68 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: M.T.A.”

    1. Here’s one for all the rail, auto, and cab enthusiasts here.
      And notice even Hasro has figured out how to do level junctions in the subway.

  1. Throwing this out to the horde… While morning commutes on the bus are ok from North of downtown (for me, Ballard), but the evening commute takes twice as long. It really us a crawl getting from 3rd to 1st ave. What are some possible solutions? Giving a bus only lane? A bus only street to get to first (during rush hour)?

    1. Not sure how to solve it, but it’s telling that Metro’s annual report shows that the threshold for a route being chronically late is <80% on-time for all times except for the PM commute, when it’s <65%. Metro clearly recognizes a problem but AFAIK has no solution for it.

      1. Your experience is shared by most. Honestly, AFAIK, it’s a fact of life. For me, my morning commutes are a piece of cake, like clockwork all the time. Buses consistently on time, and reliable. On the way home, though, it’s a different story. Sometimes, on time, more often than not, late. PM Peak I find is more demanding than AM because while people ease in to their destinations, they all tend to come home at the same time. For me, I just think of taking a different way if I need to get things.

      2. Agreed. Frequently I will bus in the mornings and walk back in the afternoons. The 44 is substantially faster than walking in the AM, and substantially slower in the PM.

      3. According to the annual report, “on-time” is defined as being between one minute early (ha!) and five minutes late.

      4. So here’s a thought experiment. When a peak express route shadows a local, one of Metro’s criteria for whether the route should be maintained is whether it’s significantly faster and more reliable than the local.

        I wonder if it would make sense for Metro to evaluate peak routes based on *round-trip* travel times. That is, a peak express route would not automatically exist during both the morning and evening peak. Instead, Metro would adjust resources to as to save the most time for the most riders.

        For example, imagine that I-5 is so slow during the evening commute that the evening expresses don’t really save time over the locals. In that case, this policy might shift bus hours from the evening to the morning, when there’s enough capacity for the expresses to be useful.

        Or maybe it’s local buses that are disproportionately slow during the evening commute, and well-placed expresses could have a significant impact. In that case, this policy might shift bus hours from the morning to the evening, when the speedup and reliability improvements are more welcome.

        If I had to bet, I’d guess that the first scenario is more likely, just based on my own personal experience with I-5 in the morning and the afternoon. But I could be wrong.

        Of course, this might turn out to be a disaster for riders, who would have to learn to take different buses in the morning and afternoon. But then again, peak expresses aren’t exactly the simple part of the network to begin with…

    2. I’m honestly not trying to be snarky, but maybe the solution is simply adjusting your attitude. So your trip home is twice as long as your trip in. It’s not a big deal. Bring a book, meditate, listen to music. It sounds like you haven’t accepted the fact that in life time will be eaten up by travel. Instead of choosing to be impatiently annoyed, accept the longer commute home, and use that extra time to get other things accomplished.

      1. You know, Sam, this attitude would have prevented the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Just a thought.

        Mark Dublin

      1. It wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t working that well. Even if you get cars out of the lane there’s still parallel parking on one of those blocks and turning traffic using the lane on both of them. And these are just two blocks when traffic is worse everywhere in the PM peak, including through downtown due to additional boarding delays.

      2. I suppose one looking to save time could take the Monorail to Seattle Center and catch the D-line there for an extra $2.25.

      3. Not sure how that would save time, when the nearest D-Line stop is an 8-10 minute walk from the Seattle Center monorail station.

    3. Northbound Third across Broad to Denny, bus-only signal, bus-only lane to Elliott. I think Metro is working toward these things. Needs to work harder and faster.

      As part of campaign for operating funds, KC Metro needs to start developing, publicizing, and lobbying with measures on this order, which will improve operating efficiency without huge capital costs.

      Favorite personal example is to replace on board bus fare collection in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel with the fare inspection the facility was designed for.

      There is a long list of other measures to maximize use of existing DSTT capacity. But current fare box use is damaging precisely because of the entrenched mentality it represents: permitting accounting matters to interfere with transit operations precisely where the results do the most damage.

      Self-inflicted wounds deserve treatment, but don’t argue well for more ammunition.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Couldn’t agree more. Paying for transit at the farebox is a total waste of time. Could you imagine if every Link vehicle had and operator and farebox at every door.
        Riding in the tunnel should not vary by type of vehicle you are boarding. Here, one size should fit all.

    4. One small change would really help get the 15, 17 and 18 expresses moving in the afternoon, and that is by letting the buses use the bus lane (duh) on First Avenue after the buses turn north onto First from Clay Street. However, besides being a bus lane (with no parking during the PM rush hour) it is also a go straight lane onto First Avenue North after crossing Denny. I was once stuck on an 18 Express on that short stretch of roadway for literally ten minutes because the driver would not get into the totally empty bus lane. Since all traffic in the two left lanes turns left onto Denny Way, it’s not as if there would be a collision involving the bus as long as the driver were careful. Perhaps Metro drivers are not allowed in that lane because it is meant to continue straight on First North across Denny, but it would have saved that particular run ten minutes of waiting in traffic. As it is now, it’s a total waste of good road space during the afternoon commute.

      1. I ride the ballard expresses every day and am frustrated at this queue jump. In my experience about 1 in 10 drivers use it. Most sit in traffic on 1st.

        Metro will tell you that it’s at the drivers discretion.

      2. How do the drivers that use that bus lane get in the correct lane to make the left onto Denny? This is slightly worse than the relatively common situation where there’s a bus lane that ends at an intersection with a queue-jump signal and the bus sometimes has to merge out of the bus lane on a stale green (there are at least 3 opportunities for this to happen on the 44 alone), because the traffic they’re trying to merge into is splitting into two different directions and often pretty chaotic…

      3. Al, If the 15/17/18/1/19/24/33 bus driver reaches the 1st/Denny light on red, the bus can make the left turn from the right lane using the queue jump signal. Many times though, the drivers have to merge across the lanes in the intersection to make the turn; it can be interesting…

  2. Oran, if you’re looking for a video to replace yours that has been removed, here’s one for you. It’s a very short video profiling a woman and her 8 hour round trip commute. Four different trains each way. Four hours to work. Four hours home.

    1. Reminds me of my wife when she worked down in Fort Lewis. Three buses (MT358-ST592-PT206), about three hours each way assuming typical traffic (more like 4 in bad traffic). Pay was great, but quality of life was awful.

    2. I wonder why she doesn’t take an Amtrak train that does direct to Philly, which would not stop at so many stations and not require the change of train at Trenton? It seems like it would speed up the trip. Most costly?

      1. I took a quick look and it looks like it was back in the 80s when I used to make the trip (undergrad outside Philly – friends in NY) when Amtrak used to be at least twice as expensive. My apologies if I’ve missed any fine print – SEPTA’s fare policies can be a bit byzantine.

        Best case scenario the slowest Amtrak would likely cost twice as much as the local trains (although it would be 45 minutes faster).

        SEPTA/NJ Transit – Leave 30th Street 5:53am Arrive Penn Station 8:08am
        Total Cost Looks like $24.50 ($9 for PA Portion, $15.50 for NJ Portion)

        Amtrak NE Corridor (not Acela) – Leave 30th Street 5:50am Arrive 7:20 at Penn Station
        Total Cost $53 (though that’s a week out – if you wanted to tomorrow you’d pay a lot more).

        The part of the commute that mystified me was why she was driving to her local station in Ambler rather that making the drive to the Trenton station (since she was already in her car) and eliminating the Ambler-30th Street-Trenton loop in exchange for another 30 minutes in the car (or less depending on which direction she’d headed to Ambler).

        Hopefully she’s looking for a place closer to NYC.

      2. I seem to recall that Trenton had a rather high crime rate, at least that was its reputation back when I lived in NJ. She might not want to risk leaving her car there every workday.

        As for moving to NYC, she may have family reasons to stay where she lives, or may have an underwater mortgage that she cannot get out from under.

      3. I wonder how long she has been doing that commute and how long she continues to do so. The interviewer should have asked her. She may have strong ties to where she lives. But with her good job and the amount she’s spending on train fares, I’m sure she could find something in Jersey City if she wanted. My friend had an apartment and then a condo there, and the prices seem around the same as Seattle or a little less. Unless she really wants a single-family house.

  3. Well, let’s kick off a flame war as we all wait patiently for the Hawks to digest Ram for lunch.
    From E.Link EIS, the trip from Redmond TC to Jackson is 36 min. Add another 12 to get through the DSTT and ULink on to UW makes the total trip at 48 minutes.
    Comparable trip times from Redmond to UW are 22 minutes in the AM peak to 520 flyer stop. Or take the 542 Ex to eliminate the walk to UW Stn for a 22 min ride. Kirkland TC is also only 22 min to UW on the 540 Ex.
    How much slower does Link have to be to avoid cancelling the existing Regional Express Routes, like these? (ps, the EIS predicts 30% slower HOV times by 2040)

    1. You can’t choose to ride an express bus that doesn’t exist. ST will cancel the 540 and 545 to funnel riders to East Link to make it look more “successful.” They aren’t going to let those quicker highway 520 bus routes cannibalize prospective Link riders. As far as the official reason for deleting the express routes, look for ST and their advocates to offer-up pablum like “duplication of service,” or “there simply aren’t the funds continue operating the 540 and 545.” These are lies. The truth is Link is the crown jewel in ST’s system, and they have to double someone’s commute time to get East Link’s numbers up, so be it.

      1. Which is precisely by I think E-Link would have far better results continuing on to Ballard, via SLU/LQA yada, yada. That offers many more real destinations, rather than a false one of being able to enjoy the grand tour of Lake Washington all the way to Lynnwood.

    2. From everything I’ve heard (such as Bellevue’s TMP), only the 545 and 255 will be cancelled. The UW express buses (542 and 540) will continue on the same routes as today, with increased frequency.

      1. The 540 will be cancelled sooner or later. It’s the lowest performing ST route by a long shot. It seems hard to imagine that East Link will make it more productive.

      2. It isn’t East Link that’ll help the 540, but U-Link, especially if the 540 – U-Link transfer replaces the entire 255.

      3. A bus that terminates at UW Station isn’t really the 540 anymore. You could call it a truncated 540, but you could also call it a truncated 255, and you’d be equally correct.

        When U-Link opens, I would like to see the off-peak truncation you describe, but I’m not convinced that it will actually happen. More realistically, I think the 540 will be cancelled, leaving people to transfer to U-Link at Montlake. Then, when Montlake is reconstructed, Metro will reduce the peak frequency of the 255, and use some of it to run a new route (might be ST operated) that skips the Montlake detour.

      4. @William: I’m not sure Bellevue’s transit master plan will have all that much weight regarding routes that don’t really serve Bellevue at all.

        @Aleks: The 255 isn’t exactly one of KCM’s top route’s either. But if the 255 is eliminated as William assumes (or goes peak-only, which is probably more likely) the 540 would pick up all the people traveling between Kirkland and UW (and other parts of northern Seattle) that currently catch the 255 at the Montlake Flyer Stop. Under these conditions, as the only all-day bus route between Kirkland and any part of Seattle, it would perform just fine. I’m not convinced that will actually happen just because you can read the Bellevue TMP that way (the same reading of the Bellevue TMP indicates sending the 542 and 545 to South Kirkland P&R, so… yeah), but the proposal where the 540 becomes more frequent probably involves fewer off-peak buses across 520 from Kirkland, not more.

      5. The UW Station design is such a huge missed opportunity.

        With a quick transfer, U-Link could actually be faster than existing 255/545 service, because that service wastes so much time trying to deal with I-5 congestion and surface streets (particularly Stewart Street) downtown.

        But as it is planned today the transfer will eat all of those time savings and possibly more.

    3. If you want to make the best case for keeping the 545, why aren’t you using Westlake as the timepoint?

      1. because the time difference is not as egregious for Redmond-Westlake.
        I don’t understand marketing North and Lynnwood Link to Redmond or much of the eastside as better transit in the future. It’s not.
        So why not admit it now, and do something different with ELink as part of the Ballard HCT study.
        Trading Broadway station for SLU, LQA, and Ballard is a much better deployment of resources.
        It also uses the existing tunnel under 3rd, saving the second big dig under 2nd, assuming Bertha gets going again.

    4. “How much slower does Link have to be to avoid cancelling the existing Regional Express Routes?”

      I’m assuming 10 minutes. That would explain why the 194 was deleted (9 minutes faster) but the 101 and 150 were not truncated (8 minutes plus transfer time). There are other possibilities besides all or nothing. The 545 might become peak-only or weekday-only.

  4. Is the general consensus that eastlink will replace some of the current bus service on sr520? If so its a shame that so much money is being spent to complete the hov lanes on the sr520 corridor only to see bus service decrease.

    1. There will still be lots of bus service on 520 during peak hours, at the very least.

      At this point, the bridge itself isn’t really the bottleneck. Coming west, at least, traffic typically moves fine between the last entrance before bridge and the first entrance after the bridge. There’s nothing wrong with completing HOV lanes over the bridge, but there is some shame to go around. First, that there’s no momentum to complete the HOV corridor to downtown Seattle. Second, that 520 goes right by the planned growth in Bel-Red without a simple flyer stop for direct routes from Seattle. Third, that instead of rigorously protecting the extent of HOV lanes during construction, when they’re most needed, WSDOT has basically cut them off randomly. The only way that we can possibly keep moving during construction is with fewer vehicles on the road, and when transit speed and reliability takes the kind of hit it’s taking now we encourage more SOV driving. On the parts of 520 that are temporarily at two lanes in each direction I’d make one of those lanes 2+ HOV, maybe 3+ during peak if 2+ doesn’t move.

    2. Long-term, I think the goal should be for the 545 and 255 to be truncated at the UW station. Trips from Redmond or Kirkland to the UW would be all bus. Trips from downtown Redmond or Kirkland to downtown Seattle would have a bus->train transfer at Montlake. Only trips from Overlake to the south part of downtown would use EastLink.

      1. Neither the design for the traffic flow on the 520 lid or Montlake Bridge nor the design around the UW Stadium/Hospital station make truncating routes there efficient nor convenient for passengers. There are so many missed opportunities, but the bus routings aren’t close to the Link stop.

        The 255 and 545 will continue to serve downtown Seattle for many years to come, and won’t be truncated. It’s simply not a good solution with the present designs.

      2. The Montlake bridge still isn’t nearly as delay-prone as Stewart St. coming off I-5. The primary issue with Montlake is bus layover space, which should be a solvable problem.

      3. It’s not just layover space. The bus stops that are supposed to serve the Link station are located on NE Pacific St in front of the UW Hospital. Link riders are supposed to go up several sets of escalators to the surface, then up to a skybridge, then back down, and then do a level crossing of NE Paciific St to catch a bus to the Eastside? It’s not a well-designed experience. And then be delayed by a potential bridge opening?

      4. Why wouldn’t the buses layover on Pacific Place? At the end of it’s route, a 520 bus could take Montlake to NE Pacific (stop for the hospital), turn on Pacific Place and stop there for layover. At the begining of the return route, the bus could stop on SB Montlake across the street from the station. Even better would be if it could enter the stadium lot at Pacific Place, stop next to the station and exit the lot at the Pacific St. light.

      5. It could, but I don’t think that’s the plan, and it would miss the U-District and most of the campus. I believe those buses will continue to go up 15th Ave NE.

      6. The perfect design, which probably requires a new bridge, is to have 2 dedicated transit lanes on the east side of Montlake Blvd, with a stop on top of 520 for the 43/48, and intersection with the 520 HOV exit, a stop at the Link station, and then exiting directly at NE Pacific St as the 4th leg of that intersection. If BRT weren’t always the excuse for less transit spending, there’d be budget for that as well as a proper 520 flyer station…

      7. Couldn’t we put a pair of stops on Montlake right in front of the station? Eastbound buses coming down Pacific St could turn left at Pacific Pl, then right onto Montlake, with a stop in front of the stairs/elevator to the pedestrian bridge. Westbound buses could do the same thing in reverse with a stop on NB Montlake right in front of the station, and then modify the Montlake/Pacific Pl intersection to allow buses to turn left onto Pacific Pl and continue to 15th.

      8. That would move the buses further from the front entrance of the UW Hospital. I don’t think that will happen or be considered acceptable.

      9. If people can walk from the hospital to the Link station to ride the train, they can walk the same distance to catch an express bus to Bellevue, Redmond, or Kirkland, that will be just as fast and almost as frequent as Link anyway.

        What’s going on here about the “plans” is the classic case of bogus projections. The projections attempted to pinpoint precise percentage of Link riders whose ultimate destination was the hospital, the UW campus, a bus to the Eastside, etc. and concluded that the number of people making bus/train transfers to or from the Eastside would be small.

        The problem is the people doing this study didn’t simply stated figures in absolute terms that, in reality, depend a great deal on what happens to the buses. If you structure SR-520 routes so that you have a half-hourly bus that continues all the way into downtown, rather than a 15-minute bus that is truncated at the UW station (yes, the 545 really takes more time to get from the south end of downtown to Montlake than it does to get from Montlake all the way to Redmond, under normal traffic conditions, assuming it uses the soon-to-be-completed HOV lanes), of course the percentage of Link riders making connections to and from SR-520-bound buses is going to seem small.

        I have also yet to here a good reason why buses can’t stop directly at the station. The room for such a stop is there, or would be there if we didn’t insist on squandering so much of the land around the station on football parking that is unused 357 days out of the year. I’m sure it would also be possible to add an additional stop a little closer to the hospital as part of the bus’s turn-around loop. Nor do I buy the argument about congestion on Montlake. Except for 8 days a year of Husky Football games, congestion on the Montlake bridge is really no worse than getting through Stewart and Denny. The train would still be time-competitve with the the bus due to its faster approach getting into and out of downtown. It should also be noted that if Montlake freeway station goes away, buses continuing on to downtown are going to find themselves getting stuck in Husky traffic anyway to serve the stop on the Montlake lid. Unless, of course, they decide to completely bypass Montlake altogether, thereby forcing everyone attending the game from Redmond or Kirkland to go downtown and backtrack.

    3. The lack of HOV lanes and sidewalks has been a forty-year mistake that’s now being corrected. Even if the buses are reduced, they’ll still be the primary way to get from Kirkland and Redmond and the northern Eastside to Seattle. Even if the buses are truncated at UW Station, they’ll still have to cross the bridge.

  5. Just curious, but does anyone know if ST is going to eventually stop calling its Link lines “U-Link”, “East Link”, “Central Link”, etc. and join the rest of the transit world and start calling the whole of the line from SeaTac to Lynnwood something like “the Blue line” and East Link “the Green line”, or some such?

    1. For comparisons’ sake, in Portland the MAX Blue Line (Hillsboro to Gresham) wasn’t named as such until 2001, a few months before the MAX Red Line (originally referred to as ‘Airport MAX’) opened.
      It was just called “MAX” from 1986-2001.

  6. Idea for a post. The Seattle Area – Year 2025. Describe how things have changed. What’s better? What’s worse? How have the various transportation projects that are now completed changed our region? East Link is online. So is Lynnwood Link. Probably a few new street car lines are dotting the city. The Spring District is fully developed. SLU is a city unto itself. Is 520 still clogged during rush hour? But whoever decides to write this, make it your own. Have fun with it. No deadline, but it’d be great if it could be posted by mid-Januaryish.

    1. As the 3rd most prominent transit professional in the world, I’d love to read your essay on Transit 2025 – ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’.
      Stop posting until it’s done. STB will publish it – trust me.

    2. Sam, I appreciate that you keep coming up with assignments for yourself, but it would be even better if you would follow through on them.

      (But, to get you started,. of course 520 will still be clogged during rush hour. Economies tolerate a certain level of traffic congestion, and if traffic is not congested then growth will occur until it is congested again.)

      1. Oh, and the post is to be written as if it is now 2025. You are living in 2025. Factor in all the transportation projects that are now complete. Describe what you see. So don’t write it like … “well, in the year 2025 I think we’ll be seeing ….” And try to keep it plausible and factual. Don’t get too creative. But you will have to use your imagination to some degree.

        BTW, I don’t understand why nobody ever does one of my ideas. Is it because I have burned too many bridges here? I’m giving you a compliment by asking you to write one of my post ideas. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think you people had some talent. If you worked at Google, and Larry Page took you aside and said he had an idea that he thought you were well qualified to work on, would you tell him to do it himself since it’s his idea?

  7. The best part of this post (to me) is that I was actually on the MTA (T-Orange Line) at the exact time it was posted. :-)

    Happy New Year to all STB contibutors and posters!

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