Metro Route 72
Metro Route 72, possibly to be saved. Photo by Kris Leisten.

This past Monday morning, Transportation Choices hosted a community briefing on the upcoming Yes for Seattle Transit campaign, which will campaign for a Yes vote in this November’s election on the Seattle-only transit funding measure we’ve previously called “Plan D.”  I attended the briefing along with about 100 community activists, politicians, transit professionals, and other journalists.  Little new information was presented at the briefing, which served mostly as a kickoff event for the campaign, but it’s a good opportunity to remind our Seattle-resident readers what the ballot measure and campaign are about.

The ballot measure, primarily championed by Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, would include a $60 vehicle license fee and a 0.1% sales tax, imposed only within the city, to benefit the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD).  These are the same funding sources that would have been imposed countywide under Proposition 1, defeated in April’s special election.  Most of the funds raised would be devoted to saving bus service on routes that exclusively or primarily (at least 80% of stops within Seattle) serve Seattle.  A small portion of the funds would be set aside to fund core routes between Seattle and other jurisdictions, in partnership with those jurisdictions.  The mayor and Councilmember Rasmussen expect that the measure would raise roughly enough money to forestall all of the currently planned or expected Metro cuts in Seattle except those scheduled for this coming September, which are expected to go through as planned and not be restored.  Metro has indicated that it is ready to work with Seattle (or any other jurisdiction that’s interested) to restore service using local funding.

Mayor Murray has made clear, and reiterated at the briefing, that he sees this funding as a stopgap, to be used only until there is a permanent, countywide source of funding that restores Metro service to current levels.

Given that the defeated Proposition 1 enjoyed 66% support within the City of Seattle, and the November general election is expected to have a more pro-transit electorate, the players involved expect the measure to pass.  The principal source of controversy with respect to the measure, to the extent there is any, is a sentence in the resolution authorizing the measure that reads:

The first priority for the funding is to preserve existing routes and prevent King County Metro’s proposed February 2015 service cuts and restructures.

Some activists who spoke during the briefing’s Q&A session made it clear that they see this sentence as preventing any restructure of Metro service for the entire length of time Seattle is funding Metro through the STBD.  Both Mayor Murray and Councilmember Rasmussen disagreed with this interpretation, but neither wanted to discuss specific service decisions at this event, and neither would address the merits of restructuring.  In any case, since the City Council voted to put the measure on the ballot, King County punted on its originally proposed February 2015 restructures, which would have brought major change to the Seattle bus network.  The County Council voted instead to cut service for February 2015, but to decide the specifics of the cuts at a later date.

45 Replies to “Yes for Seattle Transit Kicks Off”

  1. That’s not a controversial stipulation, it’s essential to the initiative’s passage. There is no evidence that the public shares STB’s love of restructures, and plenty of reason to believe that public support for this funding would erode if voters did not have assurances that their money would be used to keep their bus route operating.

    1. There’s no evidence that the public loves crappy, infrequent service, which it might defend in the abstract, but which it avoids like the plague outside of rush hour.

      Actions speak louder than words.

      1. Eric, it’s everywhere. Have you ridden the 25? No because almost no one does. How about the highly-variable infrequent off-peak route 2? Same deal there. And don’t even look at the 24 that comes every half an hour traveling a giant “S” across Magnolia.

      2. The 30 is infrequent service. Granted, NOAA is at fault for being located way out in the boonies.
        The 44 is crappy service (slow & overcrowded).

      3. It’s in this place called “our entire urban transportation network”.

        Even our supposed “frequent core network”, so recently born, is so full of bottlenecks and detours and unreliables and “hypothetical-15-minutes-with-no-assurances-and-dropping-to-30-when-you-most-need-its” as to render most trips 2x-6x slower than driving or even biking at any time other than rush hour.

        That uncompetitiveness for any purpose other than peak commuting is the reason our modeshare is crap outside of rush hour, and falls short of true ubiquity even then.

        Don’t let anyone tell you that 4 RapidRide buses an hour with 30-40 people on each — running on roads that see hundreds or thousands of cars per hour during the same periods — is some sort of triumph.

        Spade = spade. Metro is crappy and infrequent, and needs to be rebuilt from scratch if it’s going to become anything else. Political assurances to the contrary should be viewed as the poison pills that they are.

    2. “The first priority for the funding is to preserve existing routes and prevent King County Metro’s proposed February 2015 service cuts and restructures.”

      This sentence is not going to help most bus riders — who are used to packed routes — decide to vote Yes. We need some of the funding to help *add* service to the routes that are bursting at the seems.

      I’m sorry that saving the emptiest routes, serving the fewest riders, got prioritized. Not helpful.

      But I will be holding my nose, voting Yes, and then doing my part to ensure the money is used to stop only the restructures that don’t improve service, and then save the bus routes that are ready to explode. If common sense prevails, some of that money could even be spent on capital improvements, such as bus lanes, bus bulbs, and TSP. Temporary money is most impactful when spent on permanent low-operating-cost improvements.

      Given that some of the money will help with the low income fare program, it is clear that the money isn’t straight-jacketed into just paying for service hours, thankfully.

      Save the D Line! Save the 120! Save the proposed new 73!

      1. ” If common sense prevails, some of that money could even be spent on capital improvements, such as bus lanes, bus bulbs, and TSP. Temporary money is most impactful when spent on permanent low-operating-cost improvements.”

        + 1, like people with Facebook, or is it Twitter or just e-mail say, Brent.

        Having personally seen at least 4 Route 40 artics, include the one I had to walk off, stuck inbound on 9th and Mercer, for lack of a transit lane during construction- counting lost service hours in every single incident like that, measures like reserved lanes could unpack a lot of buses and save a lot of needless apoplexy.

        One driver in the above mess told me later he’d lost an hour. One positive thing about the proposed cuts will be that the system will no more be able to “shine on” trouble like this with an excuse or two what they’re still studying or don’t feel like doing. A little more spit in the polish now.

        MD

      2. This sentence is not going to help most bus riders — who are used to packed routes — decide to vote Yes. We need some of the funding to help *add* service to the routes that are bursting at the seems.

        This is just silly. The impact of the precise content of campaign messaging is almost always exaggerated, but this is a rather extreme case. This passed 2-1 in the Spring, we’ll have a more pro-transit electorate in November. The notion that the precise wording of campaign literature is going to make the difference here isn’t plausible. That’s the sort of thing that matters at the margins. There’s not meaningful evidence from previous electoral data that we’re at all likely to be anywhere near the margins. If some serious polling data comes along showing this close, I’ll revisit this view, but for now there is no good reason to believe this sort of thing matters.

      3. The sentence isn’t from any campaign literature. It is from the enabling legislation.

        The real damage will be to future transit funding measures, as riders watch the money get spent in some of the least impactful ways to help the fewest riders. We have to out-yelll the advocates of preserving empty bus routes if we want something good to come of this measure.

        As you say, passage of this measure is not in jeopardy, so there is no harm in starting to beat the drum now to listen to Metro’s professional planners, not random outspoken JCs who either don’t know much about how a transit system works, or don’t care if it works, so long as their half-empty, painfully unrideable route gets protected, and their favorite stops remain. There is too much at stake to let them waste all the money.

      4. “as riders watch the money get spent in some of the least impactful ways to help the fewest riders”

        That sentence wasn’t added by some lone-wolf councilmember with no public support. It was added because of significant public pressure. When you and DP say people will vote against Metro for not reorganizing, or Anakandros said people will vote against ST if it doesn’t cancel Sounder North, that’s just a few people. If it had been a lot of people, there would have been overwhelming public pressure on Metro, the county council, and ST to do these reorganizations earlier, and they’d be already done. Instead, in Prop I, the largest public voices were to “Save Route 2” and “Save 19th Avenue’s bus service”. So for everyone who votes against Metro for not consolidating soon enough, one or two vote against Metro for not preserving existing routes.

        I am 100% for sensible consolidations. We need a full-time frequent network NOW, even if it means cancelling some neighboring routes and Sounder North. But the political reality is different. It’s up to us to change public opinion to put the right kind of pressure on the leaders, and it does no good to pretend this has already happened. Predicting that people will vote against Metro because it hasn’t consolidated enough, adds to the general negative mood (with an ultimately anti-transit effect), and it puts Metro and the politicians in an impossible position because they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

      5. People have voted with their feet, Mike.

        Listen, the fact that Seattle has the commute modeshare that it does — or that it has any elective off-peak users whatsoever — despite Metro’s aggressive mediocrity when it comes to pursuing any and all pieces of its conflicting and muddled service mission, is a testament to the desire for public transportation in this city.

        But with apologies to the defensively oversensitive, our actual ridership remains crap compared to any transit-enabled city you can possibly imagine. Even our supposedly “overtaxed” peak transit pales in comparison to what commute-surge crowds look like in real cities. Not even in the same ballpark league sport.

        No amount of goalpost-shifting (for the purpose of contorted autofellating) about our weak-ass new “flagship” routes can mask the fact that most Seattleites, for most trips, correctly choose other options.

        When transit gets palpably better, people start to use it. Really is that simple! And that “buy-in” is where long-term political support for funding and for investment is found.

        But when support and funding are finite, as they are today, you have to make hard routing choices and lean heavily against Lesser Seattle pushback in order to build something useful and effective at selling itself.

        A coherent program of fast, easy, scalable mobility-making transit is decades overdue. If it can’t happen in this most dire of funding moments, then transit in this town is truly fucked forever.

      6. So why don’t more of those people who vote with their feet tell the county, Metro, and ST what kind of transit they want? That would correct their impressions of the public sentiment. What the leaders hear is probably a quarter of people clamoring for a frequent urban-village focused grid, a quarter wanting to keep the legacy routes, and the remaining half with incoherent and unrealistic demands (such as all-day one-seat rides to downtown from Arbor Heights, Admiral, and Rainier View).

      7. Having a willingness to understand/adjust for the well-understood phenomenon of “loss aversion”, and having the ability to understand the holistic effects of policy decisions on the loudmouths and the wider citizenry alike, is almost the sole distinction between a worthless politician/manager and a civil servant of value.

        So you’re basically saying, “Incompetents rule; let’s be okay with that! Oh, and let’s also pretend our overpriced, unsustainable, and widely-avoided transit is succeeding!”

        Sorry, but fuck no!

      8. People feel more pain when they have to give something up, rather than when they miss out on something they never had. To people who already use transit, voting to preserve service is important. In a city with decent mode share (even for people who just like the option of using transit when they rarely actually do), there will be plenty of public support for funding to preserve existing service. In the suburbs, where transit enjoys a much lower mode share, people are less willing to pay new taxes to preserve existing service.

        Really, people who support transit do so regardless of the initiative. They want to know the personal impact (will my route be cut?) and that the overall effect is consistent with their worldview. Very, very few people will vote against this measure because they are afraid Metro will not have authority to implement restructures.

      9. Mike,

        I didn’t say people would vote against the Metro restoration measure because of Sounder North. I said they’d vote against ST3 because of Sounder North and “coverage” stupidities like it.

    3. Could they not have written something like “preserve existing levels of mobility” or something slightly more abstract?

    1. The question of it working out is about not wasting the money. There is a long list of stuffed bus routes that need help and capital projects that could preserve/improve service levels while reducing the need for service hours. If the JCs and RCs have their way, these projects won’t happen, and these routes will continue to have more and more pass-ups. Just say NO to saving the routes that riders have voted against with their feet.

  2. Before I vote, I want to see an opinion from the state AG about whether this agreement would in fact shackle Metro into the status quo. I’m refuse to vote Yes on mandating “business as usual.”

    1. The problem is Kyle, if this does fail on the ballot box, there would be a cut in service in Feb, June, and Sept of 2015 that there would be pretty much no fall back solution to. While yes, there are routes and areas that need addressing, the first round of cuts were the least painful of the cuts (not that it makes many people losing their routes feel any better).

      Plus, added into this is the fact that if these cuts go forward, there will be a loss in staffing at Metro that is pretty harsh for the day that funding is restored. New drivers take 4-5 weeks to train (at an average success rate of ~75%), and already Metro is struggling to get the work out as is with their reduced numbers of drivers without having a part time class in a long time. Plus let us not forget the people who keep the buses (literally) running in vehicle maintenance and the other support staff.

      The simple fact is a no vote would be very painful to the region, and would be a mistake all around.

      1. The simple fact is a no vote would be very painful to the region, and would be a mistake all around.

        I’m aware of that, which is why I’m hoping that the AG’s office believes that the part of the legislation in question is a guidance, not a shackle.

        If it takes three extremely painful rounds of cuts to extract Metro’s head from the noisemakers’ asses, I’ll grit my teeth and bear it.

    2. Unfortunately, until this is actually litigated, we don’t know how things will be decided: the AG’s opinion is at best an educated guess.

  3. As usual in Seattle, we have the problem of “status quo” versus “improvement.” Lots of people are happy, or at least aren’t not-happy, with the status quo. Change is scary, change is difficult, and change can be costly. Walking two blocks to another bus may seem like “a big deal,” but is it?

    Then there’s the improvement crowd. More density, more coherent bus routes, down with the 61. (Full disclosure: I’m in this crowd.) The September big-bang restructure from a few years ago is the goal; change up more routes, align more service, in fact, just MORE SERVICE. Walking two blocks to another bus may seem like “no big deal,” but is it?

    The question before us, as it was in April, is as simple as this: Do you want the same as what we have now, with the actual possibility–but not guarantee–of improvements or do you want less of what we have now with the actual possibility–but not guarantee–of a downward spiral in support?

    For me, the answer is the former. At some point, the level of cuts move people back to their vehicles. Once you get someone into a SOV by forcing them there, going back to transit is a very hard sell. I’m also influenced by the wording of the text which says that funding has a “first priority,” not a mandate or requirement. The property tax ballot initiative said that the money “must” have first gone to buying back the hours that Metro wanted to cut and then, if any is left over, to adding service. Compared to the new text for the new measure, I think it is more flexible.

  4. In addition to widespread agreement that the 61 did nothing and carried nobody, where’s the question of why something that bad was ever designed, followed by the question as to why it couldn’t be either canceled, or better yet redrawn, sooner.

    Was the public ever told why that route was never just attached to the 24 through Magnolia? And if this defect was a cost item, why not simply run it as a shuttle down 32nd Ave to Downtown Ballard- where everybody going to Fred Meyer’s could just get on the 40?

    Or make the 61 the tail end of the Route 48? I wonder if however much more these measures would have cost would have been paid for by the higher productivity of service? There really should be some service on 32nd. 22nd and the 40 really are a long way to walk. I wonder if eliminating the useless “tail” duplicating the 40 wouldn’t have paid for changes like this.

    Main point is that Metro has a habit not only of creating unproductive routes, but leaving them in place just out of spite- like a sulking little kid trying to make the whole world as aggravated as he is. One “shake-up”- meaning three months, or at most six months- should be enough to lose or change something as bad as the 61.

    MD

    1. Small note: 4 months, not 3.

      Also there is an additional issue that most people always tend to overlook. Metro has very little freedom itself to cancel/change/reduce work… It must seek out approval from the King County Council, who may or may not know anything about bus service on X route… But they do know that Y number of people called their office demanding a halt to the cuts to THEIR bus service or they would campaign against them.

      Politicians have a remarkable tendency to try to give people what they say they want, even if it is a general dumb idea in the long run.

      1. With so few passengers, I wonder how large or strong the constituency has for the Route 61 as presently routed, Having half a block from 32nd and Market, with a favorite cafe at 32nd and 65th, I suspect that a fair number of passengers resented the loss of the Route 17 outside of rush hour.

        Since the all-day 17 local crossed the drawbridge on 15th, it never went by Fred Meyers, the only possible large commercial complex now on the route- which is amply served by the 40, and carries so few passengers now, I doubt that there would be much objection to turning the 61 around in Downtown Ballard.

        I do think that a complete lack of service on 32nd between Ballard and 65th will probably generate enough pressure to do just that. But for the very long time the 61 hasn’t been performing, I wonder if a meeting between Councilman Larry Phillips and affected residents could have brought about necessary changes without either cancelling service or continuing a very bad route.

        Mark Dublin

      2. I do not buy the idea that old route 17 riders resented its loss so much that they refused to take the 61 for trips that it serves about as well as the 17 did. I’ll buy that the ones making trips the 61 doesn’t serve as well gave it up, and if we accept that we have to accept there isn’t much demand for a Blue Ridge-Ballard shuttle of any shape without changes to outside factors (what’s along 32nd and in downtown Ballard, quality of connecting transit in Ballard).

        The 61 appears to not have been attached to the 24 because vocal Magnolians opposed that. It’s also unclear that such a route, though its appeal is obvious, would have performed any better than a mirror image of the 25. Both go downtown; one serves SLU and the other LQA; the proposed 24’s Magnolia walkshed is better than the existing 25’s Montlake walkshed; the UW is a bigger transit destination than Ballard; Blue Ridge and Lauelhurst aren’t so different; in both cases other service with the robust demand to justify better schedules is accessible for most but attractive for few. If such a route performed poorly while Metro needed to find things to cut the whole route north of Magnolia would stick out like a sore thumb, so I’m not sure this idea would ultimately get you a robust connection to your favorite coffee shop.

        The 61 goes as far as 15th because that’s its connection to the D Line, which is supposed to be the fast way downtown. Sometimes it even is. Part of the deal with the Rapid Ride restructures is that they were supposed to be better than what they replaced, and that the neighborhoods that lost one-seat rides would get connecting service to them; the failure of the first part of the promise is much discussed and has weighed upon the second. The 61’s existence, and its going to 15th was part of that deal even though nobody really predicted glorious success, and the rest is basically a terminal loop. The western end of the 50 is related to the 61 by history, and while the 50 isn’t a great performer it’s not quite so bad.

        The 48 runs so much more often than the 61 that extending it isn’t cheap, especially into the traffic of downtown Ballard. The 48 is already kind of long, and isn’t known for its reliability. Extending the 48 to downtown Ballard might buy the 32nd Ave section a few riders on the way through between Ballard and Greenwood or Green Lake.

    2. I have always wondered why the 17/61 route wasn’t attached to the 48. Instead, I have to figure out how to help my mother in law, who has been riding the bus up and down 32nd NW since 1965. All off peak rides, and pretty much daily during the week. Neither she nor I drive.

  5. One question I have, and I will admit not being very familiar with the measure, is how politicized will this make transit in Seattle? For example, Pierce Transit has these “community connector” routes (425 503 504) which were designed with the help of the community and its leaders, perhaps with some community funding, etc. etc. etc. Now, its my understanding they have not been exactly living up to expectations ridership wise. Could a similar thing happen in Seattle? Seattle contributes x amount of funding to metro, would it not be beyond reason, for the Ballard elected officials to say want to bring back the old 86 (IIRC was golden gardens-Ballard via a circuitous route, which was cut post I-695 due to low ridership) because they are paying for the service?

    1. Most of Metro’s funding comes from a countywide sales tax. Seattle provides top-off funding to fill in frequency on a few popular routes; e.g., expanded 15-minute service on the 8, 15-minute peaks on the 75, half-hourly evenings on the 120 (which had been reduced to hourly), etc. Those are cases that Metro recognizes as underservice and it would fund itself if it had the money. The city can’t strong-arm Metro into reviving the Seaview – NW 65th shuttle.

      But the SLU streetcar is probably closer to what you’re talking about. The city funded construction but got Metro to agree to pay for operations. That’s controversial because streetcars cost more than trolleybuses to operate, and a strict mobility view would say that Westlake Avenue was not the most critical underservice area and a trolleybus would be adequate. (And there is an existing trolleybus on Fairview!) Recently Metro has said it might cap its contribution to SLUT operations as part of the general cuts. That could lead to half-hourly evenings or no evening service if the city doesn’t top it up.

      1. Do you see this as being a problem in the future? after watching the politically driven events in the east of pierce county (and those of the streetcar(s), I can say I don’t hold much hope for the future.

      2. I’m hoping that now that the city has settled the question of the City Center Connector routing, it will deprioritize it behind some other critical needs, like Madison BRT, 23rd Avenue enhancements, transit lanes for the 120, expanding the trolley network, etc. These will all improve transit without causing a permanent surcharge on operations. The city also needs to readdress the Westlake and Eastlake corridors to north Seattle (potentially Westlake to Greenwood and Eastlake to Northgate). The former mayor championed streetcars there, but the current mayor and council aren’t so convinced about streetcars, so maybe they can come up with something creative that would improve circulation without being a streetcar.

      3. I hope the central city connector won’t have to wait in line behind other transit improvements. I think it is a useful project in its own right and I like the way it gets value out of previous investments (SLUT and FHSC).

        I’m not sure what to do about the Eastlake and Westlake corridors. The demand is supposedly high enough to justify rail. If they are implemented it is likely they will be exclusive lane (like light rail in most other US cities) rather than mixed traffic.

        On the other hand it is unlikely the city will have money to build either any time soon. For what a single line is likely to cost the entire non-rail portion of the Transit Master Plan can be implemented with money left over for operations. The lack of enthusiasm in general for surface rail and these corridors in particular doesn’t bode well for implementation any time soon.

        Bus improvements in these corridors should be explored. While some improvements will have to be thrown away if rail is ever built others like signal priority will help a future surface rail line as well.

  6. Metro is a bloated bus agency with little intention of modernizing. Look at the one bus away saga…and still today the data stream is ccorrupted. Look at the paper system used to communicate driver’s new routes. Finally… Look at the routes that serve special interests and not the population. They are nothing.more than a politician’s whipping boy with some bus transit sprinkled on top.

    They have zero motivation to be better or get better. This is why Microsoft pays for their own bus service. Perhaps someday metro….I mean king county will get serious about transit.

    1. I encourage you to revisit your onebusaway remark. It had issues when metro switched from a distance based system (not so accurate) to gps that caused a number of problems but it’s not so bad now. The data sets are all functional. I encourage you to not base your judgements on things that have happened a few years ago.

      If you’re interested in running a large agency I hear the washington state dot is looking for a new ferries chief. Maybe that’ll show you how tough it is to work a large system.

    2. I, too, disagree with the OneBusAway assessment. The change-over was rough but the data is now better than it ever has been, and I have concrete proof since I have an API key that gives direct access to the live OBA data and have been storing it for (eventual) analysis. Just looking at the output stream I wrote up–and not the apps that most people use–the bus arrives within 20-30 seconds of a “Due” event provided it has been tracked for most of its route.

      “They are nothing more than a politician’s whipping boy…” You’re darned right about that. People, as noted up-thread, forget that Metro is not an independent agency like Sound Transit. This is also why electing the Sound Transit board would be a tragedy. ST can make decisions on its own versus Metro having to go to the King County Council and say “please may we do this.” Witness the almost-meltdown over the vote to not approve any of the cuts and just HOPE that the money rained from the sky somewhere. The Service Guidelines not being independently implemented and being subject to political whim is why some routes stay long past their usefulness, if they had any utility to begin with. Vocal minorities are able to push through what they want because those groups organize and are motivated and have the time to do both. Joe Regular Busrider is just trying to get where he needs to go. I fear that layering Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District on top of this will make the problem more complicated but I also see that we have little other choice. I will happily vote yes and continue to be involved in reorgs that make sense.

      1. Okay, but switching to “due” at the last second isn’t helpful when 1 minute ago the data stream said the bus was 5 minutes away, thanks to Metro’s insistence on insane schedule padding leading to garbage on-the-ground data.

        And what about the “pole problem”, which Metro literally refuses to provide the proper data to workaround?

        And what about the fact that almost-sorta-kinda-accurate data is of limited use when the agency fails to recognize the value of non-excruciating wait times and transfers with or without it?

      2. lakecityrider said “provided it has been tracked for most of its route.” For me, that is the main problem. I don’t know whose fault it is, but very frequently buses disappear from the data and then come back. This happened to me yesterday: I checked and it said the (half-hourly) bus I want to catch 35 minutes from now is 30 minutes late, so I have to decide whether to run from my apartment to the bus stop to catch the one that is coming in 5 minutes, or assume it’s a data glitch and hope that my bus will actually come in 35 minutes as it is supposed to. The only reason it’s OK is because I have a car and if the bus scheduled for 35 minutes from now doesn’t come, I could drive to my destination in time. If I didn’t have a car as backup, I could never rely on Seattle’s transit system. The term “irony” is sometimes overused but I feel this is ironic.

    3. They probably can’t get funding to go to an electronic system of communicating drivers new routes. Many govt agencies are using ancient computer programs and systems because securing funding to replace them has been impossible since the start of the financial crises in 2008.

  7. Well since metro only cares about Seattle and the passengers are garbage in metros eyes this would work. Of course if Seattle wants the money faster all Mayor Murray would have to say is give us all metro funding and the king county council and the executive would just give it to him.

  8. I do hope King County Metro and the City of Seattle consider implementing restructures in line with the service guidelines and the transit master plan to offer better service to the majority of transit riders.

    That said I don’t think the average voter or transit rider really cares one way or another about the wonky debate about change vs. status quo.

    The average bus rider doesn’t think in terms of a gridded frequent transit network. The average rider does want:
    1. Frequent service
    2. Greater span of service (especially if that means extending the period of frequent service)
    3. Faster service (meaning in terms of total trip time)
    4. Less crowded buses
    5. Bus stops near their orgin or destination
    6. One seat rides

    1-4 are comparable with the sort of networks professional transit planners try to implement. In theory many people, especially casual transit users will ask for close by stops in the abstract, but actual behavior shows a willingness to travel short distances to acces frequent service.

    The demand for one seat rides typically comes from a desire for a faster trip as the current trip may may be so painful as to not be worth the bother. Infrequent service, unreliable transfers, and shitty transfer points all drive the demand for one seat rides.

    As to why there is so much screaming every time a major restructure is announced:
    1. Fear of change (this is by far the biggest issue)
    2. Poor past experience with transfers means riders don’t like losing one-seat rides.
    3. For some riders getting to/from a more distant bus stop is a challenge.
    4. ‘Advocates’ for transit dependent populations often don’t use transit themselves and really have no clue how easily those they supposedly advocate for will adapt to change. Furthermore poor transit service hurts the transit dependent more than it does choice riders.
    5. Transit dependent riders in neighborhoods with low transit ridership are incredibly sympathetic when service is being eliminated. Be it the little old lady in Laurelhurst or the blind man in Arbor Heights.

    The first is a general human problem and not unique to transit. Part of effective governance is guiding the public over resistance to change.

    I don’t know a good solution to the second issue, but it needs to be addressed. Agencies don’t help themselves on this when they implement restructures with shitty transfers (as Metro has done in the past).

    The third through fifth issue really come down to a question of who the primary customers of the transit system are. Is it the transit dependent rider, the choice rider, or the public at large? Unfortunately a lot of non-transit users really can’t see why someone might ride transit when they have other choices and therefore think transit should primarily be for the transit dependent. Transit dependent riders tend to be highly sympathetic which makes for good press and emotional public hearings. The reality is this represents a minority of transit users who happen to have a lot of very vocal advocates. Which isn’t to say there aren’t some legitimate issues, but most of them can be addressed via other means such as para transit, taxi scrip, or limited coverage services.

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