52 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Commutapult”

      1. I’ll Tell! Not a snowballs chance in hell. I worry about bills that run more than a couple of pages, but young Mr. Fitzgibbon’s 20 page document goes into ‘Beast Mode’. The R’s will light torches and raise pitchforks if it makes it to the floor.
        HB2563 gives every transit agency in the state authorization to collect 1.5% Mvet annually, impose 2% Cap Gain taxes up to $100,000 and enact an employer head tax of up to .3% on incomes. A family could see their transit taxes go up several thousand a year, and ALL WITHOUT A PUBLIC VOTE.
        Another twist is enacting ‘Transit Impact Fees’ on new developments with voter approval. So double down in King County on all of the above with both MT ans ST hitting the jackpot.
        HB2563 = DOA


        Whoa. Welcome to the thread, Tim Eyman. Overheated rhetoric much?

        What ever happened to “representative democracy”? We elect lawmakers to make laws, not punt to the mob for important policy measures.

        I expect some of these revenue sources would be pared back during the sausage-making, but businesses aren’t going to object to this (they WANT more transit) and their Republican handmaidens will fall in to line.

      3. I’d be all for this and so would a lot of us. But, yeah, MIC is right. Totes DOA. Curtis King would would see to its death immediately.

      4. It’s an option and every transit agency isn’t going to tax the maximum the legislature allows. The people who make these decisions are still accountable to voters.

      5. That’s because people fall prey to the “my representative is awesome, it’s everyone else’s representative who is bad” fallacy. It is also much easier to apply a crappy label to a group than to a set of individuals.

        “Do you think Congress is doing a good job?” HELL NO THE TV SAYS THEY’RE BAD AND THEY’RE FULL OF [political group I don’t like].

        “Do you think your Congressional representative is doing a good job?” Eh, not too bad, plus I like the attendance at the bake sales and ribbon cuttings.

    1. If you want sustainable funding, a capital gains tax is not the way to do it. This type of tax is notorious for collecting large amounts of money during boom times and next to nothing during a bad year on the stock market. That’s exactly the opposite of a predictable, sustainable revenue stream.

    2. ST currently collects 3/10th cent MVET, netting about $52 m/yr in just King Co.
      If HB2568 goes through unscathed at 1.5%Mvet, that would generate ~$260m/yr, and if ST exercised their new authority, another $210m. Another 1/2 bil/yr is some serious money, not to mention all the other new taxes in the bill.

  1. I was reading The New Yorker in my Bellevue home that is located within walking distance to work, when I read an article about Uber in Paris that I think my readership will be interested in. Take note of the clever turn of phrase in the title of the article.


      1. My general experience has been that Lyft/Sidecar/Uber are better than conventional for-hire and taxi services in high-demand times and places (where the cap on licenses limits availability of conventional services). But for pick-ups in low-demand times and places, the conventional services often win.

        In particular, even if you live in an out of the way area, or want to leave at a low-demand time, you can still get a prompt ride when you want to leave, provided you book it with reasonable advance notice. For example, if you have a 6 AM flight to catch out of SeaTac, being able to book a ride from your house at 4 AM the night before, and know that at 4 AM, your ride will actually show up, is huge.

        The Lyft business model does not currently support booking trips in advance, and for good reason – they don’t know how many drivers are going to be on duty in advance, and they don’t want to make promises to customers they might not be able to keep.

      2. Last time I tried to schedule an early morning taxi ride to the airport, the taxi never showed up. The dispatcher was curt and unhelpful. “45-60 minutes”, *click*. The replacement taxi arrived at my house about ten minutes before my scheduled departure. So, you know, not helpful.

        With Uber I may not be able to book the car ahead of time, but I can wake up at four, order a car, they tell me it’ll arrive in ten minutes, and then it arrives, as promised, in ten minutes. Every time. Who needs advance booking with on-demand service that fast and reliable?

      3. My successful experiences booking trips in advance have mostly been with Flat Rate For Hire, which is technically not a taxi company. I do the booking entirely through a mobile app (no waiting on hold for a dispatcher). With a few hours of advance notice, I’ve never problems. Often, they even come a few minutes early. (although I have occasionally had long waits booking them without notice).

        I can believe that Uber will show up at 4 in the morning in 10 minutes if you live somewhere like Belltown or Capitol Hill. Where the response times of these services become not nearly as good is if you live somewhere further out, like Bellevue or Redmond. Often, the apps for Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber show only one available car on the entire Eastside. If that car is in downtown Bellevue and you live in Redmond or Kirkland, you’re looking at a minimum 20-minute wait. In the suburbs, there simply isn’t enough demand to reasonably expect a 10-minute wait time without notice from any car service, so advanced reservations becomes the only way to get a timely arrival without having to wait awhile.

    1. DSHS/Medicaid/Social Service agencies allow clients to ride by taxi for free in special situations, like going to certain doctor’s appointments, for example. But I’ve never heard about them paying for Rideshare rides to doctor’s appointments.

      I think there is a post idea in there somewhere. One of you bloggers look into this and write a story on it.

      Why don’t I write it? I came up with the idea. If anything, simply thank me for thinking up an original story idea.

      1. The primary reason of that is simply bureaucracy – government agencies are always slow adapting to new technologies and won’t do it unless legislation forces them to. Furthermore, government agencies like to play strictly by the book, and will never consider a service whose legal status has the slightest bit of uncertainty (it’s all about making sure they can’t get sued in the event of an accident). Finally, for a government agency having multiple entities to deal with and pay for ride services means additional paperwork costs. I can easily imagine that the paperwork costs of adding Lyft/Uber to the mix would outweigh the savings on the fare.

        Finally, the requirement of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, that you have a smartphone and data plan to use their services is likely to be a dealbreaker for many DSHS/Medicaid/Social Service clients who can hardly afford it.

  2. Irreparable deficiency for Commutapult is that since Mad Magazine’s cartoonist Don Martin died some years ago, it will be impossible to create the critical sound effects the system will require. Normal launch operations will be hard enough. But incalculable variety of transcribed audio descriptions of equipment failures and faulty landings will permanently defy the needs of the technology.

    However, there are more pressing transportation needs that can be addressed by the minds that created Commutapult, by redirecting their paradigm in the opposite direction. Why dirty our air, lands and homes, and blocking the whole Seattle waterfront, by carrying fossil fuel from Alberta and North Dakota by rail and ship, when these cargoes can simply be pumped through pipelines and chutes running directly through the core of the earth?

    The products themselves would gain in value. The Alberta tank car loads, which used to be more accurately called “tar” and require huge thermal inputs to convert them to oil, would therefore arrive in China refined to top grade. And the Devil’s constituents will be favorable to having the extra flammable “Bakken” oil from Dakota fire their own local operations cost-free on the way through.

    And the high-grade diamonds coming out the chute will definitely bring higher prices in China than the coal that went down the chute in North America.

    From a Scriptural point of view, if the Creator had meant for us to transport eons of fossilized plants and animals to China, He would not have made a route straight through Hell shorter than one through Seattle by rail and boat. Politically, it’s up to those of us living in blast range of the tracks to see to it our elected officials understand the geometry.

    Mark Dublin

    1. And in case any concerned citizens of Hell are thinking about blocking the pipeline, remember the detrimental effect this could have on the economy of Hell. Hell’s business leaders urge support of the pipeline, nearly unanimously!

      1. Very likely Hell’s Chamber of Commerce has members who think short-term and long-term. Long-term the Dublin Transglobal plan will benefit the economy at both ends of the system and the center.

        But Fossil Circumsurface will likely continue to deliver the exact kind of short term profits whose pursuit is responsible for the present mailing address of much of the local business community. The devil you know, like they say.

        In addition, recent railroad- and marine-related events are a perfect indication that fossil-fuel transportation is indeed an effective instrument for extending the territory of Hell to the entire earth. Downside for traditional subterranean regime is Eternity of primary challenges from forces who, as in their dominions on Earth, won’t allow enough tax money to keep the fires lit. Leaving all Damnation nothing but a black pool of cold congealing goo.

        Kyrie eleison, and accompanying Don Martin sound effects.


      1. I mean, they’re basically gondolas, except faster, longer-distance, and without those unnecessary, unsightly cables. Should be a no-brainer!

  3. Logistical question about terminals: Is it usually allowed* to ride a bus all the way to its terminal even if that is after the last official stop? I want to know because the 48’s last “real” stop 32nd Ave NW and NW 85th St but, according to OneBusAway and Metro, the bus’ terminal is right next to the Ballard Locks. It would be convenient to ride the 48 to the locks on occasion.

    * By “usually allowed,” I mean does Metro have a policy prohibiting it or is it at the driver’s discretion or is this a normal thing that people do that no one will bat an eye at?

      1. Ah, that settles that, then. OneBusAway’s data shows that it did and the Metro driver I was talking to the other day agreed but she was a part-timer who didn’t know if riding to a “far away” terminal was allowed. I guess I should have tried riding it before asking. Thanks. :)

    1. The 48 lays over at the bus stop at 32nd and 85th. I have personally observed this several times while riding the bus to or from Golden Gardens Park. To continue onto the locks, you can either walk about 2 miles (pretty much quiet residential streets all the way) or wait for the 61.

    2. OneBusAway’s mistake is actually a relic of an old service pattern. The base route from the 32NW/NW85 terminal to Ryerson Base passes the locks, and at one time a few trips that returned to base were listed on the timetable as continuing to the locks. That pattern ended a few years ago but the route/stop data is apparently still in the system.

      To answer the actual question you asked, in theory, you are allowed to ride nearly anywhere on an in-service bus, including a bus on a base or deadhead route. The main exception is that passengers must deboard at the last safe stop if a bus is headed into a base or to a terminal where deboarding is unsafe. There are also a few terminal zones (such as Pike at 3rd) where passengers are prohibited from boarding to alleviate security issues.

  4. Concerning minimum sound effects necessary for Commutapults, here’s link to theory and practice of Don Martin sound description:

    Don Martin Sound Effects Theory and Practice:


    Also technical considerations for an acceptable fossil fuel export corridor from Alberta and North Dakota:


    Once we get Big Bertha loose…


  5. We’re two weeks away from the Rapidride E opening. Does anyone know if it will save any time over the 358 or will it just be new buses with different stations? I’ve been looking on the Metro website for schedule information but found nothing so far. At least with the Swift they touted it’s efficiency and speed before it opened.

    1. It will save a minute or two southbound by not using the Linden deviation. It may also save a bit of time by using all-door boarding downtown, particularly since some off-board payment will be in place.

      Other than that, nearly all of the improvements (principally new bus lanes) are already benefiting the 358, and not much will change for RR E.

      1. Something else I’ve wondered. What downtown bus stops will the E use?

        I would have assumed that it would use the same stops as the 358 currently does. But I was at one of those stops today, and there’s no RapidRide sign, or ORCA reader, or anything like that.

        So maybe the E will use the same stops as the D. That certainly saves money. But what about the other buses? If the E no longer shares stops with the 5 and 16 (for example), that seems unfortunate. Will Metro end up doing a huge bus shuffle, where almost every bus changes stops? Or will the E just be off in its own bubble?

      2. My understanding is that the E will use the D stops, notwithstanding the lack of commonality with the 5/16/28. I haven’t heard what, if anything, will move in return. Something better move, as the NB 3rd/Pike stop in particular is already a bottleneck on occasion.

      3. Since we’re on the subject… :)

        How is it that the 3rd and Virginia stop isn’t a bottleneck, given the huge number of buses that stop there?

        It always seemed like 3rd Ave service would be a lot simpler if all the buses that stopped at 3rd and Vine/Cedar (for example) also stopped at the same 3rd Ave skip-stop stops. That would mean moving the 7, 49, 66, and 70 to Pine instead of Pike, and moving the 19, 24, and 33 to Pike instead of Pine.

        Is there a reason Metro doesn’t do this? Or, more broadly, what does Metro think about when choosing where buses should stop?

      4. How is it that the 3rd and Virginia stop isn’t a bottleneck[?]

        Sometimes it is. But the lower passenger volumes there mean that dwell times are shorter, and the zone itself is a bit longer. A big part of the problem with the 3rd/Pike zone is that it is shorter than other downtown zones. Getting rid of that dumb two-car load zone (as SDOT did at 3rd/Spring SB) would be very helpful.

        Or, more broadly, what does Metro think about when choosing where buses should stop?

        The biggest issue is that all of the trolleys have to use the same set of stops, unless you were to pay for, design, and build an Alice in Wonderland overhead system with a crossover between each pair of stops for the entire length of 3rd. Once you’re subject to that constraint, the rest of the choices pretty much make themselves.

        Again, I haven’t heard, but I’m wondering if Metro will have to move the 17X/18X to the non-trolley stops, where they could be with the 40. The best choice would be the 66 and 70, except for the trolley issue.

      5. By the way, I don’t mean to imply that any particular arrangement of buses at the downtown stops is right or wrong (except that I do think common corridors should have a single set of stops). I’m just curious if you have any insight into how Metro makes this decision.

      6. David/mods: how on earth is your reply ahead of mine, when it was posted 90 minutes later???

        The biggest issue is that all of the trolleys have to use the same set of stops, unless you were to pay for, design, and build an Alice in Wonderland overhead system with a crossover between each pair of stops for the entire length of 3rd.

        Aha. That makes sense. Let me make sure I understand: there’s no passing wire, and so the trolleys can’t pass each other, which makes skip-stop operation useless? Or there is passing wire, but it’s only available in certain places (i.e. near one set of stops), and building out the wire for a second set of stops would be a lot of money for little benefit?

        If it’s the former, then would it hypothetically be possible for Metro to switch *all* the trolleys, reserving the 3rd/Pike stop for the Aurora/Dexter/Westlake buses and RapidRide? I’m just curious; definitely not saying that would be a good idea!

        Leaving aside the D/40 split issue, moving the 17/18 to be near the 40 seems like a no-brainer. Outside of downtown, they have no stops in common with the 15. I suppose there are a tiny number of people who use the 15/17/18 to get to the stops along Elliott, but that seems like way too much of an edge case to matter. Moving the 66 and 70 would make sense, too (though I’d rather see the 66 move underground).

      7. Let me make sure I understand: there’s no passing wire, and so the trolleys can’t pass each other, which makes skip-stop operation useless?

        Correct, except at just a couple of stops. Even passing wire wouldn’t really solve the problem, because you have to remind yourself at every stop to use the siding wire. Really, you’d have to have two sets of wire, that cross over each other after every single stop. There used to be a configuration like that northbound between Pike and Stewart when Pike and Pine were the only skip stops along 3rd, but now you’d have to have that sort of wire all the way from Yesler to Lenora. That would be a huge and very expensive project. It would also further slow down the trolleys as they would have to slow for each crossover.

        would it hypothetically be possible for Metro to switch *all* the trolleys, reserving the 3rd/Pike stop for the Aurora/Dexter/Westlake buses and RapidRide?

        Yes, although that might worsen the problem because so many more of the diesels are artics. It would also result in the 1/2/13 and RR D being at different stops, which is a worse outcome than anything else we’ve considered thus far.

        how on earth is your reply ahead of mine, when it was posted 90 minutes later???

        A quirk in WordPress. Blog admins can reply directly to third-level nested comments when working through the WordPress all-comments interface. If we do so, the reply appears directly below the comment it’s in reply to, regardless of chronological order. I try not to do that, to avoid confusion, but sometimes forget.

      8. Yes, although that might worsen the problem because so many more of the diesels are artics. It would also result in the 1/2/13 and RR D being at different stops, which is a worse outcome than anything else we’ve considered thus far.

        The solution to that problem should be obvious to you ;-)

      9. I thought that’s what the big Macy’s project is for. Otherwise why would they be putting an ORCA reader there? “Construction which is currently slated to begin in February, and be completed within several months, will include:
        Transit Information Kiosk, with ORCA card reader.”

        It also says seven already-installed readers will be turned on February 16th when RR E starts.

      10. Mike – great point. I haven’t walked 3rd Ave much lately, so I’m not sure where all of the new ORCA readers are. If they are actually at the current 5/16/etc. stops, and my previous information about RR E is wrong, that’s great news.

  6. Open Thread Random Question Time:

    According to SBB UW is going to start construction on their crazy hourglass plaza thingy (only in Seattle would a university build a giant quad that isn’t lined with academic buildings), causing the Burke-Gilman Trail to detour for about 18 months. Pacific Place would almost have to be affected, right? So how does the 44 turn around?

    1. Presumably they will use the old 44 turnback wire across the Montlake Bridge (in front of the Kemper Freeman Mart). Should add a few fun delays in the early afternoon and the late PM peak.

      1. On the bright side, I guess this means people transferring from the 245 or 545 will have more frequent buses to the U-district and Ballard.

      2. @asdf: I hadn’t even thought of that, even though I make that transfer sometimes. I don’t know if they’d actually serve those stops for a temporary loop like that, and risk setting an expectation of continued service based on a temporary reroute. Of course it would be great, even just for a year, for people like us that spend the ride reading transit blogs…

      3. It’s unclear that buses would be blocked from Pacific Place for the full 18-month construction period. I could see the blockage lasting only a few months.

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