The Night Owl System (Excluding RapidRide E)

Today the Seattle Council’s Transportation Committee will receive a briefing from SDOT planner Bill Bryant on the administration’s solution to find $700,000 for night owl service* in Seattle through 2015. $200,000 of this money will come from the Downtown / Ballard rail study (completed jointly with Sound Transit) coming in under budget, according to an administration source familiar with the SDOT analysis.

The other $500,000 comes from deferring SDOT’s Ship Canal Crossing study, which Bruce introduced last year. This study was meant to identify opportunities to improve other modes in conjunction with a major High Capacity Transit (HCT) investment in this corridor, or perhaps even to do so in the absence of such an investment. This study has little to do with the progress of light rail or streetcars.

Unfortunately, the wide range of options in the rail study has complicated planning. With potential crossings at various grades and in various places, key inputs to such a study are uncertain. “Maybe the Ballard/Downtown study would have produced a solution that could easily have grafted on a bike/ped solution,” said SDOT interim Chief of Staff Bill Laborde, “but it’s not as ripe as people thought it might be.”

Though the study is “deferred,” it isn’t firmly placed into a budget given the looming Bridging the Gap (BtG) expiration in 2015. “With more than 5000 bikes crossing the Fremont bridge on some days, there is clearly a need for more bike and pedestrian capacity across the Ship Canal,” says Laborde, but  “a study will be more focused in scope once questions around the timing of ST3 and potential alignment and funding options are in place.”

I could get no commitment from the Administration to include the study in BtG renewal, in practice the opportunity to fund it. If ST’s solution for the corridor includes a deep tunnel or a high bridge unsuitable for other modes, or Ballard-to-downtown rail recedes into the future, then BtG could in principle also provide the funding to construct the bridge.

In my opinion, deferring this study is not quite costless. If SDOT completed it on schedule, even given all the Sound Transit uncertainty, it would be that much easier for the next BtG to actually fund the resulting project. As it is, actually completing a new crossing in the next funding cycle will require using whatever flexibility is built into the package, in particular leveraging whatever grants are available. It’s hard to weigh an in-demand bike/ped connection against low-ridership bus service that provides a lifeline for disadvantaged people. What do you think of this tradeoff?

* The 7, 36, 82, 83, 84, 124, and 280 night owls are currently scheduled for elimination.

66 Replies to “Mayor Proposes Funding Night Owls, Deferring Ship Canal Study”

  1. While this won’t impact LR or Streetcars, how does this impact the ability to put Bruce’s car bridge on 3rd in a 2015 Bridging the Gap? If the voters support a Seattle bailout of Metro this Nov, will the study start back up? Will it be in time to put it in the package?

    1. As I think the article explains, yes, this lowers the chance of any sort of crossing going into BtG renewal.

      The study money is going to 2014-15 operating costs, so a Seattle vote for service is unlikely to affect the disposition of the study.

    2. Isn’t this study mostly about tagging along if ST builds a light-rail bridge at 3rd Ave W? A light rail bridge at 3rd Ave W isn’t looking as likely as it was previously… and rightly so, it’s not really a great idea anyway.

      If the “Bruce’s Car Bridge” idea takes, transit will still use the Fremont Bridge, and there will still be enough destinations near the Fremont Bridge to cause significant car traffic over it (and thus long backups when the bridge opens) even if most of the through traffic moves elsewhere. Since transit would have to run in mixed traffic across the bridge, it would be very important to get dedicated transit ROW approaching the bridge in all directions.

  2. I think the Night Owls tend to be controversial, but for me this would be a pretty simple win.

    Ultimately, I think one of the core tenets of transit is that, for people who choose to live in the core urban areas of a city, they can rely on transit to get them where they need to go 24/7. Whether I have to stay at work late (yes — I have been at work past midnight), or get home from a dinner party, I should be able to trust that transit will be there.

    Just as we don’t tell car-owners that they’re not allowed to drive on the roads between 1am and 4am, we shouldn’t tell non-car-owners that transit provides you with a viable alternative to car ownership — unless you happen to need to travel between these 3 hours (in which case you have to pay $40 for a cab).

    I understand that there’s a productivity argument against night owls. I totally get that the cost/rider is much higher than a packed bus during peak hours. But the simple fact of the matter is that not all taxpayers can afford to cram their trips into the peak times of the day, and I think that they deserve a basic baseline of service. If we can afford to provide coverage service to Carnation, then to be it sounds pretty absurd that we can’t afford to provide coverage service to Ballard, the Udistrict, or Cap Hill.

    1. I think the elephant in the room is that they can’t afford to provide adequate peak or daytime coverage to Ballard, Capitol Hill or the U-District.

      1. It depends on your definition of adequate. Are there still busses serving these neighborhood with better than 3 hours of headway? If so then the daytime service is better off than the nighttime service.

        Obviously, I wouldn’t advocate cutting entirely daytime service in favor of nighttime – but I would favor eliminating one seat rides, and increasing stop and route spacing at all hours in favor of a full 24/7 network. IMHO after the cuts those areas do okay. The only area really messed up is West Seattle :/

      2. A minimal definition of adequate daytime service is service that doesn’t leave people standing on the curb for lack of capacity. Right now we are failing to provide that in a number of Seattle neighborhoods. Honestly, I think that’s more important than night-owl coverage, and I’d redirect the night-owl hours to it.

    2. I would tend to believe in a city environment night owls are more necessary than a study.

      Also in Skagit County, having all bus service end at 9 PM Monday-Friday and at 6 PM Saturday & Sunday can get to be a real expensive draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag so I see Stephen where you’re coming from. Save the night owls until Ben’s transit rescue package is before voters, then go from there.

    3. Ultimately, I think one of the core tenets of transit is that, for people who choose to live in the core urban areas of a city, they can rely on transit to get them where they need to go 24/7.

      The core tenet of well-distributed transit is that it should make carless trips feasible for as many people as possible, as much of the time as possible. Sometimes that requires making hard choices about demand-density versus coverage. Sometimes that means making hard choices regarding quality of service span versus breadth of service span.

      24/7 transit exists in fewer than 2 or 3 dozen cities on the planet. There are Asian megalopolises of 15-20 million people that get by without it.

      The availability of one trip on the 7 at 3:30 AM, alone with 20 veteran transients, has helped exactly zero Seattle residents live carefree lives. 99% of those living right upon such a trip’s route and needing a journey at that hour will still elect to cab/Uber/car2go it rather than to lose up to 75 minutes more sleep. That rises to 100% of those in “core urban areas” more than a couple of blocks from the arbitrarily extended bus.

      Seattle’s night owls do not aid a transit-based lifestyle. They are a symbol, though no one — not least the mayor — can figure out what they were ever supposed to symbolize. This may be the single dumbest inertia-endorsement action in this city’s proud history of transit inertia.

      1. In fact, Tokyo, a metropolis of over 35 million, doesn’t have 24 hour transit service.

      2. There are people who could not commute to or from work without OWL service or would be stuck with an even longer wait at their job site before or after their shift.

        By that measure we shouldn’t bother with anything other than M-F peak-only transit.

      3. No, by the measure of reasonableness, we wouldn’t select fringe services whose diminishing returns approach zero as our hill to die on.

        Your harmed commuters are hypothetical. You know how we know they’re hypothetical? Because they’re not on the buses!

        I truly do not understand why this blog’s partisans are going all Cruickshank Brand® Loss Aversion™ on these services. You could rationalize the heck out of the overnight offerings, and you’d still be carrying barely a couple of dozen passengers per night. There is no demand for service that late, plus that infrequent, plus that unlikely to actually to get you close to your destination (and with zero transfer potential). This isn’t New York; employees who regularly work at that hour are driving, and are going to keep driving.

        Meanwhile, we continue to provide broadly unappealing half-hourly soup from 7pm to 1am, pushing thousands and thousands of potential trips back into cars or cabs during potentially (but not currently) productive transit hours. And this sad state of affairs continues to defended as “right-scaled” by many of our transit blowhards.

        Want to help people who work or travel at odd hours to get around painlessly without their cars? Start by rationalizing evening service around a core frequent network that doesn’t die out hours before the city goes into its nightly hibernation. That would fundamentally change this city’s mobility habits, its sense of carfree possibility.

        Eight buses for 24 total passengers at 2:30 AM will do no such thing.

      4. d.p., as is often true, you are distorting a kernel of very good truth beyond recognition.

        Is it true that many cities don’t have late-night transit? Yes.

        Is it true that the Owl loops are horribly inefficent and ineffective? Yes, as I argued above.

        Is it true that no late-night trip can be effective, or that any isolated late-night trip has less purpose than any given trip at a time when there is comprehensive and frequent network coverage? No.

        Is it true that current owl service serves “24 total passengers?” Absolutely not. There are probably more than 24 passengers on an outbound Owl 7 trip alone. Legible late-night trips that provide basic geographic coverage of places where people actually need to go at night work, and can be as effective as earlier night service. The late-night trips on the 7, 120, 124, and RR D/E pull their weight. Whether to use those hours how they are used or for more frequent 10pm-midnight service is a matter of priorities which is not nearly as black-and-white as you are making out.

      5. I don’t disagree with your summation points, but 24 passengers on a Seattle bus in the middle of the night? Pics or stats or I don’t believe you!

        I’ve never been on a night-owl 7, but I’ve been on 49s (three to six passengers at most). I’ve also been on plenty of 7s in the 11pm-1am hours that were dwindling into single-digit levels.

        The total numbers for any Seattle non-weekend night owls, present or future, remain statistically negligible.

      6. And David, do you deny that Metro forgoes thousands upon thousands upon thousands of evening riders by providing sub-elective-usage service quality across the urban network throughout the evening? And that this harms far more workers and forces far more car ownership than a sudden disappearance of the night-owl skeleton ever could? (Never mind the political damage this does by undermining civic “buy-in” — the sense that transit can be “for me” rather than “for them”.)

        I guess I just don’t see the point of your specious packed-full 3:30am 7s claim. Whether the night-owl system carries two dozen or two hundred people per night — and it isn’t doing that latter — the number still pales as a portion of total night movements. It isn’t offering what it claims to offer; it isn’t making any mobility difference!

    4. The problem with the night owls isn’t just a productivity issue, although that’s part of it.

      It’s that some of them do not come remotely close to accomplishing even their stated goal of providing basic nighttime mobility.

      I’ll single out the 82, 84, and 280 in this respect. No one but transients ride them; if you drive them often, you may see one or two legitimate riders on a given trip, or none at all. They aren’t actually providing mobility for anyone. No one understands them, because their routing is so counterintuitive and they pick up in very different places from the regular service they replace. No one but hard-core transit geeks and transients even knows they exist.

      The way you could provide actual mobility to the areas those routes serve is by converting the loops into outbound trips on regular routes.

      Metro has already done this in lots of places — there have always been outbound late-night trips on the 7 and 124, and lately they have added such trips to four of the six RapidRide lines (A, C, D, E), the 36, the 49, and the 120. And you know what? People ride those trips! For the same cost as today’s 82, 83, and 84, you could add the following late-night trips on normal routes, which, unlike the loops, are legible and would get used a lot:

      – 2:15 and 3:30 outbound trips on the 3S (partly replacing the 84)
      – 2:15 outbound trip on the 4N (partly replacing the 82)
      – 2:15 outbound trip on the 16 (partly replacing the 82 and providing new service to Northgate)
      – 2:15 and 3:30 diesel outbound trips on the 43 (partly replacing the 83 and 84)

      1. If you’re talking about just running some regular routes except at night, I like it. People won’t ride routes they don’t understand.

        But I’m not sure what an “outbound” route is. Is this a bus going out of service? Or just heading out of downtown? In that case, why only outbound?

      2. “Outbound” just refers to routes headed away from downtown (or from whatever their most-central end is).

        I suggest outbound trips only because inbound trips at that time of night, with some very specific exceptions, have zero ridership. Running outbound service only also has the nice side benefit that transients know they can’t get back downtown without waiting outside for a few hours, so they won’t ride those trips.

        The only late-night inbound trips that I’ve seen succeed are so late that they really function as super-early morning trips. The very last inbound owl 7 trip, which leaves Rainier Beach at 4:10 a.m., is a good example — it attracts some riders. Those trips are better provided by buses originating from the base, which can pull out buses as early as 3:45.

      3. Yeah — I actually much prefer this to the current design. I’m not saying we should have specific night owl routes as a good concept — I’m just saying that there needs to be service in the core areas between 1 and 4. If it’s possible to serve them with just trips on the regular routes, that’s actually way better than weird custom routes that only run at night.

      4. I guess what I’d really like to know is: In addition to the driver overtime, how much money could be saved by sending the last of the dispatchers home at 1:30, by locking the bases’ bus gates shortly after 2:00, by employing no one but maintenance personnel in the overnight hours.

        Given that 99% of our peer cities the world over shut down operations overnight, I’m guessing the money saved is non-negligible — enough to contribute to a more worthwhile transportation system in the 7pm-1am hours, where it would aid (and attract) almost infinitely more users than any skeletal weekday overnight configuration you could ever consider fashioning.

        The fact that Seattle has long had pointless 75-minute-headway overnight runs to an arbitrary 8% of the city is not in and of itself an argument that we need pointless 75-minute-headway overnight runs to an arbitrary 8% of the city. We spent decades with “pay as you leave” too.

      5. I’m not convinced that 99% of the peer cities to Seattle shut down operations overnight. Sure, some do, but even in some very tiny villages in Brazil, they typically have one bus every two hours or so on select routes.

        Granted, due to the temperatures during the day the average village in Brazil with 5,000 people has a bit of activity at that hour.

      6. d.p., not many people are working through the night as it is. You have one coordinator (what you’re probably thinking of as a “dispatcher”) who serves all of the Owl service. There are two service supervisors working that shift. If you stopped the Owl service, they and the 15 or so drivers would be the only ones you didn’t have to pay, and you wouldn’t be able to save anywhere near a full shift — you would still have buses pulling in after 2 a.m. (after deadheading from 1 a.m. outbound trips) and pulling out before 4 a.m. Owl service doesn’t cost a lot beyond its direct per-hour cost.

        Base personnel are largely gone; the last sign-ins of the night are generally before 8:00, and there’s no reason they need to stick around once the drivers are signed in. Only some maintenance personnel, who would work all night even if there were no late-night service, and security personnel are around the base. After the PM peak ends, buses pulling in are directed where to park by a whiteboard.

      7. “Given that 99% of our peer cities the world over shut down operations overnight”

        That’s not a reason to imitate them; it’s a reason to do better than them because they have been neglectful. Several European cities have night owls to all neighborhoods and suburbs, more frequently than our twice-a-night. Smaller cities have it just Friday and Saturday; larger cities have it every day. It allows people to come home from bars on transit. (I assume night shift work is more common in the US than Europe, since we have a smaller social safety net so people have to work night shift to pay for housing/’food/medical. That would suggest a higher priority on every-night service.)

        Ultimately we need to straighen out the 82, 83, 84 and extend them to Northgate and Lake City. But the best way to do that is to keep the existing routes running, not to delete them. Once night owl service is gone in those neighborhoods, it will be very difficult to ever get it back because there’s a practically limitless number of competing transit needs.

      8. Robert, could you please let Mike have his handle back now?

        As with the “pay as you leave” policy that took thirty years too long to die, this is about the rest of the world seeking to understand and apply the basic tenets of transit geometry, and to achieve the best results within the confines of reality, and about Seattle Exceptionalists preferring to wallow in willful ignorance and bellyflopped idealism.

        Small cities cannot support comprehensive 24/7 transit service. That goes about quadruple for small and also relatively un-dense cities.

        If you try to run a 24/7 transit service in a small, quiet, spread-out city, you will wind up either with something unconscionably wasteful or something pathetically ineffective. We have the latter, and no matter how we restructure it, we will continue to have the latter. Our overnight service will never carry more than a handful of begrudging passengers to a handful of destinations. It will never serve even 0.00001% of trips made at that hour.

        That isn’t a failure of will. That’s just math.

      9. I like this restructure a lot. However, I’m 100% willing to stand behind saving the Owls as they are if that’s all we have because, like Mike said, if they’re canceled now, they’re _never_ coming back. They don’t go far enough north and they’re confusing as hell, but they should be kept on the books until they can actually be restructured. Why they haven’t been redone by now is beyond my powers to explain.

      10. Because 3:30 AM Tuesday service in a small city is of such negligible value that most people simply forgot they exist?

      11. If “they’re _never_ coming back”, might that not suggest that at no point did they represent a crucial piece of pretty much anyone’s daily mobility?

      12. I think we are confusing nighttime bus service with nighttime rail service. Most cities around the world, except New York and a few others, shut down the metro rail systems at night. But they also typically have a “night bus” system that replaces the rail system during those hours.

        For whatever reason, these “night bus” systems typically have different routing and numbers than the daytime bus system.

      13. What Chad describes is true of a couple of dozen (mostly European) cities over certain size and/or density thresholds, which exceed Seattle’s by quite a ways.

        There are, on the other hand, many examples of Seattle-sized cities, on all continents, with significantly more pervasive transit cultures in the daytime yet no service whatsoever overnight.

      14. See: density distinction.

        See: modeshare ubiquity distinction.

        Ignore. Self-delude.

        Rinse. Repeat.

      15. See: we need to improve Seattle, not let it stagnate and devolve into San Jose or Bellevue or Kent. That just makes people more wedded to their cars, more tenacious of parking spaces, and less willing to fund transit.

      16. Transit that sucks at Noon or 5pm or 11pm makes people wedded to their cars, and less willing to see themselves using/funding transit.

        2:15am buses to nowhere really make no difference.

        Again, you can’t overcome geometry with rainbows and lollipops.

      17. I really don’t know what else to tell you, Mike.

        I can certainly appreciate your lack of desire to move to Bailoland to be closer to his job. But if the Kent night shift is going to be a regular feature of the next few years, maybe it’s time to move to another part of Capitol Hill, or elsewhere in Seattle, where a cheaply-acquired car can be reasonably and inexpensively parked for the time being. Neither that job nor that state of car ownership has to be forever.

        No amount of money is ever going to overcome poor transit geometry to fill Seattle’s overnight network, or send 24-hour subways to Kent.

      18. Cars cost significantly more than transit. He did have a car at first but he couldn’t afford to keep it and pay his other expenses, plus it started needing major repairs. Warehouse jobs are mostly in south King County so there aren’t a lot of other options in Seattle.

        (He just finished school in Northgate and got a second job in Northgate. I work in northeast Seattle. He also goes to naval reserve in Everett early Saturday mornings once a month, and I take care of elderly relatives in Bellevue. So where do we live? Near Convention Place, the intersection point for all these. ST2 Link will be a major benefit for most of these, even though it won’t go to Kent. But hopefully the Aleks plan will be implemented by then, with a frequent Link-bus transfer at Rainier Beach. And maybe night owl on it?)

      19. d.p. — Also I don’t buy your assertion at all that 99% of comparable places don’t have night owl service. Based on a 5 minute web search, this is what I found for the metro areas near us in size (the 3 above and 3 below us in population): Miami, Minneapolis and Denver all have night owls, while Atlanta, Detroit and Clevand do not.

        Looks like were talking more like 50%, not 99%.

      20. That’s curious, that three of our U.S. peer cities, all with profoundly flawed but at least moderately used daytime transit systems, have seen it as part of their mandates to provide the similar sorts of difficult-to-use (and thus barely used) overnight networks.

        But what I meant was that that globally, i.e. on continents where transit tends to be dictated somewhat by usefulness and learned best practices rather than by inertia and politics, a city such as ours does not tend to be a candidate for 24/7 transit service.

        Europe probably has more round-the-clock buses than anyone else, but for the most part they are limited to a finite list of primate cities, or a handful of other large cities of exceptional prominence and bustle. Asia and Latin America, with more large/dense/low-car-ownership cities than you can shake a stick at, have relatively few 24-hour transit systems, and contain übermegacities (Tokyo, Mexico City) that notoriously function with no transit after midnight at all.

        Mike Orr is probably right that lousier labor/safety-net conditions in the U.S. (versus the rest of the developed world) lead to more non-elective night shifts, with employees subject to lousy timings and unfortunate locations. But it seems notable that only cities with histories of viewing transit as a “last resort” seem to approach night transit this way. The night networks don’t even work as last resorts, and so those token buses ply the sleepy streets of Minneapolis and Miami and Seattle with next-to-nobody on them. How does that help working people, poor or otherwise?

        It’s more “symbolic transit”. And you know how I feel about symbolic transit.

  3. Can we also defer further development in Ballard until the City stops yanking us around and actually implementing true mass transit to mitigate the long way-overcapacity transportation network?

    That’s seriously great that they are willing to spend money to resuscitate an inefficient night owl network, and I’m sure someone in the Mayor’s office is getting a warm, fuzzy feeling from it. But when they are stealing money from desperately needed transportation studies, it really makes you wonder where they city’s priorities are.

    1. Deferring development will just raise prices. People know there’s traffic and mediocre transportation, but still want to live there. The right answer is to step up and provide good transportation, not try to stop people from living where they want.

      1. Of course I’m not completely serious about deferring development. But it’s funny how much people get up in arms about deferring development, while deferring the transit to serve the development is just chalked up to “c’est la vie”. Meanwhile, the “good transit” is nothing more than a carrot on a stick.

      2. “while deferring the transit to serve the development is just chalked up to ‘c’est la vie’.”

        I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to call straw man. Who are these people you’re referring to?

      3. Matt, did you not read Martin’s post?

        Ed Murray, Sally Clark and Tom Rasmussen all contributed to deferring, then deferring, then deferring this study until it is now too late to get a new Ship Canal Crossing into 2015’s Bridging the Gap measure. Which means it will probably be 2020 until it can be funded, then at least a couple years of construction.

      4. Ah. I was reading “transit” as “transit”, not a bridge that transit could drive on. I’ll grant that this study at least includes transit, but moving money from a study of transit to continuing actual transit doesn’t read to me as “deferring transit”.

      5. @Matt Then you have no idea how Seattle works. Delaying a study X amount of time pretty much guarantees the final product will be delayed X*3 amount of time. But if you know of some adequate method of transit that is coming to Ballard, despite the delay of funding, please feel free to share.

  4. Thanks for this clarification. Yesterday’s Publicola article left me thinking the Downtown / Ballard study was canceled.

  5. >> “Maybe the Ballard/Downtown study would have produced a solution that could easily have grafted on a bike/ped solution,” said SDOT interim Chief of Staff Bill Laborde, “but it’s not as ripe as people thought it might be.”

    It’s not ripe, nor is it likely. Corridor E, which was not very popular, was the only one that had a bridge as an option. The default was for a tunnel. There has been much debate about what to do next, but I think most of the debate has been between:

    1) Corridor D, which would provide top notch service with a price tag to match.
    2) Interbay route (Corridor B or a modified Corridor C (involving cut and cover through downtown)) which would be cheaper, but still fast.

    There is very little consensus between those two camps — but regardless, this does nothing for Fremont bikers.

    Likewise, there are folks (like myself) who believe the first priority should be underground rail (with several stops) from Ballard to the UW. If you add that, then it further muddles the argument. What else do you want for the area. As I see it, the possible answers are:

    1) Nothing. Other improvements will have to wait.
    2) Corridor B or a modified Corridor C (involving cut and cover through downtown). Not that expensive, and serves Belltown, Uptown and Interbay. It also means two lines through Ballard, which means that each can be extended (west and north).
    3) Corridor A. Expensive, but now you serve Belltown, Uptown, Queen Anne and Interbay. I think this would be the ideal combination, but it would be expensive.
    4) Corridor D. Expensive, but now you serve Belltown, Uptown, Queen Anne and both Fremont and the zoo (an east-west line can’t serve both). This would be the most expensive option.
    5) Corridor E with a bridge. The only reason I could see doing this is if Sound Transit wanted something cheap to go along with the east-west tunnel. I can’t imagine this would be popular. Then again, if it is sold as a combination bike/streeetcar bridge, and it doesn’t cost that much and goes along with an east-west subway, then it might be popular.

    Given all that, I think it is unlikely that Sound Transit will build a bridge. It is possible, and I think that last scenario is the most likely way it could happen. But I seriously doubt it will.

    1. I think the move is toward your # 5, or corridor E, wether with or without a subway. A bridge north of SPU for ped/bike/streetcar (Fremont Bridge for cars and buses), and the lower cost for this option, is financially attractive and doing the job when the streetcar is in its own lane. Wish it went up 14th N.W.

      1. Why would you build a new bridge for walking, biking, and a streetcar at 3rd Ave W?

        1. It amounts to a transit bypass of basically all the “stuff” in Lower Fremont, the opposite of what you want. By the time you’re at 3rd Ave NW there’s a sliver of industrial land, then Leary Way, then SFH on a steep hill slope… at this point you might as well just stay on Nickerson to the Ballard Bridge like the 17 used to do!

        2. A pedestrian bridge at such a location is nearly worthless for the same reason.

        3. The strength of the Fremont Bridge for walking, biking, and transit is that it’s low. Cyclists and pedestrians don’t have to climb much to get to it, it provides a straightforward connection to destinations and streets down by the water. This strength is wasted on private cars. A new, higher bridge would not have this strength — cyclists and pedestrians would have to climb 100 feet up from the Burke (105 feet is a typically proposed bridge elevation — the Fremont Bridge is about 35 feet high), and transit stops would either have to be far from the bridge or require a similar climb for access.

        4. The weakness of the Fremont Bridge for private cars and transit that gets stuck behind them is that it’s low. When it opens the resulting car backups throw the transit system into disarray. This weakness doesn’t affect pedestrians and cyclists as much because they pack well, and doesn’t affect dedicated-ROW transit as much because the volume of vehicles isn’t all that great.

        The far better idea is the “Bruce’s Car Bridge” idea. Build a bridge intended mostly for private cars around 3rd Ave W and you clear out a huge amount of Fremont Bridge car traffic — good for everyone, because you reduce the backups that turn all the bridge approaches into parking lots. Then more space can be opened up on bridge itself for cycling and on the approaches for transit.

  6. What concerns me is creating a situation where bus and rail are pitted against each other in competition for funding. That’s a bad move and will reverberate, especially when Nick Licata is arguing we should kill the downtown streetcar connector because we need to save buses.

      1. That was what was confusing about the publicila post. I am glad that you have clarified things, Martin!

  7. $700,000 isn’t actually all that much money. If we can’t find that much for transit, but we can still afford bertha, we have some serious problems on our hands.

    I think there’s a reason that Ed Murray has earned the nickname “asphalt Ed”.

  8. I have a theory, which I haven’t had time to gather data for but I am 99% sure is correct that buses suffer from a rather extreme cost disease – worse than nearly all other cost diseases – and that if we cut rail for buses we’ll have to do it on a continuing basis for ever. Scaling any industry where the main cost is labour requires increasing funding to keep the same service, and if traffic, etc. get worse then you have to increase funding rates just to maintain service. The only way to get more transit for the money is to either 1) build more rail because it scales better or 2) reform buses so they are more efficient (a la Bruce Nourish).

  9. A tough one – a planning step with far-from-certain relevance, compared to something like 100 bus trips a day at something like $12.50 per trip. Is there a 3rd choice?

    It’s good practice to protect spending for planning from the inevitable pressure to solve current problems. There may be more than poor discipline going on here, though. Arguably, Metro – and city bus service – were the victims of bad timing – a funding election in sober post-crash times, whereas ST2 passed on the coat-tails of the 2008 Obama victory. If ST and Metro were a single entity, some sort of “rebalancing” might well have happened internally, as part of the contingency plan for loss of funding. Good practice is different from a blindly-followed rule.
    I’d rather the city had its own well-considered plan and could avoid the appearance of a piece-meal response – but these cuts are about to happen. Perhaps the city should have been thinking about this in 2013 when Metro first published its contingency plans, but that was before Mayor Murray’s watch.

    So – it’s hard to argue that the Mayor is wrong, in this circumstance. But it is a bad precedent for how to plan future city-funded bus service, and I hope he gets *that*.

    1. I would say the timing problem of prop 1 was not post crash sobriety but simply trying to run a countywide transit vote in a special election. As I recall the first Sound Move vote had similar results where it failed badly in East and South King County. That also was a special election.

      If Prop 1 had run in November there is a good chance it would have passed.

  10. Given that the Mayor is pushing the council to adopt the Locally Preferred Alternative for a exclusive ROW 1st Avenue streetcar, I don’t think it makes any sense to frame this as an attack on rail, which Erica so lazily did.

    It is however very disappointing that the study will be delayed, as a 7th crossing of the Ship Canal is badly needed and represents such a great opportunity to remake Fremont into the most walkable and bikeable neighborhood in Washington, whether with eventual streetcars/light rail or not. The bridge has merit on its own, and while I understand the uncertainties surrounding ST3 and the next BtG, I can’t help but agree that getting it done earlier helps queue things up for when the stars align to fund this thing.

  11. Personally, I’d rather see the existing night-owls go away, and put the hours into regular Metro routes and Link. I’ve used the night-owls before, but the fact that you have to find all new bus stops can be daunting for people getting used to transit. Add in the fact that the night-owl service (not just 82-84, but RR, 7, 36, 49, etc.) is completely uncoordinated, and you have something that’s guaranteed to suck for most people.

    Retiring the 82 and putting the hours into service on the 44 between 2-5AM would allow easier transfers to RR D&E, the 49, and eventually Link (if it ever gets night-owl service, that is). You’d also hit two hospitals, and three transit-oriented neighborhoods, using the same routing that people are used to during the day. I’m sure there’s other combinations that Metro could use for other night-owl routes.

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