124 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Rails to Rubber”

  1. The length of this is amazing. (And that it’s in color, very unusual for a sponsored documentary film of the time.) The long shots give you a chance to study the surroundings and attempt to recognize the streets, and get a feel for what it was like to use a streetcar then. Thanks for posting this!

  2. Thanks for posting this – so much may seem to have changed, but in other ways much is the same. Most alarming is that the “transformation” we are in now will take another quarter century to complete, whilst the transformation from streetcars to ETBs took little more than a year. The transformative power of the auto and highway, and the construction and petroleum lobbies have grown exponentially in the intervening decades and will be difficult to eradicate.

    1. Some perspective to click off the alarm, Lloyd: the shift in living patterns and transit modes took decades. The decline of electric rail probably pretty well mirrored the curve of private automobile prices and average people’s wages reaching the point where most people could own a car. Critical date I’ve read is about 1915.

      Major factor was also the deterioration of street rail nationwide during the Great Depression, that is the one before 2008, followed by the very large increase in average wealth as the US found itself the only industrial power left standing in the world.

      Above all, people do change their minds as conditions change. Now that the number of private cars is itself the chief obstacle to the average person’s daily freedom of movement, in addition to driving being a boring and tiring experience, transit again has its chance.

      The power of commercial and governmental agencies which have outlived their usefulness is a political matter curable by the same political machinery that created it. What’s needed now is for a new generation of citizens to learn the control board and climb into the seat.

      Mark Dublin

      1. BTW, meant to say government ENTITIES. Like every elected branch and position in the land. Nature itself has a longstanding cure for the seniority system, but corresponding refreshment of thinking requires effort on the part of the people, individually and together.

        Mark Dublin

      2. While I agree with all that you said, the governmental entity which has most manifestly outlived its usefulness is the US Senate, which due to its malapportionment and internal supermajority rules, is a violation of all the principles of democracy. Is it “curable by the same political machinery which created it?” Sure, but that machinery was an ad-hoc convention doing something it was not permitted to do — and then attempting to talk the various states into violating the agreement of the Articles of Confederation! This leaves me less than hopeful.

  3. Laughing my ass off at the sounds coming from the cable car (~ 2 min in).
    I can’t imagine why seattle would scrap them.

    1. All of the old cable cars made that sound when slowly releasing the cable and reapplying it. There is another video floating around of how the system actually worked in great detail.

      1. I should also add, that was before new technology came around to improve and eliminate that nice.

    2. They exaggerated the sounds to make the cars seem more rickety than they really were. The part where the secretary plugs her ears whilst sitting at her desk is the same kind of schmaltz.

  4. It was amusing to see that old coach zooming up the Counterbalance at a rate that none of today’s trips make. I think it must have been nearly empty.

    I really enjoyed getting the sense of how the city felt then. And noticing that even then, the filmmakers weren’t above implying improvements for the “coaches” that were really just about having people pay attention to designing a better system, with curb loading, for example.

    1. Similarly, Chicago’s old streetcars reportedly ran over 50 MPH on emptier sections of surface streets where this would both be implausible (due to traffic congestion) and illegal (due to eminently sensible speed limits) today.

      I think that’s a great reminder of how so many things that factor in to what transit can and cannot do in a particular place and time have little to do with the capabilities of the vehicles themselves.

  5. With the 17% cut shifting from talking point to reality, we ought to be figuring out ways to reduce the pain of these cuts. I’ve already suggested minimizing the time wastage of preferential treatment for cash payers as the first premium service to go away.

    Now, I’d like to add to that list making all the fare restructures sooner rather than later. Doing so provides at least some additional revenue so that some of the routes in the 15, 16, and 17% wave of the restructure may survive until the three new Link stations open.

    Think of the math this way: If Metro had to reduce its budget by an average of 12% per year from October 2013 to October 2016 to stay above water, and instead waited until October of 2014 to make cuts, it would have to cut 18% at that point to make it to October of 2016. This is why I say speedy implementation of the unavoidable cuts and the fare restructure could save up to a third of the most painful cuts from happening.

    Let me additionally suggest that most of the actual route cuts get front-ended, as early as February 2014. And then let me ask the question: Which of the routes suggested for being eliminated should be saved?

    1. Let me additionally suggest that most of the actual route cuts get front-ended, as early as February 2014.
      Cutting at least some of the routes there sounds like a very good idea. Perhaps Metro could ensure enough routes are cut then to be able to continue service until U-Link. (Say, cut 1*N routes in 2014, rather than cutting 2*N in 2015.)

    2. Cutting to reduce the pain won’t get the desired results from Olympia. They need to cause pain to get what they want.

      1. But, Sam, these cuts will cause pain. Metro’s strategy right now is to hold onto as much service as long as possible, in order to keep the largest constituency of riders lobbying, and also to aggressively hire more operators in order to maximize the size of the impending layoff and ATU’s need to push for what the county wants (including the highway expansions).

        The hole in this approach is the classic problem of frogs in slowly-boiling water. If the pain is forestalled until it is too late to pass more revenue mechanisms, then the frogs don’t realize until it is too late that they’ve been boiled. Most riders just won’t take the time to beg for their route to be saved until their route is scheduled for imminent elimination. Riders who have just lost their service will be a far fiercer lobby than riders who think they can talk the county council into making a special exemption for their route. Also, the riders who just lost their route have to have reasonable hope of getting their service restored, even if it isn’t the one-seat long-distance express ride they used to have.

        Drivers, for their part, will not be a particularly effective mass lobby. “Save my job” only goes so far on the sympathy scale in Olympia. Nor do I know many drivers who have much energy to do anything else once they’ve spent 40 hours driving a big bus that week. Part-timers will be too tired and not have a convenient time to lobby because of their second jobs.

      2. “Metro’s strategy right now is to hold onto as much service as long as possible, in order to keep the largest constituency of riders lobbying”

        Enabling people to get from here to there has nothing to do with it? Metro would be failing its most basic purpose if it cut earlier than it had to.

      3. Enabling people to get from here to there has nothing to do with it? Metro would be failing its most basic purpose if it cut earlier than it had to.

        There are both pragmatic and political reasons to cut earlier.

        Pragmatically, as Brent says, there is the time value of money. A smaller cut now can potentially stave off a bigger cut later, if it allows Metro to hold onto more of its reserves. This is especially true if the early cuts get rid of some of the services which require the largest subsidies.

        Politically, we all know that the cuts will be painful. There is fat in Metro’s network, but not 17% fat. And in a perfect world, we would turn the fat into muscle (in the form of higher frequency on core routes), rather than just trimming it. So, in a sense, the cuts (both the proposal and the eventual implementation) are a bargaining chip. Once people hear about the effects of the cuts, or see them in action, they will be more eager to fix the situation.

        I’m particularly thinking about drivers here. Let’s say that February 2014 was “D-day”. Bus riders would remember this day as the day that their commute became longer, harder, and/or less reliable. Car drivers would remember this day as the day that traffic became worse than it had ever been in 20+ years. Even though it’s not strictly true, car drivers would learn the value of buses with respect to (short-term) congestion mitigation.

      4. Mike, if cutting early means more and deeper cuts to really important, popular services, then cutting late is more against Metro’s basic purpose.

      5. (That said, it might not be wise to cut while there’s still hope of restoring funding… unless it’s one of those cagey moves where you cut the fat and then when you get rescued add back muscle…)

      6. I’m always in favor of reorganizations and transferring service hours to potentially-frequent corridors, but retracting service hours prematurely sounds a bit like Krugman’s take on Social Security cuts: we should cut benefits now because… we might have to cut them later?? How does it help anybody or anything to deprive people between now and then?

        Also, there is still a chance the legislature will fix or mitigate this problem later this year or next year, and cutting even temporarily will cause a hole will take longer to get out of than just reversing the cuts. Metro would have to re-hire people and retrain them, ex-passengers will have switched to cars and not immediately switch back, some people may give up on the transit system and be less willing to fund it….

      7. Mike: To the extent that service hours are being paid for out of Metro’s reserves, continuing to run them means draining our reserves further. That’s a reasonable thing to do if we believe that more money is coming and the reserves will get replenished. It’s not a reasonable thing to do if we believe that the current level of revenue is the “new normal”.

      8. The reserves are for lots of things:

        – Short-term revenue fluctuations
        – Emergencies (e.g. a bus burns down)
        – Urgent service corrections (e.g. RapidRide C is overflowing and can’t wait until the next service change for more service)

        I don’t think it’s appropriate to use reserves to compensate for a structural revenue deficit. That would ultimately leave Metro without any reserves at all, which puts it in a precarious position.

      9. Metro can reassign part of the fund for those contingencies. But the rest of the fund is like the state’s rainy day fund: it builds up in good times and goes down in bad. This is clearly a “bad time”, both because of the sales tax loss due to the economy and the artificial crisis in Olympia. Also, Metro reserves a few hours in each service change for urgent corrections: that’s how RR C was adjusted at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile the 71/72/73 and 41 and 358 are still overcrowded and the 40 evenings is hourly, so Metro is not exactly eager to apply reserve funds to urgent corrections anyway.

      10. Suppose Metro ran the 71/72/73 using the express routing in the evening, leaving the 66 as the only evening service along Eastlake. The 66 runs half-hourly until 8, then hourly until around 1 AM, which, from what I’ve seen, is plenty of capacity of Eastlake around that time. If necessary, a couple of additional evening 66 trips could be added by cutting evening service on the 67, when tends to be mostly empty anyway.

        This looks like something easy to do that would both save money and significantly improve service for the corridor that most of the ridership is actually using.

    3. I agree with you with fare restructures and on doing the cuts sooner than later. As for which routes to cut, I would focus on eliminating duplicates and redundancies before cutting off service to entire areas (like what Metro’s plan seems to do). This means that Metro should probably truncate every peak express that is not at capacity and do timed-connections to a trunk express line. Yes, they may have to spend an extra 10 minutes for the connection, but it’s better than forcing some riders to walk very long distances or to wait much longer. For example:

      -The entirety of Line 12 is within 400 m (.25 mile) of other frequent lines (2, 10, 11, 43). Cut it as soon as possible and then reroute Line 11 to Madison St (potentially increasing frequency on 11 to every 15 min when funds permit). It’s ridiculous to maintain such closely-spaced service when many people will be forced to walk much longer distances to the bus.

      -There appears to be a lot of under-utilized duplicative service on I-405 south. Lines 342 and 952 could be truncated at Bellevue TC relatively easily (with timed connections to ST 560 or 566 for service further south). Line 111 could probably be truncated at Renton TC (with timed connections to lines 101/102). 167 is more iffy as cutting it would make some trips to the UW 3-seat rides, but if it must be cut, then cut it.

      -In my general vicinity alone, line 114 could be easily cut (implement timed connections from 240 to 212 at Eastgate). Line 210 could also be truncated at Eastgate. It seems that there are many similar peak-only expresses that could be truncated or eliminated such as 216, 250, 202, etc.

      -Anecdotally, the 271 from Bellevue TC to Eastgate is quite underused for a frequent service and could be cut down to every 30 min (it could be staggered with Line 240 to maintain frequent service between Bellevue TC and Eastgate).

      -While I’m not sure if this would be politically feasible, Metro could reduce peak services in corridors already served by ST, such as the SR-522, SR-520, I-90, I-5 south, and I-5 north, and force ST to add more buses to meet capacity. If ST cuts the 540 and 542 (which hardly save any time over connecting at Montlake, especially when you consider frequency!), they should have enough money to greatly increase peak service in East King at least in order to handle riders from cut Metro buses.

      Although just eliminating redundancies isn’t going to completely solve the problem, it could soften the impact of the cuts elsewhere. I would strongly encourage Metro to look over their entire network carefully like I have done with these few examples and truly examine whether each line is necessary for reasons of (1) capacity, (2) frequency, or (3) coverage. This may yield better results than simply focusing on line-by-line productivity (although that is important also).

      1. A couple things about Metro/ST…

        – I don’t know about some of the corridors, but I don’t think Metro actually runs very much that’s actually redundant to ST on I-5 North (510/511 don’t stop anywhere in King County outside downtown during peak hours). CT runs a lot of service that’s redundant to ST in that corridor, and they do it because the routes are popular and the 511 is totally packed in the forward peak. ST doesn’t have a magic pot of money that it can generate more peak service from — it has to cut elsewhere to add in peak, and generally it probably has to cut more off-peak hours than it adds peak hours due to additional capital requirements, scheduling difficulty, and deadheading (it did just this recently when it extended the hours of the 512, using savings to add peak 511 service).

        – As for the 540 and 542, get ready for more of that sort of thing when the Montlake Flyer Stop goes away soon — I can only assume they’ll send the 255 and 545 up to the surface Montlake Blvd. stop off-peak but not on-peak, sort of like the 510/511 service pattern at 45th. AFAICT the 540 is very lightly used in the reverse-peak (even more so than the 255) but the 542 does well (much like the 545). I think it’s ludicrously inefficient to get rid of the Montlake Flyer Stop, but apparently Metro didn’t lobby WSDOT hard enough for useful transit facilities along 520…

      2. The 542 started out mostly empty, but has since become quite popular. The past month or so, I’ve noticed a lot of 542 trips that were standing room. Meanwhile, as the 542 runs full trips on 40-foot coaches, the 540 runs nearly empty trips on 60-foot articulated coaches. What would it take for ST to swap the fleet around and move some smaller 542 buses to the 540, and the larger 540 buses to the 542 (assuming route 540 should continue to exist at all – perhaps it shouldn’t)?

      3. Anecdotally, the 542 has seemed quite underused, although my only experiences with it have been in what is probably the non-peak direction (eastbound on afternoons). Is ridership significantly higher in the other direction? It still seems that 540 and 542 are completely redundant and could be cut, since they provide very little mobility or capacity improvements.

        Consider the following travel-time comparison for UW>>>Redmond between taking the 542 all the way and taking any bus to Montlake Station and then switching to an improved-frequency 545. Actual travel time is the same, so it depends on the wait time.

        (A) 542: average wait time = 7.5 min (with 15 min frequencies)

        (B) -Any bus to Montlake Station (25, 43, 48, 167, 271, 277, 556, etc.): average wait = c. 2.5 min (there are already three 10-minute frequency lines with the 43/48/271 as well as an assortment of infrequent lines, so I doubt that there will be more than 5 minutes between buses on average)
        -545: Average wait time = 2.5-5 min (with 5-10 min headways. This could be decreased )
        Total average wait time = 5-7.5 min

        Even though you have to add time walking down to Montlake Station, it’s still a wash. And for capacity, ST could add a lot more service to the 545 using the replaced service hours. Therefore, it seems clear to me that the 542 could be painlessly cut if it is necessary.

        Also: does anyone know when the Montlake flyer stop is going away? Once University Link opens, my hope is that all 520 buses (at least off-peak) will go to UW Station in order to enable higher frequencies. Is this the plan, and if not, why not?

      4. The 542 is heavily used in the “Microsoft” direction.

        It also adds much-needed capacity to the system, in the form of buses which serve the 40th St westbound flyer stop, but not OTC directly. If you work on West Campus and want to get a seat (or even standing room) on a bus at peak hour, and you don’t want to cross the bridge to OTC, then the 542 is often your only choice; the 545 is packed to capacity even before it gets to the flyer stop.

        Long-term, the right solution is to build a super-huge center platform with pedestrian bridges from OTC and the west side of the freeway. I believe that doing so is in Redmond’s Transportation Master Plan. But in the short term, having the split actually does help.

      5. @Josh: AFAIK an official post-520-rebuild/post-U Link plan for the bus network hasn’t been created yet in any significant detail. It sort of sounds like the pattern for the 545/255 at Montlake might be similar to the 510/511 at 45th: skip it in the forward peak while the 540 and 542 are running, serve it otherwise.

        In fact, AFAIK the 520/Montlake Blvd. interchange design isn’t final, the Portage Bay Bridge design isn’t final, they haven’t decided whether or not to augment the Montlake Bridge or what form that would take (the draft 520/Montlake interchanges have more capacity than the existing one, which means, stupidly, that traffic is allowed to flow from the freeway onto the arterial at a greater rate and mess up traffic that has nothing to do with the freeway, whereas today the backup is pushed back onto the very long offramp where it belongs; in addition to this, both transit and cyclists could reasonably ask for better facilities across and approaching the bridge than they have today), and none of it is actually funded.

        It may be that the decision of where to send 520 buses at various times of day is made according to which is worse: traffic getting to Husky Stadium, or traffic going downtown. TIMTOWTDI.

      6. Are there any peak-expresses that are mostly empty or underused? My impression is they are pretty much full, including the Metro routes that parallel ST. The argument for reorganizing peak-expresses into feeders is not that they’re underused but that the operating costs would go further on local feeders and trunks, at the cost of making people’s commutes longer. And of course, it depends on having adequate capacity on the trunk routes, which would shift costs from Metro to ST.

      7. Supposedly, the 242 is well-used, but anecdotally, I’ve never seen anyone on it.

        Also, there are crazy things, like the routes that go to North Bend and Black Diamond. To me, it doesn’t even matter if these routes are well-used. Black Diamond is so sparse, and so far away, that a bus to there isn’t providing any meaningful mobility. Let those people drive, and redirect the service hours to places where it’s possible to live without a car.

      8. In some cases, shifting costs from Metro to ST is absolutely the right thing to do. Except for legacy, there’s no reason that the 255 and 271 should be Metro buses. The demand between the U-District and Bellevue/Issaquah would be much better met with all-day service on the 556, and a “541 Seattle-Kirkland” would be cheaper to run than the existing 255 (fewer stops; simpler service pattern; shorter route; possible interlining with the 554).

      9. If ST adds more bus runs, it would have to take the money from somewhere, which means delaying Link even further.

      10. Let’s say that ST taking on responsibility for the 255 and 271 meant that East Link was delayed an extra year. In exchange, we manage to preserve a greater amount of Metro service for 10 years. Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile trade-off?

        Of course, it’s difficult to make a decision without having concrete numbers. My point is just that I think that replacing the 255 and 271 with ST service would be good for Metro and good for riders, and so I think it’s something that Metro should consider as part of planning the 17% cut.

        Additionally, I really do think there’s a good opportunity in the form of the 556. With the 542, ST had to plan an entirely new route. But the 556 already exists. It seems like changing it from a one-way peak express into a two-way all-day route would have to be cheaper than planning a new route from scratch.

      11. One cheap way to test the market for additional 555/556 trips would be to put some deadhead buses into service that are traveling the 555/556 corridor to get to base anyway. In particular, I’m thinking about how the last eastbound 555 trip leaves Northgate TC for Bellevue at 8:00 each morning, while 556 buses leave Northgate to deadhead to East Base, a mere 1 mile from Bellevue Transit Center, as late as 9:30.

        As to having the 556 replace the 271 full-time, somehow you would have to maintain coverage to the low-ridership areas between Eastgate and Issaquah that have no service whatsoever except for the current 271.

      12. somehow you would have to maintain coverage to the low-ridership areas between Eastgate and Issaquah that have no service whatsoever except for the current 271.

        I’m guessing that the demand for this segment would fall somewhere between “local” and “hourly”. Even today, headways on that segment are about 30 minutes, and presumably some of that service accommodates the demand for trips between Bellevue TC and Issaquah TC that would be supplanted by the 556.

    4. I think a lot of transit use is unnecessary, thus, a lot of trips are unnecessary. Bag people going to the library to nap. People coming up from the south end to hang out on 3rd and Pine. The lonely riding aimlessly for the human contact. The lazy taking the bus one or two stops. The bored going into town to window shop. Etc. Etc. Etc.

      How about an ad campaign asking people not to take transit unless absolutely necessary?

      1. “You never say I’m wrong.”

        OK, I’ll say you’re wrong. I’m not sure which version of Metro you’re riding, but up here in Lake City/Northgate, I don’t see many people doing what you describe. Most trips I’m on have riders carrying bags obviously intended to or from shopping (groceries, a trip to the mall, what have you), taking kids somewhere (there are a decent number of parks and libraries along our routes), or dressed for work (store uniforms or slacks and a polo shirt).

        Besides, if a rider is paying a fare, who cares why they’re using it? No one would ever, outside of weather or some other major concern, propose that car drivers “only drive unless absolutely necessary.” Why should drivers be allowed to cruise side streets with scenic views? Why should “bored” drivers be able to park in acres of free parking at a shopping center “in town to window shop?” Those trips place more demand on roads, thus needing more maintenance, and artificially inflate demand so that regional planners think expansion is needed. How is that different from transit?

      2. How many trips by car are unnecessary? By foot? By bike? Do you ever take joy rides, strolls or recreational rides? Since congestion and taxation seem to be the primary worries here, let us ration ALL trips from home and work. No unnecessary trips allowed!

      3. lakecityrider, the premise of Brent’s comment was to ask how can we reduce the pain of service cuts. My comment was in response to that. So when you ask, “if a rider is paying a fare, who cares why they’re using it?” When I answer that maybe Metro should ask people to stop taking unnecessary trips, I’m at least trying to brainstorm some ideas as to how to make the service cuts less painful. And yes, a person taking a bus to his job is a better use of the bus than a person who uses it to go from Renton to Seattle to hang out at the McDonalds, or the many hundreds of people who use it to get to various libraries to nap. If we can voluntarily get people to stop taking needless trips, we can reduce the pain of the cuts.

        BTW, I admire your courage in challenging me, the more important person ever to write on this blog. I’m glad to see my gravitas didn’t intimidate you.

    5. Why should we be helping anti-transit Republicans? Our job isn’t to figure out the “best way” to implement cuts. Our job as transit advocates is to make sure these cuts never happen. There’s over a year to go before any cuts would actually take place. That’s plenty of time to force Olympia to fund transit.

      Keep in mind that any cuts to transit service start us on a downward spiral. Service quality degrades, public support for the system erodes as a result, making it harder to fund transit and leading to further cuts, which causes service quality to degrade again, and so on.

      1. The problem is that Seattle doesn’t have enough votes in the legislature to force anti-transit Republicans to do anything.

      2. The problem is that you keep getting sellout Democrats joining the Republicans. Hard one to solve.

        We have a similar problem in the New York State Senate.

    6. I’m not familiar with Metro’s entire network, but here are a few things that I saw. Under “cuts”:

      – 82/83/84. Cutting these isn’t inherently bad, since these are terrible routes, but it’s vitally important that we preserve all-night service on the relevant corridors. That means a 2:15 AM trip on the 358, the 3, a U-District route (66? 73? 80?), and the 11, and probably a 3:30 trip on the 358 and the U-District route.

      Under “reduced or revised”:

      – 3N/3S. I hope that’s a euphemism for “extended to SPU and boosted to frequent service”. Any cuts here would be disastrous.

      – 10/11/12. Again, I hope that means rationalizing the service pattern, by moving the 11 to all-Madison and making the 10 more frequent. Major cuts here would be a mistake.

      – 14S. This is a key route, and (as far as I know) a high performer. If anything, it should be more frequent, not less.

      – 36: Same here. The 49 isn’t listed as changing, so I doubt that Metro is talking about a “corridor 3” restructure. I can’t fathom why they’d want to reduce service on one of their most successful routes.

      – 41: Between downtown to Northgate, this bus is overflowing for much of the day, despite running every 5 minutes. Any cuts on that segment would be unthinkable.

      – 8/43/48N: If Metro proposed to delete the 43 and boost frequency on the 8 and 48N, I wouldn’t be sad. But I doubt that’s what they’re talking about. Any real reductions on these corridors would really hurt.

      – 255: IMHO, the right thing to do with this corridor is to get Sound Transit to take it over. I think this is one of only two frequent cross-lake services which are still part of Metro’s route network. This would save Metro a heap of service hours “for free”; they no longer have to pay for it, but the service still exists for riders. The route — let’s call it the “541” — would be really simple: follow the 545 route between downtown and Yarrow Point, and then follow the 540 route between there and Kirkland. For the portions of the route which extend beyond Kirkland TC, Metro could continue running local circulator service.

      – 271: Same as with the 255. In particular, I wonder if the 271 could be replaced with all-day frequent service on the 556, possibly combined with an infrequent circulator for the local roads that the 271 currently serves.

      And finally, under “unchanged”:

      – 101/150. It blows my mind that Metro would suggest cutting service on the 48N, while leaving the 101/150 unchanged. I know the report they published was extremely preliminary, but it’s hard to take their suggested cuts seriously when they’re happy to leave such obvious redundancy in the system. Consider a route like the 37. It’s very low ridership, but for its few riders, there’s no real alternative. Frankly, it’s insulting that Metro would even hint at cutting off some of their riders from the network entirely, while running hundreds of buses a day on a non-stop segment parallel to an under-capacity train.

      – 242: I just don’t understand this bus. It’s a “wrong way” peak express from Northgate (ish) to Redmond, that appears to take the most circuitous possible route to both terminals. I’ve ridden it a few times, and I’ve always regretted my decision, because of how long it takes to get anywhere. Additionally, it never seems to be very full. I’d like to find out more about why Metro thinks this route is keeping. In particular, if most of the riders are Microsoft employees, I wonder if Metro could cancel the route, and convince Microsoft to provide a Connector shuttle instead.

      1. Some thoughts on what the revisions might mean:

        2/3/13: There is room for rationalization of the service pattern. Some downtown turnback trips could turn into through-routed trips. Some full-length 4S trips could turn into 3S trips or even 3S turnback trips. Some 4N trips could turn into 3N trips. All this might free up one or two buses during midday or peak.

        8/43/48S: The 43 deletion won’t happen until U-Link is open, at the earliest. This is most likely trimming a few 8 and 48S trips around the edges (similar to the service pattern pre-Transit Now) and terminating a few full-length inbound 43 evening trips at Broadway. Not ideal, but the sort of thing you have to do when faced with 17% cuts.

        10/11/12: I’m not sure Metro is yet ready for a major restructure of these corridors, but it could turn some full-length 12 trips into turnback trips and free up a bus or two. That was the service pattern until a couple of years ago.

        14S: Metro has wanted for a long time to get rid of the Mount Baker tail, which is very lightly used, and which could free up one bus.

        36: Some trips could become turnback trips.

      2. 2/3/13: Nothing you describe here could be construed as a “reduction” of the 3. I very much hope that the 3 doesn’t actually get “reduced”.

        8/43/48N: Note that the 48S is listed as unchanged. Only the 48N is up for revision. Even so, I don’t think that cutting trips on the single most popular route in the system is the right way to respond to 17% cuts, especially when we’re still wasting service hours on the freeway-running segments of the 101 and 150.

        10/11/12: Why don’t you think Metro is ready to make a major change here? To me, it seems like there’s a really simple way to save money, boost effective frequency, and make the system simpler:

        – Reroute the 11 to follow an all-Madison route (live-loop downtown).
        – Change the 12 so that it always uses the First Hill turnback.
        – Make sure that both the 10 (whole route) and the combined 11/12 (between downtown and First Hill) meet the RapidRide frequency standard.

        14S: Okay, that’s fair. For some reason, I thought Metro had successfully deleted that tail during the last major restructure.

        36: Do you mean turnbacks at Beacon Hill instead of continuing to Othello? That would be a shame — I hate to see turnbacks introduced on a route that doesn’t already have them.

      3. No, none of this is ideal, but the fact is it could accommodate demand with fewer buses. In the immediate term (although growth is forecast) the portion of the 36 south of Beacon Hill Station is overserved. The 48N is somewhat overserved off-peak (the “most popular route in the system” is driven by the 48S and peak demand on the 48N), so some full-length trips could become 48S-only.

        I think Metro will wait to restructure Madison service until the city can put the elements for Madison BRT into place. My view is that the ideal service pattern is a full-length Madison route that runs every 10 minutes, with additional turnback trips during peak, along with the current route 10 service pattern. There are quite a few hurdles to implementing that: construction of trolley wire along Madison and passenger resistance to being dropped off at 3rd/Madison are the biggest two. One thing is for sure: the current 11 does just about everything poorly.

        As far as off-peak 101 and 150 service, you’re looking at two very different situations. The 101 has relatively poor off-peak ridership and could be truncated relatively easily, assuming some capital improvements at RBS. The 150 is a different story — it runs twice as often and with much higher load factors. But in both cases, you’re going to face huge pushback from suburban County Council members.

      4. You may be right about Madison BRT. And yet, Metro created the 40 (matching one of the TMP corridors), without waiting for the city to institute TSP or any of the other improvements. I think it would make sense to run a sensible bus on Madison earlier than later, and I think Metro knows that.

        The service pattern you suggest is pretty much identical to mine, modulo two things. I don’t think Metro is going to create any new 10-minute corridors during a 17% cut. And the reason I suggested turnbacks at First Hill, rather than 23rd, is to continue using existing trolley wire. I think that would be a logical place to start; then, at a later point in time, Metro could extend the wire (and thus the frequent service) all the way to 23rd.

        Regarding the 101 and 150, yes, Metro will face pushback. But the Seattle-based council members should be pushing back just as hard on all the other cuts. Almost every proposed cut will have significant negative effects; either removing service entirely from certain stops, or decreasing the frequency or span of service to certain stops. But the only negative effect of truncating the 101/150 would be that some people would need to transfer. (And as you know, a broader Kent/Renton restructure would mean that very few people would have 3-seat rides.) That would be a huge savings of service hours, with much less pain than almost anything else proposed.

        The fact that routes like the 101 and 150 exist really make me want to push for “subarea equity” on Metro. That way, at least Seattle isn’t paying for this wastefulness. Yes, I realize that “subarea equity” would mean cutting service in Seattle, and in a perfect world, it wouldn’t need to work that way. But even so, I would love to live in a world where suburban council members don’t get to unilaterally screw with Metro’s network.

      5. The 10-minute service pattern on Madison would be achievable with no new revenues, just smart restructures. You (and other STB readers) will be hearing a lot more about this from me in the future.

      6. I’m definitely interested to hear your ideas.

        That said, my observation has been that, for the past four years, Metro has been steadily moving away from 10-minute and 20-minute all-day frequencies. The old 15/17/18 and the new D/40 both ran 8 buses per hour, but the old way was 20/20/30, and the new way is 15/15. The C line is 15-minute all-day frequency, which is less than the combined 54/55 used to be. Conversely, Metro has been steadily shifting other routes from 20-minute to 15-minute frequency (e.g. the 5, the 10, the 16).

        Even in the previous restructures that Metro has floated, they’ve always talked about using factors of 2. The restructured 2/12 would have provided 7.5-minute service on Madison, not 5-minute or 10-minute service.

        So even if Madison has enough demand for 10-minute service, I highly doubt that Metro will deploy it. Instead, they’ll follow the principles of your smart restructuring ideas, but with 50% less frequency, and they’ll use the savings to preserve 15-minute service on some other route.

      7. For what it’s worth, I read through Metro’s 2012 Service Guidelines report. They list the suggested target service levels for every corridor in the system. (Some routes are broken out into multiple corridors.) Here is the complete list of corridors for which Metro recommends that off-peak service should be more frequent than every 15 minutes:

        – Corridor 10 (D Line)
        – Corridor 11 (Route 44)
        – Corridor 13 (Route 36 between downtown and Beacon Hill)
        – Corridor 21 (Route 10)
        – Corridor 23 (Routes 3S/4S)
        – Corridor 25 (e.g. Route 73)
        – Corridor 77 (Route 7)

        Of these, only Corridor 11 (Route 44) and Corridor 21 (Route 10) are listed as being below the target.

        Corridor 22 (Route 12) and Corridor 59 (Route 11) are both listed as having a target off-peak frequency of 15 minutes. According to the report, Corridor 22 meets the target while Corridor 59 is below.

        Now, here’s the weirdest part. Routes 11 and 12 are both listed as having a medium potential for major reduction. But Route 11 is also listed as being a high priority for investment, for three reasons: to improve schedule reliability (50 hours), to meet service level targets (11,000 hours), and generally being a high-productivity route.

      8. I can understand the reluctance to ditch the 101. I’d rather replace it off-peak with an extension of the 169 to Rainier Beach. But when I have been at the Renton TC and contemplated the 101 vs the 106, the 106 takes an entire hour to get downtown. That’s ridiculous for an inner-ring suburb and the transit gateway to southeast King County. That’s why there’s so much pressure to keep the 101.

        As for the 150, it’s probably the highest-ridership route in south King County, akin to the 48S and 358. Even though it takes an hour to get to Kent and makes too many turns along the way, because there’s no better alternative. If Metro contracted and deleted all the routes in south King County, the 150 would be the last route to go. (Except perhaps the A.)

      9. I can understand the reluctance to ditch the 101. I’d rather replace it off-peak with an extension of the 169 to Rainier Beach.

        I’m not opposed to preserving a one-way peak express from Renton TC and South Renton P&R to the suburbs. So maybe we agree. :)

        But when I have been at the Renton TC and contemplated the 101 vs the 106, the 106 takes an entire hour to get downtown. That’s ridiculous for an inner-ring suburb and the transit gateway to southeast King County. That’s why there’s so much pressure to keep the 101.

        Link takes ~25 minutes to get to Rainier Beach Station. From there, the 106 takes ~25 minutes to get to Renton TC. That’s a total of 50 minutes, which isn’t much different from taking the 101.

        Also, outbound, there can and should be a timed transfer from Link to the extended 169 and/or the 106. That effectively avoids the transfer penalty.

        It sounds like you’re talking about riding the 106 all the way from downtown Seattle to Renton. I’d rather split the 106 at Rainier Beach (which would be necessary for the timed transfer, anyway).

        As for the 150, it’s probably the highest-ridership route in south King County, akin to the 48S and 358. Even though it takes an hour to get to Kent and makes too many turns along the way, because there’s no better alternative. If Metro contracted and deleted all the routes in south King County, the 150 would be the last route to go. (Except perhaps the A.)

        I’m certainly not saying that the 150 should be deleted. I’m saying that it should be changed so that it connects with Link, rather than running parallel on the freeway. (Again, I’m not opposed to preserving a one-way peak express if the numbers work out.)

        Previous estimates on STB have calculated that terminating the 150 at RBS represents about an 8 minute penalty, but with greater reliability.

        If Metro were overflowing with money, then I could understand keeping the 150 as is. But in the context of a 17% service cut, making a hour-long trip 8 minutes slower — without sacrificing any frequency, or stops, or span of service — seems like a no-brainer, given the amount of service hours that it would save.

        If you would keep the 150, what would you cut instead?

      10. One other thing:

        That’s ridiculous for an inner-ring suburb and the transit gateway to southeast King County.

        There’s no reason that Renton has to be a transit gateway to anywhere. I think a Link station is much better suited for that role.

      11. “There’s no reason that Renton has to be a transit gateway to anywhere. I think a Link station is much better suited for that role.”

        There’s no Link station in Renton, and the only one proposed is on the Renton-Burien line, which would be a 2-seat ride from Seattle. Renton TC (and the South Renton P&R) is the gateway to The Landing, the Renton Highlands, Fairwood, the Talbot and Benson areas, maybe Kennydale, and Black Diamond. (Although I don’t know why the main route to Black Diamond goes from Renton rather than Kent or Auburn.)

        “I’m not opposed to preserving a one-way peak express from Renton TC and South Renton P&R to the suburbs. So maybe we agree. :)”

        I’m just pointing out that Metro’s inaction is not purely boneheaded. It’s a 50/50 situation and a judgment call, and Rentonites have some legitimate concerns about losing the off-peak 101. I assume the peak 101 runs can be absorbed into the 102, or if that would overserve Fairwood they could be turnbacks or retain the 101 number.

        “It sounds like you’re talking about riding the 106 all the way from downtown Seattle to Renton. I’d rather split the 106 at Rainier Beach (which would be necessary for the timed transfer, anyway).”

        I’m assuming that the 106 is a valid comparison to the 101 shuttle idea. It may be slightly faster going on MLK rather than Renton Avenue, but I doubt it would be much less.

        Splitting the 106 would increase travel time, as you note. Splitting the 101 would increase travel time the same way. We need to acknowledge that an hour pushes the boundary of acceptibility, and it should come with a carrot like 15-minute frequency on the shuttle. Then we can say it’s an overall transit improvement rather than an additional burden on riders.

        “I’m saying that it should be changed so that it connects with Link, rather than running parallel on the freeway [off-peak].”

        I can see that too, but my basic answer is the same, and that the 150 as-is is even more important to the overall network than the 101. What Kent really needs is a Link station, or secondly a frequent ST Express, or thirdly an infrequent ST Express like the 577. If those are off the table, the 150 is the least it deserves, and it really deserves more than that. Truncating the 150 would make a 1 hour trip (45 minutes after 8pm) even longer. We should recognize that the 150 is a trunk route like Link and the 550, and deserves the same level of support. One trunk corridor (Pacific Highway) is not enough for south King County, which is wide and has 30% more people than Seattle. That’s the reason for the 150 and (debatably) the 101. Again, I’m not opposed to truncating it (although it should get 15-minute evening/Sunday frequency in exchange), but I am opposed to people saying the current 150 is a waste of money or reflects bad priorities or incompetence on Metro’s part. Again it’s a judgment call, and Metro’s judgment is reasonable, even if I’d like to see Metro raise the horizonsxs.

      12. I’m not generally one to accuse Metro of malfeasance. I understand that there are complex trade-offs in every service change, and I assume that the full-time planners know much more about what they’re doing than an armchair critic like me. :)


        We need to acknowledge that an hour pushes the boundary of acceptibility, and it should come with a carrot like 15-minute frequency on the shuttle. Then we can say it’s an overall transit improvement rather than an additional burden on riders.

        In a time of growth, I would completely agree with you. And if Metro comes back with a proposal to create a 101/169 shuttle with all-day 15-minute frequency, and to truncate the 150 but give it frequent night/Sunday service, I’ll be very happy.

        But we’re in a time of austerity. And so, in this case, I think the “carrot” is simply that South King can get spared from deeper cuts.

        I ask again: what Metro service would you cut in South King before cutting the freeway segments of the 101 and 150?

      13. One other thing:

        Truncating the 150 would make a 1 hour trip (45 minutes after 8pm) even longer.

        Yes, 60 minutes is a long time to travel 20 miles. But the 44 takes 30 minutes to travel 4 miles. The D takes 30 minutes to travel 5 miles. The 8, because of traffic on Denny, often takes 30 minutes to travel 2 miles.

        I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with trying to give riders the shortest possible trip between Kent and downtown. but the fact is, Kent is 20 miles from Seattle. Even with the 8-minute penalty of a Link transfer, getting between Kent and downtown by public transit will still be much faster (in terms of miles per hour) than getting between virtually any two Seattle neighborhoods. I don’t think the 8-minute time savings is worth the price that it would cost, in terms of lost frequency or span on other routes.

      14. The 242 used to be an important route, but in recent years, the Connector, followed by the 542, have taken a significant chunk out the 242 ridership. I used to ride the 242 a bit and noticed most of the people getting on at Green Lake P&R – with the 542 right there and Phinney Ridge Connector stop a mere 1/4 mile away – so I am not at all surprised. I even know one person at work who used to travel to the 242 from Wallingford, who has since switched to the Connector.

        The real problem with the 242 is it’s strange routing around Microsoft. Unless you work at West Campus, whatever time you save on the 242 over the 542 by bypassing the U-district (which, in I-5 rush hour traffic, is often less than you might think), you lose by riding the big loop around Microsoft at the end rather than simply getting off at the freeway station like the other buses do.

        That being said, people that commute to Microsoft from north of Green Lake have no good alternative to the 242. Other options include 555->545 (requires that you leave Northgate by 8 AM in the morning and is horrendous unreliable in the afternoon), 66/67->542 (a long way to travel in a milk run, plus a transfer, including a few blocks of walking, in the U-district), or 41->545 (requires a backtrack into downtown, followed by sitting through the Capitol Hill detour, followed by stop-and-go traffic on I-5 north). At present, all these options are pretty bad, but a new Connector route serving Northgate and, perhaps, Lake City, would go along way towards mitigating the disappearance of the 242. Long-term, of course, everyone riding the 242 would be expected to take either Link->542 or Link all the way.

      15. asdf, I think we agree: the right answer is a Connector route serving Northgate. The 242 exists for Microsoft employees, and I think Microsoft understands that.

  6. What were the headways of the old streetcars, and how did they compare with the buses that replaced them? For instance, the #11 to Madison Park runs every 30 minutes. Did the old streetcar to Madison Park run any more frequently than this?

    1. Check out the 1939 Beeler Plan from the Seattle library. If you get the correct one (there are two copies), it may have a one-day load check where you could probably guess the frequency of the streetcars, cable cars and some bus lines. There is also a table that had proposed frequencies for the bus and trolley routes that replaced the streetcars. I actually made a copy of it since I wasn’t sure for how much longer the library would let people check it out.

      It looks like the streetcar to Madison Park had 12 to 15 minute service during the day and seven-and-a-half minute service during the afternoon peak. The trolley bus replacement had 10 minute morning peak service from 41st/McGraw and 5 minute service from 23rd/Madison. It looks like the afternoon peak service was four minute service to the end of the line and 10 minute service during the day and 15 minute service in the evening. Remember there was a ferry at Madison Park at the time.

      It looks like the Madison Street cable car had six to eight minute service during the day and just under four minute service during the afternoon peak. Nothing replaced the cable car west of 6th Avenue – as it looks like the trolleys went down Madison to 6th Avenue and then northward to Union Street and then south on 1st Ave.

      The plan had these buses continue to Fauntleroy, but something must have happened between 1939 and implementation of these routes as the Fauntleroy service ended up continuing to Ballard as Route 18 (Ballard-California) with alternating buses going to Fauntleroy and Gatewood. I also don’t think the 11 E Madison when it was implemented went all the way to downtown on Madison. I don’t recall what the 11 E Madison bus actually ended up connecting to when it converted to trolley operation in the early 40s.

  7. The date on the film, 1940, explains a lot about the condition of the streetcar system. The country had been in a depression for eleven years- as footage of tracks and equipment testifies. And since entry into World War II was then something huge political effort was being spent to avoid, the boom that brought all the cars was still years ahead.

    But most instructive detail in the film: The wire on the northbound Queen Anne counterbalance was strung by people who knew better than to put a substation breaker one block up the steepest grade in the city.

    For almost forty years since the last rebuild, present management has tolerated everything electric on that line being forced to risk a stall one block uphill, at the very point where smooth acceleration is most necessary.

    For four decades we the people have permitted the system to tolerate a piece of damage that could be fixed in one work shift. Which locally explains more about transit’s eclipse than the Koch brothers’ whole bank account.

    Maybe what’s needed is an “app” with an olilfactory capacity. That way, first smart-phone contact with San Francisco MUNI could confirm with digital precision that transit management and oversight here is chiefly averse to the smell of its own sweat.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Anyone have some good suggestions for shoes that will stand up to a lot of walking? Cross trainers or casual ones preferred. I’m burning through casual ones like crazy since I moved here 2 years ago.

    1. I’ve personally been a huge fan of the Vibram Five-Finger shoes. I walk and hike in mine all the time. Held up great!

      For regular shoes, I tend to line towards DCShoes. Its survived 2 years of walking all over the place and school.

    2. I’ve had good luck with Doc Martins. I can generally get 6 months of walking per pair before the soles start to get thin.

    3. Yeah, the steep downhills are particularly hard on shoes… and knees. I have a sturdy pair of black leather Merrills that’s held up alright, though this particular model’s lack of heel cushioning means you can’t just clomp your way down steep hills. I run in minimal shoes so I’ve been able to adjust reasonably well; a lot of times I run down hills because I haven’t developed as good a walking stride as a running stride for steep downhills.

    4. Since my feet are near-impossible to fit, I just get existing shoes resoled / heeled at the cobbler so I can keep wearing them.

    5. I tend toward shoes that are work-appropriate, but Ecco does a good job. Not sure what their casual collection looks like. Try The Walking Company downtown or REI.

    6. My shoes wear out every few months no matter whether I get the cheap or expensive kind. I think it’s more me wearing them unevenly than the topography. Do other people really find that shoes wear our more quickly here? Must be the rain…. :)

  9. Kudos for Metro! Aurora is closed this weekend between Mercer and Denny. Yesterday I went out on the bus without realizing this, and this weekend’s 5/16/358 reroute was quite good, taking the exit down to Dexter shortly after the Aurora Bridge southbound; northbound it took Dexter up to Aloha and cut over to Aurora there. The trip went through right on schedule (or near enough that I certainly wouldn’t complain)!

    South of Denny there’s an interesting situation. Northbound the 5/16/358 are taking the 26/28 route straight out to Dexter via Blanchard, while southbound they’re jogging back up to Wall on 6th instead of taking Bell straight to 3rd. The extra jog is pretty slow, but considering that the SB 5 is running as the 21 maybe it makes sense to avoid a reroute notice on the 21. Maybe. Northbound… it’s pretty understandable that they take Blanchard out, because once you’re headed out on Battery toward Aurora it’s not easy to get to Dexter (something I know well from biking out of downtown).

    1. I couldn’t figure out the 16 reroute after Beerfest. (All of the tasting may have had something to do with it, but there were others waiting in the wrong place as well.)

      I walked to Westlake Station.

      1. Beerfest is still at Seattle Center, right? The long-term 16 reroute away from Seattle Center combined with this weekend’s reroute shifted the 16 pretty far away from the Center. Coming north from there you’d want to go either to Blanchard at 4th (near-side, so between 3rd and 4th) or Dexter at Denny (far-side, so northeast corner of Dexter/Denny).

      2. Yes, the Seattle Center. I had exited the 16 on the way there at Aurora and Denny.

        I should have taken the monorail to Westlake. :)

    2. The 26 and 28 have been doing that jog too recently because of construction, too.

      1. Aha, good point. It seems like there’s construction every other block in Belltown and the Denny Triangle… I’m down there just infrequently enough to lose track of all the changes.

      2. Ugh, don’t remind me; I’ve been having to do different detours when getting to and from work on my bike every few weeks.

    3. The jog up to Wall is probably solely because of the construction on Bell east of 3rd.

    1. What I liked was the shot of the Gas Works on the peninsula jutting into Lake Washington. Not a park, an actual industrial site.

  10. I think what we should really be asking is: where’s the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to help us fund/build our transit system today?

    1. Bingo. Of course, we’re also missing Franklin Delano Roosevelt to administer the RFC (it didn’t get much done under Hoover). So perhaps the real question is, why do we have people worse than Hoover running the US?

    2. Um, not worse than Hoover. If we’d had Hoover there would have been no quantitative easing or stimulus or bailout of the automakers, and we’d be in a depression rather than an anemic recovery, and even more deindustrialized than we are. As to the lack of infrastructure grants or an infrastructure bank, it’s, sigh, too many people believing the false idea that austerity leads to purity and growth, and government should be small enough you can drown it in a bathtub.

  11. What’s notable is that the rails were taken out because the Depression made it impossible to properly fund and maintain and improve the streetcar network. Even then the system would have stayed in place had the federal government not stepped in to help fund the removal of the rails.

    70 years later we’re in a similar mess. The Great Recession has made it very difficult to properly fund and maintain our transit network. The outcome may be the same – loss of transit service – but this time the state and federal governments merely have to sit on their hands.

    Transit service is at a crossroads in Seattle right now. Either we stand up and stop these cuts, or we watch our transit system collapse in the next few years.

    1. How much would the rails have really helped things anyway? The streetcars ran in mixed-traffic, same as buses. They had front-door only loading, with steeper stairs than today’s buses (meaning less efficient loading/unloading of passengers). And their requiring of passengers to cross a lane of traffic to board the streetcar was downright dangerous. And I’m not even going to go into all the hazards the bicyclists that would have resulted from all those old tracks covering the roads.

      If we want good transit, we need transit that runs fast, all day, and frequently. We can either have this or not have this with either diesel buses, trolley buses, or streetcars. It’s just a question of will to fund the system properly.

      1. It’s really important to understand that in 1940, speed wasn’t the all-consuming consideration it is today. The pace of life was slower and people didn’t have all their time consumed by work and then all-pervasive entertainment option. They read the newspaper on the train on the way to work. If it was a little late, the world didn’t end.

      2. There wasn’t a culture back than that was so consumed with making everything safe all the time. People accepted that life was risk and if injuries happened so be it. They weren’t looking to sue someone or complain loudly for every little perceived inconvenience.

        I’ve been in cities with middle of the street loading and unloading of passengers. Its not really that dangerous, you just have to be a bit more aware of your surroundings.

      3. Breadbaker is making the common mistake of looking at the past through sepia-colored glasses.

        This ad is from 1912. “To save time is to lengthen life.” There was profit in privately-built rapid transit. You bet people cared about speed.

        The streetcars may have been slow and lumbering, but they had very little other traffic to contend with, and rarely (if ever) encountered traffic lights, stop signs, or other impediments. As the primary mode of conveyance for most, even this low-density city provided enough demand just justify 5-12 minute frequencies at all hours, on myriad routes — the initial waits and transfer penalties were nothing compared to what they are today. Even with the streetcars themselves moving slowly, most people got where they were going far faster than you possibly could on today’s Metro network.

        Then the car became widely available, and at first, that made getting around even faster. And so Seattle abandoned public transit en masse. Indeed (to continue Brian’s theme), they ratcheted up their privileging of speed over safety, and the next few decades became quite a dangerous time to be alive.

        People in “the olden days” were exactly like they are today, no matter what lies Golden Age Hollywood tells you. Nobody complacently wasted away their days if they could help it.

      4. Remember that there were many decades of prosperity between 1940 and now. The streetcars and tracks would have been renovated several times, and when “complete streets” came into vogue they would have gotten their own lanes. I realized this when I saw the variety of vintage streetcars on San Francisco’s F line. The 1950s streetcar is as fast, smooth, and quiet as modern streetcars. In contrast, the older streetcars are significantly slower and bumpier. What would have happened if American manufacturers had continued to improve streetcar designs the way they did with cars and airplanes? We’d have a lot better streetcars, and we’d be selling them in Euorpe.

  12. http://www.thestranger.com/binary/ea57/CityLead-CLICK.jpg

    Given that our state senate won’t let our city / county’s citizens vote on additional revenue sources to provide the level of transit / road maintenance we want, how do we go after a more equitable distribution of of our state revenue. King county gets back 62 cents for every dollar sent to Olympia. Many of the counties that are blocking progress in King County / Seattle are getting 2 to 3 dollars back. How can we address and change this?

    1. You organize in the suburbs to ensure the defeat of Republican political candidates.

      There is no getting around this. It’s not the only thing we have to do, but it is the most important, and surely the most necessary, path forward.

      1. I’m not being flippant when I ask this, I genuinely want to know: What do you do when a candidate (like my old state Senator, Rodney Tom), undermines the people who voted for him by effectively switching parties? I have no great love for the party system we have in this country but I imagine a lot of people voted for Sen. Tom on the basis of the “prefers the Democratic party” quote next to his name on the ballot. From my perspective, he’s the one who fouled most of this up, so what happens when the next Sen. Tom comes along? Is there an effective way to prevent this? My first thought: Make sure Sen. Tom loses so handily at his next re-election that others see that as their future if they “flip.”

      2. Even that isn’t enough. We have a Democrats in essentially every statewide elected office. We have a Democratic majority in the state assembly. We have a Democratic majority in the state Senate. What more can we do?

      3. “What do you do when a candidate (like my old state Senator, Rodney Tom), undermines the people who voted for him by effectively switching parties? ”

        Well, obviously you have to destroy his political career stone-cold dead. That’s hard.

        “My first thought: Make sure Sen. Tom loses so handily at his next re-election that others see that as their future if they “flip.””
        This is correct.

        You actually have to target Senator Tom much more aggressively than you would target an anti-transit Republican. You have to get rid of the traitors in your own ranks first.

        This applies nationally as well, by the way.

      4. I’m serious when I say that Metro should take its 17% cuts entirely out of Rodney Tom’s district. As the SOVs pile up on their pwecious wittle fweeways, maybe then the Eastside voters will do something about their ratfink of a state senator.

      5. Kyle: “As the SOVs pile up on their pwecious wittle fweeways, maybe then the Eastside voters will do something about their ratfink of a state senator.”

        AAARGH stop that shit, please. Senator Tom was re-elected by the voters of LD 48–of which I used to be one and I voted for the man–on the basis of his past activity. We had absolutely no inkling that he would pull this stunt. When Tom proposed this “majority caucus” bullshit, I complained at his office. When Tom started blocking votes on important bills, I complained at his office. I’ve complained bitterly at his office every step of the way, as have several people that I know. It has ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING. SENATOR TOM IS NOT LISTENING, at least not to the people who think the same way you (and I) do.

        You are seriously delusional if you think that Senator Tom represents most of what his district wants. LD 48 voted AGAINST Initiative 1125 which would gut mass transit (you remember, the one to block light rail over IH-90 and do other cranky things). LD 48 voted overwhelmingly in favor of ST1, ST2, and our King County Council rep agreed to support the Congestion Reduction Charge after, among other things, we pestered her office to agree to it. Transit ridership in LD 48 is popular and is well-supported (you know, that tiny software company in Redmond that pushed for East Link?).

        LD 48 covers much more than just Medina; you were aware of that? Before you go condemning all voters in LD 48, at least let another election pass. Senator Tom yanked the rug out from under his district in a lot of ways. Since Washington has no reasonable recall standard (everything Sen. Tom has done can be justified as “politicking”), they’re owed that. If Sen. Tom is re-elected, and especially if his (I sincerely hope) challenger campaigns on the basis of how poorly Sen. Tom has done with transit, then I will join you in the merciless flaming.

  13. I know that some of the cable gear still exists under the Counterbalance, is that the case everywhere though? Similar gear would be required for Madison and tons of other places. Are the weights and cables still present under those road surfaces?

    On an unrelated note, how are we going to galvanize the general population into action to avoid the cuts? It sounds like without some organization doing the legwork nobody is going to go out and protest or anything. I would imagine that if all the people who use the bus on a regular basis were to get together into a well-organized coalition and fight back we could easily sway the outcome.

    1. I think the group you’re looking for may be the TRU. It’s a pretty new group, has been covered a little on this blog (it has a somewhat different perspective and slant, though the differences are not as vast as those between, say, subway boosters and the BRU in LA). Just the other day I saw their newsletter floating around at a cafe.

      1. Agreed, they seem like the only folks really interested in throwing down hard on this.

    2. Cable works were unearthed and preserved in Pioneer Square Station when the DSTT was built.

      Wasn’t some transit gear unearthed with the excavation pit for Link near Pine Street a couple of years ago? (or is my mind going?)

      1. I think you may be referring to the ties dug up on Broadway for the streetcar construction? Not sure.

  14. How is the 11’s schedule so screwed up?

    Right now, 5:15 PM on a Sunday, where there is essentially no traffic, the next 11 inbound is 18 min late! It’s like metro wanted to say, yeah they come every 30 min, but thats impossible with the number of coaches we have out there.


    Also, in the morning on weekdays, there is this anomaly where the 11 usually comes every 10 min, except for this gap between 7:30 and 7:50, where a 7:40 trip doesn’t exist. Then, when the 7:50 comes, it’s always with a 40 ft coach, when nearly every other coach is 60′. WTF! They could at least say, well better make sure we put the 60 on this trip schedule, since it has nearly double the demand of every other trip.

    1. The only time I rode the 11 Madison Park, while waiting at the stop, a grumbling fellow rider speculated that delays were due to the lake being an exceedingly attractive place to rest. No idea if this is true, but on a day like this, I’d call it plausible — and delays snowball.

    2. Live-loops on Pine and Pike can be murder during tourist season. I expect that 18 min delay was a cascade of 10 minute delays that just grew throughout the day, overwhelming the paltry recovery time on the live-looped schedule. This is one case where the old 11/125 through route probably resulted in better on-time performance.

      Downtown is not a fun place to drive on 1) weekends during tourist season or 2) Friday nights during the holidays.

    3. There’s a problem with OBA at the trip start. Usually the coach keeps getting later and later until it actually starts the trip, then turns to on time, then arrives at Denny and Madison about 4-5 minutes late. Note, this is for the Westbound trip; not sure about the Eastbound behavior.

      1. Good point. I assumed Schuyler experienced an actual 18-minute delay (which is plausible on a Sunday in July), but OBA is quite unreliable at terminals.

      2. Yep. I’ve noticed this also.

        The problem is I don’t know if Metro can do anything about it, or if it would have to be a OBA fix.

  15. With the Columbia River Crossing dead, someone should pitch them a used tunnel boring machine – Bertha. Boring a tunnel under the Columbia and Hayden Island makes some sense. The current bridge could be seismically upgraded, which is apparently quite possible, and have the interchanges on either side of the river and Hayden Island considerably slimmed down. The retrofitted bridge would either be four lanes in total or six lanes. An increase in the total lanes, especially to ten lanes, is less than desirable, but a big improvement would be the elimination of the big interchanges on either side of the river. The tunnel would act as express, while the remaining bridge would allow local access.

    1. Some friends and I were actually entertaining this after a few beers at SIB this weekend. Keep one old bridge for bike/pedestrian and the other for local traffic.

      The follies we saw were:
      1. You are pretty much kicking light rail another 30-40 years in the future, since it’s highly unlikely they’ll use the old bridge or the new tunnel.
      2. You would essentially need two side by side tunnels, with 2 lanes stacked on 2 lanes in each tunnel. Nobody in their right mind would get behind a single tunnel for I-5.
      3. Since you would probably need to have the tunnel portal north of Vancouver, you would essentially decommission the freeway through downtown and turn what was I-5 into a 2 lane each direction limited access road that connects to the upgraded bridge, allowing for considerable reclamation by the city of what was once wasted land. Vancouver seems like one of those cities that would fight removing a major freeway from their downtown.

      1. I’ll admit to kicking light rail far into the future, but I’m not sure that that is such a bad thing. Transit needs to be useful or else what is the point of it. That means providing good service, getting people where they want to go, and limiting the negative impacts of transport from CO2 emissions to noise and parking requirements etc. The problem with the CRC LRT is that it didn’t do much of this. The projected ridership was low, so it would not have much of an impact on CO2, road capacity or parking. And it didn’t provide very good service. Not that frequent and not that fast.

        The current spans have six lanes, and the addition of a four lane tunnel would bring this up to ten lanes. More than enough. The idea would be to keep the current bridge as a freeway bridge, limited access and freeway speeds, but only to trim the interchanges in either side of the river. So no land wasting loops but simple diamond interchanges so that exiting lanes wend down parallel to the bridge and intersected with normal signaled intersections. This would keep I-5 as a freeway, but it would downgrade Lewis & Clark to a lakefront boulevard with traffic signals.

        I agree that a good solution would be to convert the existing bridge into a four lane bridge with a bike and pedestrian walkways. However, this might not be possible for safety reasons to avoid on bridge merging and short merge lanes. If that were the case, the active transport facilities would have to be built as outrigger sections outside the truss which is quite possible. When it came time in 50 years to send the bridge off to the knackerman, a second tunnel could be built and a new bridge built that was strictly for local traffic and active transport. This would not be a freeway and would be connected to the regular street grid. At that point the freeway through downtown Vancouver would be fini. I would hope that they would be receptive to such a thing in 50 year’s time.

        Both tunnel and bridge would be tolled, tunnel probably higher than bridge, so that ought to cause a decrease in traffic and to limit any potential growth. Some transit buses would take the bridge, but I would expect that most would take the tunnel.

  16. Question on the impending 17% cuts: does Metro have to cut “evenly” throughout the county? That is, a lot of discussion centers around cutting lines that ST serves, lines that primarily benefit Eastside commuters. Is Metro allowed to make large cuts on the Eastside to preserve service inside Seattle?

    (Note – I’m not suggesting it is right or wrong to cut more in one place than another; I don’t know anywhere near enough about Metro’s routes to comment on that. I just want to know if there are subarea rules that have to be followed when making cuts.)


    1. Metro’s 40-40-20 rule was repealed two years ago. Its new metrics focus on systemwide performance. So there’s no legal impediment to shifting service hours from the Eastside to Seattle and south King County (both of which have overcrowded local buses). However, the County Council has the final say on route changes, so councilmembers could intervene on wholesale Eastside reductions or to save specific routes. I think the council is gradually learning its lesson, that austerity and empty Eastside buses are incompatible, and that resolving overcrowding must be first priority. But it will take courage on the part of Metro and councilmembers to finish this.

      So Metro has a new set of performance metrics, which cover ridership, underservice, overservice, key activity centers, geographic coverage, concentrations of low-income/disabled residents, etc. Every service change it looks at the 25% least-performing and 25% most-performing routes across the network, and in time chunks (peak, midday, evening, late night). It then considers shifting hours from the bottom 25% to the top 25% and most-underserved corridors. That’s “consider”, not “do it automatically”.

      In recent results Metro has also grouped routes into those serving the Seattle core and those that don’t. I don’t remember if that means downtown or the entire city. The purpose is to keep suburban routes from being measured directly against Seattle routes; otherwise you’d end up with no suburban service. However, this grouping lumps peak-expresses together with regular Seattle routes. That seems to me totally unfair, although I’m not enough of a statistician to say how exactly it impacts the results. If I remember the peak routes are mostly in the middle, neither in the top 25% or bottom 25%, so maybe their impact on the group is netural. It seems to me that it would be better to have three groups: Seattle, suburban, and peak-express (which mostly serve suburbanites).

  17. The 132 may be an outlier, but there is definitely fat in its schedule. Most times I take it, it has to sit and wait for a couple minutes once or twice during the run to avoid leaving a time point early. Matching the schedule to real average travel time might not yield any actual savings, or it may add up to enough to run the whole line with one less bus. That’s where we get into the quantum theory of schedule savings. If fixing the schedule doesn’t result in enough savings to run the line with one less bus, it would at least enable a longer break for the operators.

    The five minutes saved from less cash fumbling after a surcharge is introduced might also yield that last bit of decrease in travel time to enable the route to jump a quantum of bus-use requirement. If that quantum leap is reached for a route on all-day service, that’s roughly 2 FTEs of savings over the course of a week.

    My 132 is not scheduled for restructure, but I hope Metro will seriously look at fixing its schedule to see if a quantum leap of savings can be found.

    1. The current 26/28/131/132 schedule doesn’t have a lot of recovery padding in it, so I think you’d be hard pressed to find the ~15 minutes per trip you’d need to remove a whole bus. That said, it’s always better to have wait time at the ends than in the middle, so Metro should fix the offending timepoints.

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