56 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Life at 3mph”

  1. What I witnessed yesterday, Saturday, July 20th, at 11:45 am, at the Eastgate Fwy Station, proves to me, once and for all, that the people who run Sound Transit are not bright people. Remember, the Sounders are playing, and it’s the Bite of Seattle weekend.

    A group of people, many dressed in Sounders colors, apparently going to the match, are waiting for the westbound route 554. There were about 15 to 20 people waiting. Here comes the bus. A 40 footer. It’s already filled with passengers, many standing. Yes, everyone managed to board, but there is no room for anyone else the next stop on Mercer Island.

      1. I’ve been passed up by a crush loaded 550 at MI P&R before. On that occasion, it was the 554 that came to the rescue. But because of its higher frequency and the fact that it always uses 60 foot buses, the 550 serves a lot more people at MI.

      2. Brent, if Sound Transit can’t get the little, simple things right (assigning a bigger bus during a busier weekend), how can they be expected to get the big things right? And more importantly, how smart can they be?

      3. As much as I disagree with Sam on most occasions, he’s dead on here. ST/Metro do occasionally add overflow trippers to the 550 and 554, but I’ve never seen any public information on how these trippers work, how many are out there, and what to expect. Even the drivers are kept in the dark.

        It honestly feels like ST is trying to discourage people from using the bus to get to events by limiting service.

    1. I was at the Eastgate P&R about half an hour earlier waiting for a ride to the game. I saw two sixty foot buses arrive at the freeway station within about five minutes. The first bus took a long time to load, so it must have picked up a lot of passengers; the second bus had a very short dwell. I was wondering whether it was a case of bus bunching or extra service.

      On weekends, it seems like there should be enough 60 footers at East Base so that all the runs of the 554 could use one, especially on event days.

    2. I HATE it when PT (the agency that runs the 577/578) uses regular PT buses (the same kind used on PT routes, but painted with Sound Transit branding) on routes 577/578 in the evenings. I sometimes get passed up by full buses at 2nd Ave Ext/Jackson because they use smaller buses, and they only come every 30 minutes.

      If you ride those routes, never board at the last stop in Seattle unless you have to do so to catch the bus. If you board north, closer to Lenora St, you can basically guarantee yourself a seat.

      1. This is actually a common occurrence on ST 550: during the afternoon rush hour eastbound, for the most part it’s nearly impossible to get on at Pioneer Square or International District Stations (but you can usually get a seat at Westlake). I wonder if some commuters actually ride a random bus or train northbound in the tunnel just to be able to board the 550 at a stop further north?

        Also this is random, but once I was on a crush-loaded 550, and there was a group of people who were just riding inside the tunnel to Chinatown. They didn’t bother pulling the string since they thought that surely the bus was going to stop there anyways to pick up passengers (it’s a rapid transit station that the bus passes by, anyways) but the bus did not stop as it was completely full! That must have sucked, although hopefully they knew how to get back from Rainier station.

      2. San Francisco Muni riders used to always ride eastbound to Embarcadero to get a seat. Of course, back then (in the early 90’s, pre Muni Meltdown and Muni Metro Extension), usually the inbound train would turn back as the same outbound line.

      3. @Josh F. Really? The 550 runs every 5-6 minutes during peak times. You’d think that there would be some room. But I wouldn’t know because I don’t commute east from Seattle. I guess that’s why they are building a link over there.

        But would the link be enough? I think they would have to compound all day link service with some peak-only 550 runs if the current 550 fills up that fast.

      4. That’s what we did in Singapore recently. Instead of taking a crush-loaded MRT to Toa Payoh from Orchard Road, we went the other way so we could get on a train and have a seat. And we could tell that many other people do this, too. Sometimes it is worth taking an extra 15 minutes to get somewhere when you know that you will actually get there instead of taking a chance to save that time but then you can’t board and actually waste time waiting for the next train(or the one after that!).

      5. AlexKven, demand on the Seattle-Bellevue corridor is so high that ST is building a Link line there. Josh F. is right on target. During the 5:00 hour it can be very difficult to get a seat on the 550 at IDS or even at PSS.

      6. This is a problem on 550 and the 212 during the evening peak. The buses frequently fill up before they reach the International District. I think that most of the problem is that both routes, especially the 550, tend to bunch, The first bus overloads at Pioneer Square or University Street, but the second or third makes it through downtown with a little space — on particularly bad nights I’ve seen 15+ minute gaps ins service.

        One thing that this means is that taking a tunnel bus to the I District to catch a 212 there (in hopes of a faster journey, since you avoid the ridiculously slow crawl through downtown) is a fools errand, since you are probably going to have to watch several 212’s go by before you get onto one.

        AlexKven: In my experience, the drivers usually make some sort of announcement if they are planning to skip downtown stops. They also tend to skip the Rainier stop in situations like this (again, usually, they tell you to pull the cord if you want to get off) To be safe, I’ve adopted the policy that if I want the bus to stop I pull the cord.

    3. This issue has little to do with sound transit. The 554 is operated by King County Metro and their East Base operations would have the final call on what coach they assigned to that run. Sound transit and KCM should know about this though so they can make better coach assignments in the future.

      1. If Sound Transit requested (for example) that Metro put a 60′ coach on weekend 554 runs during the summer shakeup, Metro would do so. ST is ultimately responsible for ST service and should hear loudly from riders who got passed up by a 40′ coach.

  2. Walkability. I often mention that here on Kent East Hill, where there are many who cannot afford cars or more than one car, people really do walk very far to get from apartments to shopping centers, bus stops, and so on. They walk up and down the hill. They walk along 108th to the Fred Meyer. They carry their goods back in baby carriages, on bikes in knapsacks.

    We walk further and more…than the “walkable” city.

    1. ‘We walk further … than the “walkable” city’

      The point of the walkable city is that you shouldn’t have to walk as far.

      1. @aw

        Some will find your statement amusing, some absurd, and others eminently logical.

        It is that last group whom I fear the most.

      2. John, not everyone has the time to make hourly trips for different tasks. aw is right in that being in a walkable city means you can accomplish most if not all tasks by walking, and it doesn’t take all day.

      3. Maybe when they open at Northgate. Not everyone has convenient access to Southcenter.

        What do they charge for a gallon of 2% organic milk?

    2. Walkability doesn’t mean ability to walk. It means ability to walk, PLEASANTLY, in a minimum of time, and not as a second tier to automobiles.

    3. Walkability is about being able to get around on foot as a mode of choice, not as a mode of last resort. If someone in Kent is getting around on foot (and doesn’t have the option of driving), then it really doesn’t say anything about how ‘walkable’ Kent is. Let’s not pretend walking a mile up E James St from Kent Station is as pleasant as walking a mile along Pine from downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill.

      1. Actually, I can walk through my apartment complex with its greenbelt, then to the next one with it’s pathways, playfields and sports courts and then to the nearby mall where there is a convenience store and also a full scale supermarket. For all this I would have to cross only one official street and with very low traffic (no light or anything). I would also be able to get to a Staples, and an Applebys restaurant and several other places without crossing any intersections.

        If I lived at that second apartment complex then no street crossings at all.

        Very pleasant walk.

    4. John, I used to live on 94th Avenue, and personally, not once did I walk to anything, because there aren’t even sidewalks for significant portions of it. before that, I lived at 248th, and 124th, and then I rode my bike to the church on 256th and 124th, and I’d ride my bike to get a haircut at Kathy’s on 104th above KM. outside of that, I’d never walk. Except to Clark Lake Park (which I greatly miss). Now I live in a skyscraper, and I drive as often here, as I used to ride my bike on 248th st. (almost never) Here, I walk, Bike, and ride transit 95% of the time, because its so easy. Most people here seem to walk. Taking a stroll down walkable Michigan Avenue will have you see thousands of people, walking. Or in Seattle, a stroll down pine will exhibit the same. what street in kent has 1/100th of that many people walking? ……….

      1. Go to neighborhoods around Northgate. In some instances there aren’t even any sidewalks! And the streets and driveways are crammed with cars. Much of the so called “city” areas in Seattle are more hick than sophisticated Kent East Hill.

    5. And your walking conditions are miserable. The walkable city makes it pleasant to walk, so that even people with other options will do it. Walking on 6′ sidewalks right next to four lanes of 45 mph traffic, as you do on most East Hill arterials, is the furthest thing from pleasant, and anyone who can afford a car will get one.

      1. The Soos Creek Trail is about as pleasant a walk as anyone could wish for…in Seattle if you walk even the shortest distance you have to cross many streets with speeding drivers in compact cars careening around the traffic circles. Here you can walk long distances without interruption, just like the author in the YouTube video speaks about.

      2. The trail might be pleasant during the day. How about at night when no one else is around? It it comfortable and safe to walk around when you’re the one person for half a mile?

      3. I don’t think anywhere on East Hill is comfortable and safe after dark. Downtown Kent is quite nice, though. I actually found central Kent very bikeable because it’s all flat. I used to routinely bike from my apartment complex on Meeker Street to Kent Station to catch a train to Seattle.

      4. Perhaps a coyote or two.

        Not many drive bys, like the one yesterday on Eastlake.

  3. Was reading a book about the writing of the Constitution and they mentioned some high speed intercity travel taken by James Madison.

    Jounced painfully over the cobblestones of the city streets, he had just arrived from New York aboard the Philadelphia Flier – an open coach that rode high on its bowed springs like a great teetering soup tureen with leather side curtains flapping down to keep out sun or rain or chill, its dozen passengers jammed in three to a hard backless bench, their luggage shoved under the benches or lashed to the back of the coach.

    Travelers had a choice of schedule: They could go straight through from New York to Philadelphia from one o’clock in the morning till late that same night, or they could make the trip in two days as Madison had done, with an overnight stay at an inn along the way. Either way, travelers arrived in pain.


    1. Complaints about buses being bumpy. :-)

      Buses are still bumpy. There’s a reason most people prefer to ride trains. I get motion sick on buses, not on trains.

  4. Leaving the M’s game last weekend, the first bus to the stop at Jackson just north of Union Station was a 26, which is our bus. It was a 40 foot bus and relatively full. The driver opened only the back door to let people off and then people got in the back door, people who of course were not the ones lined up for the bus where it was supposed to stop. As it went by us after the driver closed the back door, we noticed that the far back of the bus was pretty empty; the seats were full but there was probably room for about ten standees.

    We eventually got on a 40 to Fremont and when we got there, we waited for the next bus home, which turned out to be this exact same run of the 26, pretty empty by then.

  5. This may be way too early for this and I’m not sure if this is an appropriate place to discuss this, but I’ve been playing with some potential proposals for restructuring transit service around East Link. It seems very probable, according to https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2011/09/29/the-future-of-the-d2-roadway/#more-28823, that the 554 and the other east I-90 buses will be truncated at South Bellevue or Mercer Island Station. Normally, I would recommend doing that because it would allow for higher frequencies on the connecting routes, as well as faster trips to Downtown Bellevue and other destinations.

    However, if the 554 was truncated, then that means that Eastgate TC and Issaquah TC will no longer have direct buses to downtown, even though many routes terminate at these hubs for a connection to the 554 to Downtown. Riders of these local routes (such as 245, 221, 246, 241, 200, etc.) may be forced to make two connections just to get to Downtown Seattle, which is ridiculous. To avoid this, we could reroute most of these routes to South Bellevue Station, but this could be problematic since it entails increases in operating costs, and South Bellevue Station is a poor location for a hub.

    What are your thoughts on the matter? Should the 554 still continue to duplicate East Link into Downtown Seattle for this reason? I’m not very sure…

    1. ST will eliminate the 554 under the guise of “duplication of service,” in order to create an artificial “success.” In reality, there is no such thing as duplication of service when it’s two different modes, no more than the monorail is a duplication of buses that run underneath it, or Sounder North is a duplication of ST I-5 express bus service. It’s a selectively used term employed to trick people when needed to promote rail.

      Think outside the box, sheeple.

      1. There are buses that run underneath the monorail? I thought there were no more buses on Fifth

    2. Your peak hour routes like the 210, 211, 215 will still continue to run downtown, as the suburbanites will demand it. So the question is converting the 554 into an all day shuttle bus to Issaquah. If it runs at the same frequency as Link it shouldn’t matter other than the annoyance of getting off and on a bus. There is an option as well of interweaving runs into Link so that there is an effective 10 or 15 minute base headway to Issaquah and Eastgate, but that seems too complicated for most transit agencies to properly implement, and requires that base frequencies for the routes be similar or at least the same multiples to avoid oddball gaps in service.

      1. I don’t think that suburban riders will demand the peak-only buses run all the way downtown if you double the number of trips on these routes and improve reliability by truncating. And also if you read the link I posted, it seems to be far less complex to simply truncate ALL the I-90 buses rather than having to design infrastructure just for these few peak-only buses. Read my post below to see how timed connections would operate.

      2. Josh F, I think demand is too great in the corridor to force everyone to transfer to Link at peak hour. S Bellevue Station would be overwhelmed by the bus and passenger traffic.

      3. Hmm. Double the frequency of East Link to S. Belleveue in the peaks, and time the buses to meet Link, and really, it seems quite viable.

    3. My primary use of the 554 is on weekends. In theory, if truncating meant doubled frequency and timed connections, this would be something I would expect.

      However, in practice the demand for fill 4 shuttle buses to Issaquah per hour is not there today, and will be even less likely to be there in the future, as many current 554 will choose to drive directly to Link (on weekends, parking capacity at South Bellevue P&R will be, for all intents and purposes, unlimited).

      Thus, you have the tension between maintaining existing levels of service, or operating service at levels where the capacity somewhat matches ridership.

      That is why, my guess is that if the 554 does get truncated, that it will remain at 30 minute headways, without any improvement, with the savings simply being used to fund a few more peak-hour trips. Also, there will not be a timed connection, so if you need to be in Issaquah at a certain time, you’d better aim to have your Link train arrive in South Bellevue at least 15 minutes before your truncated 554 leaves south Bellevue. This would be far worse than the system, as it exists today, for anyone in Seattle visiting Issaquah. Of course, people living in Issaquah visiting Seattle would simply yawn and either drive to Link or drive all the way.

      1. asdf: When you say “there will not be a timed connection,” why can’t there be one? If Sound Transit/KCM were at all familiar with international best-practices, then it would be obvious that a timed connection would be useful, with the buses waiting for the trains in the rare event that the train is late. These timed connections would be written into the schedule, just like they are for Route 209 (for example) currently. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/schedules/209/s0.html (although the connections could be far better-timed). Connecting would only take at most 5 extra minutes, but if the resulting route was made more frequent, it would make up for it. Even if ST cuts service citing “lack of demand,” (which is a valid point, but having a higher frequency would also attract more riders) it would still only be 5 more minutes, which isn’t too bad.

        calwatch, timed connections are extremely simple for transit agencies to implement. Let’s say that Link arrives at South Bellevue at :00 :10 :20 :30 :40 :50. Then have ST simply schedule the 554 to leave S Bellevue at about :04 :14 :24 :34 :44 :54 (or potentially only :04 :24 :44 at certain lower-demand times), with buses waiting for trains if a train is late. These connections would be prominently published in schedules. If this is too hard for ST to do, then ST is far more incompetent than I thought, although ST has already shown that they understand timed connections with the 566/560 restructure so I’m fairly certain that is not true.

      2. Sounds great on paper, but, in practice not so much.

        The 209 example you cite is not a really timed connection. It works most of the time because of the 10-minute padding in the schedule, but with a true timed connection, you shouldn’t need a 10-minute padding. Rather, the 209 would simply take off whenever the connecting 554 happens to arrive.

        In general, agencies around here have been extremely reluctant to implement a real timed connection, and the few instances where it has happened have been routes like ST 596 (Sumner->Bonney Lake), in which virtually everyone on the bus is making a connection from Sounder.

        In the case of East Link and the 554,10 minutes of padding in South Bellevue is asking a lot for a trip to Issaquah that is only a 15 minute drive from downtown Seattle to begin with (remember, this is off-peak here, as we all assume that peak-period expresses will continue forever).

        And a shuttle route like this wouldn’t have the ridership to justify 10-minute headways anyway. If total ridership is constant, 6 buses per hour would each have 1/3 the ridership of 2 buses per hour. In other words, if an off-peak 554 trip that carries 21 people today, 10-minute headways shuttles would each carry just 7. Of course, the increased frequency would induce some additional people to ride, but the very fact that the shuttle connection is required in the first place would induce people to drive to Link to avoid taking a chance on it (or drive all the way). Assuming these two effects cancel out, you’re still left with a service with an expected load of 7 people per bus.

        Considering that Sound Transit, by and large, plans schedules under the assumption that, except during the peak, headways of any route being better than 30 minutes can be justified only by the need for shear capacity (as in a 30-minute headway route would be overcrowded), increasing the frequency of the 554 this way seems very unlikely to happen.

        This is why, If the 554 were to get truncated, I would expect to see Sound Transit spend the money saved in some other way, such as adding more peak trips, or adding hourly midday service to Sammamish.

    4. Many of those feeder buses will connect to Link at Bellevue or Overlake elsewhere in their routes. The rest should be revised to terminate at South Bellevue rather than Eastgate,. The 554 should be truncated outside of peak hour, but no one (other than maybe riders of Issaquah local service) should be forced to connect to it in order to reach Link to downtown.

    1. Sounds to me like a toy for the .1% that will be as useful to everyone else as private jets.

  6. Hydrogen scooters are taking China by storm! These use solid fuel hydrogen…in canisters. You can insert two in a scooter. You exchange them at convenience stores.

    “More than 50 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (scooters) in average per day are running in the Kenting. Canister exchange station has also increased from the original 5 stations (Hengchun police station, Houbihu station, Kenting Chinese Petroleum station, Eluanbi station and the Jialeshuei station) to 7 stations (two 24-hour convenience stores are in addition). This program has not only verified the everyday practicality of the fuel cell vehicles (scooters), more importantly, the easy and safe hydrogen supply system has also been accepted by people.”



    Yes you read that correctly – the Fuel Cell vehicle is 50.6% cheaper to run per kilometre than it’s diesel counterpart. The rapid reduction in cost is thanks to the continuing development within ITM through large scale Megawatt projects. Government bodies such as the technology strategy board have actively been promoting cost reductions through a number of grant funded projects.


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