This is an open thread.

84 Replies to “News Roundup: To Blame”

    1. Ha! TriMet’s keep your electronics safe ads appeared about the same time the mobile phone ticket system did.

      Keep your electronics hidden until you pay your fare.

  1. Re: TOD in the Region.

    Much of what is being called TOD in this Region doesn’t actually achieve the vehicle miles traveled reduction goals of TOD, therefore shouldn’t be called TOD. I’d suggest those interested look into how much parking is at those projects for themselves and tell us what they think the likelihood of them actually becoming TOD that promotes alternative mobility is. Art Space @ Mount Baker is definitely TOD. Capitol Hill Link Station is closer to TOD than anything else being built at market rates and partially affordable. If I could, I would figure out how to certify TOD in this region so we’re not green washing the label “TOD” all over parking lots.

    1. Reducing vehicle miles traveled depends on the decisions of the residents, which a free society can’t control or predict. But there’s a guaranteed benefit beyond that. It makes it possible for those who don’t want to drive to find a place within easy walking distance of trunk transit and the weekly necessities. People who care about non-driving convenience will preferentially choose places like The Station at Othello Park, while people who don’t won’t (they’ll look more at the size and view and parking), so the long-term trend is for more non-drivers in TOD buildings. You can’t expect it immediately, not in a country where most of Capitol Hill have cars and even a surprising number of people in San Francisco and Chicago drive.

      1. Mike, I would argue that the induced demand of VMT increases caused by the seas of parking at some of these projects that claim to be “TOD” by makes them distinctly not TOD. In any way, shape, or form. Mixed-use, slightly more walkable, slightly better development, perhaps. But TOD, no.

      2. That sea of parking is required by the zoning. We’re trying to change that.

        The worst part of overbuilt parking is that as a substantial number of residents give up their $150/month parking spaces, the owner shifts the lost revenue to all residents’ rents to recoup the $30,000 per stall the parking cost to build.

      3. My understanding of TAD is when a building’s design blocks the most natural pedestrian paths. Like the VA hospital whose main entrance is around the corner from the bus stop and buried deep inside a parking turnaround. Or Sky Nursery where the bus stop is on the southwest but you have to walk around a large building to the north side to get to the entrance. I first heard of TAD re a Bronx shopping mall adjacent to a subway station, which has a very inconvenient pedestrian path to it. I haven’t seen the mall so I can’t say exactly what it’s like.

        But calling buildings non-TOD just because they have parking sounds like a stretch. What matters is the position and scale of the front door or other pedestrian amenities relative to the garage entrance or other automobile accommidations. If you just say “No building in Seattle is TOD” except pre-1930s buildings and one or two others, that won’t necessarily help you get more TOD. What we need to focus on is how many units are within a 5-minute, 10-minute, 20-minute walk circle of stations. Even if you have to walk past an excessive building side or garage entrance, that’s still better than many parts of Seattle or most of the suburbs have.

    2. JB’s post below reminds us of something important: our city, for most, is quite car-dependent. If you’re looking for a job, even if you live some place with relatively good transit, say Capitol Hill, your job search might lead you some place that’s a three-seat ride via transit (an example would be Bel-Red, which is unnecessarily difficult and slow to get to on transit from most of Seattle, a problem that East Link will do surprisingly little to solve for many).

      I imagine you’d criticize a project like South Kirkland P&R for parking inclusion, and though there’s a lot I don’t like about South Kirkland P&R, that’s not one of the things. Almost nobody would move in to an apartment in that location with no parking, and nobody in their right mind would open a business there with no parking. With parking available it’s as attractive as most eastside apartment complexes (I’m skeptical about the retail component regardless of parking), in a location that allows households to reduce the number of cars they keep. On the eastside that’s something like a win even if people drive for most of their errands, and seeing as the eastside isn’t going to revert to strawberry fields within our lifetime, we need some wins on the eastside. We’ve got to meet people where they are sometimes, ya know?

      1. I met one person who commutes from north Seattle to Bel-Red on deadhead buses headed to East Base. With the aid of a bike, it’s actually a reasonably direct one-seat ride. The deadhead buses shave a lot of time off the commute and, during reverse-direction rush hour, actually run quite frequently.

      2. I’ve seen a guy ask to get off a deadheading bus at one of the bases; maybe it was the same guy. If he’s willing to bike through Bel-Red it’s not that much more riding to use regularly scheduled service to make this commute, as he’ll have to do when the Montlake Flyer Stop goes away (I assume ultimately off-peak and counter-peak service will stop on the lid, but deadheads won’t, and there will be a gap between the closure of the Flyer Stop and completion of the lid, during which north Seattle-to-Eastside bus-rack capacity will be seriously strained… if U District bike theft rings were publicly traded companies I’d buy their stock now — there will be tech money-purchased bikes locked up near Montlake, ripe for the picking).

        But, then, it’s a minority of people that are willing to bike through Bel-Red, or even to the Montlake Flyer Stop in current conditions, and I don’t think you can characterize a trip that requires a bike on both ends as a one-seat-ride. This situation would generally be a lot less bad if there was a basic freeway station along 520 in Bel-Red. Then at least that station area would have frequent all-day service from downtown Seattle, somewhat less from UW, and peak-hour service from farther north.

        I don’t think any of this lessens my main thrust: given the sort of job distribution we have here and that we’re likely to have in our lifetimes, it will be a good thing to have successful residential developments with convenient transit to a wide array of job locations. I think it’s more important that developments with convenient transit access are successful than that they refuse to offer parking out of principle. There’s plenty of financial incentive for households to reduce the number of cars they own; parking at suburban market rates is far from the biggest cost of car ownership.

      3. “This situation would generally be a lot less bad if there was a basic freeway station along 520 in Bel-Red.”

        That is an idea. There was nothing there until recently, but there soon will be.

        Likewise, I never understood why the 545 doesn’t stop in Overlake (Village that is). That’s where the most all-day demand and potential transfers are. I guess it’s because there’s no place to stop without getting caught in Southcenter-like traffic and turns. But again, freeway stations could be one way to address this.

      4. There isn’t “nothing” there — the parts that aren’t warehouses are fairly intense auto-oriented development, fitting general land values in the region and proximity to freeways. The reason I know how lousy transit connections to that area are is that I know people that have worked there. The “Plaza 520” folk that successfully protested the potential 130th OMF location aren’t the owners of nothing — nobody takes the bus to the Acura dealership, but the other stuff is offices and retail. All in the middle of giant parking lot — that cloaks them from the street but doesn’t wipe them from existence.

        Anyway, a freeway station at 140th (140th has at least a minor existing transit connection) wouldn’t be exactly like the freeway stations farther out, but it would be something like them.

  2. Idea for a post. Or this can be a guest post someone can do. Top 10 Movies or TV Shows where a character takes local public transit, or local public transit is portrayed in a favorable light. Or something like that. But it should be where public transit is showed in a positive light, and it’s a normal part of how a character gets around his or her city.

    1. Another great idea, Sam!

      I remember reading an urban fantasy book several months ago which opened with our protagonist riding a Chicago bus. One of her friends happened to get on at a stop, bearing the news that opened the story’s main conflict. I don’t think she took public transit much more in the book besides one long taxi ride – it was too dangerous, given she was running from evil fairies – but it was definitely shown as part of normal life in the city.

      1. What made me suggest this topic was I was watching one of my favorite movies yesterday, E.T., and I noticed there wasn’t glimpse of public transportation anywhere. So then I tried to think if any of my favorite movies or TV shows had any of the characters taking public transit. Modern Family – no. And when I could think of times where public transit was somehow involved, there was usually some negative connotation to it. Like when Dee take the bus in TV show It’s Always Sunny, and she’s trapped in the middle of bunch of brain-dead weirdos on a standing-room-only bus. Or like when Elaine on Seinfeld takes the subway, and a creepy guy hits on her. Or like when Albert Brooks in Defending Your Life is killed by a bus.

      2. The Mindy Project shows her taking the subway. One episode started that way, and as is typical for the show, it was cute and she met a guy. Very positive I would say. Plenty of movies, but I can’t think of the names right now (any good movie about normal people in New York has subway scenes).

      3. I’ve occasionally seen people on the subway in movies, but it’s not common. When it does happen, it’s rail transit in an extreme transit city, such as New York or London.

        I saw one movie several years ago where the main character sold everything he had out of desperation to pay huge medical bills for his son. Needless to say, the car was the last possession to go, but they did show 2 seconds of him hopping off a bus.

        To a large extent, this is a reflection of cultural bias of the people in Hollywood who make these movies. I’d bet it would be not quite as true for movies made in Europe.

    2. Does it count if the movie was made before 1960 or so? You can find dozens in the 1920s.

    3. Trouble in Mind. 1985, Kris Kristofferson movie set in the mythical city of Rain City (shot in Seattle). The characters amazingly took the monorail between all points of the city.
      While, in my opinion, the movie actually sucked, it can’t go unmentioned being set locally with local transit.

      1. So we got to see a whole city looking like Westlake and Belltown, except for the Seattle Center? Sounds a little bland.

    4. Her is set in a near-future LA in which they have thoroughly expanded public transit to the point where nobody drives a car — in fact, I don’t think I remember seeing a single car in that entire movie. Instead he walks/takes the train more or less everywhere.

      1. Fun fact: When Her‘s protagonist gets off the subway in “Santa Monica”, he wades across a platform teeming with the conspicuous Whiteness of Spike Jonze’s day-rate filming extras.

        But at the edge of the screen, an astute viewer might notice that all of LA’s future subway passengers are Chinese for some reason.

        Why Jonze would take such extraordinary pains to make his foreground Future LA so homogeneous is beyond me.

    5. Even in Manhattan-based sitcoms people are always taking taxis (Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Seinfeld). I wonder if subway trains are harder to film in (you’d need an out-of service one, or mock one up). Though buses should be easy enough to find and film in.

      The best I can come up with is a short story I heard on the radio a few weeks ago.

      Wait! Risky Business. 1983. On second though, maybe that’s not really putting transit in a positive light.

      1. The MTA has a stretch of unused subway line and a station in Brooklyn (an old Court Street station, not the one on the R) that houses the NYC Transit Museum. It’s often used for filming as nothing needs to be shut down.

        It’s a pretty interesting place that would likely be of interest to anyone who posts here. Several lines stop within a few blocks.

      2. How I Met Your Mother has at least one episode where Barney runs a marathon without prep and gets stuck on a subway train when he sits down and can’t get back up.

        Also the last season has prominent use of a LIRR station as a set.

        I’d guess one problem with filming is that logistically you’re dealing with often narrow platforms so with the footprint of a film crew you have to shoot lenghtwise. That really requires you to clear it and move all the equipment, cameras, lighting, staff etc around if you want multiple camera angles which makes it even more expensive. I think that’s why a lot of subway shots tend to be of the car interior, shot on a set and not the real thing.

      3. There’s a passage in “New York: the Novel” where a man who lives in the Upper West Side is taking his family to a ballgame in the 1970s and says they’ll take the subway. That’s just to show the evolving attitudes of New Yorkers in the 1600s, 1800s, 1920s, 1940s, and 1970s. His kids say, “What? It’s unsafe.” He says, “Does nobody in this family take public transportation anymore?” He realizes that his wife and even his maid take taxis. So he resolutely repeats, “We’ll take the subway.”

      4. Always? There are at least 2 episodes of Seinfeld that focus on them riding the subway.

      5. I think the big problem is that many of these (ie, Friends) were / are actually made mostly in LA. The ones that are actually made in New York usually have a much different feel to them, including the use of transit by the characters.

        The LA metro must be really hard to work with. When they filmed a few segments of Caprica that needed a train, they used Skytrain.

      6. Caprice was shot in Vancouver so using Skytrain stations (and other Vancouver locations) makes a certain amount of sense.

      7. Some of it was shot in Vancouver. From what I have read they still do the vast majority of their studio work in LA.

    6. “Divergent”! Just watched it last night. The Dauntless take the future version of the Chicago El wherever they go!

    7. Little Buddha (1993) is partly set in Seattle – with some fudging of geography. There’s a scene where the characters ride the monorail from Queen Anne to Downtown. It’s a great scene, except the movie makes it seem as if the ride lasts at least 20 minutes.

    8. Speaking of movies and public transit, a good advertisement for Link might be the opening scene from the movie Office Space.

    9. North by Northwest has frequent bus and train appearances, complete with a Greyhound Viewliner that serves a route in the middle of a corn field.

      1. +1, because many of the thriller scenes occur when the characters are NOT on public transit and the protagonist uses public transit to thwart the villians. And you have drunk driving as a method of dispatch.

    10. “The Titfield Thunderbolt” and the episode of the Avengers entitled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station.”

    11. This might not count as it’s a music video, but part of the “Gangnam Style” video seems to be on some kind of train,

    12. The tougher task, of course, is finding positive portrayals of bikes as transit. From 40-Year Old Virgin on down, Hollywood generally tells us riding a bike indicates a lack of masculinity or maturity or a general inability to get your life together, or all three. It’s as much a crutch as the spoiled milk telling us bachelors can’t handle the domestic half of life.

      Unless you’re covered head-to-toe in lycra, in which case you’re at best an icy, overly competitive ass and at worst a murderous pedophile.

    1. Will they demand to be addressed as “Master Conductor” ?

      (“Yes master,… You’re wish is my command…)
      This ought to be interesting.

    2. Moast Amtrak train have only one person in the cab; it has been that way for a number of years, now.

      1. Yes, but trying to operate something like Sounder as a light rail train (one crew only) on a main line isn’t something that would happen in most places in the USA. They are doing it on branch lines like New Jersey RiverLINE, etc.

        I think this brings us one step closer to commuter rail being something that could be economically operated over main lines all day, and with lighter equipment.

  3. How Car Ownership Helps the Working Poor Get Ahead

    This March, the Urban Institute released a statistical analysis of federal data that found a link between car ownership and employment. Researchers took a look at federal data collected on two groups of low-income people who received housing vouchers in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    “The families who had cars were more likely to get access to high-quality neighborhoods—and they were more likely to get jobs if they didn’t have jobs already, and keep jobs if they already had jobs, than those households who did not have cars,” says Rolf Pendall, director of the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. Access to public transit was associated with keeping a job but not with getting one.

    1. Of course this is true; it’s probably even true beyond confounding factors, in today’s cities and in today’s job market. This is what everyone talks about when they talk about auto-dependence.

    2. I believe it goes beyond that.

      The STB tranitistas consider auto-dependence an intentional phenomena and have been trying — for two decades — to put the cows back in the barn.

      What I — and some of the data and articles present — perhaps suggest that what we have in suburbia is a better way. A better way for more people to have better lives, wealthier lives, and yes, even more healthy, productive and rich ones.

      The car is a technology that creates more choice, and allows new business formation without the high costs of startup inherent in cities. That more that other (sinister) reasons is why we expanded beyond the city limits.

      1. Of course, and since America is the most car-dependent country in the world, we should also be the wealthiest per capita, healthiest, and most happy, right? Right?

      2. We’re pretty car-dependent as a country, but we’re not alone. Iceland, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, etc are all pretty damn close to us.

      3. Vehicles have very large external costs and only have only been “affordable” through very inexpensive energy. If that era of cheap energy is coming to an end, the era of individual vehicles will, probably, soon end shortly afterwards. The massive infrastructure to support SOVs will also cost more to operate and I, for one, don’t see SOV transportation as an individual right to be further sustained any longer. We dumped telegraph wires for the Internet; we can similarly dump SOVs for combinations of mass and personalized transit.

        As for the suburbs, if they want to join with the city to achieve the economies of scale needed to make this work, great and that would be awesome. Otherwise, I pay taxes to Seattle, not Kent, so I will look out for my section of society first.

      4. You’re just wrong, John. Car-dependent suburbia is intentionally inflicted upon us… and it sucks.

        Cars are all very well for rural transport. They stop working right when there’s traffic.

      5. Zach: actually, several of those countries are substantially less car-dependent than the US. Australia has extensive public transit, including multi-line rail systems, in nearly all the major cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth). These have populations smaller than many US cities with terrible public transit. Even the intercity rail is pretty good in NSW, Queensland, and Victoria. They’re building light rail in the Gold Coast (population 590K) — this is the size of Reno, NV. Honestly, Canberra’s the only really bad example in Australia.

        You have to expect the Outback to be car-dependent. That isn’t the issue. When it comes to the cities, Australia has FAR more passenger rail than the US does.

        Portugal is a bit worse, but it’s still better than the US. Among industrialized countries, only in the US would a metro area with 2.3 million people have NO urban passenger rail (Columbus, Ohio). This would also happen in a poor third world country, of course (Dhaka is sorely lacking in public transportation, for example).

        Turkey was pretty terrible (massively auto-dependent) until recently but it’s made great improvements in the last couple of decades.

  4. It would be nice if there were a group transit pass option in Seattle. My wife and I visited Berlin and Hamburg recently, and the group passes were very useful and a great value for us. Even with just two of us in Hamburg, a one-day group pass saved us a lot of money over even individual day passes for the two of us, and our group pass in Berlin was great, too.

    We’ve had visitors stay in our home but getting everybody two-way fare when we want to go to downtown adds up really quickly. A group pass option would make transit more competetive in those situations.

  5. Why didn’t the bus driver find the fake bomb when he did a walk thru of the bus before leaving the base? Or did he leave out this step.

  6. Has anyone ever seen this Facebook page? King County Metro Transfer Tickets Colors. “King County Metro uses different transfer tickets each day, this page is where riders receive and share info about the daily transfer color and letter.” I suppose people who have collected all the transfers check this page to know which transfer to leave the house with? So does 2642 likes means 2642 people using a saved transfer and not paying every day?

    1. Yes, it’s not news and goes back a few years to a blog and tumblr which had the same thing. This is why King County needs to eliminate paper transfers, correspondent with bringing down the $5 cost of an ORCA card to a more reasonable $1 or $2 like it is in most other cities which have smartcards (ORCA is now the most expensive smartcard out of major metros, since WMATA dropped theirs to $2).

      1. Or, at the very least, have a more complicated date code. TriMet’s transfers, until they were eliminated in favor of date stamped tickets, had an 8 letter day code as well as a transfer color and a serial number. I never ran into anyone, in the 30 years I used TriMet most heavily, attempting to try to fake the system, except for a far more technically advanced scheme to create forged monthly passes.

  7. Nice write-up on TOD with Marta.

    I thought this was particularly interesting:

    “With the new projects, MARTA will lease the land—typically for 99 years—to developers planning mixed-use, transit-oriented buildings. (Walton Communities plans 13,000-square feet of retail and 386 residential units for the four acres at King Memorial.) Rhein says MARTA has chosen to lease rather than sell its land because agency rules stipulate the lease revenue can go toward transit operations, an area of urgent need for MARTA, while sales revenue must go toward capital projects. In the short term, the TOD influx will be reinvested into better service on trains and buses.”

    1. Thank you, Claudia Balducci. I look forward to my next opportunity to vote against you.

      Actually, it’s kind of amusing to see Sound Transit bulldozing their way through another Bellevue protest. Surrey Downs got only begrudging support from the city, unlike the Bellevue Club and other monied interests. It’s fun to see Wright Runstad getting screwed. Mind you, I like Wright Runstad and am a fan of the Spring District. It’s just fun to watch Bellevue’s so-called “leadership” squirm.

    2. Balducci voted against the site, in a 7-3 vote, according to the Times article. And when she was on the Bellevue city council, she was the main person who stood up for East Link when other councilmemebers were trying to cancel it or route it on 405. So she has done a lot for East Link, and I think she’s among the more pro-urban Bellevue politicians. So vote against her if you don’t believe in East Link or density at all, not because ST chose the 120th site over her objection.

      1. I know that Claudia voted against the site. I should be more explicit: it’s amusing to see Claudia on the side that’s getting bulldozed by Sound Transit.

        I continue voting against Claudia any chance I get because she was always blindly defending Sound Transit’s decisions in South Bellevue. And I blame Claudia in large part for the ridiculous alignment through downtown wherein the tunnel runs under 110th for stations that both open on 112th. I know this isn’t Claudia’s fault, precisely, but she was on both sides of the pissing contest. It’s hard not to blame her.

        Yes, I’m glad that Claudia was able to single-handedly save East Link in the face of opposition from Kemper, Kevin, and Jennifer. But Kevin and Jennifer actually answered my emails and when I offered a citizen’s opinion to the council. Claudia lied, and then denied lying when confronted by a neighbor at a Bellevue City Council meeting.

        In short, I’m amused to see Claudia losing, any way I can.

      2. Well, you better get used to her. She’s not going anywhere, except up.

      3. And I’m not too familiar with the East Link situation, but anyone who can stand up to Kemper Freeman is someone worthy of praise. Everyone might not agree with all of her positions, but that’s why we have these votes. Let’s not criticize her for trying to help do this right. Even if it’s not what most others want.

  8. With regards to The Transport Politic’s article on slow transit speeds, Seattle is quite lucky to have avoided this problem with University/North Link–average speeds from UW to Westlake and Northgate to Westlake appear to be above 30 mph, which is very good for urban standards considering the heavy traffic congestion and difficult topography that surface routes in this corridor face.

    However, South Link as currently planned is definitely too slow. Despite an average speed of ~26mph between Federal Way and Seattle (which is decent for rapid transit standards), it utterly fails to be competitive with even express bus service in peak period congestion: Link will take about 55 minutes from Federal Way to Westlake compared to ~37 minutes on buses. Of course South Link will still provide a meaningful improvement on trips to intermediate points such as SeaTac Airport, but we really need to do something to make Link faster unless we want to continue running massive amounts of express buses to South King county even after South Link is completed. The “Duwamish bypass” will help, but ultimately we will need to upgrade Link’s top speeds in order to provide a viable alternative to the car or to buses in long-distance corridors.

    It seems that many US cities have this same problem with suburban light rail being too slow compared to nearby freeways. Perhaps a good example to emulate in this regard would be Perth’s Mandurah railway line, which manages to achieve an AVERAGE speed of over 50 miles per hour (top speed is over 80 mph). Due to high speeds and convenient bus connections, that line achieves decent ridership (50,000 per day) despite running long distances across extremely low-density suburbia while competing with a freeway.

    1. You can only improve Link’s avg speed so much. It will never be faster than a non-stop bus via I-5. This is the fundamental problem with systems like Link (…or BART or MAX or RTD) – they stop too frequently for long distance travel and not enough for the inner-city. Anyone who voted for Link thinking they could ride from Federal Way to downtown Seattle faster than the bus was severely duped.

      1. …if the non-stop bus via I-5 manages to avoid getting caught in serious traffic. It sounds like you haven’t yet had significant freeway congestion on I-5 south of Seattle. Lucky you.

    2. Every rail line is competitive for some trips and not competitive for others. Northend Link will be competitive with the existing ST Express buses, while southend Link won’t. But it will address trips such as Federal Way to the airport or Rainier Valley to Highline CC as well as Rainier Valley to the airport. That in itself is a worthwhile goal. A sub-40 minute trip from Federal Way to Westlake is a different goal, and mutually exclusive with this one. Is it more important than the other? That’s for people to decide. But a frequent, limited-stop service is the most effective way to get to a more transit-riding, less car-dependent future, and sorry if it conflicts with a Federal Way express.

      One compromise is to keep the express buses peak hours but delete them off-peak. That addresses the main concern of commuters, while off-peak you’re trading slower speed for 10-minute frequency, which cancels out the disadvantage in many cases. Many times people want to travel but the next express bus doesn’t leave for 20-30 minutes, so their travel time 37 minutes + 20 minutes = 57 minutes. One of the two or three biggest things people don’t like about transit is waiting. So a 60-minute train every 10 minutes is not necessarily worse than a 37-minute bus every 30 minutes, and many people say it’s more pleasant.

      Ideally we’d delete all those peak-hour buses with an equally-fast train. But it’s not the end of the world if we don’t.

      1. When Link arrives in Federal Way, I predict Sound Transit will convert the weekend 577 service to 578’s, and the 578 will not go north of Federal Way Transit Center. 577 weekday peak would continue because of the obvious time advantage. KCM might consider eliminating some of it’s peak service, or what’s left after the cuts are made.

      2. With a 594 restructuring, Federal Way could get service to downtown all day, every 10-15 minutes, simply by rerouting existing buses. There is no reason to force everybody going between Federal Way and Seattle onto a train that is fundamentally designed for shorter trips. If Sound Transit tried to do this in practice, everybody would look at the numbers and just drive directly to their destination – after all, they’re already in their cars on the way to the transit center anyway.

      3. With a 594 restructuring we will need twice as many buses to make room for everyone and a significant increase to the already length time those in Lakewood endure (Over an hour).

        The bus will only go downtown. The train lends itself to many other destinations with frequent trips that makes it a viable choice for off peak travel. For peak service I would hope they keep the 577 as is Monday through Friday.

    3. I’d wait until these lines are running before we start thinking we avoided the speed issue. There’s the projected and then there’s the actual.

  9. A few weeks ago, I commented that the trolleys will likely continue to be motorized, contrary to someone noting that s/he saw trolleys (weekend of July 4-6). I suggested that Metro typically does not motorize on the holiday weekends, but they do on most other weekends. This continues past substantial installation of the First Hill Streetcar (FHSC) project. I knew I was right, but why don’t they run trolleys on the weekends? Is this for maintenance reasons, I’m guessing? I know the equipment is getting old and hopefully the new buses come in soon.

  10. BNSF decided to do maintenance on some track right before my train was to come in. We boarded half hour late. By then a train with mechanical issues was blocking the way. We finally arrived in Seattle at 12pm, two hours late.

  11. Some comments from Fort Collins, in regards to the new MAX BRT system. First, the negative:

    1. A separate alignment from the main road is highly overrated.The problem is the challenging coordination of the signal timings between the busway, cross streets, and College Avenue one block to the east. MAX buses frequently have to wait almost two minutes, while the former Route 1 inadvertently had fewer traffic signal delays due to the rational prioritization of the signals along College Avenue. Additionally, College Avenue is signed between 35 mph and 40 mph south of Laurel; the busway has multiple areas where the speed limit has to be reduced to 20 mph due to safety concerns. As a result, trips are averaging about 24-26 minutes from end-to-end, comparable to self timings of the former Route 1 which operated on College Avenue from Downtown to Harmony Road, exclusive of the Mall detour along Swallow.

    2. Excessive stop removal, without providing local-stop alternatives, has an adverse impact on seniors and people with disabilities. The former Route 1 stopped about every 1/4-1/5 mile; south of Prospect, the MAX stops about every 1/2 mile. Most businesses are oriented towards College Avenue with entrances relatively close to the street. In addition to having to walk a block or two perpendicularly east from the MAX route to access existing businesses, customers must also walk significant distances parallel to the MAX route to access the bus. In coordination with other improvements that reduce travel time, to the extent that the route could reliably be operated in a 60 minute cycle round-trip, stops should be added to reduce the maximum distance between two consecutive stops to no more than 1/3 mile, with 1/4 mile being ideal.

    3. Route restructures. In a vein attempt to “force” all north-south travel onto the MAX route, routes were substantially restructured to significant complaints. Today, many trips that used to be a one-seat or two-seat with a timed connection are now three seat rides with untimed, uncoordinated connections; many customers report having their trip time substantially increase, with the shortest trip between many destinations exceeding 1 1/2 hours exclusive of the 30-60 minute headway nearly all routes operate at. Some changes are being made in a month to address complaints on the southern part of the city, with some interesting and convoluted interline patterns a result of constrained resources. Transfort isn’t constrained just in finances; due to continual requests for new service backed by both city and CSU funding, 18-year-old Gillig Phantoms are kept in service as without them, Transfort wouldn’t have enough buses to operate service.

    4. Bicycles. Regular Transfort buses have 3-slot bike racks. MAX buses can accommodate 4 bicycles inside the rear door; two on ground-level racks, and two in vertical racks clearly designed, as a professional acquaintance put it, for “fit males with thousand-dollar lightweight bikes.” In general, I’ve anecdotally observed that bicycle rack usage is highest on peripheral routes where customers may bicycle miles to access the nearest route operating at the time the customer wants to make a trip. Ample bike parking is provided at almost all stations, but many people, particularly lower-income customers, may bike a significant distance on both ends of their MAX trip. As a result, bike passups are unfortunately common, with no solution short of “improve the other routes to have long service spans and high frequencies.”

    5. No Sunday Service. This one speaks for itself.

    And the positive.

    1. In general, it feels like the system has changed substantially from being a “small town” system with infrequent headways and no service after 6 pm towards a “big city” system, in both ridership and attitudes. Within the last five years, Transfort has shifted from being almost exclusively a system for seniors, students, and DUI convicts to one for a substantial segment of the population. I’ve had to stand on hourly routes a handful of times, including on the hourly intercity route FLEX, which operates on a 55 mph highway, as ridership has increased about 50% in the years leading up to 2014, without any substantial service changes. While many of the MAX customers drive to stations, I’ve noticed many customers to be professionally-dressed white-collar professionals on their way to work Downtown.

    2. Evening service. MAX has had such high evening loads that trips had to be inserted mid-schedule to reduce wait times 20 to 10 before 9 pm on Friday and Saturday, and from 30 to 15 from 9 pm to 12 am on Saturday night in order to accommodate customer demand. I’ve observed a mini-rush from Downtown; the trips around 8-9 pm are full of families with children and people older than about 40-50 returning from an evening out, and as the night progresses the ridership demographic changes to 20-30-year-old customers.

    3. Middle-class families. Many people will take the MAX with their children, some on “joyrides” and some with actual destinations, and as a result I’ve seen some limited spillover of middle-class family ridership onto other Transfort routes. Of note is that due to a large subsidy from the Bohemian Foundation (funded by billionare Pat Stryker), all Transfort rides are free to those 17 and younger. The question at this point is if the families will remain on the bus once the novelty wears off and fares start being charged to customers over 17.

    4. Station announcements in English and en Español. The only other US public transit system that I know of with bilingual announcements is the Los Angeles Metro Subway and Light Rail. Los Angeles county is 48% Hispanic; Fort Collins is 10% Hispanic. (Yes, I know being Hispanic and Spanish-language-use aren’t the same, but enough correlation exists for a high-level analysis). 56% of Los Angeles county speaks a language other than English at home; in Fort Collins, only 10% do (note that this statistic doesn’t reflect on the ability to speak and understand conversational English sufficiently enough to use a bus system). In light of the demographics I personally feel like having bilingual announcements is overkill, but it’s the nice thought that counts.

    1. When Fort Collins was planning MAX, I said “They’re going to want to convert that to light rail sooner rather than later”. The waiting-at-intersections problem could be alleviated with a rail line with crossing gates rather than a bus line. The crowding issues can be alleviated with rail vehicles rather than buses. The speed limits due to “safety issues” can probably be eliminated with rail (which stays on its tracks) rather than buses. The operating cost issues can be alleviated by rail rather than buses… etc.

      1. In the 2002 plan (unfortunately not available online), the proposal was for the MAX route (every 10 minutes) to be interlined with 30-minute-frequency routes on West and East Harmony, as well as south to Loveland. Unless tracks are constructed, rail doesn’t permit open interlines.

        FRA regulations and BNSF would also be a problem for light rail. New regulations require tracks to be at least 50 feet from the FRA-regulated mainline; the busway is about 20 feet away. Additionally, the LRT catenary wire would interfere with double-stack trains.

        If St. Paul is any example, there is no guarantee that our overly conservative traffic engineer would permit rail to have full preemption.

        I don’t know if you use urban transit much, but for me, a 10 or 15 minute frequency with buses is preferable to a 20 or 30 minute frequency with trains. My assumption is that many of Transfort’s customers also prefer shorter waits. 10 minutes is hardly a crushing frequency at which buses can’t support demand.

        The 20 MPH speed limit is through the CSU Campus, where all interior speed limits are 20 MPH. There is no guarantee that LRT would have a higher speed limit; even the straight BNSF mainline is restricted to 20 MPH north of Prospect.

        Operating cost issues… what are you even talking about? Transfort’s hourly revenue costs are about $90/hour, well below King County Metro’s very high $136/hour as well as rail. If you can find me with NTD data an urban rail system that has an hourly cost below $90, I’m all ears.

        Facts should never interfere with a rail fetish.

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