27 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Rural Transit in Washington”

  1. I see the $9 regional day pass is now available at ORCA vending machines. I don’t see any signage yet directing people to the option, listing which services are covered, or warning purchasers about which services require a co-pay. But congratulations at cutting through the most difficult part of the roll-out: the software upgrade and installation!

    1. Well, after thirty years of trying to get Metro to offer a day pass every day, should be glad something like this has finally happened. But still get mad all over again every time I go to Portland.

      Last week, as usual, walked out of the train station and half a block over to the Greyhound Station- which, incidentally, makes our new one an embarrassment worse than Greyhound itself- and bought a paper day pass from an easy-to-use machine.

      For a system with extensive light rail and fair amount of streetcar in addition to buses, in a city whose economy seems to be much lower for a longer period of time than Seattle’s, Tri-Met offers the publican unlimited, un-copayed all-day pass for five dollars.

      Seniors, or Honored Citizens, as Portland calls us with a straight face, price is two dollars- but I couldn’t claim any Honor, nor look myself in the face for the rest of my life, if I didn’t pay at least five.

      If I wouldn’t give Portland five dollars for a whole day of light rail and streetcars, I’d be as miserably, ridiculously, repulsively, and idiotically cheap as present progress on this matter makes Seattle and Sound Transit look.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Greyhound has actually made a couple of attempts to leave this station over the years as it is apparently costly to maintain. Not sure how the city convinced them to stay there so far.

        For the purpose of the open thread, I would point out that it is also served by Northwest Oregon POINT, which is somewhat like a regional bus connector like those four regional services in the video. Having the bus terminal and train station close together allows them to easily serve both with one bus.

        There are a few things about the TriMet day pass I would point out:

        1. The $5 rate is twice a two hour ticket. This seems to work OK for reducing the number of people paying cash throughout the day, compared to the years when the day ticket was $4 and cash fare was $2.35. Any round trip except very short ones is now just as good with a day ticket.

        2. $5 is easy to put in a bus farebox. This $9 thing in Seattle can never be a cash fare as the only way to make it more slow to pay with cash is to make it $8.99, like a grocery store would. At least Metro rounds to the nearest quarter. Until recently TriMet required neckles and dimes.

        3. It isn’t just a TriMet fare. It works on C-Tran local buses also. You can’t use it on their express routes in downtown Portland, but the locals out of the Delta Park MAX station or Parkrose accept them.

  2. White man on public bus full of black people orders a black person to the back of the bus because he wants her seat. I’m a bit confused. I think he’s being racist, but I also wonder if it’s an age or disabled issue. Is this a case of an elderly man wanting a disabled seat a young person is sitting in?

    1. White guy with Old Navy bag and no trouble standing pushes black lady in heated argument, then complains someone pushed him back. Assault: Check.

      He says we need Donald Sterling. Speech intended to solicit a riot: Check.

      Sadly, the video may have trouble getting admitted in court since the first several seconds were blacked out, and we couldn’t see what was going on. The transcription certainly is not admissible. It has to be clearly audible.

    2. I’m not going to look at the link, because I’ve got a feeling that Intelligence Director James Clapper, Attorney General Eric Holder, Edward Snowden, his girlfriend Anna Chapman the cute Russian spy, and Vladimir Putin are laughing at everybody who does look at it.

      So I’ll only be outraged if the white man has a police chief’s badge and “Bull” for a first name. Or is the bus driver. Personally, considering the country my generation is handing over at the end of our lives compared to the one we were given, I wouldn’t have the gall to order anybody younger out of a seat so I could have it.

      Also seem better able to tolerate a standing ride on an express bus than average younger person who’s worked or been in school the whole day- though having to stand on a local bus would justify riots worse that WTC for dedicated bus lanes. Best case for street rail is that ride for standees is order of magnitude better than on buses.

      I’m thankful for the wildlife-protection laws that prevent me from justifiably being fed to the wolves by anybody a lifetime in debt for a degree that might not even get them work. But fact is that dozens of times, when I offer to give my seat either to somebody older, and definitely somebody younger- answer is for somebody young with a seat to offer me theirs.

      Next time it happens, I’ll send that to YouTube.


  3. Seems to me that Kemper Freeman, except the part about him being anti-light rail, is the epitome of what STB is all about. Walks to work? Check. Pro-density? Check. Multi-family high-rise builder? Check. Pays a big property tax bill that supports transit? Check. Pro TOD? Check. And he’s about to build more. $1.2 billion worth of hotels, office, and apartments next to Bellevue Square.

    Would anyone else here, besides myself, like to see this blog give Mr. Freeman some kind of award (STB’s Man of the Year?) for exemplifying its values?

    1. Kemper embodies a lot of the sensible urbanist values in his personal life, but is 100% opposed to them in his political life.

      He walks to work (through a system of tunnels and overpasses, never once setting foot on a public sidewalk), but lobbies against walkable neighborhoods.

      He buys and develops dense property (bell square excepted), but does it in a car-oriented fashion and lobbies against density.

      The dichotomy and hypocrisy of Kemper Freeman is quite amusing.

      1. My theory is that Kemper is like the hero of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Mother Night”, who is in jail for being a World War Two Nazi collaborator because he made propaganda broadcasts for Hitler.

        But because of a promise he made to Franklin Roosevelt when he received his orders, he won’t reveal that he was really US intelligence officer using his broadcasts as code for feeding information to the Allies.

        So maybe Kemper’s anti-transit rhetoric- like much anti-transit rhetoric,which always uses a lot of the same words over and over again-is actually code to help Sound Transit form strategy.

        Would explain the paradox.


    2. A few minutes walking in downtown Bellevue would disabuse you of the notion that Kemper likes urbanity. The convenience of walking to work? Sure. Actual urban neighborhoods? Not a chance. He wants a system of tunnels and skybridges comparable to an ant farm.

      1. Aside from his properties being auto-oriented, I would think people would be more supportive of his developments. He’s building up not out. It’s compact. Close to transit. It’s SLU, but with a mall.

      1. From a 2011 Stranger interview …

        ” ….. why don’t you want a train that drops a whole bunch of people in front of your stores every eight minutes?

        I would love it, if— This is the key point, and I can explain this in black and white: Today Bellevue attracts 350,000 trips, in and out of Bellevue, per day. In 20 years we expect it to be 695,000. So we have a problem of finding a way of getting 695,000 people in and out of here in a day, but the current trips is half that. So our trips are expected to double. And that’s not my number, that’s Puget Sound Regional Council, City of Bellevue, Sound Transit… So, can we stop for a second? Sound Transit has never made good on original estimates of ridership, not even close, not even once. So they’ve never accomplished what they’ve sold us, when they’re selling.

        Okay, so [they estimate] 51,000 riders [on East Link each weekday by 2030], but specifically related to Bellevue: 9,000 get on or off in Bellevue. So that’s 4,500 people—like, if you commuted in and commuted out.

        Okay, so, if you read the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] you’ll also see that of that—of the 9,000 that get on and off—according to the EIS, 7,000 of them are already on the bus. Already using transit. And they just assume that the four bus routes are now going to be canceled—the four best, most used, most efficient, most popular, are being canceled—and the assumption is the full number goes over to rail.

        It may or may not, but it’s irrelevant.

        So what’s left is 2,000 new trips 20 years from now, out of 695,000 trips a day. This is a rounding error. It’s two thirds of one percent of the new trips, is their best guess… I mean, I have gone through interviews as long as this, I have never had anyone use these numbers in the story. Never happens.”

      2. From a 2010 Seattle Times interview …

        “Freeman thinks light rail is a waste of taxpayer money, and there are cheaper, faster ways to solve our transportation problems. He wants to expand the area’s freeways, but also says he supports bus-rapid-transit, free bus service and increased use of van pools.

        He is an outspoken critic of Sound Transit, believing it represents the worst kind of big spending, unaccountable government agency. “They just plain plow on, irrespective of anyone or anything,” he says. With characteristic hyperbole, he adds: “It’s in the culture of the place. I won’t call ’em crooks, but if it goes on long enough, it’s the makings of something worse than Chicago.”

        A conservative Republican, Freeman is suspicious of big government projects. But he’s not the only one; some Democrats have questioned the wisdom of rail as well.

        “Kemper has had important insights about transportation,” says Doug MacDonald, the former secretary of the state Department of Transportation, who thinks light rail makes sense along the heaviest-traveled sections of Interstate 5, but not as a way to solve traffic woes on the Eastside.

        But Freeman, MacDonald says, has “largely been debunked and ignored by people who have made a caricature of his positions for their own purposes.”

        Freeman is aware of this.

        “Here’s what they say: They say Kemper Freeman, the developer” — Freeman draws this word out — “from Bellevue” — and he draws that word out, too — “and all its bad overtones; everybody knows it’s something bad; he doesn’t want minorities coming to his nice, upscale shopping center, therefore he is not going to let transit come to Bellevue.”

      3. Call me a Cynic, but my guess is he fears losing customers to Seattle with the ready availability of clean, fast and perceived safe transit.

  4. 30 minute bus service in a rural city…that’s fantastic!

    This is why we need a Washington State Transit Agency (WASTA).

    WASTA would help these local agencies make large purchases, share repair costs and parts and template administrative structures for towns that do not yet have transit.

    But it would have a statewide initiative to develop intra-state and inter-city rail through the main corridors.

    Another area that needs help is broadband access. I’ve been looking at rural properties and I’m amazed at the low penetration of services like fiber optics from CenturyLink into some areas. I thought by now everyone would have at least two of the 4 different broadband systems available (fiber, cable, satellite, or lte) but that is not the case in the real world!

    1. This is why we need a Washington State Transit Agency (WASTA)

      We already do have an agency with the power and authority to do these things. It’s the Washington State Department of Transportation. Lynn Peterson could set it up at the drop of a hat, if the legislature would add a line item for it in the budget.

    2. This also strikes me as very un-WAGOP from you.

      1) The best possible practical outcome of the agency (given our statewide funding habits) would be a public replacement of Greyhound’s rural network, presumably with higher quality, and better integrated into local transit (or just parking lots). An interesting goal, but having the government come in and just take that industry over is pretty leftist, even for me.

      2) It goes heavily against the principle of local control, shouldn’t county governments decide what’s best for the transportation needs of their own small / emerging cities, instead of having the state take that right from them? And shouldn’t cities have the right, over the county authority, as well? That is, presumably, why they incorporated in the first place, to take control.

      1. I don’t know about WA-GOP, but I know about true Republicans.

        True Republicans are second-comers. We’re the people who feel we work just as hard as the entrenched powers and get less for our money and our time.

        You know who embodies the original Republican sentiment the most — the guy how said “the rent is too damned high”. And by rent we mean the costs of housing, the costs of taxes, the heavy fees and regulations that prevent us from getting the same wealth as others.

        That’s why Republicans should always favor the expansion of opportunity. Right now, it’s clear that we can’t get a square deal in the Seattle area. Even South King is getting gummed up. But we have a whole state that is ripe for opportunity. We don’t have the highways. We don’t have the rail. We don’t have the jobs. But we should.

      2. We don’t have the jobs.

        So, who has the jobs? And how does transit funding fundamentally change that? Saw your posts on Lightreading, they are just as vague. What is it you want that you don’t want to pay for?

      3. Please don’t stalk people.

        It’s very weird.

        And they will get you some day.

    3. Centurylink is pushing 40mbps down their plain old DSL in developed areas, now. VDSL2 sped things up quite a bit. I would include that in your list, and cross off satellite for the latency issues.

      Don’t put too much faith in LTE, either. The providers are mostly using it to get more capacity on towers that are already congested, and in many cases are upgrading towers to LTE that don’t have fast enough network connections to support it. You have situations where one LTE user can max out the connection for the entire tower. There were similar problems back during the 3G rollout.

      I have a friend on Dexter who gets fiber to the premises, and has a gigabit connection for $80/mo. Fiber to the building, ethernet to the units. There is a lot of very heavy telecom infrastructure in the downtown core. But if you get too far away from one of those big nodes – Tukwila’s probably the closest one to Kent – you’re not going to have awesome speeds.

      1. I had DSL on twisted pair here in Kent, from two different providers…Speakeasy and Earthlink and the old US West. Both were terrible and I cancelled each in turn.

        The reason is that DSL has a maximum distance from the phone company’s CO of 14,000 feet. Anything beyond that and you’ll get lots of noise, poor service, lower than advertised speeds which was my case.

        So, I am finding it difficult to believe that they can offer such fast DSL in rural communities where I would expect the CO to much further distant from each house. Unless they have optical running along the highways and they are running from that to the homes for the last few hundred feet as DSL.

    4. [i]This is why we need a Washington State Transit Agency (WASTA).

      WASTA would help these local agencies make large purchases, share repair costs and parts and template administrative structures for towns that do not yet have transit.[/i]British Columbia has two transit company owned by the government.

      TransLink only in Metro Vancouver and gets no funding.

      BC Transit everwhere else in BC excluding Metro Vancouver. Which owns the buses and lease them to the transit system. It does work good but the municipalities have little reason. So I would recommend do it but give municipalities a lot of say in their community.

      If Washingston ever decides to do that. I would also allow Sound Transit to take over the King Co. Metro, Community Transit and Pierce Transit.

  5. Speaking of rural transit, I moved from Seattle to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and was surprised to find a modern, well-used transit system in a town of less than 30,000 people (but 3 million annual visitors.) Ridership of START Bus has tripled since 2000 to 800,000 per year. A $25 million, LEED-certified operations and maintenance facility is under construction for a fleet of 40 new Gillig low-floor buses. (http://www.rnldesign.com/en/markets/transportation/bus-facilities/start-bus-operations-facility/) It will be one of the largest buildings in the entire region!

    There is a free town circulator with Gillig Hybrids that runs every 30 minutes, 18 hours per day. In the winter, 97 round-trips run daily to the ski resort, leaving every 10-30 minutes from 5 am to midnight. There are also commuter routes that go into neighboring Idaho and 50 miles south. The system is owned by the Town of Jackson and is funded through a lodging tax and 1% local excise tax (START also got $8 million from TIGER V last year.) If anyone is looking for a ski vacation where you can get everywhere with public transit, this is a great place with nonstop flights from Seattle.

  6. I’ve ridden or considered riding a few rural transit routes in the state of Washington. It’s a great service. My biggest criticism, however, is that agencies have a tendency to plan in silos and failure to consider schedules of connecting agencies when planning their own schedules. For example, Jefferson Transit has just 1-2 trips per day that offer reasonable connections with Kitsap Transit. Island Transit does coordinate buses with the Mukilteo ferry, but they fail to publicize this in their schedules, so a visitor from Seattle is lead to believe they need to leave half an hour earlier to avoid missing their bus. King County Metro route 118, on Vashon Island, has no schedule coordination whatsoever with the West Seattle ferry. Kitsap Transit coordinates bus schedules with ferries during the peak, but doesn’t bother during the off-peak (60-minute bus headways and 50-minute ferry headways don’t mesh very well). Connections between Amtrak trains and thruway routes almost always involve multi-hour waits (assuming the train is on-time). And the example that takes the cake is Saturday morning, when buses leave Mt. Vernon for Anacortes and Oak Harbor just 5 minutes before the morning Amtrak train from Seattle is scheduled to arrive. (On both routes, the next bus is not for another 2 hours).

    Obviously, rural transit routes are never going to be frequent, but if the service is to be usable, it is critical to coordinate schedules to avoid unreasonably long wait times when making connection.

Comments are closed.