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This is an open thread.

154 Replies to “News Roundup: Something to Hate”

  1. Sounder competing with CT 400 series buses.

    Hmm, I bet CT could reinvest if buses fed Sounder instead of getting clogged on I-5

    Doubt it would happen in my lifetime

    :::What do I know – I just ride:::

    1. And to be clear: yes, I’ve read all the stories of “You mean I have to TRANSFER!?!?!?” and other (lame) excuses.

      1. When transferring increases your door-to-door travel time I think “You mean I have to TRANSFER!?!?!?” is a perfectly acceptable exclamation.

      2. Transfers cut your reliability in half. If my 255 is more than 5 min. late I risk missing my transfer to the 249. In reality it’s more like a 10 minute cushion since the 249 will be running late too. But if I miss my transfer because of the first bus being late I add all the time wasted being at the stop on time plus all the time waiting for the next bus because of the missed connection. That easily adds up to +40 minutes on what otherwise is a 60 minute commute. Add more than one transfer and it’s pretty much unusable.

    2. Also, please explain how your bus network design will accommodate the fact that Sounder only runs four trips in each direction, and the rest of the time your buses must, perforce, connect to or join the trunk at I-5.

      1. Exactly what I was thinking. And I already know the answer, throw money at it. Problem, not enough frequency. Answer, run more trains. Problem, the more trains you add the emptier each one gets. Answer, throw money at it.

      1. Absolutely agreed, it’s totally possible to make great bus-commuter rail transfers, and they are a great idea in general; Intercity and Metro do it for Sounder South; Pierce used to do it too, at Bonney Lake, until they went bust and handed the service over to ST.

        The problem is that those two-seat rides are not competitive with the more frequent and convenient one- and two-seat rides on the I-5 trunk, and most of SnoCo is closer to I-5 than Sounder. I don’t see a way to build a coherent bus network that feeds Sounder 4 trips per day per direction, then feeds the I-5 trunk the rest of the day.

      2. Indeed, the four bus routes connecting at Edmonds Station take riders from Sounder into Edmonds and Lynnwood in the morning.

        None are timed to get riders *to* Sounder in the morning.

        Mukilteo Station would be a severe backtrack for any bus/train commute.

        Edmonds Station brings up the philosophical question: Do you force all the riders headed to downtown Seattle to take the train if they are coming from Everett, Lake Stevens, or points north?

    3. The sounder is even slower than I-5, because all the traffic on the railway causes the train to go at 15 mph most of the time, and sometimes it has to go into reverse and switch tracks to get to the next station in the next hour.

      Just kidding. I think it’s a great idea. The Sounder trains have extremely high capacity. And I think that the transfer problem could be prevented by having trains wait for a bus to arrive before leaving. (This is already being done (buses wait, not trains) on many bus routes that connect to/from the sounder [PT 495, ST 596, PT 497…].)

  2. Steinbrueck, once again, proves why architects get in the way of density and affordability.

    1. Steinbrueck has always favored the Le Corbusier model, complete with all the empty windswept plazas anyone could possibly want. Somehow the ’80s and ’90s, let alone this millenium, passed him by.

      1. You may think we’ve passed it by, but the new SLU plan has distinct shades of Corbu: only two towers allowed per block (one tower per block close to the lake), and the taller the tower, the less total square footage it can have!

      2. Sotosoroto: the tall narrow towers is an attempt to let light through to the ground. It’s not corbusieresque. If you want to see Le Corbusier, go to Great America Parkway in Santa Clara, CA. Each superblock takes a whole ten minutes to walk past, and contains one ten-story office building in the middle surrounded by huge lawns, wide terrace walls with identification signs, and other empty space. In other words, it’s extremely pedestrian hostile. For examples closer to home, see the 1970s office parks that remain on Northup Way between Bellevue Way and 124th.

      3. Nobody ever really did Corbusier cities because Corbusier’s design was, if not physically impossible, at least so far counter to practical economics that it could never have been built much. The pure Corbusier plan, unlike Great America Parkway or Northup Way, did involve very tall buildings and considerable density, and the ground space was dominated not by parking but by parks. In the real world if you’re building around the car you need a place to park it, and even if you build structured parking into the footprint of your building your overall density is limited by any number of traffic bottlenecks (whether on the roads themselves or simply entrances to the parking structures).

        Different elements of Corbusier show themselves in different places. A tall tower surrounded by open space will generally evoke Corbusier; so will many attempts to hide buildings from surface streets, especially if they present themselves impressively to a freeway. There are different Corbusier-esque elements along Northup Way, and also in downtown Bellevue; around Northgate and somewhat in SLU (but certainly not Pike Place!); along Great America Parkway and in downtown San Jose; in the Oakbrook Terrace Tower, the Argonne National Lab campus, and Marina City.

      4. Brasilia is a pretty good implementation of Le Corbusier’s ideas.

        I hear its a vibrant and popular place these days…NOT!

  3. Wondering if any of our Metro folks know what is up with the StarTrans Blunder Buses (1900s). Every day I pass by Ryerson Base on Link, and see a bunch of them parked in constantly changing places and occasionally driving around with a Test Coach sign. Are there plans to try to put them back in service? I thought that had been ruled out.

  4. Eastside Commuter Rail isn’t complicated.

    The residents along that corridor don’t want trains in their backyard, period.

    That’s all the reason they needed during the I-405 Corridor Program back in 2000, to get it taken out of consideration.

    What went forward instead was an almost $1 Billion “BRT” system.

    Oh, and if you look at the EIS, you see that the alignment proposed for future light rail through Kirkland is on the Woodinville Sub ROW.

    1. That line is just not well positioned for a commute corridor. We should be spending money on rail projects people will actually ride.

      1. By who’s estimate? Yours?

        The 2008 study by Sound Transit and the PSRC show boardings to be competitive with our own Sounder (South), Utah’s Front Runner, and Coaster in San Diego.

      2. That just defies logic. The *only* employment center that line gets within walking distance of is Overlake Hospital, and it doesn’t exactly pass through high-density residential areas either. It misses both downtown Bellevue and downtown Kirkland by just enough to be solidly unwalkable. Overlake Hospital alone is not going to generate ridership comparable to South Sounder.

      3. I don’t think the Eastside rail corridor makes a ton of sense but I don’t think some parts of that should be overstated. The tracks are on the wrong side of 405 from downtown Bellevue but… lots of commuter rail stations are a bit of a walk from their real job centers (that’s the case in Chicago, and for Sounder, too). Bridges over 405 require fairly little climbing for walkers and the area east of 405 could certainly see more walkable growth with a train station there. They miss the heart of downtown Kirkland by about a mile in the best case, and it’s a hilly mile, but there is some stuff on 6th St S and a well-sited stop could have some connection potential. It goes right through the heart of the Totem Lake developments, though Totem Lake’s best-case transit mode share is not very high without utterly radical redevelopment.

        So it’s perhaps viable for commuter rail. Not perfect but probably better than Sounder North. And the question is whether it’s worth investing enough money in that corridor (and angering neighbors and all that) to bring it up to the standards necessary to run that service just for a handful of trips per day. I’d rather take that money and make the 234/235 between Bellevue and Kirkland live up to its potential.

      4. Al, you really think people will walk 3/4 to 1 mile, in the elements and (in the Bellevue case) crossing a freeway, to use commuter rail to suburbs where parking is not all that expensive?

        I don’t.

        Having gone back and reread the analysis Jim Cusick cited, I think it’s just as detached from reality as the analysis that supported the Sounder North project. They are assuming people will make the walks Al described. I don’t see why.

      5. “…(and angering neighbors and all that) “

        That alone seems to be the driving force behind Regional planning.

        Read the analysis done by Sound Transit and the PSRC.

        Go back and read the EIS for the I-405 Corridor Program done by WSDOT back in 2000.

        Find where they brought commuter rail to a detailed level of study (out to the cost/benefit stage) on this corridor.

        You won’t.

        “Angry Neighbors” got it kicked out of the planning.

        I meet the same kind of folks over here in Edmonds.

      6. @David: I don’t think all that many people would. I’m just saying the 405 crossing in Bellevue isn’t as bad as I-5 is in much of Seattle, and some people would walk across it. Also that the area around the station would probably get at least a little denser and more pedestrian-friendly. With some work, the station location would be worse than King Street Station but not by orders of magnitude, and while that’s hardly an impressive achievement it opens up a comparison.

        So a comparison to Sounder South. A somewhat inferior connection to a downtown employment center that’s a considerably inferior transit draw. Outlying areas that are denser, have better transit connections, and more nearby employment, with less potential for P&Rs. It doesn’t shock me that a study would show it would be competitive for boardings with Sounder South, and that it wouldn’t be an utter embarrassment.

        But then I consider all the money necessary to get those tracks to a standard necessary for daily commuter rail service and the very real complications it would add to building a trail in that corridor (there’s currently a single track where you might want two; in many places even if the corridor is wide enough for that it would take a lot of earth-moving, especially if you wanted a trail nearby; on top of that you add issues with crossing safety, and then on top of that neighborhood opposition). And I conclude it’s not worth it. Commuter rail just isn’t a high-impact service; it’s worth doing when it’s cheap and easy, and it’s not worth doing that much earth-moving on the side of a ridge where there’s development on both sides.

      7. The Commuter Rail corridor includes everything from Snohomish to Tukwila.

        A more direct connection to South Sounder gets the most riders from the south end.

        Here’s what the analysis misses, though:
        (mind you, they came to a favorable conclusion with ridership based only on local transit trips)

        A lot of auto traffic enters the I-405 corridor from the north via SR-522, Hwy 9, and SR 527. If you’re complaining about commuter rail to the north creating sprawl…

        It’s Already Happening. Courtesy WSDOT, local governments, and the auto lobby.

        And we go right on supporting that, with no complaints what-so-ever about money being spent to ‘improve safety’ by widening these highways under that guise. If collsion avoidance was an issue you could accomplish that with jersey barriers and traffic control measures.

        The analysis shied away from making assumptions about a mode switch.

        The Snohomish connection would provide the ‘alternative’ that would feed ‘new riders’ to the system, and reduce congestion to boot.

        Unless of course, people really believe cities grow to a level of density and build mass transit AFTER the fact.

        That’s what New York did, Boston, too. All modern cities grow first, then install a transportation system, right?


      8. The Snohomish connection would provide the ‘alternative’ that would feed ‘new riders’ to the system, and reduce congestion to boot.

        Never going to reduce congestion just like East Link will do nothing to reduce congestion. Congestion is the only thing that keeps people from moving out to the bonnies. When the cheap land is outweighed by the costs of gas and time it’s self limiting. For every 100 people that use the alternative another 100 move out and take their place on the road. Building good transit close in however adds advantage to moving closer in. If it’s 30-45 minutes on the bus to get from say North Seattle to DT that hour from Monroe doesn’t seem so bad. If it’s a reliable 20-30 minutes and significantly cheaper than the cost of gas then that inexpensive place in Monroe doesn’t look so good. OTOH, if there’s an endless supply of blank checks to cover road building then transit doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes to limiting sprawl. In which case it might as well be spent where it delivers the most bang for the buck. And that doesn’t ever include building free structured parking.

      9. The really sad thing is that the Eastside rail corridor was the crucial “mudslide-free” path for freight trains to get from Vancouver, BC to Portland. OR. Too late for that now though. (To be fair freight railroads haven’t been able to afford redundancy for decades.)

      10. @Al Dimond

        “…shape cities. So your answer is to use scarce transit dollars to encourage sprawl in Snohomish?

        Sprawl is already happening in that area. Commuter rail is a way to mitigate its effects.

        The plan is to spend ~Billion on a freeway “BRT” system. That ~Billion is more effectively spent on the commuter rail line because it intercepts those people before they even enter the corridor.

        Once in the corridor, they then add to the local transit ridership, including Bellevue to Seattle over East Link.

        The “BRT” line (a freeway alignment) has the same problem as the rail line.

        It appears Kirkland can spend scarce tax dollars to tear out the tracks and build a trail.

        The message is simple:

        Build the trail, but Don’t Tear Up the Tracks

        At least let Doug Engle see what can be accomplished freight wise now that GNP is out of Tom Payne’s control.

        The only reason to tear up the tracks is to send a message.

      11. The only reason to tear up the tracks is to send a message.

        No, the reason to tear out the tracks is because on the majority of the ROW it’s the only level part of the 100′ wide ribbon. From where the tracks cross under I-405 all the way to where they cross back under at Totem Lake the ROW is along a steep hillside. Codes require a mixed use trail to be 12′ wide so they can’t simply gravel in between the rails. Plus federal environmental regulations say they have to remediate the 100 years or so of crap spewed from the trains and the use of creosote and weed killers used to maintain the tracks. Freight is not a viable option. There’s nothing in Kirkland and only one or two businesses left in Belleuve that would still use rail. That would only be for delivery and their life is so limited it wouldn’t warrant the investment necessary to serve them. GNP tried to keep serving a couple of the more industrial type businesses along Willows but Mayor Machione said quite loudly that they don’t want trains in their backyard, period. They want another bike trail that parallels the SRT, go figure.

      12. Thank you Bernie.

        Message now needs to be published somewhere beyond these pages.

        Puget Sound Regional Planning has fulfilled its stated mission.

      13. @Bernie: The point of the bike path isn’t to parallel the SRT. It actually intersects the SRT. The major purpose will be a better connection between 520 and Kirkland (and Totem Lake and on to Woodinville, for all the people that care about those places) once the path along 520 is done. Maybe it could even go Bellevue, too (ha, ha, ha).

        Jim, Bernie’s point about the tracks being the only level part of the corridor through Kirkland is important. Credible commuter rail service on a corridor as long as you’re describing probably needs double tracks; you even mentioned plans around light rail to Kirkland at one point, and that certainly needs double tracks (in addition to a connection to downtown Kirkland). I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the ground on those tracks; I have, and I’m no railroad engineer, but you’d have to move a hell of a lot of earth to get double tracks on that hillside (you’d also have to rebuild a few rather steep roads, making them even steeper than they already are). So if you’re talking about building a trail and keeping the rail you’re talking about moving a double-hell-of-a-lot of earth because a rail service worth having a future will need double tracks.

        The idea that a single train track built onto a hillside is that important is a fantasy. We could let the track rot in place for 30 years before we decide trains will never run on it again or we could do it now. We’re doing it now. I don’t live on that hillside or in Kirkland at all, if it pleases you to know, and don’t care about the NIMBYs except to acknowledge that they do have some power. I just think we should face the facts, and do something that can be done instead of waiting for something that will never happen.

      14. Al Dimond, I believe Bernie was talking about the Redmond Spur where the trail Redmond is building will indeed parallel the SRT along Willows Road. Just like their Central Connector trail will parallel the Bear Creek trail around Redmond Town Center. The older trails have the advantage of being mostly grade separated.

      15. Al, the bulk of Bernie’s 10:10 comment is about the Woodinville Subdivision through Kirkland and Bellevue. In the last two sentances where he referred to Mayor Machione (of Redmond), GNP serving businesses on Willows Road and a trail parallel to the Sammamish River Trail, that can only refer to the Redmond Spur.

      16. @Bernie: The point of the bike path isn’t to parallel the SRT.

        What you’re talking about is the Cross Kirkland Trail. That’s completely separate from the Redmond Spur which does indeed do nothing but parallel the SRT from Woodinville down to Redmond and is between Willows Road and the Willows Run goof course south of 124th. North of there it goes through JB Lawns and crosses 202 at St. Micheal winery. It ends in Redmond at the Y tracks the Dinner Train used to turn around at. It’s only at that point where there is a connection to the ROW that goes up to Totem Lake but Kirkland did not buy that section so it’s unknown when that would ever become bike trail. The connection isn’t important because the SRT goes under the ROW just a few hundred feet to the east.

    2. I’d be happy if the people along the ROW would just come out and say publicly –

      “We don’t need no stinkin’ trains in our back yard!”

      It would make the process a whole lot quicker, and the arguments more concise.

    1. Nope, they’re saying the committee that said ridership needs to grow on Sounder North was comprised of people who live nowhere near the service area. Most live in Snohomish County, but that’s not good enough.

      At least CT doesn’t keep their bus fares way below Sounder fares, the way ST does.

      They don’t mention taking the bus to the train for the morning commute. It’s all about parking. And, oh yeah, better ferry connections. But mostly parking, parking, and more parking. A charge for parking isn’t mentioned as a way to manage parking congestion, but that point is moot if they don’t have bus connections.

      Nor do they say anything about supporting the funding to get Link into Snohomish County.

    2. I really think the schedule for Sounder North is the killer. With a better schedule, it might still be underperforming, but not underperfoming so MUCH. Get the schedule renegotiated; there should be northbound trips after work ends, and late in the evening, and there should be at least one pair of reverse-peak trips.

      1. Have you actually bothered to read any of the coverage about Sounder North? You might learn something on that very subject if you did.

      2. It’s hard to ignore John Niles logic as recently given to the ST Board.
        “Because of the cost figures derived from operating experience, I assert that the Sounder North Line train can no longer be considered a reasonable alternative transit mode under RCW 81.104.120. Sound Transit should declare this train to be illegal and discontinue it. Resources no longer needed to operate it should be committed to strengthening Regional Express bus service in the corridor between Everett and Seattle, which the COP has reported to be so well-used that passenger have to stand in the aisle.
        If my recommendation is not implemented, I have an alternative request that explanatory information be provided to citizen taxpayers: The Sound Transit Board should explain in writing why RCW 81.104.120 was applied in 1994 with calculations shown as though this detail mattered, and why now in 2012 the law is being ignored.”
        But I’m sure the 3 wise Mayors will prevail, and ST will thumb their noses at the current law.
        Now it’s the Pierce County delegation that will likely use ST funding to backfill PT’s failed Prop 1 tax increase.

      3. I read all the coverage about Sounder North. Uh, the schedule pops out immediately as one of the problems.

      4. I think Bruce is politely trying to say that BNSF has been less than friendly about negotiating the current schedule, and could therefore be expected to be even less friendly about negotiating a new one.

  5. While the freakonomics article is interesting, it ignores much more than the fact that transit can incentivize density.

    The article’s logic really breaks down when it assumes that transit’s usefulness in reducing the carbon footprint is limited to the BTUs per passenger. It does not account for all the people who don’t need to take transit at all for non-commuting trips anymore because of the benefits of density. Density, along with good biking and walking infrastructure incentivize people to not take the bus or train or their car at all. Dense neighborhoods with local amenities are much more efficient.

    That is not even accounting for the fact that density in itself means a more efficient way of transporting power and energy to people. What’s easier – supplying power to 16000 people over a square mile or 40 square miles?

    It only covers a small fraction of the overall picture. The conclusions that the article comes up with are good, for the most part. I agree, as most people here do, that we should stop making it easy for people to drive and park cheaply.

    However, there are many reasons to keep inefficient service to less dense areas, and ‘efficiency’ is only part of the reason transit should be built.

    1. Ugh, I typed that up in a hurry and some of it is worded poorly, but I hope I got my general point across.

      My point is that even if mass transit was less efficient than driving somehow, it might still be better for the environment just by nature of that fact that the density it incentivizes leads to a larger percentage of people walking/biking (if the infrastructure allows it). Regardless of the fact that the trains are full, there might be many more people choosing to walk/bike some trips instead. Does that make sense? I hope so.

    2. I wonder what the tradeoffs are between density and HVAC expenses? High-rises tend to need air conditioning year round, because of the lack of airflow and the number of people packed into a relatively small space. It wouldn’t surprise me if beyond a certain level of density that canceled out the benefits.

      1. Dense housing almost always uses less energy for HVAC than sparse housing. In heating climates you have much less surface area to lose heat. As for air conditioning, again in heating climates you usually have cool air outside so you don’t need to run compressors, just fans to distribute that air. In cooling climates again you have less surface area, so less heat gain from the environment. Yes, you need air conditioning, but you generally have more efficient systems for large buildings than houses.

        Add to this that dense housing is generally smaller than single family homes, and the energy savings is even larger.

      2. I’ve read about towers losing efficiency beyond a certain point. It makes sense – there is no efficiency model in this world that doesn’t reach diminishing returns and then losses after a certain point. Although, even in Manhattan most people live in 4-10 story buildings. I imagine that high-rises are much more efficient now than they used to be, but there are probably real world physical constraints (like HVAC) that prevent buildings beyond a height from ever realistically becoming efficient.

        I’d guess even Manhattan is still capable of growing and still having much better efficiency, though.

      3. From an energy perspective, a middle floor of a 5 story building should perform identically to the middle floor of a 50 story building or the middle floor of a 500 story building. The only difference is in elevators and pumping domestic water – both of which are fairly small percentages of total energy use, and there are now elevators that regenerate energy on your way back down.

        I think the larger issues are with floor space (more people = more elevators and stairs), lobby space, and parking.

        That said, you don’t need 200 floor towers to get density. And with Seattle’s goofy FAR requirements, short buildings do just as well.

      4. We don’t need 40 or 200 story towers in the neighborhoods. We just need to move to a 3-10 story standard on all arterials and some surrounding blocks. Chicago’s North Side does quite well with a 4-story average in a couple-mile by couple-mile rectangular area. Having a two-dimensional area of medium density does wonders for transit demand and walkability. Having linear medium density on arterials is not as good but it’s better than the status quo, and it’s the most that can be expected in the outer Seattle neighborhoods where the single-family blocks are sacred and inviolate.

      5. “I’ve read about towers losing efficiency beyond a certain point.”

        They do, but it’s a pretty huge point. As you noted, most people in Manhattan live in 4-10 story buildings. It’s some height higher than that where the efficiency loses start mounting — 100-story buildings require lots and lots of elevator space, multiple emergency staircarse, are exposed to the high winds at the higher altitudes, require huge amounts of pumping to get water to the top, etc. etc….

        Most skyscrapers were built as prestige show-off buildings. The situation in Manhattan, where there’s only so much space on the island, has caused the construction of far more skyscrapers than elsewhere, and yet most of the island is *still* under 20 stories.

  6. If we were to vote on an ST3 package in 2016, what would be the most likely form of financing it? Would it be through additional sales taxes, or some other form?

      1. Heh. I’ve been telling people for a good decade now to see Venice before it sinks. It’s beautiful, amazing, and is a snapshot of life a millenia ago. And it’s rotting, from the bottom up. Nobody lives on the 1st floors anymore, and it won’t be more than a few decades until buildings start falling into the canals.

      2. Forget the first floor, not many people live permanently in Venice anyway. Everett has a much greater population compared to what we think of as Venice.

      3. True. It’s a tourist attraction rather than a functional city these days. But most of the hotels, restaurants, and museums have abandoned the first floors as well.

      4. I wonder how much longer it will be until Venice actually has to be abandoned. And Miami. And New Orleans. It seems that at some point, it won’t be financially tenable to keep these places…afloat. (Pun intended)

      5. It’s already not financially viable, but a startling amount of stuff is done despite it not being financially viable. I’m not sure when it will become *politically* unviable to keep these places afloat, but it seems inevitable at this point.

  7. That Piece on DC’s height limits was intriguing, I wonder what, if any of the same impacts there are of our fairly restrictive zoning here in Seattle. I’d love to just generally see that kind of analysis done on many major cities (Chicago, Seattle, SF, NYC, LA, Houston) and see where they all fall!

  8. No to Eastside Commute Rail, yes to Eastside Commuter Trail. If one of the most important issues in transportation is climate change, let’s get serious about it. There’s nothing green about people in McMansions in Newport Hills driving their SUV’s to the local Eastside Rail P&R to catch the train into downtown Bellevue to go to work. Pave the thing. Put a cover over it to encourage fair-weather bike commuters to use it year-round.

    1. If only the line would allow people to P&R commute to downtown Bellevue, it might actually be worth building. But it doesn’t. It gets within about 3/4 of a mile of downtown Bellevue, and no closer, across a major freeway.

      1. By the time we could realistically see the East side commuter rail (they have to fix/upgrade a bunch of track, get cars, new signals, etc. Eastlink will be coming in, at that point the Hospital station would be comon between the two systems, and would make an easy transfer from ESR to DT Bellevue/Seattle and MSFT.

      2. In other words, commuting to downtown Bellevue using the line would be just like commuting to Seattle using Sounder North… if Pioneer Square were the only DSTT stop other than IDS.

        Keep in mind that even the Bellevue Link station is reasonably far from the actual center of gravity of downtown.

        I understand the wish to recycle existing infrastructure. I just think it’s unwise to convert this particular right-of-way to rail. It makes a *lot* more sense as a bike trail, particularly if a bikeway were added to one of the arterials leading into both downtown Bellevue and downtown Kirkland.

      3. if a bikeway were added to one of the arterials leading into both downtown Bellevue and downtown Kirkland.

        I sense a whiff I-502 in that sentiment :=

      4. It’s actually not so bad to get from the tracks to downtown Kirkland on a bike. If there will be a way to exit at NE 68th there’s a bike lane on that and on State St; if not, you’ll be able to take 6th St S to Kirkland Way.

        As for Bellevue… Bellevue ain’t got shit.

    2. “Put a cover over it to encourage fair-weather bike commuters to use it year-round.”

      Cute, I like it.

  9. Would ridership grow on North Sounder if the fare were maxed out at slightly less than the cost of the express bus? Would it perhaps even increase total fare revenue?

    1. Wikipedia claims 1100 rides / day on Sounder North. Go with the Simpson-Curtin fare elasticity of -0.3. (I’m guessing the corridor isn’t likely very price-sensitive, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt).

      That means if you cut the fare by 10 percent, you can expect a 3 percent ridership increase, and a 20 percent fare cut gets you 6 percent. Chop those fares in half and you’ll get a whopping 15 percent increase. This is admittedly a very crude analysis, but no matter how you slice it, I think the most extra ridership you could score with fare tinkering is about 200 boardings a day.

      It’s virtually impossible to lower fares and get more revenue, unless you can somehow come up with a way to keep charging your existing riders the same fare while charging the new riders a lower fare. You get more riders by lowering fares, but you don’t get more money.

    2. Both North and South Sounder, the few times I’ve taken them, my first reaction is “Wow! That’s all they charge for this cushy, quick ride?!?”

  10. Trying to save a failing transit system, a city in France makes their bus system free. Ridership jumps 118% in a year, on upwards after that. In their case this actually saved money from ticket collection (farebox recovery was only at 14%).

    1. “99 percent of residents are happy with the new policy” When was the last time 99% of people were happy about anything?

      And a larger city will follow: “At the end of this year, Tallinn, Estonia (pop. 406,000) will eliminate fares on its transit system for residents, making it the world’s biggest city with free mass transit.”

      Ah, King County. Always trying to swim against the flow of progress.

  11. Many transit systems have built-in inefficencies which prevent them from having a very high percentage of capacity used on average.

    First, most commutes are one direction, such as into downtown in the mornings, which means that the transit vehicles have to travel away from downtown in the mornings mostly empty to start the trip back into town. The reverse commute trips are just always going to be mostly empty the entire way. Sometimes they are entirely empty, when “deadheading”.

    Secondly, for systems like Link, which have a lot of stations spaced out along the line, the trains have to be mostly empty on the first part of the trip coming into town in the mornings to leave room for people to board at each ensuing station. If inbound LInk trains in the morning were at capacity when the left Tukwila, then nobody could board at any station unless some riders got off, and most riders are probably going all the way into downtown.

    So, by its very nature Link trains have to be pretty empty for much of their route. And, in the off-peak direction they are mostly empty the entire route. There is really nothing that can be done about this. And that prevents Link from being more energy efficient.

    Express buses, on the other hand, with few or no stops in the middle of the route, can be more more efficient in the peak direction. For example, the 194 could fill up in the downtown tunnel and be full the entire way to SeaTac, because it made only a couple of stops south of the tunnel, on the busway, and few people wanted to board it at those stops. So, the 194 could be basically full its entire route, once it left the downtown tunnel. That is much more energy-efficient than Link, with all its stops between downtown and the airport.

    Link going south carries a lot of people who are not going to the airport, so as those people get off at Beacon Hill, and Mt. Baker, for example, the Link trains get emptier and emptier at each successive stop, and usually have less than half the number of riders south of Rainier Beach that they had leaving SODO.

    So, those are built-in inefficiencies of systems like Link light rail that there is nothing that can be done to improve.

    Vanpools and carpools, on the other hand, normally pick up riders at the same place and take all of them to the same destination. This is very efficient. THey are pretty, or completely, full the entire way in both directions, and don’t make reverse commute trips.

    1. All very true. One problem that comes up is that people may be more reluctant to take mass transit if they know they can’t easily return before the evening commute, for example if they get sick or have an emergency at home. I take an express bus to work and I’m basically “trapped” there for the rest of the day. The limited hours that commuter express buses run also make them useless for people who don’t work a normal 9-5 schedule. (Although if you’re working night shift, parking is probably not a problem for you anyway.)

      1. But the tradeoff is energy efficiency vs convenience. Operating transit vehicles during the middle of the day, or late at night, when they are usually mostly empty in all directions, is really wasting energy. However, it seems most transit advocates insist upon doing this, because, apparently, they favor convenience over efficiency. They are not really concerned about energy efficiency.

        This is particularly because transit riders are only paying a fraction of the cost of their trips. If transit riders had to pay the actual cost of their trips, they might feel differently about operating mostly-empty vehicles during off-peak hours, which drives up the average cost per trip of the entire system.

      2. But would more people start using transit if they knew the convenience was there instead of being “stuck” as Orv puts it?

        It’s the “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” thought. I don’t know which is right in terms of transit and our needs, but I know that when I lived in Philly, I knew that buses, rail, and subways ran on a set, all-day, schedule. I knew that if I did have to leave work early for an appointment, because I was sick, etc., I could still rely on transit versus having to drive into work that day. Regional Rail lines ran in both directions at all times of the day – I know we have some issues here with that because we share the rail with commercial/freight lines.

        Here, if I need to leave work early or come in late, I plan on driving in instead of having to take a non-express bus that would take me close to 40 minutes to travel… and then I’m just another car on the road with only one passenger taking up space.

      3. I care very much about energy efficiency… but I also realize its a moot point if we can’t make a system that will be usable enough to get people to choose it instead of something much worse like a car.

      4. Convenience in public transportation creates energy efficiency.

        One of the WORST things you can do for energy efficiency is to *buy a car*, which then sits idle for very long periods, with its huge capital investment of energy.

        When public transportation is running all day long and has a comprehensive enough service — in other words, when it’s convenient — fewer people *buy cars*. Two-car households drop to one car, one car households may drop to zero.

      5. OTOH, a cars use determines how long is lasts. So if car sits it’s not wasted as racking up miles on a bus that’s not hauling around any more people than could fit in a car. Also figure in the cars direct route vs a typically circuitous bus trip. My drive to work is about 7 miles. My bus commute takes the scenic tour of Kirkland on the 255. Hence, we arrive back at the ROT that effective transit (as in alternate to owning a car) requires a density of ~8,000 people per square mile.

      6. Wrong, Bernie. Dead wrong. While some parts of a car wear out based on “miles driven”, an *awful lot of them* wear out based primarily on years.

        Battery, absolutely anything made of rubber, anything which rusts out. I have extensive personal experience with this.

      7. I’m only saying you’re wrong about “cars use determining how long it lasts”, mind you.

        Everything else you say is correct, and if a bus route is really routinely carrying fewer people than a car, and that’s as good as it gets, then there’s no point to it.

        I’ve never seen a bus route like that and I live in the freaking countryside.

      8. (Of course, truly circuitous bus routes are unjustifiable. I’m referring to buses which actually take reasonable routes.)

      9. Based on where I live, I’d say the minimum population density for public transportation is more like 5000 people per square mile.

        But this is deeply dependent on other things, especially the resources put into subsidizing competing modes of travel — if your locality avoids spending money on road building, you’ll find cars are less popular than in localities which have lots of big, wide roads going everywhere.

    2. Norman – thanks to the airport stop, Link is not empty in the reverse direction. And it is not empty midday either. You should try riding it sometime.

      1. I take it you weren’t around, asdf, for all of Norman’s posts providing “ridership counts” back in the day.

      2. I have been around for those posts. Most of them were when Link first began operation and ridership on Link is considerably higher than it was back in 2009 and 2010. I have personally taken both morning and midday trips to the airport and evening trips from the airport several times. While I can usually get a seat, they are not anything close to empty.

  12. Will be another post on here updating on downtown operations post-RFA at some time in the future, or are there some perspectives to share? I’m only downtown occasionally at rush hour, so I’m curious if things have started to normalize compared to the first few days or even weeks.

  13. In a reply to Tom’s question, things in Downtown are still as terrible as they were at the end of September. As a frequent West Seattle rider throughout the week, I will attempt to list a few observations about what has been going on to hopefully show a perspective of a general rider from the Seattle area.
    The Good:
    • The pay as you enter system seems to be working well in the tunnel and at most stops on the surface, the metro boarding assistants need to return to 3rd and pike as the RapidRide can take about 5-10 minutes just to load everyone if there is a delay.
    • The route 37, which everyone on this blog seemed to dislike, appears to have all the seats taken on every trip now, and more riders seem to board weekly to avoid the 3rd avenue mess and the unreliable 56X. Many people have seen these DART like vans making rounds in West Seattle, is it possible a new network of circulars is on the way?
    • Route 55, with the added trips, this peak only route is one of the best parts of the West Seattle network. If only more trips could be added to the 128 and RapidRide C to improve connections at Alaska Junction, this route wouldn’t be needed.
    • Route 125, while almost empty on Saturdays, the weekday peak ridership is very high, and is usually standing room only. Observations have led me to believe that the 128 should serve Westwood Village and North Delridge instead of the current backtracking route. The live loop Downtown works quite well.
    • Route 120 seems to be holding up rather well in terms of other problems that exist.
    • On weekends, the RapidRide C is crowded but works well. On weekdays even during the midday, there are serious problems.
    The Bad:
    • The route 50, which I supported in the proposal, has very little ridership. It seems like all the 34X and 39 riders just disappeared. As the RapidRide C continues to flounder, many riders in peaks seem to be taking Link to SODO and transferring to Route 50 for west Seattle. For Seward Park and the low-performing Mount Baker tail of Route 14, why not extend the 27 south to justify 30 minute daytime frequencies at least on Saturdays and continue to have a one seat ride to Downtown. A West Seattle only route, perhaps as an extension of the 128 to Alki running every 15 minutes would be better used.
    • Genesee hill riders are completely stranded for the most part as the Route 57 is almost always late, and there is no service outside of peak periods. Some service similar to current Route 22 should be provided here.
    • Riders in the admiral district need more reliable service north of Alaska Junction. If everyone has to walk to California, at least make the service better than before.
    • The Route 128 needs more buses, 30 minutes doesn’t cut it, with many being forced to wait long periods at Alaska Junction for a connection.
    • The new route 22 has almost zero riders because of the terrible frequency. While talking with some fellow riders the other day, a revised 22 from North Admiral via Admiral Junction and Genesee Hill to the current route to Shorewood (106th) and then via the Arbor heights full loop could attract more riders and justify a higher frequency.
    • Just eliminate the 55 and 116 and add additional RapidRide C buses. These would be better utilized and could solve the overcrowding.
    • Yesterday, I was heading to Alaska Junction to meet some colleagues and waited almost 20 minutes around 5pm for a RapidRide before calling it quits and getting on a 57. Where are the added buses?

    1. “As the RapidRide C continues to flounder, many riders in peaks seem to be taking Link to SODO and transferring to Route 50 for west Seattle.”


    2. Some thoughts in response to your very interesting post…

      The route 37, which everyone on this blog seemed to dislike, appears to have all the seats taken on every trip now

      Good. It looks like after many rounds of cuts Metro has finally found the appropriate level of service to match demand on the route. Not sure why 56X ridership would move to the 37, because neither the 56X route nor its span of service has changed at all… they did take too much time out of the paper schedule southbound, but that shouldn’t affect actual commute times.

      Route 125, while almost empty on Saturdays, the weekday peak ridership is very high, and is usually standing room only.

      Since it combined the south half of the 135 and 20 to make the 120, Metro has seemed very paranoid about giving the 125 enough service. I can only assume they’re worried about drawing riders away from the 120, which is a corridor they hope to grow. It’s always been a popular route, and in no way deserved the brutal cuts it got this time around. Metro kept service intact on far less popular routes.

      It should also be renumbered now — when it doesn’t even reach Roxbury anymore, the 1xx number makes no sense.

      The route 50, which I supported in the proposal, has very little ridership. It seems like all the 34X and 39 riders just disappeared.

      There is a reliability problem with the 50 to Seward Park during the p.m. peak, and it’s caused by one teeny bottleneck — the ramp from Spokane Street up to Columbian Way. This one is frustrating because it can eat 10 minutes, but there’s no way around it without going literally miles out of the way. I’m wondering if a few short-turn southbound 50 trips starting from Beacon Hill during the p.m. peak might be a good thing to re-attract some of those 34 riders.

      Genesee hill riders are completely stranded for the most part as the Route 57 is almost always late, and there is no service outside of peak periods.

      That’s because there were almost no Genesee Hill riders outside of peak periods.

      Riders in the admiral district need more reliable service north of Alaska Junction.

      Yes. The outbound 50 and 128 do not make a good interlined combination because the 128 is so unreliable. If each of them became more frequent, it would work a lot better.

      While talking with some fellow riders the other day, a revised 22 from North Admiral via Admiral Junction and Genesee Hill to the current route to Shorewood (106th) and then via the Arbor heights full loop could attract more riders and justify a higher frequency.

      The 22 is begging for an extension, but I don’t think that Genesee Hill is the right one, again because of lack of riders. The 51 was cancelled for a reason; it wasn’t very expensive to run. Just extend the 22 up California to help a bit with the 128/50 mess.

      1. Actually, the 125 was pretty unspectacular on Saturdays. It was restored because SSCC offers some classes on Saturdays, and the 125 is the only connection to the college from the north. There is no conspiracy against the 125.

      2. David L, you brought up many of the questions I had been asking myself and maybe these suggestions will better match what appear to be true observations…

        Good. It looks like after many rounds of cuts Metro has finally found the appropriate level of service to match demand on the route.

        Referring to the Route 37, as Bruce said below, the buses are quite full (much more so than before the service change) as far as 63rd Ave SW and then only about 4 or less riders remain on board. I agree that they have found the seemingly correct service level for this corridor. Interestingly enough, I rode the 37 last week to get to Alaska Junction after additional problems with the RapidRide and past 63rd, all of the other riders remained on board with me until Alaska junction or a couple of stops before it, with no exiting on Beach drive. Concerning the 56X, many Alki riders have switched to the 37 according to my observations due to the seemingly faster and more reliable travel times in the PM peak.

        It’s always been a popular route, and in no way deserved the brutal cuts it got this time around. Metro kept service intact on far less popular routes. It should also be renumbered now — when it doesn’t even reach Roxbury anymore, the 1xx number makes no sense.

        Concerning the 125, I agree that it should be renumbered but it also should most likely be axed outside the peak period and replaced with a more frequent and straightened 128 serving Westwood Village, SSCC, and North Delridge on its way to Alaska Junction. A timed transfer to the 120 could make this even more attractive.

        I’m wondering if a few short-turn southbound 50 trips starting from Beacon Hill during the p.m. peak might be a good thing to re-attract some of those 34 riders.

        Now this is a very good suggestion, why not have the 50 serve Beacon Hill Station at all hours instead of SODO to improve the reliability of the route. According to Google Maps, the deviation time is about the same as SODO Station.

        That’s because there were almost no Genesee Hill riders outside of peak periods.

        As I seldom rode the 51, I can’t dispute that. The problem lies in the strong peak demand in Genesee Hill and only four unreliable 57 trips to serve it. Based on the trend addressed above concerning Route 37, why not delete the 56X with its 9 peak period trips, and add 4 short turn Alki trips per peak on Route 37 and 5 new peak period runs on Route 57. This would simplify the service pattern and riders between the Admiral District and Alki could still take Route 50.

        The outbound 50 and 128 do not make a good interlined combination because the 128 is so unreliable. If each of them became more frequent, it would work a lot better.

        As per my suggestion for the 125, if the 128 received added frequency, say 15 minutes on Weekdays and Saturdays (at least north of Westwood Village), the 50 could be redirected as a straight shot down Admiral Way to Spokane/26th before continuing to Southeast Seattle. This could free up resources for additional frequency improvements.

        The 22 is begging for an extension, but I don’t think that Genesee Hill is the right one, again because of lack of riders. The 51 was cancelled for a reason; it wasn’t very expensive to run. Just extend the 22 up California to help a bit with the 128/50 mess.

        Genesee Hill probably only deserves peak period service, see my suggestion about expanding the 57. California needs better service but with a more frequent singular route, the 128, this would not be necessary. Just run the 22 from SSCC via the 128 routing to Morgan junction then via the current 22 to Westwood Village and then operate through the Arbor Heights loop and add some night trips. This would provide adequate service with a singular bus on 60 minute headways and alleviate concerns about access to Arbor Heights. If needed, add a second bus during peak periods for 30 minute headways and cut back the 21X at Barton. All Arbor Heights riders would have a faster trip via the 120 to revised 22 anyway.

    3. “The route 37, which everyone on this blog seemed to dislike, appears to have all the seats taken on every trip now […]”

      The problem with the 37 isn’t that it had no riders previously; it didn’t have many, but it wasn’t empty. It’s that most of its riders were coming from Alki, which is already served by the 56X, but then it ran mostly empty after Alki.

      If the 56X is a mess, Metro needs to fix the 56X. If 3rd Ave is a mess, Metro needs to fix 3rd Ave. The latter is, I admit, a hard problem. Ideally, Metro needs to go cashless downtown (like London), which is something they are studying, but could take years. They could also make loaders permanent on 3rd Ave, although that would cost money that they may not have now.

    4. I can definitely see why the former #39 riders aren’t flocking to the 50, but many of them are likely absorbed elsewhere in the system, rather than completely lost. For instance, some riders that used to take the 39 downtown might now be walking a little further and taking the 7, 36, or Link. Some might be playing hide-and-ride and driving to the nearest Link station.

      One strategy that some might be using is to take the 50->Link connection in the morning, when it’s reliable and taking some other route home in the afternoon. Or perhaps taking Link to Columbia City Station, then pulling out OneBusAway to decide whether it’s faster to wait for the 50 or just walk.

      The real problem here, though, goes back to the unreliability of the 50 and the fact that we’re trying to do to much with it. Everything the 50 does west of the VA hospital is redundant with some other route. The 50 should instead be truncated to operate only the segment between the VA hospital and Seward Park. With each run being shorter and much more reliable, the savings can be invested to make it run more frequent. If the shorter route length and the higher frequency means fewer riders per trip, then operate the trip with a smaller vehicle – I would expect a 12-passenger Dodge Sprinter operating every 10 minutes during the peak to provide plenty of passenger capacity for this trip. And if union rules say you have to pay the driver of the shuttle van the same wages as the driver of a 60-foot artic, then contract the service out to someone who doesn’t have to operate under these rules.

      1. You are underestimating some of the missions of the 50. It serves the following short trips, all of which have at least meaningful ridership, and none of which are done by anything else post-restructure:

        – Columbia City/Othello – Seward Park
        – Columbia City/Sodo – 15th Ave S/Columbian Wy
        – Sodo – North Delridge
        – Sodo – Junction
        – North Delridge – Junction
        – Junction – Alki
        – Admiral – Alki

        You could probably split it in Sodo without affecting many riders. But that wouldn’t take care of either of the two biggest reliability problems the route has — the railroad tracks for westbound traffic and the Spokane – Columbian ramp for eastbound traffic.

      2. I’ll address each of your trips one by one:

        – Columbia City/Othello – Seward Park
        => The truncated #50 would still handle this

        – Columbia City/Sodo – 15th Ave S/Columbian Wy
        => Columbia City->SODO you would just use Link. The only people who might really miss the 50 is the tiny pocket of houses between I-5 and the VA hospital. However, they’ve still got the 60. Beacon Hill Station is about a mile walk, depending on exactly where you’re coming from. And, depending on where you’re coming from the 36 may be within a half mile. This pocket is small and isn’t enough to make the 50 unreliable for everyone else when there are other options. By contrast, in the Seward Park area, the 50 is the only bus around, so it is important for coverage.

        – Sodo – North Delridge
        => Take the 21
        – SODO => Junction
        => The 21, plus a half-mile walk can get you there. Not great, but how many people go to SODO anyway? With a functioning C-line, those making Link connections can make their connection in downtown instead and ride the C-line.
        – North Delridge->Junction.
        => The 50 doesn’t really work for this trip, unless you count its stops on Avalon Way. But the C-line serves those same stops.
        – Junction-Alki/Admiral->Alki.
        => Most of this is done by the 128, except for a small tail at the end where the 50 does provide unique coverage. However, if we just extend the 128 to cover the tail of the 50, problem solved.

    5. I wonder if anyone is using the 50 for crosstown rides. If not, then the issue of the difficult-to-find, almost-completely-unused stops for the 50 by SODO Station is moot.

      Can anyone find the westbound 50 bus stop by SODO Station?

      1. Yes! I discovered it Monday as I was transferring from Link to the 131 for a Costco run. It’s on Lander Street between the busway and 4th, and there were 2-3 people waiting there. I didn’t see the eastbound stop but I hope it’s across the street somewhere and not on 4th which is further from Link.

      2. The “eastbound” stop is the southbound stop on E-3 at Lander. It works much better than that weird westbound stop.

  14. Serious research request on rail: Friends, I hate asking anything out of you. But for a public sector client, I’m researching how many freight trains travel between Everett and Bellingham daily. Where would I find that info?

    I can’t say much more than that professionally but I think you will be reading the end product come January… and like it as we like Amtrak, right?

    1. According to Gibson Traffic Consultants Inc.:

      “The City may wish to analyze the degree to which a doubling of freight traffic is expected to adversely affect the reliability of existing passenger rail schedules and also whether it will diminish opportunities to expand passenger rail.”

      Elsewhere they say the coal terminal would be “adding an additional 9 fully-loaded and 9 empty (18 total) trains each day.” Note, some of the current train traffic is coal headed to a Canadian port which is under consideration of being expanded if Cherry Point falls through so it’s not certain stopping the terminal is sufficient to stop the trains.

    2. If you have a public sector client with sufficient clout (you know, a state as opposed to a village), you may be able to get the most accurate information directly from BNSF, which certainly knows what trains they run.

      (Actually, if you’re doing anything involving planning for extension of train service, the stringline diagrams would be invaluable for planning to avoid conflicts.)

      1. Try a city. I can’t go beyond that but… I can tell you that after what I’ve read I hope many Seattle Transit Blog readers protest this scheme.

        Big scoping meeting Washington State Convention Center, Ballroom 6F from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, December 13 (800 Convention Place, Seattle, WA). The impacts on communities like my client and on passenger rail are going to be huge.

        For instance,

        The Washington State 2010-2030 Freight Rail Plan published by WSDOT in December 2009 identified that the rail line North from Everett in 2008 was already at its capacity of 18 trains per day (Exhibit 3-9). The State plan shows that it hopes to increase that capacity to 30 trains per day; however, the design and cost of the specific improvements needed to do that have not yet been identified.

        This is going to put Amtrak Cascades at huge risk… you’re hopefully going to love the comment letter my client is going to release late December-early January!

      2. Regarding that quote (and this may have nothing to do with what you’re studying) the coal terminal is awful, and needs to be stopped. Under US law, it would be very hard to stop if it were an entirely private project, but if it involves action under federal authority, it should be killed outright because it should fail Clean Air Act review.

        We need to STOP burning coal. The only use for coal for which there is no technological replacement is metallurgical coal, which is a tiny fraction of the coal used.

      1. Make that 24 hrs. Freight typically moves at night. I’m stunned to see that 18 trains a day is maximum capacity. That’s not even one an hour. The new Alameda corridor project in LA plans on handling 100 trains a day on a single track by 2020. Not sure of whether there are any passing tracks but even so the 18 quoted for full capacity seems awfully low. Here’s the link to the Alameda Corridor line. Bottom line – seems as though there’s plenty of capacity for freight (including coal) and potentially passenger trains. http://www.railway-technology.com/projects/alameda/

      2. Butch, the difference is partly in train speed. 18 slow coal trains per day takes the same capacity as a whole lot more fast intermodal container trains. Alameda corridor is focused on intermodal traffic.

      3. The Alameda Corridor is also not single tracked. You’ll get a lot more throughput if you don’t have train conflicts.

    3. Got my answers

      “About 15 trains of all types, including freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains, run north and south between Everett and Bellingham every 24 hours, said Gus Melonas, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe. About 27 trains per day, plus eight Sounder commuter trains, run between Seattle and Everett.*

      SOURCE: http://www.coaltrainfacts.com/docs/HeraldNet-Rail-terminal-in-Bellingham-could-mean-more-coal-freight-trains-through-county.pdf

  15. The Sounder train which got stuck on the Tacoma hill apparently had a broken sander. I’m surprised there wasn’t redundancy in the sanders, but I guess they’ve never needed it before.

  16. That Freakonomics blog post really should be titled “Does the Average Bus Emit Less Carbon Per Passenger Mile Than The Average Car”, because that’s mostly what it is concerned with. Answering a question about transit’s role in saving the environment would pretty much have to take into account changing development patterns as well, as several have already pointed out.

    Also, the FTA data Ben linked to shows that — even if one makes the assumption that the SOV data therein is based on driving alone and not on 1.6 passengers per car — Metro buses are a more environmentally friendly travel option than private vehicles. “Transit buses” in general includes rural and small-town buses in places like, say, Whidbey Island that almost always have very light loading patterns.

    1. Remember, it’s not just the carbon emissions out the tailpipe, but also the carbon emissions that go into the manufacture of the car in the first place. Even a monthly ride in an SUV taxi is still more carbon friendly than buying a Prius for this explicitly purpose that sits in the garage every day of the month except one.

      Another thing to consider is that every motor vehicle is most polluting when the engine is cold – when it’s first started in the morning. Driving your own car, you inevitably make a lot of trips like this. However, on a bus or even a taxi, the bulk of the miles driven happen while the engine is warm because the same vehicle is making trip after trip after trip, not one trip then parking for several hours, then another trip.

      1. Another thing to consider is that every motor vehicle is most polluting when the engine is cold – when it’s first started in the morning.

        This is very true for particulates, hydrocarbons, and CO, but only somewhat true for CO2 (the subject of the Freakonomics post). Cars do burn a bit more fuel when they’re cold, but the difference isn’t dramatic. On the other hand, they spew way more particulates and unburned fuel because cold engines don’t burn cleanly, and way more CO because the cats aren’t working when cold.

    2. The Freakonomics piece seemed to overlook the fact that if you’ve got a daily choice between a bus and your car, the marginal emissions of driving your car are significant, and the marginal emissions of riding the bus are zero.

  17. Thank goodness gas is cheap. …because as long as the bus route that would take me to work stops at Therapeutic Health Services, I won’t ride it. Ride that bus around the time THS opens (roughly the time I would be commuting to work) with people having withdrawals from methadone and a 10-15 minute ride will seem like an eternity. It’s very unpleasant.

    That aside, I would like to see Seattle to provide more incentives for motorcyclists like myself. Less footprint, less parking space, yet I pay the same in tolls, same parking fees, and I pay as much to register my motorcycle as I do to register my truck. Go to San Francisco, tolls for motorcycles are cheaper, parking fees for motorcycles are cheaper, and on-street parking areas are provided for motorcycles. I’m seeing more and more year-round cyclists here in Washington as gas prices creep higher.

    1. And in glorious California you can split the lane!

      Wait, isn’t your truck and motorcycle registration about the same thanks to Tim Eyman?

  18. The Magnolia take:

    3rd Ave still kind of slow overall. Most want 4th back. I am OK on 3rd during the day (I am easily bribed with OBA displays) but would not be at night. But, y’know, still no night service. Some of the 3rd slowness may be new 19 drivers – my commute bus home still does not have a regular driver, though they’ve promised one for next week. It’s not adding more than a couple minutes to my commute usually, though. Previous driver much missed.

    For some reason the bus sign numbers have been removed from a number of northbound stops on 3rd near Pioneer Square, and I’m still not sure why.

    24 highly unreliable as per usual but probably a little worse now. I took a peak 24 Magnolia-bound to the library for the transit meeting, and was struck by the remarkable geographic evenness of peak bus demand. I was counting stops and I believe all 26 Magnolia stops before the library were made. SRO, but not as bad as I’ve seen it… I am very grateful for the 19, which is both efficient and timely :)

    I have heard rumors of a stop diet study for 28th. Probably a good plan, might help some.

    Magnolia ridership pretty low on the 31 still, I think. Dunno what’s going on with the 33, they seem to not be having as many problems as the 24…

    I do like the 31/32 changes. Not useful to me now, but might be in a hypothetical future scenario.

    Still no late night service in the whole neighborhood. Additional rumor circulating that Metro plans to add one 24 run per service change until it’s all restored. Even if that’s true, that feels almost like taunting ;)

    That said, I need the night service a lot less than many, since I only use it to cut out the most annoying half-mile from my walking commute. I can do Ballard to Magnolia in under 50 minutes on a good night. The Ballard bus changes are working pretty well for my personal Downtown-Magnolia-Ballard-related transit needs. Happy I can get night stops on the D, sad to hear recently that maybe I’m not supposed to be getting them until 2:30 AM.

    1. As feared, couldn’t make it out there; thanks for the update!

      my commute bus home still does not have a regular driver, though they’ve promised one for next week.

      Short runs are vulnerable to not being picked, which probably happened with yours (if you tell me exactly which 19 it is, I can tell you how short the run is). If that happens they will be assigned through the ATL or the extra board, that is to say to a different driver every day, until they get assigned to a regular driver for some reason. Most likely your new regular driver will be a new part-time driver straight out of training, so I wouldn’t expect too much speed…

      I have heard rumors of a stop diet study for 28th. Probably a good plan, might help some.

      They already did some stop consolidation in the early 2000s. But more would really help in Magnolia, because the stops are the only things that slow the bus down there, given the lack of traffic lights or serious congestion.

      Magnolia ridership pretty low on the 31 still, I think.

      East Magnolia is definitely not an obvious place to live for folks commuting to the UW, although I did exactly that for a year in 1998-99 not long after the 31 first started.

      1. …so, what, did they have two stops per block before? Stop spacing is basically every eighth-mile block right now. I think the hills could also be tricky with 28th… Metro was saying that they didn’t want to run two-way on it for the suggested rework and I assume there were reasons. The Magnolia bridge only goes about halfway up the max height of that ridge, and the 24 has to climb the whole thing. There’s somewhat more car traffic and other-bus-dodging on 28th too I think. I ride the 4:36 19 most nights.

        The core group’s pretty much sifted down to the the hardcore car-free and/or vaguely nocturnal, their interests maybe a bit different than the daytime-only riders and the commuters. It’s trying to get more of an e-presence together, but right now it communicates almost entirely by messages taped to bus shelters. Some community organizing should start happening in a bit.

        Sadly, the 31 didn’t really serve my needs when I needed to be at UW – lack of sunday/late service plus distance from where I needed to go were problems, and when I was volunteering at the Center for Urban Horticulture the 31 did not really provide accessibility. The new 31/32 corridor fixes those issues nicely. I did use the 31 to connect to the 5 at one point (interesting transfer…)

      2. Interesting. Your 19 trip is on 19/2T, which is 2 hours and 42 minutes. (It does your 19, then deadheads back to downtown and does the 5:56 outbound 33, then deadheads back to base.) That’s fairly close to the minimum but not at it, so it would be surprising if it wasn’t picked, albeit probably by a very junior driver. Perhaps they are more short on part-time drivers than usual, or perhaps the driver who picked it left Metro before the start of the shakeup. In any case, don’t expect an experienced regular driver on that trip…

        The stops in the late 1990s were pretty much every block. Now they are at least every long block/two blocks. Back in the day, Metro operated with *really* close stop spacing.

      3. Magnolia is pretty much 1/8 mile blocks north to south, so probably not much if anything was done on the 24 since most of its travel is N/S. I made a large scale bus map of Magnolia for the meeting, so I’ve been looking at the stop placement a fair bit.

        Yeah, I’ve seen drivers being walked through the stops twice thus far. Non-D stops on 15th are very low visibility at night. There tends to be a bit of minor confusion at the interestingly placed Montavista stop too – I’m always interested to see how new drivers handle that one. :)

  19. I just ran across this very cool episode of “America Revealed” on PBS, which looks at our transportation network. I highly recommend it – the first few minutes looks at New York’s subways. (There is another episode that looks at our national electric grid which is aso fascinating)

  20. Well, well, well. About two years ago I predicted that the Coast Starlight would have trouble making it up the Nalley Valley hill. Everyone scorned me. But even I didn’t think it would be a problem for the much higher power/ton Sounder scoots.

    I realize it’s fall and that leaves make the tracks slippery. But it will be fall when the Starlight tries the hill in about four years.

    Prediction 1 fulfilled.

    But even worse than that is my concern for the planned four-quadrant gates squeezed right next to three clogged freeway interchanges. Somebody is going to get trapped in the gates and even the Talgos won’t be able to stop in time.

    I will not be happy when prediction 2 comes to pass.

    1. That is when the Nalley Valley Hill pusher locomotive will come into existence. Prediction/problem 1, solved.

    2. Didn’t the RR’s used to pick up bags of mail on the fly?
      I’m wondering if they could hang the pax’s on hooks in bags, and grab them at Freighthouse Stn while still keeping a running start on the hill.
      Hell, I’d pay good money just for the thrill of it.

    3. It wasn’t a matter of lack of power, it was a matter of inoperational (supposedly empty) sanders.

      1. Yes, that is correct. But as Anandakos surmises, it will be fun to see the Coast Starlight tackle that hill from a dead stop at Freighthouse Square. A 2.85 percent grade is darn steep. I would love to see it.

    4. I think Amtrak will remember to fill the sanders. It also runs with two locomotives, so… more sanders.

  21. So… at least a handful of bus drivers post on here. Today on my commute, the cycling portion of which was far too exciting for my taste, I wondered: who sees more insane and stupid crap on the road, cyclists or bus drivers? I suspect the bus drivers would win, but of course there’s a level of emotional impact when you’re out there on a bike, so… here are today’s entries…

    Today I was waiting at a red light in a left-turn lane when a driver coming from my right and making a left turn came straight at me. I literally saw nothing of her car but grill — I’ve seen lots of left turns from this perspective and seriously, she was on course to head-on me. Only after I started yelling she swerved over to a correct course. Later I was riding on a four-lane road in the right lane (which was about to end into a bike lane) when a driver behind me started tailgating me, then moving as if to pass me in-lane (which there wasn’t nearly enough room to do); then after he finally made a legal lane change he gave me the finger as he passed me. As a bonus, yesterday I was on a bike path at one of those confusing intersections where a bike path crosses a road in a crosswalk, and the car traffic usually yields but not always… so I approached slowly, and seeing that cross-traffic saw me and was stopping, I proceeded. As I entered the road a jeep that had stopped to my right started revving its engine, then before I even had my back wheel across the road surface the driver dropped the clutch and sped away, tires screeching (seriously, who does that?).

    1. Having been both an everyday bike commuter and a bus driver at various points in my life, I’ll say that I saw more stupid crap as a bus driver just by virtue of the sheer number of hours you spend behind the wheel, but that it affected me emotionally far more as a biker because it often felt like people were deliberately threatening to injure me.

      I was a very Zen bus driver but never managed to tame the road rage as a bike commuter.

      1. “I’ll say that I saw more stupid crap as a bus driver just by virtue of the sheer number of hours you spend behind the wheel, but that it affected me emotionally far more as a biker because it often felt like people were deliberately threatening to injure me.”

        That makes an awful lot of sense, David.

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