63 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Bicycling and Transit in Vancouver”

  1. March-April 2013 issue of InTransit:

    Metro’s web developers have wanted to spruce up the schedules for years, but have been stymied by our antiquated timetable and bus stop (TABS) software. TABS has been scheduled for replacement for more than 10 years, but it still works, so replacement keeps taking a back seat to more urgent priorities.
    But now Metro’s Webmaster, Mark Bilodeau, has found a way to take data from the TABS system and convert it to a standard format, allowing production staff members to edit and maintain it using spreadsheet software. The spreadsheets are then ported to a web format that’s flexible enough to fit a variety of desktop and tablet widths (the next version will also adapt to mobile phones).

    Congrats to Mark for taking nearly 3 years on the job to figure out Excel’s Text to columns feature. As a long term solution, I’d suggest sed, as it transform the text into HTML for every schedule in under a minute.

    They’ve published the schedules for routes 3, 4, 60, 65, C and D in the new format. Looks like they copied Sound Transit’s CSS almost line-for-line.

    Make sure to give your feedback on the new format and tell them how annoying it is to have to click a tab to see the opposite direction.

    1. The following piece of information is virtually useless:

      > This route may be affected by revised schedules or service cancellations on:
      > 02/18/13 – Presidents Day
      > 05/27/13 – Memorial Day
      > 03/25 to 03/29/13 – UW Spring Break

      Notice how there is absolutely no mention of what revisions or service cancellations there might be, just that there might be some. Reading this, I guess one should simply avoid riding the D-line on President’s Day because who knows what trips are going to be canceled and how long you have to wait for the bus to show up.

      1. In particular, “may be affected” is bullshit. The route either is or is not affected by holidays – there is no maybe. The “holiday” page should simply list the service level of the bus for each holiday.

    2. Thanks for linking to the new schedules. Copied CSS or not, it’s a massive improvement. I left a response suggesting they reconsider the tabbed approach for opposite-direction travel. I’ve also always wanted the page to default to the schedule for today’s date, which isn’t a big deal on a PC but annoying when checking schedules on your phone. I’ve had more than a few frustrating moments on a Saturday night trying to check the Metro website on my phone to see if there is an owl bus despite OneBusAway claiming otherwise, with crappy reception in a bar or club making each page load soooo slowly.

  2. I moved to Seattle about 11 months ago, prior to that living in San Francisco for 6 years, and before that lived in Chicago for 7 years. So far I love the City – beautiful scenery, nice downtown and some interesting, quaint neighborhoods, and generally I dig the people and the culture.

    But there is one thing I can’t understand – compared to San Francisco and Chicago, Seattle feels much more suburban. Outside of the inner core, so much of the city is just single family housing. Sure, there are nodes of commercial activity, but overall, there are so many huge swaths of suburban-feeling houses with no commercial whatsoever. What I can’t understand is that since I’ve moved here I’ve heard many people say “Seattle is becoming too urban and dense, development is out of control, there’s no parkin” and things of that nature. I want to point to the countless miles of single family suburbia within city limits and say “what are you talking about?”

    In San Francisco the residential areas (which are primarily rowhouses) typically have corner stores, bars, markets, etc. on the corner, so you never feel stranded like you do in Seattle suburbia. And the commercial districts in SF are cohesive, integrated, and stretch for miles – so they slice into most of the residential.

    In general, although the BART and MUNI light rail aren’t that great (I’ll take Chicago’s EL any day), SF was a very easy city to get around without a car (in many cases, easier than with) because of the land use and development patterns, that complimented the transit in a way that made it all work well. Parking is impossible in SF (and that is a good thing), roads are constantly being turned into pedestrian plazas, everything is geared towards walking, biking, and riding. Seattlites in general seem to fight hard to preserve suburban elements in the City. While the bus network seems to go everywhere, the transit is sub-par – everything feels so spread out in Seattle and traffic is so bad that it takes forever to get anywhere by bus. I’ve managed without a car living on First Hill and like the walkable areas around me – but so much of the City feels inaccessible, or I should say, inaccessible without major hassle.

    My broader point is I don’t see how people can argue Seattle is urbanizing or densifying too fast. So much of the City is not urban, the urban fabric outside of the inner core is totally not cohesive and balkanized. In other words, there is a long way to go before this great city lives up to its potential.

    1. It’s an echo chamber or confirmation bias; take your pick. People read or hear about dense projects in South Lake Union or aPodments in the U District or a set of condos in Wallingford and conclude that “this must be happening everywhere.” Meanwhile, their coworker who lives on First Hill who drives to everything starts complaining about Car2Go cars taking up “her spots,” thus adding to the mix. Finally, the news or wherever takes note of the continued addition of people moving to Seattle from around the country or globe and the narrative just sticks: Seattle is full, please go home.

      Plus, remember that density is one of those things that, in my experience, people say they like as long as it happens to someone else. I’m even guilty of this myself because I like the benefits of living in a dense group of people but I’m irked by the side effects, like being able to hear my neighbors because I live in an apartment. (Though, I do live very close to where I work and I don’t drive there.) I lived for years in the suburbs of another major metropolitan area. When one small-ish suburb where I lived proposed “neighborhood commercial” zoning–meaning that convenience stores, small groceries, restaurants, and light retail could open near to houses instead of being in a car-oriented commercial district–people lost their minds and voted out four of the seven council members a year later. That proposal died, along with the proposal for that suburb to join the nearby transit agency.

      “Change is good as long as it doesn’t change my comfort zone.” – Seemingly everyone.

      1. “I’m even guilty of this myself because I like the benefits of living in a dense group of people but I’m irked by the side effects, like being able to hear my neighbors because I live in an apartment.”

        Gaaah. The moral of this is “require noise-insulating walls and windows in apartment buildings”. This simple code requirement would eliminate most people’s main objection to “density”!

    2. Agree totally on density issues (five years in SF here), but keep in mind that there are tons of areas in SF that aren’t all that dense (Richmond, Sunset, Glen Park). Add in all the south bay ‘burbs that refuse to build up and it’s not exactly hard to see why a 680 sqft apartment in the Mission was going for $2500/mo a couple of years ago. Seattle’s headed in the same direction as well, though hopefully we’ll manage the region better (seems unlikely). People in general are resistant to change and live in the delusion that change won’t come if they oppose it enough.

      OTOH, I’ll take KCM over MUNI any day and twice on Mondays. MUNI ‘light rail’ is just a bus that can’t go around problems in the road. MUNI really isn’t even light rail, it’s just a street car and suffers from the same set of problems that the Seattle street car suffers from with the added problem of all that deferred maintenance. I tend to think of Link as a slow BART without the ear splitting shreaks (seriously, what is wrong with their tracks?).

      1. One thing Muni has going for it is that it’s a subway in the densest parts of town where the most people are riding… an overcrowded subway that suffers from “traffic jams” on its rails, but a subway nonetheless. Seattle’s buses (and some streetcar plans!) often do the opposite: crawl through downtown on the surface then escape to a fast arterial or freeway.

        From what I’ve read the problem with BART’s tracks is actually the trains. Some part of their axles doesn’t move the way it does on every other urban rail system in the world. The geometry doesn’t work out on curves, and BART takes curves really fast, so one set of wheels cuts waves into its track as it goes by. The next train’s wheels hit the waves as it goes by and vibrates.

      2. Do you think that has anything to do with how BART’s track gauge is wider than most other urban railways (including all others in the US)?

      3. William, that just makes vehicle procurment and maintenance more expensive since everything is special ordered. I vauguely recall reading somewhere that BART’s wheel squeal is a result of a non-standard wheel and rail profile. Yet another way that BART is ‘special’.

      4. How is Muni’s central subway better than Seattle’s transit tunnel? I guarantee you that the bus lines running on Mission street are every bit as delayed as our surface buses downtown. The reality is that Muni’s on time performance is abysmal, only hitting 71% when the agency lied about it (the reality was more like 61%). The agency also suffers from endemic absenteeism which results in a lot of skipped runs, etc. This is on top of the ‘user experience’, which is just amazingly poor next to KCM.

        RE: Bart, I’m not sure what the problem is. I read once that it was caused by ripples in the tracks because the agency didn’t have enough rail grinders. I don’t think it’s specific to the equipment they use because the DC Metro uses the same types of trains and doesn’t seem to suffer from that particular malady.

      5. The Richmond and Sunset are far, far denser than Magnolia, Sand Point or even the single family areas of Fremont, Wallingford, and Ballard. The housing in those neighborhoods is still crammed-together rowhouse-style and there are corner stores, etc. Those areas are relatively quiet, but they are still fairly dense.

      6. Muni’s subway and its operations have really severe problems, but the system is designed in a reasonable way… the lines that run in the Muni tunnel do actually serve the walkable neighborhoods of the city. Our tunnel is used for lots of freeway routes while most of the routes to closer neighborhoods are stuck at stoplights on 3rd.

      7. Also, I would add that SF has plenty of nearby cities and suburbs (Oakland, Berkeley, Daly City, San Mateo, etc.) that are much denser than any suburb in the Puget Sound (some of them are denser than Seattle itself). Generally, the Bay Area seems much more comfortable with density than the Seattle Metro. Of course, SF is notorious for being obstructionist about new residential projects (outside of SOMA, where anything goes), because people complain about the disruption of the historic rowhouse neighborhoods or about views being blocked, but the City and many surrounding areas are still packed to the brim with housing. There’s a reason SF is the second densest City in the country, although much of the housing is sub-par. I prefer Chicago’s approach to housing – maintain some of the historic stuff but allow for large residential projects so there is no shortage of housing for those who want. Chicago is much more spacious and less crammed in than San Francisco, so it’s easier to do there, but overall I like the City and development community’s approach there.

        Seattle is a completely different beast from either SF or Chicago, as much of the City is untouchable single family home suburbia. People generally are a lot less progressive here about being an urban/dense city. You have a few isolated things happening in pockets, but people are losing sight of the big picture.

      8. San Francisco only has good transit if you stay in San Francisco and never venture out into the larger area. If you ever need to go to Palo Alto or Mountain View, let me point out the problems with the CalTrain:

        1) It’s expensive to ride. If you have a reasonably fuel efficient car, the gas to drive yourself is actually cheaper than the train fare.

        2) Except for peak-period-peak-direction, headways are hourly.

        3) It doesn’t go anywhere in San Francisco except downtown. If you live in San Francisco and want to get to the suburbs, a bus ride of 4 miles to the nearest CalTrain station can take as much as 45 minutes. Add in 15 minutes of padding to make sure you make the train and you’ve already expended an hour of travel time before you even get on the train! For a trip that would be about a 30-45 minute drive door-to-door.

        4) Bus connections once you get off the train are crap. As in hourly buses whose schedules have no coordination with the trains, whatsoever. Walking from the station to your final destination may be an option, but the area is spread out and it might take awhile. And if you have to cross highway 101, you need to be extremely careful not to let cars getting on and off the freeway run you over.

      9. Actually, I’d argue that getting to Oakland, Berkeley, and Daly City via the BART is actually very convenient.

    3. Seattle isn’t really anything like SF geographically or historically. SF’s city (and county) limits mean something totally different than Seattle’s. It’s easy to get around without a car in SF if you never have to leave the city… which is sort of like never going north of the 44 corridor or south of SODO in Seattle.

      Seattle is more comparable to Chicago, whose city limits also stretch a very long way north-to-south… actually Chicago has a lot of suburbia within city limits; many south- and west-side neighborhoods look a lot like the west suburbs (some quite decayed) at comparable distances from downtown. Chicago is older and bigger than Seattle and so it has bigger and denser swaths of streetcar suburbs on the south and west sides than Seattle does anywhere, but the general layout is familiar.

      The big exception is the north side near the lake. While many lakefront cities build industry along their lake shores, Chicago only really did this on the south side and south suburbs (and along the river and canal to the southwest); to the north it built parks and desirable residential neighborhoods along the lake. The north side is a really important exception but it really is an exception. It’s not home to major job centers, its transportation infrastructure (and commute patterns) is pretty downtown-centric… but the lake made it desirable and geographically constrained at the same time, without the access challenges of many of Seattle’s waterfronts, so it grew up.

      Of course, in Chicago people wouldn’t complain about development going out of control. We Chicagoans like our tall buildings.

      1. Yeah, but San Francisco proper has a couple hundred thousand more people than Seattle in an area half the size. And I’d add that the adjacent cities and suburbs are just as if not more dense than Seattle itself.

        While it’s true that Chicago has some suburban-ish areas as well, it also has a huge swath of area that is very urban and cohesive.

    4. At least San Francisco has motorcycle parking spots and rates that are cheaper than those for cars and pickups. I LOVE it . …and if you think that parking a car in certain SF neighborhoods is not a problem, think again. Try parking your car in the Marina District, the Castro, Haight-Ashbury, and some parts of downtown SF. You’ll be circling blocks incessantly searching for parking. I’ll stick with the motorcycle and split traffic.

      Seattle…no lane splitting, motorcycles pay as much as cars, but occupy far less space. Mind you, I’ve found my motorcycle re-positioned because someone wanted more space to park. Since then, I’ve left my steering locked and bike in gear to avoid future movements when parking on the street in Seattle. If I pay as much to park in a space as a passenger car, I should be entitled to that same amount of space along the curb as a passenger car. …so I take it. Until the City of Seattle incorporates motorcycles into its planning, like they incorporate bicycles and cars, then I feel that I will continue this practice. I use my motorcycle as a mode of transportation just like transit users, peds, and bicyclists. Why can’t I be incorporated in the multi-modal plan? I occupy far less space than a car, but I’m bigger than a bicycle. There are hundreds of motorcyclists that regularly commute to the city each day. …yet no plan that I have seen really takes into account or splits out motorcycle riders in multi-modal planning. It should be broken out…and be considered.

      1. Can you use a motorcycle’s small footprint to squeeze around parking gates in private garages to avoid paying?

      2. I’ve never considered trying to beat the gate with a motor cycle. Now days you’d probably be caught on CCTV. But it’s always been dirt cheap to find motorcycle places to park. Not getting run over by cars, that’s the bigger issue. Anyone that thinks parking is an issue is a rookie rider. Or, more likely, doesn’t ride a motorcycle at all but is an expert story teller.

      3. Private garages often give motorcycles a discount. …but I’m referring to areas outsides of downtown where private garages where private garages aren’t as prevalent. Some private garages downtown allow motorcycles to park all day for $5! That’s a bargain!

        I don’t sneak around gates to avoid paying. That’s theft. If I have to pay to park, I will take the full parking space on the curb along Seattle street (if possible) because I have to pay as much as a passenger car. If it is a non-paying block, I’ll take a small sliver of space for my motorcycle.

      4. Bernie,
        I’m hardly a rookie rider. I believe in fairness. If bicycles get lanes, perks, czars, and a major to their beck-n-call, why can’t motorcycle riders? If motorcycles pay RTID, taxes, transportation benefit district fees, and tonage fees that rival small pickups (it doesn’t make sense, so don’t ask), why aren’t there any considerations given to riders? I don’t have a problem finding parking downtown, but I do have a problem with parking prices when it relates to motorcycles.

    5. ITT: More Californians complain about how Seattle is different from California. Maybe people from Seattle like it that way?

    6. “But there is one thing I can’t understand – compared to San Francisco and Chicago, Seattle feels much more suburban. Outside of the inner core, so much of the city is just single family housing. Sure, there are nodes of commercial activity, but overall, there are so many huge swaths of suburban-feeling houses with no commercial whatsoever.”

      It feels more suburban because it is. All Seattle’s history since the 1920s has been pointing in this direction; it only started to reverse in the 1990s. I think it’s because the city was only 200,000 in 1930 when an automobile takeover became feasable. Chicago had large streetcar suburbs and commuter rail networks at the time which wouldn’t go away quietly. San Francisco was “Baghdad by the Bay”, the de facto capital of the west coast and (it might humbly say) western civilization, and of course it must do everything in the best European traditions. But in Seattle people were itching to get their cars and remove streetcar tracks and live in ever-growing detached houses; in other words, the same dream Bellevue had fifty years later. As Boeing became major people drove to it, partly because they had to, and partly because driving was a sign of success. MOHAI has a 1962 recording of how the mayor/council were eagerly awaiting the soon-to-be-built 520 and I-5. No mention of frequent buses or rapid transit then. “That” 520 was built without a sidewalk, so peds/bicyclists have to take a bus across, go several miles to another crossing, or walk anyway and likely get hit by a car.

      North Seattle from 85th to 145th was annexed in the 1950s, after its larger single-family lots had already been built up. You can see an abrupt change at 85th & Greenwood and 85th & 8th NW: that’s where the streetcars terminated and density decreased.

      “What I can’t understand is that since I’ve moved here I’ve heard many people say “Seattle is becoming too urban and dense, development is out of control, there’s no parkin” and things of that nature.”

      The kinds of people who say this are the ones who wanted Seattle to become like (future) Bellevue all along, or at least are spiritual descendants of them.

  3. TransLink (Vancouver) rolled out its new Compass smart card this year. So far, the push to get people to use it is the same misguided focus on slick sloganeering over actual incentivization, like we are still dealing with here. But they just started.

    My survey of Canadian fare systems among agencies that have smart cards came up with one universal feature: 10-ride discounts. However that feature is only available on paper ticketbooks from two of the agencies: Edmonton Transit System and Vancouver TransLink. Vancouver just got started, of course. Edmonton has had their ETS Blue Card since 2009, so I don’t know why they don’t offer any sort of per-ride incentive.

    There are eleven transit smart cards available in Canada at this time. Montreal’s OPUS Card and Toronto’s Presto Card are the only two that offer different cash and card fares.

    I am not a fan of multiple-ride rebates. They are designed to get up-front revenue, in hopes not all the tickets get used. That’s a bad bet over the long run. Multiple-ride rebates do a weaker job of incentiving smart card product over simply having a lower card fare. They also are much less accessible to very poor riders, since it requires a much larger outlay of cash up-front than a lower one-ride card fare does.

    Low-income fare programs are advertised on a few of the agencies’ websites. One that struck me as rather odd was Saskatoon’s 10% rebate for low-income riders who have gone through a bureaucratic qualification process. (Why bother?)

    Vancouver TransLink was not among the agencies that advertise a low-income program, but there is some web activity around pushing them to either institute such a program or stop raising fares.

    The debate over a low-income fare is a hot topic here, of course, as Metro’s Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee will be meeting four more times through June 12 to flesh out a proposal to Metro.

    I’d like to suggest a couple trade-offs. First, tie the institution of an electronic payment discount here to the existence and adequate funding of the low-income fare rebate program. If the low-income program gets defunded, the electronic payment discount would go away. So, the general ridership would have a strong incentive to lobby to keep the program funded.

    Second is to tie a Santa-Clara-style free-passes-for-homeless-in-case-management program to the elimination of paper transfers. If the program gets defunded, our behated paper transfers would return. The homeless population that is at least attempting to get back on their feet would have a new large ally in the form of the rest of Metro’s ridership.

    1. I really appreciate you bird dogging this issue. Hope TPTB are starting to get the hint.

      1. And I appreciate your tireless advocacy for better and faster transit!

        It’s not TPTB I’m worried about. It’s human service executives who don’t ride the bus (and therefore are not directly affected by poorly-targetted and self-defeating compassion that slows down the whole bus system) and bus-riding advocates for the poor who tend to think in pavlovian ways when ORCA incentivization is brought up that I’m worried about that. Turn them, and the council will go with them.

      2. A good start would be to stop PENALIZING people for getting the ORCA card, with the ORCA *fee*.

      3. I hate to mention it, but $5-6 fees for smart cards with no rebates are the norm in Canada. The FAQs justifying it merely say that other agencies charge a similar fee. The lemming principle, I suspect, is why they don’t think through why card fees are a counterproductive approach to recuperative the up-front contract costs of the cards. But then, I haven’t read any of their contracts. I’m guessing the lemming principle is also behind everyone having 10-ride discounts instead of lower card fares than cash fares. Maybe it’s a legacy feature from the time before smart cards.

        Jacksonville, FL has had its Star Card for just over a year, and it costs $2 once you pay the $10, have $5 loaded as e-purse, and get a $3 bonus on the e-purse for setting up auto-reload (automatic refill of e-purse or a monthly pass).

        The Bay Area’s Clipper Card has gone free on a permanent basis, with the $5 fee being converted into e-purse once registration and auto-reload are set up. A waiver of the $5 ORCA fee for the auto-reload feature, I’m pretty sure, would pay for itself in additional revenue and fewer customer service transactions. It would also answer Metro’s call for ways to get people to not throw the card away. If you set up auto-reload, you’re darn well going to make sure not to lose the card.

        The largest post-rebate cost for a bus smart card south of the border, other than ORCA, is $2, charged by Spokane, San Diego, Jacksonville, Miami, and DC. Atlanta and Los Angeles charge $1 after rebates. The other seven smart cards are all free after rebates, on a permanent basis. ORCA’s giveaway program at Saars stores, btw, has ended.

        The up-front $5 charge is still standard south of the border. But the failure to convert that $5 into e-purse once registration and auto-reload are set up is a legacy miss.

      4. I suspect Canadians can afford the $5 fee more easily so it’s less of an issue. The public programs are stronger so there are fewer poor people, and those who are poor don’t have to spend as much for necessities so they can more easily afford the $5 fee, and thus transit for the poor is less of a politically polarizing issue.

    2. The tentative fare for Vancouver would be $2.75 cash fare or $2.35 with Compass Card. The paper ticket book would be phased out before the end of this year.

    3. “I am not a fan of multiple-ride rebates. They are designed to get up-front revenue, in hopes not all the tickets get used.”

      But ORCA’s e-purse are the same thing. Cards get lost and forgotten, and visitors throw them away when they leave town, or they break and people just get a new card rather than going to the window1 to get an official replacement. It’s the same with BART tickets, NYC’s Metrocard, Chicago’s short-term cards, etc.

    1. If there were major changes, we probably would have heard about them by now. I’ll guess further minor refinements to the schedules of routes affected by the September restructure, the annual UW reductions, and nothing else. When there is a 17% cut on the horizon, Metro isn’t going to add anything.

    2. June generally has few changes beyond the normal UW reductions. Some years one suburban route gets added to or reorganized; other years nothing happens. Big changes are usually in September. I’ve also found out that Community Transit doesn’t have a June service change; that’s one reason why ST’s 512 reorganization is happening in September rather than June, so that CT can make simultaneous changes around it.

  4. Does anyone know if a study has ever been done rating, not the best transit agencies, or cities that have the best transit, but more specifically counties with the most service hours of public transit. For example, if you were looking at King County, you would add up all the service hours from public transit agencies that operate within the county, like Metro, ST express buses and trains, street cars, and also include the hours from other counties while they are within King county, and paratransit and DART.

    It’s just a guess, but something tells me that King county would be in the top 1% of counties on this kind of list. And if that is the case, maybe we our public transit is much, much better than some would like us to believe.

    1. Well this would be hard to actually quantify because a lot of agencies don’t operate in one county (MTA of NYC, NJ Transit, Chicago RTA, Washington Metro, etc.) That being said, there are 3,077 counties and I would be willing to bet KCM is in the top 30 by service hours, based purely on ridership.

      Our public transit is better than most of the US, that is true. but I would also be willing to bet that we’re in the top 1% population wise also. So your assertion that service hours = quality doesn’t really add up. A service hour on the 2 != a service hour on the 215.

      1. Additionally, counties vary in size quite a bit. King County is very large in area comparatively, but most of that area is forest lands. So this ranking may not mean a lot about actual transit quality.

        Side question, what counties do you think would be in the top five of such a listing? Without guessing at the order, I’d think it would be four of the five New York City boroughs and Los Angeles County.

      2. Well I’ve never been to LA so I really don’t know anything about LA metro, but just going on basic knowledge I would guess that would be right.

      3. LA county has a population of 10 million people. King county has a population of 2 million, or 5 times less.

        “The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates 2,000 peak hour buses on the street any given business day.” Wikepedia.

        I’m not sure how many peak hour buses Metro and ST have on the street in King county on any given weekday, but I would be willing to bet it’s over 400. (400 peak hour buses being 5 times less than LA county’s 2000).

      4. Sam, KCM and ST together have roughly 1100-1200 buses on the street during peak hour.

      5. David L, then you just made my point. King County has a better transit system than LA county. aw just said that LA county would be in the top 5 on that list, but that’s not true. If LA county has a population of 10 million people, and 2000 peak hour buses, and King county has a population of 2 million with 1200 peak hour buses, as a percentage of population, we have far more buses on the road than LA county.

        Here’s my point. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, it’s easy to walk away with the feeling that this area is way behind other cities in terms of public transit. That this region’s level of service is poor, and we have a long way to go before we can even be mentioned in the same breath as US cities with superior transit systems. I think part of the reason there’s this negative tone and regional self-loathing is rail bias. It’s the mistaken believe that a region cannot have a great transit system if it doesn’t have an extensive rail network. That belief is false. King county, adjusted for population, has one of the top transit systems in America.

      6. Your premise is flawed because you aren’t considering the efficiency of each vehicle.

        You need a lot of vehicles on the street to maintain a certain frequency when so many of them are only moving at an average speed of 5-6 mph.

        When people compare us unfavorably to other cities, it’s usually because getting between city neighborhoods is so slow. A big part of that is poor average speed and travel time, which grade-separated rail happens to fix completely (unless it’s totally antiquated).

      7. David L, there’s a good way and bad way to do light rail. You are correct, if a region builds light rail correctly, then it’s far superior to a system that is dependent mostly on buses. But we are building incorrectly. We are building a light rail system that essential a system of local bus routes on rails. It’s not designed to get people out of their cars or get cars off the freeway. It’s not designed to be faster or more efficient than a bus. (The old 174 and 194 got from downtown to the airport quicker than Central Link. And the routes 550 and 554 get to Bellevue and Overlake more quickly than East Link will).

      8. Sam, you’re partly cherry-picking and partly just wrong.

        Link is far faster to the airport than the old 174 (34 vs. ~50 min.)
        Link is only slower to the airport than the old 194 when that bus ran on time, which was almost never.
        Yet Link provides connections to a swath of neighborhoods that those buses could not. And for those neighborhoods Link is ridiculously faster than the buses it replaced.

        East Link will not be slower to Bellevue than the 550. It will be exactly the same between downtown and S Bellevue P&R, except in the counter-peak direction, when it will be vastly faster. It will be faster than the 550 between S Bellevue P&R and BTC.

        And the 550 and 194 are exceptions. The rule is slow buses which will be made faster. Link as currently funded will provide much faster trips along all or part of the routes served by the following slow buses (today or in the past):

        230/253/RapidRide B

      9. Your facts are getting in the way of my point, and that is King county has one of the best transit systems in the nation.

      10. Faster trips on Link is a fallacy. For many people it’s a wash as best. You have to remember that our rail system isn’t an island. It’s dependent on buses to bring people to and from it. And stops are much further apart. Any time saved (which isn’t much, because of the meandering alignments) is eaten up by walking to and from Link stations, or waiting for and taking buses to and from Link stations.

        (Please forgive my grammar. English is my sixth language).

      11. Why don’t we all just admit Sam is the smartest person in the room and then we can move on to discussing other things.

        Link is about creating a new transit paradigm, where several Seattle neighborhoods are connected directly to the airport and to each other, with frequent service all day and evening, and priority right-of-way to neighborhood centers (rather than just on the freeway). If you delete Link and restore the 194, you’d lose all of that. And that is worth more than the 7 minutes visitors might lose going to their downtown hotels.

      12. Mike Orr, look at it this way. The little boy in the story The Emperor’s New Clothes wasn’t the smartest person in town, just the most honest.

    2. Metro did win an award around 1990 as the largest bus-only transit network in the country. That sounds great except that “bus-only” caveat has a side effect big enough to drive a CT double-tall through. The difference between cities with rail and cities without rail was essentially arbitrary, based more on local politics than the regions’ size and urban needs. It happened that the larger cities had rail, and that cities with rail had more extensive/frequent service than cities without rail, so they weren’t counted in the “bus-only” survey.

      Of course, a lot has changed since 1990, both in King County and in the rest of the country, so Metro’s relative position has definitely changed, even beyond the fact that it has rail now (and that ST has to be included in any national comparison). But how Metro/ST have changed relative to the rest of the country is a more difficult question. That in itself is worth discussing though.

    3. This recent post on Transport Politic shows per capita transit operations spending and service hours for U.S. metro areas. Seattle ranks among the highest metro areas that don’t have major subway systems. On a service hours/per capita basis, only NY, DC and SF offer than Seattle. I can’t vouch for the accuracy or completeness of the source data, however. It seems odd that Seattle provides more service hours than Boston or Chicago.

      1. It makes sense. We are the second largest historically bus-only system after LA, which has moved to adopt trains and BRT faster and more decisively than we have. Buses require more service hours to move the same number of passengers.

        Boston’s T trains and Chicago’s El trains move a large portion of the total passengers in those cities, requiring far fewer service hours per passenger.

        This is why Trains Are Good once the capital-cost pig has passed through the snake.

  5. Great video summary of Vancouver biking and transit…but it still doesn’t do justice to the downtown bike infrastructure. You really have to go down there to see two way bike traffic whizzing along at rush how completely protected by concrete barriers and also the extent of these bike highways, down Dunsmuir and across the viaduct, sailing along like cars!

  6. Received via email from Kurt Triplett, City Manager, City of Kirkland:

    It is with great disappointment that I share with you that the City of Kirkland was served on April 1, 2013 with a Federal lawsuit which seeks to stop the City from removing the rail tracks and ties along the Cross Kirkland Corridor. The lawsuit was filed by Ballard Terminal Railroad Company (“Ballard”) in Federal District Court in the Western District of Washington. In addition to the injunction, Ballard has filed a petition with the federal Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) seeking to reactivate the Eastside Rail Corridor for freight service from Woodinville to Bellevue, WA. These actions make it necessary for the City to carefully evaluate Ballard’s claims and to consider our legal options.

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