One of Metro’s very newest buses, which may still be around to see some results of this plan. Photo by SounderBruce.

Metro is taking a survey in preparation for its new Long-Range Plan, which Victor Obeso generously talked with us about a few months ago.  The Long-Range Plan, which is separate from Metro’s short-term Strategic Plan, will be the agency’s first long-range plan in decades.  The last day to take the survey is Sunday, August 9.  We encourage all STB readers to weigh in today, no matter how (or whether) you use the bus, and no matter whether you typically agree with our views or not.

A bit more about some of my own answers below the jump, for those who are interested.

4 + 5.  For what, and when, do I want to use the bus?  For everything!  The more trips for which I can use the bus, the better.  I wanted to check all of the boxes in response to both of these questions.  But I decided against it for the “when” question, because I want to emphasize to Metro just how important usable night and weekend service is to true mobility.  I checked “late at night” and both weekend boxes.

7.  Why do I dislike peak express service?  Well, the answer is really “because it’s so expensive per passenger it serves.”  But that’s not one of the choices.  The best is “because I have to wait longer for a bus during non-peak times.”  Service hours devoted to a single express trip and its accompanying deadhead could often provide multiple trips on a local route, dramatically increasing possible frequency.  Similarly, on question 8, I answered that more express service would make me ride the bus less often, because it implies a worse all-day network.  If I have to wait for a half-hourly bus off-peak, chances are good I’m going to drive my car instead, especially for trips within my local area where parking is easy.

10.  Why do I dislike infrequent local service?  It’s too slow.  I would prefer more frequent service along fewer corridors, even if I have to walk a bit further.  Infrequent service is slow enough that driving is often much faster, particularly if you can’t plan your departure or return time carefully in advance.

12.  Why do I like frequent service?  I couldn’t resist checking “other” here in order to enter “all of the above.”  Frequent service along major corridors is the type of service that enables trips between any two destinations at all times of day and on all days of the week, without planning in advance, and without undue delays.  If both lines of a transfer are frequent, the transfer is far less painful; for that reason, frequency is what changes transit from something that can take you to just a couple of places into something that opens up the entire county without need for a car.  I would ride the bus far more often if a frequent network were available to take me to every major destination, not just two downtowns.

15. What is the ideal service mix?  On the LRP website, Metro proposes three different distributions of frequent, express and local service: frequent emphasis (F 70%/E 5%/L 25%), express emphasis (F 25%/E 50%/L 25%), and local emphasis (F 25%/E 15%/L 60%).  The current network is in between these extremes, by my calculation approximately F 40%/E 30%/L 30% depending on how you define the categories.  My view is even more pro-frequent corridors than Metro’s frequent-emphasis scenario: I asked for 80% frequent, 10% local, and 10% express.  To a very rough approximation (with a bit more express service) this is what you will find in the network plans I’ve prepared.

16.  What are your capital improvement priorities?  Metro provides seven potential capital priorities here.  I care about four of them, and I think all four are important, so I have a hard time ranking them.  My first four are f) new grade-separated transit ROWsa) speed/reliability improvements on arterials, e) pedestrian/bike improvements, and g) new information technology.  I find these four clearly more important than the other three.  In Question 17, I also requested stop consolidation along frequent corridors.

18.  How can Metro improve intermodal connections?  Metro provided two right answers here, and each implies the other.  “Reducing travel time” and “making transfers easier” go hand-in-hand.

Again, the survey closes Sunday.  Please take it!  Your answers will influence major decisions by Metro, with far-reaching long-term effects.

47 Replies to “Last Chance to Fill Out Metro’s Long Range Plan Survey”

  1. “What are the disadvantages of frequent service” is a bit like asking “what are the disadvantages of providing wings on an airplane”. Neither of the options given made sense.

    Also I know what they’re getting at with “frequent service” (I think), but it isn’t clear on the survey. Can express service not be frequent? Can local service not be frequent? Nobody wants infrequent service – it’s something you settle on after looking at budgets.

    1. I want and am fine with infrequent service, if lower passengers numbers require it. [ah, ot]

    2. They didn’t communicate the idea that we only have ___ dollars or bricks or units, whatever of transit and we have to spread around these limited resources in different ways.

      Local is a really fine-grained network, but with so many lines you can’t have high capacity or frequency on most of them.

      Express is RapidRide at the expense of others, meaning fewer lines but a much higher level of service and investment in supporting that service

      Frequent is a network similar to what we have, but with better headways, especially on busy routes.

      1. RapidRide falls in their “frequent” category, not their “express” category. “Express” refers to peak-only, usually freeway-running routes that connect distant points with few or no intermediate stops.

      2. One thing I noticed was that “Express” and “Frequent” were kind of giving mixed signals as to what they really meant. I’d envision, “Express” being any route that used to display a green EXPRESS dash card, with Frequent being Rapid Ride, However the two still kind of blend together.

      3. “They didn’t communicate the idea that we only have ___ dollars or bricks or units, whatever of transit and we have to spread around these limited resources in different ways.”

        I thought it was front and center in the materials, but it may have been more explicit in the open house a while ago. The three visions are different ways of splitting the pie. So the answer to Matt the Engineer’s question is, the disadvantage of frequent service is it takes service hours from potential routes on other streets. If you think that’s a problem, which I don’t. My philosophy is the same as David’s in the article: frequent service is the biggest factor in making good transit service. It makes transit more usable in edge cases where you could go either way, and makes more people willing to use transit and downsize their number of cars.

        I used to be all about fast limited-stop routes, until I realized that the biggest factor in which route I take is how frequent it is. Once several years ago I was in San Marcos (north San Diego county) going to San Diego. My relatives told me, “There’s an express bus every ten minutes” and took me to the P&R. They never take transit I’m pretty sure (and the neighborhood has 55 mph local streets with superblocks), so they were wrong about the bus. There was a half-hourly local bus and an hourly express bus. I took the local bus rather than waiting 50 minutes for the express bus.

        PS. The last time I visited them was the weekend before Sprinter opened, so I’ve never gotten to ride it. But I’ve been on the (infrequent) bus that did Sprinter’s job before it was there.

  2. I added an additional capital improvement: rear-door ORCA readers. Get ’em in, already!

    1. I added more doors, more passive restraint spots, more standing room, and no paper transfers to my livery laundry list.

  3. all votes for rapid here. I am secretly hoping for Rapid Ride E frequency for the 40. Its not that far away from that level of service now.

    Imagine a 40 that you can rely on, even after midnight.

    1. Clarification:

      By “rapid” I meant “frequent”

      Frequency to make getting around without a car a lot easier in this city.

    2. Why set your sights so low? Within a few years, we will no longer think of 15-minute headway as “frequent.

  4. My biggest complaint regarding not-so Rapid Ride E is by the time the route reaches N 145th Street, there are many times during the week that two to four buses would arrive in a clump (commonly referred to as a platoon) resulting in a half hour wait for the next bus.

    Frequency is great if you can keep the route from platooning. That was my biggest complaint.

    1. More bus lanes and easier boarding for wheelchairs is about the only thing I could think of that will fix the bunching. Even then it might not fix all of it.

      Converting the rest of the lanes on Aurora from off hours parking spots to all BAT all the time will probably help some.

      I couldn’t tell you the bottlenecks downtown since I never ride the E at rush hour, but I would guess that more bus exclusive access and signal timing may help between the Denny and Bell stops.

      Its also possible that we might need more bus exclusive streets downtown if 3rd continues to get more crowded.

      Anyone with more specific knowledge of the daily comings and goings of the E line care to correct me on any of this?

      1. I’ve been riding the E periodically over the last couple months, though never during rush hour. There’re already exclusive bus lanes on Wall and Battery, and they’re working quite well. Continuous bus lanes on Aurora would help; better signal timing would help a lot, especially between Pike and Aurora but also better priority on Aurora itself.

      2. The E Line, a fairly long route with a lot of stops and a lot of on-offs all along Aurora, is always going to have some variable delays due to boarding… and as bus bunching compounds over distance and is hard to avoid with human drivers on real roads, even perfect roads won’t get us all the way there. Maybe there’s some kind of active headway management that would actually work instead of just slowing everything down.

        It could be worse — it was worse in recent memory! The 358 with high-floor buses and on-board payment absolutely crawled under the high passenger turnover common all day along Aurora (the 358 always had a lot of haggling over partial fares and transfers; I’m guessing a lot of people that used to do that just jump in back without paying at all these days). Before that it was a PAYPTTF nightmare in the afternoon peak.

      3. I wonder if the construction on Aurora in SLU is contributing to it. It’s a pretty narrow bottleneck that could become gridlocked with the slightest provocation.

      4. And the 358 was half-hourly evenings and Sundays. The biggest thing I like about RapidRide is its full-time frequency.

      5. I’ve seen bus bunching start at the very beginning of some routes. Two buses of the same route pull out together. Hopefully, the front driver reports the one behind him, and the following driver gets a talking to by his supervisor for avoiding doing the job for which he was hired.

    2. … Ahem. The exclusive bus lanes on Wall and Battery need a lot of work. They are consistently blocked or occupied cars that are not buses. Any rider of an Aurora Ave bus will tell you that it can take 15 minutes or more to get from 3rd and Virginia to Denny and Aurora.

      1. Like I said, I don’t ride it during rush hour. They’re clear when I’m there.

      2. No problem. Observations from someone who is there during rush hour are very useful.

  5. We need more of everything. But as a suburban commuter, I chose mostly express service. Upgrading I-5 HOV lanes to 3+ would help tremendously as well. I don’t understand the point of HOV lanes if they are usually the same speed or slower than the regular lanes.

    Decades ago, Metro had the vision (and money?) to build the bus tunnel. Can they not do major capital projects anymore? I’m wondering why Metro’s long range plan doesn’t include subways or streetcars or another tunnel. Why do they only focus on buses.

    1. I understand the desire for express buses from the suburbs, but frequent buses in the suburbs could also be useful in getting folks to those express buses in the first place.

    2. Mostly because Metro ‘created’ ST to do lots of building and they and other agencies kept the operations side of the house. In hindsight that may have been a mistake now that SDOT and ST pretty much tell Metro how the cows eat the cabbage. Money talks.
      Bringing in Pierce and Snohomish for the tax base is now diluting the ability for Metro to build much of anything as the big ticket items in those counties are getting ready to complete the spine.

      1. Sound Transit is a separate tax base from Metro. However, Sound Transit’s problem is that they drown out the local agencies, take the tax money and leave nothing behind for the local’s. Pierce Transit has been trying to get a tax increase to .9% for the last few years. I fear if ST 3 passes next November (which is the next best shot at it), PT will not be able to run one side-by-side as their message will get drowned out in the ST message (plus the presidential messages), and even if it were not, the taxpayers would say “why am I paying twice” for bus service. Overall they honestly cannot tell the agencies apart no matter what color the bus.

    3. “Metro” didn’t build the DSTT; it was a county project. Metro is a county department now but I’m not sure if it was yet then, but in any case it’s not something Metro could do on its own. It didn’t have a big capital budget then either.

      Sound Transit was created by the state, so that the state wouldn’t have to get involved directly in Puget Sound regional transit. Metro didn’t create it either.

      The tax issue is that voters are simply more willing to vote for regional light rail and regional express buses than they are local buses. Especially suburban voters. And because they have the most legislators, the legislature is more willing to give ST more funding than the county agencies. Because freeway congestion. PT’s issue is that people won’t vote for local transit which they don’t believe they’ll ever ride, vs express transit to Seattle which they think they would ride, or at least they hope somebody else will ride to clear up some freeway traffic. East Pierce County was so hostile to Pierce Transit that it shrank its service area. That’s not just “ST having a louder voice”, it’s people thinking that buses to Tacoma are plain not worth paying for, or a magical belief that buses will keep coming even if they vote down PT taxes. In Snohomish County there hasn’t been that kind of rebellion, but when CT had to cut service during the recession, it proposed to pare down the Seattle expresses and focus on the local network, but the public said no, we want the Seattle expresses most, so they stayed. That’s just the way the suburbs are.

      1. Metro was formed by then and both Metro planning and then the RTP (Regional Transit Project) were both on the 9th floor of the Exchange Bldg sitting side by side, albeit just a couple of desks at that point. Metro was the lead agency on the DSTT under Bob White and Don Davis.
        The state didn’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide to create ST. They responded to Metro, and other prominent citizens to form it, being championed by House TC Chair Ruth Fisher, from Tacoma. (so much for history)
        We would be having profoundly different discussions on STB if Metro, again as the lead agency, moved forward with a Seattle centric/King County rail and or BRT proposal than we are now. Sub Area equity and the zombie chant to ‘complete the spine’ is the loud sucking sound you hear whenever expansion comes up.
        Just sayin.

      2. Why would Metro want to bring in Pierce and Snohomish Counties? Metro’s focus is King County, and bureaucracies usually like to get larger projects and budgets for themselves, not propose larger entities outside of themselves that could then encroach their fundraising ability. In fact, you’d expect the original bureacuracy to try to block or hinder the other one, not spearhead its creation. It would be most extraordinary if Metro did that, so why would it? Why didn’t it pursue a King County subway or BRT if it could? Or was the public just fed up with the lack of regional express service, as much inter-county as intra-county?

    4. Actually, that’s another reason why the state is more willing to grant ST taxing capacity than the other agencies: because ST is the state’s baby, and it expects ST to come back with periodic funding requests until it finishes its network. The other agencies are just “local transit entities” not created by the state, and also they mainly want funding for operations rather than capital projects, and some legislators see putting money into ongoing operations year after year as throwing money down the drain, so they’re less willing to allow tax increases for it.

      1. All transit in the state is ‘created’ by the state, under various RCW’s. ST is just a different RCW. Metro and other transit agencies must also ask for permission to raise their taxing authority.
        As for ST being the baby and the view from Olympia, I’ll grant you that one – “more sucking sounds?”

  6. My complaint would be that no one seems to sit down and think of the network from users in all parts of King County and beyond.

    That must be the starting point.

    I gave an example last weekend where it would take me 2 hours each way to do the trip on transit from Kent East Hill to watch the Blue Angels.

    Someone needs to reverse the analysis from one where you look at the system only in terms of routes, and stations and frequencies and look at it on a case by case basis for real world users, real world events, real world needs and potential needs.

    I’d like to see a simulation which is purely people based — one for where people go to each day, point to point. And an overlay of where they would want to go if they could use transit!

    1. I agree. And further, let’s weight these different trips by how many people are actually taking them. Do more people from Renton want to go to Southcenter/Tukwila/Burien, or to Rainier Valley / Seattle? Do more people from Greenwood want to go straight downtown, or to Fremont? And which place has more people taking those trips? Let’s invest accordingly.

      1. I’d like to take one of the transit apps like OBA and reverse it. So instead of reporting when the buses are coming to the people, it would report how many people get on a bus and where they transfer and walk to.

        It would let the users voluntarily let it report GPS data back to the transit agencies, so we can get a sampling of where people are going when they ride transit.

        That would answer the What Are They Using It For question.

        The What Do They Want To Use it For question is murkier, and it may be the sort of thing where people say I didn’t know what I wanted until you told me. But I would at least have a few people working on that.

      2. Well, OBA could have an interface to enter, “I want to take this trip now.” Then it could quantify the trips people want to take but can’t, and the agencies would have something to compare to their demand models.

    2. As much as I hate the idea of merging the agencies, I think there needs to be some overall regional planning and guidance to coordinate the systems, guide their expansion together to an well orchestrated network. While I see some of this from the PSRC it is not very strong, and certainly needs improvement.

      1. Do what Province of Ontario is doing with Metrolinx they have regional transit planner to help you plan your trip, also in charge of Government Ontario Transit (GO Transit), UP Express, PRESTO card, capital projects such as light rail and Bus Rapid Transit in Greater Toronto and Toronto.

        I think if state mandates Sound Transit to act like Metrolinx maybe all transit systems in Puget Sound could starting working with each other because ST would help build relationships between each CT, KCM and PT and help make each system seamless with each other with one fare for local trips and another for express trips.

      2. Jarrett Walker has an important cautionary argument about merging agencies. When you merge several transit agencies together, you unmerge them from the cities and counties that control the streets they run on and the land uses around them. Pugetopolis cities are reasonably good about working with the transit agency and being aware of its needs, but in some cities they get totally at odds and uncooperative with each other. Also, cities have the most intimate knowledge of what their transit needs are, and smaller agencies are more responsive (both in answering queries and getting things done) because there’s less bureaucracy and they’re more focused on your area.

  7. For the express issue, it might be worth considering express buses that charge more. C-Tran does this, and for the sprawling area they serve it seems to work.

    1. So does Community Transit, and it works. Even Sound Transit goes part of the way by having a multi-county fare.

      1. C-Tran has an all zone fare of $2.50 and an express fare of $3.75. The higher price drives some people away, but it is still lower than a downtown Portland parking garage.

        Furthermore, if not for that higher price, the express probably would not be there.

      2. “And KC Metro has two zone peak fares.”

        … which are completely unfair if you travel from 130th to 155th, or from Northgate to Ridgecrest, or from West Seattle to Burien, and the arbitrary zone boundrary is in between. But if you’re going from downtown to Broadview or Tukwila to Federal Way, enjoy your one-zone fare.

        I have long urged Metro to have premium fares on its longest express routes like Community Transit does instead of two zones. The only CT routes with two-level fares are the expresses from north of Everett that stop in Lynnwood, where if you travel between Seattle and Lynnwood you pay the lower southwest fare. But other than that there’s no arbitrary boundary in the middle of a route. But Metro has not been interested in this, and its two-zone fare goes back decades, to when most of its routes were long-distance expresses or milk runs (Seattle-Auburn, Seattle-Federal Way, etc). In fact, 2-zone fares used to be charged 24 hours rather than just at peak. So that’s an improvement. And it also gets complex when you think of the route-by-route impacts. There aren’t that many routes like the Seattle-Auburn expresses. Many express routes overlap with other routes in the same area, so you’d get absurdities like two routes serving the same trip pair with a similar number of stops but one has a higher fare than the other, or premium fares for short trips on routes that happen to be long.

    2. Metro has offered various hints of dropping zone fares, but doesn’t say anything about the possibility of express fares.

      Part of the difficulty with express fares is that a lot of the express routes have neighborhood tails, which is not the standard industry practice. Metro would have to decide how to charge riders who just travel within the tail.

      The size of the problem decreases as Link expands, which is why I voted for only 10% for express buses. If Metro is testing the waters about continuing to run all its express routes downtown, I’m not down with that approach at all.

  8. I threw in a moratorium on the anti-amenities known as “transfer centers”, and on the loop-de-loop stops they often force, on my survey. If Metro wants to improve the waiting experience, putting that waiting experience in front of shops, instead of walled off by asphalt, cement, fences, and parking lots, would go a long way to make waits more pleasant. Transfer centers cost megabucks (including operational waste, in perpetuity), while private developers will build housing and eateries next to on-street stops, for no charge to Metro.

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