I swear I ran these numbers on a week ago and $88 was the one way rate for Cascades. Maybe they added trains or more seats freed up.

        At any rate, I’m seeing what you see…I can do this trip for a total of $89 using 29 Dec and 1 Jan.

      12. Ok, I see my mistake. I was running it for two (2) people, and I had assumed the price listed was the price per person…not the total price!

        Maybe they should make that clearer (for dummies) by saying “$78 total cost” or “price for both travellers” as some airlines sites do.

        At any rate, a Cascades trip is looking more promising!

  4. Seems to me that West Seattle people should join Ballard people in demanding the decoupling of the RapidRide C/D. It can only result in better reliability for them.

    1. Or it can result in loss of bus runs since decoupling the routes would require a lot more platform hours. Nor do I see West Seattleites wanting to give up their one-seat express rides through the dense Belltown and Lower Queen Anne corridors, which they are using.

      If you are simply trying to get a one-seat ride to Ballard in the late evening, the 28 runs half-hourly all the way to 10:40 pm. The 40 runs half-hourly all the way to 10:00 pm. There are still lots of buses to get you up to the 30-minute service on the C Line, which runs half-hourly all the way to 3 am on weekdays, and 11 pm on weekends. The 358 runs half-hourly all the way up to 1:15 am, with a good connection to the 44.

      Putting it another way, are you willing to give up a lot more evening-service frequency in order to get the one-seat ride you seek?

      1. Ballardites were told that the RapidRide would be an improvement to the existing bus service. It is clearly not. What I, and I’m sure a good portion of Ballard riders, want is a reliable, frequent bus, that runs from downtown to Ballard.

        The 15/18 were frequent, although not reliable at all times, but at least they served all of downtown. The RapidRide D is frequent, not reliable and serves half of downtown (and completely ignores important government buildings per, essentially a neutered 15. The 40 is frequent until 7, reliable (not coupled with ANY routes), serves all of downtown, but takes a longer route to get to Ballard. The 28 is frequent until 7, not reliable (couple with the 132), serves all of downtown and serves a fringe, single family portion of Ballard.

        Oh and did I mention that these three Ballard buses don’t even serve the same stops downtown? And with the RapidRide D not having a posted schedule, in addition to it’s renowned back to back arrivals after a long period of delay, it’s not even like you can make an educated choice about which stop to choose. Although I’ve talked to a growing number of riders that choose to go for the 40, since it is almost always on time, something that can’t be said for the RR D.

        So Ballard is now one of the fastest growing, densest neighborhoods in Seattle, but we have no reliable transportation outside of the express buses that run during peak hour. We have been promised time and time again that we are going to get reliable transportation. When something was finally delivered to us, it was a neutered version of what we already had. The best excuse I’ve gotten was that Metro would have to throw a few extra buses at the problem to fix it (allowing RR C and D to be separate lines downtown), which would cost too much. You would think that would be a small hurdle to greatly increase the reliability of Metro’s pride and joy that they’ve already spent a bunch of time and money on, but apparently it’s not. In the meantime, all we can do in Ballard is complain and wait for our grade separated, truly mass transit light rail, which, knowing our luck, will probably get downgraded to a street car.

      2. I continue to maintain that if you are going to throw extra buses at RR C/D, it will do more for reliability and overall effectiveness to increase the frequency than to split the C and D. Going to 10-minute frequency, 7.5 peak, would sharply reduce overloads and speed boarding throughout the route, and would very much reduce the pain when one bus gets delayed, which will happen from time to time on any bus that uses the Ballard Bridge.

      3. This is exactly why I refuse to move past any body of water, the minute you ad in these tiny (draw) bridges it all goes to hell.

      4. Depending on where you live in Ballard, I’m not sure I’d agree that the 40 is significantly less direct. Traffic in LQA is terrible compared to Westlake. The detour through LQA could easily eat up any amount of time saved by taking 15th Ave W.

        To me, the D’s route seems like the worst of both worlds. It’s too slow to be the best way to get downtown, and it’s not particularly useful for getting anywhere else. It’s hard for me to imagine taking the D line unless I was trying to get between Ballad and LQA or West Seattle.

        This is doubly perplexing when you consider that Metro faced effectively the same decision in the south. They could have chosen to take 1st or 4th, or I-5 to the bridge, or any number of other routes. Instead, they explicitly chose the one that should provide the fastest route to downtown, at the expense of connectivity to anywhere else. Whatever you may think of this decision, the massive ridership on the C line (at least at peak) suggests that it seems to be working.

        IMHO, we should scrap the detour, in favor of adding a new E-W corridor from Magnolia to the CD via something like Mercer/Roy/Aloha, possibly crossing I-5 at Lakeview. I think that such a route, in addition to the existing service on the 1/2/3/4/13, would provide LQA with enough connectivity to justify scrapping the detour.

      5. DJR: Not all of the Magnolia buses, just the E-W service. I still think the proposed 62 (I think it was) was the best way to provide N-S service between Magnolia and nearby neighborhoods.

        The real point is that LQA is actually “on the way” if you’re going between Magnolia and SLU (say), whereas between Ballard and downtown, it’s unquestionably a detour.

      6. Er, that would be the proposed 24, not 62. The route which visited Magnolia on its way to Ballard.

      7. I’m sure Metro would love to add E/W service at or near Mercer. There are two issues. The first is the constant gridlock on Mercer, which won’t likely change even when construction is finished. The second is the impossibility of climbing Capitol Hill in that area. Going east, once you get to Belmont, you’re stuck. There is no east-west street that a bus can physically use between Roanoke and Olive.

        Also, the 3/4 really doesn’t serve the part of LQA we’re talking about. You’re limited to the 1/2/13, which have six 40′ buses (those routes can’t use 60′) per hour between them. More capacity is needed most of the day.

      8. @Aleks The funny thing is, if they were to extend the 15 minute headways on the 40 past 7 PM, I think ridership would rival the RapidRide D. Along with better reliability coming from downtown, you also get service to the whole of downtown, Pioneer Square, International District and the Stadiums. Plus a published schedule!

      9. David,

        Regarding gridlock, that’s certainly true, but there are many possible solutions, such as transit-only lanes, or turning one of the streets in the area into a dedicated transitway (Harrison could be a good candidate, especially if KeyArena gets demolished and the grid is rebuilt).

        Anyway, I think the gridlock only speaks to the importance of removing the diversion from RRD. Gridlock is bad enough when it’s on a straight-line route, but it’s downright painful when it’s on a diversion. To put it another way, if you’re driving from Magnolia to South Lake Union, you’re either going to get stuck in traffic somewhere — if not Mercer, then Denny — or go way out of your way, or both. But no driver would ever go from downtown to Ballard via LQA, and it’s ridiculous that the transit “spine” of northwest Seattle would take such a time penalty.

        As far as the capacity argument goes, I’m not sure I’m convinced. The corridor is also served by the 8 (all day) and the 29 (at peak). But if we really need to provide extra capacity, there’s a trivial solution, which is to reroute the existing all-day Magnolia buses (24/33) through LQA. Consider the pros and cons of this change:


        – Ballard-bound riders no longer need to suffer through the LQA detour
        – Metro no longer needs to run dedicated express service to Ballard — since all the buses are effectively express
        – Metro saves lots of money, since it’s cheaper to provide the same frequency on RRD
        – Direct E-W connectivity between Magnolia and north central Seattle (LQA, Seattle Center, maybe even SLU).


        – Getting between Ballard and LQA requires a connection during off-peak
        – Magnolia riders have a slower trip

        Given that Ballard generates far more ridership than Magnolia, it seems only logical that diverting the Magnolia buses makes a lot more sense than diverting the Ballard buses.

        Finally, as far as Capitol Hill, I’m not quite sure what you’re saying. The Lakeview overpass itself is so long precisely so that it’s not too steep. The diagonal stretch of Belmont Ave between Lakeview and Roy St is steep, but not as steep as the Counterbalance, a street that many buses travel on every day. Likewise for the stretches of Roy between Belmont and Broadway, and Aloha between Broadway and 23rd.

        Here’s the route I’m talking about, just so it’s clear. What part of the route do you think would be infeasible for a 40-foot trolleybus?

      10. Once you get into capitol hill, the streets are pretty narrow and there’s some sharp turns. Plus, I doubt the pavement on those streets is designed to handle 40-foot buses pounding on it all day every half hour.

      11. The 8 doesn’t go downtown; you can’t count it (or your hypothetical crosstown route) as replacing RR D capacity. Putting the Magnolia buses through there is actually not a bad solution if you can get the politically-connected Magnolia residents to acquiesce (possibly by throwing more service at them).

        The part of the Lakeview/Belmont/Roy route that’s impassable for a 40-foot bus is Roy Street, for two reasons. First, the corner from Belmont to Roy is exceedingly sharp, blind in both directions, and the street is quite narrow (20 feet). A bus could not safely navigate the corner in either direction. Second, the transition angles between flat intersections and hilly blocks on Roy Street are too sharp for a bus to navigate. (It’s not the absolute steepness that’s the problem, but the transitions.)

        To get a bus up that corridor, you’d have to completely rebuild Roy from the Belmont/Roy corner up to Harvard. Go drive it, and imagine a 40-foot bus with 8-foot overhangs trying to do it… you will see what I’m talking about.

      12. Re the crosstown route: you make very fair points. Personally, I would happily spend the money to make that bus route work, whether it meant regrading Roy St (which is honestly a disaster in its present state — I live there, and I can attest that the transitions are a big safety risk for cars and pedestrians, too), or building a smoother curve, or repaving the streets to withstand buses, or anything else. We spend that kind of money on building new highway ramps all the time — isn’t it worth it for the ability to provide that kind of E-W connectivity?

      13. Aleks:

        Amusingly (depending on your ability to withstand amusement tempered with exasperation), the requirement that RR serve Uptown/Mercer was explicitly written into the text of the TransitNow initiative.

        I’d guess that’s why Metro never seriously considered staying on Denny. And why LQA could get away with rejecting bus lanes, keeping the parking that traps buses at the 3rd Ave W stop, etc without ever risking their front-door detour.

        Of course, the same text required that RR achieve “travel times similar to the current 15/18 expresses”, which would have made the detour palatable, but would have demanded a service priority and ubiquitous off-board payment on which Metro dropped the ball years ago. So I guess some requirements are more “required” than others.

      14. Sticking Magnolia buses into the Mercer Mess would kill ridership. Magnolia is closer than Ballard, well south of the bridge at the bus exit, and not very many stoplights from downtown at all and everyone knows this. You can’t have the bus be -that- inferior to driving and still have it work. They’ve already slowed things down by putting us on 3rd on top of the really noticable service degradation over the past 5 years.

      15. DJR, I think the question of why Magnolia riders deserve better treatment than Ballard riders, even though there are far fewer of them, is a valid one. The more numerous Ballard riders are affected negatively by the LQA detour just as much as the fewer Magnolia riders would be.

        And there could be a silver lining to lengthening the trip by routing it via LQA: productivity on the Magnolia routes as a whole would go way up, thanks to very high LQA ridership, and it would be easier to justify greater frequency and span of service despite marginal ridership in Magnolia itself. I bet that by agreeing to an LQA detour Magnolia riders could get themselves some or all of the following:

        – 15-minute service on the 33 in the peak
        – Greater frequency and span of service on the 19, alternating with 24 buses for 15-minute service throughout the peak
        – Hourly service on both the 24 and 33 (for half-hourly service to Magnolia in general) until 1 a.m.

        I’m not convinced that making those improvements in exchange for the LQA deviation would be a bad deal for Magnolia riders, particularly if a bit of TSP in LQA could be accomplished. Poorly timed traffic lights add a lot of unnecessary time to the LQA deviation.

      16. Oh, and in my previous comment, I left out the most obvious part: during the peak, when the 29 is running, some of the Magnolia buses could probably go “express” and skip the deviation. The case would be strongest for the 33 to go express because it has the highest peak ridership.

      17. It’s not so much better treatment as they’re different communities with different needs. Magnolia has been absorbing all sorts of cuts on the rationale that it’s not an all-day destination like Ballard and is basically a commuter suburb – the flip side of that is that -nobody should be messing with the commuter routes unless they want no one to ride the bus-.

        Ballard at least gets shiny new buses, wi-fi, and real time info at stops out of their (pre-existing) detour. Magnolia wouldn’t.

        Let’s see how the 3rd thing and the new linkups to the 124 and 27 affect ridership before any more gratuitous restructuring, please.

      18. DJR: None of the benefits of RRD count for much, when you consider that the 6 buses per hour on the 15/18 became 4 buses per hour on the D. Ballard got screwed by this change just as much as Magnolia.

        As you point out, Magnolia is much more of a peak commuter market than an all-day market. So why not provide peak one-way expresses to Magnolia, combined with rerouting all-day service through LQA? As David shows, that combination could make it possible to significantly improve the frequency and span of all-day service to Magnolia, while imposing a time penalty on very few riders.

        Peak express service plus all-day service through LQA is the same compromise currently made for Ballard-bound service. The difference is twofold: first, all-day ridership in Ballard is high enough that the time penalty of the detour affects a significant portion of Ballard riders, and second, all-day demand in Magnolia is not high enough to justify dedicated buses more often than 30 minutes or later than 10pm.

        As further evidence in support of this, don’t forget that this thread originally started by talking about the delays on the through-routed RapidRide line. Making RRD more reliable (by eliminating the diversion) would save Metro a lot of money, which means that Metro would be able to provide more service — better frequency, longer span — for the same amount of money.

      19. There is -already- a very large amount of diversionary wiggling to pick up riders on the Magnolia routes, it’s just all in Magnolia where it needs to be. Even the 19 express goes on Condon, which it has to take at a crawl.

        Driving to King Street Station from where I live on the butt end of Magnolia is ~ 15 minutes off-peak. By bus now, it’s nearly 40. Add at least 5 minutes for the typical 24 homeward lateness, often more (i.e., right now W Prospect is showing the 24 has a 39 minute delay at noon on Saturday). LQA could add another 5-10 min in delays and additional unreliability on top of that. Not a reasonable solution.

      20. DJR,

        If the LQA diversion is unacceptable for Magnolia buses, then why is it acceptable for RapidRide, supposedly the backbone of our network, and with over double the combined off-peak ridership of the 24 and 33?

        (Note that the above is based on 2010 route performance numbers. It’s likely that, if we looked at the stop-by-stop data, we’d find that a non-trivial portion of 24/33 riders actually get off before the Magnolia Bridge. That is, the actual Magnolia-bound ridership is likely lower.)

        Jarrett Walker draws a useful distinction between “ridership-oriented” and “coverage-oriented” services. That is, some parts of a transit network are designed to maximize ridership, while others are designed to achieve maximum geographic coverage.

        The fact is, Magnolia just isn’t the kind of place where you live if you don’t want to drive. It’s not a particularly walkable neighborhood, and it’s not nearly dense enough to make owning a car hard. So Magnolia service, at least off-peak, most definitely falls into the “coverage” category.

        The trade above would make it possible to improve both the frequency and span of service going to Magnolia. It would hurt speed, but no one takes the bus to Magnolia because it’s fast; as you noted, the trip to downtown is already almost 3x as long by bus as by car. For a coverage-oriented service, I think that’s a very reasonable tradeoff.

      21. Look, people’s tolerance for delay is not infinite. Magnolia already has quite a bit of existing peak and off-peak coverage-oriented detours, they’re just all in Magnolia where they very much need to be (and you’re ignoring the 40 for Ballard access). Ballard NB people are also welcome to take the 19/24/33 and transfer to the D stop at W Prospect if they want to avoid LQA.

        LQA Ballard demand is also MUCH more two-way than LQA Magnolia would be.

        (Magnolia actually has 4 buses an hour going up the bridge midday, plus the 31, and up to 9 up the bridge at peak. They aren’t unfull at peak either.)

    2. My mom, who lives by the Junction, would fight hard against splitting the C/D. She loves the one-seat ride between the Junction and LQA.

      The thing that’s so frustrating about the suggestion to decouple coming from the Ballard side is that there is nothing about the C (unlike the D) that should be particularly unreliable, especially inbound. The C avoids Sodo, the railroad crossing, and the Spokane St mess. The reason it has been unreliable in practice is that it’s overstressed and underscheduled. Metro was a bit too ambitious with schedule savings from the restructure; this is also showing in the 56 and 57.

      1. Neither route has physical obstacles that should cause significant delay (except the Ballard Bridge). They are both pretty straightforward routes with minimal turning conflicts. The big issue that causes the delays are the lengths of the routes. When you have a route that stretches from the north city limits to the south city limits, delays that would seem insignificant, snowball. A missed light here, a wheelchair there, and all of sudden a bus starts picking up passengers waiting for the next bus, which then snowballs further. All of a sudden the next bus is now tailgaiting your bus. The person downtown is now wondering why their bus that is “so frequent you don’t need a schedule” hasn’t arrived in 30 minutes!

        This is a problem that has existed on the 15/18 before, it exists on the 48 currently, it existed on the 43 and the 7 before they split off the 44 and 49 respectively (I didn’t see anyone complaining about duplicated service for those when they split them).

      2. Your general point is correct, but there’s a lot of difference between routes in this respect. The effectiveness of through-routing depends *heavily* on the routes involved.

        The C is about as good as it gets. It’s really pretty short, measured in minutes; it doesn’t have a single bad traffic signal/drawbridge/RR crossing along its entire length; it doesn’t really hit any traffic bottlenecks most of the time; and it doesn’t get much wheelchair traffic. The old 54 was pretty reliable for all of these reasons, and outbound 5s usually arrived at Seneca on time. (The D is much worse in these respects; C passengers are the ones who would have reason to complain if the routes were working properly.)

        The 21/22/56 were also not bad in West Seattle, but they got frequently and badly bogged down between Spokane St. and downtown. Thus the delays on the 15 and 18. If the C were scheduled appropriately and had sufficient capacity, the D would be a good deal more reliable than the 15 and 18. Unfortunately, the C is overloaded and underscheduled.

        Other routes you name are completely different. The 48 has bottlenecks along the whole northern 2/3 of its routing: 85/Greenwood, 85/Aurora, Green Lake/Ravenna, 15th/50th and 45th, Montlake. The 7/49 is one long delay from beginning to end, and the 44 is even worse. Both the 43/44 split and the 7/49 split were done in good economic times, and required the addition of quite a lot of service hours.

        I was around for the 7/49 split, and I want to say it added 6 buses during the day (I could be a bit off, but that’s the idea). One of those came from the reduction of service to Prentice Street, and one came “free” from better reliability, but the others were new. And that’s without any duplication of service, which can’t be done for a C/D split. (Remember, the 49 no longer uses 3rd, and the 7 no longer uses Pike.)

      3. And they only unlinked 2/3 of the 43/44 trips- I have a friend who relies on this to get to his home on the 43 route from Ballard late at night.

      4. @DJR: I too use the 43/44 to get from the Hill to Ballard if I’m out late night. While it’s long and slow, you don’t have to worry about making a transfer downtown, plus after enough beers, the trip doesn’t seem to take much time at all!

        @David L: I would be all for decreasing the headways of the routes, I feel as though the extra buses would be greatly utilized on both ends. And although delays would still be there (albeit slightly less due to less overcrowding) the wait time when the “back to back” delays happen would decrease to the point where it hopefully won’t be as big of a deal. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Ballard and West Seattle will be stuck with “not quite there” service while Metro pats themselves on the back.

    3. The outbound C line continues to suffer from 3PM until about 3:45PM due to overloading on the inbound D from Ballard.

      In the past there was always a pile of school trippers for Ballard High School and Whitman Middle School, both of which get out around 2:15PM. There do not appear to be any additional trippers with the implementation of RapidRide. These coaches are getting hammered by school kids and there is a daily gap in service on the C.

    4. Traffic is worse in LQA than Westlake? What are you talking about? I never really see buses getting held up in LQA for traffic.

      1. Andy, you must not ride through Lower Queen Anne that often.

        Before the restructure, I would often opt for the 17 over the 18 on the weekends just to avoid the slowdown through Lower Queen Anne. Especially on nice weather days.

  5. Love the fake signs! Speaking of signs, I saw a ST bus the other day that said “Sorry. Out of Service.” This is one of my pet peeves. Unnecessary, useless, or apologetic words added to a message. A simple “Out of Service” is sufficient. People won’t be offended. It’s not rude or too blunt for a bus to just be signed “Out of Service” without saying sorry first. People are not that easily offended or delicate, or are they? Are we going to have to start to re-label stop signs to say “Please Stop” because some delicate souls are offended at stop sign’s harsh tone?

  6. I’ve been watching the double-deck CT buses on Olive ever since my bus stop moved to 6th & Olive for the evening commute and started wondering about them. Now that they’ve been in place for a couple years, I wonder how are they working out? Are they an overall upgrade compared to articulated buses? Do passengers like them?

    1. They’re apparently quite nice, but seating is a little dubious (headroom/wheel-well) on the bottom. “They fit a lot of people and they need to”, the person I asked said.

    1. Are they still shaking out the periodic table in the hopes that an affordable catalyst will get this latest round of destruction off the ground? Or just banking on burning all the natural gas, hell and high water be damned?

      1. Artificial Photosynthesis Effort Takes Root

        A $122 million innovation hub could speed the development of devices for making fuel from water and sunlight.

        the hub has installed advanced 3-D printers that can make prototype devices to house the light-absorbing materials and catalysts, feed water to them, and separate and collect hydrogen and oxygen. So far, researchers have built two such prototypes that can produce fuel from sunlight—though not yet economically. The plan is to have at least four or five different versions of the devices, each with different strengths and weaknesses. The researchers want multiple versions because they can’t predict where the next materials advance will be.

      2. A catalyst only lowers the reaction potential. You can’t overcome the basic thermodynamics of the fact you can never get more energy back from a reaction than what you put into it. No free lunch, no perpetual motion machine, no “fuel” from seawater. The energy in this case comes from solar. We already know we can turn solar into heat or electricity. Hydrogen is just one method of storing the energy. You have one set of efficiency loses making the hydrogen, another turning the hydrogen into a liquid and distributing it (That one’s 100% loss) and yet another turning the hydrogen back into electricity. It’s a lose lose lose chain of events.

      3. Solar -> electricity is very efficient — but it can be made more efficient and it will be.

        Chemical fuels are the past. Direct electromagnetic energy storage is the future.

      4. So, from that (randomly?) gargolyed article, your idea is to employ some percentage of the population as graduate students–and reward them handsomely, no doubt–to fiddle with experimental prototypes that may or may not pan out? Sounds like a sound energy policy to me.

        Man bites Carbon spree, news at 11.

    2. Non if we could just find unlimited supplies of other things, like metals, plastics (oil) and SPACE.

  7. Does anybody know if CT’s new Transit Technologies Project will interface with onebusaway? Or if the project will produce GTFS data that will could be uploaded into Google Transit? I didn’t see any mention of either tool on the press release.

  8. Bit off topic, but speaking of McGinn – has there been any word on when his new zoning proposal for SLU is getting voted on? I feel like that plan was presented a while ago and there hasn’t been much news since.

  9. It would be nice if ridership from W Seattle was up so much, but those figures are highly misleading. What about the change in ridership on the 21, 22 and 37X? The 22 for example no longer goes DT, so all those riders have to transfer to a C (or perhaps 55). Without showing the trips lost because of the 22 changes, the overall totals for ridership change are meaningless.

  10. With all the heat Metro is taking for various parts of the latest restructure, I think the 31/32 thing is a winner. For me, stretching the combined corridor a little farther east compared to the former 30/31 has actually made a difference.

    1. I’ve yet to try using a 40-31/32 connection during the many hours of every day when the 44 is a joke (or when I’ve just missed a 44 but a 40 is imminent).

      Have you tried this? Is it worth making a habit of?

      1. I can’t tell you how well the transfer would work, but I can tell you that the 31/32 routing is vastly more reliable than the 44 routing. It’s not perfect; sometimes buses get caught in a traffic jam leading to the stop signs at 1st NE and Northlake Way on NE 40th. But that only happens during the worst of the PM peak and occasionally on Saturday, while the 44 is a joke during much of the afternoon and evening.

      2. It does have the drawbridge in Fremont. Nickerson can also be randomly miserable in my experience, which I’d presume would affect service to the north of the bridge.

  11. Look at those cities which pop out from the “population-weighted density” map. Very interesting. It actually does fit my sense of “this is dense”, unlike other measurements.

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