A week ago, at the Tap House downtown, Seattle Transit Blog hosted another excellent meetup, featuring as speakers Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Our speakers came with interesting and informative speeches, and our readers plied them with detailed questions. For a couple of hours afterwards, everyone mingled and had great conversations about transit. It was a smashing success, and we’d like to thank our guests and our readers who made the evening possible.

Metro GM Desmond spoke on two subjects: lessons learned from the roll-out of RapidRide C & D and the associated service change; and what’s ahead for Metro in 2013 and 2014. Some of the high points culled from the speech and Q&A:

  • As the September service change approached, Metro management seriously worried about the ability of the agency to execute three major changes (RapidRide C & D implementation, RFA elimination, and West Seattle-Ballard restructure) at once; at times the pace of change felt almost “suicidal”.
  • After the first couple of chaotic days, Metro managed to get things under control, and travel times through downtown have stabilized at the levels predicted by staff based on prior simulations and analysis. Desmond called out the “lots of smart people” who work for him.
  • Seattle is a very different market from the suburbs. When the A & B Lines were rolled out, they were immediately and universally liked by riders. The C & D reaction was very different, much more mixed, even from those who didn’t lose service; for instance, riders had to get used to more “urban” buses with fewer seats but more standing room. Desmond acknowledged the complaints about lack of schedule and OneBusAway information for RapidRide and said that “should be getting better” soon (and indeed it is).
  • There’s not likely to be any more “big bang” service changes like the last one. The sheer volume of complaints from disaffected Seattle riders (and voters) vastly exceeded expectations. As a public agency, Metro can’t ignore public opinion; especially as the agency may well soon have to ask voters for more money at the ballot.
  • Metro is working with SDOT on “a schedule everyone can live with” for improvements associated with RapidRide E. Reading between the lines here, my suspicion is that, just as many of the facilities and improvements for the D Line were not ready on schedule (among other things, stops not constructed and signal priority not turned on for weeks after launch), something similar has happened for the E Line. If that’s the case, delaying the E Line to make sure the service starts right out of the gate seems like a great idea to me.

What’s on the horizon for Metro, after the jump.

What’s on the horizon for Metro over the next couple of years is pretty daunting:

  • Most well-known, the expiration of the $20 CRC in 2014. The Metro budget for the current biennium is balanced only by assuming that the $20 CRC will expire, and 600,000 service hours of cuts will start go into effect by 2015.
  • In 2014, WSDOT’s temporary construction impact mitigation funding for the SR 99 project will run out. Metro has used this money to pad schedules for SR 99 routes (to account for construction-related delays) and add trips to West Seattle routes — trips which are now full. No source of further funding has been identified.
  • County leaders are working with Seattle and suburban cities to formulate a unified proposal for local option taxes for transit and road funding. King County DOT has a similar chronic structural underfunding problem with roads as with transit.

Mayor McGinn spoke about implementing and funding Seattle’s Transit Master Plan, in particular the high capacity transit corridors identified in that plan: Eastlake, Madison, and the joint effort with Sound Transit to study rail to Ballard. He discussed the challenges of negotiating for transit lanes with adjacent property owners (e.g. Luna Park Café and RapidRide C). Last but not least, while he has not yet announced plans to run for reelection, he suggested we watch for an announcement in January, and that, in the interim, supporters could donate at mcginnformayor.com.

The highlights above come from my memory, which is undoubtedly flawed and incomplete, and for that I preemptively apologize; please chime in with anything else you recall that you’d like recorded for posterity. Due to the success of this meetup, and the surprisingly small damage it did to the STB kitty (thanks for paying your tabs!), there are more meetups on the way. There will be an informal meetup to celebrate the demise of Route 42 in February, and a meetup with speaker(s) from the Seattle Department of Transportation in the spring.

Finally, another thank you to our speakers and the staffers who came out with them, without whom this wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

141 Replies to “Desmond and McGinn Make Another Great Meetup”

  1. Did anyone talk about the inefficiencies to the system that all these changes were supposed to yield?
    1. RR-A doubled bus hour for a 50% gain in ridership (I think, because the 2011 Route Performance Report is now 6 months late and counting). That’s a big increase in cost per rider or cost per rider per mile or any other way you want to slice it.
    2. Airport LINK and Metro (Before and After Study) shows transit increased ridership in that corridor by 15%, yet experienced a 57% increase to get there. Bus cost is nearly the same as before, and tack on another $50 mil a year to operate LINK, which doesn’t even consider the 2.5 Bil sunk cost to achieve an increase in cost per rider from $3.45 to $4.75 (2011$$) over a three year period.
    3. Elimination of the Ride Free Area was to save some money. Are they?
    4. Botching RR-D and having operating cost per rider skyrocket is not a great intro into “New and More Taxes” for transit ala, 2014.
    Was there any attempt to explain away why transit in Seattle is going backwards?

    1. Whoa there, pardner. Just how many people do you think rode the 194 daily before Link started up?

      1. What I think is not relevant. It’s what ST’s 3/4 million B4-After Study showed what happened in the whole corridor, which includes the MT194 ridership. I’ll trust the consultant knew what they were talking about!

      2. Do you have the link to the report, perchance?

        Your coloring of the report makes no sense. Ridership to the airport has increased by a lot more than 15%, and the cost to operate the 194 isn’t the same, since the line was deleted.

      3. The corridor overall is much more than airport trips. It includes lots of Rainier Valley trips, so a full report would consider many more routes than the 194.

      4. Enter [Link Initial Segment Before and After Study] into Google and that draft report appears at the top of the hit list. PITF obtained a copy from Sound Transit via PDA request.

    2. Also, “botching” is a pretty useless description of the RapidRide D rollout. How can anyone respond if you don’t define your terms?

      Are you referring to cost-per-rider, complaints-to-commendations ratio, disagreement with the routing, on-time performance, electronics failures, failure to communicate, inability to get the federal government to pay for the whole darn thing, or something else?

      Specificity and data, please, or we really have nothing to analyze.

      1. I retract my excessively harsh criticism on RR-D, as most of the problems went away after a few days, and it is now meeting expectations.
        Well Done Metro! No need to look any further.

      2. The financial problems must have gone away when Metro got that big fat check from the feds to pay for the buses. If you want to paint RapidRide as a waste of taxpayers’ money, you have to start with the asterisk stating which taxpayers — the ones from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, etc. Darn those prodigious Metro grantwriters.

      3. I object a little to my federal tax dollars going to a poorly thought out bus service in Seattle when they could have gone to a poorly thought out bus service here where I live

        — but I object much more to my federal tax dollars going in truly huge quantities to poorly thought out wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. etc. etc….. so anyway.

    3. Does STB no longer allow access to Facebook timeline? I’ve noticed that the comment bars have all disappeared from STB’s Facebook.

      Every time I see a Rapid Ride fare inspector write someone a citation, I break a bus shelter window. Those panes of glass probably cost $124 give or take. Metro takes, MEtro loses.

      1. Mitch – could you explain the FB issue a bit more? We haven’t changed anything, but of course Facebook changes policies pretty rapidly so something may have changed without my knowledge.

      2. There also seems to be a problem with a spammer on that group. Can anything be done about it? I’ve blocked 2 accounts so far on my end.

    4. Frequency matters. The 15-minute full-time frequency of RR A and 10-minute frequency of Link make them more effective parts of our transit network, and a more attractive alternative to driving. The “missing” 50% of ridership increase is probably due to the lack of TOD and destinations along Pacific Highway; i.e., only so many people live within walking distance of it, so only so many people can ride the A. That will probably improve over time, and when it does, RR A will be in a better position to attract new riders than the 174 was — and will help to make Pacific Highway a more viable living choice for transit riders.

      The 194 had only one use: downtown-airport trips. Link serves these and connects directly to the A and serves Rainier Valley, and in a decade will reach 240th, and can serve any trip between these areas. It serves a wider cross-section of the people and their trips than the 194 and 42 and unspecified new bus routes could have.

  2. I can tell you right now, Metro should eliminate the 29, 61 and 62 buses. I rarely see more than 1 or 2 at most on the 61, if any. The 62 is another head scratcher, with no more than a couple on it in the mornings, and I typically see that on Westlake going north, so it’s clearly not being used by SPU people. The 29 has a few more people on it, but I’m wondering if people are using it as a one seat ride to Lower Queen Anne, from all points west of 15th on Market instead of transferring to the RR D.

    1. Heads would spin at Metro HQ if you eliminated the 29. It’s the old 2X, which was always full. IDK if the 29 is as successful, but I can’t imagine it’s doing that bad.

      This is drifting OT though.

      1. Every 29 I’ve been on has been quite full before it makes it down the hill. “One seat ride to Lower Queen Anne” doesn’t make sense – there are plenty of buses that do this.

      2. LQA and the route 2 have a lot of peak-only demand, so the 29 does well to serve the additional peak period demand to the bottom and top of the hill. However, it always seems quite empty in Ballard.

      3. It’s also a brand new route to Ballard, though I’m not convinced it’s a great one. It can’t be a great way to get downtown, so I suppose it’s a link to Seattle Pacific University from Ballard? If that’s a useful service, it may take people a while to change their habits.

      4. It takes more than a couple months for a new line to mature. I don’t think the existence of the 29’s connection from Ballard to SPU and LQA has been advertised much. Did many riders use the 17 to get to SPU? It may be a dud, but give the experiment time for riders to notice it.

        The same goes for the 50. If someone like me can’t even find the bus stop at SODO Station, that may be part of why few ride it. I wish the stations would advertise where to catch the buses. There are other stops that are not obvious to find, and then you figure out those are the stops before, not after, the layover. I’d also like RTA signs at the station to give me an idea how long I have to find the bus stop before the bus comes. And a pony. Well, okay, I don’t need a pony.

      5. I made a mistake about the 29 I lumped it in with the 61/62, when I should have mentioned truncating it instead. I see it around 15th and Leary (both morning and evening peaks) and it is usually pretty empty. I don’t know what happens once it hits Nickerson/SPU, but I feel as though you could truncate it north of the Ballard Bridge to save service hours. That, with cancelling the ill-fated 61/62, would give Metro some much needed service hours.

        And Matt the Engineer, the only other one seat ride that I’m aware of from Ballard to Lower Queen Anne is the Rapid Ride D, but the 29 serves 24th and Market, down Leary, which I believe is attractive as a one seat ride, without transferring to the RR D.

      6. Ah, I thought you meant from downtown. It still wouldn’t seem to make much sense to LQA, since it has a significant detour over QA hill and the D doesn’t. But I suppose if you want to avoid the walk to 15th and your time isn’t worth much, it might happen.

      7. It is possible that former 17 riders between Ballard and SPU are now taking the more frequent 40, and walking from the Fremont Bridge to campus. Has anyone noticed?

        If you eliminate the 61, what would you do with the deadheading of the 29?

      8. @Matt I think you underestimate how much people value one seat rides over their time (think the 42).

        @Brent That’s good point. The 62 (not 61, nobody advocates for the 61) may as well be a “To Terminal” bus, since nobody actually takes it, but at least they may make a fare or two off it, by making it an actual route.

      9. The problem I have with the 29’s extension to Ballard is that I don’t think it’s aligned with the target market. There is peak commute demand from Ballard to downtown, and from UQA to downtown, but the demand from Ballard to UQA isn’t particularly peaky.

        Realistically, who is going to take the 29 from Ballard to UQA, spend the day there, and then take it home? Almost no one. So realistically, at least one leg of anyone’s round trip will involve a connection, e.g. taking the 13 to the D (or vice versa). Given that, who’s going to bother keeping track of the 29’s schedule? If you take the 13+D in one direction, you’ll probably take it in the other direction, too.

      10. That’s why I mentioned SPU. I could imagine students and teachers living in Ballard and attending. But it sure seems like that would be a tiny market.

    2. All these are experiments, except the 61 which is just a holding pattern until the segment is attached to something else or deleted. The 29 extension seemed strange to me, and is certainly not intended for Ballard-downtown trips when the 18X and 15X are much more direct. The 62 is a reverse-commute experiment for SLU jobs and Sounder riders, and it may gradually pick up as more people learn about it and SLU gets bigger. Ballard is a minor job center that has been ignored until now (no reverse 15X or 18X). Still, I could see the Ballard segment getting truncated if it doesn’t perform. But you have to give experiments at least a year before giving up on them; we can’t be reorganizing the same routes again and again every three or six months or it’s too much churn and confusion.

      The 50 is a noble experiment; that can’t be overstated. It replaced two downtown milk runs with a crosstown route. The SODO connection was an important milestone for Metro: it’s part of a general move toward Link feeders which most STBers have long been waiting for. Perhaps this particular connection is weak and will be modified, but there’s no one obviously superior alternate, just several possibilities with different tradeoffs. (A) Truncate the 50-east at the VA hospital (to be the official VA driveway service which we can’t seem to eliminate). (B) Truncate the 50-west at Delridge. (Reversing the 1-seat ride to Link that was an achievement in the last reorg.) (C) Truncate the 50-west at SODO. (Probably no cost savings from the current route.) (D) Eliminate the SODO detour making an express between West Seattle and southeast Seattle. (Would help connect south Seattle, but may be bad for overall ridership, and would make West Seattle further from Link.)

      1. Amusingly enough, I’m actually on the 61 a lot, now that the unveiled RapidRide schedule has demonstrated that any on-time 61->RR transfer will be perfectly coordinated (1-2 minute transfer window, good drivers will let you off before the light if it’s red).

        Unfortunately, it: A) doesn’t work that way in the other direction; and B) seems that no one else has noticed this but me.

        Metro should consider turning the 61 into a Town Car service. It would be cheaper, swankier, and you’d still have adequate capacity.

      2. What’s a Town Car? Something like a taxi?

        If we can find some way to bring taxi rates down from $3 drop + $2.50/mile, they could become a viable alternative to low-productivity bus routes. Other countries have inexpensive routed taxis, and perhaps a few special taxis deployed in a limited service area (e.g., northwest Seattle) could be deployed with a fare similar to buses.

      3. Let the record state that DP uses the 61, and Martin uses the 42. And Charles takes the 50 from Seward Park to West Seattle.

      4. Yes, I was literally suggesting running a fancy chauffeured black cab along the route. A chauffeur costs less than a bus driver. It can even be accessible (thanks, Brits!).

        Even though I’ve been on the 61 four or five times already since the RR schedule reveal, I’m not exactly on it “a lot”. Each of my trips on the 61 has been for about two minutes.

        Couldn’t Metro double the useful part of the 61 (or at least remove one of its two buses) by cutting it back to the 17’s tail. Precisely zero people use the North Beach loop. Equally few use it to connect to the northbound 40 — let’s face it, if you life in Sunset Hill and are headed northbound, you’re just going to drive.

        But from Sunset Hill southbound, it is actually scheduled as the RR feeder it was intended to be. If only people knew about it. Perhaps at real frequencies they might use it.

      5. If Metro doesn’t have the balls to eliminate the 24’s scenic tour of Magnolia, they should split the 48 in the U-District and attach the 61 to the north half.

      6. …Except then it would fail as a last-mile RR feeder, since it would never be on time, and RR isn’t frequent enough for the transfer to work if it’s not.

        (See, this is what happens when you cut corners off your trunk.)

      7. Sending the 40 to Northgate made more sense when I thought RR D would inherit the tail of whatever route it replaced. But since RR D heads up Holman Road to the terminus of the 28, leaving the 15’s old terminus for the 15X, I don’t see any reason not to just send it all the way to Northgate, give the 40 the 18’s old terminus, and give the 61 the 17’s old terminus.

      8. It is disconcerting to read in this string a seeming preocupation with the assumed superiority of light rail. You know if buses were given priority in traffic,as we have evidently decided bikes deserve, one would not require the capitol expenditure of light rail.STBers whoever they are I take it would like to turn METRO into a feeder. Your “milk runs” had pretty good ridership but now those riders should seek transfers? Public transit works best when no transfer is entailed. Works best for the rider and hence means will be used. Fixed rail as we are experiancing it is more than a little social engineering. Thats fine but call it what it is.

      9. if buses were given priority in traffic everything would be perfect and we wouldn’t need to spend money on light rail

        It appears that we can’t actually make bus priority happen as a practical political matter. Every time we try it’s watered down or cut entirely. Sticking to rail is safer in the end, because you can only water down rail so far – trying to get a true rapid bus system built at the county level or above is an entirely futile effort.

        The only glimmer of hope for a functional true BRT line is the city-planned Madison corridor, but I don’t think it’ll actually get built unless McGinn gets a second term (which means it probably won’t get built).

      10. If that’s what it takes to split the 48 at Montlake, I’m totally down with it. BUT, the 48N and 48S must crisscross the Montlake bridge to serve trans-lake riders.

      11. We could put transit lanes on 45th, Roosevelt, and Aurora, if only the parking lanes could be abolished. But it’s easier to get an expensive Link subway approved than to eliminate parking lanes.

      12. Really? No one’s going to address the meat of stwagon’s misapprehension? Even though its the PRECISE “lesson wrongly learned” that is leading Metro to abandon any future restructure attempts for all eternity?

        No, stwagon, “entailing no transfer” is NOT how public transit works best.

        Because, when you run public transit that way, you can only run so much service on any particular route, so the wait times are long and the run times are slow. On top of that, your services can all basically go only one place (downtown), so getting to anywhere else takes twice as ridiculously long.

        The problem with Seattle’s attempts at transfer-based service is not that transfers exist. It’s that THE TRANSFERS SUCK.

        You won’t find one world-class transit system on earth designed like ours, with one-seat rides from everywhere to one central hub. Not one. Anywhere. For good reason.

        We need our transit agencies to recognize that anywhere-to-anywhere needs to be the goal, and that transfers not sucking is a NON-OPTIONAL prerequisite for that. But “entailing no transfer” is equally not an option unless you want everything to stay just as bad as it is forever.

      1. Everyone rode the 42 to get to the meeting? Or did you finally hold a meetup *on* the 42, just to see if anyone else was riding?

        Keep dialing that number on the banner! We may still save a couple theoretical riders from the indignity of a 2-seat ride.

  3. In regard to the CRC, what kind of progress are we making on filling that hole with sales tax revenues? Obviously we’re not fully recovered from the recession, but we’re definitely doing better now than we were a few years ago. Why are they still planning to cut 600,000 hours in 2015? Wasn’t that about the same that they’d said would be cut in 2013 without the CRC?

    1. In regard to the CRC, what kind of progress are we making on filling that hole with sales tax revenues?

      Well, that depends on if you’re talking about in real dollars or in inflation adjusted dollars. In real dollars, we’re roughly on track to fill the hole. Projections are that 2015 revenues will be roughly the same as 2007, and 2015 without the CRC will be roughly the same as 2013 with the CRC.

      Why are they still planning to cut 600,000 hours in 2015? Wasn’t that about the same that they’d said would be cut in 2013 without the CRC?

      Yup. That’s because there’s nothing in the revenue forecast that makes up for inflation, and the general assumption is that the cost of providing the service will increase faster than the overall inflation rate.

      Costs increasing faster than the overall rate of inflation is a common problem for most government agencies, because in comparison to the rest of the economy, very little of what they do can be outsourced or automated.

    2. Gah, every time I see “CRC” I think “Columbia River Crossing”. Spell this one out, guys.

  4. It least for the D and E lines we should stop using them term RapidRide. The D and E lines are just replacements for the 15 and the 358. Lines that worked before RapidRide. I cannot speak to the other letter lines,since I am unfamiliar with them.

    The two biggest success in the NW section of Seattle has been the Route 40 and the additional service on the Route 5 and having it link to the 21 so it goes all the way through downtown Seattle.

    1. The 40 has become the new Ballard game day bus, although it’s usually not so great for postgame travel.

      1. [admittedly drifting from topic] Are any of the routes great for post-stadium-event rides home? Besides Link? I’ve gotten used to planning two hours to get home after a 2-hour football match.

      2. What’s wrong with Link? I’d imagine zipping past the mess S of downtown would be helpful. Then just catch the D on 3rd.

        (note: theoretical. I haven’t done this myself)

      3. Post-game service is abysmal, especially to North Seattle on a Sunday. I’ve experienced the same. I’d take *any* northbound bus and accept a transfer to get to G’wood. 5, 358, 66, 70s, D, 16….Oy.

      4. @Brent (Speaking for Ballard) Now that RR D has real time arrival info on Onebusaway, you can look at the 2nd and Seneca stop and see if it’s worth moseying up there or not. Before that, it was a crap shoot.

        Before the reroute, the 15s and 18s came so often that you could usually get on the next one after you arrive (or the one after if things were crazy), which was nice. The 40 is usually hourly by the time any games are over, so if you miss one, you may as well go to the RR D. I have heard of people taking a 28 or 5 if one is coming right away and then transferring to a 44 (or walk from the 28).

        Matt’s option is, well, an option, but getting to the tunnels can be insane post game, both distance and people wise. The Westlake Station to 3rd/Pike transfer would be painless, once you got there.

        But yeah, Ballard isn’t the greatest post game, which is a shame, as I feel there are a lot of sports fan transit riders (at least the 44 will once again be an option when Husky Stadium reopens!). Oh well, when we get our high speed rail, all will be well…

      5. I put in a suggestion awhile back to loop the terminal end of the 40 around Holgate so it could service the 4th Avenue stadium stops both incoming and outgoing. My suggestion has not been acknowledged.

    2. C replaced (almost exactly) the 54 and part of 55 (although the whole 55 was canceled, despite it not being in the bottom 25% of routes). Frequency of service is generally the same, and lower for the Alaska Junction to Downtown portion (combined 54+55 was higher than current RR C).

      Oh, except RR C goes on a detour along Avalon while 54/55 used the freeway outbound up to 35th Ave, so RR is actually less rapid that 54/55 used to be. Umm.

  5. “Desmond acknowledged the complaints about lack of schedule”

    I’ve heard that before, and yet there is still no official schedule for RR lines. Sticking the schedule on the web site is such a low cost fix, why don’t they just do it? Until Metro gets the schedule up there, I’m inclined to consider Desmond’s comment to be an attempt to placate riders rather than an real admission that changes should be made.

    1. He said off-peak schedules are coming. I’m not sure if he meant all RR routes or just some of them. I’d like it for the B, when transferring westbound to the 550 in its half-hourly periods. Apparently schedules have been given to One Bus Away and the drivers, but I’m still waiting for them in the online schedule and at bus stops. No word on when that might happen.

      1. “Acknowledgement of complaints does not imply agreement therewith”

        Indeed – I don’t think Metro are ever going to admit that schedules are needed on RR routes (esp. at 15 minute headways).

        “He said off-peak schedules are coming”

        They’ve had years to provide them on A and B. So far I’ve only head a single reported comment (in a Seattle Times article) that they are considering off-peak only schedules for C/D. Better than nothing, but peaks schedules are needed too in order to plan transfers to low-frequency routes such as 22 or 128.

      2. Drivers have run cards with both fixed and estimated time points. The estimated time points were supposed to have lesser priority over headway spacing. I’m hugely surprised that nobody seems to be questioning Metro’s apparent abandonment of the concept of headway management, particularly given the huge financial investment in headway management infrastructure now rendered useless.

      3. When they’re running an all-day 10-minute service, and when they’ve learned to use headway management for anything besides letting the slowest driver in the universe set the pace for everyone, then perhaps that infrastructure can again find use.

      4. Sorry about those slow buses d.p., but the buggers continue to insist that we stop to pick up and drop off passengers, obey traffic signals, etc.

        Crush loads slow buses down. Headway management was designed to (among other things) reduce bus bunching – a phenomenon much maligned in years past right here on STB.

        You go right ahead and keep on blaming drivers though.

        I swear you got on my 40 early this shakeup. Evening Peak hour? Boarded near Mercer and West lake and got off on Market Street in Ballard? Due to an accident in I-5 traffic was jammed up and it took forever to cross Westlake are Mercer. On arriving behind schedule at Ballard and Market, you commented about how disappointed you were that the bus was at this point 15 minutes late. When I explained about the traffic, you said to me, “Or you could just o your job better.”

        I suggested you become a driver so that you could come back and show me how its done. You threatened to call and report me for “being rude”.

        That WAS you, wasn’t it?

        Some people also blame the weather man when it rains.

      5. Nope, that wasn’t me. Rarely get on at the Mercer stop, and haven’t had to report an obnoxious driver in a very long time, thankfully.

        But I do think I know who you are, though.

        And if I’m correct, there have been multiple occasions when a 40 has failed to leave its International District terminus on time for no good reason, and when it finally shows up at Pine — 10, 15, even 20 minutes late — you’ve been at the wheel.

        Sometimes crappy operating is just crappy operating.

      6. “He said off-peak schedules are coming”

        “They’ve had years to provide them on A and B.”

        Recent events have changed their minds. As Bruce wrote, rolling out RapidRide in the city is turning out to be much different than rolling it out in the suburbs because people’s expectations are much higher. In the burbs, 15-minute service is like a gift from the gods. In the city, 15-minute service is the minimum people expect, and they’d really rather have more.

      7. Well, if you ALWAYS leave on time, then I guess this mustachioed driver couldn’t be you. Whoever he is, he’s incredible annoying: sitting at the terminus with his trip-signal active, “6 min away and on time”, the “6 min away and 5 min late”, then another 10 minutes pass and he’s still “6 min away”.

        And sure, the layover point is nominally 2 or 3 blocks past the I.D. Big whoop. But the first and last stops are both in the I.D. proper; that’s where the route terminates, and the loop beneath Airport Way doesn’t take minutes to navigate.

      8. Dude, don’t be daft.

        I was standing at 3rd & Pine, six minutes from the start of the route.

        I know what the schedule is supposed to be at that time-point. As does OBA.

      9. And when the bus finally did start moving, OBA accurately tracked it.

        But that was extremely, ridiculously, unjustifiably late.

        And this has happened repeatedly.

        And Jeff Wells was the driver each time.

        Though I have no idea if he is you.

      10. 3rd and Pine isn’t 6 minutes from the start of the route. The route 40 starts at 6th and Royal Brougham, just outside Atlantic Base (that’s the actual South terminal). The peak hour run cards give us 5-6 minutes just to get from there to 4th and Jackson. Leave at 5:11 p.m., scheduled arrival at 4th and Jackson (on a non-peak Saturday) is 5:15.

        I’m not “mustachioed”, so you’ve got that bit wrong, too. Doubt Jeff (or any other driver) would be running late, certainly not intentionally. No benefit, as that makes them late at the other terminal and no potty time. If this was an outbound trip in the p.m., then he wasn’t the driver you seem to think you know – he drives the 40 in the mornings.

        Your numbers – and odd conclusions and claims – simply don’t add up.

        In short – you’re completely full of crap.

      11. Oh, and d.p. – a sample peak hour run card for the 40 (in this case 40/16) has the 40 leaving its terminal at 6th and Royal Brougham at 4:00pm, arriving at 3rd and Union (3rd and Pine isn’t a time point) at 4:23pm. Estimate about 2-3 minutes later arriving at 3rd and Pine (Macy’s) and you get a peak hour time of AT LEAST 16 minutes – not the SIX you are bizarrely claiming that some nonexistent schedule or time warp allows a bus to get from Atlantic Base to 3rd and Pine.


        But hey, you keep on a-driver bashin’, ya hear! Meanwhile the rest of us will simply consider the source. Hope that’s OK.

      12. The in-service route starts at the 4th & Jackson island stop, which is — oh, looky, it’s right there in the schedule — 6 minutes from the Union timepoint!! (Pine is a minute later, and OBA tends to round down.)

        Jeff Welch splashes his face all over the internet in his role of “poorly representing Metro employees”, so I know him when I see him.

        Beats me why he repeatedly sits on his ass at (or presumably just before) rolling rolling into the Jackson stop. He certainly has a tendency to give 5 minutes of confusing and often awful trip advice to anyone who asks him a question, even at the expense of all his other passengers. My guess is something like that is keeping him.

        Regardless, being extremely late 6 minutes from the place where you come into service is ridiculous and inexcusable.


      13. I rarely take it the 40 at peak — that’s when 18 and 17 expresses are available.

        But the public schedule for the 40 that crosses Union at 4:23 has it leaving Jackson at 4:15.

        So, 12 minutes at rush hour. 6-8 minutes on pretty much every trip in the off-peak.

        I’m utterly baffled as to why it would ever take you 15 minutes to get from Royal Brougham to Jackson. Metro must be compensating for how slow and stupid many of you obviously are.

      14. 4th Avenue routinely gridlocks during peak times at Seattle Blvd, so yes significant delays can occur there. If any driver is giving out bad or confusing advice, surely as the humanitarian and good citizen you are, you’re jumping in to be helpful to both that driver and passenger.


        When are you riding this mystery bus where these frequent acts of horrifyingly incompetent customer service occur? What days/times?

      15. Such inexplicable massive out-of-the-gate lateness has occurred with the driver in question in the mid-day or in the afternoon. Other inexplicable massive out-of-the-gate lateness has occurred throughout the evening.

        No peak traffic. No sporting events. No other buses showing up late. Just an individual driver or two not giving a crap.

        The very last 40 trip of the night (near or past midnight) has been known to start massively late. There is literally no possible satisfactory explanation for that.

        [Ot, ah]

      16. Ah-ha!

        I thought Beavis had to be Jeff Welch!

        Why the name change? And what’s up with you PSTO blog? Been kinda sparse lately.

      17. Again, the driver in question doesn’t drive that route during the hours you are claiming. My own experience driving the 40 during both peak and non peak times is that there is more likelihood of running early than late. The idea that this or any driver would for one reason deliberately delay the route isn’t merely illogical and ludicrous – it,s a flat-out lie.

      18. You say the driver in question works full-time. He therefore drives at least some full-length shifts, which extend into the mid-day and the afternoon… when I have seen him inexplicably late on the route.

        Also, I can recognize faces, because I am not an idiot.

        You say the 40 can sometimes run early, which is true. But it cannot run early if it inexplicably starts its run ten minutes late.

        And I can tell how late it is from the schedule, because I am not an idiot.

        And “Beavis”, I don’t have the slightest clue why any driver would intentionally start a route so late, but some drivers clearly just don’t give a damn. And others, as you have so amply demonstrated, are simply assholes.

        As for your final accusation… that doesn’t even make a lick of sense! In fact, Kemper Freeman just loves the idea of the plebeians suffering slow, unreliable, politically unimportant transit of the sort you provide for all eternity. Serves those unwashed masses right for not buying a car!

      19. The only day guaranteeing a “full length shift” (I.e. an uninterrupted shift of 8 hours or more without an unpaid break in between) is on Sundays. The person you’re lying about doesn’t drive the 40 on Sundays, only Monday and Friday mornings. His afternoons I’m less clear about (have seen him with loader gear on). I just know from conversations we’ve had that he’s only driving the 40 in the a.m. a couple of days a week.

        Being full time doesn’t guarantee what we call “straight through work” (anything other than a split shift) on any day other than Sunday, particularly for more junior operators. It also doesn’t guarantee afternoon or evening work. OWL shifts for example can start around 8pm and end at 4:30 to 5:00 am.

        At any rate, you weren’t referring to a schedule, but to OBA. Heck, you didn’t even know where the terminal was until I told you. As you claim to board at 3rd and Pine, you claim no traffic delays in IDS – something you have no way of knowing at all. Instead, you make a bizarre accusation of malingering or incompetence against a guy with no motive to behave as you suggest, and not here to defend himself.

        No bus driver wants their bus to run late. Late buses make for irritable passengers – including the occasional uninformed and irrational one who believe that the driver is the cause of their inconvenience. Running late means less break at the end of the line (or none at all). Running late can cause other buses to run late, or less efficiently as an empty bus trails a full one. Running late at the end of a shift means getting home to one’s family.

        There’s simply no motive, We WANT the bus to be on time, for you and for us.

      20. [shrug]

        Some people are just terrible at their jobs.

        Other people expend tremendous energy defending bad policy, bad procedure, bad driving, bad attitudes, and the cumulative mediocrity that afflicts an entire city as a result.

        Sometimes those people are the same people.

        Have a good new year, “Beavis”.

    2. But! But it’s so frequent you don’t need a schedule! If you ever needed a schedule for RapidRide, what would it be but a fancy repainting of existing routes and an excuse to make transit in Ballard and West Seattle worse?

  6. “Most well-known, the expiration of the $20 CRC in 2014. The Metro budget for the current biennium is balanced only by assuming that the $20 CRC will expire, and 600,000 service hours of cuts will start go into effect by 2015.”

    Hasn’t Metro cut any service hours? Or were they all re-invested? Does this mean Metro will chop off early, late, weekend, and mid-day trips to avoid more “restructure”?

    1. I had the same question. I’m wondering how Metro will reconcile the wish to be conservative, and avoid “big-bang” changes, with the possible loss of 600,000 service hours. I’m not sure how to put those two together…

    2. From what I remember, he mentioned that they were able to stave off cuts from the CRC’s funding, which to me implied that they didn’t cut anything. And like most non-grant revenues, it’s dependent on the general public making certain purchases so you can’t know the exact revenue until the end of the (fiscal) year–meaning they don’t know how much is coming in and can’t justify spending money they don’t know if they have for expanded service.

      1. Metro is under orders to start implementing its efficiency plan; i.e., reviewing the bottom 25% performers and possibly shifting hours to the top 25% performers.

    3. I believe the hours were all reinvested.

      If the CRC expires without replacement, I think that’s a 20% cut. That’s probaly equivalent to all weekend service and then some, so hello CT and PT. In practice it would probably be taken out of individual routes and runs rather than eliminating a day. The ugliest routes would go bye-bye (62, 4S, 25), but we’d probably lose a lot of the frequent-network gains too. Getting bumped by full buses would become a weekly or daily risk on the 358, 41, and C, as it has been on the 71/72/73X. If we return to 1990 or 2000 service levels, people will get fed up and find non-bus alternatives (i.e., cars), ridership would drop, and we’d reverse the gains we’ve made in becoming a more transit-friendly/transit-oriented city.

    4. The bang will probably be big because there’s no point in sugar-coating a major loss of revenue. People might as well see the effects all at once or in a few chunks rather than gradual, so they can understand what the revenue paid for and why it’s worth reinstating. If it’s too gradual, it’s hard to see the whole of the change, and it starts looking like ordinary Metro suckiness rather than the major cut it was. (Sigh, the 169 is back to hourly, so what else is new?)

      1. Is it just me, or doesn’t anyone else see the writing on the wall.
        We’ve been treating our two transit agencies in King County as separate vendors of transit service, when in fact, they are joined at the hip.
        Our cost of providing that service has gone through the roof in recent years for very little gain in overall transit use.
        Is it any wonder that one agency is broke and the other is short a quarter of it’s revenue stream. Both are burning midnight oil trying to figure out where their next fix$$ will come from in creatively packaging the next revenue source.
        Maybe the town car is the best solution. It would certainly pencil out for the North Sounder riders. Which service is the next to fall?
        I hate being the doubting Thomas around here, but transit is rapidly approaching its own fiscal cliff.
        Clear heads and Critical Thinkers are appreciated in bad times.

      2. So are you just trying to warn us that doom is coming, or are you trying to convince us to vote no on Metro/ST taxes? If you’re just making a prediction about what other people will do, let’s wait until they do it because maybe they won’t. If you’re trying to convince us to vote no on Metro/ST taxes, I’d say that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  7. •There’s not likely to be any more “big bang” service changes like the last one. The sheer volume of complaints from disaffected Seattle riders (and voters) vastly exceeded expectations. As a public agency, Metro can’t ignore public opinion; especially as the agency may well soon have to ask voters for more money at the ballot.

    So instead of actually looking at what went right and why, and what went wrong and why, and figuring out how to do it better in the future Metro is just going to throw in the towel? How lazy is that?

    And Metro wonders why so many Transit Advocates have completely lost faith in the organization to build us a viable system and are on the fence about increasing funding.

    1. What about the restructure did you not like? If you want more restructures, then please say something about what you think Metro did right in this restructure.

      1. Didn’t like: Should have judged demand better on consolidated corridors in West Seattle. Rapid Ride Rollout (beaten to death I know). The fact that Metro watered it down.

        Overall I LIKE the restructure. Consolidation is good. Crosstown routes connecting to spines (50) are good.

        Which is why I am upset that Metro is saying they won’t do ‘big bang’ restructures moving forward. This is especially dissappointing considering how this ‘big bang’ restructured was watered down to begin with.

      2. watered down

        And that’s all it really boils down to.

        Metro tried to build a new network around trunks and cross-connections, tried to approximate a sorta-grid, tried to market transfer-based service as opening new and useful possibilities.

        But then it got watered down.

        So Metro went through with the watered-down version, but still tried to claim the connections worked. Even though you could wait 15, 30, or 60 minutes for every single one of them. Even though low frequency meant even lower reliability. Even though they couldn’t manage to get the sole trunk up to true all-day “no schedule needed” levels.

        And people called them out on it.

        And clung dearly to their remaining one-seat rides.
        And learned all the wrong lessons.
        And kept Metro from ever restructuring again.
        (Which, I might note, is exactly what I predicted would happen.)

        lost faith in the organization to build us a viable system and are on the fence about increasing funding.

        I would have to think long and hard before voting for another tax increase, knowing that the money will be scattered far and wide to bring barely noticeable extra service to the same useless spaghetti routes.

      3. Basically Metro is sending the signal that the only way they will cut unproductive routes is if they are forced to by the budget. They paid lip service to building an effectient network to get the CRC funding but quickly returned to the business as usual.

        Message recieved Metro, message recieved.

      4. I was pretty ambivalent about one seat vs two until this change actually occurred. Before, I thought they’d made the two-seat rides effective – that is, provide coordinated schedules between the two services at major interchanges.

        In reality, we have a system where it is impossible to plan a two-seat trip (no timetables for RR), and where even if you do plan (using trip planner) you find that the connecting service departs just before the incoming service. This converts what used to be a 25 min trip into over an hour. If this is the way that a grid-based connection system is going to work, then it is a complete failure. Bring back the old one-seat routes.

        (My timings above are based on the 55/56 outside peak, now replaced by 128 to RR C. I regularly experience 1 hour trips now to West Seattle. The pre-service change 54 to 55 shuttle was an example of a connecting service that worked perfectly; RR C to 128 does not work).

      5. I sure as hell am not voting to give Metro any more tax revenue. It has become clear to me that Seattle transit will never improve until we put this utterly incompetent organization out of its misery and replace it with something with a backbone.

        Like the CTA:
        “Rebekah Scheinfeld, the CTA’s chief planning officer, continued to defend the unpopular decision to eliminate 12 bus routes and shorten others, saying ‘robust options are available’ for displaced riders.”
        “Asked why the…vocal grass-roots protest by CTA bus customers was ignored, [CTA President] Claypool said: ‘The (CTA) board made the decision and the board stuck by that decision.'”

        Of course, a statutory mandate of 50% fare recovery does help one’s resolve.

      6. Basically Metro is sending the signal that the only way they will cut unproductive routes is if they are forced to by the budget.

        You know, if you’re going to be that cynical about these things then you might as well acknowledge that the routes they might cut in a budget crises might not be the most “unproductive” routes and instead those that exact the maximum pain so that the voters get the message that starving your transit agency isn’t the way to get the best efficiency or service out of them.

      7. Matt, I’m afraid that by “backbone” you mean a willingness to significantly cut service to those who may need it the most or even (using the CT example) cut Sunday service completely.

        The reality is that money pays for things. Less money means service cuts, service cuts means that no matter what gets cut, someone gets hurt.

        If you were dictator of Metro, what would YOU do, assuming no new (or even declining) revenue to do it with?

      8. Beavis: I can’t speak for d.p., but I would deliberately separate routes into “lifeline” routes — branded one way — and “mass transportation routes” — branded differently. (“Peak suburban commuter routes” could be a third group, but they should cost extra.) Make it bloody obvious to the general public who was getting a giant subsidized ride and which routes were the big mainline and branchline people-haulers.

        Then I’d change the policy so that “mass transportation routes” *do not make detours* except for extremely popular locations, have high frequencies, and are expedited as much as possible. The “lifeline” routes can make worse and worse milk runs as desired. But they should be separated into two different parts of the budget, for *clarity*. This is an idea from Jarrett Walker.

      9. (Heck, you could even then assign the slowpoke drivers who chat with passengers to the “lifeline” routes, and the hard-as-nails keep-it-moving drivers to the “mass transportation” routes.)

      10. I’ve long thought that the Social Service aspect v Mass Transit be funded seperately.

        Completely divorcing them is interesting.

    2. “Big bang” means reorganizing so many neighborhoods simultaneously. That’s the part that could have been split up into chunks. Basically there was a West Seattle restructure, a Ballard restructure, a 40th/Children’s restructure, a #50 crosstown restructure (rather than terminating at SODO or Delridge), and aborted plans for Queen Anne, Magnolia, Fremont/Dexter, the Central District, and the 27. All these chunks could have been done separately at different times. The common factor in several of them was eliminating turns on 3rd Avenue, but that didn’t have to be done all at once either.

      The other factor is, Metro seems to think it’s nearing the bottom of how many low-volume routes it can eliminate. I asked when Metro might try again for a full-time frequent 13 and 3S and 5, and the answer was that we can do only so much of robbing Peter to pay Paul. So probably not until there’s expansion revenue, because there’s too much opposition to eliminating the 2N etc. Hopefully the 4S is still on their radar as the lowest-hanging fruit though.

      1. That’s the part that could have been split up into chunks.

        No, that’s the part that was split up into chunks. And it didn’t work.

        The money from cutting unproductive crap everywhere was needed to make transfer-based service work anywhere.

        So now the 2 riders who least value their time get to crawl up Spring Street for all eternity, while getting to Real Ballard past 7pm or getting to any part of West Seattle other than the Junction sucks donkey balls.

  8. I am glad someone thought of the E-Line. I am not aware of any plans to install BAT lanes along Aurora, and there’s no mention of signal priority in that corridor. If the E line is implemented just as the C & D were, then it would be another RapidRide disaster. The E needs a minimum headway of 12 minutes. If the current 358 runs late and full every 15 minutes on a high floor bus, how will it manage with less seats? It will be wise for Metro to delay the E until all aspects of rapid transit will be ready for operation – including funding for 10-12 minute headways.

    1. There are already some BAT lanes (most of Shoreline, north of 115th in Seattle, south of Ship Canal in Seattle). There was an RFQ last May from the City to study BAT lanes on Aurora, so there could be more installed this upcoming spring/summer.

    2. It’s not at all clear (Metro flat-out won’t give me substantive answers) where the money is coming from to pay for RapidRide E’s service improvements. Metro needs to come up with a significant chunk of cash to improve Sunday service from 20 to 15 minutes, and evening service from 30 to 15 minutes. They will also have to add peak trips to prevent overloads. There’s no way they can come up with the money for all-day 10 or 12 minute headways.

      There will be peak-direction peak-period BAT lanes on Aurora (this just needs signs, and won’t take long). Signal priority and RapidRide facilities improvements are in the works, but apparently behind schedule.

      1. Thanks, Bruce. That’s really great info-unfortunate, but helpful. I too am curious as to where the funding will come from; especially if the Congestion Reduction Charge is set to expire in ’13. Unlike the Ballard-Downtown corridor, frequency along Aurora will need a huge boost. I’d rather see the E-Line delayed indefinitely than to have a RR bus overloaded and running at 20 minute headways.

    3. I do hope they delay RR-E until all the bugs are worked out.

      One good piece of RR-D news – they finally got the lights on at 3rd & Virginia NB.

    4. The Aurora Ave Merchants Association has long been averse to HOV lanes. Maybe now that Faye Garneau is busy providing most of the funding for the city council districting initiative, it may be time to push harder for HOV lanes between the canal and the city limits.

  9. Interest in SODO transfers may finally be picking up. I saw two — yes two! — people waiting to catch the 50 to West Seattle. So there it was, the sign for the 50 westbound, between two trees whose leaves are now gone.

    This evening, a group of kids got off the train northbound at SODO to catch the 21. Since the closest stops were over a half mile away, they had a long walk. I saw a 21 pass the group by. The city has been aware of the missing bus stop for over a year. I know because I had a lengthy talk with one of the SDOT folks at an open house over a year ago about that missing stop.

    I do look forward enthusiastically to the 2016 restructure, but we still have a lot of work to do on the 2012 restructure that has already happened.

    1. Is there really anything SDOT can do about that missing stop? King County Metro chooses stop placement, and SDOT has never been stingy about giving up existing street parking spaces for new bus stops. Or is there really an SDOT holdup here?

      1. The SDOT guy said they had to study whether a stop on 4th, north of Lander, or a stop on Lander, west of 4th, would have more traffic impacts (e.g. piling up buses around onto 4th when a freight train was taking forever). This was before the restructure, when several routes were on re-route through SODO, so now only the 21 and 50 do that route, and the pile-up issue is moot. I suppose a few of us could tap SDOT on the shoulder.

        Or maybe it is a hint that the 21 doesn’t need to go through downtown at all. Couple the 21 with the 50-east, and we’d have that frequency that would make the 50 viable, tied to a more popular route through West Seattle with a better demographic fit for the cross-town traffic.

        If people are concerned that there aren’t enough buses serving the stretch of 4th Ave S between Jackson and Lander, there are other buses (e.g. the 594) that could be moved over from the Busway.

      2. 4th ave S used to get 15 minute service from downtown to Michigan with 2 coordinated routes (the 124 and some 20-series), but neither route runs 4th anymore. I used to work along that corridor and use those buses, and they were well used. Then SODO station opened and I started taking Link from Mount Baker instead of a bus from the International Distict. No idea what kind of ridership the area generates anymore.

      3. The 21 is the only remaining service from West Seattle to King Street Station and Pioneer Square, and is the “official” way to reach those destinations for riders throughout West Seattle. You’d have a very hard time canceling it.

      4. If the West Seattle buses end up going through Pioneer Square when the new and platinum-plated Hwy 99 reopens, that will change.

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