We’ve heard some odd, and often contradictory, arguments from the No on Proposition 1 campaign. One real head-scratcher is that Metro should have acted more like Pierce Transit and Snohomish Community Transit.

Let’s check in on Community Transit. Here is CT’s 2014-2018 Transit Development Plan. As Martin reported, CT made 160,000 hours of service cuts (37% of service) from 2008 to 2013. The service restoration plan based on sales tax revenue going up only brings back 45% of that service between now and 2019.


The plummeting of annual boardings from 12 million in 2008 to 9,096,544 in 2013 is shown on page 59:

ct ridership

Now, let’s look at what happened to Pierce Transit. Sightline Daily put together this chart showing that PT ridership dropped by 30% as service was cut back by 43% from 2008 to 2013.

Pierce Transit Ridership Drop 2008-2013, from Sightline Daily
Pierce Transit Ridership Drop 2008-2013, from Sightline Daily

Just to get a sense of scale, CT’s total system boardings in 2013 ended up lower than Central Link’s total 2013 boardings (9,681,432). Link will pass PT’s total annual boardings in 2014 if the current ridership trends continue.

Try as the No on Prop. 1 campaign might, there is no putting lipstick on the situation in Pierce Transit and Community Transit. Their ridership has tanked.

Meanwhile, Metro’s ridership has grown to 118.5 million boardings per year, nearly equal to its 2008 record from right before the recession hit. If Metro were to follow PT’s and CT’s pattern, a 17% cut to Metro service would likely lead to a ridership drop roughly equivalent to the total ridership of Community Transit and Pierce Transit combined.

45 Replies to “Why Would We Want Metro to Emulate Pierce and Community Transit?”

  1. We on the “Transit Caucus” may not cheer emulating Pierce Transit & Community Transit, but the primal screams will make the sadistic anti-transit folks cheer. It’ll also sadden some constructive critics of Metro who shall remain nameless.

    As far as I’m concerned, I’m so sick of the belly-aching and hand-wringing of pro-transit advocates on this blog’s comments. Especially when some of you wanted to end a “hostage situation”; that group got 100% of what they wanted. Either vote yes or vote to gut Metro, it is that simple. There.

    1. I’m probably one of the belly-achers you’re sick of–sorry about that. I’ve actually voted yes and mailed my ballot in a couple days ago. I always intended to vote yes, but I also am wondering if it would do any good if I volunteered to call people. Even though I know it’s a good thing, I’m not very good on phones and don’t think on my feet very well, and I’m not as good at remembering figures as some of you are. If so many people have so many “creative” reasons why they think it’s bad, it would be hard to try to change their minds. It’s really depressing to read some of the comments everywhere, even a few on here (I can see why you’d be sick of hearing them.)

      Although the goal for calling people is probably to reach out people who wouldn’t otherwise vote, or who are on the fence.

      1. I share your depression. I wish I had time to cold-call voters, but have a family emergency at the moment.

        Norah, you are far from the only one. At least you voted and you voted YES. At least you cannot be blamed if we see in a few months crammed commuters fighting over scraps because Metro is so mismanaged by the County Council and voters alike.

  2. Maybe the conservative right-leaning republicans should read their gospel the Wall Street Journal today (in reference to Seattle housing development):

    “The Company [Spectrum] is betting that Seattle’s young professionals will sacrifice space and cars to live closer to their jobs and public transit. The trend has been slower to catch on in Seattle than in other U.S. cities, largely because its public-transit system has been lacking.”

    When the WSJ says your public-transit is lacking, as opposed to slashed an burned to the ground, you have some major issues.

    1. Great, then vote Yes on Prop 1, so that Metro can invest in the routes that are bursting at the seems and increase capacity on those routes, reducing the cost-per-passenger for the whole of Metro. I’m also glad to hear of your support for lower-cost-per-passenger high-capaicty transit, like Central Link.

      1. Good point. If “Sam” really wants to see lower cost per platform hour, he should vote “yes” on Prop 1.

    2. Will voting yes lower costs or raise them? The Union voted down the last contract offer. If Prop 1 passes, and Dow Constantine then has $1.6 Billion in his wallet the next time he’s at the negotiation table, what leverage will he have? Also, I believe Metro needs to do some more reforming. Won’t giving them a billion dollars discourage them from much needed belt-tightening?

      1. Sam, could you stick to one metric per thread? I know you don’t have ADD.

        Obviously, maintaining current service levels will cost more than cutting 10-17% of service, especially once inflation and rising health care costs get thrown into the calculation.

        Now, about that cost-per-rider, or the cost-per-platform-hour… Do you want it to improve, or not?

      2. One bit of bargaining leverage the county will lose is that a bunch of part-time operators will be laid off, giving the full-timers even more power to make the contract negotiations all about what is best for the senior full-timers. That will be bad for those at the bottom of Metro’s pay scale, riders, and members of other bargaining units within 587, who are stuck having to pay a regressive flat dues structure that is not based on how many hours they work or how much they get paid. Sam, I share your annoyance at ATU 587. I suspect I know a lot more about that union than you do. I also know a few ways that can force its reform. But laying off the part-timers will not help.

      3. There’s still time for Sam to take Brent up on that interview, and now with another topic to talk about.

      4. The reason ST can ignore neighborhood service is that Metro, CT, PT, and ET are doing it.

      5. Brent, it’s even worse than that. The senior full-timers not only torpedo part-timers’ interests, but they do a very poor job of even looking out for their own. They are stuck in a mentality that sees any change as suspicious and to be feared, and any explanation of why a change is good as not to be believed. Senior full-timers would benefit from a loosening of part-time work rules, which would be a major boost to Metro efficiency, because they along with everyone else would get more flexible schedule options. But if it doesn’t punish part-timers it must be bad.

        That said, at least 587 isn’t corrupt. It could be worse.

      6. The last contract was torpedoed from both PT and FT with lots of FUD. It wasn’t even close. It’s a head scratcher as the efficiency gains were real for Metro while the “pain” was relatively modest – a new classification that basically allowed Metro to break the 8 hour guarantee for 200 new FT divers that would be scheduled from 5-8 hours. Ironically, I think many Senior FT drivers were game to try it out (mind you, this was just a trial). Several I spoke with liked the idea of being able to pick easier work to “take a break” for a shakeup or two.

        Regardless, the membership as a whole decided to roll the dice with an Arbitrator. In this political climate, I think the majority is nuts to send such a strong “F*@K NO!” signal, but whatever – free country…

    3. Brent, let me answer your question with a question. If PT and CT are able to reduce their cost per platform hour without the benefit of sitting on a mountain of cash, why can’t Metro?

      1. Please link to where CT and PT have reduced their cost per platform hour. Be sure to include paratransit.

        As for Metro, are you talking about before or after inflation (which, btw is one reason)? It would help if critics of transit could stick to a story, like, either wanting service distributed equally throughout the county, or wanting a more efficient system. Supporting progressive taxes rather than blocking them would also help. (Of course, the end result of Prop 1 is progressive, once you take into account bringing the low-income fare program to fruition and the car-rab rebate for low-income riders.)

        Meanwhile, is it more efficient to have a network of fixed routes that are also well-suited to transportating the vast majority of people with disabilities in King County, or is it more efficient to push thousands of people into the paratransit system. Have you seen the cost-per-rider and cost-per-platform-hour for Access?

        BTW, the reality that there is little that can be done to reduce paratransit availability (since it is a federal legal requirement, and Fell v. Spokane Transit makes it extremely difficult to cut service area once offered), means that the paratransit budget will end up growing more (than it was going to) while fixed-route service gets savaged. What do you think that will do to Metro’s overall cost-per-rider and cost-per-platform-hour?

      2. First off, this is a comment section, not a doctoral thesis, so I don’t do footnotes, but one of the reasons ST shifted 55,000 hours from Metro to PT is to save $34/hour.

      3. You make claims. I ask for documentation. The comments section has always been this way. I’ve always established high expecations for your journalism, especially given that you’ve read the New York Times from cover to cover every day since you turned five.

      4. I’ll make this easy for you, Sam, because you can do this with your own car. Or if you can’t drive or aren’t allowed to, you don’t even need to get off your computer.

        Either way, what you need to do is put a dime in your bank account for every hour you put in- maybe ten. Whatever platform you’re using, you’ll have between eighty cents and a dollar- though certain critics will still say you’re overpaid.

        The next month, get up at three in the morning, especially if the weather reports either snow, freezing rain, or alternatively a hundred degree heat. Since you’re not allowed on base- though certain legislators could pull strings so you get in- get on the first possible bus,

        Be sure it’s, like, the Route 7, or the 124- though at pm rush hour, shift over to the 550. In if you start to enjoy any route, immediately ask a driver which route he wouldn’t pick if Metro killed him- which contract now forbids, so you’re safe too.

        Between legislator and the union, special arrangements could enable you to help load and unload wheelchairs, and clean up if somebody vomits, like if they read your STB contributions on smart phones.

        Again, pay yourself above wages. But if you’ve got a family or anything else normal Earth humans do, ask them which days they need you around the most. Then choke down breakfast an take off like a blazing bat with a pitchfork on exactly those days.

        I if the cost to taxpayers isn’t even less per platform hour than Snohomish, Pierce, or Yoknapatawpha County- which despite its wretchedness and being non-existent still produced William Faulkner-I’ll go do your same assignent for free.

        Oh, I forgot best part of your platform hours project: after a month, appear before an audience including the editor of The Times, the head of the No campaign, and some othe people currently on your side, and demand the wages you think you’ve earned.

        Nothing to lose if you bring some bargaining power, like a Remington twelve gauge pump. Or a 1778 Continental musket, powder horn, and “ball”, like they called it then.

        Still guarantee audience will loudly answer with Nathan Hale’s ringing declaration, substituting “money” for what Nathan offered. But none of the police, especially Transit, will shoot you. They’re all in a union.


      5. Stephan, I’m with you. If Norman, who wasn’t a troll, was banned and blocked, I’m not sure why I haven’t been. I’ve been banned before elsewhere, and I’m cool with it and honor their decision. If I were you I would email STB and request I be banned.

      6. Sam, one thing I want to say that comparing the costs of running a transit agency in one region to another is more difficult then most people would think just looking at them side by side. Yes, if you look at the raw numbers, Metro pays towards the top of all transit agencies… Then when you factor in the fact that it is very expensive to live in the Seattle area, as opposed to our northern or southern neighbors. When you look at the national data adjusted for cost of living (housing, fuel, food), you will realize that Metro comes in about 17th place for wages.

        Also, there are side affects that many people do not realize for paying drivers less… Drivers are more likely to get second jobs, which means they have less energy to concentrate on driving a very big, very expensive piece of equipment, holding lives in their hand every day. Accidents will go up… I wish I could sugar coat that, but there is a relationship between accidents and wages. Higher wages allow for an organization to be more selective of who they hire. Higher wages allow an organization to retain quality employees.

      7. ” It would help if critics of transit could stick to a story”

        In Sam’s case it would cramp his style. He’d be a less efficient troll.

        “Sam isn’t constructive. Ever.”

        90% troll, 10% constructive.

    4. Want a really efficient system. All you have to do is:

      1) Run trains.*
      2) Run big buses on popular routes that are fast.
      3) Cut out everything else. This means that you simply don’t serve a lot of neighborhoods. There are just too few people in those neighborhoods, or the traffic is too much of a problem.
      4) Reduce frequency.

      Sound familiar? That is essentially Sound Transit.

      But what if Metro did the same thing? For example, Metro serves several north end neighborhoods via the 7X buses. Get rid of them, and replace them with buses that go from the U-District to downtown. Run those buses half as often. Watch efficiency soar. Watch overall ridership plummet. Watch as thousands of people are stuck without service.

      The reason Sound Transit is more efficient is because of their trains, and because they only serve a handful of routes with very big buses. They are essentially poaching the most efficient routes. Imagine if you created a different agency called “The 41”. It is the agency responsible for the Metro route 41. Somehow it is way more efficient than the rest of Metro. Magic.

      A good system is always going to have efficient runs, and inefficient ones. There are a lot of ideas (many of them described on this blog) for improving efficiency, while delivering good service. But to suggest that LInk is doing a better job simply because they are “more efficient” is missing the big picture. Without Metro, Link would provide very little. They compliment each other (just as the 41 compliments less efficient routes). As already mentioned, if you want better efficiency, then vote Yes, because we will be able to add more of these efficient routes.

      * Oh, and this ignores the capital costs. I think the light rail is a good value (although we are just now building the most important piece) but we can’t ignore the capital costs. If you had given Metro that money, they wouldn’t be in crisis mode.

      1. The reason ST can ignore neighborhood service is that Metro, CT, PT, and ET are doing it.

  3. I hadn’t realized that Central Link was carrying more passengers than all of Community Transit, and that it will probably carry more passengers than all of Pierce Transit in 2014. And all this is before both Husky Link and Angle Lake come on line and flood Link with additional riders.

    It really tells you where we should be investing our money if we care about “efficiency”.

    1. Just to be clear, I am not trying to say there shouldn’t be investment in restoring service in CT or PT, or, for that matter, in lifeline intercounty connection routes. I think their restoring service will improve most of their metrics, except for (obviously) total cost.

    2. Husky Link will flood the system with passengers… Angle Lake will probably only fit as many as can park in that new park and ride lot that is being built next to it.

      Unless of course we have a major construction boom around Angle Lake between now and 2016… but I don’t see any cranes yet. It would be nice if Seatac (the city, not the airport) would find a way to take advantage of this new station going in.

      Capitol Hill is another story of course…

      1. There will be TOD at Angle Lake station…

        I wonder how many riders that get on at Angle Lake will get off at SeaTac station to save on airport parking. At least that would leave some room on the train for riders further up the line.

      2. I agree with Mr. Bailo that a frequent shuttle between Kent Station and Angle Lake Station would do a lot for boardings at Angle Lake Station (and probably much more than the parking garage). Now, we just need him to understand that that shuttle doesn’t grow on trees.

      3. @aw TOD is fine, but I hope its more than just a little. Seatac has way more parking lots than it needs.

      4. @Brent I like that idea, but I wonder if Angle Lake station is being designed for transit connections? It is right along 99, so a few well placed bus stops will help, but its not going to have the transit access that Northgate Station will.

        Hopefully towns along the south end can rearrange service a bit to make good use of this station while they wait for other ones to be built closer to them.

      5. Don’t forget about people transferring from RR A. Angle Lake is slightly closer to Des Moines and Federal Way than SeaTac is, so it’ll probably pick up a few more people.

    3. aw, if nothing has changed around Rainier Beach Station in the last four years, why are you so confident that the run-down S 200th area will sprout TOD?

    4. It really tells you where we should be investing our money if we care about “efficiency”.

      If you want to be told where to invest your money to improve efficiency, take a look at the costs for MAX. Essentially, it is the same cost per passenger-mile as SoundTransit express buses, but stops in a lot more places.

      Believe me, I don’t like the slow trains either, but attracting riders out of expensive buses is what matters in terms of cost effectiveness. Since the SoundTransit express buses are relatively cheap, moving those passengers to Link doesn’t have as much an impact on cost as something that would attract riders from the more expensive routes.

      Don’t get me wrong: I understand why Link as built is what is best for the region. However, there needs to be some effort at a cheaper, intermediate level of transit that will do more to reduce local route costs. I don’t think slow moving streetcars in city streets are necessarily the best option for providing that.

    1. They have, and that’s the point: Community Transit is going to take another three years–so nine years in total–just to get back to the estimated number of riders they had back in 2008. King County doesn’t have that kind of road capacity and CT has fewer people to move around. Why take the drop if we don’t have to?

  4. I wonder how much of Metro’s increased operating costs can be attribute to the fact that traffic has gotten worse, so the same routes require more service-hours to operate.

    There have been a lot of road construction projects on major transit corridors the past few years and I’m sure Metro hasn’t been given a dime of extra money to compensate for the inevitable delays and additional fuel required to deal with the added congestion.

    1. You can think of that the same way you think of inflation. Assume you need about 1-2% more service hours to run the same schedule each year. That may be changing as VMTs remain flat, but there are still enough schedules that need fixing (and inadequate recoveries, thanks to the 2009 audit) that more hours are really needed to operate the current schedule well.

    2. They got a fair chunk of change to mitigate SR-520 construction. But the lion’s share I think went to building the still fucked up uni-directional S. Kirkland P&R now with TOD. Replacing surface parking with +30k per stall parking garage, yay. Now, if they’d actually moved it by selling the property and buying out the WSDOT parcel that’s actually adjacent to 520 to build a flyer stop that just might maybe be better utilized than the new elevators at Hunts Point or put the TOD at Houghton and created a flyer stop… But no. “We’ve always done it this way” should be Metro’s motto.

  5. It’s not puzzling. They want transit to be less popular, which will help them continue to shrink it. They’re anti-transit. There’s really not much more to say.

    1. They have clearly never thought about what it’s like to be a passenger on these systems, to look up a schedule and wait an hour until the bus leaves, or to travel to the other side of the county, or to miss events because there’s no way to get back on the bus. Just have four runs a day, that’s enough for everybody, right?

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