Photo by zargoman

Starting this week, Metro will add four new C Line trips in the evening peak, two of which start today, the other two starting next Monday.  Three of the added trips won’t be through-routed with the D Line, which will help avoid reliability issues coming through Lower Queen Anne into downtown.  According to Metro, the trip adds, which are funded by a contingency reserve, are meant to help alleviate evening service gaps caused by such poor inbound D Line reliability:

Traffic in downtown Seattle poses a daily challenge for bus schedules on the best of days. Metro schedules its RapidRide buses for 10-minute service during the peak commutes – even higher at 8-9 minutes during the highest ridership times about 7- 8:30 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. But traffic, events and other factors can cause buses to be delayed. Buses might bunch up and arrive together when riders are expecting more frequent service.

Analysis of recent transit travel times shows intervals longer than 10 minutes between buses during the evening commute. Inserting additional bus trips is expected to help fill those gaps in arrival times, [Metro GM Kevin] Desmond said.

C Line ridership may very well be Metro’s most pleasant post-service change surprise and a good indication that the the West Seattle restructure is working well.  Operationally, however, route performance continues to suffer thanks to things like on-board payment and downtown congestion, to which fixes would unfortunately be illegal recipients of Metro’s contingency of service hours.

82 Replies to “Metro to Add More C Line Trips”

  1. Keep going with the baby steps…

    Other than operational tech features (which are coming, if agonizingly slowly), what is needed to fix C/D is more frequency and fewer long waits. 7.5/10 frequency is where we need to go, but every added trip brings us just a bit closer. Good news, especially if headways are actually managed well.

    1. Here’s my (repeated) experience with Metro’s “headway management”:

      1. Walk just over 10 minutes to the Leary bus stop.
      2. Real-time sign shows “6 min”. I feel reasonably lucky.
      3. Sign counts down to “4 min”. Then stays there.
      4. And stays there.
      5. And stays there.
      6. The sign finally starts inching down, and eventually the bus arrives.
      7. At this point, I have been waiting for 14-16 minutes.
      8. When the bus pulls up, the driver is on the radio, getting instructions.
      9. The bus moves at an arbitrarily slow pace down 15th Ave W, despite light traffic.
      10. Finally, the bus reaches my eponymous traffic signal at Mercer Place.
      11. …And gets stuck there.
      12. Now we’re the late bus. So we crawl through LQA and Belltown.
      13. And the next bus is probably getting arbitrarily held back by the dispatcher.
      14. Total time from central Ballard to downtown: nearly an hour. (Probably should have just waited for the next 40, even if it was half-hourly or running very late.)


      1. The above situation describes nearly every time I’ve attempted to use RapidRide because the 40 was more than twenty minutes away (half-hourly and/or running late), or because I was headed to LQA, i.e. situations when a “high-frequency trunk line” SHOULD have been the correct choice.

        RR has failed to meet that still-advertised purpose every single time. Waiting thirty minutes for the 40 and backtracking to LQA is often faster. My point is that “headway management” seems to be doing additional harm on this regard.

      2. You should know that the city has only completed half of the transit signal priority projects in the North End. This is a major cause of delay and bus bunching. Then once they are installed, they will need to be refined. This is a process that should see continuous improvment.

      3. The Metro transit system is one of the nation’s most poorly arranged. If there’s a way to make transit worse, Metro will spend years studying how to make it happen and millions on PR campaigns to put a happy face on abject failure. Seattle’s conservative business leaders are ruthlessly misanthropic and its supposedly liberal leaders haughtily apathetic. Their motto: “Everyone dies so who cares?”

      4. Reality Based, none of that is any excuse to employ “headway management” in a way that ensures artificially slow rides, longer-than-expected waits, and — thanks to lights and bottlenecks reached after buses get held back — COMPOUNDING delays.

        Let me be very clear: the headway management doesn’t even work! Your bus is held back because the prior bus reached a timepoint late. But then you hit your own troubles, and you reach the timepoint even later than the first bus did. So the bus behind you gets held back EVEN MORE. Failure by design!!

        It is very easy to spot when the bus you’re on has been “headway managed”. The driver will be on the radio, and suddenly you’ll start driving 8 miles an hour on open road, and intentionally missing lights. Every time this has happened to me, the result has been a ride SLOWER than any pre-restructure trip on the 15, usually after a full 14-16 minute wait, not to mention the extra walk and no schedule.

        Wells is right. It takes a very special kind of incompetence and dispassion to continue to screw this up on a daily basis, to keep doing your job in a way that actively makes your riders’ experience worse, simply because you follow destructive policy to the letter. It takes a deeply clueless agency to think that RELIABLY SLOW is to be commended and that “headway management” is to be celebrated for existing rather than succeeding.

  2. “…to which fixes would unfortunately be illegal recipients of Metro’s contingency of service hours.”

    Sherwin, could you explain this a bit more? This sentence doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. You can’t use a contingency reserve of service hours to fund capital improvements like ORCA readers, tech pylons, and other treatments that would help improve downtown reliability.

    2. Metro is also cutting many trips from dozens of existing runs. I can only surmise that this is a cost saving measure. Many operators (both full and part time) are having their house and pay cut as a result. This has the biggest impact on part time operators. Full time operators have a daily 8 hour guarantee. Some of the resulting cuts, while taking away “built in overtime” for regular work that exceeds 8 hours are now receiving “bonus time” – straight time paid for not actually working. This must result in some kind of nominal budgetary savings. Example: the 301/10 will no longer end with an outbound 56, and the morning part of that same combination is cutting the last inbound 40, instead deadheading almost an hour earlier back to base. Any operator having that picked combination goes from having over an hour of paid overtime on that day to now having instead a shorter day an over an hour of bonus time. Haven’t seen any Metro press releases talking about these CUTS to service, have we? “Contingency hours” my Aunt Fanny.

      1. Cutting the 180 stop at Eastgage was a wonderful precedent. We can start whining about all the platform hours wasted for the 60 to do an 8-turn stop at the VA, when the 50 does it using half the time. I thought I’d have to wait for another restructure to take another shot at getting rid of the knot, but this is a new era. ;)

      2. Are you saying that trips are silently being cut mid-shakeup? That seems hard to believe, because Metro is not issuing new timetables, and we’re not hearing of people being left behind en masse.

        Or are you saying that this shakeup’s runcut is nastier for operators than previous ones? That I’ll easily believe, but unfortunately if it’s in accordance with the contract, there’s not much operators can do. The whole point of this reorganization was that service on less productive routes was being cut to make room for additional service in the busiest corridors.

      3. Are the trips being shifted to other runs (possibly, for example, new runs being created to deal with the new RR trips)?

        I just have a very hard time believing that Metro would be cancelling trips with no notice to the public. I don’t see any changes in the published schedules, and we would be hearing howls to the rafters if trips were just disappearing with riders waiting at bus stops.

      4. Unknown. A list of the cuts has been at the Central window since the weekend. No list or notice of new work accompanies it. No explanations either.

      5. “Reduced weekday.” Trips that are cancelled on certain partial holidays and during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. They are generally marked with an “H” on weekday schedules.

        And that explanation makes total sense. I was getting baffled!

      6. No, the RW is disclosed at pick, and the drivers pick the RW work with the understanding that their pay will be reduced accordingly on the days with RW service, although it won’t be reduced below the appropriate minimum (2:20 PT, 4:40 dual tripper, 8:00 FT).

  3. I saw 4 C line coach in a row on Friday on 3rd right around 5pm. They’ve got some work to do maintaining headways.

      1. In D quasi-improvements, the bus lane right before the bridge SB that I think until recently was signed for no parking 2-5 AM now has no parking 7-9 tow-away zone signs. I haven’t seen the truck that always parks there in a while.

      2. South of the Whole Foods on 15th, just north of Garfield, the bus/right-turn lane SB. I’m talking the Magnolia Bridge, not the Ballard one, if that was confusing.

      3. Though I may be completely misremembering, looking at Google Street View. I really seem to recall there was at least one very worn 2-5 AM sign in the area within the last few months, maybe on the fence. They closed off the sidewalk to do some work there, which may have been a further deterrent.

    1. I’m assuming you mean BAT Lane. The northbound lane was extended to 7pm from Galer St northward in late September. However, off-peak direction is still half-full of parked cars.

  4. Glad to see adjustments are being made a lot recently by Metro. The quick response is much appreciated. This doesn’t benefit me, but I’m still happy to see service improvements for the network as a whole. Thanks, Metro!!

  5. This news from Metro calls into question the contention that cutting the C/D through routing would require additional service hours. Metro has now announced 6 additional C-line trips to deal with reliability/overcrowding issues.

    How many additional buses/trips to be required to break the through-routing? This would instantly solve most of C-line’s reliability problems.

    1. The scale of the expense is very different.

      These extra trips are short trippers, probably 1:40 each. Two of them have been added in the morning and six in the afternoon, for (my guess) ~14 hours total per weekday.

      The extra buses required to break the through-route would have to operate through the entire span of service. That’s probably 8-10 buses for the 6 hours of weekday peak; 6 buses for the 11 hours of 15-minute service (17 hours on weekends); and 3-4 buses late at night. In other words, at least roughly 120 hours per weekday and an additional 110 hours or so per weekend day.

      If you can find that many extra hours lurking around, better to keep the buses moving — increase frequency on the whole route — than to spend a bunch of it laying over downtown.

    2. One possibility next fall is to switch the C-Line coupling to the E-Line, and let the D-Line go through downtown. That would be essentially revenue neutral, though I’m not sure it would be a good idea for the network.

      1. The inbound E-Line can be expected to be even less reliable than the inbound D-Line. Also, the E-Line will have even greater peak frequency than the D-Line. Turning all of those inbound morning E-Line trips into outbound C-Line trips would be a bit wasteful.

    3. A far cheaper solution in the short term would be to add some platform hours to the 40 in the late evening, since the 40 serves a lot more night-oriented businesses and provides the one-seat ride from Pioneer Square and the CLink. Most of what the D Line serves north of the Seattle Center is not known for its night life.

      The precedent is now set for adding trips mid-pick. If enough people ask for more late 40 service, it could happen, and if it does happen, it would go immediately into the online schedule.

      Where could Metro retrieve some platform hours? May I suggest looking at the 60’s usage of the VA knot. If it is mostly unused, that is a huge number of platform hours that could be scavenged. The 50 serves the VA front door quite adequately, and for much less expense (though a little more peak frequency on the 50 couldn’t hurt that connection’s usability).

  6. A number of us in West Seattle question the ridership numbers. A 20% increase in ridership? That seems rather large, and particularly contingent on how one gathers the data. Some of us are concerned at the “success” because the count is being done at the first stop inbound off the Viaduct and now includes riders on routes like the C-Line or 120 who have switched from cancelled routes that did not used to pass that stop.

    1. Ironically, the State Auditor and others find it irresponsible for ST to overestimate future ridership and plan too much capacity. I would beg to differ.

    2. Hi Michael –

      From my experience riding the C Line corridor before and after, Metro’s 20% (actually they said 26%) seems plausible to me. Recall that this number includes all the growth since early 2011 — after Highway 99 construction removed one lane of the inbound Viaduct, then added the new bus lane NB in September. So buses now have a huge time advantage, compounding the increases in WS apartment housing and downtown parking cost. But I heard you were a 50 rider, and those buses seem empty and undiscovered.

  7. So what about us that actually ride the D line? Any attempts to fix that mess? I’ve had to wait more then half an hour for a northbound D Line RR bus while downtown, watching three southbound C line buses go past.

    1. Because we’ve been “blessed” with the efficient goodness of throughrouting. Us Ballardites should be proud that the longest non-express route in the city is also our main transit work horse. Instead we complain about long wait times and slow travel times, like the greedy moochers we are!

      1. As has already been pointed out more than once, your claim on length is false. The 5/21 and 28/131/132 are both longer.

      2. There are many problems to be worked out with the D Line. Having to transfer to a river of frequency downtown is not one of them.

        Lack of service to connect to from the river of frequency after late-evening events is something that can handled in a far cheaper manner than simply creating a longer one-seat-ride that *reduces* the capacity of the line.

        In summary, the problem is having to wait 30 minutes to an hour in the late evening to catch the D Line. The problem is not having to wait a minute or two to catch a bus or train across downtown to get to the D-Line stop.

      3. @David L You are absolutely right.

        RapidRide C/D: 17.5 mi
        Route 5/21: 19 mi
        Route 28/132: 21 mi (Extra 2.8 mi vs. 131) Not sure if this one can/should be counted, since about 6 miles lie south of the city, but I’ll allow it.

        So Metro’s pride and joy, the transit work horse of two outlying, dense neighborhoods in Seattle, has a similar length to two of the longest routes and most unreliable routes in the city. Seems mighty silly to me.

        I did learn that the 5 has a new route through down town that takes it down 4th Ave through SoDo instead of Columbia St to 99. So they now get a route that serves all of downtown, and Ballard gets to settle with one horribly unreliable route that serves half of downtown and another that isn’t even supposed to be a Ballard>Downtown route, but is used nonetheless due to no viable alternates.

        @Brent I challenge you to time a transfer from Jackson St at around 9 PM on a Saturday night. Compare it to the 15 minute walk we are now delegated to and you’ll see why we will walk rather than transfer. Now compare that to being on a hypothetical RapidRide D at 4th and Jackson.

        The RapidRide needs to start disclaiming “Buses that come so often, you don’t need a timetable. But the time you spend on both ends of your trip will more than offset any time savings from supposed headways and travel improvements.” I’ll admit it’s not very slogany, but it tells the story.

      4. Anon,

        Your trip could be faster, in the long run, if the C/D Line were to go through Pioneer Square, which is still on the table, and enjoys a lot of support on this blog.

        In the near term, frequency could be increased in the post 10 pm period if enough people ask for that. I think it would be more productive to get more late-evening frequency on the 40, though, given its stadium connection and that it serves more portions of Ballard that stay open later. This is far, far more realistic than breaking the through-route.

      5. I wouldn’t really care, except that I think your focus on the through-route and the supposed length of the route is misguided. Other through-routed routes — including the northbound 54/5 combination that is the predecessor of your RR C/D northbound trip — work fine most of the time. The C in particular has no real reason to be unreliable… except that it’s overloaded and doesn’t run often enough.

        As much as you fight to can the through-route, I’ll fight instead to use those same mythical hours to increase the frequency and to pad the schedule just a bit until the northside TSP is done. In the end the number of hours required to end the through-route and to achieve 10-minute frequency (7.5 peak) are not very different.

      6. @David L If they could make headways of 7.5 minutes and somehow implement a Pioneer Square onramp today, I would withdraw my throughrouting complaint and fully back the RapidRide C/D as a “good enough for now” transit solution. Unfortunately one is a pipe dream due to lack of funding/will and the other has an unknown timeframe, since nobody buys that the tunnel project will finish on schedule.

        And you’re right about the RR C, it has no reason to be unreliable, same as the RapidRide D, which is almost a straight shot downtown. Sure there’s the Ballard Bridge and the Mercer bypass for the D, but then there’s also the West Seattle Bridge/Viaduct and a good share of turns for the C. All it takes is a little hiccup here and there to snowball through the entire route for both.

      7. The D could generally be expected to be much more unreliable than the C. It has the Ballard Bridge; many more traffic signals, some of which are quite long (15th/85th, 15th/Market, Elliott/Mercer Pl); multiple loads of school kids disrupting p.m. pre-peak service; and more places vulnerable to traffic congestion and box-blocking. The C has only a few traffic signals, none of which are bad, and only occasional short-duration congestion northbound on 99 after the bus lane ends.

      8. Isn’t the new 24/124 linkup longer too? I vaguely recall we used to be the longest, or close.

  8. Yet more proof that not publishing schedules for Rapid Ride has nothing to do with increasing service based on demand. Metro has increased service on routes 120 and 55 which have published schedules. And they have announced each time they add Rapid Ride C runs, so they aren’t silently increasing service – they are running a scheduled service. Give riders the schedule!

      1. Or at least have Metro and Onebusaway work together so we can know when the buses are coming. I live less than two blocks away from a RR D stop and it’s like playing Russian roulette walking over to catch a bus. I can’t tell you how many times I go to turn north of 15th towards my stop just to see the bus driving away. Then it’s a choice of what to do with the next 15 minutes of my life.

  9. I’m guessing that these extra buses are being borrowed from the E-Line fleet, as they can be brought on line.

    If the city can get it together with wiring for the stations, TSP, and getting parked cars out of the bus lanes for the entire length of the line, I bet it could be run with a few fewer buses. It is not as if the E-Line will have extra buses sitting around when the capacity calculations prove to be woefully inadequate. I also expect that realization that capacity will be inadequate on the E-Line is a major reason Metro isn’t moving on the next round of restructures.

    1. That’s a very interesting point.

      I continue to find Metro’s choice to use different buses very shortsighted. It makes sense to invest in special branding at the stops, because stops don’t go anywhere. But having an interchangeable bus fleet is really nice. That’s why Southwest has saved so much money by flying only 737s. It’s half the reason that the county wanted to scrap the ETBs — a good portion of the cost savings would have come from not needing two separate sets of backup buses (and similar things).

      Conversely, not having an interchangeable fleet means that we need routes like the 55, instead of just running extra RapidRide service during peak.

      Yes, it’s nice to have three doors. But it would be nice to have three doors on all routes, at all times. Running extra trippers with two-door buses wouldn’t be the end of the world, if that were the only difference.

      I’ve made the same complaint about Sound Transit. I think that all buses in the ORCA area should have the same livery. And I think we should try to minimize the number of different buses we have, regardless.

      1. In other words, the feds don’t care if your bus has real signal priority, dedicated ROW, headways that actually justify not needing a schedule, and generally any of the features that would actually make your “BRT” line reliable and an actual improvement over normal bus service, but you better have the fancy paint job on your buses!

      2. Regular Metro buses are sometimes used on Sound Transit Routes. Seems like a matter of time before they start doing it on RapidRide routes too. Or (heaven forbid) have a RapidRide bus fill in on a regular Metro route. If the branding purists object, so what.

      3. The feds have moved to two levels of BRT, and RapidRide is, appropriately, in the lower level. This is probably a win-win at the national scale. It allows cities to start to shift their local service to higher-frequency corridor routes with signal priority and off-board payment bla bla bla, while also making clear it’s not BRT in the bus-subway sense. Then when cities do want to aspire to bus-subways like Curitiba or LA or wherever else — with dedicated lanes, higher speeds and limited stops — it’ll be transparent to politicians, the public, and critics that it guarantees a minimum level of service that won’t be watered down.

  10. Wasn’t Rapid Ride sold as a panacea that would transcend the problems of traffic, particularly to those in West Seattle and Ballard?:). I can’t understand why it isn’t the savior we were told it would be?

  11. “RapidRide – so fast a schedule, real time info, shelters and benches would be pointless”.
    STB and its readers should end this debate. I suggest we all chip in and buy d.p. a Segway (TM) and sponsor the Great Race to Ballard. We’ll keep a log and post his average speed each day. Time starts and ends at each bus stop on either end, and he has to arrive at random times.
    We have to come up with an appropriate wager.
    Right now the line in Vegas is 5:3 on the Segway.

    1. A couple weeks ago, I managed to beat the 40 from downtown to Fremont on a bicycle. If I continued all the way to Ballard, my guess is it would be about a tie. Probably similar for the segway.

      BTW: Which route were you thinking the segway would take? The Ballard Bridge is dangerous and I don’t think you could beat the D-line walking through the Ballard Locks. I guess that leaves Dexter->Fremont->Burke Gilman trail, essentially paralleling the 40 route.

      1. Top speed on a Segway is 12mph. RR is scheduled at about the same thing, so 15th/Market from Univ/3rd would be 30 minutes on either mode, less lights for d.p.
        I’m thinking an STB chase car and use the Ballard Bridge. Let him use a lane of traffic all the way. It can’t be slower than the bus, and they get a lane, so…
        Screw the SOVs for a month or so!

      2. The limitation on the segway may be due to the internal battery. So, how about adding wire polls, and run d.p.’s segway on the Metro grid? PRT!

      3. Almost Perfection.
        Add a Google nav package and collision avoidance and … poof..
        A-PRT (automatic mode)
        BONUS: For the price of one RR bus you can buy 115 new Segways, or twice the capacity.
        Does anyone know the minimum headways on these things, say 3 abreast?
        I’m thinking kicking Link upstairs to 3rd, and give the tunnels to d.p. and friends.

    2. It would also allow d.p. to indulge his love of standing outside in the Seattle wind and rain. :)

  12. I read the following over at West Seattle Blog:

    “Sign at front that should have shown the next stop just said “to terminal.” Driver said next stops couldn’t be shown since it was an extra added bus.”

    What would need to be done for the extra trips so that the OBS would work properly?

  13. Step 1: Get Metro to admit flaws in throughrouting the RapidRides.
    Step 2: Get Metro to end throughrouting the RapidRides.
    Step 3: ???
    Step 4: Reliable transit trips to a from downtown???

  14. Scary thought: When the ice comes, Metro still has to run its RapidRide fleet. Subbing in old dinosaurs with little paper value left in them is not an option on these routes.

    1. The hope would be that, since all RapidRide routes are on major arterial roads, Seattle/King County/Bellevue will keep the roads clear. Then hopefully Metro will run more buses on the RapidRide lines, since demand will shift from the other routes that will be hampered from less active snow/ice clearing.

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