137 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Tap and Get Moving”

  1. What I’m wondering is when they are going to fix the offboard rapidride ORCA readers on Pacific Hwy and S 240 st. Ever since the C line opened, they have basically neglected the A line.

    1. I’ve wondered the same. My theory is that there’s SOMETHING wrong with the WiFi connection to the rest of the stops. Like some sort of interference that would cost a ton of money to work around.

    1. The only turnstile I can think of in the Orca system is the main ferry terminal in downtown Seattle, where you board the ferries to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton.

      1. you have turnstiles at all Washington state ferry terminals which charge tolls for domestic crossings. Seattle, fauntleroy, point defiance, edmonds, mukilteo, coupeville, port townsend, and anacortes all have them. also vashon island has them for those going from southworth to vashon.

    2. It was covered in the last landslide when our precious soils, due to topography, released from the slope….

  2. Do know if Intercity Transit has plans to adopt ORCA cards? Otherwise, I don’t think their new Olympia express connection to the Lakewood Sounder station will do much good (At least I think they made a connection). At the moment, you actually CAN commute from Olympia to Seattle by transit, but it costs $7.75 each way, assuming no bus pass is involved.

    1. For a 60-mile trip, $7.75 each way is not all that bad. Even without traffic, driving would cost you at least that much in gas alone.

      1. I am just mentioning the OLY Express as an example, but talking about a system-wide adoption of ORCA cards throughout Thurston County.

      2. ORCA was *NEVER* accepted on Local IT buses, only on the Express buses. Certain value PugetPasses were accepted on the local buses though.

        Maybe someday, TriMet to WTA with a direct TransLink transfer at Peace Arch, using nothing but ORCA as payment. I can dream, no? :)

      3. It is simply too early to think about trimet adopting ORCA yet. Their payment system is totally different than Seattle. Most of the time, you can even get a way with riding the MAX for free as long as you don’t get off at the rose quarter transit center. And cash ticket purchases on the Portland streetcar must be made after you board the streetcar.

        But for a youth who isn’t “obviously” a youth by appearance to board buses, they need to show identification with proof of age.

        Put simply, they have no interest in ORCA, and it wouldn’t really help them.

    2. And yes, OLY Express buses do serve Lakewood Sounder Station *AND* the 512 Park & Ride. At the Sounder Station, northbound buses serve across the street (which sucks, but the signals are good at responding to the crosswalk button), and southbound buses serve the street bus stop on the station side. Intercity buses do not pull into the station proper.

      1. The way PT #204 is set up (Lakewood Mall / SR 512 / Parkland), it would be an extra cost to dog-ear down to the Sounder station (PT is broke enough as it is). On a smaller scale, similar in idea to the East Link via I-90 vs SR-520 debate (substituting 512 for I-90 and Lakewood Station for SR-520).

        On the many trips I’ve taken on the 204, 300, 574, 592/594, and 603/605, the SR 512 lot gets packed. I don’t see it being sold as surplus anytime soon.

      2. WSDOT owns the 512 park-and-ride. It’s excess land from the I-5/512 interchange that I doubt the state would ever give up, as it’s a hedge against future expansion or reconfiguration needs.

        A lot of P&Rs are located in rights-of-way for roads or utilities: The Narrows P&R in Tacoma is a portion of the former Olympic Boulevard (SR 16 in its pre-freeway configuration). The Kimball Drive P&R in Gig Harbor is on land owned by Tacoma Power for high-tension lines leading to the city from Cushman Dam.

      3. I’ve driven past there thousands of times and never made the connection that there is a major P&R lot there. This morning I noticed that ST is now parking Sounder trains just a couple of minutes from there (north of 100th St. SWJ). So close yet so far.

      4. 512 P&R is beyond capacity right now. One thing I’d like to see ST and the regional agencies do is rebuild centralized transit centers and park and ride lots with parking structures and than close other smaller surface lots. Parking fees can help cover M&O of the new larger facilities, and the agencies would save money by closing the surface only lots in both service hours and maintenance costs.

    3. At least during the commute hours, I think the majority of Olympia Express riders are state workers that get to use their badge as a flash pass. (The state reimburses IT as part of it’s “Star Pass” program.) That alone would eliminate much incentive for IT to pursue ORCA very strongly.

    4. I took transit from Alki to Olympia and back on Transportation Advocacy Day – 63 miles and it only cost $6.00 each way, $3.50 to Tacoma Dome and $2.50 cash on IC 603 (southbound). Northbound trip only took 2 hrs 10 minutes via the ST 592 caught at the SR 512 P&R.

      1. Sorry, I misread Pike. You must mean the northbound stop on 4th. Um, because it would detract from the park? Maybe nobody has asked Metro for a shelter and they should.

    1. What Mike said. Metro avoids building shelters in downtown zones where it can, because undesirable types have a habit of taking the shelters over. Metro seems to believe that building overhangs are an adequate substitute where they exist.

      1. For some businesses, bus riders *are* the “undesirable types”. (They also hate bikers and any other customer who doesn’t come in a car. I don’t get it.) One of those shelters with sides may have saved my life when I was scurrying home during the blizzard of 2011.

      2. Let me see if I understand Metro’s logic. They think it’s better for people who are legitimately waiting for the bus be cold and wet at a shelterless, but homeless/thug-free bus stop, than to wait at a stop with a shelter that will keep them dry, but they’d have to share with a few undesirable types?

        The stop at 4th and Virginia has a bus shelter, but only a couple of routes stop there and the stop is lightly used. Is Metro not removing the shelter at this bus zone because it’s not a “problem location?” But they did remove the shelters from eastbound Pike at 4th, which is an extremely popular bus zone, because it attracts “undesirables?”

      3. Legitimate bus customers were completely unable to use the shelters at Pike and 4th before they were removed, pretty much any time of the day or night.

        Metro only wants to install a shelter if it’s available to bus customers. That shelter was not. It was just a Metro-subsidized gathering place for various people who were not using the bus system.

        The same issue is present even with the no-sitting-room RapidRide shelter at 3rd and Pike southbound.

        Building overhangs don’t seem to encourage the same sort of gathering, but they work pretty well to keep bus passengers dry.

    2. See above, I was thinking of the wrong stop. The biggest issue is a cover from the rain, and Metro could do that with a plexiglass panel held up by posts. That wouldn’t be enough attract street people because they’re not going to stand there without seats (unless of course it’s raining, but everybody avoids public squares when it’s raining).

      1. See no-seats shelter at 3rd and Pike southbound. That one is still attracting an element that’s very hostile to bus riders, even though it has no seats.

        Somehow people view bus shelters as a gathering place much more than they do sidewalks protected from the rain by overhangs.

      2. Probably because building owners tend to shoo away people hanging around in front of their businesses, whereas no one really cares about a bus shelter.

  3. Thank you for the video.

    Thanks to your comments down here grousing about paper transfers and people paying cash, I intend at the Everett Station to buy an ORCA card for this winter vacation. Hopefully ORCA is the wave of the future.

      1. The cash surcharge for those agencies is the ORCA allows you to transfer where with cash you have to pay for each boarding. I don’t think a surcharge is needed.

      2. The point of the surcharge is to further incentivize ORCA use for the efficiency gains. Another way of accomplishing the same goal could be to give a premium when loading the epurse. Say a 5% bonus when you preload over a certain value. So put $30 in the machine, get $31.50 in fare value.

      3. “The cash surcharge for those agencies is the ORCA allows you to transfer where with cash you have to pay for each boarding. I don’t think a surcharge is needed.”

        This incentive only matters if you regularly make trips where you have to transfer. It does not provide any incentive to use Orca when your trip is a one-seat ride and the vast majority of trips taken by public transit are one-seat rides.

      4. @aw,

        The point of the surcharge is to make it plain to cash payers that they are paying more than they need to each time they board. The sign would read something like “Cash $3.00 ORCA $2.50.” I’m not looking for a bulk rebate methodology. I’m looking for a straightforward, in-your-face per-ride rebate.

      5. I suspect transferring plays a small role on Community Transit because the routes are much less frequent than Metro on average. So people probably take the bus if it’s a one-seat ride, or drive if it’s not.

    1. That Santa Monica one looks like a disco party. It reminds me of the new tower visible from Olive & Minor on the west: the entire top story’s “windows” are LED lights that shift between blue to green. The Kansas City library one is wonderful: I wish our library had done something like that for its “stack of books”. The Germany one looks more like Sea-Tac’s arrivals driveway than a parking lot. The Michigan Theater one, sadly, reflects what’s wrong with Detroit. Parking in a neoclassical theater? Let’s put people in the theater and parking on the side.

  4. The video should really emphasize the “pause” needed for the ORCA reader to do its thing. I’m thinking a Barney Stinson style “Wait for It” could make for an effective campaign. Also, it’s a shame that the video didn’t show how the ORCA card can remain in your wallet to tap (provided you don’t also have a Car2Go card in there).

    1. Do they interfere? I’ve got 4 contactless cards in my wallet and Orca still works fine, but none of them are car2go.

      1. Wrapping in foil works ok. Except that each time you actually use your Car2Go card, you have to tear the foil to get it off, which means you have to wrap it with a new piece of foil the next time.

        Best solution would be for either Car2Go or Metro (ideally both) to allow you to swipe a smartphone at the reader, with appropriate software, in lieu of needing to carry around their special card. If Orca did this, this would also solve the problem of the $5 fee, at least for people that are able to afford smartphones. No physical card, no need to pay the fee.

      2. I have a Car2Go card right behind my ORCA card and it works fine on the ORCA reader. Maybe my wallet is special. :D I take the Car2Go card out and hold it standalone against that reader whenever I’m ready to take my chances on Seattle’s hills in a roller skate with a questionable transmission…

      3. I found that you don’t need to wrap the car2go card in foil, just have foil somewhere between the two cards and hold the appropriate side of your wallet to the reader. It’ll catch one but not the other.

    2. It is a pervasive and successful use of near field technology. Something that didn’t seem to catch on with credit cards.

  5. “Tap” was a terrible choice of word. At least once a week I see someone physically whacking the ORCA reader with their card.

    They should’ve used “tag”.

    1. The wording is tricky for this as ORCA is very different from many other contactless solutions in that the the “ORCA reader” is actually an “ORCA reader and writer”. Every transaction involves writing to the card, necessitating longer “in field” times than an ordinary access card for, say, an office workplace.

      The combination of these factors usually make me physically touch my wallet against the reader to register a transaction.

      1. Kyle,

        That may be true (I don’t know for sure) at least as far as transit cards go. But my point was more that other contactless/RFID cards in people’s lives aren’t necessarily. And for most Puget Sound residents, an ORCA card may be the only contactless transit card they have experience with. (Whereas many people have various cards/fobs/etc. for their office, apartment building, etc. that do not have this read/write behaviour)

      2. I have noted that credit cards are contactless ready but many of the PayPoint readers are inoperative. If I see one that is working I use it, which often results in the cashier staring with her mouth open and saying “how did you do that?”

      3. I’ve noticed that too. It’s made me wonder if businesses don’t like them because of some extra fee or something.

    2. Thesaurus.com had a useful synonym: Pat. Pat your card to the reader. Er, well, that’s the best I could find.

    3. They should say “hold the card in front of the reader” because that’s what the action is. The readers seem set to expect the card at a wallet-sized distance rather than right against the reader, so explaining it this way would help.

    1. When in doubt about anything Metro does, just remember that almost all of its management works 8-5, mostly at King Street Center, and uses the bus only to commute to and from King Street Center from their homes (or P&Rs) around the area.

  6. Selling ORCA on the notion of how fast it is for one to tap still misses the point. It takes a little effort to pre-load the card. Cash takes no effort. Cash gets you moving too. It may annoy every ORCA user on the bus, and make some people late for work, but that’s not something they are going to put in a video.

    The good news is that Metro has a time-to-get-serious moment coming up this year. Not only has the Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee been convened, with a report due in June, but Metro plans a “fare restructure” proposal soon after that.

    With not much effort and without raising too many waves, the proposal could include a cash surcharge on each and every boarding. Indeed, the service efficiency savings from doing that would probably make more money for Metro than raising fares 25 cents across the board. I will try to press this point with the LIFOAC, and get them on the side of service efficiencies due to fare system efficiences before fare increases.

    Another neat thing that could be done is conversion of our complicated zone fares into a straightforward categorization of routes as either “local” or “inter-city express”. Of the now fifteen contactless smart cards used throughout at least one bus agency (and not including New York MTA’s pilot project on some routes), only six of them have any sort of zones, with three of those applying only to a few specialty BRTish routes, one having only a few routes with all of them being BRTish, the fifth being Minnesota Metro, which has done everything wrong with their smart card rollout that could be done wrong, and the sixth being KC Metro. One of those six is Community Transit, which charges two different rates, depending on distance being traveled, on five of their northeast long-distance commuter routes.

    Peak surcharges are even less popular among bus agencies with smart cards. I’ve found only two that have such a feature: KC Metro and Minnesota Metro. For those who see peak surcharges as a fairness issue, I say, life is unfair, and we are here by the Grace of the Creatress. For those who see peak surcharges as an incentivization tool, I ask you to show me who is riding off-peak to avoid the peak surcharge. Consider how many 9-5 commuters are driving instead of riding because of that extra charge. But most importantly, consider how many fare disputes could be eliminated if our system were more straightforward, with one ORCA rate and one cash rate 24/7/365 on each bus for each category of fare payer. Some of those fare disputes slow buses down. Some merely waste the time of Customer Service.

    So, to show how easy such a fare restructure could be, with little violence done to the current setup, I plugged in some numbers and did this chart:

    Access Current Fare New Fare
    cash $1.25 $1.50
    ORCA $1.25 $1.25

    Fixed Routes
    Discounted Fares
    Current Fare New “Local” Fare New “Express” Fare
    Reduced (seniors, riders with disabilities, low-income)
    cash $0.75 $1 $1
    ORCA $0.75 $0.75 $0.75

    cash $1.25 $1.50 $1.50
    ORCA $1.25 $1.25 $1.25

    Full Adult Fares
    1-zone off-peak
    cash $2.25 $3
    ORCA $2.25 $2.50

    2-zone off-peak
    cash $2.25 $3 $3
    ORCA $2.25 $2.50 $2.50

    1-zone peak
    cash $2.50 $3
    ORCA $2.50 $2.50

    2-zone peak
    cash $2.50 or $3 $3 $4
    ORCA $2.50 or $3 $2.50 $3

    Everyone, except a few cases involving the zone-to-category conversion, would get a 25-cent cash fare increase. But that would not be a real fare increase, as riders could simply choose to tap ORCA, and the fare increase would be eliminated.

    A few riders currently paying for one zone on express routes would be pushed to not take up a seat on express routes and instead catch a local bus for their short trip. A few riders on the suburban tails of these routes would have increased incentive to lobby for local routes instead. A chunk of 2-zone riders on local routes that cross the Seattle City Limits would see a 50-cent fare decrease. Most of these riders live in poor and minority neighborhoods.

    The big hit would be the 25-cent increase on off-peak trips. But this will mostly just hit casual riders. How many frequent riders actually buy an off-peak pass?

    There would still be around four routes that would have a peak surcharge (the 101, 150, 255, and 271). Putting a 75-cent increase on daytime trips on those routes might be a political bridge too far.

    A Big Bang Fare Restructure could get a lot of service efficiency, with naught but a minor tremor in the actual fares. Given that fare recovery is a little more than 25%, it would take at least an 8% fare increase to raise the same amount of money as a 2% service efficiency. I think this Big Bang Fare Restructure would yield at least 2% efficiency improvement, perhaps a lot more. And it would improve the bus riding experience for everyone instead of chasing off riders.

    It’s time for Metro to fully embrace ORCA. Every single boarding.

    1. They should just equip the buses with Orca cards and so the bus driver taking a cash fare would then sell them an ORCA card that they can continue to use and recharge.

    2. “Cash takes no effort.”

      It takes effort to fish the change from your pocket. That’s why Starbucks cards are popular. But the poor riders who always pay cash obviously can’t afford Starbucks. The other group of cash payers is occasional riders/visitors/”my car broke down”, and there will always be those.

      Re premium fares, Metro should charge extra for peak-express routes. At least those as long as the 102, and maybe the 15X-like series too. But not on the all-day trunk routes (41, 71/72/73, 101, 150, 255, 271). These are basic two-way service to various parts of the county. If Metro has to charge more on these to balance its budget, they should be an intermediate rate between local and peak-express.

      Metro introduced the peak-hour surcharge long before ORCA, in the early 1980s. It was in lieu of peak-express fares, which I don’t know if Metro even considered then. The reasoning was that many local routes also double their frequency peak hours, so they’re also part of Metro’s increased costs during peak. And also that Metro has a countywide mandate, and that implied equal fares for all routes. Obviously, that notion has got to go. But it needs to go on the peak-express routes, not trunk routes like the 150 that are the backbone of the system and which we want to encourage people to take instead of the peak-expresses. (As if the 150 were fast enough for its role, but that’s another issue.)

      1. I’m not a fan of the peak-hour surcharge… but charging people more for peak-only routes seems like kicking them while they’re down. As an example, Admiral/Alki. Imagine the mustachioed Metro planners: “So first we killed their off-peak service to downtown. Then we charged them extra for the peak-hour service that remained. Ha, ha, ha, ha!” I think a few other places have lost all-day service to downtown Seattle recently to create consolidated frequent corridors (IIRC that’s how Metro found the hours to boost frequency on the 255). These sorts of changes are generally good things (especially if there’s really a good reason to choose one corridor over another, and if we can effectively channel growth along these corridors), but they’ll become even less popular than they are if they mean less service and higher fares.

      2. That’s a point. It’s really the long-distance peak-only routes we want to surcharge. The parts of West Seattle that recently lost full-time routes are kind of a special situation, both because they deserve some kind of concession and because they’re so close to downtown that their operating costs aren’t so high. But I don’t know how Metro can pick come peak-only routes and not others of similar distance without looking unfair.

      3. If the higher fare category is “inter-city express”, then that protects Alki, the 41, and various other Seattle semi-expresses. The idea is that the inter-city expresses could have more of a distance-based fare in the future, but that the fare still needs to be standardized on each route. I’d also call all the routes that do not run on a freeway “local”, so that, for example, the E Line would be called a local route, which is what it really is.

        I’m all for encouraging ridership on the 101 and 150, *but* there ought to be some sort of reward if the route gets truncated at Rainier Beach Station. Having the 101 become peak only, and having it renumbered the 103, and just go to RBS off-peak, would be one work-around to get away the fuzziness of time-based fares. I see it as problematic if the 101 and 102 are charging different fares from each other during the same time period. Riders may change behavior to game the system, creating an eventual “solution” in which the 102 is truncated at S. Renton P&R.

        Looking at it another way, all non-reduced-fare riders coming from and going to Seattle on the 101, 150, 255, and 271 are already paying $3 during peak. This would not change under my proposal. But hey, if we’re only arguing over the minutiae on four routes, we are darn close to having a solid proposal to push with Metro.

        If you go back and look at Metro’s fare evasion and fare consolidation reports from 2008, you’ll notice that Metro was hinting at the idea of a one-zone system (but not the idea of routes designated “express” for fare purposes), and also the possibility of doing away with the peak surcharge. Maybe they already understood the problems those features have when overlaid on a smart-card-based system. Of course, going to a one-zone system meant doing away with the Ride Free Area. And they hinted at getting rid of paper transfers, which they were ready to do in 2009 until the political correctness pressure hit.

        FWIW, among the smart card bus agencies, Boston, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Maryland, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Miami all have routes designated “express” for fare purposes. Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Spokane, Ventura County, and DC charge a uniform fare for all routes.

      4. Peak hour surcharges never made any sense and make riding the bus less consistent – the devil of ridership.

        A person isn’t going to not go to work because the bus costs 25 cents more to board.

        There’s more buses running during peak hours but there’s also more riders (otherwise why run more buses?) so why increase the rate?

        Average the peak hour costs and the off peak hour costs and have one price all day long and you just made riding the bus a little bit easier.

      5. Grant,

        My proposal has one rate all the time for all local routes ($2.50), one rate all the time for all but four inter-city express buses ($3), and four routes over which the solution is not such an easy decision.

        Should the 101, 150, 255, and 271 be charged at the express rate off-peak (which is a 75-cent off-peak fare increase)? Should they be charged as local at all times (which is a 50-cent peak fare decrease)?

        I’m okay with charging $3 at all times on these four routes, but I sense others would disagree.

        At any rate, putting aside for the moment whether these four routes are local or inter-city express, does $2.50 for local routes at all times and $3 for express routes at all times sound like reasonable numbers?

      6. One more plate of food for thought:

        If bus ticket machines are installed downtown, how do you keep riders from buying a ticket for the wrong number of zones (perhaps intentionally)? How do you keep riders from buying tickets for the wrong time period, such as buying an off-peak ticket an hour before riding, then riding during peak?

        Fare simplification will make the bus ticket machine rollout a much smoother process.

      7. “I’m all for encouraging ridership on the 101 and 150, *but* there ought to be some sort of reward if the route gets truncated at Rainier Beach Station”

        The reward is doubling the frequency at the same end stops. People are afraid of losing one-seat rides, and Metro is afraid of their opposition. But if you just do it and give people 15-minute minimum frequency in return, in ten years they’ll wonder how they lived without it, transit will be more a part of their life, and new people moving there will love the convenient and sensible transit system and assume it has always been like that.

        “Should the 101, 150, 255, and 271 be charged at the express rate off-peak”

        The 255 and 271 definitely not, because the freeway is the only way across the bridge or from 84th to 108th. Yarrow Point severed the local road to prevent commuters from using it to bypass freeway congestion. When the 226 and 235 got on I-90 at the last possible exit and got off at the first, they were not considered expresses. The 240 gets on I-90 briefly for the same reason, because there’s no other way to get from Bellevue Way to Factoria.

      8. I can agree with the 271 being a local route all the time, since it doesn’t bypass any neighborhoods except those that would require backtracking, and it is the milk run alternative to the 555/556.

        The 255 is a weaker case. It is certainly express from downtown to Montlake. Once U-Link opens, it will be a premium service, when compared to routes that come from UW, such as the 540. I really don’t want to see it become designated “local” for that reason alone. But hey, if we agree on where the fares ought to be on all but one route, I can go along with the 255 being local, and then automatically upgraded to inter-city express when U-Link opens.

      9. You think the 255 should be like the 43 from downtown to Montlake and then like the 255? Who would ride such a monstrosity? Those going from downtown or UW to Capitol Hill, and those going from downtown Kirkland to south Kirkland. It would fail in its primary purpose of Seattle – northeast King County transit.

      10. No, I don’t think the 255 should change its path, except to repair the SR 520 trunk on 2nd/4th. But I do think that, once a more all-day local option is available from UW across SR 520 after U-Link opens, that the 255 should be charged as the premium service that it will be, if it continues to be at all.

  7. Re the 101, I went to the Renton Highlands yesterday and noticed the southbound 101 and 106 alternated 15 minutes apart. (Northbound they’re a little off, :15 and :22.) I took the 106 because it came next and I wanted to experience the Georgetown routing. Travel time is within 10 minutes of each other: 43 minutes vs 53.) I expected the 101 to be around 30 minutes, but no. Ten minutes difference is insignificant off-peak for that distance, so I’m half ready to argue for converting all 101s to 106s to make 15-minute frequency. Actually, that wouldn’t quite work because of the need for MLK local service in Renton. But if the 101 were truncated at Rainier Beach it could alternate every 15 minutes with the 150, or extend the 169 to do the same.

    I was struck that the 101 takes almost as long as the 150! Even though Renton TC is at 135th street and Kent Station is at 242nd. So how much added value is the 101 providing, if it’s not very expressful over the 106?

    I went to the Highlands to search for walking routes for our transit hikes. I’d heard it was an old, traditional neighborhood (walkable, no setbacks). If that part exists I missed it because it was the opposite. Large-lot houses; suburbanesque supermarket plazas behind large parking lots. Most of the businesses cater to low-income (dollar stores and such), and I noticed a cluster of Vietnamese businesses including a large Asian supermarket. Still, my impression was that it’s better to be poor in Kent than in Renton, because the street grid is more intact and it’s more walkable, and you don’t have expressways blocking through streets every time you turn around.

    And downtown Renton, I’m sorry to repeat, has degenerated into concentration of expressway intersections with businesses scattered between them. There is an “old town” right around the TC with no setbacks but it’s just a couple blocks long. It’s as if a bomb hit the city center and only a few blocks remained standing. The city has done something with the statue park next to the TC, and the housing next to the TC. But downtown Renton just has so much potential going to waste. It’s just crying out to replace some underperforming big-box stores with their large parking lots into the downtown that used to be there. So Renton is not “ahead of the curve”, it’s way behind the curve.

    1. “But if the 101 were truncated at Rainier Beach it could alternate every 15 minutes with the 150”

      alternate with the 106, of course.

    2. This really gets into the difference between a true express and the appearance of an express. What Renton and Kent need are all-day expresses with a reasonable 30 minute travel time to downtown, running every 15 minutes. In Kent’s case, separate that from the local Kent-Southcenter service. In Renton’s case it’s already screwed because the 101 is as fast as a bus can go given Renton’s distance from I-5 and the mess of streets in downtown Renton. So the 101 has basically failed to give Renton a meaningful express, and thus, what’s its value added over the 106? But it has given the appearance of an express for several years, so Metro has been able to pat itself on the back and people haven’t been mad enough to complain.

      Of course, the 30-minute travel time may not be achievable in either Kent’s or Renton’s case without Link lines, which nobody is ready to approve. But the fact remains that this is the biggest problem in their transit connectivity to the region.

      There is one thing I don’t understand. Kent and Renton are similarly poor, yet ridership on the 150/164/168/169 (west of Lake Meridian) is persistently higher than the 101/105/106/240, at least double or triple, time and again as I’ve seen [1]. Is there some reason why Kentians like transit more than Rentonites? This is one of the reasons I’m ready to ditch the 101.

      [1] It was my first time on the 105, but it’s also the smallest Metro bus I’ve ever seen. Only one door, and only two rows of seats between the sideways seats in front and the sideways seats in back. So that tells how much ridership Metro expects.

      1. One of the things about Kent is that the “business district” exists all up and down the major throughfares. Kent is full of the low cost retail shops — and the jobs they provide — that can be accessed via transit with a walk to the apartment bus stop and from the street bus stop.

        So, you will see people around Kent, using transit all times of day, all days of the week. Add in the two main colleges, Green River (including the Kent Station extension) and Highline which draw traffic East-West and for teeenagers, Southcenter mall, and you’ve got a well used transit system.

        I saw one chart that said that almost the percentage of trips that stay within Kent are the same as the Kent to Seattle transit. Of course, this completely contrasts with the high-density high cost model.

        In fact, I would go so far as to say that this transit AND car accessible model, bus stops AND parking, and lower cost real estate allow for the existence of an economy that can support the low wage person, the immigrant, and be home to wage workers and labors and for a low cost house the infirm and other-abled.

        I hope to God, Seattle planners never come to Kent. This is my great fear.

    3. Don’t necessarily trust the printed schedules with respect to the 101 and 106. The 101 runs on time on most occasions. The 106… you’re lucky if you get to RTC within 5-6 minutes of the printed schedule.

      Also, most 101 riders headed to Renton are headed to the South Renton P&R, which the 106 doesn’t serve.

      My proposal (which I know you’ve seen before) goes something like this:

      – Cancel the 101
      – Expand peak-hour Renton-Downtown service on the 143, 102, and a route that replaces the 111 and 114 but goes through Renton rather than using I-90
      – Extend the 169 to RBS via MLK
      – Keep the 106 as is for the moment (I have another proposal for it which involves splitting the 60, hooking the southern half of the 106 up to the northern half of the 60, allowing the 124 to take over Georgetown service, and creating a new crosstown route, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion.)

    4. Can we at least agree that, whatever you want to call the 101 and the 150, that there is no particular reason to reduce their peak fare from $3 to $2.50? (and thereby get more riders to push for the RBS connection so that they get redesignated to “local”)?

  8. Anyone have a justification for why pre-tapping the orca and boarding the back of the rapidride is not allowed after 7p?

    1. because ‘normal people’ are all home by then, having dinner, and only the crazies are left out on the street after 7.
      We must control them… we must control them… we …

      1. Yeah, it’s the fare inspectors. Metro needs to learn the concept that a simple system is superior, with one route in each corridor with evenly-spaced times (it is getting that right with RapidRide), and off-board payment that works 24 hours, and a simplified fare structure with premium fares on routes rather than times. At least the ride-free area and pay-as-you-leave is history.

      2. At least in Munich you have to board through the front door after 9 PM for the same reason.

  9. Down in Lakewood this morning. 11AM on a Sunday and there’s about 8 people waiting for the bus at the corner of Hipkins Rd. and Steilacoom Blvd. I wonder what these folks are going to do after weekend service ends? Buy a car, stay home on weekends, move to Boston? If you look at the map it’s easy to see there was never any chance of sustainable transit in this area. One quadrant is a huge park. Most of another is Western State Mental Hospital and a pair of golf courses. Then there’s a big chunk taken up by a grade school & junior high that abuts with the game farm. The remainder that isn’t Lake is mostly single family homes on 1/4 acre lots with a tiny bit of fast food retail.

    1. Hopefully it’s a group of visitors or a one-off party rather than transit-bound people going shopping.

      1. No, it was pretty clear from the different groups they were standing in, ages, dress, etc. that it was all individuals or groups of two waiting for the bus. I’ve been amazed that more often than not when I drive by there, usually on a weekend, there is one or more people waiting at the bus stop.

      2. There are a fair number of apartments north of there and perhaps there is a person or two that work at the nursing home (on the NW corner by the gas station).

      3. There are a few apartments north of there and the old Thunderbird apartments, now I think re branded as condos just south of there. I’m guessing said apartments to the north are where the vast majority of the ridership is coming from. It’s a sham that PT would have ever presented this area as somewhere you should move to if transit dependent… promises you can’t keep.

      4. I don’t think anyone from PT was out selling real estate or leasing apartments. If someone is to blame, it would be the less-than-scrupulous property management companies touting that their apartments are “on a bus line.”

      5. I’m sure PT officials were more altruistic but the problem remains that overextending geographical coverage creates a financial model that isn’t sustainable. Over time, say 10 years, a core group develops that relies on the service but never reaches the threshold where it can be provided at a reasonable cost.

      6. There’s been transit service there for closer to 30 years. Hindsight is 20/20. When the Pierce Transit system was built in the ’80s, there was a stable funding source in the MVET. The urban core of Tacoma was being served adequately for the demand at that time and there were still tons of service hours to be deployed. When you consider that they were running buses to Fox Island and Enumclaw in those heady days, serving the Oakbrook neighborhood seems pretty reasonable in comparison.

    2. It will be interesting to see which routes Pierce Transit chooses for the skeletal weekend service that remains come September. If you went strictly by ridership, you’d only run service in Tacoma, but I don’t think that would appease the board. I imagine they’ll run something in each of the major municipalities, but I don’t think the 212 to Steilacoom would make the cut under any circumstance.

      1. I think you might see routes that don’t exist during the week that provide at least some coverage. The concept of buses every 2 hours in some cases, 1 coach split between 2 routes, outbound-inbound interlines. Look at the system map where there is route convergence.

      2. I thought PT said it would delete all weekend service across the board, but this revised press release says that 24 routes will remain on Saturdays and 17 on Sundays. “Limited service after 7pm and mid-day.” Since weekends don’t have peak hours, I don’t know how that’s different from an even schedule all day. Public meetings are throughout March.

        I wonder if that will save the 11 for Point Defiance transit hikes.

      3. I wonder if there’s an error in that press release. A week ago, they were saying that Saturday service would run from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sundays would be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only. That makes for straight 10-hour operator shifts on Saturday and an 8-hour shift on Sunday, which is what they are already doing on many weekend routes.

      4. A little back-of-the-napkin math: If there are 36 routes on weekdays and they plan on operating 24 routes on Saturdays, that means a difference of 12 routes. Currently, routes 102, 400, 495, and 497 do not run on Saturdays, so that gets you down to a net cut of eight routes from the existing service. The bottom eight routes in terms of passengers per service hour are: 51, 100, 13, 14, 501, 11, 409, and 45. My bet is that most of those will be your weekday only routes.

        To get down to 17 routes on Sunday, you’d need to drop seven more beyond what you’ve cut on Saturday. The next seven lowest productive routes are: 402, 57, 212, 16, 53, 214, and 48 — those would be your Monday through Saturday routes.

      5. Thanks to Mike Orr I see the gloom and doom cuts presented to the voters were in fact just posturing. It’s a dangerous game to actually start to publish what routes can be maintained with current funding. Sad thing is that the truth only comes out when PT is held to the wall with a knife.

      6. Not really. Read over the press release again, and you’ll see that they’re only maintaining this weekend service by cannibalizing some capital funds – which is a good idea, I’d say, but not really sustainable.

      7. “We have been working very hard for the last couple of months to find these savings,”

        If you reduce service hours by 30% (that’s on top of already reduced service) doesn’t that mean your buses are going to last longer? WTA is replacing 18 year old buses. A 12 year replacement schedule X 1.3 is 18 years. Of course they are hoping for revenue to increase service hours but until/unless that happens this seems like a perfectly reasonable accounting for funds and shouldn’t have taken months to find.

      8. And for the routes that are left, some will have Sunday service at 120-minute headways — meaning only four trips, so sure they’re “maintained,” but not by much. You most likely couldn’t get to work and back on that.

        I imagine that Route 1 will be the only one left at 30-minute headways, as that uses up several coaches right there.

      9. Keep in mind that, except for nine Gillig hybrid coaches, the entire PT fleet is CNG-powered. The newer CNG fuel tanks are rated for a 20-year lifespan, so that’s your upper limit. Sounds like they’re talking about going from a 12-year to a 14-year replacement schedule, which shouldn’t present much of a problem.

        They sent about half the fleet of 2004 30-foot coaches to auction, which seems very premature.

  10. A lot of the articles on Seattle Transit present various metrics that “make a place good” according to the opinions of the primary article writers. But how about “Income Inequality”. In his State of the Union speech, President Obama made it a keystone of his criticism of what is wrong with this nation. Yet, as I scan a heat map from the Wall Street Journal, I note that Seattle-King County has some of the worst Income Inequality in the nation…with the highs very far from the lows. There are other problems. We are the lowest in college educated single females. This creates a very unbalanced society. Add in the high cost, and you’re looking at significant downsides to Seattle living for many.

    Besides these metrics it seems that there are many others that over the course of the last 20 years, have become worse, and that make the area less hospitable to new business and middle class families who want to move in. Why is it the STB essayists ignore so many other factors that relate to making an area desirable?

    1. But making every neighborhood more walkable, both in the city and in suburbia, makes life more convenient for both the poor and the rich. If it’s done on a wide enough scale, it won’t cause land prices to skyrocket and push out the poor. The problem is that walkable/transit-oriented development and good transit routes are so few that demand overwhelms supply and pushes prices into severe unaffordability. But if you did that everywhere, it would not affect prices much because there would be plenty of supply. In fact, that’s precisely the goal. Build enough of it that prices don’t rise, so people don’t have to choose between convenience and affordability. Because it’s just awful that we’ve relegated the working poor to the most car-dependent areas, places that were intended for people who could easily afford the car.

      The issue of inequality is perhaps too big to meaningfully discuss in a transit context. Land use has a direct impact on transit usage and transit viability. But inequality, does it really change the transit picture? The 10-minute walk circle and the advantages of frequent transit don’t change if you’re rich or poor or society is equal or unequal. The only difference is that in unequal societies, more rich people live in isolated mansions and opt out of transit, and more poor people can’t afford cars. In that sense they cancel each other out and the rich can “donate” their transit capacity to the poor.

      There’s mounting evidence that social inequality breeds a myriad of national ills. The countries with the lowest inequality — New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries, Canada, etc — have the highest satisfaction levels for people’s individual lives and their country’s direction, their public also supports above-average transit and urban design, and they have low violence rates. In contrast, South Africa has high inequality, is the murder capital of the world, and has no public transit. (It has private “taxis” instead, which aren’t necessarily safe beyond commuting to work.)

      As to what this implies for the US, you may not like the answer. In the current era, Democrats are generally pushing for equality, transit, and walkability. Republicans are generally pushing for an Ayn Rand utopia of inequality, where the rich get richer and the poor are undeserving leeches. This has unfortunately been married to a Le Corbusier ideal of car-dependent land use, as well as rigid authoritarian morality. This inequality has led to a chronic fear among Americans that they may not have enough money in old age or if they get sick or if their car breaks down, and this leads to more separation between “us” and “them”, more gated communities, and more violence. In other words, rising inequality and little effort to stop it is gradually making the US more like South Africa. But things like walkability and transit, by empowering citizens and making cars more of an option than a necessity, is doing its own small part to reduce inequality.

  11. Creating Hipsturbia

    A yoga studio opened on Main Street that offers lunch-hour vinyasa classes. Nearby is a bicycle store that sells Dutch-style bikes, and a farm-to-table restaurant that sources its edible nasturtiums from its backyard garden.

    Across the street is the home-décor shop that purveys monofloral honey produced by nomadic beekeepers in Sicily. And down the street is a retro-chic bakery, where the red-velvet cupcakes are gluten-free and the windows are decorated with bird silhouettes — the universal symbol for “hipsters welcome.”

    You no longer have to take the L train to experience this slice of cosmopolitan bohemia. Instead, you’ll find it along the Metro-North Railroad, roughly 25 miles north of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.


    1. The hoity-toity accoutrements of the moment are readily available in an exceedingly wealthy part of Westchester?

      Well, now I’ve heard everything.

    2. With an increase both in density and in the atmosphere of busy professionalism, Brooklyn no longer feels as carefree as it did, said Ari Wallach, a futurism consultant, who recently cut short a Brooklyn real estate search.

      “There is more looking down, less eye contact,” said Mr. Wallach, 38. “The difference is between the first three days of Burning Man, when everyone is ‘Hey, what’s up?’ to the final three days of Burning Man, when the tent flaps are down. Brooklyn is turning out to be the last three days of Burning Man.”

    3. Good for Hastings-on-Hudson, for having Metro-North and walkable centers near train stations. But isn’t this “bringing Brooklyn with them” just what you said you don’t want? “I hope to God, Seattle planners never come to Kent. This is my great fear.” Heaven forbid that the yoga studio might have a narrow storefront next to the bakery, with no setback or huge parking lot in front of them. That might make it, gasp, three steps from the bus stop rather than a hundred steps. That would just ruin the neighborhood.

      Check out University Way between 50th and Ravenna Blvd, and 55th Street from University Way to Roosevelt Way. You might approve of parts of it.

      1. Come to think of it, also check out Roosevelt Way from 53rd to 70th. These are all pretty much a lowrise streetcar suburb, but they’re in the city so they get frequent transit without an extraordinary expense. Imagine one of these on East Hill. (They now have a few six-story buildings, but not every parcel.) Not the end of the world, and probably similar to that Hastings-on-Hudson you pointed to.

  12. Yesterday I took the 3:15pm Sounder to Auburn and the 180 + 169 + 140 + Link back to Seattle.

    Auburn: I’m unhappy with its car orientation but glad for the token mixed-use parking garage at the station. (It has Green River CC services and a cafe/deli on the ground floor.) North Auburn’s auto row symbolizes how thoroughly the city has sold its soul to the car.

    Kent/Renton: The 169 had several standees (partly because it was a non-articulated bus) but 3/4 of the passengers had cleared out by Carr Road. Once again, Kent has higher ridership between Kent Station and 132nd than any of the surrounding cities do at the same hour. I’m not sure if the 169’s ridership regularly goes down that much in the north part, but if so it shows the pattern of depressed ridership in Renton extending to even to the north part of the 169. There was a traffic jam at Carr Road & Talbot Road; it took the bus five minutes to make that turn.

    140 route: This was the most striking thing. The 140 goes through several speed bumps to the Sounder station in the middle of nowhere. So it doesn’t just look like nowhere from the train. There’s a Boeing office and an empty parking lot near the station. No train, no people, no on/offs. (This was around 5:45pm.) Has the 140 been making this detour all this time? Sad for RapidRide, although it will have a different routing. If we’re going to keep this ridiculous station, can we at least put some TOD there and extend the Southcenter businesses to it?

    1. The new Tukwila Station will be on the other side of the tracks. So buses wouldn’t have to detour to serve the station (or in the case of RR-F, not detour any more than the diversion to Southcenter.

  13. Coal: the cleanest energy source there is?

    using iron-oxide pellets for an oxygen source and containing the reaction in a small, heated chamber from which pollutants cannot escape. The only waste product is therefore water and coal ash

    Doesn’t address the problems like mountain top mining but it could be a game changer with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. All aboard the coal train!

    1. Ha, a bit of mining the intraweb reveals that“clean coal” only exists in an alternate reality:

      CDCL mixes tiny iron oxide beads to carry oxygen to spur the chemical reaction with coal… Carbon from the coal binds with the oxygen from the iron oxide to produce heat and almost pure carbon dioxide that rises to the top of the chamber where it is then captured .

      It’s no coincidence that Ohio State University’s smoke and mirrors plan is under construction at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Carbon Capture Center.

  14. So how are those published RapidRide C and D schedules workin out fer ya? The online schedules show all runs including peak hours. For A and B they just go to the RapidRide section which only has the late-night schedule.

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