RTD Metro Blue Line sure rolls right off the tongue.

123 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Operation Blue Line”

    1. Now what? The state is billions of dollars behind on maintanance and is gutting its funding for transit. Do we now wait a year for another package to come along? Will a scaled back CRC package to created (with or without light rail)? Im tired of waiting.

      1. There are a few communities in Eastern Washington that get bare-bones lifeline transit (on the order of one trip per day) with state funding.

        As to the Puget Sound area, the C-line has gotten some temporary funding for construction mitigation. And, I believe the 520 HOV lanes are funded by the state as well, even if the state doesn’t pay for the buses that operate on them.

    2. Here I thought Washington State was in danger of having both of its cross-water Interstate Highways (for trucks, buses, and cars) screwed up with light rail.

      One down, one to go.

      Light rail fans eyes can now turn to a future simulation of Lake Washington’s motion in Pueblo, Colorado where the I-90 rail bridge technology will be tested. http://www.aar.com/tracks.

      1. How exactly would light rail have “screwed up” the CRC? It was a new-build bridge with many more lanes than the current bridge. Space and support for rail would have been designed in from day 1.

        Not that I agree with you about I-90, but the fact that the center lanes are being converted to rail does have some seeing red.

        I am aware there are some technical challenges in getting link across I-90 but I believe those are all solvable.

    3. I am actually glad this transportation bill was killed. Several billion dollars worth of highway expansions will cause more long-term damage than potential temporary transit cuts. And the package doesn’t even guarantee transit funding for King County. It simply *allows* a local vote. Any of the highway expansions up for a vote? No. Don’t play the game if the game is rigged.

      I could support a gas tax measure with a fix-it-first and transit focus. But not this bill. Not spending another $10B while the list of structurally deficient bridges remains.

      1. You try exiting I-5 at either Port of Tacoma Road or 54th Avenue East in Fife during the middle of the day and lets see you answer that question again.

        I have had many close calls on both exits because semis plug the exits and the close proximity of Pac Hwy. The dealership that serviced my motorcycle is off that exit, and I often found myself being the last vehicle on the off-ramp…or the right lane because of backups.

        The SR 509-Port of Tacoma Project would have cleaned up that zone and met the guidelines of Vision2040 with targeted investments to improve freight mobility. The existing corridors are awful routes.

        As for CRC, cheer all you want. There are a slew of layoffs coming to the agencies working on the project. Are you cheering for all these people losing their jobs?

      2. CharlotteRoyal, I used to drive from Kent to Bellarmine Prep every morning, and often would take POT rd. or 54th, because I like variance in my commute, or I’d take 16 to 5 to 509 to POT or 54th in the evening to avoid dome traffic. Its not all that bad. It’s just part of life around Tacoma. It’s always been a quick way for me to get around despite all the semis. And they seem to get around just fine. People losing their jobs is never awesome, but building excess freeways that aren’t particularly necessary is worse. It’s a colossal waste of money, and those people will find employment somewhere else.

      3. B. f’n S. You be the motorcycle near the gore point or in the right lane as traffic has queued from the Pac Hwy signal. Don’t give me that “it isn’t that bad line.”

        As for jobs, where are these said engineers, designers going to find work? How are they going to make their house payments? The market is saturated. You make it sound so easy to just drop things and find a job.

      4. “Freight mobility”.

        Hmm. There used to be a way that freight was moved in the US. It involved these long ribbons of steel, and they were nailed to big pieces of timber, and weighted down with stones. There’s lots of them all over the Tacoma waterfront….

        The US’s transportation priorities have been screwed up for almost 100 years now.

  1. With the second special session in Olympia completed, and Senate Replublican Leader Rodney Tom indicating his caucus has no interest in taking up HB 1954, it is time to start dealing with the budget cuts Metro will have to face.

    The first piece of service that should go away is the coddling of cash fumbling. There are those who say charging an extra quarter for the privilege of holding up the bus to pay with cash will hurt poor riders. They are wrong. SLOW BUS SERVICE HURTS POOR RIDERS WHO NEED TO GET SOMEWHERE. SLOW BUS SERVICE LEADS TO LESS SERVICE. If you want to do poor riders a favor, support implementation of a cash surcharge as soon as possilble. The sooner it is implemented, the more service that can be saved.

    Metro may estimate the extra time to pay with cash to average five seconds, but the cost to travel time tends to be larger, as each missed light means more bus bunching, and longer wait times.

    If cash fumbling were a line item in Metro’s service allocation budget, it would take up 1-2% of the operating budget. But I believe the missed lights and bus bunching cause the real effect of cash fumbling to be the eating up of up to 5% of the operating budget.

    Whether the real number is 1% or 5%, preferential treatment for cash payers is a premium service that needs to go away in order save 1-5% of platform hours. The sooner it is implemented, the more service that can be saved.

      1. Tourists: Airport Station and Convention Place Station.

        Everyone else: Go to your nearest QFC or Safeway to buy or reload.

      2. To avoid the $5 fee being a deterrent to tourists who are only in town for a few days, we could offer a deal at the airport station, where if you return your Orca card within one week of picking it up, you get your $5 refunded back to you, along with whatever money was left over on the card.

      3. I want to see ORCA-only as much as anyone, but I think saying that it could save 2% of the budget (let alone 5%) is unrealistic. Current schedules, for the most part, are appropriate for ORCA-only loading. It would increase reliability more than it would save service hours.

        I’m not ready to concede the inevitability of the cuts yet. I think what everyone needs to do is come out with guns blazing from the very first day of the 2014 session, and also to keep the issue in the forefront of riders’ minds in the interim.

      4. I don’t know about all schedules, but the 132 is scheduled for a few minutes longer than what it actually takes, even with the cash fumbling. The bus has to sit at a time-point stop a couple times along the way to let the schedule catch up with it. The 131 has the opposite problem.

      5. David L.,

        The earlier a cash surcharge gets implemented, the sooner we will get to see its effect on schedules, and the sooner we’ll know how much service reduction it can stave off.

      6. Interesting. They’ve overcorrected the problem. When I drove, the 132 was one of the routes where the pedal was to the metal the whole way, especially in the peak direction.

      7. When did you drive the 132? It is has changed significantly. Going straight down 4th Ave S saves a big chunk o’ time. Plus, it’s southern terminus at Burien TC brings in the effect of shorter routes being more reliable. Also, it moved from 2nd/4th to 3rd Ave.

      8. I’ve been in several cities, some overseas, where you have to buy a ticket or stored value smart card before boarding a public transit bus.

      9. Yes, I drove before all of those changes. I remember three-hour trips in the PM peak from Sunset Hill to Highline CC, not even on game days, where pulling out every trick in the book would leave me “only” 15 minutes late by the end of the trip.

      10. (A) Abolish the $5 fee. Nowhere else in the world has such a fee.
        (B) Sell ORCA cards *everywhere*.

        This is a case where capital investment will pay for itself.

    1. Another thing we desperately need is signal priority along routes with the heaviest ridership, regardless of whether the route has a “RapidRide” brand label or not.

      Last night, I was taking a 71 home from downtown to the U-district. Even though the bus was packed, with lots of people standing in the aisles, light after light, the bus had to stop at lights and sit there for half a minute while a mere 1 or 2 cars went through on a cross street. Even crossing at Mercer, which did have some traffic, there were still fewer cars around than the number of people squeezed on our bus.

      Among the worst signals were campus parkway at Brooklyn and University Way, which, for some reason, take forever to change, even though there is almost always nobody around. (When I pass through these intersections on my bike, I find myself running the red light almost every time). Granted, this was 10:00 at night, but even during the peak, I have generally noticed these intersections to have minimal traffic other than buses. Is there any chance we could get rid of these two lights completely, and just replace them with 4-way stop signs?

      1. Oh, and even with Link fully built out, signal priority along Eastlake would not be throwaway work. Bus #70 is not going away time soon, and, even if it eventually gets replaced by a streetcar, the streetcar will need signal priority too.

      2. Installation of a state-of-the-art signal management system would benefit everyone, bus riders and drivers alike, and is one of those things that should be a no-brainer except that people don’t understand it. It would enable much more aggressive transit signal priority than we have now and faster flow of car traffic (most of the time) at the same time.

      3. Doesn’t signal priority work pretty well for the 18 signals along the Link Light rail corridor in the Rainier Valley? SeaDOT needs to have more corridors for Metro buses that work like that one. Supposedly priority is being done for RapidRide corridors, or has been done. Has anybody seen an audit of where that stands? When I ask bus drivers about how well it’s working I get mixed responses.

      4. I don’t know about the other RR routes, but signal priority seems to work OK on RR A.

      5. Brent, no one has yet tried one throughout a large city, which is a source of some frustration to academics and companies who have been working on the problem for quite a long time, and have developed models showing the (incredible) potential of these systems. Lots of cities (including Seattle in a few places) have individual corridors where signals are tied together by a network, but that’s as good as it’s gotten so far. Seattle used to be a pioneer at maximizing traffic efficiency given a fixed amount of road infrastructure. Installing a networked traffic signal system citywide would be a great way to keep that legacy going. Unfortunately (in my view, although I think my view on this point is a minority on this blog) the current trend is to almost competely disregard the efficiency aspect in street redesign.

      6. LA has the entire city synced on one system. This includes TSP and I think emergency priority. This happened last year.

      7. Overall, I’ve found signal priority to work really well on Link. However, I’m yet to encounter a single bus route, including those with the RapidRide brand name, that get any kind of signal priority that works anywhere near as well as what Link gets.

      8. One example highway in this area: SR 522 operates on a signal management program between NE 153rd and Waynes Curve (96th Ave NE). There are MANY more SRs and other highways on this signal system, but I am not sure how far I want to go in talking about it.

        Shoreline wants to hop on Seattle’s signal management system on SR 99.

    2. So Metro will have to deal with its budget on its own terms for at least another year. I believe that Metro can survive and thrive, it if makes some bold choices that recognize its value to the community. Here is a short list of my (rough) ideas:

      1. Increase revenue from employer passes. Metro earns only $1.06 revenue per boarding due to dirt cheap corporate passes and liberal transfer policies.
      2. Cash surcharge as Brent describes, and limiting (or eliminating) paper transfers.
      3. Offer the public annual contracts for monthly passes. Netflix doesn’t rely on you remembering to register and pay every month. Once signed up, they charge your card every month. Metro can do this with Autoload, but it should be made to be default behavior.
      4. Offer day and week passes on ORCA, aggressively priced similar to Vancouver.
      5. Advertise the heck out of all the passes and premier services, more frequently than the Ford Motor Company. Make passes and pass contracts available at kiosks anywhere lots of people gather, i.e. malls, Costco, shopping districts, etc.
      6. Route and stop consolidation, as often discussed on this blog.
      7. Apply the RTTF guidelines and hold all sections of the county to the same quantitative performance standards (ridership, equity and coverage).
      8. If Metro really wants to play hardball, cancel commuter services on corridors duplicated with Sound Transit (I-90, 522). Force ST to up service levels to deal with the resulting overloads.

      If Metro does all of these, the magnitude and impacts of the cuts can be scaled back dramatically. They could even add service in high-demand corridors.

      1. 1. I think that’s a great idea, though I don’t think “liberal transfer policies” has anything to do with it. Rather, I think Metro should just try to estimate the actual cost of serving corporate monthly pass holders, and use that estimate to convince the largest buyers to pay more. Microsoft, Boeing, etc. know that paying Metro more is still much cheaper than building more parking.

        2. I think a cash surcharge is a great idea. I think eliminating paper transfers is a terrible idea. Our biggest battle is convincing the public to accept a connection-based network instead of looking for one-seat rides, and we can’t do anything that might jeopardize that.

        3. Great idea, though I doubt it will do much for the bottom line.

        4. Another great idea, though it seems like this will be a line-item cost, rather than a savings. If it saves money, it will be indirectly, by reducing the number of cash-paying tourists.

        5, 6, 7: +1.

        8. This isn’t playing “hardball”; it’s simply asking Metro to follow pre-existing guidelines and expectations. Link’s ridership is artificially deflated because of the parallel service that Metro runs. It’s an embarrassment that Metro continues to run the 101/150, years after the start of service on Central Link. Similarly, the 554 is one of the few buses that runs less frequently during peak than off-peak; I can’t imagine it would cost Sound Transit much to run it more frequently.

        I would also add one:

        9. Reconfigure the tunnel service so that it makes optimal use of the various grade-separated facilities (including the tunnel itself). This might involve renegotiating the tunnel agreement to allow/encourage more ST service in the tunnel.

      2. “Microsoft, Boeing, etc. know that paying Metro more is still much cheaper than building more parking.”

        Except that Microsoft and Boeing probably still have to build the same amount of parking anyway:
        1) It’s the law. Cities have parking requirements which are based upon the principle of a space for every employee. As far as I know, providing employees with transit passes doesn’t provide you with an exemption from the rules – you still have to provide a parking space for every employee anyway – including employees who don’t need it because they commute to work on the bus.

        2) Parking is a long-term commitment, and retrofiting a parking garage to make it bigger is far more expensive than simply making it bigger to begin with at the same time the building is constructed. Most of Microsoft’s and Boeing’s buildings were built at a time when public transit wasn’t nearly as good as it is now and they really did need a separate parking space for every employee. Hence, the spaces are already there. Even new buildings, though, still have just as much parking as ever. Part of it is rules, but part of it is that neither company is willing to make the long-term commitment that transit will continue to carry enough employees in the future to matter. For example, if Microsoft were to build a building that didn’t have parking for the 1/3 of employees who typically ride the bus or carpool to work, Microsoft would be setting itself up to be completely screwed if, 10 years later, Sound Transit decided to make a massive service cut that would force all the people currently riding the 545 to start driving again.

        So, the long and the short of it is that paying Metro is not really cheaper than building the parking when you have to build the parking anyway. Rather, Microsoft pays Metro for employee bus passes to serve as a job benefit for employees who don’t want to drive to work every day, giving them an incentive to work at Microsoft, and not somewhere else. I’m not sure what the limit is that Microsoft is willing to pay for this, but whatever it is, it’s not the cost of parking.

      3. @asdf: Not every suburban office has a parking space for every employee. The requirements surely vary city to city, but I know of at least one case not so long ago where late-arriving employees at a suburban campus had to prowl local residential streets for parking (which a few vocal residents were, predictably, upset about beyond reason).

        Land values in this area are high enough for at least some major suburban employers to notice and care about how parking limits their space utilization and the ability of employees to get between buildings on campus (I’ve heard this concern has been a significant factor in Microsoft’s campus planning for some time now). I’d be shocked if Microsoft built a parking space for every employee given how many shuttles they operate, and that they know so many of their employees take the 545, B Line, etc. Even Boeing probably doesn’t have a parking space for every employee that would be at their sites if they maxed out their capacity, though it wouldn’t surprise me if today they have as many parking spaces as employees.

      4. Aleks, you are pretty much never going to eliminated the ORCA disadvantage while maintaining paper transfers.

        Even if you shrank the official paper-transfer window to 90 minutes, you’d still get a lot of tears with wiggle room and users paying cash to retain the possibility of pushing their luck with them.

        Meanwhile, paper-based evasion remains the only form of evasion with a significant impact on Metro’s bottom line, as well as contributing to the agency’s image problem. The daily evasion-enabling Blogspots and the robust downtown transfer black market will thrive as long as the possibility remains that a tiny strip of newsprint will save you $2.50.

        Using ORCA needs to become the obvious choice — the only choice — for those who use Metro more than once a year. And it doesn’t matter what once-a-yearers think of transfers versus one-seat rides.

      5. d.p., I understand and agree with most of what you say below. And yet, every day, I see people who try to plan their lives — where they live, where they work, where they play — so that they never need to take two buses to get somewhere.

        If you think it’s already politically difficult to remove one-seat rides in favor of connections, then it’ll be ten times worse if those connecting trips also cost twice as much.

        I’m 100% in favor of a cash surcharge. I would have no problem with charging an extra dollar, or more, for cash-paying customers. I would have no problem with investing in modern fareboxes, like Boston has, where you get a “smart ticket” that works like a transfer but without all the loopholes.

        Heck, I’d even be okay with having the bus driver keep a stock of ORCA cards, and handing those out in lieu of transfer slips (with an appropriate surcharge).

        But I really think it would be a huge mistake to give people a new reason to oppose a connection-based network, when we’re still trying to put one together in the first place.

        Also, paper transfers (or something like them) are absolutely necessary for proof-of-payment, unless you want to ban cash payment entirely. I think our system needs more proof-of-payment, not less.

    1. San Francisco BART system shuts down as workers go on strike

      The strike will shut down the system once all trains are parked early Monday morning and is expected to bring widespread travel disruptions and traffic gridlock.

      Local officials are adding extra ferry service and BART plans to run a small number of special buses, but those measures will serve only a fraction of regular BART riders.


  2. When did LA County Metro cease to be “RTD”, Oran?

    And I think I preferred the Red Line’s Safety Vampire.

      1. RTD is just an awkward acronym. I’m amazed that Denver still uses it for its popular-with-the-voters-yet-strangely-useless-and-devoid-of-ridership-on-the-ground rail system.

        Denver RTD’s website used to be particularly awful, too, though it seems to have improved. Maybe it’s time for a new name to go with an improving image.

      2. Denver definitely has one of the more bizarrely-run transit agencies that I’ve encountered. Going along with their weird branding, each bus has “TheRide” on the side even though no one ever calls it that.

        Oh, and d.p. I think you’d appreciate the latest change they’ve made to their light rail system. They were planning on building a station at the hospital campus I work at, but at the last minute and without any public review decided to move it half a mile north to a new location in between a golf course and a river! Every time Metro or Sound Transit makes a stupid decision, just remember that it could be much worse.

      3. I’ve often commented — to the chagrin of Seattleites and Denverians alike — that Denver is our Mountain Time Zone doppelganger. Another place that has for a century drawn nature-craving transplants in awe of mountains and big skies, who have then proceeded to fill those places with awful architecture and traffic-choked anti-urbanism and self-defeating political processes and clueless transportation systems.

        The “explanation” in your link is head-explodingly stupid. Off the top of my head, I can think of about fifteen New York and Boston hospitals with sensitive equipment inches from squealing century-old elevated trains or directly on top of subway tunnels. I’m sure there is heating and ventilation in every room at Anschutz that causes 100 times more vibration and “electromagnetic interference” than any train passing outside ever could.

        The American West needs to learn to do some goddamned research. Your unfounded fears are not actually valid reasons to screw things up for everyone else.

      4. They won’t say it, but I suspect the real reason might be fear of downtown commuters taking up their precious parking spaces. Rather than spending money on gates/police/etc. to prevent that, they would rather have the station simply be further away so that no one who isn’t working at the hospital will have any reason to park in their lot in the first place.

        Obviously, this concern outweighs the parking spaces that would be saved as a result of their own employees riding the train to work, which says a lot about what they expect the train’s mode share to be for people who work outside of downtown…

      5. Let’s see…University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus would most likely be testing NEW equipment. Yes, I’m sure there are hospitals with EM equipment above or near subways and elevated rail in NYC and Boston. …but if you can avoid the interference with an established facility, vice a facility (the subway in NYC and Boston) that predated the modern hospital and its equipment, I think that Anschutz’s request is OK. Perhaps there was research in RTD’s decision based on experiences in Boston and NYC.

        Additionally, the new alignment will minimize ped conflicts, lower construction costs and provide better service. I think the station should be moved further north for service to the residential neighborhood. Colfax could operate as the door to the Med Campus.

      6. No, no, and no.

        Anschutz is not dealing with equipment that’s any different than any major research medical facility in the world, including hundreds of examples near existing rail.

        As is clear from EricN’s link, the original RTD alignment left hundreds of feet between the line and any existing buildings, and dozens of feet from the property line of any future buildings.

        And the new stop literally serves nothing.

        This — and your defense of this — is classic, grade-A West Coast Bullshit:

        “I fear [x].”

        “There are plenty of examples showing that [x] is not something to fear, and in fact something that is preferable and is demonstrated to work well.”

        “I still fear [x]. You will rearrange everything around my fear.”

        Then you build billions of dollars worth of rail lines that go nowhere and prove totally useless and nobody rides them. Yay for you!

      7. We’ve been through this before here! The UW used “vibration and interference” as a B.S. excuse to quash the best Link alignment through campus as well as what should have been a HUB station.

      8. Denver is surprisingly bereft of rail, although with existing routes still used to major destinations, it’s a wonder why.

        For example, while they have light rail and are expanding it, they could do a whole lot more.

        A key origination point like Boulder (UC) has no light rail station, so getting back and forth to the airport requires buses, transfers…

        There is no commuter rail even though there’s a freight corridor from Denver all the way up to the Front Range….Fort Collins is booming and home to the other state school, CSU.

      9. There’s definitely a lot of crazy in the choices made by Denver in its rail construction.

        But I think part of it is the frontier mentality: you don’t build where the people are, you build somewhere and then the people come to you. There has been a startling lack of concern with going to pre-existing places, but a lot of interest in speculative land development. This is, to be fair, how we got most of our railways and streetcars in the 19th century, so it might work.

        By way of contrast, Minnesota faced the same “vibration” and “electromagnetism” complaints (which are *entirely* BS) from both the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio, and stared them both down. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Central Corridor will run right through the U of M and right in front of MPR.

      10. “There is no commuter rail even though there’s a freight corridor from Denver all the way up to the Front Range….Fort Collins is booming and home to the other state school, CSU.”

        Both Fort Collins and Loveland have been trying to get an intercity train line to Denver for a long time. (And Longmont, Louisville, and Boulder are demanding that RTD get them the promised line to their cities, too.) One of the holdups has been the total lack of state-level funding of any sort. If the state of Colorado ever puts some money in, things might happen.

      11. Don’t underestimate the “speculative development” factor. (Development Oriented Transit.)

      12. “Development Oriented Transit.” I like that. It explains Lynnwood Link very well.

        Sometimes it can actually work, although more likely with buses than HCT. (See Metro Route 218 for a good example.)

      13. I’d say Denver has more of a suburban mentality than a frontier one. It’s like North Link taken to an extreme—outside of a half-mile stretch at-grade through downtown, the entire light rail system runs parallel to highways and has massive amounts of parking. For example, the just-opened West Rail Line has eleven new stations and 5605 parking spots! That’s two-and-a-half Tacoma Dome Stations worth of parking for a light rail line that’s entirely within an urban area. Compare that to Link, which is about the same length but only has one park-and-ride with 600 parking spots.

      14. “Development Oriented Transit” has never occurred in the absence of a cocktail of additional favorable and situation-specific circumstances.

        Most of the 19th-century examples the crowd who promotes this view uses as “evidence” are grossly ahistorical misreadings.

        Denver has, and will continue to have, lots of trains to lots of parking lots.

  3. Could the City of Seattle pass a property tax increase to protect platform hours on Seattle’s most productive routes, at least to get us through 2016?

    1. Extra funding from the city for Seattle routes might be less effective than one might think. For example, if, say, the city of Seattle is willing to pay Metro an extra $5 million per year to fund Seattle routes, Metro could choose to cut $5 million out of its budget for Seattle routes that would have come out of suburban routes, under the theory that with the city’s help, its own money for Seattle service isn’t needed as much.

      Given that Metro’s budget cuts is going to result in service cuts everywhere, I’m not sure how we can guarantee that this doesn’t happen.

  4. A while ago there was a news story that Auburn wanted Amtrak Cascades service. What’s coincidental about this story was that Amtrak considered reviving the North Coast Limited, which would use the Stampede Pass line, so Auburn could potentially be a transfer point for Cascades, Sounder, NCL and Coast Starlight. What to you guys think?

    1. Amtrak has no ability to revive or restore the North Coast Hiawatha. None, period.

      1. Amtrak’s assessment of the North Coast Hiawatha was basically “If Montana pays for it, we’ll do it, if they don’t, we won’t.” (Montana was pushing it.)

        Montana is a low-population state with a small state budget and has not even considered paying for it.

  5. I just got passed up at a newly well-marked stop by a 61 driver who was clearly on autopilot. Cost me a connection to the next RR. The 40 isn’t for another 25 minutes.

    17% cuts. Bring them on. Consolidate every stupid route into a good one. Fire every fucking driver with a history of “lazy” picks or a lousy on-time record.

    Gee. It’s no wonder we couldn’t find anyone in Olympia to go to bat for this bastion of incompetence.

    1. Unfortunately we both know this is Seattle, and that’s probably not the way it will play out. Instead, it will be “revise the definition of ‘frequent’ back down to 20 minutes like it was just a couple years ago.”

    2. Sometimes you are right on target. This isn’t one of those times. Posting while you are (justifiably) angry may be dangerous…

      Fire drivers with lousy on-time histories? I’m sure that will do great things for Metro’s safety record as drivers run red lights and speed to preserve their jobs. Alternately, that’s a nice method for insulating the senior drivers from any trouble, as suddenly every run that has chronic schedule problems starts to go very junior in pick.

      Cut innocent people’s bus service because you’re mad at Metro because you got passed up by a clueless driver? I’m sure the people whose bus service is cut will find that rationale very convincing.

      1. Disagree, and straw men.

        Drivers who seek out shit like the 61 or 42 or certain always-empty sprawl-coverage routes are looking to be paid handsomely for utterly pointless work. And from experience, they tend to be especially lousy at their jobs. Looking for a history of lazy picks like the 61 is an excellent way to root out drivers that contribute little to the system.

        As for chronically late drivers, you judge them against the averages for each route they drive. Problem solved.

        Why wouldn’t you want drivers of demonstrated ability on your consolidated, high-volume routes?

      2. We’ve been over this ground before, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it, but:

        1) There is often more variance between the realism of scheduling of individual trips than there is between entire routes, so judging against an average for the route won’t work; and

        2) If you force “drivers of demonstrated ability” to pick the 7 and 358 for their entire careers, without offering them anything to make up for it, they’ll quite justifiably quit. People take the job with the idea that it will be brutal for the first few years and then get easier.

    3. Well, good, at least under a d.p. administration I’ll still be able to get to the U District using 75. Pity I won’t be able to get much of anywhere else (41, 65, 72, 372X) outside of 8am-8pm or very often on weekends. Oh, and no luck getting home if I’m stuck on the Eastside (248) after my late night shift is over because, while I can get to Bellevue TC (B line), I can’t even get back to the city (280) to use Car2Go like a good urban denizen. Hooray for all of the daytime commuters with standard hours since your service will be safe. Those of us who make the world work while you’re asleep will just have to muddle on as best we can.

      I wonder if Sound Transit, since 522 is probably “safe,” is going to start running more “local” routes under the guise of “ST Express.”

      1. You misread what I said. In no world would the 41 and some consolidation of the 70-series not remain part of a high-efficiency consolidated route system that ran all day and evening… almost certainly better than they do today.

        The status quo is broken. I’m tired of all the begging and pleading and political grandstanding in service of it. The status quo is crap.

      2. I didn’t misread it, I just think that you and Metro and I have a different metric for what constitute “crap” routes. Like it or not, King County Metro doesn’t only serve the dense inner ring of Seattle. Those “always-empty sprawl-coverage” routes are there because the taxpayers in those areas pay for them at the same rate as the people who live near the “crush-loaded dense-service” routes. Yes, I agree, some routes operated by Metro could be changed or consolidated (do we really need 243 from Jackson Park to Bellevue at the same time Sound Transit runs 555/556 to Bellevue? maybe we do, I don’t know for sure because I’m not a professional route planner) but that has to be done within the political constraints of where we are now. I’m going based on what Metro’s planners have said they plan on doing since they are in the position of being the ones running the service.

        That said, why do the 9a-6p M-F commuters get all the gravy? Routes like 41 and 65 are already at half-hour frequencies outside the peak periods and I would be willing to place a $25 bet that those off-peak hours will be the first to go in any cuts, which is frustrating to me.

      3. Those “always-empty sprawl-coverage” routes are there because the taxpayers in those areas pay for them at the same rate as the people who live near the “crush-loaded dense-service” routes.

        There are dozens of state-provided and county-provided services that are provisioned more on the basis of land area than on the basis of population. For all of these services, people in the suburbs and rural areas receive more service on a per-capita basis than people in Seattle. But you don’t see us complaining.

        To me, it seems like there are two worlds. There’s the world where everyone pays what they can afford, and everyone receives the services they need. Or there’s the world where we split into fiefdoms, and each fiefdom keeps its resources to itself.

        I wish we could live in the first world, but people like Rodney Tom don’t want to let us.

      4. In general, we have a problem that transit service between Seattle and Bellevue is still based on the living patterns of 30 years ago, when Bellevue was a bedroom community, and all the jobs were either in downtown Seattle or the U-district.

        People who work in downtown or the U-district and want to live in Bellevue have lots of neighborhoods to choose from where they can find a one-seat ride between home and work. People who work in Bellevue and want to live in Seattle, however, have very few choices, and what choices do exist are neighborhoods which have very limited quantities of housing available, in addition to being quite expensive to live. In particular, if you ignore the 243, the available options include downtown, the walkshed of I-90/Ranier, Montlake, and the U-district. Everywhere else, you have to transfer.

        Even the 243, though, only really helps if you are willing to get up very early in the morning to catch it. What we really need is more 243 trips, not less – especially given that in 2016, the 243 will start absorbing some downtown Seattle-bound riders as well, thanks to the connection to Link.

      5. “Those “always-empty sprawl-coverage” routes are there because the taxpayers in those areas pay for them at the same rate as the people who live near the “crush-loaded dense-service” routes.”

        It’s actually more a matter of fair coverage of area. Sure, there are routes that are jam packed, but a lot of those riders came from the so-called “always-empty sprawl-coverage” (AESC) routes, which really aren’t empty very often. It initially doesn’t seem that intuitive to operate these routes, but it is really a matter of properly doing the job of public transportation. Sure, you could delete an AESC route, which, say, runs every hour, and get back 28 trips per day, and put it toward another route, let’s say 180 for example, which we will say is twice as long as said AESC route, since it’s a long route. That would translate to 14 trips per day, 7 in each direction, which could turn its frequency to every 15 minutes in each direction for 3.5 hours.

        Now, since it’s a busy route, the change would probably be welcome on the 180 side to have more trips to take all the riders. On the AESC route, however, since ALL service is gone, that is devastating, and so the value of the trips on the AESC route would be higher than on route 180. 180 might also experience less ridership since there might have been some people transferring from AESC route.

        Route 139 would fit into this example well since it’s facing possible elimination, it’s the exclusive service for its area, it’s relatively small, and it connects to 180. It has far more than 28 trips per day, however, so some trips might be more valuable on the 180 than on the 139, even though it would only cover about half the route (probably less in this case). The key is finding an equilibrium.

        Pierce Transit obviously skips this entire consideration, by the way.

      6. Oh, for fuck’s sake.

        I have never once advocated for shrinking the system to serve only blockbuster routes and commuter services. In fact, I hate Metro’s sops to the employer-subsidized commuter crowd.

        But the fact that we have a zillion routes shuttling around at 1/2-mile intervals — infrequently, so they’re not even useful, as evidenced by their emptiness — is freaking wasteful.

        A consolidated system would still, by definition, cover every part of the urbanized or urban-esque area, of which Lake City is most certainly part. And if you consolidated properly and ran the routes reliably, it would do so better than the present system at all times of day and night.

        A route with nobody on it is a not a route that we should be squandering money and political capital to keep running around exactly as is.

      7. d.p., it sounds like you and I are actually agreeing with each other. The difference, from my perspective, is what each of us thinks is more likely to happen if and when these cuts come to pass. I think that Metro will follow what is posted on its web site and that these plans are fairly far along and that Metro staff will be reticent to rethink them at “this late date.” You don’t appear to think along those same lines or you think that there’s still time to influence Metro. For our transit’s sake, I hope you’re right.

        As to asdf, I definitely agree. I live “in reverse,” and work in Redmond (on an odd shift, no less) while living in Seattle. Fortunately, 522 and 545 usually link up so getting to and from work isn’t an exercise in standing around for 20-30 minutes, but it has recently struck me as “imbalanced,” let’s say, in quantity of peak route directions.

      8. I think the very long list of popular routes on Metro’s website was more of a scare tactic and a botched attempt at political theatre than a plan. “Don’t cut my familiar route” had worked for them in the past.

        But they’d be insane to start slashing 41 evening service in order to keep some much jankier route unaltered. I don’t have much faith in Metro’s internal process, but they’re not that dumb.

      9. The problem is that the public doesn’t understand what reorganization means. Metro is not stupid enough to delete the 71/72/73 or 41 corridors unless it went completely out of business. It will not reduce the highest-ridership routes, especially if they’re overcrowded. At worst it might chop off a couple runs in the late evening. Routes like the 71/72/73 are on the list because Metro might make some changes to them, which would either mean reducing service north of 65th where ridership drops significantly, merging other routes like the 66 into them, or something like that. The changes are likely to improve service on the highest-ridership corridors, like was done with the 40, 31/32/65/75, and C. At worst Metro might cut those corridors *slightly*. The corridors that are likely to get significantly less service are those with the lowest ridership: bye-bye 61. Hello 26-Latona reduction. Sorry Magnolia evening service. Night owl, what’s that?

      1. Can you run 1/2 mile in two minutes? The next RR was going to reach Leary in 4 minutes, and the Market stop is two minutes earlier.

        Thanks to RR’s infrequency, walking/running to it is essentially never better than taking the next feeder to it. Any way you slice it, walking/running to 15th was going to put me on a later bus.

        Neither trunk+feeder nor trunk+feet work well with a crappy trunk.

      2. If it was really that close, you very probably would have not made that connection anyway, even if the 61 did stop for you. Just stopping to pick you up, alone, would be a good 15 seconds. Then, there’s the stoplights that the 61 has to go through on the way Leary and 15th. Finally, the 61’s stop at 15th Ave. itself is on the far side of 15th, which means you actually have to wait for the light to cross 15th twice – once eastbound on the bus, the second time westbound on foot. With a full cycle in between, you could easily spend two minutes just crossing back and forth across 15th.

        So, relax, d.p. – yes, the 61 driver’s passing you up was inexcusable, but in the end, you probably got to downtown on the same bus you would have anyway, with missing the 61 costing you nothing but 15 minutes of standing at 15th and Leary, waiting for the D-bus to show up.

      3. You always privilege hypotheticals over realities. And you’re often wrong as a result.

        There are zero traffic lights and only one stop between the stop where I was passed over (the new one outside Ballard Landmark) and 15th Ave.

        The light at Leary and 15th heavily privileges east-west traffic, at a ratio of about 8:1. Any feeder bus that makes it to the intersection even a few seconds before RR will give you enough time to be let off at the farside stop and still make the connecting bus.

        I do this all the time.

        In the case in question, the bus that passed me disappeared at the curve in Leary a good 2 minutes before RR was arriving at that stop.

        100%, getting passed up cost me the connection.

        The post-restructure Ballard experience is a master class in why a shitty, low-frequency trunk is never worth walking further to reach.

      4. You also strangely presumed I wouldn’t jaywalk across the single-lane bridge ramps.

        If you’re willing to routinely miss connections over your weird regional adherence to laws cooked up by the automobile lobby 80 years ago and proven to decrease pedestrian safety, that’s your problem, not mine.

      5. Is the connection to the 61 the only reason for the D-line to even stop at Leary at all? If so, why not save everyone’s time, move the connection to Market, and make the D-line pass over Leary, skipping the stop, just like the 15X?

        In the meantime, just out of curiosity – does the D-line seem to have any meaningful signal priority at Leary and Dravus – or is it stuck waiting the full cycle to get through just like any other following the D-line’s route would have to do (that was in the wrong lane and couldn’t take the over/underpasses).

      6. Well, I had gone cold turkey on STB, but as long as I’ve broken it for the airport-Link-defense-squad thread, I might as well answer the questions we left hanging here.

        There are many reasons for having the Leary stop as both an access point and a transfer point:
        – The Ballard Blocks development and surrounding area contain a number of unique-in-NW-Seattle services and businesses (hopping off RR here to stop at Trader Joe’s on the way home from work seems to be a particularly common practice).
        – The southern end of Ballard Ave is a very reasonable walking distance to the stop (much closer than Market RR to the strip’s northern end, thanks to the 45° counter-grid).
        – A pretty healthy number of connections are made to and from the 40.
        – The 40/61 connection at Leary is far better than the 44 connection at Market, due to the 44’s unreliability and tendency to get stuck behind right-turning cars and miss long light cycles, and due to the pedestrian-hostile east-west signal timing and difficulty of jaywalking that part of 15th.
        – At .4 miles from Market, along a very pedestrian-unfriendly thoroughfare, the area is much too far to reach by backtracking. That is also an unreasonable (extra) distance to ask people to walk for a service that isn’t actually rapid, frequent, or direct.

        The average RR from downtown drops 1/4 of its passengers at Dravus, and another 1/6 or so at Leary. Half of the remaining passengers get off at Market. Given that such a high proportion of riders are headed to or from central Ballard, it is not unreasonable to serve the area with two stop with relatively exclusive walksheds.

        I would love it, though, if they had splurged a little to build platforms on the Leary overpass and Dravus underpasses themselves. You’re right that it would make a noticeable difference. They could also, as you say, have insisted on TSP that actually prioritized.

        At Leary southbound, an approaching RR seems to be able to hold the green 5-10 seconds longer, but no more. If/once it misses that green, it can do nothing to speed up the next green, which will be nearly 2 minutes later.

        I have never noticed any sort of signal priority at all at Dravus, or Elliott, or Denny, or…

  6. I’m thinking about trying out the Sidecar service as an alternative transportation option for some evening trips from downtown, when bus service is not super great, I don’t have my bike with me, and Car2Go vehicles are not available. Has anyone on this blog used it before? What do you think?

    1. I’ve given rides with Sidecar and also have taken several rides. I’ve enjoyed the service from both sides of the App although coverage of the city is not 100%. Sidecar, UberX, and Lyft all operate similar models – using “regular” drivers who are getting paid to share the ride. Sidecar and Lyft have been fighting regulatory battles in various jurisdictions. So far, Seattle has not dropped the hammer, but there is no guarantee that will continue.

      I have Sidecar and Uber on my phone which gives me access to Sidecar, UberX, and Uber (black town cars driven by commercially licensed for hire drivers with commercial insurance). I avoid Taxis at all costs. Paying for rides is PITA and their dispatching systems are awful. No thanks. (Might use Greencab if they started using TaxiMagic though – I’d prefer an all Hybrid fleet)

      1. Geographical coverage isn’t too big of a concern for me – I’m mostly interested in trips originating from downtown in the late evening, when bus service becomes skeletal, and the nearest Car2Go vehicle is over a mile away.

        Last week, I discovered that evenings is the absolute worst time to call for a taxi without advance notice. (The other times I have done it have generally been early mornings, during which I usually received prompt service). With taxis posting wait times as much as 30 minutes in the middle of the city, I’m hoping that Sidecar can do better than this.

      2. Note that a big part of the reason that Seattle has not enforced the law is because operating an unlicensed for-hire vehicle is a gross misdemeanor (see
        RCW 46.72.100) and so enforcing the law means fining the driver $500 and/or locking them up for 90 days.

        Be forewarned.

      3. Yes – and this is a big problem with our city in general – onerous regulations that are ostensibly about public safety that are really about protecting the existing taxi companies – and their profits (which actually go almost entirely to the taxi companies themselves, not the drivers) – from competition.

        If we really had fair competition for taxi and taxi-like services, it wouldn’t cost anywhere near $2.70/mile to get a ride across town – rather, the cost would be more like $0.50 per mile, for gas/wear+tear, plus $10-$15/hour for the driver’s time.

        Furthermore, if we had real competition, high-demand times, such as late evenings, would naturally see additional drivers working, many of which would be people with day jobs who are seeking extra income in their spare time. Currently, the artificial limits on the number of cabs forces long waits and unreliable service during times of high demand.

        A simple proof that taxi companies act like monopolies, providing service to a captive audience, is that they don’t even bother advertizing their services, outside of paint on the cabs, themselves. For instance, Shuttle Express advertizes on the radio and in billboards, but cab companies never do. Another example is at the Bellingham Amtrak station, Yellow Cab has an information booth that gives their phone number, but they don’t even bother to mention their rates, making you call to find out.

        With a functioning market, a service in which somebody picks you up in a car and drives you around really should be a commodity – as virtually every adult American has both the equipment and the skills to provide such a service. And it’s also a service that nearly everyone routinely provides to family and friends for free! With proper competition, taxi companies should not be able to get windfall profits any more than gas stations or supermarkets can.

  7. How much of Metro’s hours are spent in Rodney Tom’s district? I say we cut ’em all. The Rodney Tom Free Ride Gravy Train is over.

      1. Back when I was redmondrider, Sen. Tom didn’t campaign on that platform and his opponent did, so I voted accordingly and subsequently complained to his office accordingly. Sen. Tom undermined what many of his representatives wanted and that’s infuriating. To say that LD 48 now deserves massive transit cuts as “retribution” is unfair and unproductive. We (“they,” now, I suppose) got shanked just as badly by an unscrupulous politician.

      2. Perhaps Rodney Tom is aware that a majority of the service that deserves cutting under performance metrics is actually in either his district or Sen. Litzow’s (immediately to the south) To its credit, Metro made that clear in their kill list, and perhaps it made him feel unmotivated to support them.

    1. I keep saying it’s time to split this state into pieces that reflect the residents’ political and social needs.

      1. Yours isn’t the only state with absurd borders.

        I think California and Hawaii are the only two states in the US which come close to having “natural” borders.

  8. It really is time for king county to raise money for its own transportation needs. How do we get this on the ballot in november?

  9. Question. The polite and considerate thing to do when you bring your dog on the bus is to shorten the least so your dog can’t brush up against other passengers as you are finding your seat. Then why the fuck do 99% of people with dogs keep a long leash, allowing their dog to make physical contact with passengers, which many of us do not find adorable, and is not welcomed?

    BWT, I now SHOUT at these inconsiderate assholes, “SHORT LEASH! SHORT LEASH!”

    1. Actually, technically they are supposed to keep them in containers unless they are service dogs.

    2. Please excuse my language. I actually thought my previous comment would be immediately deleted.

  10. I was passed by two full 120s yesterday, one northbound, one southbound — and this is on a route with half-hour headways on Sunday. Northbound I was finally able to get downtown because a driver went out of his way to crush-load the bus and not strand passengers who’d already been waiting nearly an hour for a bus. Southbound, I wasn’t willing to risk that, so I crammed onto a C-line (just barely) and walked the two miles home.

    The 120 is too important and too well-used to have half-hour headways at any time of the week. It’s an absolute travesty. I hope folks on this blog can start looking beyond the problems on the north end, and start helping advocate for the needs of the transit-dependent down south, who generally lacks the resources to make themselves heard by Metro and the city.

    1. The 120 should have 10-minute off-peak headways Monday-Saturday and 15-minute headways Sunday. Metro is well aware of that. The issue is that the council is not responsive to that area and prioritizes other areas.

      1. The good news is that the City is proposing to beef up late-night evening service on the 120 with leftover Bridging the Gap funds.

      2. Metro planners wanted to put RapidRide on the 120 rather than the 54, but the county council overruled them because they thought the Junction and the “multimodal” ferry terminal were must-serve. I have some sympathy for the Junction because it’s the center of West Seattle and the most walkable area. The ferry terminal is silly because the ferry only comes like every 45 minutes, and the other side is rural and extremely low-ridership. Now Metro is trying to put resources into the 120 whenever it can round up some money, as a stopgap until it can improve it properly.

  11. The BART strike made me wonder how much those public servants make. There are approximately 3450 BART employees. 157 of the highest paid BART employees make over $200,000 per year. The third highest BART employee, a police sergeant, makes $362,000 per year. I will do more research at another time to see what train operators make. But my quick glance at BART salaries leads me to the conclusion that these workers are not underpaid.


    1. It looks like they need to investigate the popo, they all appear to be milking this overtime. They are all doubling their salaries…nearly tripling it to some extent. That needs to be evaluated. What’s even more sickening is that the auditor is in on it too! What a rip off!

      This stuff should get an independent review! They should probably also look at these station foreman too.

    2. The cost of living is higher in the Bay Area, so non-minimum wage salaries are higher.

      1. BART’s got a reputation as a money hog even among Bay Area transit agencies. (Though Muni has the reputation for being unable to fix 30-year-old problems. And VTA has the reputation of bad network design. And SamTrans… well, anyway….)

    3. I do realize that it takes more than drivers and mechanics to make a transit system run. But that being said, it was something close to 200 names into that list before there was someone who operated a transit vehicle. And that was a guy with more OT than regular pay.

      I can see that many of the employees are paid a lot of money. But the people who would actually be on strike (I presume operators and mechanics who are not supervisors) are being paid a lot less than the numbers you mentioned.

  12. 600,000 hours cut! 450 part-time operators laid off! Many full-time operator’s hours reduced to 5-hrs! Critical commuter routes cut! Discretionary transit users choosing to abandon transit and return to driving alone! Gridlock get’s worse! King County economy tanks! Thanks Republicans!!

  13. Are there any kind of statistics that show how many (if there are more than three, which I’m beginning to doubt) households in Seattle don’t have at least one car? Someone just posted on the West Seattle Blog that they don’t know of anyone, including young professionals, who doesn’t have at least one car per household. This was in the comments of an article about a new development which has 37 units and only 6 parking spaces.

      1. You really need the neighborhood by neighborhood data, as the 9% of households without a car are anything but spread uniformly throughout the city.

        Nevertheless, whoever is building the building with 37 units and 6 parking spaces obviously believes that some of the 9% will be interested in moving in – and if unbundled parking translates into lower rents, or more living space for a given rent, the area will obviously be more attractive to them.

        And, if not enough of the 9% are interested in moving there, that’s the developer’s problem.

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