45 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Economics of Land Transport in Singapore”

  1. When did OneBusAway get rid of their old fashioned, “dumb phone” interface, where you call the number and enter the stop number? It worked well. I don’t know why they would ditch it. Is there a way to use the text option on a phone that doesn’t support short codes (like 12121)?

    1. I’m not sure where I heard it but I’m under the impression that the reason they took away audio access (206-456-0609) is that the telephone line access was eating their lunch.

      From a regular mobile that at least has text message capability you can get arrival on OBA access by sending a text message to the number 41444 with the message: onebus [bus stop number] {send} e.g. 41444 message: onebus 1180 will give you arrivals for Pike St & 4th Ave. If you want an individual route or several do onebus 1180 10,11,43 will just give you results for routes 10, 11 and 43. Do note that for multiple routes do not space between the comma. And as far as I know text message access is available for all carriers. For a good while it was not available for T-Mobile but that now works as well.

      1. Also, I’m not sure when it happened perhaps when onebusaway.org went from just puget sound to other cities such as Atlanta on the OBA main page there is absolutely no instruction (as far as I can see) any longer to tell you how to use OBA (like where to find stop numbers etc.) Why is there no FAQ page? You don’t need a lot of instruction in order to use OBA but you need at least basic instructions. Why are there none?

      2. Late to this, but that short code doesn’t work for me – tells me “invalid keyword”. When I text help to it, it replies “for help with MobileCause Charity Gifts:”, then some phone number.

        Has anyone actually used the SMS short code service for Metro? Portland’s just works.

      3. I use the SMS interface several times a week and 98% of the time I get a response with arrival times in 15 seconds or less. You need to make sure you use the correct short number 41411 and include the stop number. e.g. send to 41411 and the message is onebus e.g. send to 41411 and message is onebus 1180 (Pike St & 4th Ave).

      4. I use it every week or so. It took some fiddling to get it set up, but apparently I did something right, because for the last couple months it’s been just working. Sorry I can’t help.

    2. I used to use the “dumb phone” interface, back before I got a smart phone and found that it never worked all that well anyway. First, simply figuring out the stop number often took several minutes of menus (while the stop numbers are supposed to be printed on the bus stop signs, often they’re not). Then there’s the problem that once you’re outside at the bus stop, road noise often makes it very difficult to here if you don’t have headphones with you.

      The map-based smartphone interface is much easier to use. In practice, enough people have smartphones these days that you can usually ask another passenger to check OneBusAway for you, even if you don’t have a smartphone yourself. (And if, some reason, they didn’t know about OneBusAway and don’t have it installed on their phone, you just did them a great favor!)

      1. I’m always a little shocked that there are people with smartphones + data plans who don’t know about OBA.

        I don’t believe that asking other people to look up bus times for you is a solution. It works best when you talk and look the same as people who own smartphones, which means, well, you probably have a smartphone yourself.

        In my brief Chicago visit, the SMS real time arrival app worked fabulously. Every stop had a stop number clearly posted. How feasible would it be to have volunteers label unlabeled stops for Metro?

      2. It would be great if the search function for addresses on the OBA app worked. AFAICS it’s totally hosed. Search for any address e.g. 3rd Ave & Pike St and press search. It doesn’t work.

      3. Now that Google maps provides Transit information, including next time or closest time to departure arrivals, does OBA maintain value?

      4. FWIW, I’ve had lots of interactions with people that don’t particularly like me surrounding OBA and other apps (I usually offer anyone I see looking at a posted bus schedule to look up the next arrival time). I’ve also been approached while out running by someone speaking broken English with Google Maps open on a smartphone, trying to find a bus stop. So… human interaction has not yet broken down entirely, and smartphones aren’t just for businessdroids anymore!

      5. OBA used to have a feature that would let you look up the status of a particular route. I just realized the other day that this feature is no longer there

      6. TriMet here in Portland has had a system of selecting stops on the phone system for decades, if you don’t know the stop number. If I remember right, this feature first made its appearance about 20 years ago. Before that, they attempted to use voice recognotion, and the computer systems of the age weren’t up to the task just yet.

        PDXBus (the app written by a local Intel engineer annoyed with the limits of everything else) allows the use of a menu system to get the stop, and then gives you the stop number in the arrival time display. If you visit Portland and have an iPhone, try it.

        As for Google transit display, it only gets the information from the timetable. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t access the bus/train GPS information to give somewhat more accurate information. PDXBus and the TriMet web site does – even switching to miles away in bad weather or other times when the schedule is very far off.

        I remember attempting to use OBA when visiting Seattle about a year and a half ago, found something about it annoying, and wound up using something else (maybe Google? But I don’t really remember) instead.

      7. I never use “search”. I always just zoom in on wherever I am. Usually, the GPS will get it pretty close before I even have to do anything.

        That said, there are a few quirks that would be nice to smooth out in stop location. Particularly, when you’re looking at a transit center, each bay is treated as a separate stop, so you have to keep trying them one by one until you find the route you care about. Similarly, downtown, you usually have to try stops one by one when dealing with tunnel vs. surface or “bay A” vs. “bay B” issues.

      8. John bailo if you’ve been in Portland you’d know that if the google maps indicated known departures (based on actual performance) it would indicate a fixed number of minutes if that time is within 30 minutes. If it gives a specific time then it’s a scheduled time. It doesn’t appear that the google maps have integrated actual times yet.

    3. There are phones that don’t support short codes? I’ve been using cells since the 90’s and have never encountered one.

      The text interface has become unreliable anyway, as they have been using up their message quota very quickly.

      1. TracFone doesn’t support short codes, I guess because they are a “premium SMS service” (???). OK? Is there a full number that does the same thing as the short code?

    4. I have a smart phone, but no data plan, so I can only use that when I have WIFI. I call numbers with a dumb phone, which is a TracFone, which decides that you don’t get to use short codes.

  2. Sewage-Derived Fuel Powers Hyundai California Green Dream

    That’s because the hydrogen made by Brouwer’s set-up can power fuel-cell cars that consume hydrogen and emit nothing but water vapor. Many automakers see this zero-emission technology as the most promising successor to gasoline engines. Already, hydrogen produced at the Southern California waste facility is being dispensed, on-site, from a pump used by drivers of several hundred fuel-cell cars now on the state’s roads.

    That number is set to increase. In coming weeks, Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) plans to begin leasing a fuel-cell version of its Tucson crossover, which can travel about 300 miles (480 kilometers) on a tank of hydrogen.

    The lease price will be $2,999 down and $499 a month, Hyundai said. That includes maintenance and complementary fuel from nearly a dozen hydrogen pumps around the state — including the filling station at the Fountain Valley waste plant, which is just a mile away from Hyundai’s U.S. headquarters.


    1. Metro’s Wastewater Treatment Division has been harvesting methane the area’s sewage for decades. They’ve done an admirable job of improving operations and realizing revenue from this waste stream. But don’t kid yourself – biogas from sewage will only reduce overall energy use and environmental impacts. It won’t be a significant fuel source, especially when you consider all of the energy used to pump wastewater around.

      1. I agree, it will always be an adjunct to hydrogen produced in other ways, like from solar.

        Still, something like Brightwater seems like it could be a goldmine of hydrogen.

  3. Has anyone considered having a STB-affiliated forum and wiki? It’d be better to have real discussions in a forum instead of blog comments and a wiki could be useful for looking up various bits and pieces of information that would be lost in the archives.

    1. Honestly, I actually like the way the blog just lets conversations die as posts fall down the page and eventually out of view.

      A wiki might be pretty awesome… given a clear scope and policies against editorializing. In particular, we often wonder about why some bus routes are the way they are, and editors and frequent posters could probably collaborate to build a wiki with pretty decent historical information on routes and schedule types (probably not timetables, but overviews of frequency and span) for most important bus routes. A Chicago-L.org for Seattle bus routes, essentially.

      1. If we had a comments system that required valid logins and let each user keep his history and let other users search it would help.

        STB tried using Disqus and had some technical issues.

        Maybe Facebook, Livefyre, Twitter or revisiting Disqus would help.

  4. This is directed at no one in particular, but I found it interesting. Turns out Internet Trolls Really Are Horrible People.

    Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!…Because the behaviors are intrinsically motivating for sadists, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing trolling with punishments (e.g., banning users)…Ultimately, the allure of trolling may be too strong for sadists, who presumably have limited opportunities to express their sadistic interests in a socially-desirable manner.

    1. I’ve always found Barnacles more distasteful than trolling.

      Barnacles = 1/Trolls

      defn: A Barnacle is a person who haunts Usenet Newsgroups, Bulletin Boards and Fora. They offer a narrow interpretation of the purpose of the board, sometimes bordering on the absurd, or due to their own misinterpretation of the original charter. They make their living by calling almost anyone who disagrees with, or offers dissenting opinions a “troll” (which is grammatically incorrect because troll is a verb, not a noun…as in, to troll for shrimp).


      1. Don’t spoil my favorite visual, John: the statue of the little guy under the 99 Bridge about to eat the VW. Also idea from Norway that whenever a giant boulder falls off a cliff onto a highway, it’s because some troll walking along the ridge line is so busy counting his gold- they’re known to be greedy- that he forgets to check his watch, and so when the sun comes up, the sunlight turns him into a rock- what happens to trolls in sunlight- and fate takes its course.

        So wish prominent organizations would stop taking comments for fear of trolls. Sooner or later the sun will find its way through the walls of their quarters made of old license plates and discarded campaign posters, and gravity and slope will do the rest. The truth, incidentally, behind all these mudslides blocking the Sounder Service. Look forward to those ST information bulletins every time it rains.


      2. “They offer a narrow interpretation of the purpose of the board, sometimes bordering on the absurd” How’s that hydrogen economy working out for you.

        Kidding, of course. Mostly.

  5. That’s “wish prominent organizations would stop ceasing to take comments…” due to trolling. Must be name for some mythological creature that loses its editing skills in presence of trolls and barnacles. Besides “old.”


  6. Imagine my surprise upon discovering almost by accident that the 200 now live-loops through Fred Meyer on the north end and lays over at Issaquah Community Center, rather than the reverse. (Incidentally, this was completely absent from the Rider Alert brochure, as were any changes that may have taken place for any non-ST three-digit routes that weren’t the 358.)

    The old service pattern made eminent sense (and not just because I live on the south end loop), where the 200 could drop off southbound passengers at the same stops as it picked up northbound passengers on Front St and 2nd Ave SE, especially the nursing home at the Front St 800 block stop and Issaquah High School across from my house. The first two trips of the day recognize this because they start at Front and Sunset and go through the entire loop before starting the rest of the route.

    The segment of Front St on the loop, from Bush St to 2nd Ave, is something like 3/4 of a mile long, so this clearly isn’t just a loop to get to a layover spot, and Front St in particular is not very pedestrian friendly on that stretch at all. So now using the 200 to go northbound is close to useless because I might as well walk to the community center and catch it there.

    I don’t think anyone is going to ride straight through past Fred Meyer, though the penultimate stop at the end of the route is on 51st St and there are two stops between Fred Meyer and there at the start, one of which I might actually use, so who knows, but it’s certainly not 3/4 of a mile a side, AND I can’t dash in and out of Fred Meyer and catch the same bus after the layover anymore, because it’s been replaced with just sitting at the Community Center doing nothing.

    Does anyone know why Metro did this (and apparently saw it as minor enough to leave it out of the Rider Alert)? Was someone at Metro totally tone-deaf to how the route actually works? Is this a misguided effort to better connect with buses at Issaquah TC that could have been just as easily accomplished by adjusting the schedule as it already stood? Is this d.p.’s “padding” fixation at work, where they want to inoculate the route against how clogged southbound Front St can get during PM peak? Is this preparation for eliminating the 200 and replacing it with other routes that would need a south-end layover spot if they were going to serve the loop?

    1. I don’t know the reason, but I’ll take a guess that for whatever reason Fred Meyer asked Metro not to lay over in its parking lot. Metro is at Fred Meyer’s mercy in that case.

      And this is a textbook example of why frequency makes delivering useful service so much easier. If the 200 ran every 15 minutes, none of this would matter — you could make your Fred Meyer errand and catch the next bus, and you could transfer to the previous bus at the community center layover.

      1. I meant to wonder whether the Lake Sammamish Center didn’t like buses laying over in its parking lot (in which case my reaction would be not to go in there at all), but I forgot.

  7. Not sure if it’s too late to post on here, but how do you argue against some of the comments in this article? I’m afraid this is how many people think, and why any vote to get more money for Metro will be defeated. They just come back and say “Metro needs to be audited” and ” Very few people ride the bus”. If you say that bus riders also are often car owners, then they come back complaining about new apartments with little parking, or at least they do in places where there has been increases building recently.


    1. “Metro needs to be audited”

      Metro was audited in 2009. It implemented most of the recommendations, which saved significant money (although, in my opinion, also hurt service quality). See the 2009 audit, and 2013 and 2011 follow-up reports, here.

      “Very few people ride the bus.”

      43 percent of commuters to downtown Seattle ride the bus, more than drive alone. Numbers are similar for the University District.

    2. It’s amusing to hear people complain about how buses are always empty. With 1.6 passengers on the average trip, most cars are empty, too! ;)

      More seriously, there are some people who just can’t be convinced. They fundamentally aren’t interested in paying for buses, and no amount of logical argument can change that.

      However, for every person who speaks up on a forum like the West Seattle Blog, there are 100 other people who read without saying anything. Many of these people do not feel as strongly about the issue. They may not understand that Metro spends a lot of effort on improving service efficiency and productivity. They may not realize how many people actually ride the bus.

      The best we can do is to continue reaching out to those people, and to not let ourselves get distracted by the folks who aren’t going to change their minds.

      1. A better question is…at what point does it become just as cost effective to subsidize or let people use a taxi or car service?

      2. “More seriously, there are some people who just can’t be convinced.”

        That’s what I saw at the Plan B hearing, although they weren’t advocating for an audit. They wanted the county to “tax the 1%” to fund Metro without raising fares. This was after other speakers directly said that the county can’t do that; that the state has given it no alternative except Plan B or cutting. Then further people just said, “This tax is regressive. Get the state to give us a fairer alternative.” I sat there incredulous. All the councilmembers already agree this tax is regressive, Metro should have a better funding source, and they’re already doing the best they can to convince the state to give them a better option. But they can’t force Eastern Washington senators to change their minds. It’s like some of these activists’ ears are closed.

        And they also can’t seem to comprehend that if Plan B fails, there won’t be a better tax replacing it, it’ll just be cuts and cuts. So they’re de facto saying that bus service is less important than taxing only the 1%. Thank you for not supporting bus service, not.

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