One of the things I’ll appreciate about my bus service, after Prop 1’s purchases have taken effect, is that Reduced Weekday schedules, whereby Metro cancels an arbitrary-seeming selection of express routes, and peak period trips on the other downtown-oriented routes, will no longer exist in Seattle. Frank did a great job of covering the meltdown last Veterans Day, as stranded riders raged at Metro for the delays and overloads caused by those cancelled trips.
With the approval of the initial Prop 1 purchases, the vast majority of Prop 1’s revenue has been committed, but I want to point out a corner of the system, where, like with Reduced Weekday schedules, we are doing things that aren’t particularly rider friendly, and which could be improved by modest or incremental expenditures of Prop 1 money, should that become available.
On days when the University of Washington is not in session, Metro runs a “No UW” schedule, which affects about 15 routes countywide, six of them in Seattle (and eligible for Prop 1 money). Similar to Reduced Weekday, No UW schedules cancel a handful of trips in the peak periods of routes which serve UW. For the purposes of Metro scheduling, the UW is out of session for one large, contiguous block of time in the summer (June 15th-September 15th), a couple of short breaks (Christmas, Spring), and a smattering of minor weekday holidays.
Adjusting schedules over the summer break makes a great deal of sense. The UW is a huge ridership center, and the change in ridership with almost all the students gone for the summer will be significant. Over three months, the remaining riders have plenty of time to adapt to the reduced schedule, and the savings will add up to something significant. The case for cancelling a few trips via footnotes on schedules on the few other days seems much more tenuous, when weighed against the complexity and irritation those cancellations create for riders.
Here’s how I see the No UW schedule breaking down by route, and here’s what I’d do if I had a little Prop 1 money to spend:
- 31/32, 75: two trips cancelled each. The 31/32 together form a core, frequent crosstown, a service on which we should particularly strive for a good experience. The savings on these cancellations seem hardly worth the effort. Let’s just buy these trips back.
- 48: 12 trips cancelled; 67: five trips cancelled. The 48 is among the highest-ridership routes in the county, and with the opening of University Link next year, the 67 corridor will become one of the utmost importance in NE Seattle. Other similarly-important routes which serve the U District (44, 70, 70-series) don’t observe the No UW reductions. I think it makes sense to buy these trips back: the extra buses will be no means be empty, and the additional frequency will encourage ridership on these key corridors.
- 65, ten trips cancelled; 68, nine trips cancelled. Buying back these trips would be more of a stretch. These routes aren’t rock-star corridors in the way of the 48 or 67; they mostly serve residential areas that feed the UW, while downtown riders end up on expresses.
By my reckoning, there are 40 Prop 1-eligible trips on each No UW day, and about 15 No UW days (other than Summer) each year. This amounts to a fraction of the service Seattle purchased to fix the Reduced Weekday problem, which was 4,600 hours for 458 trips per day, 9 days per year. I estimate it would cost around 600 hours to buy back all the No UW service (other than Summer), or about 300 to buy back everything on the 31, 32, 48, 67 and 75.
While the intent of Reduced Weekday, to squeeze every last drop out of our Metro money, made sense in a context of austerity and cuts, in Seattle’s context of growing service levels and ridership, it had outlived its usefulness, and will not be missed. Likewise, I think it makes sense for Seattle to study the possibility of reducing the reductions of the No UW schedule. While No UW has not (to my knowledge) caused a meltdown a la Reduced Weekday, it adds complexity for minimal savings, which is something we should try to eliminate from our transit network.