Breda bus
Breda, to be replaced. Photo by bayrische.

On Monday, King County Executive Dow Constantine issued his proposed budget (warning: 100 MB (!) PDF) for the 2015/2016 biennium.  The headline news for Metro is no surprise, as Metro and the executive announced it a few days ago: 400,000 annual service hours will be cut from the 2013-2014 baseline level, with 320,000 of those spread between service changes next week and next February, and another 80,000 to be cut in March 2016 if the revenue picture fails to make further improvement.  (City-level measures such as November’s Seattle-only vote may defer or eliminate a few of these cuts, but the county’s budgeting process can’t take uncertain city funding into account.)  The headline impact is a $21 million annual reduction in Metro’s direct service budget.

A detailed read of the budget proposal, though, reveals a few interesting tidbits that were not previously public.  I’ll list some of those here, below the jump.  This thread is an open thread with respect to Metro and King County Transportation budgeting; please feel free to discuss the items I list or anything else you see in the transportation section of the proposed budget.

Move to Two Service Changes.  For as long as we can remember, Metro has had three service changes, or “shakeups,” per year.  At each shakeup, Metro can change or adjust service or move existing trips around as needed for efficiency.  Drivers also pick new work, based on seniority.  Beginning in March 2016, the Executive proposes to move to only two service changes per year, and predicts that the move will save $190,000 for 2016 through reduced overtime and printing costs.  This seems like a no-brainer, in general.  The only question I have is how annual summer cuts to school and college service, now rolled into the summer shakeup, will be handled.

Elimination of Printed Timetables.  A longtime sign of service changes is a new color in buses’ timetable racks.  The budget proposes to save $200,000 annually by eliminating printed timetables starting in 2016, but states that “a number of mitigation and educational activities will need to be put into place” to support the change.  Personally, I would prefer the elimination of paper transfers.

New Technology Resources.  The budget proposes adding an analyst position for the purpose of helping “successfully transition various large transit technology projects into an operational phase,” and adding substantial resources to support transit signal priority.  This is an area where Metro has long struggled, as the interminable RapidRide C/D/E rollout and Metro’s extended transition to its current bus radio system amply demonstrated.  The roughly $370,000 annual investment is a welcome surprise, especially in a time of service cuts.

Management and Staff Reductions.  Beyond the obvious reduction in operators, the proposed budget includes other reductions in management and staff commensurate with the planned reduction in service hours.

  • Eight base chief and service supervisor positions,
  • one superintendent,
  • one auditor,
  • 10 vehicle maintenance personnel,
  • three planner positions,
  • six data entry positions,
  • four design and construction positions, and
  • one rideshare position

will get the ax, for a total savings of roughly $3.5 million annually.  These are partially offset by:

  • the two new technology positions described above,
  • three new security camera technicians,
  • one new lost and found position,
  • one new physical asset management position,
  • one new construction coordinator, and
  • two new leave coordination positions.

New positions will also be created to support Sound Transit-funded projects, including the First Hill Streetcar, University Link, and the Angle Lake Link extension.

Fleet Renewal.  The budget continues to fund existing fleet renewal projects, which include:

  • 60 35-foot hybrid buses delivered in 2014-15, replacing high-floor Gillig Phantom 30-foot diesel buses delivered in 2000.
  • 60 40-foot hybrid buses delivered in 2014-15, replacing the last of the high-floor Gillig Phantom 40-foot diesel buses delivered between 1994-1998.
  • 86 40-foot trolleys for delivery in 2015, replacing high-floor Gillig Phantom trolleys delivered in 2001 (but which reused propulsion hardware from Metro’s 1979 AMG trolleys).
  • 55 articulated trolleys for delivery in late 2015 and 2016, replacing Breda trolleys that were delivered in 1990 and refurbished in 2004.

In addition, the budget proposes initial funding for three more bus procurements, which would result in a Metro fleet that is entirely low-floor, air-conditioned, and either hybrid or trolley:

  • 200 articulated hybrid buses for delivery in 2016.  These would replace all of the remaining New Flyer D60 high-floor diesel buses delivered in 1999-2000, with a few left over, possibly to replace the 30 oddball New Flyer D60LF diesel low-floor buses delivered in 2004.
  • 100 articulated hybrid buses for delivery in 2019-2021.  This is an anticipated expense in the 2017-2018 biennium, included in this budget only for explanation.  These would be the first hybrid buses to replace older hybrid buses–the first batch of New Flyer DE60LF hybrids delivered in 2004.
  • 105 40-foot hybrid buses for delivery between 2017 and 2020.  These would replace Metro’s first batch of low-floor New Flyer buses, delivered in 2003.

Alternative Transportation.  The proposed budget includes $3 million annually in new alternative transportation funding, intended to provide a “new ‘toolbox’ of alternative services.”  The “toolbox” could include privately operated community shuttles such as the Valley Shuttle; multimodal “Community Hubs” in places suffering service cuts; and rideshare programs.  It is not clear from the budget’s description how much of the appropriation would be for direct operational support and how much would be for planning and development work.   $3 million is a very large number in light of the $21 million annual direct service cut, and I find it difficult to believe that the county wouldn’t benefit more from simply leaving the $3 million in Metro’s direct service budget.

95 Replies to “Tidbits from the Proposed King County Budget”

  1. What a fascinating, bouncy list o’ stuff, and what a signal service you have provided in wading through it all for us….

    It will be interesting to see how the “no more printed timetables” policy goes down.

  2. People like the printed timetables … that is going to be a big deal.

    However, what REALLY REALLY needs to go are the printed transfers. There is so much fraud around those …

    1. Get rid of paper transfers! Use the money saved due to transfer fraud to continue printing timetables.
      Not everybody (even yet) has or likes smart devices, and some are uncomfortable using them in public, believe it or not.

      1. Do you mean passengers might irrationally fear getting mugged leaving a train station when someone sees them using their I-have-money phone?

        I can do without Metro-printed paper schedules if Metro gives me the ability to print the schedules out on my own, as a PDF (and it doesn’t have to be in color) or whatever, in multiple languages (which can probably done with some clever templating), and installs RTA signs at all the major transfer points, especially in and next to train stations.

        Unfortunately, It may turn out that developing schedules that can work with most (computer) platforms may be more expensive than doing the print runs.

    2. I saw someone using a different color transfer once. The driver just said “you got the wrong transfer” and he paid his fare. Surprisingly non-confrontational. Even a brief talk about the penalty for transfer fraud, which is basically the same as counterfeit fare tickets, would show a bit of seriousness on Metro’s part.

      1. OK, Lloyd, and Alex: I think by now everybody knows that I drove some pretty rough routes for Metro for a decade, and that I still ride a lot more KC Metro miles than my average neighbor in Olympia. Whether Metro likes it or not.

        So in both capacities, after 30 years of having officials from Metro managers to county councilmen nix my every suggestion for improvement on budgetary grounds, I like the loss of transit revenue a lot less than the average Antarctic penguin.

        But I suspect my posted STB comments, such as the ones suggesting that using bus fare boxes in the DSTT calls King County’s right to run transit into question, makes my thoughts on paper transfers predictable:

        Possibly transit’s worst hemorrhage, in money and passenger goodwill, stems from anything that slows service by a single minute. Especially if it’s five minutes stuck aboard a packed and un-airconditioned bus northbound at Westlake the height of PM rush while the driver argued with a nut over a fare.

        Also: right now current world news also indicates we don’t need anymore sweat-crumpled vectors for germs. So we agree on main point: paper transfers are a waste of trees. I’ll also support a rise in my shamefully cheap senior pass in return for the elimination of every fare-related nuisance in the system.


    3. How would elimination of paper transfers work with Rapid Ride? The paper transfer is the proof of cash fare. You could keep transfers just for Rapid Ride, and possibly tell the riders that they can’t be used for any other service. Or eliminate cash fares for Rapid Ride. Or, for riders who insist on paying cash on Rapid Ride, sell ORCA cards for five dollars plus the current fare right there on board the bus.

      If printed timetables go away, that’s one more strike against the Bellevue Transit Center Rider Services Building.

  3. I find it difficult to believe that the county wouldn’t benefit more from simply leaving the $3 million in Metro’s direct service budget.


    1. If $3 million is being added for alternative transporation, and $7 million cut from paratransit, maybe the two are related.

      1. In view of these severe budget cuts, it surprises me that King County employees get still get free bus passes. Seems that they could at least contribute a small portion to the cost of such.

      2. I bet they are related. Paratransit is ferociously expensive — and it’s not possible to “cut the budget” for it because it’s federally mandated. This looks to me like an optimistic attempt to get people off expensive paratransit onto cheaper “alternative transit”… a lot of cities have tried to do things like this, some successfully.

  4. “two new leave coordination positions.” I hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means. That so many people at the County or Metro take leaves that they need a staff of leave coordinators just to keep track of who’s going to take a leave and when?

    1. So your solution is to not have any Metro employees take vacations? Brilliant.

      Leave management is a huge deal in an agency that employs thousands of people and is expected to provide and support a consistent service 365 days a year, while providing employees with time off.

      From page 783 of the budget:

      “This proposal adds resources including two positions in the biennium to improve the process around leaves administration. Current processes are costly, time consuming, and inconsistent. Specific efforts will include an environmental scan of current process, procedures and policies, and tools in use within the Metro Transit Division and King County along with the collection of input from key stakeholders. This information will be used to develop a strategic leaves management program to be implemented within the Metro Transit Division. This effort is anticipated to significantly impact the Metro Transit Division’s efficiency in this area.”

      I can confirm from personal experience that Metro could improve in this area.

      1. I once heard it described by a relatively junior Metro operator that taking leave involved signing up on a list, and seeing if you aren’t scheduled to work the night before the leave you wanted. I hope he was exaggerating.

        At any rate, leave coordination isn’t just scheduling. It is also benefits determination and administration, and making sure the labor contract is followed consistently among the members of each job classification. In the real world, it also involves overtime tracking and control.

      2. That’s about right, for operators wanting an isolated day off, at least when I was there. The procedures are different for maintenance and supervisors, and different yet for management.

        When I was there, you put your name in the “layoff book” to request a day off, starting when the base opens (3:30 a.m.) on the day 30 days before the day you want off. Depending on the size of the base the first one to three people who get in the layoff book are guaranteed the day off. Others have to wait until the night before to find out whether they got the day off. There is a sign-in sheet which goes outside the window when the base closes, so that operators arriving to put their name in the book before opening can establish in what order they arrived. For in-demand days ten people might arrive before the window opens. On not-in-demand days you might get lucky and get a guaranteed spot even if you requested it less than 30 days out. The procedure is absolute hell, particularly for drivers of late A-runs and early relief runs who would be right in the middle of their sleep time at 3:30 a.m.

    2. Please excuse me. English is my sixth language. I was under the mistaken belief that leave just referred to leaves of absences. But it’s a catchall word that includes vacations and other absences from work.

  5. People talk about the social-justice implications of getting rid of paper transfers… meanwhile we’re talking about getting rid of paper schedules?! Because everyone who can’t afford a smartphone and a data plan should be at the mercy of Metro’s (in)ability to maintain the schedules attached to bus stop signs, amirite?

    Kill the paper transfers already! Everyone can use an ORCA; not everyone can use a smartphone.

    1. + 1!

      That said, (almost) everyone can access the schedules at a library, reachable by transit, and spend a few pennies to print. But then, the schedules need to be printable ahead of time, not just appear the first day they are in effect.

      Thank you to Sam for reminding us to avoid universal statements.

      1. And how do you get to the library? Wait at a stop near you and hope the bus is running that day? Which direction goes toward a library—if any at all? Where do you get off to get to that library?

        What if you have a motor skill impairment that precludes use of a computer without special assistive devices? Think Parkinson’s—or worse, MS, which affects your fine motor control AND your ability to speak!

        Are KCPL or SPL staff now supposed to act as Metro website chaperones for people who happen to be lucky enough to find their way to a library and successfully communicate their needs?

        Eliminating paper transfers is like eliminating onboard cash payment (at least until we get TVMs at every boarding location)—a nightmare of equal-access violations. By all means, encourage the more efficient, technological solution, but publicly-funded transit is for everyone.

      2. How do you get a printed transit schedule? Wait at a stop, and hope the bus comes that day? Hope that the bus just happens to have the schedule you need (which is a bad bet)? Go to Westlake Station or the Metro office?

        People with Parkinson’s don’t have other reasons to use the library?

        The histrionics reminds me of the fear of the ORCA card, which as we now know, was totally misplaced.

      3. Print the schedules.
        The posted schedules at many stops are regularly removed/taken.
        Many times I consult my set while enroute to see if and when I might effect a transfer to get to my destination quicker, or to decide how and when I might alter my original plans to include a spontaneous grocery shopping or coffee stop.
        Everyone does not worship the palm-god/smart phone.
        Yes, eliminate the paper transfers, the Orca Card is fine – maybe use that $3 million to reduce the $5 cost for those who do not have one yet.

      4. Most bus stops have schedules printed at the bus stop. Even if paper schedules were removed from buses, I would certainly hope that the schedules posted at the bus stop would remain.

        There is also a core network of route that runs every 15 minutes or better 7 days a week, at least during the daytime. You can get to a lot of places, including the downtown public library, on the frequent network, without needing to look up schedules in advance. Hopefully, we can do service restructurings in the future to both grow the frequent network geographically and increase the number of hours per day in which the frequent network is actually frequent.

        Every once in awhile, when my phone’s battery dies, or OneBusAway is messed up because it’s a holiday, I have to navigate the bus system back the way everyone did in the pre-Smartphone age. When this happens, I pretty much stick to the frequent network, as much as I possibly can, even if it means a trip that is slightly slower or involves an extra transfer.

      5. That has always been one of Metro’s strong points, the schedules at the bus stops. I’ve been in so many cities that just have a phone number, and sometimes not even route numbers. But as FWIW says, often they’re missing or there’s graffiti right over the time you need, or somebody broke the glass and the schedule is flapping in the wind and then it blows away and is gone until the next service change. So you can’t count on them.

  6. For university routes that are off during the summer, they already stop and start certain trips not on the day of the service change. For example, on the 197, certain trips are marked with a D, and on the bottom, it says for trips marked with D “Does NOT operate June. 16 thru Sept. 19.” I don’t see why anything would need to change, especially since the time these trips don’t operate would be inside a whole service revision period.

    It’ll be sad to see paper timetables go. They have always been quite useful for people without a data plan on their phones. It’s also easier to plan a transfer with two thin paper schedules than a single phone screen. Maybe Metro can move to a purchasing system for timetables. 10 cents each? That might make more sense. Although having the timetable of the route on the bus for free is really welcoming for new riders who are checking out the route that goes through their neighborhood.

    1. Currently, the trips which only operate for a week or two of the service change are handled as extras. It will be a bit more challenging to staff them when they operate for a bit less than half of a service change rather than a week or two. Not insurmountable, but will bring a bit of extra cost, and require some artful management of the extra board.

      1. Metro will also need to get its act together regarding their OneBusAway data if this happens. The current system leaves those 1-2 week trips in OBA for the entire summer. They show up without real-time, of course, but if you don’t happen to know that “Scheduled Arrival” means “won’t show up” for those trips then you’ll be waiting awhile for the next bus that actually exists. Leaving the data like that for half a year would just be ridiculous.

        While they’re at it having accurate data for holidays and “no UW” days would be nice too.

    2. It’s funny that you’d say that the timetables on the bus are convenient to new riders. In my experience, I think I’ve only ever seen timetables that correspond with the routes in the area about twice. Usually the bins are empty, and the other half of the time the timetables are for routes that aren’t anywhere near by. Taking the 40? Get schedules for the 271! Taking the 16? Get schedules for the 150! I figure the drivers just grab a random handful of schedules and slap them in the bins once a week or so.

      The only time I’ve see paper timetables used on the bus was one time on the 550 when the equipment compartment door behind the driver wouldn’t stay shut. The driver folded up a couple timetables and wedged them into the jamb of the door to keep it shut.

      1. Interesting; I see the correct timetables more than half the time. I’m riding on the Eastside, so maybe it’s related to the base the buses are coming from?

      2. Often you may be seeing the timetable for your route’s through-route partner. At other times you may be seeing a timetable for a route the same bus operates later in the run.

        For instance, your 26 will most likely have schedules for 26, 28, and 131/132 in the three bins, because the 26 and 28 are through-routed with the 131 and 132.

        Or you might be on a 5 that, later on when the frequency of the 5 drops, will move over to doing the 71/72/73.

        Or your all-day 31/32/65/75 might do a 312 trip first thing in the morning. And so on…

    3. I’ve seen them correct on the buses I use to visit a friend in Magnolia, as well as all the other routes I’ve used.

    4. With enough service reductions, Metro could start printing all timetables in a single book, the way other systems do it. Then you could charge money for that, but where? At the Westlake Customer Service center? That’s worse than having to go to your local library.

      1. You could sell them on the bus. Las Vegas does it that way. At the very least, consolidate all of them in a book and sell them now. Not having downloadable PDF schedules for all dayparts, including maps, makes King County Metro hard to navigate. While I used to be in the anti-PDF camp, smartphones, tablets, and computers have made PDF much better than the way that Seattle and Portland do it.

  7. Since my interest in the budget is primarily the fleet renewal, I’ll limit my comments to that. What surprises me the most is that the new 60′ trolley buses aren’t going to be delivered until *late* 2015. I know the order has already been placed, and it takes time to build and deliver buses (you can’t just order a bus up from amazon and have it delivered next day). But, I’m surprised that they’d wait so long to replace those aging Breda trolleys. They’re definitely the oldest and worst buses in the fleet (ignoring the refurbishment in ’04, b/c they certainly didn’t refurbish the interiors). They’re smelly, jerky, and vandalized all over. And Metro is going to replace their Gillig Phantoms before they replace these? The Phantoms still have at least another 3 years left in them, so why not prioritize replacing the Bredas over the Gilligs?

    I guess we’ll have to see if the test order of the fully-electric battery-operated buses will pan out. It doesn’t look like there’s any plans for seriously buying any of these in the proposed budget, but maybe they’ll change their minds after they get a few to play with.

    And seriously, can we just get rid of paper transfers already?

    1. Sadly the Breda’s did get interior refurbs in ’04, they just didn’t do much to spruce up the shabby worn out look of the coaches.

      The Breda refurbs were only meant as a stopgap. The MAN articulated trolleys were falling apart and getting parts was hard. While the Breda’s are dogs I don’t think the situation with them is nearly as dire as it was with the MAN trolley fleet and they should be retired long before things get that bad.

      I assume the exterior and interior of the new 60′ trolleys will be similar to the Rapid Ride coaches?

      1. I can’t hardly believe that the interiors were renovated in ’04. There are buses that have older interiors that have held up better. I mean, seriously, the paint on the wheel wells is peeling off, the floors are warped, the *windows* are warped, they all smell dirty, there’s graffiti on half of the seats, the windows leak, etc. etc. On these buses, I don’t want to put my bag on the floor because floor is too grimy for me to trust it. Maybe it’s just the neighborhood these buses run through causes so much wear and tear on the interiors compared with similarly aged buses, but it just seems way too much.

        If the refurbishment was supposed to be a stopgap, why didn’t they fast-track their replacement? Or at least prioritize replacing them before replacing the other buses?

        Lastly, as far as I can tell, the new 60′ trolleys should be identical to the Rapid Ride coaches (just with the standard Metro livery, and electric powered). After these purchases, Metro’s going to be an almost entirely New Flyer agency, with a few remaining Gilligs and that batch of Orion VII’s they got before Orion closed.

      2. The interior renovation on the Bredas was fairly minimal. It consisted of an all-new driver’s compartment, new seats, and new stanchions. Windows, wall and ceiling panels, and the floor remained the same. The Breda bodies and structures are definitely showing their age, even though they were very solid (as they should be given how damned heavy they are) when new.

        But the Bredas’ electrical propulsion systems are actually in pretty good shape — better than the Gilligs’. That is why the Gilligs will get replaced first.

      3. Confirmed. The prototype 40′ shell (presumably 4300) has been built and is in testing at New Flyer’s facility. It’s purple.

        It’s worth remembering that the trolley procurement is a major challenge for New Flyer as well as Metro. They don’t build trolleys every day and this is the first time they’ve built an Xcelsior-based trolley.

      4. Maybe it’s just the neighborhood these buses run through causes so much wear and tear on the interiors compared with similarly aged buses, but it just seems way too much.

        Yes, it is. Everything in Capitol Hill is covered with graffiti and grime, even brand spanking new stuff.

      5. Any color is fine as long as it’s not white or very light like Metro had in the 80s. Light colors show the inevitable dirt too much.

      6. I’m hoping that with the new purple buses and the not-so-new-anymore red buses, they’ll retire the teal livery. It just looks like a faded green. For a long time, I didn’t even realize there were three color schemes.

  8. One nuance on eliminating the cost of paper transfers. Just eliminating them as a transfer medium won’t get rid of the need for paper proof-of-payment, for those still not using ORCA. (Hi Chris!)

    We’ll see a dip in paper usage starting in March, but significantly reducing paper usage will still require getting a cash surcharge emplaced on regular fares.

    1. This was agreed to in an MOA signed by Paul Bachtek (ATU587 president) against the wishes of the rank and file.

      1. A MOA can change the rules because things change and need to be updated. For example, part timers can’t be scheduled to drive on weekends but because there is a major shortage this weekend, ATU587 has given permission for Metro to offer some of the specials to PTO after all FTO have had a chance to take them.

        Basically MOAs are agreements to the changes of the rules by consent of both parties. Metro could not say “We are going to 2 picks a year” without agreement from the union. Its like a mini-contract renegotiation that either side can say no to.

  9. I seem to recall back In the day prior to the Metro/King County merger that Metro did 4 service changes per year.

    1. That would be a big schedule book. Do you want your phonebook-sized book to contain all the peak-only routes?

      1. Metro a few years ago, in response to the snowpocalypse, printed one run of a “snow route” map book that had a map for every route operated by Metro. It was the same size as the Sound Transit schedule book in width, height, and thickness. That’s just the maps. Adding the timetables would likely quadruple the thickness.

      2. How about making separate books for East King, South King, and Seattle(+Shoreline)? I think that would make the size manageable. For example, the East King book would include all of Metro’s 200s routes, plus the Sound Transit and DART/school routes inside the area. Yes, it is annoying for people going between subareas, although it wouldn’t be worse than today if the existing paper schedules for each route are also retained.

    2. Don’t they have that available for purchase somewhere? I thought I saw mention of one available at the customer service office?

      1. Not that I’ve heard of. There’s that regional book baselle mentions below. I think I’ve seen it once and it has the ST routes and a few maps of popular Seattle neighborhoods and downtown Tacoma. It may have charts of all the Metro/PT/CT/ET routes and their frequency but it certainly doesn’t have all the Metro schedules. That’s some two hundred routes. I think the book is free but I’ve rarely seen it. Of course, I haven’t looked for it either. When I was a kid I used to collect all the Metro schedules and study them, but now I only get the schedules for the two or three 30-minute routes I regularly use, and just wing it on the 15-mintue routes. I can remember in my head which routes are 30-minutes or become 30-minutes evenings and Sundays, and so I just avoid going to those areas at those times, or if I have to go there I’ll look up that schedule beforehand.

      2. I picked up a copy last week at the 130th Station meeting. It’s got all public transit routes running in the area – ST, ferries, Metro, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, and even the inter-county connectors running to Everett Station. There’re charts of service span, but no frequency information at all.

        If I were to improve the booklet, I’d first add colors for frequency after the fashion of the Metro system map, and then make it a lot more available. I’d like there to be some way to add schedule information without quintupling the size of the booklet, but I’m not sure how.

  10. I saw a couple of new KC buses coming east over I-90 this weekend…one was being driven, and one was on a giant flatbed truck (odd that they have such different delivery methods). Does anyone know which one of the newbie vehicles these would have been? They seemed a little shorter than normal, so maybe the 35 footers? They were definitely interesting looking.

    1. Here’s how I understand the situation (anyone at Metro feel free to update):

      The 35-footers are the only ones being delivered now. A few of them will go into service at or soon after the shakeup at South Base. They will eventually make it to North and Bellevue as well, replacing Gillig 30-footers. (Haven’t heard about Central, which still operates a few Gillig 35-footers on Vashon and Center Park service.)

      The 40-footers will start arriving around the end of the year, and will all go to Bellevue. Again, not sure about Central, which still operates a few Gillig 40-footers on Route 40 and various trippers.

      The new trolleys will arrive in 2015 (stretching into 2016 for the 60-footers). The 40-footers are coming first because, despite appearances, the Gillig trolleys are in worse shape mechanically than the Bredas. Remember that the Gilligs have propulsion systems and controllers from 1979.

      1. Bellevue Base has already started training for the new buses. 3700 looks very nice. I have never been so tempted to take the wrong bus out of base… Not that I would, but it is tempting.

      2. Kelly, the only time in my 5 years driving that I was affected by someone taking the wrong bus, it was because they took my 2300, leaving me with their nice, brand-new (at the time) 2600 hybrid. Oddly, it happened to be my last day at Metro. Nice way to go out, and certainly puzzled my 15/18/21/22 passengers who hadn’t seen a 2600 before.

  11. For me, texting via SMS to OneBusAway works pretty well. I do not have a smartphone, matter of fact I have Net10 pay as you go phone at 5 cents/text. Also worked just fine with the primitive flip phone that I had before.

    The map part of the paper schedules was the most useful to me. I fear that without paper schedules we are going to get more people playing 20 questions and trying to use the bus driver as the trip planner. When you get downtown, that becomes even more annoying. With the paper schedules it just happened less.

    Personally, I would pay money for the Regional Transit Map booklet that Sound Transit puts out that shows visually where nearly all transit routes link up from Everett to Tacoma. I have one from Feb 2014. Print a ton of those and start selling them.

    1. How about a program where you could subscribe (at a small fee) to a series of bus schedules and have them mailed?

    2. Metro not printing schedules is a good decision. Continue to have the schedules online in PDF format. You can study the schedule or print at home or the library. With schedules only changing twice a year, if that, the need to print new schedules is greatly reduced, and why not realize the cost savings? If less service changes saves Metro money, many routes will have only minor service changes throughout the year.

    3. Do you have a large-size printer? If you print them on regular letter paper they either won’t fold up nicely or the text will be small. And if your printer isn’t double-sided you’ll get two pages rather than front and back.

      1. It would be best if Metro would fix the trip planner and the custom schedule maker to have a much more printer-friendly format. And the standard online schedules and maps should be formatted for 8.5″x11″ paper.

        Two-sided isn’t a big problem. I do manual duplex printing all the time.

      2. I didn’t think about that. Metro could reformat the schedules to be 8.5 x 11 friendly. It should definitely do that if it eliminates the schedule brocures.

    4. Oh I can get by with my Regional Map Book and I have the presence of mind to use the Trip Planner to get an idea. I’ve got to think that Metro should make a map/schedule ap for tablet or smartphone, make it printable to 8.5 by 11, and put images of them in a visual kiosk in the transit centers for those who are caught without either. Of course with that you don’t capture much in savings.

      1. The deletion of printed schedules may be good cause to lobby Metro to place system maps in all transit centers AND bus shelters.

      2. You would hope. I really like that Metro (and Pierce transit last I was in that area) have timetables at all the stops.

        TriMet cut back on both, so that you can still find printed timetables in grocery stores and other distribution points, but no longer on buses (to cut down on the single use and toss destiny of so many of them). Timetables at the stops got eliminated some years back. Some of the stops have the stop number posted for entry into the phone / web / SMS information system, while others don’t have it, and still others have had “vandals” write the stop number onto the stop pole with big felt tip marker or scratch the number into the paint on the pole.

        I have an iPhone, and have both PDXBus and OneBusAway on it, but there are times it is inconvenient to fumble about with the phone to dig up the schedule when I can just grab a timetable and look at it in 1/8 the time.

        That said, I have adjusted OK to the lack of easy timetable availability on TriMet these days. There are definitely times that I have missed a few buses thanks to data transmission issues on the AT&T cell phone network though.

  12. Someone needs to show some strength here and make an all-in bet on Property Tax fairness.

    Cut the current budget ruthlessly, and bet the farm.

    Say to the public, here, the only way to keep up these premium services is for you to pay according to the benefit you and your assets receive.

    Unleash the property tax caps, let market values set the rates or else suffer without.

    The side effect of this will be more available land and housing as the hoarders sell off to those who only want a reasonably priced apartment or small SFH.

  13. Would Metro still post timetables at high-traffic bus stops? If so, I could live with the lack of paper timetables (and paper transfer, if Metro could be convinced of that). It would be nice, though, if the buses would have a single map of the route in poster form. I tend to take a timetable when I get on an unfamiliar route to figure out exactly where it’s going, and return it before I get off.

    1. I am quite impressed that Metro posts the timetables at all of the stops in Magnolia, which are certainly not high traffic stops compared to many on the system. I think I have maybe encountered two stops with no timetable at all, and I’ve visited some pretty off the beaten path places on KCM.

      I’m sure it is a significant time sink to change all those and keep them up to date.

  14. A correction to the article: The Seattle measure would prevent all cuts to Seattle routes (routes with 80+% of stops in Seattle). This is a lot more than “a few” of the cuts as stated. Closer to 60% of the cuts than to “a few”. Additionally, with the improved budget outlook it looks like the Seattle measure would address most or all Metro-identified overcrowding and unreliability problems and have funding left over to improve frequency on several routes that need it.

  15. Getting rid of paper timetables is an interesting concept. Although with the low income/disabled community having a stranglehold on metro I’m not sure how well that will go through. Since it seems 95% of transit riders have some form of advanced mobile device (even those on low incomes (???)) it may work. Although, I would suggest that metro publish PDF versions of their timetables online that can be downloaded to your mobile device (based on my experience with trying to find timetables online from my mobile device, I’m usually in an area with poor service, or the websites do not render well and are generally clunky to navigate from my iPhone or droid). I’d also recommend that a complete timetable be posted at the transit centers and other major points. Finally, while I’m sure this would start to offset the cost savings, It might be a good idea for metro to print a consolidated timetable book, like tri-met did, and sell that for a nominal fee to offset the cost of printing. Distribution costs would be less since it would only be metro and maybe other select places selling the books, and fewer could be printed. With two shakeups a year they would also last longer.

  16. Some items of note from the Wikipedia Article on King County Metro which may or may not be accurate:

    “Metro’s higher-than-average cost per boarding can be at least partially attributed to its high percentage of “commuter” routes, which run at peak hours only, and often only in one direction at a time. As of 2011, 100 of Metro’s 223 routes are peak-only. These routes require significant deadheading (particularly on the one-way routes), as well as a very large part-time labor force, both of which drive up costs.”

    “Metro’s lowest cost route overall, route 4 (East Queen Anne to Judkins Park), had a cost per boarding of only $0.46 during peak hours in 2009. By way of contrast, Metro’s peak-only route with the lowest cost per boarding was route 206 (Newport Hills to International School), at $2.04. Metro’s highest cost route by this measure, route 149 (Renton Transit Center to Black Diamond), had a peak time cost of $34.47 per boarding. Route 149 serves the rural southeastern corner of King County.”

    Unfortunately, I don’t know King County Metro’s web site too well, but there is this 2009 route performance report which provides some interesting insight:

    Some things I note about this report:

    + Vashon Island voted in favor of the vehicle registration fees measure and therefore seems to support transit. However, this report shows that the ridership on the Vashon Island routes is terrible and these are some of the worst performing routes. Therefore, it seems to me that there needs to be a serious restructuring of these routes so that they are actually meeting the needs of those that support transit there. Among those features would be better coordination with the ferry schedule.

    + The “empty bus” syndrome in Magnolia really isn’t a day or peak period issue, but it is a problem at night. Off-peak, route 24 averages over 80 riders per revenue hour, making it a far better off-peak performing route than many of the other routes. However, night ridership is down in the 20 range. The 33 has a very similar ridership pattern. Therefore, rather than the bizarre loop restructuring for the off-peak Magnolia service, perhaps the thing to do would be to drastically reduce the night trips. After all, those are the trips that seem to be nearly empty.

    + Route 201 Peak Period Mercer Island is a worse performer than 33 is at night, and route 203 Mercer Island has several times the ridership of 201 even off-peak, and about the same ridership peak as off-peak. 201 suffers some revisions in the cuts, but no elimination despite its poor performance.

    1. The problem with service to Vashon Island is that the bus schedule is poorly coordinated with the ferry schedule. The bus should be scheduled to leave the ferry terminal right after a ferry arrives and, if Metro can’t afford to have a bus connect with each ferry trip, it should at least have a timed connection with every other ferry trip. And, of course, if the ferry is running late, the bus needs to wait for it, as leaving the terminal empty while leaving a busload of riders stranded for an hour does not make for happy customers.

      Yes, this might make the bus slightly less punctual for people that aren’t connecting to or from the ferry, but the real ridership potential for is trips to and from the ferry, not to and from the local grocery store. If done right, the savings of $15 round trip to drive on board the ferry, plus the free transfer to the C-line on other side, which actually operates frequent service, should be appealing.

      From my experience riding buses through Magnolia (mostly weekend trips to or from Discovery Park), I have seen some surprisingly full runs on the 33. However, the 24 seems to attract a lot fewer riders, in spite of running half-hourly, while the 33 runs just hourly. Part of the problem may be that Metro simply assigns the #24 the wrong vehicle for the job. The capacity of a 60-foot articulated bus is simply not needed for that route, nor are the roads the bus travels on designed for such large vehicles. I don’t like the idea of drastically reducing night trips, though. Remember, if the bus can’t take you back, it’s not going to do you much good taking you the other direction. The fact of the matter is, there really is no way to significantly reduce service hours to Magnolia without causing real pain.

      On Mercer Island, route 203 was eliminated mostly because it is superfluous – pretty much everywhere it goes, you could walk to from Mercer Island P&R in under 20 minutes. Route 201 at least has unique coverage to areas that would otherwise not be served.

      1. It’s not entirely true that everyone on the 203 can walk to Mercer Island P&R in under 20 minutes–Google Maps claims a 30 min walk (1.4 mile) from the 203/213 stop by Mercer Island City Hall to Mercer Island P&R.,-122.2079488/47.5884919,-122.2321604/@47.5842999,-122.2243448,16z/data=!4m2!4m1!3e2?hl=en

        Many people could probably walk faster than that, but there are apparently a lot of seniors in this area who may not be able to handle the walk. Still, I guess it’s not that bad for most people since Mercer Island P&R has fast and frequent service to Seattle and Bellevue, unlike some cases where one needs to walk a long way just to get to an infrequent local route.

      2. Many places on the 33 are walkable from the 24, as it is downhill, so hourly 24 and 33 at alternating periods could work. Also, on the night trips, the 33 and 24 could be cut back to the east end of the Magnolia bridge and have a timed transfer to RapidRide. Some sort of memory schedule, so that it is well known that the shortened route connects at, ie, 12 minutes past each hour, would help make it work.

      3. The bus and ferry schedules are well coordinated during the peak houes and the buses will wait for off-schedule sailings (unless the boats are way off schedule, which was a common occurrence this past Summer).

        On the weekend and during the late morning/early afternoon on weekdays, it’s a different story. Some drivers will wait for late ferries, some don’t (they’ll leave at the scheduled departure time even if the gate has just gone up). Also, the gaps between buses during these periods can be anywhere from 50 minutes to over 1 1/2 hours.

      4. “Also, on the night trips, the 33 and 24 could be cut back to the east end of the Magnolia bridge and have a timed transfer to RapidRide.”

        Unfortunately, the reliability of such a transfer would be abysmal. Not only does the D-line have to go all the way through downtown and Lower Queen Anne, but it’s also thru-routed with the C-line from West Seattle. And, on top of that, the D-line routing puts the bus right in the path of the gazillion cars coming out of the Seattle Center parking garages, whenever any big event lets out.

        Also, the corner of Elliot and the Magnolia Bridge would be a horrible place to wait for a bus. Truncating night trips at Lower Queen Anne could be a possibility. But, even then, making the connection reliable would require riders to budget enough time every time for the worst possible delay. This would likely mean planning on a 15-20 minute wait for bus on days when everything is on-time.

    2. More recent productivity data (from 2013) is available here–see Appendix C:

      I’m also confused why Metro did not delete the 201 (it only runs 1-2 times per day). Yes, it does add a small amount of coverage, but that wasn’t good enough of a reason to keep them from deleting the 203 and 213, which are actually more useful for coverage, and the tiny number of trips is basically useless anyways. Perhaps it is supposed to be a deadhead for the 204 now?

  17. I generally applaud the elimination of paper from the system. The most computer illiterate riders will be a bit lost for a while, and I’m sure for an unfortunate few the double-whammy of route eliminations/headway reductions AND the elimination of the paper schedules will feel like the devil is pissing in their face. It’s hard not to feel a twinge of empathy there. However, hopefully Metro – and we as a transit-loving community – can come up with ways to help them make the transition.

    One question I did have, though, is how will this affect visitors/new riders? Metro doesn’t have to put as much consideration into planning for tourists as, say, the MTA, but are there plans to replace the banks of schedules in the bus tunnel with posters/messaging informing people of the apps they can use (or something to that effect)?

    1. Well–computer literate is not quite the issue. Never-able-to-afford-a-smartphone is more like it, as a number of the people who rely on the printed schedules are quite impoverished, or elderly and on very very fixed incomes. Do we want access to the transit system to become yet another have-and-have-not hurdle? It’s a tricky question.

      If reducing paper is really the issue then eliminating the paper transfers would also have consequences. I’ve seen folks at the food bank I volunteer at quietly exchange handfuls of differently colored transfer slips with each other. Occasionally at the bus stop I’ve heard people announce that “today is a blue day”, etc. Immigrants with limited English skills often find navigating the ORCA routine hard. I predict that the agencies and NGOs that support these people will have something to say about the schedules, too.

    2. When one owns the latest smart phone and is au courant with every innovation in social media, it is hard to have much empathy with other people who don’t ‘measure up’ to that standard. There seem to me to be many reasons that elimination of paper timetables will provide a degradation of service. The obvious problem is that not every transit rider owns a smart phone. Smart phones are affordable for those folk who find that many things are affordable. For others, not so miuch. The economically disadvantaged AND many seniors are either unable to afford a phone or unable to master the technology or both. The open and readable combination of timetable, map (with snow reroute) and fare information makes a paper timetable a widely accessible technology. Although I have not had to endure the health problem of hand/am tremors, I discovered, in a conversation last week, that persons with, for example Pqrkinsons, are often unable to deal with smart phones. I am sure that there are technological work-arounds available for those who can afford them, but it is not easy to see this not being a problem.


    3. Eliminating paper schedules is a terrible idea. Perhaps the number printed could be reduced instead.

      1. +1 I would also like to see more schedules and maps posted at stops. Anyone can walk up to a stop and see the service offered. Relying solely on smartphones makes it less discoverable.

    4. To paraphrase: “Let’s replace the information people want (bus schedules) with instructions on how to get the information they want (check out these apps).”

      That’s making the transit riding experience worse, not better. I can pick up a paper timetable faster than you can navigate to an app store or waiting for OneBusAway to load and I’m not dependent on batteries or a data connection.

  18. The technology positions can’t come soon enough. Specifically the real time displays and OneBusAway (not owned by Metro but data comes from Metro) half the time don’t have real time data or it is inaccurate. Another issue in need of addressing is making it easier for people trying to ride the bus to figure out why it hasn’t come other than the fact that it’s late. For example was the trip cancelled, was it put on a reroute due to an unplanned accident or event, etc.

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