43 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: All About That Bus”

    1. There’s a litttle bit more information about this here.

      “In other parts of the county we’ll be expanding alternative services with funding the County Council included in our 2015-2016 budget. February will bring the launch of a commuter shuttle service between Snoqualmie, North Bend and the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride. We’re working with Mercer Island and Burien on alternatives to regular bus routes in those communities. We’ll also be exploring alternative services in Redmond, Vashon Island, and south King County.”

    2. I hope the commuter shuttle has a timed connection with some downtown->Issaquah Highlands commuter bus – meaning that, in the afternoon direction, the shuttle will wait if the incoming bus it’s supposed to connect with is late. Otherwise, you end up with and empty shuttle and a bunch of stranded riders frantically calling their husband/wife to drive down and pick them up.

  1. “Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.”

    Or, if somebody wanted a worse audience than SEPTA passengers- come on, Commuter Vans? A decent “house” would at least have thrown a couple of dead cats at those kids and their video, just to show a little appreciation.

    Even if Stockholm already did it with blue buses in Sweden.

    Fact is, Philadelphia does have one really interesting piece of electric transit:
    the Norristown High Speed Line. Ten minute search couldn’t get me train speed, but estimates of about 60 mph.

    Third rail, fully reserved right of way whole route. But interesting statistic is 22 stations in 13.4 miles. Meaning some really unusual acceleration and deceleration. 22 minutes terminal to terminal.

    Rode on the line about forty years ago, when original cars were still in service. Looked line double-ended PCC streetcars with no trolleypoles and a some serious power in the “bogies”. These cars were designed using a wind tunnel.
    Modern cars have more rectangular lines- think they were made in Portugal.

    Too bad that if SEPTA brought one to Seattle for a demo, they’d have to hose the dead cats out of it after somebody snagged it with one of those Vaudeville hoops that used to come out of the curtain to drag bad acts off-stage.

    Third link below has some really hot transit videos. To watch while we’re thinking about how many stops those trains could handle between Westlake and the airport. Good slogan: “Break a Leg!”



    1. No scale on the map so it’s a bit hard to tell how long that stretch of McLoughlin Blvd is with just the one stop at Bybee. Is there not a lot of ridership there which justifies eliminating all bus service along that road? Or are a lot of people losing accessibility in exchange for frequency and speed?

      1. It’s almost freeway through there. Currently there is no stop at Bybee, and one will be added. The only place that really loses service completely will be 99E and Harold. There is some traffic there, but it isn’t too far from the 70 on 17th either.

        I would prefer to see a stop at Harold as that is closer to Reed College and a few other things, but Bybee has bus route 19 that can help feed transfers to MAX. Thus, I understand the reason for leaving Harold out.

      2. I don’t know anything about Reed College (or Portland generally), but Reed College looks about as accessible from McLoughlin/Harold as North Seattle College is from the the Northgate Link station. So there would have to be a bridge and some other street improvements east of there, I take it, to really provide access to the college?

      3. There would have to be a bridge over the railroad. McGloughlin / Highway 99E does have a cross signal there that the other side of the highway already uses to access the northbound bus stop. A bridge over the highway would be a bit better but not necessary.

    2. One thing that I would like to see that isn’t on the map:

      Route 33 is the last southeast transit route, and last bus of any type, that serves Union Station, and is currently the closest transit route to the station by about 200 feet. There used to be a dozen or so routes that served Union Station but today there is just MAX green and yellow and the 33 that are within a few blocks of the station.

      Once the 33 goes away I would like to see the #14 Hawthorne return to the station. It’s a fairly frequent route (every 3 minutes peak period, and at one time was once every 15 minutes until 9 at night but the recession cutbacks eliminated that). It would be nice to have a core route from the transit mall to SE Portland come back.

      1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the proposed Powell-Division Bus line goes up to Union Station. It makes for a pretty convenient turn around in downtown, and might be required if they decide to use articulated buses.

        As for the 33, its not as critical to keep it running up to Union Station, as the Orange line (or Yellow Line, as most trains will change when reaching PSU) will still be providing a connection.

        Also remember that TriMet hasn’t completed its downtown SEP. So its possible that things might get rearranged.

      2. It isn’t critical at all for the 33 to go to Union Station, but something like the 14 would sure be nice.

        The 4 is frequent and crowded too, so that could work.

  2. Wikipedia


    Inauguration- the Anti-Seattle!

    Just to give the cast in the opening video it’s due credit:

    In his coffee-table book called “The Time of The Trolley”, author William D. Middleton mentions the machinery of the Queen Anne Counterbalance as an example of “the slightly demented mechanism” common in the glory days of street rail.

    State-of-mind reference explains a lot- reason college “political science” programs should all be replaced by a simultaneous grounding in history and literature. As engineering used to include- along with hand-drawing and rendering.

    Transit engineers in the late 19th and early 20th century looked to the mining industry for practical experience with brutal loads, steep grades, and steam engines- meaning ability to handle temperature, rough use, dirt and minimal literacy. Not just in IT jargon, but also English.

    When MUNI re-fitted its cable car hardware about thirty years ago, they had to make do with parts and mechanisms that didn’t work as well as the originals- because nobody remembered exactly how Scotland fitted out its mines in the 1800’s. Where Andrew Hallidie- and his generation- learned cables, pulleys, and grips.

    This system in Northern Italy is neither a toy nor a tourist attraction. The units that carry the “grip” mechanism have recently lost their orange drivers’ compartments and gone to blue and white automatic trailers. But the line’s history is a steady progression, not a restoration. The MUNI “F” line aren’t novelty carnival rides either.

    The chief reason for keeping pre-digital machinery in real-world service is to keep transit’s operating people familiar with the machine at the end of the wire. World’s most advanced digital calculation is only as good as the dumbest thing a human most recently told it. And it also can’t smell anything burning.

    Benson cars, Skoda standard and hybrid, and whatever follows, we need to start considering past, present, and future as a single ongoing effort. Less a thread than a wire cable over well-maintained pulleys.

    Mark Dublin

    1. We get it. You like Unique Outlier Charm Transit. I like Unique Outlier Charm Transit too. What kind of curmudgeon wouldn’t have a soft spot for Unique Outlier Charm Transit?

      But you know what? If I had to rely on this thing daily, I’d actually be pretty annoyed by it. Always having to wait for a track switch, then slowly reverse to meet the cable trailer? They couldn’t figure out some efficient way to start the trailer as we pass, then have it scoop us up like a chairlift?

      Fortunately for the people of Trieste, few-to-none of them ride this on a regular basis. The tramway’s primary destination is Opicina, a self-contained and historically Slovene-majority hilltop village of only 7,000. Though Opicina increasingly serves as a bedroom community, usage of the tramway by daily commuters hovers in the high 3 digits.

      Other Triestini will use the tramway only ever for recreational purposes, allowing them to bask in the whimsy and pride of their Unique Outlier Charm Transit, and to conveniently ignore the imperfections of its operations.

      The rest of the time, they get around their superlatively compact Adriatic city on foot or on the bus.

      1. https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrTccFaB7NU5xwAOMwPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTBsOXB2YTRjBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkAw–?_adv_prop=image&fr=yhs-mozilla-001&va=unique+outliner+charm+transit&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001

        Ok, d.p., you got me! Only compensation for online ads I’ll get from here on for clicking this one is that same thing will happen to the whole NSA as soon is it surveils my e-mail.

        But thanks for chance to warn all STB readers that Bram Stoker only left out the cable-assisted streetcar because stats showed that everybody in the Balkans east of Trieste used horses-drawn coaches because streetcars wouldn’t plunge desperately around when Dracula showed up. Though website products available repelled Dracula worse than garlic.

        Once I discovered that huge percent of the US population considers everything between Daly City and the Canadian border to be Unique and Outlying if not exactly charming, I dropped the category for evaluating anything. Nationally, I-5’s ridership through here is pathetic anyhow.

        Fact that I mentioned the Queen Anne Counterbalance before the vertical streetcar takes my transit concentration out or the Outlier category. Last seance ended same night as the last interurban came into the barn.

        My main interest is in transit systems built to use existing machine technology to address specific local problems that Walmart doesn’t have a shelf for. Cable cars, a 50-mile trolley bus line, mountain cable-ways in many countries.

        Fifteen years’ bus operations and five years’ joint bus-rail operations someplace Outlying…as a way to start a regional transit system that would still be waiting to break ground without it. Like that.

        Because there’s one irrefutable proof that every one of these systems serves a purpose besides charm: their localities and agencies haven’t ceased operations for decades. Trieste Transporti has changed the little grip-cars twice in a couple of decades. Though maybe it’s just so they get Italian troops up there before Slovenia invades. What’s Balkan historic record on that account?

        MUNI rebuilt the cable cars’ whole mechanism thirty years ago- even though modern diesel buses could doubtless run same routes now. The Crimean trolley bus line recently added new buses, as well as really attractive stewardesses.

        And I wish us Charming Outlying curmudgeons could take credit for joint ops still here. I’ll be owed some consulting contracts and a lot of back wages for lobbying!

        But here’s my real point, d.p. If Vladimir Putin decides to avenge slander against Greater Russia’s longest trolleybus line, one Electromagnetic Pulse device over the admittedly outlying West Coast will empty out wide swath of transit museums before the last thyristor dies.

        Or as usual, somebody shopping for crap online hitting the wrong key. Put that on you bracelet beside the pink bunny!


    2. I attempted to ride the Trieste street car this summer. After years of being “repaired” it was scheduled to run again. I saw it going up the hill in the morning and by 2pm it was dead again.

      1. Thanks for the heads-up, Grant. Any word on what the trouble was, or was it whatever’s Italian for “You don’t want to know!” Any chance current economy has anything to do with such things?

        But suddenly realize that this is the country where the Bredas were born. Though I think up in Trieste, they’d tell me Trieste was never consulted about having Palermo put in the same country as Italy.

        Wasn’t close enough to Metro maintenance to know what average time was to bring one back from the dead.

        Though I did have part of my accelerator pedal linkage fall off the bottom of the bus NB at University Way and 43rd. Sort of a falling-apart zombie kind of a thing.

        But like I said, my chief interest in the line is more or less its originality. Wish I still had my driver’s badge. But even now, fact I used to drive has gained me admission to parts of transit the average consultant never sees- and lives to tell about it.

        Situations like this, I really would like to be able to talk with people who know so as to see how the thing is really works as opposed to supposed to. But if logo tag on that little grip-car has a horse on it- no more questions.


  3. TIL: Metro operates about ten custom routes numbered in the 900s to three private schools in Shoreline. From the website of one of the schools: [i]”The custom buses are regular King County Metro buses which are assigned special routes. Like all Metro buses, there are occasions where students may need to stand. Custom buses are not private, but it is very unusual for non-students to ride these buses, and the [b]bus drivers actively discourage the general public[/b] from boarding.”[/i]

    How fast can you say FTA violation? Any bus funded in part or in whole with federal funds may not be used for any service not open to the general public! A few rural transit firms have been caught by the FTA for school service rule violations. I would love it if an adult STB contributor with some spare time tried to ride their custom bus and see how the operator and students respond.

    Here in Ft. Collins, two routes scheduled around school bell times are operated by Transfort. From observations, there is some non-student ridership; one of the routes departs Downtown en route to the high school with a handful of customers “in the know”. The bus operators verbally confirm with the customer to make sure that they weren’t intending to board another route by accident (ie: “Are you sure you want Route 92?”), but do not take any further action if the customer confirms their intent.

    1. TIL, part 2: BB code and HTML code are not the same thing. Could a mod fix my formatting? Thanks!

      1. It is embarrassing to watch a 994 pass you while waiting for your afternoon-bunched “rapid” ride, then detour all over Magnolia, then still beat your cash-boarder-slowed flagship service back onto Elliott.

    2. I rode the 984 once from 25th and Madison to the International District. A few observations:

      1) The route does not use the Metro 8/11 stop at 25th and Madison. It stops in the street a block further down. However, you can wave down the (confused) driver.

      2) When I boarded I got weird looks from the students and the driver, who asked, “Do you know what bus this is?” in a “I am confused why you’re here” kind of way. I said “Yes” and tapped my ORCA card on the reader, which confirmed my pass. The driver said, a little brusquely, “The fare is $5.25.” I replied, “I know, it took my pass,” and sat down. At the time I had the Regional Passport from Microsoft that covered the full fare.

      3) The students seemed a little put off by having an adult on the bus, and I have to say I felt out of place. They were a little rowdy, but no more so than you’d expect a room full of kids to be.

      4) A couple of times a kid would pull the stop cord and then no one would get off, or the driver would stop, open the doors, and remind someone that this was their stop.

      5) Despite all that, the trip to the International District was the fastest I’d ever done on Metro from Madison Valley at less than 15 minutes. Faster even than the “special” 43’s that are go out of service via Broadway and Jackson instead of through downtown. I’d love to have a regular route that made this connection. It might even be faster than 43/8 to Link once Capitol Hill Station opens.

    3. I’ve just missed one of the 9xx buses from Lakeside School South. The stop at Deerborne seems like a quick connection to a Southbound Sounder from Shoreline, especially when I have a bike. I wonder what the total trip fare would be if the first segment on Metro is $5.25?

    4. TA’s all over the country operate these these type of school trippers. In my hometown, Syracuse, NY, there’s at least 10 transit buses waiting at each high school for the last bell. “Special” routes open to the public. The only city that ever came close to losing their trippers is Rochester, NY but I know they fixed whatever the issue was with the FTA. The school district usually pays for the service, except in Chicago and NYC where transit eats the cost for school trippers.

      1. If these routes run between 2 and 3pm, it’s not like the busses have better things to do. Might as well use the rush-hour capacity for the kids.

      2. With all the budget cuts Metro has been enduring, you know everything comes with a cost. In Chicago, the CTA schedules extra service for students and honors a student reduced fare. CPS pays nothing, they’re only obligated to provide transportation services for special education students who require transportation as part of their IEP. In contrast, in Syracuse, students are able to ride for free during school hours/days because the school district is obligated to provide transportation services so it contracts with Centro instead of First Student. In Rochester the bus fare is still a simple $1 with the RCSD paying a hefty penny a year for it’s extra service, which helps keep the fares low.

    5. “I would love it if an adult STB contributor with some spare time tried to ride their custom bus and see how the operator and students respond. ”

      Your wish is my command, or at least it used to be. I used to regularly ride the 982 from Overlake to Lake City. The driver asked me one time “do you know where this bus goes” and when I replied in the affirmative he said nothing else. He actually was the same driver most days and if there was someone new, the new person didn’t say a peep. The kids didn’t act any differently, though I did sit in the front singleton middle-facing seat and either read my Kindle or played on my laptop during the whole trip. No driver ever tried to stop me from boarding unless you count making sure I knew what was up as “trying to stop.”

      One very convenient thing was that the driver would let me off at the 41 stop westbound on NE 125th right near my old apartment.

    6. Since that quote about discouraging riders comes from the school website and not Metro I hazard a guess that statement is just to placate parents worried about their children riding a bus that could be boarded by anyone.

  4. To those who think that building a Northgate pedestrian bridge would save all buses from having to “detour” next to NSCC on College Way N, and go directly to NTC, you have no idea what the purpose of transit is. I’ve always had a low opinion of most of you. Now it’s even lower.

    Go Hawks!

    1. You should probably sign up for a Remedial Trolling course the next time you’re up that way. Your last few volleys have been unusually lackluster.

      1. That wasn’t a troll. I don’t think a lot of you here know anything about transit. You may be fans, cheerleaders, advocates, enthusiasts, armchair planners, whatever, but when you say stupid stuff like buses shouldn’t go to where people want to go to save time, it tells me you don’t know what you’re talking about. Some fool actually suggested that buses shouldn’t go by NSCC in order to save time.

      2. People want to go to the Tacoma Dome, right?

        So we should reroute the 550 to go to Tacoma between Seattle and Bellevue, right?

        Now I know that’s much farther out of the way than NSCC, but the same principle applies in a weaker form. If you say “Buses should go where people want to go if it isn’t too far out of the way, and NSCC isn’t too far out of the way,” that’s one thing, and we can debate it. But to say “Buses should go where people want to go, period,” leaves you wide open to a plan of rerouting the 550 to Tacoma.

      3. I’m a people and I want to go to Redmond so we should send the 545 via James and then up 23rd. There’s even a direct on-ramp to highway 520 eastbound for the next few months. Plus it saves all that crush loading by not picking up people at Westlake and Convention Place. It’s perfect. Tell you all what, do this and I’ll have “split the 48 today!” shirts printed up and handed out at the next meeting.

    2. I want to congratulate Sam for his research. While all of us just lazily talked about pie-in-the-sky bridges, Sam actually studied the impact on Metro’s existing service, which matters to all of us because it affects Metro’s overall budget and what other service it can offer.

      But you missed one thing, Sam. The bridge is not mainly about replacing bus routes. Only a small percentage of commentators mentioned that. It’s about being able to access the west side any time a train arrives (or you’re walking from the mall), without waiting up to half an hour for a bus. Bus routes are a more complex issue because there actually are people from Ballard and Haller Lake and places going to the college or thereabouts, and who’s to say their bus shouldn’t? That’s for Metro to decide at a later, more defailed phase.

      For a quick estimate, I’d suggest that buses from the west and south bypass the college but buses from the north remain on their current route. We have been trying to get the 16 rerouted to 92nd for years. The 40 could go either way, but just continuing straight on Northgate Way seems more direct. But for the 345 and 346, Meridian Ave/College Way is the straight direction. This allows them to bypass Northgate Way traffic and turning, and 92nd is so untrafficky it probably makes up for the longer routing, and it also keeps coverage on College Way.

    1. Norman changed his name to Charlie and went to visit his mom in Boston. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t have the right fare, and now is stuck riding the MTA forever. Throw Charlie (aka Norman) a nickel as he passes through Skully Square Station. They even have a song about him now.

  5. In the Norse tradition, trolls were mostly known for single-mindedly hoarding gold, though it was considered suicidally bad manners to break one of their concentration on gold.

    Main thing trolls had to be careful about was not losing track of time. If sunlight hit them, like they were grumbling and chortling along a cliff and counting their gold, they’d immediately turn into a rock, often while still in motion.

    The Norwegian highway department just says it’s a rockfall. They don’t have to be any more specific. But…..damn, wonder if Northwest climate can turn one into mud. And they don’t learn from experience. Explains a lot of extra bus service on Northline.

    Anyhow, only real one Seattle has ever seen was so busy eating a Volkswagen under the Fremont Bridge that he forgot to reset his watch on right calendar day. Maybe that’s why he stopped commenting.


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