Metro and ST Buses
Metro Route 257 passes ST Express Route 510. Photo by Kris Leisten.

Yesterday, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an executive order which is intended to improve cooperation between Metro and Sound Transit in a number of ways.  In his capacity as chair of Sound Transit’s Board of Directors, Constantine will bring a motion before the Sound Transit Board intended to accomplish the same goal.  In a briefing yesterday, Constantine spoke with several reporters, including both Adam Bejan Parast and me from STB, in a bit more depth about what he hopes to accomplish with the executive order and its companion motion.  In a nutshell, he sees his two-year chairmanship of the ST Board as an opportunity to get Metro and Sound Transit cooperating more closely, in order (he hopes) to improve the effectiveness of regional transit spending and the transit customer experience.  Constantine described the effort as focused on improving the process of cooperation, and refused for the most part to go into specifics about what actual service or aspects of the customer experience might be improved as a result.

The effort has several key components; three are worthy of particular note.

First, staff of both agencies will cooperate more closely in service planning for both bus and rail, particularly in an effort to maximize the value of investments in new rail and BRT corridors, reduce duplication, and free up other bus resources to serve corridors and areas not well served by rail and BRT.  In this area, Constantine (along with Metro planning manager Victor Obeso and ST government relations staffer Rachel Smith, who both took part in the discussion) did name three places of particular interest for cooperative planning: 1) restructures around the upcoming UW Link opening in 2016; 2) Northgate Link, in 2021; and 3) a possible Mercer Island collection/transfer point for East Link, in 2023.  Constantine singled out “how to use buses more effectively to get customers to trains” as an area of particular importance.  He freely admitted that planning and execution of bus/train transfers along Central Link had been “bumpy,” and wants the agencies to do better with upcoming corridor openings.

Second, staff will look for other opportunities for closer coordination throughout their agencies.  This was described very generally in both the executive order itself and the briefing.  The executive order mentions “coordinated operations, maintenance, administration, transparency, and accountability measures.”  It’s not clear what cooperation would be possible in operations or maintenance, areas where ST contracts all its work.  In terms of administration and governance, Constantine emphasized the need to find a balance between cooperative effort and continued local control.  He does not want to see a regional super-agency, and feels that each agency’s accountability to its local electorate and attention to local detail is important to providing good transit service.  For instance, he does not want to change Metro’s service allocation guidelines.  But he would like to see the agencies develop a cohesive regional vision, and “act as one” whenever possible.

Third, staff will look for ways to improve access to rider information tools such as schedules and trip planners.  Constantine bemoaned the need to visit multiple agencies’ websites to find information about many trips (which will worsen in the future as more rail corridors open).  He didn’t know exactly what tools might be developed, but wants staff of both agencies to study how to provide unified rider information.

During the media briefing, Constantine also spoke at some length about his view of transit policy in general.  He sees increased investment in transit as the best strategy for increasing regional transportation capacity, seeing limited potential in expansion of the road network.  He would like to see Metro service at a level 500,000 annual hours higher than today’s, even after the opening of ST’s rail corridors.  His two key goals for transit are 1) to maximize the value obtained for each dollar of transit funding, and 2) to “optimize” the experience for transit customers.  Unsurprisingly given the views he expressed in his letter to the King County Council rejecting its cuts-postponing ordinance, he is a proponent of service planning based on objective, measurable criteria, and is interested in developing new ways of evaluating transit performance and the value obtained from transit funding.

73 Replies to “Dow Constantine Seeks to Improve Metro/ST Cooperation”

  1. This is a pretty obvious move. With Metro facing substantial funding shortfalls, and with ST largely unaffected, Metro can shore up at least some of its potential service shortfall by shifting some load to ST and spending their limited dollars elsewhere.
    This has two effects:

    1) Link ridership will go up: There simply is no reason for Metro to run parallel or competing bus service during a time of tight budgets. Those riders will be moved to Link to save Metro dollars.

    2) The DSTT will be move to rail-only sooner than currently planned: With increasing Link ridership, and U-Link coming on-line, there simply isn’t any reason to spend limited Metro dollars on something like joint ops. KC Metro would be better served financially to wash their hands of the DSTT and move on.

    This would help Metro all-around, but they need to swallow their pride and being willing to let ST take on a larger, and more economically efficient, role in county transportation.

    1. 1. First time in memory my day starts with a headline I can stand to read. Finally a public figure west of Snoqualmie Pass is starting to personify leadership instead of complaining about the lack of it.

      2. Best thing about this news is that after almost a quarter century, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel has a chance of being changed from something to wash our hands of to something to get our hands on and, for a change, actually operate.

      3. As events under the Waterfront show, ’til somebody clones a really big live mole, underground every turn of the cutter could either hit a buried river of a rock the size of a house. Or a small pipe. A rock under the zoo cost Portland MAX an extra year.

      And putting tracks in a very long floating rail bridge has a lot of unknowns- like will we have to add extra pontoons across Lacey Murrow before Bellevue loses the 550?

      So best we leave the soap and towels under the sink and as is standard with any hard, dirty, necessary job, save wash-time ’til we’re done with the work.


    2. It’s an obvious yet huge move… Dow deserves credit for continually pushing good transit policy forward, often outside of the headlines.

      1. In reading the statement, I believe it does correctly identify the issues and problems, as might be seen by the voters, and also proposes the right solutions.

        However, based on past experience over the last two decades, I need to be convinced by action that this is the direction.

        Why wouldn’t we need a Regional Super Agency? Sounder has already pushed beyond Tacoma to Lakewood. And burgeoning areas like Tri-Cities are poised for development. Are they making the same mistakes as Seattle did by planning after, rather than before, the congestion occurs?

        I have suggested a Super Duper Agency at the state level. At the regional level of the Puget Sound and its suburbs, clearly the public has demanded, and was willing to pay for fast, available, regional transport in exchange for being stuck in traffic. We still have the traffic and we only have a sliver of the regional transit we need.

        We see a lot of redundant — albeit good effort. We have 3 different rail technologies, somewhat overlapping with no clear technical reasons for why each is chosen. We have three express bus types run by two different agencies sometimes covering the same ground. We have three styles of light rail building (tunnel, elevated, street level) and again, when is each done and why is the cost per mile so much higher than average?

      2. “Why wouldn’t we need a Regional Super Agency?”

        It doesn’t much matter what Dow thinks about that; he can’t unilaterally create one if he wanted to. It would require legislation on the level that created Sound Transit. I’m not sure the individual agencies are as helpful as Dow thinks, but there are many more higher-priority issues than consolidating the agencies right now.

        “We have three styles of light rail building (tunnel, elevated, street level) and again, when is each done and why is the cost per mile so much higher than average?”

        It’s based on topography, affordability, and neighborhood preference. Some places are hilly and have narrow roads; other places are flat and have wide roads. It’s more expensive than other American lines because we’re tunneling more. Most American lines are surface-based so they’re slower and less useful. It’s more expensive than foreign lines because, oh, the EIS, regulations, obstructionist NIMBYs, obstructionist politicians, American finance and investors, the lack of a state infrastructure bank, etc.

        I shudder to think what a Washington State Transit Authority would be like in the current climate. Shrink all bus routes down to hourly, delete all ST Express routes, halt all rail projects, no evening or Sunday service, and add more highway lanes.

      3. Constantine argued that a regional super-agency would undermine local control over small-scale, low-level local decisions. In an ideal world I think that view is too pessimistic, but around here (mostly because the state legislature is such an extremely dysfunctional institution with regard to transportation) I don’t think we’d get a governance structure responsive to local concerns at all. So as long as we have our current state legislature I don’t support a super-agency either.

        The other problem with a super-agency, of course, is that it saddles transit-friendly areas with an electorate that is majority exurban and rural, and will tend to be hostile to investment in transit. This too is a solvable problem with the right governance structure, but not one that would actually be solved in the current legislative environment.

      4. Constantine argued that a regional super-agency would undermine local control over small-scale

        It seems like just the opposite would be true. Freed of having to both handle inter-city routes and intra-city routes, the super-agency (which for now is already Sound Transit) and the local agency would focus only on local and circulators that interface with the express stations.

        What would be required is for say, reduce Metro into the Seattle Transit Agency and cede its long distance routes to SoundTransit, and for the other municipalities of King County (Auburn, Bellevue, Renton, ..) to form their own agencies to raise money for circulators and design routes connecting to SoundTransit’s stations.

        Alternatively, rather than have city managed agencies, maybe simply Super Agency would be better, where each city has a representative on a board for representing local routes and a Transit Council that sets all the regional routes.

      5. All that is great, but as long as we have a legislature where one house is controlled by Republicans and most of the Democratic power players have records on transit ranging from indifferent to actively hostile, it’s academic. Any super-agency this legislature would create would be structured, first and foremost, to avoid any possibility of urban areas seeing transit improvement.

      6. “the super-agency (which for now is already Sound Transit) and the local agency”

        I misunderstood what you said. I thought you wanted to absorb all local routes into the single agency. If you’re just talking about expanding Sound Transit’s boundaries further into the I-5 corridor, that’s a lesser issue. Thurston County could possibly join ST in the future, in tandem with ST taking over the Olympia expresses and possibly a Sounder extension. But Bellingham is on the far side of the Skagit Valley, which is rural. ST is an “urban” transit agency, and excludes rural parts of King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. It’s not clear whether the same kind of agency is appropriate for rural counties, and in any case its involvement would be limited to I-5 and highway 20 routes and Sounder North. It would also add rural councilmembers and mayors to the ST board, which would potentially interfere with the work ST needs to do in Seattle and King County.

        Eastern Washington is a whole nother ball of wax. If a regional transit agency is needed there, perhaps it should be an Eastern Washington agency separate from ST.

      7. Really long term I’d hope for a Washington Intra-State rail group that would work with Amtrak and also build fast lines that could connect say Yakima to Spokane and Seattle with rail service.

        As far as regional, that would be increased use of long distance LINK and Sounder routes in each region.

        As Dow’s letter states,

        Constantine singled out “how to use buses more effectively to get customers to trains” as an area of particular importance.

        Yes, exactly right. And also maybe shared Uber services. And very long term…the Google car.

    3. Of course, by pushing passengers to transfer to Link/Sounder, Metro will be cutting farebox revenue from the transferring passengers due to the fare split. Under the Constantine administration, the attitude will be “Who cares? Both agencies serve the same taxpayers!”

      Transfers are no fun, but they mean someone else won’t lose their service completely.

      1. All a matter of perspective, Brent. One reason for continued majority attachment to automobile travel, in spite of the waste, natural damage, and ugly land use, is that sixty years ago cars made local boundaries irrelevant.

        A very large number of us haven’t ever lived local lives, let alone recently. This is no reason to tolerate sprawl. Individual and distinctive centers along a pervasive net of electric rail are another matter.

        The excellent street rail system in Gothenburg, in western Sweden, has a station in the basement of a mall where you could lose Southcenter in a broom closet. Which also has a bus hub. The line also serves many distinctive city neighborhoods and districts.

        Present fare apportionment arrangements are probably our worst and most preventable operating delays. KC Metro had to add something like four minutes to every DSTT schedule when Tunnel drivers started collecting fares down there- justified only by need to apportion revenue.

        And every delayed bus also stalls more than one LINK train- whose passengers have paid for their ride off-board and out of transit’s way.

        One of Dow’s first priorities needs to be an arrangement among agencies to share out fares out of both passenger’s sight, let alone blocking their ride. Calculate the cash price of one delayed minute, and my case is made.


      2. Well if we can send our 158 and 159 (err 164 and 168) passengers to kent station and let sound transit take them on their way we save money by not having to take them all the way and they save time by having a 20 minute trip to seattle during rush hour!!!

      3. So there’s an incentive right there.

        If you transfer from a bus to Sounder, you get the lower bus rate fare rate than if you drive and park. At that point, people might voluntarily jump on Sounder to get faster travel to downtown.

        Any argument against?

    4. Since ST contracts-out most of its work to Metro and other transit agencies, what does letting ST take on a larger role even mean?

      1. We’ll find out more in September when the agencies issue the report that will result from yesterday’s order.

    5. It’s not clear to me what, if anything, Metro will do differently, so celebrations about the Aleks plan (below) or buses evacuating the DSTT in 2016 are premature. I think Dow has a good grasp of transit issues and a good vision, as I wrote a few days ago. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he and Metro are more inclined to restructure the 101 and 150 than they were six months ago. Hopefully that will happen in the next few years. But high-level abstract statements don’t automatically mean it.

      1. I agree there is a lot of work and follow through necessary to make this happen, but if Dow can bring this policy change to fruition, it will now be the stated policy of both KCM and ST to coordination short- and long-term system planning. Up until now this has not been a major policy goal and has occurred on an ad hoc basis at best.

  2. I don’t know what’s gotten into Dow recently, but it’s awesome.

    I eagerly look forward to reading the integration report that Metro and ST have been ordered to publish in September. While the report will come too late to affect the first round of cuts, there’s enough time to make recommendations for the subsequent rounds — and to execute something like this. :)

    1. > I don’t know what’s gotten into Dow recently, but it’s awesome.

      Dow for governor!

      1. Hmmm… interesting. Dow actually does have the right profile for a governer run. I’m guessing that may be in his cards. Spoiler alert: I will vote for him.

      2. Depending on who the R is running against Dow (it better not be a friend of mine like Rob McKenna), I’d vote for Dow IF, IF he keeps getting pro-transit, fiscally responsible transit policy enacted. One reason why I’m leaning independent is we don’t see this kind of thinking of getting results from Republicans – just more screaming and scheming.

      3. Yeah, if Dow runs for re-election in his current job STB will give him a very enthusiastic endorsement, and they’ll probably endorse him for any other job as well.

  3. As an aside, I’m also curious to see whether the integration report has anything to say about Metro’s remaining long-distance services, most notably the 255 and 271. There are a lot of good reasons to transition these routes over to ST (at least the cross-lake portions), so I’m hopeful that this order will help to push Metro/ST in that direction.

    1. Money it all comes down to money right as st is getting serious about building east link.

  4. There’s an obvious lack of coordination between the local agencies and Sound Transit in many instances.

    Here’s a few:
    – CT 201/202 and ST 512 basically have similar stops in Snohomish County, south of Everett. There should be some coordination to have common stops and complementary schedules to strengthen the I-5 corridor bus routes. There’s probably a number of trips that could be cancelled and have the resources re-allocated to other bus lines as well.

    – ST 555/556 and MT 271. This is another no-brainer. Similar major stops, restructure and combine service, use savings to beef up local trips on the eastside.

    – ST 578 and MT 150. Reroute 578 to Kent and Southcenter, use funds from the 150 to improve frequency on the 578 and introduce a new local route that replaces 150 in S King County.

    – ST 577, 594 and MT 177 (and other FW expresses). Common stops between 577 and 177 will vastly improve frequency for riders in Federal Way. Cancel 577 during off-peak hours, invest in the 594 with an added stop at Federal Way.

    – ST 574 and 594. This one is a little more tricky. Perhaps these could be consolidated when light rail reaches Federal Way.

    – ST 540 and MT 255. Cancel service on the 540, have riders use the 255 to SR-520, and transfer there to improved 271/555 and 542 services.

    It seems that the best way to consolidate service would be to have the local transit agency pay to add trips to ST Express routes. This would clear up a lot of confusion and would go a long way in transforming ST Express into a regional “BRT” system.

    Granted, I have to appreciate ST Express. It’s basically the only comprehensive, all-day, frequent regional express bus system in the nation. The only cities that even compare are GO Transit in Toronto, and perhaps AC/GGT/SamTrans/VTA in the Bay Area.

    1. After the ct service change this fall both the 201/202 and st 512 will have 20 minute service or better most of the day. Coordinating times here would be pointless.

      Much has been said about replacing the 577 and 578 (which would be detoured to kent) with a 594 service at federal way. The big factor here would be cost of adding more buses to the 594 and the extra time the 594 is on the road. More buses because both buses are already considerably full.

    2. Honestly, I’m not as concerned about the loss of transfers on the 271 at Evergreen Point as some people here, because long-term I would expect an all-day 556 to replace it as the U-District-to-Bellevue route once East Link opens (when it can replace the 554). I wouldn’t say no to tying a bow on the 271 at one of the points and running an express all-520-to-405 route as it is; it’s kind of ridiculous that freaking Medina gets 15-minute service because the transit poohbahs have decided to run the all-day U-District-to-Bellevue route through there.

      1. I do not want the U-District route to run through the 405 traffic jam. I’m fine with shifting it to Bellevue Way once the 520 HOV lanes (re-)open, though.

  5. BRT-ing the I-5 South King Corridor could make the system so much more intelligible. I envision a peak network where the 577 comes every 3-5 minutes and up to half the trips originate in South Federal Way, a 590-series that stops at Star Lake and Kent-Des Moines (and off-peak at Federal Way), and a 578 that stops at Kent instead of Federal Way. Boom, no need for the, 177, 178, 190, 192, 193, the western halves of the 158 and 159, or the 150 north of Tukwila. Post U-Link, no need for the 197.

    It’s a weird world when Metro could save money by paying ST to pay PT to run more service, but we are where we are.

    1. +1 on BRT- just so everybody understands that “R” needs more than a streamlined bus with a brand name. Wheel covering doesn’t matter. R, bold and italic, means full-bore “Reserved”.

      No Motorcycles, no Carpools, no Single-occupancy cars paying Tolls. Police and Emergency- maybe. Barriers and Ramps, not Paint Stripes.

      Best to find abandoned rail right of way to pave, like the E-3 except without the grade crossings.

      But since this area doesn’t inherit very much where our service needs to go, we’ll have to elevate and tunnel a lot. We’ll also have to get public agreement never to drive again in lanes that used to carry their cars.

      Case to remember: in the half century since I-5 was finished, transit has never yet been able to complete the few miles of southbound HOV lanes between Northgate and Convention Place that would let PM service move, let alone be Rapid.

      DSTT plan- much different from its implementation- is good approach: much as possible, structure for rail, run with buses, then joint ops, and then full rail. Very expensive- but better than last forty years of continued bad bus service ’till rail gets built.

      So remember the words of Gary Larson’s caveman plumber, looking down a hole beside a forked stick with a roll of toilet paper on it: “Ooh! This not be cheap!!!!


  6. Goodbye, spacious route 560. Hello better ridership on the F Line, and more service hours available for more peak 550 and 577 runs.

    1. While I agree that the 560 is not very productive, I don’t see how you could cut it without creating major holes in the network. First, there will need to be replacement express service on I-405 between Renton and Bellevue: the 566 is not all day and the 240 takes nearly an hour, and neither stop at Kennydale and Newport Hills, which will have no all-day Metro service after the cuts. Also, the 560 provides a much faster travel time (even when wait time is considered) for Renton-SeaTac and Bellevue-SeaTac than the alternatives (550/Link or F/Link), at least during the middle of the day.

      For the western part of the route, I guess you could extend the 120 to the airport and cut the part of the 560/180 west of the airport. However, this wouldn’t free up any money and would increase average travel time.

      1. In a true grid system, you’d have an all-day, 7-day 566; RR F to take care of the east-west corridor; and the 120 along Ambaum. But that would admittedly make some trips worse, and to really make it work well you’d need all-day 15-minute frequency on the 566, which isn’t really warranted at the moment, as well as a serious streamlining of RR F routing in Tukwila.

      2. Actually, the 566 is all-day. It just happens to drop to 1-hour frequency in the middle of the day, creating the ridership death spiral. Some of the hours taken from the 560 could repair that mid-day hole.

        I’ve long wished to see the 120 reach the airport, given its blue-collar demographics and the more stable airport worker base that would be attracted by the 1-seat ride. In theory, this should be almost revenue neutral if the 180 terminates at the airport. I keep getting told there is no good layover space, but ST has space fenced off next to the Airport Station kiss-n-ride that could be utilized. There is also acres of hotel parking space in the area for which ST could cut a deal.

        Most destination pairings from the airport to points along 560-east are covered by the Link/F-Line combo with a much shorter wait, especially on weekends. Even if the wait+ride is a little longer, I think that’s what riders psychologically prefer. Plus, Link and the F-Line face a much lower risk of getting stuck in an I-405 traffic jam. I’m pretty sure Link+550 is already the preference of most Bellevue-airport riders.

        For those wanting to make a case for saving the 560, bring up some destination pairings for which the 560 is superior, and if you can find it, show some boarding data that that stop gets good usage.

        But also consider the opportunity cost: Where else are the 550 and 577 going to get hours to run more runs? You know their peak buses are packed, and ridership is only going to continue to grow, which ST ought to be accommodating for the future Link paths.

      3. “I’m pretty sure Link+550 is already the preference of most Bellevue-airport riders.”

        I doubt it. From South Bellevue Park & Ride, my options include the Driving (21 Minutes), 560 (42 minutes), or 550+Link (1 hour 3 minutes).

        Our rule of thumb is to wait for the 560 unless we just missed one, then 550+Link makes sense. I would not bother with a 566->F Line->Link combination, given the dual transfer penalty, the crappy F Line routing around Boeing/FAA/Providence campuses, and the slog through Southcenter. (Renton TC->SEA TAC alone is 47 minutes)

        East Link is supposed to have trip times of 50 minutes to the airport. Assuming they can pull that off by coordinating transfers, I’d take that slightly longer trip over the 560 any day. Lack of dedicated ROW and a limited ability to use HOV lanes due to the routing pretty much cripple that route long term.

  7. In vetoing Dembowski’s bill, Dow said he didn’t like it when politicians resorted to “empty managerial platitudes.” Maybe I don’t know what the word platitude means, but aren’t a lot of things he’s saying platitudes? I don’t see a whole lot of specifics.

      1. Brent, please forgive me. English is my sixth language. I honestly am unsure as to what the word platitude means. Is this an example of a platitude? “coordinated operations, maintenance, administration, transparency, and accountability measures.”

  8. Best way to address the trip planner problem:

    1) Get CT on googlemaps.

    2) Everyone just uses googlemaps, transit agencies focus on delivering transit services rather than web development.

    A related question: What the hell is going on that CT still isn’t on googlemaps?

    1. They have to fix Google Transit first. I’ve had it give me routes that require walking through buildings. Google may be allowed to do that, but the rest of us haven’t attained Superman status yet.

      It’s not commonly wrong, but it happens enough I have found it necessary to check both.

      1. Brian, likely not something you can address but what I really miss is the “dial up” One Bus Away info that I could get on my dumb phone. Sometimes, well… almost all of the time, simpler is better. But I guess FTTP is thought of by some to mean Fiber To The Phone.

      2. I’ve made a hobby out of using the “report a problem” feature. It takes a while but the problems seem to get resolved. (Ditto for reporting problems in One Bus Away, although that seems to go into a black hole lately)

      3. It took me a long time to find the “Report a Problem” on the new version of Google Maps that works with Windows 7. I’m not too fond of the new interface, but I use it when I have to. I still use the old interface at home on my Mac.

    2. Thank you, I hate that CT doesn’t do Google Maps. I had to figure out how to use CT for an aviation photography (and now nascent business) trip next Friday and only a tip from a friend told me there was bus service near my destinations.

  9. Mr. Constantine says that one of his two key goals is to “maximize the value obtained for each dollar of transit funding”. Over 70% of Metro’s operating costs sare labor related. What _specific_ steps is he recommending to ensure that we are getting maximum value here?

    1. The discussion yesterday was focused on avoiding duplication, both in the provision of actual transit service and in supporting functions. He also mentioned maximizing utilization of major capital investments (like rail lines and BRT corridors), and spent some time discussing expense reduction. If you mean that Metro should cut its labor costs by sharply reducing salaries and benefits, my educated guess is you won’t find a lot of sympathy for that argument in the Executive’s office.

      1. Salary reductions, no. Streamlining of positions,…?

        Let’s take fare enforcement as an example. Sound Transit has a police department, of sorts. Metro has Metro sheriffs. Does it make sense to have these two separate departments working in the same geographic space, and having to wait for the officers from the right agency to come and perform the proper legal functions?

        Both agencies have fare enforcement officers. Is there a difference in their jobs, besides what routes they work? Wouldn’t it be nice to have shift patterns that could take a crew on a tour of the Link, the A Line, the F Line, Link, the CD Line, the E Line, and Link again? Change up route priorities from day to day, and keep the fare evaders on their toes.

        If one department gets closed, guarantee similar jobs at the other agency’s equivalent department, except maybe for management.

        After streamlining, the First Warning could cover all Metro and ST service, instead of getting a freebie at each.

        (This all presumes Metro will get its right to print out citations from the same hand-held devices ST will soon be using, during the next legislative session — which I presume is a foregone conclusion.)

      2. Brent, it’s even easier than you think. Both Sound Transit and King County Metro contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for their respective police departments.

      3. And both king county and sound transit use the same security contractor (securitas) for security and fare enforcement.

      4. IIRC, “Metro Transit Police” and “Sound Transit Police” are merely different groups of King County Sheriffs. Sound Transit and Metro Fare Enforcement are different Securitas contracts. There is absolutely room for integration here, though you’ll want to be sure there are iron clad agreements in place about how much time each agency receives.

    2. ST’s answer to controlling labor costs has been shifting the operation of more and more routes from Metro to Pierce Transit. Every line that’s converted from Metro to ST would be fair game for PT to pick up after the current contract ends. The union can’t complain too much because you’re just shifting work from one ATU local to another (albeit one with a lower pay scale).

      1. This is one more reason the 560’s days are numbered. Not only do Federal Way commuters need those service hours more, but running an armada of 577s is cheaper than running a similar armada of 177s (even before adding the new stops that will convince peak Federal Way commuters to let 177s go by and wait for the next 577).

      2. Casting aside your thinly veiled swipe at driver compensation, focusing on keeping our buses moving and spreading our labor costs across more passengers is key. The main thrust of Dow’s announcement was eliminating duplication throughout the system. Other efforts, including converting routes to RapidRide, priority improvements to the 44, etc… are tentative steps in the right direction. However, getting Metro at ALL levels, including Management, Service Quality, drivers, Vehicle Maintenance (VM), and possibly even facilities maintenance, involved would be huge. The Japanese philosophy of Kaizen – Continuous Improvement – is a good example. (Sorry for the Wikipedia link. Best summary I could find)

        Outside of reasonable recovery time, where system reliability and driver readiness are recharged, we should ALL be asking ourselves “Why is that bus not moving?”. Traffic light timing? Customers confused about where they can board the bus? Cash payment? Bathroom too far away from the layover for the driver to reliably walk to? The level of the bus floor relative to the bus stop? WHY is that bus not moving and doing what it’s designed to do – get people to where they want to go?

        If that bus isn’t moving you have a capital asset sitting there literally burning money. If it’s in service, you have a driver getting paid to do something other than driving while the bus literally burns money. Some delays are part of the service we offer and are unavoidable – waiting for a frail and elderly passenger to safely reach a seat. Others are avoidable – the cell phone/zip lock baggie full of pennies wielding passenger at the beginning of the line who imposes an unnecessary delay on well over 100 people that will step on and off that bus during that one trip. (If you ever wonder why I get SO snarky about “cash fumblers”, THIS is why)

        [Putting on passenger / taxpayer hat now] We should all be DEMANDING true efficiency, not merely a race to the bottom pummeling of driver’s wages.

        (FWIW: The County is implementing some sort of “Continuous improvement” system in VM which, assuming it works out, could be an improvement. I don’t know much about the VM world other than to say, I interact with VM and Equipment Service workers a lot less today than I did 7 years ago. I suspect the equipment we operate is more reliable and/or being more efficiently maintained, but I have no actual data to back that up. That’s another efficiency rabbit hole to go down…)

  10. David, did Dow say anything to indicate that reorganizations as extensive as the 101, 150, 578, 594, or parts of your network might be considered?

    1. He did not go into that level of specifics, as this is more about cooperation between the agencies than the specific decisions the agencies will make once they start this cooperative process.

      And, honestly, that’s not the role I expect from him. As an elected official, he should be setting priorities, making high-level organizational decisions, and providing guidance. The guy to ask about particular Metro restructures is Victor Obeso. He was at the session and he and I talked briefly, but not about specific substance.

  11. FYI: back when giant marsupials ruled the earth, above timberline there was a species of platypus with huge flat feet that enabled it to glide over long distances.

    It was a voracious predator that struck terror into the hearts of giant possums and armadillos the size of Volkswagens with it’s dreadful cry of “Quaaaaack!”

    Since scientists go for brevity except for the Latin part, well, “High-altitude platypus” becomes….(giant hook comes out from off-stage).

    To keep this on-topic, there is a real danger of any large transit organization inadvertently turning on these dormant genes. But conversely, if leadership, courage, and imagination genes revive, however long dormant, genetic future is safe.


  12. I think Sound Transit has many opportunities (politics willing) to better integrate service and operations with partner (and even non-partner) agencies and private companies without the “mega agency” model like SCRTD (which itself was dissolved into LACMTA and other regional agencies as they felt they were not being adequately served or represented).
    At the 50,000 ft. view, I think the administration of ORCA should be handed off to the PSRC or a similar regional group. This would get ORCA administration free of transit, and hopefully allow it to expand to other transit agencies (Intercity Transit, Whatcom, Skagit, Island, Mason, etc. And perhaps even 3rd parties such as Greyhound, various Airporters, Taxi’s, etc.) The regional Smart Card program has so much potential, and its current use is so limited.
    I would also be open to the idea of an umbrella planning group, coordinating service and facilities planning and operation. Having multiple transit agencies, each with their own P&R lot and transit center in a town (For example, both Puyallup and Lakewood within a couple mile radius have both a Sounder Station, Park and Ride, and a stand-alone Transit Center all within their limits) is not only inefficient, passenger un friendly, and in the times of limited resources fiscally irresponsible. I’m not saying every P&R should be close either, however after personal observations of current and future projects, I also am firmly under the impression that parking should NOT be free anymore, and depending on the proposal and with charges within reason I would be open to the thought of contracting out M&O of our P&R lots to a private entity. Overall though better planning, closing and consolidating services and redundant facilities, while keeping capacity for the future should be a high priority.
    At the 25,000 ft. view I think that marketing of services could be more consistent. Some of these ideas are easier to pursue than others, so the easiest of them is coming up with a standard timetable and map format. Everyone has their own format, each is slightly different. Some use books, some use individual pamphlets, I think having a standardized format for the important across the board, while allowing each agency to customize it to their branding would be a good place to start. Granted most people use trip planners and the like, personally I never gotten them to work quite right and hate them but that’s just me. A bit bigger fish to fry would to be standardize route numbers, and even bus stop signage. There’s no consistency anywhere amongst any of the agencies (PT has 500 series route numbers, many agencies have duplicates), and then you get situations where ST is using a partner agency sign instead of their own and it turns into a bit of a branding and marketing mess)
    At 10,000ft I think there are some opportunities, at least from Metro to consolidate their routes and ST routes. We will take the 177/577 for example. They both have pretty much the same route path. Why must Metro have one route number and ST another? Why couldn’t they all simply be called the 577 and placed on the same schedule. We know why, politics. However is that really an effective way to run a system? I think there are certain corridors where Metro could augment the ST Service, and both agencies jointly provide a single route, with a single number, and a single fare, and provide an overall better service to the public. This is not a terribly new idea, PT and IT did it for many years on the Olympia Express.
    While I don’t think a mega agency is the solution, I also think it’s time get over the petty my service vs. their service politics and work on providing coordinated service across the region.

    1. I wouldn’t necessarily hold up the Olympia Express as a model of coordination… the IT routes and the PT routes didn’t always travel the same way through Downtown Olympia and I don’t think any of the specific route numbers were shared. IT ran the 603 but PT ran the 603A and they weren’t exactly the same. It took awhile for me to understand the intricacies when I was commuting from Tacoma to Olympia.

      1. For many years they did share the same route numbers, I don’t have my old timetables with me at the moment, however PT ran the 601, the 605 and 620 was jointly ran at first(although in later years IT ran the 620 and it skipped Ft Lewis). I will say the service was always poorly planned. Even on my last trip to Olympia, traffic on I-5 aside, the bus was a slow slog through lacey.

    2. So what was wrong with SCRTD and LACMTA? Some of us know little about these agencies beyond “Southern California” and “Los Angeles”. Why was this agency model flawed and what don’t we want to emulate?

      1. There were some communities who felt that they were not getting adequately represented; or getting their money’s worth (aka union benefits) with the services offered by RTD.

      2. I think we can all agree we can be thankful we don’t have the thicket of routes divided confusingly and arbitrarily between municipal agencies and the countywide agency (the former often running meandering milk runs), sometimes redundant, sometimes handing off jurisdiction in arbitrary places, that characterizes LA-area transit today.

  13. BC has two super regional transit systems one is a Crown Corporation, provincial owned, and the cities has plan their own transit with help from BC Transit. Also we SCBCTA, TransLink, which is only in Metro Vancouver. How Metro Vancouver makes plan the Mayors of cities works with the Board of Directors to plan transit in the region. If the Washington State government followed the laws BC made with TransLink with Sound Transit instead of cities put the Counties working with the Board of Directors to make plans. This approach to regional transit works will but the counties need to work good with each to make it work.

  14. After planning a trip to ride the “F” line, and reaffirming what I already knew, ST and metro can better integrate their services by extending the 574 to TIB. It seems quite silly to have to make a transfer from the airport, one stop to a major bus terminal…

  15. One potential downside of ST playing nice with Metro: That could mean ST honoring Metro’s paper transfers. That would fall into the category of revenue-losing cooperation.

  16. Might this mean we won’t have Metro and ST trying to keep from running too much service in the DSTT relative to each other? Maybe, pray tell, even more peak 550 service?

  17. Seattle’s express bus network is a lot more extensive and frequent than the Bay Area’s. In the East Bay and Peninsula, riders are instead generally funneled to BART. This was fine until both BART and Caltrain (commuter rail from San Jose to San Francisco) started having capacity problems. There will probably have to be selective re-expansion of the express bus network, as it takes years for BART to expand capacity–and ridership will probably keep growing during that period. I’d bear that issue in mind as Seattle thinks about bus/rail coordination.

    VTA expresses are pretty much separate, serving Santa Clara County rather than the other Bay counties.

    There’s a lot of express bus service through the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey into New York City. There’s even a contra flow lane in one direction. And given that Governor Christie, in his wisdom, canceled a project to expand century old New Jersey-New York rail tunnels, there will be lots of express buses for the foreseeable future.

    Seattle, San Francisco, and New York are on an isthmus, a peninsula, and an island respectively, making for limited points of access, strong corridors, and expense in reaching the central city. There really aren’t any other major American cities which are like that.

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