Frank’s post yesterday touched on one of the largest problems in bus service planning. Any changes that impact an existing rider, even if they’ll gain the system more new riders, will make that existing rider angry! The potential riders don’t know that they’ll gain something, and it would be absurdly difficult to identify and educate them, so the main voice in the room is the user at risk of loss.

In something like software, you can lose some customers, and then get new ones – which is why I think so many engineers feel like they can improve transit systems easily by coming up with better networks. That’s fun and awesome, but in public infrastructure (at least in the US), the customers have an impact on the decision, and often block changes that would be viewed by an engineer as beneficial.

A prime example is route 42, a bus that used to be a one seat ride from parts of SE Seattle to downtown. When Link opened, it largely duplicated the 42, and it would have been more efficient to move the 42’s funding to a shorter, more frequent, connection to the train. Because riders feared the loss of their one seat ride, though, they lobbied to block the cancellation, and the 42 was retained for years. This makes sense: pissing people off would lose County Council members votes, and potentially cost them future elections.

Most 42 riders switched to Link quickly. Ridership on the route dwindled. Eventually, it served so few riders that it could finally be cancelled without a political hit.

When tax revenue is down, the threat of service cuts can also spur changes that make systems more efficient. But in most of the writing here about bus efficiency, it’s proposed that an agency take an existing route’s funding and shift it to another place where those dollars will get more riders. Improvement plans are written about, discussed at length, and perfected – but very rarely implemented.

It’s great to have a vision of how our bus network could serve more people with the dollars we have, but I believe we’re using the wrong frame when looking at things like David’s excellent frequent network plan. Organizing around the implication that a transit agency is being inefficient tends to draw a conservative group more interested in reducing their taxes than improving transit service. The benefits to existing transit users are small, diffuse, and outweighed by the loss aversion, so there’s no natural support base. Significant organizing work would be necessary to make changes like these, but it doesn’t gain traction.

So how can we implement a better network?

Let’s look back at our example of the 42. When Link opened, we weren’t moving money from one place to another. Sound Transit built a new rail line, with its own funding. Link dramatically improved service quality, so many 42 users switched, joining thousands who had never previously used transit at all.

Building Link took a lot of organizing that did gain traction, because it wasn’t for small, diffuse benefits – it was for a large, focused benefit. Our city got far better: Link improved our mobility, reduced emissions, and improved transportation affordability. In Link’s wake, Metro gained the political cover to improve their efficiency.

Organizing for rail is successful because it offers better, faster, transit that people trust won’t be cancelled or moved in the future. Our goals look very similar to the core of David’s plan, and we’re winning. This approach has more than doubled Seattle transit funding. Nothing else has come close.

We can go farther. The path forward will continue with a plan for rail connecting Ballard to Downtown, and soon Sound Transit will start planning for Downtown – West Seattle and Ballard – UW, as well as more outside the city. Seattle Subway will be organizing to win funding for those lines and to make them as awesome as possible. With your help, we’ll get the frequent network we all want, and with that network comes a proven path to make Metro’s system more efficient.

87 Replies to “Improving Bus Route Efficiency”

  1. “The potential users don’t even know that they’ll gain something […] so the main voice in the room is the user at risk of loss.”

    That’s true for the initial restructure effort, but once there’s been some time for the new network to bed in, there’s no reason to believe the new users (who, if the restructure is successful, will be far more numerous) will be less inclined to vote for transit than the old ones.

    “A prime example is route 42, a bus that used to be a one seat ride from Martin Luther King Jr. Way to downtown. When Link opened, it would have been more efficient to cancel the 42, and spend the money (measured in ‘service hours’) on a shorter, more frequent, connection to the train. But because riders feared the loss of their one seat ride, they lobbied to block the cancellation, and the 42 was retained for years. […] Most 42 riders switched to Link quickly. Ridership on the route dwindled. Eventually, it served so few riders that it could finally be cancelled without a political hit.

    Here’s actually what happened:

    When Link opened, the original 42 was cancelled, and the 8 was extended to provide the last mile connection to the train on MLK. Most 42 riders may not have been wild about this, but they went along with it. One small, but well connected and very well organized group of riders just south of Mount Baker got upset that they would lose a front door connection between a facility on MLK and a food bank in the ID.

    It was an election year, and with some spectacular political theater, they managed to get the council to keep a drastically truncated, hourly version of the 42 that made that connection, while not really serving anyone else. In short order, ridership on this new 42 plunged to virtually nil. A few years, and a new set of regional transit performance guidelines later, the issue came up for a vote again.

    With the essential votes of suburban Republicans, who explicitly cited the new transit performance guidelines in their votes to provide Metro more money (while Seattle Democrats fought the 42 cuts at the Council hearing with embarrassing histrionics), the Council voted to delete the 42, as part of a package of cuts that eliminated “worst of the worst” routes throughout the county, and spent that money on such radical, groundbreaking, sexy things as modifying bus schedules to improve on-time performance, and adding trips to overcrowded routes.

    “Plans are written about, discussed at length, and perfected – but very rarely implemented.”

    You mean like the root-and-branch overhauls of Metro service on the Eastside, West Seattle, SODO and Ballard (and associated minor changes throughout Seattle and Burien) that have happened in the last few years? Like the 120 and 358 restructures in the late ’90s and early 2000s? David could doubtless name several others. All of them have driven major increases in ridership, with no significant structural increase in operating costs.

    There is very little low hanging fruit.

    If you actually think that, you’ve completely failed to pay any attention to anything David wrote, and you’re completely ignorant of large swaths of the transit network. Northeast Seattle is full of horribly-designed routes that are ripe for change, both before and after North Link and University Link. South King and Kirkland haven’t been redone in years, and need lots of work.

    It’s true that there is less low-hanging fruit than there used to be, but that’s because a lot of the fat has been squeezed out of the transit system in the last few years, by precisely the kind of “shuffling what we already have” that you say is impossible. The fact that you weren’t involved in these efforts does not mean they didn’t happen.

    Our goals look very similar to the core of David’s plan

    That map bears almost no resemblance to David’s. It’s a 50,000′ daydream in lines and color, not a serious effort to consider how much we could improve service with a plausible level of funding.

    I realize some people don’t like this — they want to throw bombs, and ask for the moon and stars, and whine about how buses suck — but the actual path to ubiquitous, useful transit in Seattle is an unsexy, block-by-block, route-by-route slog to evolve the transit system we have today into a bus network full of frequent, reliable routes that connect to a handful of useful, cost-effective, grade-separated rail lines. It’s mostly about boring things like TSP and channelization and bus bulbs, not about daydream maps of a subway network that rivals New York.

    That’s what I, and a bunch of other people are working on. And we’re winning, it’s just that the wins are smaller, unspectacular, but much more frequent — and they go unnoticed by people with their heads in the clouds.

    1. Bruce, I value your work in advocating to improve routes on a block by block basis. It needs to happen, and despite your claim, nobody dislikes it. But comments like this certainly don’t help.

      As I mention in the post, at Metro, this work is happening primarily because it’s forced to by the threat of reduced revenue, and as you agree, it’s all a tradeoff – often losing two transit users to get three new ones. It’s an engineering win, but it’s not the kind of work that will build a transit supportive constituency past the engineers and planners, and not the kind of work that will likely continue once Metro’s revenue stabilizes.

      We agree that the whole Metro system is full of routes that could be improved, and we should absolutely be doing that where we can. But there’s little chance of a complete overhaul like David’s plan, for the reasons I’ve laid out.

      I’m not sure how you can write a comment that both says you’re working to build a bus system that connects to a handful of useful grade separated rail lines and then call those grade separated rail lines a daydream. :)

      Keep doing what you’re doing! But maybe less defensively, so you don’t dissuade your supporters from also supporting that rail network what you’re doing relies on.

      1. Metro needs to come out and announce that, in the future, transit service is going to look very different from what we see today. Neighborhoods that have a strong mix of commercial and high density housing are going to have excellent transit service and neighborhoods that are mostly residential and low density are going to have skeletal service that likely connects to high capacity lines during peak hours and not much else. People will then be able to make their choices about where to live and how to commute based on that information. The problem is that we are spending too many dollars on transportation service to try and correct our inefficient land use patterns. What we should be doing is restructuring our land use patterns to optimize our transportation dollars.

      2. “…so you don’t dissuade your supporters from also supporting that rail network what you’re doing relies on.”

        When you present a plan as well thought out as Bruce’s meticulously researched posts, there will be plenty of support and lively discussion. Until then, expect more of this from those who want more detail on exactly how we improve our transportation system.

    2. I appreciate the little changes that make our bus system better. But if the bus nerds* on this blog were given the keys to Metro’s planning room and were able to get every change they wanted, we’d still be stuck with a marginally useful system. Ben may not get the full system he’s asking for, but at least he’s asking.

      * no offense intended – I’d suggest we come up with names for the different transit belief systems represented on the blog, but it’s not worth the effort

      1. Watch out! We bus nerds outnumber the gondola lobby, the hydrogen fuel cell lobby, and the BRT-when-rail-is-being-proposed lobby combined.

    3. There is very little low hanging fruit.

      … Seattle is full of horribly-designed routes that are ripe for change …

      Now that’s a comment!

      Seriously, though, that is a great response. It is a bit long, but folks in a hurry can just read the last three paragraphs. As much as I would love to see Ben’s dream become reality (and the more his dream becomes a reality the better) I just don’t see it happening for this city in my lifetime. We may be really liberal, and love our transit, but we just don’t have the population to expect that type of system. I’ll fight for it, and hope it becomes reality, but I know we have to build something in the meantime, and David Lawson’s plan is that something.

      1. I’m not arguing that we’re not full of them, but I am arguing that the only reason they’re changing right now (and not much) is because of the funding cuts – and ‘cutting less’ is a terrible way to ‘improve’ transit.

    4. David’s plan provoked Will Douglas to call it “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Your version of what happened to the 42 underscores how difficult it is to get people to accept ANYTHING that could be perceived as a reduction in service. That is the sort of thing Ben means when he wants us to use big capital projects as political cover for bus restructures.

    5. As usual, the truth is in between. These aren’t either/or proposals, and saying that David L’s restructure is unfeasable sounds to me similar to saying that Seattle Subway is unfeasable. Both of them are long-term visions. Neither of them is demanding that the governments implement it exactly as shown with absolutely no changes. Rather, the plans serve to show, “This is the kind of network we want you to build.”

      There’s also a difference in premise between the proposals. Seattle Subway is an ideal network, that starts with what we need and then tries to raise funding for it. (Peripheral issues like whether we need the Tacoma tail can be dealt with in a robust regional debate when/if ST officially proposes it.) David L’s network is explicitly limited to current funding levels, so it’s answering a different question. Not “What do we need?” but “What can we do with existing revenue?” I think we also need to look at, “What kind of bus network do we want, how much would it cost, and how can we prioritize it into packages of new service hours?” I hope that one of our bus gurus addresses this someday, but I know it’d be another ton of work, so we can’t just expect somebody to do it unless they’re willing.

      The bus network is also much more extensive than the rail network, so it’s intrinsically more complex and requires more tradeoffs, and that means more places where people might disagree with the proposer’s decisions. We mustn’t let such side issues get in the way of the overall goal: a frequent network between activity centers and high-ridership streets. Again, there will be plenty of time to debate the exact routing in each neighborhood when/if Metro officially proposes it. What we need to do is nudge Metro toward the general goal, and then the routing details will take care of themselves. (Just like Metro currently prioritizes peak-hour service, so we don’t have to worry about it being neglected.)

      I’m not sure if I can adequately articulate in words how I view David L’s proposal. I’m not expecting Metro to adopt it wholesale right now. But the proposal is targeted for eight years in the future when North(gate) Link opens. Eight years is a lot of time for people’s attitudes to change and for the state funding constraints to be resolved. Seattle’s Transit Master Plan also gives important support for the changes. So it is feasable to hope that Metro will move substantially toward this kind of network by 2021, and it’s worth working toward this goal and making more unofficial proposals to illustrate it. Working backward from the target date, Metro would have to make the official proposal by 2019 or 2020 to have time to implement it, so that’s how long we have to lay the groundwork.

      Finally, remember it’s not all-or-nothing: even a partial implementation in some neighborhoods would be a substantial improvement over the status quo. And, it’s still possible that new service hours will come by then. That would help to fill in the gaps that DL couldn’t achive, and would assure full evening/weekend frequency.

      1. Okay, but here’s what happens in non-delusional European cities fleshing out fledgling networks:

        A plan is drawn up that best reflects the needs of the city and the rail-connectable urbanized region. Each line is vetted, analyzed, justified, ridership-projected. The network is considered holistically, as in, “how does each line benefit the riders of each of each other line, and function as part of a multi-modal transit network, to the greater benefit of the city/region?”

        A comprehensive network is drawn up based on this analysis. The network may be idealized or optimistic — no one has guaranteed that it will all come to fruition — but it exists entirely within the realm of realistic funding possibility. It contains no superfluous, unfundable, or unjustifiable corridors just to make the “ask” look “impressive”. (Because that doesn’t look impressive, it just looks delusional.)

        And then the pieces of that intended network are segmented, ranked, funded, and built in order of necessity. Routing changes may happen along the way, and you might not finish every inch of every line, but the final result will more or less reflect the initial thought-out, rational holistic vision.

        By contrast, here’s what we’re seeing in Seattle: Sound Transit winging it. Segments conceived, voted, and built with no thought to a completed network (aside from a vague obsession with overservice on a 95% ex-urban megaspine). Quality on any given segment raised or lowered arbitrarily depending on whether lavishness or frugality is the order of that particular day. Surface running through the congested downtown street grid seriously being considered.

        And from the sidelines, supposed “advocates” posting colorful-yet-unattainable overreach maps that in no way help to clarify what Sound Transit or the city should actually be endeavoring to build, in order to ensure positive real-world outcomes.

      2. I would love a European approach to transit planning and construction. But it’s incompatible with our national and local political structures, and the input and veto power our communties expect. We could go a long way towards it if the public demanded a transit-best-practices network and voted for politicians who would implement it, and if the state and federal governments gave urban transit the support it deserves. But we’re a hell of a long way away from that. In the meantime this piecemeal, incremental approach is the only thing that’s feasable.

      3. But do you understand that this “we should ask for a $30 billion pile of colorful lines on a map because it will somehow wind up with better results at the bargaining table” meme put forth incessantly on this blog is a festering, untreated pile of bullshit?

        Nowhere on earth is it useful to set the discourse that far beyond the limits of feasibility. Expect perhaps in Fantasymaplandia.

        Did no one else notice the highly unsavory routing compromises put forth in every one of the “Link-esque” initial Ballard options (page 2, corridors 1-5), just to keep the price tags under $2-$3 billion? And what does Ben do? He comes back with a double-lined “Option 9”, with a price tag not possibly less than $3.5-$4.5 billion just for the line on the left.

        If that kind of money were in the study parameters, that kind of option would have been in the original eight. “Magic option 9” isn’t a plan. It isn’t even a thought experiment. It’s a hair-brained cop-out, and it’s not happening.

      4. I think we also need to look at, “What kind of bus network do we want, how much would it cost, and how can we prioritize it into packages of new service hours?” I hope that one of our bus gurus addresses this someday, but I know it’d be another ton of work, so we can’t just expect somebody to do it unless they’re willing.

        It would be easy enough to do that as an addendum to my FNP. Not too many routes would change, especially in the core network, but there would be a couple “luxury” additions and a lot of frequency increases, especially at night.

        I just haven’t felt motivated yet because I see an improved network based on current resources as one that can be the basis of a wider coalition to make improvements happen. There are a lot of mics and Bernies in Seattle. I could get them behind FNP-style changes in a way that I couldn’t if I said “We need .3% more to do this.” And those improvements, if made, would increase support for transit — including additional funding.

      5. The thing Seattle Subway does is give a snapshot of the end goal. They don’t try to build the whole thing at once, but they get people excited about the whole thing so that they will advocate for what is actually achievable now. Presenting a network like David’s as a long-term goal helps get people more comfortable with the idea of a transfer-based network and nudges them in the direction of supporting service revisions that actually make sense. Presenting a network like Seattle Subway’s as a long-term goal can save us from making idiotic routing decisions when building rail like building a “rapid streetcar” that is even partially motivated by giving Fremont and/or Ballard a “consolation prize”, or if such a plan existed in the past, like allowing Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood to pin their transit and development hopes on light rail stations along a freeway instead of the rail along 99 we should have sketched out to begin with.

        Say what you will about the Seattle Monorail Project, I will say this much: we once got a flyer showing an entire network they hoped to build. Would they never be able to build it in a million years? Probably, considering they couldn’t even build one line. But at least it gave people not directly served by the Green Line something to look forward to and a reason to see how the Green Line fit into a bigger picture. That’s a lot more than I can say for ST or Metro. At least the City of Seattle seems to understand the value of long-term planning, even if they aren’t always that great at it.

      6. DP, your ideal network (which you’ve never fully articulated) would cost as much as Seattle Subway. It would just have more Seattle lines and stations, which would cancel out the suburban truncations. So when you say “Seattle Subway is utter fantasy”, it’s the same thing as “DP’s network is utter fantasy”. Either both are feasable, or neither are. Boston achieved it a century ago because costs were much lower, labor was exponentially cheaper, and the public was much more pro-rail.

        Why are you surprised that ST chose its proposals to be under $3 billion? It had to choose some number, and it evidently believes that that’s the number North King would be willing to pass in a single phase. Plus it has to balance it against what the suburbs would simultaneously want.

        “Option 9” is just to tell ST, “This is what we really need and want.” If enough people tell ST similar things, it will poll it with the rest of the subarea and see if it has high support. If it does, then ST will have to figure out how to swing something above $3 billion. If you ask for something, you might get it. If you don’t ask for it, you definitely won’t. I really don’t see why it should be harder to get approval for Option 9 than a DP-approved 45th line at the same price.

      7. You mean this?

        Yes, that seems so well-considered and duly researched, what with all the different colors of Sharpie they bought and the exceedingly vague “opportunity hubs” they circled. My confidence was bolstered!

        Ben’s map is basically the exact same thing… plus a bunch of pointless street rail for bonus colorful clutter.

        It’s not that the achievable future rail network isn’t hidden beneath the clutter: the major destinations and most-trafficked corridors in this city are well known. It’s that these “vision” maps far exceed the likely, and therefore fail to provide an accurate vision of how an achievable future network would functionally relate to itself and to the city it serves.

      8. Mike, the whole reason I (like many before me, and many after me), posited the east-west line as the best place to start, is that it could be build grade-separated from end to end for about half the price of any fully grade-separated north-south line. Why? Because 1) half the total length, 2) the absence of any new ship canal crossing, and 3) the avoidance of digging anywhere near downtown Seattle would be major cost-savers.

        Don’t believe me? Just look at how the cost estimates on Options 1-7 balloon when they do any of those three things. (And they don’t even bother costing out Ben’s 6-mile-tunnel.)

        The longer-term “d.p. network” wouldn’t be “utter fantasy”, because it wouldn’t have seven freaking rail lines on it (some extending to the deep Yukon). And it wouldn’t waste vital resources on traffic-stuck streetcars because “EASTLAKE NEED RAIL!!!!!1!” and the like.

        Yeah, labor was exponentially cheaper one hundred years ago. And Boston’s inner metro area has about 1.5 million people in a contiguous urbanized area about twice as dense as just Seattle proper, supporting far service on rail trunks. You know what Boston doesn’t have? The seven separate rail trunks that Ben daydreams about building from scratch here!

      9. We can only build what the politicians agree to build, unless you want to fund it all out of your own pocket. The politicians are a lot closer to agreeing to a Ballard-downtown line than a Ballard-UW line. During the entire debate about which Seattle line to build next, the public clamor for a Ballard-downtown line was much louder than any for other line. Only you and I and a few others were preferring a Ballard-UW line. The reason for that is threefold. One, downtown is where the most transfers are. Two, Seattle’s dominant travel patterns and citywide accessibility are an “X” shape, and this would be the third side of the X. (West Seattle being the fourth.) Three, people have been so worn down by bad transit for decades that they won’t accept in anything less than a line to downtown, because they’re afraid anything else will be inadequate. No matter how many times you say a crosstown line is better and will still give acceptable travel time to downtown, they won’t believe it. You can convince a few people, but not enough to overtake the pent-up demand for a Ballard-south line.

        But… there will be a window of opportunity, after the several corridor studies are completed, when ST is choosing a line for ST3. That will be an opportunity to push for the next line to be Ballard-UW. I don’t have a high expectation of it succeeding, because so many people are for the Ballard-downtown line, but it’s a possibility. (Ben would probably say, why not push for three lines at once? But that’s another issue.)

      10. Why don’t you just sketch out your ideal network (not in this thread) so we can see it? Judging from what you’ve said in the past, I assume you’d punch in five more stations on Central Link, truncate it at Northgate and S 200th, add a Ballard Spur, cancel East Link, call that the final light rail network, give West Seattle a better RapidRide, and call it a day. (Of course Northgate would need a humongous flyer station for all those north end express buses to meet the train.)

      11. And now we’re going in circles.

        Whether or not you meant to, you have defended as a political inevitable the asinine approach I called out seven comments ago: a segment at a time, no minimum standard of quality or access, no holistic thinking, little chance of a worthwhile urbanity-wide mobility improvement in the end.

        Why is it that the rest of the world can plan properly, but in Seattle doing things the exact opposite of correctly is the political inevitable? Acceptance of this farce is why we have so many botched alignments and awful stations and no planning whatsoever for proper connections between the present plan and the future.

        If we get a shitty Ballard line — crawls across Belltown, awful transfer penalty to anywhere else, and worthless for access from the rest of Northwest Seattle — that is permanent. Who gives a shit if you complete the “X”, with one another quadrant badly botched for anyone who ever needs it?

        Shitty Ballard lines are all that is actually “advancing” in the current study. How is that not a problem to you?

        Meanwhile, you continue to misjudge the intensity of my urbancentricity. East Link needs to happen; the bottleneck is too insurmountable without it. Same goes for Lynnwood, to provide an option to bypass I-5. I’ve never said anything else. But the bloviators need to acknowledge that the off-peak ridership estimates are Federal-dollar-scuttlingly awful for these lines, and worse for the rest of the sprawl proposals, and non-existent for additional multi-billion-dollar lake crossings. And the city needs to stop being asked to subsidize projects designed to diminish urban usefulness for the sake of long-distance traffic bypass.

      12. “Why is it that the rest of the world can plan properly, but in Seattle doing things the exact opposite of correctly is the political inevitable?”

        Because it’s the United States, and it’s not 1910.

        I would love a holistic approach. Don’t you see that? But I just don’t think it’s achievable in the current situation, not with the pro-highway people, the anti-tax people, the don’t-take-away-my-parking people, and the one-seat riders so powerful. They’re the reasons why Seattle transit has not progressed further, and why the politicians and Sound Transit are so timid. Solve that problem and you’ll get your holistic network.

        “If we get a shitty Ballard line — crawls across Belltown, awful transfer penalty to anywhere else, and worthless for access from the rest of Northwest Seattle — that is permanent. Who gives a shit if you complete the “X”,”

        That’s obviously not completing the X. I meant something similar to Central Link. If ST proposes that surface-Belltown-MAX monster in the next round, we’ll deal with that then. But that’s pure speculation on your part, no more valid than my prediction of something like options 2, 3, 5, or 9, any of which I’d find acceptable.

      13. Is there any post-1970 American rapid transit system you love? The DC Metro seems to be the only one that qualifies, and that could only happen in Washington DC, which at times aspires to be like a European capital, and where the need for massive non-automobile transportation is right under Congress’s nose every day so they can’t avoid it.

      14. The “Belltown MAX” in 1 and 4 is obviously the worst, but all of the other options prominently display the kind of cost-cutting compromises that would render the line less useful than it should be… something that could not happen with a holistic plan in place, each element vetted, that was to be prioritized and implemented segment-by-segment as money became available.

        A holistic plan would never allow the permanent bypassing of Uptown, as seen in option 3. (Funny how RapidRide “must” make that detour, but option 3 would pass up a golden opportunity to serve the area without wasting through-riders’ time.)

        A holistic plan would never suggest miles of surface running on Leary and 17th, neither of which is in a position to be rebuilt to MLK standards, as seen in option 5.

        Option 2 contains the least-worst compromises, and even its routing and station locations would fail the logic test in a holistically-planned system. And that one still manages to cost $3 billion!

        Meanwhile, Option 9 is not a “valid prediction”, because it’s $4-$5 billion and clearly outside of the cost parameters set for this process! Cost parameters that can’t be shifted just by crowing about its awesomeness on a blog!

        The amount of ink I’ve spilled trying to get other advocates to pay attention to the most effective northwest possibility that can be had under $2 billion (a cost similar to U-Link) has nothing to do with a love for Wallingford or the U-District. I’m far more frequently headed in the downtown direction than to those places, frankly.

        But if we had anything resembling a holistic long-term approach to network-making, it would be a no-brainer to judge each segment of our plan for comparative cost:mobility:quality value. The slow boat across Belltown and wide detours across Magnolia would never make a first-round cut under such a methodical approach.


        Indeed, D.C. has the only good recent American system, but this is only indirectly related to being “under Congress’s nose”. The U.S. government could just as likely have overseen a terrible, ill-thought project — they’ve overseen lots of those! The effectiveness of transit in the District directly results from an initial holistic plan that covered the bases well, and that was followed segment by segment to completion.

        Was D.C.’s plan allowed to be more extensive and far costlier due to its capital setting? Absolutely. D.C. also has larger urbanized and metropolitan areas by quite a bit.

        But you can find a smaller, simpler, equally recent, and equally effective system just by turning your eyes slightly to the north. This is also what a system looks like when planned from scratch holistically. Of course, there were alterations along the way (that north-south commuter rail in the middle was a metro line that never came to pass). That happens. But the result is a successful, integrated, usable network in which the subways carry 1.25 million trips per day. We could do that, but not if we insist on overpromising and underdelivering and planning-by-winging-it at every step along the way.

      15. Trying to wind down this subthread… remember, you were the one who convinced me that a 45th subway would be technically superior and is achievable. I’m just looking at what has more political momentum. Either line would be acceptable to me.

        Re the DC Metro, that’s my point. All of the great, comprehensive transit systems in the US were built before 1945, except the DC Metro. Montreal and Vancouver are in a different country where holistic planning doesn’t have as much pushback. And Montreal likes to live up to its Parisian heritage. What better way than a great metro? But you look at the US and you see slow surface trains (MAX), trains that cover only a quarter of the city (BART), and trains that reach only a tiny 2% of travelers (LA metro). You complain about Seattle’s backwardness but it’s not a Seattle problem, it’s a US problem.

      16. For the record, Los Angeles at the present moment provides a living, breathing, methodically-progressing example of what I mean. Their construction map, and ambitious long-term map, work toward a vision of a Los Angeles connected through rail and accessible from anywhere within the defined urban area through multi-modal gridded connections.

        Not every segment is perfect — given the distances spanned by urbanized L.A., you couldn’t possibly grade-separate every crossing you’d like to — but each segment works toward a worthwhile, network-effected whole. Each segment must work well so as to provide value to the whole, or else it wouldn’t be there.

        The completed network in the latter map is fully attainable in the context of L.A.’s size and tax base. It fell only half a percentage point shy of the 2/3 majority vote that would have created the bonding capacity to complete the map in ten years. It will be built slower, but it will be built.

        Present American and Washington politics may make it harder to conceive a holistic plan in the mode of D.C.’s, Montreal’s, or L.A.’s. But it clearly isn’t impossible. As advocates and public-persuaders, our role is to help shape the discourse around a coherent vision that will succeed.

        Ben’s insistence on pushing fantasy doodles, which exceed any reasonable expectation of financing or demand, does exactly the opposite.

  2. Mixing the Route 42 issue with a systemwide restructuring is not that relevant. Route performance is one thing; major system changes are something totally different. There are tens of thousands of people affected, not several hundred.

    If we are to take your other point about getting Link to heart, then the major “cuts” in any restructuring proposal should mainly affect routes north of the Ship Canal, as that’s the area to get new light rail service in the near future.

    1. The route 42 issue is the same issue that would be duplicated many times over with any major restructuring.

      1. It was “re-visioned.” Half-hourly service on the 42 and 48, with uncoordinated schedules and nightmare reliability, turned into much more useful 15-minute service on the 8, with downtown trips on Link that were 10+ minutes faster than the old 42. (Unfortunately the nightmare reliability only disappeared in one direction with the 8, though.) From a network perspective, the stub 42 was pure redundant service, and there was no reason Metro should have imagined it at all. The two destinations the stub 42 served were reachable by a transfer at the same bus stop in both directions between two frequent lines (8 and 7). It was purely activist alarm over losing a one-seat ride.

      2. When you say “there was no reason Metro should have imagined it at all,” I think you’re falling right into what I’m pointing out. There is a reason – and when we pay attention to it, it turns out that the direct path to a restructure isn’t likely the most successful path.

  3. >> The benefits to existing transit users are small, diffuse, and outweighed by the loss aversion, so there’s no natural support base.

    No, no, a thousand times no! Seriously, Ben, I think you misread the average rider. Put it this way, Magnolia takes a hit; some might say, a huge hit. But if you proposed this change — as is — you get a lot of folks in Magnolia saying “Cool. 15 minute rides all day! Count me in.” (Side Note: I have a suggestion for ameliorating the Magnolia problem, but I’m waiting for the Magnolia post). Closer to (my) home, I would be thrilled if the 73 were to suddenly run at 15 minute intervals, and would be (heavens to Betsy) reliable! Seriously, my wife and I (completely independently) found alternatives to taking the 73 because it was just too unreliable. Who wants to wait for a bus that is 20 minutes late? Twenty minutes! Yes, this is rare; it only happens a few times per month. But that is enough for people to say enough is enough, I’m going to drive (or work somewhere else).

    But you are right in suggesting that these aren’t the folks who appear in meetings. This is true for any change. For example, let’s say that the Seattle school board decided to close one school, but every other school would get free preschool, free after school programs, free band uniforms for every school, and we would recruit the best teachers in the world to teach, because we would double the salaries immediately. Who do you think would dominate the next school board meeting? You got it; the folks whose school is being closed. That is just the way it is. Losers to the status quo will always whine more than the winners, even if the winners throughout the land are obviously better off. So what — deal with it (as every school board does).

    You are also right that when Link goes in, that is the time to make the change. I personally (as well as thousands of other people) would benefit with the FNP. But you would hear a substantial portion of the general public who has to (horror of horrors) take two buses to get to their destination complain. As you, and David Larson said, the time to make this change is after North Link is complete. People will be more willing to rethink their commute and transit in general after that point. A lot of people who don’t live or work anywhere close to the stations will wonder “Hmmm, how can I take advantage of this multibillion dollar rail system”. If the answer is “Well, you can’t, because we are still running your bus through traffic”, then a lot of people will wonder why we built it.

      1. You said several things, not one. Maybe I got the wrong idea. But the benefits to existing transit users are NOT small, diffuse, and outweighed by the loss aversion, so there’s no natural support base. They simply aren’t. As I said, the benefits to existing transit riders are huge. Enormous. Really, really big. That is my first point. Challenge me on that first point. I’m all ears.

        Second, I simply agreed with you (and David) that the time to make this change is when North Link is complete (or near complete). I think we all agree with this. For political and practical reasons, it makes sense.

        I don’t agree that we should somehow keep the old system in place while redundantly adding a new system that is much better for most people. We just don’t have the money for it. I’ll torture my analogy a bit (in response to Matt) to give you an idea of what happens then.

      2. I don’t think it’s remotely feasible that a systemwide change like this would happen with North Link, unless someone can show me more than three people in a room at once who want to make it happen.

      3. Are you serious Ben? Three people, huh? OK, my wife, me, David (the original author) and Bruce Nourish.

        Did you bother to read the comments on David’s post? They were overwhelmingly positive. This is for a revenue neutral plan. The key phrase here is “revenue neutral”. Anyone can come with a great plan for an expensive mass transit system for the city, whether it is the monorail or the Seattle Subway. But the devil is in the details. I applaud you what you are doing, Ben, but if you think it is cheap, you are delusional. Everyone who loves transit loves that plan, but try selling it with a real price tag. Seriously, what is your estimate for building the entire Seattle Subway? Maybe $30 billion. OK, now let’s assume that the city keeps growing, and we have a million residents by the time we really start building this thing. All right, then let’s do the math — $30,000 per person. Or, for a family of four, $120,000. Good luck with that, Ben.

        Again, I don’t want to be negative, but I just don’t see why a guy who thinks we will build a rail system like Seattle Subway believes we can’t redo our bus system to take advantage of the rail system we do build.

      4. @RossB:

        or assuming that you pay for it over 30 years at 5% interest something like 160 dollars per person per month for thirty years — that’s the better part of $8000 per year for a family of four. And that’s just to build it. Once you add in the inevitable operating subsidies….

      5. The actual, existing entity charged with shoring up our rapid-transit future — Sound Transit — seems to be of two conflicting minds.

        Somewhere within, a faction operates under the pie-in-the-sky delusion that Ballard to Redmond via UW and Kirkland is ever going to happen, and that suburb-to-suburb sprawl trains might even be a good idea.

        Somewhere else within, engineers are hashing out the details on pathetically sub-optimal Belltown surface routing for the only urban-connective line actually being planned at the present moment.

        I suppose this is what happens when you agitate for “ALL THE THINGS!!!!1!”, rather than insisting on planning a system that will be cohesive, effective, and within your means.

      6. @Ben:

        So what number precisely is it that you object to? The numbers are going to look just about as bad no matter what (realistic) interest rate and term you choose. The population guess is probably high. That leaves the cost estimate. Do you *really* believe that you can build what you have there for anything meaningfully less than 30 billion?

    1. “That is just the way it is.” I think this was much the point of this post. How you’d get other people to show up is changing the conversation. Don’t close that school – find new funding for a better school and let people choose which one they attend. Once there are few people left in the old school, shut it down and move the funds to your other schools.

      1. OK, let’s take that strategy. As it turns out, there is no extra funding for a better school. All of the funding came from closing the old school. Well, 90% of it did. So, in response to the whiners in the meeting, the school board decided to keep the old school. It isn’t a bad school, really; it is in a convenient location, has a lot of history and is quite something to look at. Folks get pretty nostalgic about it too. The problem is, the roof is bad. And the plumbing. And there are rats. And roaches. But that’s OK, if we keep spending millions of dollars on the old school, then it will hang in there for a while. Of course, the wealthy kids don’t want to go there (did I mention rats and roaches?) so they all go somewhere else. So, of course, you have to spend more money on security guards (too bad we couldn’t get some band uniforms).

        So, with the extra money, the school district keeps the old school and adds after school programs. This is good. There is no question that this is better than the status quo for everyone. The school lasts another twenty years, and the money for the superstar teachers, and the band uniforms, and the universal preschool is gone.

        OK, enough of that. My point is that people are resistant to change. We can deal with that by simply encouraging folks that will benefit to write their representative. But to suggest that we should build a redundant system is silly. We just don’t have the money. We would end up with a few lines that provide less frequent service than what David proposed, while keeping the status quo. The end result would be that few people would use the new system (since it isn’t frequent enough) and it would be rejected.

        A change like this should be made with gusto and fanfare. There will be losers (of course) but every change of this magnitude has losers. Focus on the winners and you will do fine. Oh, and as someone who knows his way around a school board meeting, I suggest you also let down the losers very, very, gently.

      2. ” As it turns out, there is no extra funding for a better school.” I don’t get this analogy. We did get new funding for Link. People voted for it because it was a solid proposal they could believe in. Would we have been able to increase the bus budget by that amount without a solid dream in place?

        In the end, we’ll have much better transit, which drives up productivity enough and saves us enough money from roads, cars, and fuel that what we thought of as a huge expense was pocket change. The big dream is worth having, and we’ve already succeeded (twice!) in making it happen.

      3. Alright, Matt, we are probably confusing each other with my silly analogy. We should stick to the original proposal. David proposes that we do a compete overhaul of our system when North Link is complete. He suggests that we take advantage of the frequent service of Link to build a system that focuses on building shorter, more frequent rides. As a result, people will trade the infrequent, unreliable status quo, built upon minimal transfers and trade it for riding a system that involves more transfers, perhaps a bit more walking, but faster, more frequent and more reliable service.

        Ben (as far as I can tell) wants to build a redundant system, so as to piss off the fewest number of people. I fear that approach will simply fail. Folks will not flock to the new system, because Metro doesn’t have enough money to build both systems at the same time. We would only get a handful of new routes, and they wouldn’t be frequent enough to work (this is important — without frequency, David’s plan sucks — it needs lots of money to succeed*). As a result, people would continue to use the old system, and we would end up with a system that is obviously better (because it has Link), but not as good as we could build if we rebuilt it the way that David suggests.

        If we magically get enough money to rebuild our system like David suggests while (at the same time) keeping our current system, then I’m all for it. I think the old system would wither and die (who wants to ride the old 73 to downtown in bad traffic instead of transferring to Link). But even then, I’m not sure how that would even work. Keep the old system (the old 73) but add a more frequent 73 that only interacts with Link? OK, now you basically have to create a bunch of new bus numbers (the old 73 is just a 73, but the new, more frequent, shortened 73 is, ummmm, the 73S?).

        * The new system reminds me of Text Assist. It only makes sense if the server is really fast. I can elaborate on that analogy some more if you want (although I’m not doing too well in analogies today).

      4. David suggests great stuff, but there’s no constituency making it happen. He’ll get some restructures in the north end, but that’s my whole point – we’re only going to get these restructures around rail.

      5. David suggests great stuff, but there’s no constituency making it happen,

        The whole point is that I’m trying to create one.

        And there is no reason that doing so makes new funding for HCT any less likely.

      6. The whole point is that I’m trying to create one.

        If I might interject – I’m new to local politics; how can I help?

      7. William C, the following can be helpful.

        – If there is a specific change you like in your area or on your commute, suggest the change to Metro via their comments form. That will help Metro staff justify the idea when it’s time to restructure a particular area.
        – Write a letter or email to your County Council member indicating your support for Metro’s Service Guidelines and the process based on them. If Metro faithfully restructures areas according to the guidelines, it will come up with something generally similar (obviously with many detail differences) to what I suggest.
        – If Metro actually does initiate the process for a change in your area, support the changes you like in emails to both Metro itself and your councilmember. Metro changes go through two levels of public feedback organized by the agency before Metro puts them in final form to present to the Council. Then the Council has to approve them. Anti-change activists put pressure on both Metro and the Council at all of these stages, and if you make your opinion known at each stage you are almost literally neutralizing one of them. (It’s surprising how much agencies and politicians rely on pure headcount of the people contacting them.)
        – Show up at Metro and ST open houses in your area.

      8. In terms of political capital, the issue being discussed here, I really don’t think it’s and either/or issue. Transit support in Seattle is already high and efficiency changes will undoubtedly increase transit support because the winners will outweigh the losers. This holds even if said winners don’t show up to meetings or strongly back existing council members. Thus, even if council members face risk when supporting restructures that is NOT a sign that GENERAL transit support, the measure most relevant to STB, will be lost.

        Thus, especially considering that efficiency gains meet the end goal (excellent transit service) of many STB bloggers, strongly supporting network efficiency is very worthwhile. Efficient networks enhance the political support to tackle the state even if in the immediate term it feels otherwise. Indeed, I strongly suspect that if the full set of Ballard/West Seattle changes went through, transit support in Seattle would be even higher than it is now, with few if any people deciding that state funding (or funding authority) shouldn’t be greatly increased because they were hurt by the restructure.

      9. Link and Metro serve different kinds of trips; they’re not interchangeable. Link is essentially a limited-stop service, a “corridor express” like Swift, to get you between the largest activity centers quickly. Metro is for everything else. There would be no second Metro bus network. Metro is not going to overlay the David L network on top of the existing network, and nobody is suggesting that. If Metro did, its expenses would double, and there’s no freaking way it could afford it. If Metro could do that, then it could just as easily create the David L network and give everybody all their low-ridership one-seat rides to everywhere. That would be more appealing to people than “David L network + the status quo”.

  4. We do a disservice to everyone when we get stuck in bus vs. train arguments. Vehicles are tools for moving people, that’s it. You choose the right tool for the job.

    For a lot of trips around here, buses are the right tool. But there are several where it’s absolutely not the right tool, and for those we need something with higher capacity that’s grade separated.

    It’s going to take Sound Transit 25 years to get to Lynnwood. Do I think all of Seattle Subways lines will be built in the next 25, no, but in the next 50? Maybe. And who knows what the city will need by then. I know we need more than we have now, and Seattle Subway is the only group advocating for it.

      1. Right, I was referring to the 25 years from ST’s founding, or 16 years from ST2 to being in service. The point is, there’s nothing wrong with planing ahead.

      2. “Right, I was referring to the 25 years from ST’s founding, or 16 years from ST2 to being in service. The point is, there’s nothing wrong with planing ahead.”

        Tell that to the people at ST, who seem allergic to planning beyond the next ballot measure. Yes, each ballot measure funds “studies” for lines that will be voted on in the next one, but don’t you think the lines in the two after that should come into play as well, especially if in the interim parochial politics tempts us to build long tendrils of lines serving places that might not ordinarily make sense, certainly not in ways that would ordinarily make sense?

      3. ST has a long range plan (2005), with a map, and the papers that led up to it. ST can only build what’s in its long-range plan, so before building a newly-identified corridor it would have to vote to add it to the plan. This plan was released in 2005, so itll probably be updated by ST3.

        Note that “HCT”, for instance on 520, is a catchall term meaning light rail, BRT, heavy rail, etc. So it essentially means a Link line even though it’s not that precise yet. (Partly because ST can’t go for federal grants without doing a mode-unbiased alternatives analysis first.) It also doesn’t literally require 520, it just means cross-lake mobility. The study of a Ballard-Redmond corridor, possibly on a new bridge between Sand Point and Kirkland, fall into this context. The study of a downtown-West Seattle-Burien HCT corridor are also not on this map, but they’re just a study so that’s OK. If ST decides to build that line, it would have to add it to the long-range plan, and show how its ridership and routing complement the overall network and overall mobility needs.

  5. Founding Father Tom Paine once said: “Time makes more converts than reason.” Having visited Thingvellir, the old clan meeting-place on Iceland where two geological plates come out of the world and diverge, I think Metro’s current slogan would be perfect for transit powered by plate tectonics.

    You’re right, Ben, that the subway system you’re fighting for is absolutely essential for transit worthy of the name in Seattle. From what I’ve seen online, the city of Porto in Portugal dealt with the same constraints as ours the same way you’re recommending.

    But for thirty years, anyone trying to achieve easy and inexpensive measures to make bus transit, and more recently trains stuck behind it in the DSTT, work as designed has been told : “Not worth it. Temporary. We’ll have trains pretty soon.”
    It took us nineteen years to get Train #1. We’ve got miles more to tunnel, and a floating bridge to cross. One boulder and a TBM-operating mistake cost Portland MAX a year under the zoo.

    Even if Seattle Subways gets the high-ball at every section, there’s no reason to cease efforts to improve surface buses and one very good reason to get them optimal: every subway in the world requires not only good surface transit, but also a vital taxi sector.

    However, your remarks bring one point to the fore: it’s critical that the traveling- and voting- public is encouraged to think of the bus service of the present as part of the effort to complete the rail system of the future. And even more important that politicians and planners habitually see all modes in the same mental picture.

    The “separate agency” argument has not only gotten old, but smells that way.


  6. Ben, as you point out, the short-term goals and tactics of Seattle Subway and of the bus-related work Bruce and I are doing are entirely different. But in the long run they are trying to accomplish exactly the same thing — to create a city where transport is easy, fast, and efficient. There is no reason they need to be in competition. It is perfectly possible to say, at the same time:

    1) We want to raise additional funds to build more grade-separated HCT.
    2) We want to make the most of the funding we already have for buses, and shake longstanding political obstacles to reform loose.

    And both movements can bring results. In fact, each is necessary to the other. HCT is irreplaceable. We should have more of it, and I can’t wait to vote in 2016 for a package with a Ballard line. But, at the same time, Bruce is exactly right that you aren’t giving slow, bit-by-bit Metro and ST restructures nearly enough credit. We can’t have HCT on every big corridor for a very long time. Even if Seattle Subway succeeded beyond your wildest dreams, that is just financial reality. And, even in the 2060 of our dreams when there is HCT on every major corridor, buses connecting to it still need to be fast, frequent, and efficient. All the HCT in the world wouldn’t make the 72 a decent bus route, and the 72 won’t help people use HCT.

    One very worthy goal of organizing is to look at the big projects of the future. But another is to help citizens recognize the benefits of “small, diffuse improvements,” so there is a constituency of potential riders to counteract the inevitable angry existing riders. In other words, so there are people saying “I’d save a ton of time if the 2 went down Pine Street and ran every 20 minutes at night!” every time Joanna pipes up.

    Showing people exactly, in concrete terms, how their trips would be improved by “small, diffuse improvements” can build that constituency. That is the point of everything I’m doing. It’s why my proposal is so specific, when I could have saved a few hundred hours of nights and weekends by just writing a STB post saying “We could double the frequency of half of our transit routes by consolidating corridors.”

    Over time, improvements to the existing system can happen, in large numbers. Collectively, they are implemented relatively frequently, and can work wonders. The bus system, for all its warts, is far more effective than it was twenty years ago. The sort of improvements I advocate shouldn’t be dismissed with a phrase like “little chance,” any more than Seattle Subway should be.

    1. I agree. Not only is HCT irreplaceable, but it is a necessary component of FNP. As we build more HCT, we get more FNP. It is really that simple.

      For example, imagine a very fast line connecting Ballard to the UW (which, by the way, is not even in the planning stages). What does that do to Metro bus transit. Maybe it does nothing. Or, maybe, very little (Metro removes the 44). Is that the best we can do? Of course not. We can make the 28, the 5 (and every north south bus in Ballard) run every five minutes. Eventually, maybe we will have trains along 32nd, and 24th, and 8th, and Phinney Ridge, but until then, I think a lot of people would appreciate buses running every five minutes from various spots on Ballard to a high speed rail system that gets them anywhere in the city very quickly.

      1. Absolutely. We’re all on the same page in what’s necessary. But this systemwide restructure isn’t going to happen, for reasons I’ve laid out clearly and no one is even trying to address (other than agreeing with them). Bits of it will, sure – in 2021, with North Link. But in the meantime, if we want to set up for the rest of it to happen, we need to build the rail that allows it to.

        If you engage a bunch of bus activists now on things that won’t happen until 2021, you’ll miss the things that have to happen now for ST3 to be in 2016.

      2. David’s plan assumes no new rail except North Link. I don’t think you can straight-facedly propose bus restructures in the south end concurrent with new rail lines in the north end.

      3. “But in the meantime, if we want to set up for the rest of it to happen, we need to build the rail that allows it to. If you engage a bunch of bus activists now on things that won’t happen until 2021, you’ll miss the things that have to happen now for ST3 to be in 2016.”

        Are you burying the lead of the point you were actually trying to get across while still not getting it across clearly? What are the “things that have to happen now” in order to get ST3 and how do they conflict with pushing David’s plan?

      4. I don’t think you can straight-facedly propose bus restructures in the south end concurrent with new rail lines in the north end.

        Indeed. Why would you possibly want to offer the south end an efficient system of frequent, easy-to-use routes with painless transfers, when they could simply keep suffering the same old infrequent shit?

      5. Not my point. The south-enders might benefit from the system once it’s up and running, but in the meantime they will complain long and loud, even more so if Metro tried to pass it off as a U-Link or North Link-related restructure as Ben suggests.

    2. “But another is to help citizens recognize the benefits of “small, diffuse improvements,” so there is a constituency of potential riders to counteract the inevitable angry existing riders.”

      I completely agree. This is why planning efforts like the transit, pedestrian and bicycle master plan are so critical. They lay out a citywide vision of where we go, the benefits of that system, and how to get there. This gives politicians the mandate and cover to implement all those “small, diffuse improvements” that will always have vocal detractors.

  7. Ben, I think you’re reading the premise of the post too broadly. The simple point of the post is that potential riders are just as important as current riders, from a strict moral calculus.

    Of course current riders are more likely to raise a political stink. They know what they’re losing. But I don’t think anywhere in that post I advocated for cutting routes. The ideal way to make these kind of changes is to grow the overall pie and then make the reforms necessary.

    1. Oh, I was responding more to David’s post, and pointing out that as much as we want it to be, politically speaking, existing riders are more powerful than potential riders – and that’s why major restructures either don’t happen or are watered down.

  8. Ben, one other thing that I should have said yesterday but failed to:

    The FNP is a vision of what the bus network could be. It is explicitly not — and I said this both in the intro post and in my Q&A — a proposal for an all-at-once mega-restructure. It doesn’t have to be such a proposal to be useful, and treating that as its only function is shortchanging it. It’s a tool to generate support for individual neighborhood restructures that get us closer to the sort of network it shows, and also a proposal of some new ideas to solve a few particularly thorny, longstanding problems.

    1. David,

      Just how incrementally can the FNP be implemented? I know that you went to a lot of effort to make sure that there were enough buses to run each route. Is it really possible to restructure a neighborhood at a time, or do the resources not work out?

      1. Broadly speaking, although there are winner and loser neighborhoods under the FNP (in terms of service hours, not quality of service) compared with the current situation, something like the FNP could be implemented one neighborhood at a time, or at least one quadrant of the city at a time. It would look a little different, and it wouldn’t be quite as efficient in terms of hours. But, as I’ve discussed, that’s probably OK if the principles are intact.

      2. David,

        But what about the huge infusion of service hours you got from replacing the 70-X express buses with Link? I haven’t done any math, but it stands to reason that some neighborhoods would need service hours from them to make up the FNP. Which ones?

        And also, Metro will be getting that huge infusion of hours in one or at most two lumps – where should we be advocating they spread them?

      3. Most of the service hours from the 70s expresses get plowed straight back into NE Seattle. Believe it or not, it’s not actually a huge number of hours at all. The routes currently use an average of 15 buses (16 most of the day, 12 for a short period in late morning, 17 in PM peak), which sounds big until you realize that about 11 of those 15 are already at or north of Campus Parkway at any given time.

        The few extra hours help give the 67, 73, 75, and 65 15-minute service.

        Off the top of my head, the biggest “loser” areas in service hours would be First Hill and Uptown (even though actually getting around in those areas would become significantly simpler), and the biggest “winner” would be the north half of West Seattle.

        Further off the top of my head, you’d be surprised how much of the total efficiencies in the plan come from keeping a few very frequent lines out of downtown.

      4. Metro tries to “keep the hours in the district” when it restructures. Before the 2008 service guidelines, it restructured one or two districts a year on a rotating basis; e.g., “Northeast Seattle” and “Southeast Seattle”. It’s not clear to me whether Metro still allocates hours like this or just has one big Seattle pot, but good transit practices dictate at least starting from this viewpoint, and if do you transfer hours from one district to another, show how it’s justified by ridership/mobility needs. So I’m sure Metro does this at least informally. It’s not that difficult to apply this view to David L’s network (although I’m not going to calculate hours or driver-shifts). Basically, does every deletion come with an “equivalent” improvement in the same district, and ideally approximating the direction of the deleted route? The restructure looks balanced, so I assume it probably does for the most part.

        For instance, the 27 is replaced with the 2, which does the basic job of getting you to downtown, plus now getting you to Capitol Hill (another popular destination). Travel time may be slower, but that has to be balanced against Lakeside Avenue’s extremely small ridership base. There are also improvements on Jackson Street, which is not directly relevant to a Lakeside Avenue resident (unless they walk down the steep hill from the 14), but is in the same district.

  9. While I fully support the kind of network David did a great job of laying out, Ben does have a point.

    Let’s look at the fall restructure. Metro had already significantly watered it down but even that proved too much for people to handle. The backlash was enough that Keven Desmond said Metro would never again do such a comprehensive ‘big bang’ service change. With no significant changes comeing with the Rapid Ride E and F rollouts it appears that Metro is sticking by that promise.

    With that being the reality we operate in, I don’t think it wrong to point out that David’s Fequent Bus Network, or more accurately the disruption implimenting it would cause, is politically DOA.

    1. Metro’s experience with the fall restructure was what inspired me to start putting this together.

      Just because one side got the upper hand in a political fight once doesn’t mean the same outcome is guaranteed every time. The biggest reason the anti-change folks were able to scuttle half of the restructure was because there was no public awareness of the benefits the restructure would bring and no constituency pushing for it. It’s correct to argue that it’s hard work to put such a constituency together. It’s deeply misguided to argue that we shouldn’t even try because it’s too hard.

      And, again, the FNP is not about a single mega-restructure. It’s about showing people how the network should evolve. I can assure you that Kevin Desmond doesn’t think the network should never evolve again; there will be more restructures in the future. They’ll just be smaller, like the ones that brought us the 120 and 358.

      1. And having sat through the #2 portion of the last restructure proposal, I can tell you that the folks who recognized the wisdom in that part of the plan were vastly outnumbered at meetings (attended by Metro personnel) by people who vehemently opposed it.

        Smaller restructure efforts – precisely what David and Bruce are championing – will still need the constituency to defend Metro’s efforts. Pretending that we shouldn’t even try to organize because we’ll somehow have rail corridors every 8 blocks citywide (hyperbole intended) is shortsighted at best.

  10. The problem starts with “Transit” because Transit, as I gather from STB, is both Transportation and Social Engineering.

    Subways need density. Some make everyone live in density, the centralized planners say.

    But we want single family homes with yards and garages, the vast public say. And yes, we want to be able to get to work in under an hour and not have to change buses or pay too much for tolls and trains.

    Therein lies the rub.

    The citizen wants to choose first where to live, and then find the optimal Transportation.

    The planner sites in his ivory tower, seeing all around him as ants, and thinks of the “optimal” way to engineer his choo-choo train set.

    All the while hungry and rapacious politicians and landlords, drool with the opportunity to take more, more, more from the citizen’s paycheck as rent, tax, or both.

    1. But we want single family homes with yards and garages, the vast public say.

      It amazes me how many times you can ignore the fact, repeatedly pointed out to you, that if this were true apartments in Seattle would be dirt-cheap. Instead it’s houses in Auburn that are dirt-cheap.

  11. Both David’s plan and Ben’s Seattle Subway plan are never going to happen in full. One requires tons of political will while the other needs tons of money. I see the region more likely to come up with a significant amount of money, which could result in great improvements, than it is to come up with political will.

    1. That’s only part of their goals. The other part is to raise the bar and people’s expectations, so that at least part of it will be built. Even part of it would be a significant enhancement to mobility and making transit a more attractive option. The maps serve to give a concrete example of what the system could look like, so that people can debate whether this is a good idea and worth it. A comprehensive map is the most effective way to move this debate forward and get people to consider the benefits of an enhanced network. Without the map, people don’t realize what improvement is possible or how it might benefit them.

  12. This conversation mostly among already-convinced is fine. Urging others to write letters is fine. But what about getting out in front of your own neighborhood organizations? Neighborhood groups need not be dominated by nay-sayers if those who have better ideas would step outside of the pages of this blog. It’s amazingly easy to have influence with community groups with some well presented facts and arguments from a neighbor which, I guess, could be any of the people applauding D.L.’s plan.

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