81 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Driverless Bus”

  1. Autonomous uber pool type service means the end of buses, except for those on dedicated lanes.

    1. Maybe in sparsely-populated areas where buses are a social equity service rather than a solution to traffic congestion. There’s probably still an urban density range where buses are more cost-effective than rail, but where uberpool-style vehicles would be geometrically inefficient.

    2. Has anybody been on an UberPool ride that was actually shared with anybody? In the 5’ish times I’ve used the service, I always ended up getting my own ride for about 20% off the normal price.

      1. My wife and I were in LA. We went fron Santa Monica to just south of the airport for $9 or so, but it was about 10:30 in the evening. The other couple got off first so there was a bit of a backtrack to the freeway, but it was much faster than the Big Bus at that hour.

    1. “In the above image in 1900, wqe see that there is a single car out of many horse drawn carriages in New York City. Within thirteen years it transformed into one of many cars and one horse.”

      And a hundred and three years after that, the subways are still running, and nobody imagines dismantling them because the city would grind to a halt. Actually, the subways do stop sometimes, when there’s a power outage or a terror attack or a hurricane, and then you can’t drive across the bridges because they’re packed full of pedestrians.

      The video is possibly true: solar power and batteries converging in cheapness for widespread solar houses and cars. But at the same time you can’t assume that every innovation will succeed, or perform well on the expected timeline. The first thing I wonder about this article is whether it’s a company selling stock in solar batteries.

      1. As far as I can tell looking at their website they don’t sell anything. http://electrek.co/
        Good question though. Driverless Station Cars ™ could downsize some of the nextgen mega garages planned for ST3. Each parking stall could buy about 4 Station Cars being dispatched during the commute hours of the day.

    2. Even Google says self-driving cars are 20 years away, and they’re actively trying to sell them some day. There’s also the old saying in the computer biz that anything claimed to be 20 years away will never happen.

      https://xkcd.com/678/

    3. To be fair, if AT&T has been the only ones selling mobile phones, adoption probably would have been 900,000.

  2. “If driverless cars become universal, then running buses will become much more economical, too”

    Eventually, yes, it will probably take a long time, as transit agencies tend to be very risky averse. There are also annoying, but real issues that would have to be dealt with, such as fare collection for cash payers (maybe, by this time, everybody will be cashless, so it won’t be an issue anymore), information for people who don’t know where they’re going, and assistance for the disabled (if the bus driver isn’t there to strap down the wheelchairs, who will do it? A robot?). I would also expect the bus drivers’ union to fight any attempt to automate their jobs away tooth and nail. They may even go such lengths as lobbying the state legislature to make autonomous buses illegal and have the mechanics (who I think are part of the same union) go on strike in protest.

  3. Driverless vehicles will only be a novelty.

    Until they have the same cognitive, and most importantly – intuitive abilities of a human driver, they will always operate in ‘safe parameter’ mode, making decisions that will assure no one outside the vehicle will be in danger.

    Any thought that they will operate in a superior manner to a human controlled vehicle is amusing. The imagined performance of these vehicles will not occur in the near future.

    Until then what is being created is the Automated Ballard Driver.

    Old people will be able to walk faster.

  4. Automated transit is the future on grade separated lines. No question there.

    Will it solve the last mile problem though?

    That’s less clear. Unlike trains, buses need someone to make sure disabled passengers are properly secured for the bumpy ride.

    Will automated technology be able to handle this anytime soon? That’s very unclear to me.

    Until that happens, automated cars and buses will only be available to certain segments of the population.

    If automated cars are even remotely successful though, Taxi driver is likely a doomed profession.

    1. Maybe there will still be a staff on board but his job will change. Getting away from the stress of driving (and dealing with other drivers) may be welcome. But the new job may pay a lot less.

  5. Research on autonomous vehicles are such a waste of time and money. Governments will just reduce funding for transit systems if buses become more affordable. The future of public transit infrastructure is built networks with large-capacity zero-emission vehicles connecting neighborhoods with job centers… getting from home to the station will require walking, biking, hoverboards and other small personal modes of short-distance transport… not driverless buses.

    1. Governments are increasingly recognizing that mass transit is important. Los Angeles has been investing heavily in transit the past decade. Denver and SLC have also invested, and Pugetopolis. Even small cities are improving their bus networks, like Eugene’s BRT. The reason some cities don’t invest in transit is longstanding political and cultural attitudes: taxes are bad, cars are everything Americans need, and I don’t want my taxes going to buses for people of a different color. That won’t change overnight but it may gradually change. But the cities that are investing in transit will continue to do so. They won’t pull a shenanigan like reducing investment because the price is lower, because they still have other unaddressed transit needs that they want to fill.

  6. I think driverless trains do work and could be expanded. I think driverless cars will work and that media reports of their accidents are overblown – the question isn’t “why did the autonomous car crash”, but “would an average human driver have crashed the same way?” But I’m skeptical about driverless buses. There’s too many human factors.

    How is fare enforced? What if someone’s ORCA card isn’t working?
    On a crowded bus, how to ensure that people are moving all the way back?
    What if a passenger wants travel directions or for the driver to let them know when they get to some landmark?
    Waiting for a passenger to exit and remove their bike from the rack?
    If a car was parked in the bus stop zone, would the bus wait indefinitely, or let passengers on/off 20 feet earlier then drive around?

    1. I don’t think the exceptional driving situations are any harder than ones that fully-autonomous cars will have to handle. Bus drivers handle zone blockages in all kinds of different ways, for example, just as car drivers handle blocked turn lanes in all kinds of different ways.

      The customer service situations are a little weird, but could be solved. Off the top of my head:

      – I assume fare enforcement would be POP with fare inspectors (all-POP bus networks certainly exist… greater Nuremberg has one).
      – It’s not that hard to detect distribution of crowds and play a message.
      – I’d handle rider questions by having a “help” button like many trains have; it would connect the rider to a customer service person with route info and current GPS position on a screen in front of them.
      – Any autonomous bus worth its salt will recognize what a person putting a bike on the rack looks like, and may have a, “I’m getting my bike off here,” button up front. Or they might put bike storage inside the bendy part of the bus like Swift.

      Autonomous buses (and cars!) may struggle to deal with malicious users (I can think of a bunch of ways I could abuse customer service systems or stop vehicles to cause trouble)… and it would take more work (at least in the short term) to get computers, as opposed to human drivers, to correctly handle reroutes, construction situations, temporary stops, etc.

      It would be interesting to see just how much the ratio of human labor per service hour could be brought down, once customer service, fare enforcement, and extra programmers are brought in. It might not be much. One nice thing is that these people at least wouldn’t be stuck hanging out with the bus during layover/recovery time…

      1. Efforts are already being made at customer questions. The Olli bus is equipped with IBM Watson capability, and two operators (SNCF and JNR West) are experimenting with robot station attendants at unstaffed stations that answer passenger questions, point people to the right road, and even scratch it’s head while the computer is working on answers.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TD_yRGyJLkY

        Think of it as s three dimensional interactive personification of Google’s search engine. (Though I gunderstand the robot attendant uses Wateon too)

        Except Google doesn’t dance when it gets bored.

      2. I agree with what you said.

        When it comes to automation, people tend to think of robots completely taking over. But that is rarely the case. A good example is self check out at the grocery store. Even for that section, there is a person managing a dozen checkout lines. That is a huge savings. You have dropped the number of workers from 12 to 1. But it still isn’t zero.

        Another example that is likely to happen soon is fast food. Rather than a half dozen people cooking in back, and several cashiers, you have a couple people who manage both. Chances are the cooking will run smoothly, so you really only need one person, who makes sure people know how to order their food, or how to deal with a problem when it occurs. It really isn’t cost effective to worry about that last job.

        With bus service, it is similar. The driving itself is automated. But all other functions (which now take only a small amount of the driver’s time) are done remotely. Kiosks connect riders to someone looking at a bank of monitors, the way that security guards do. They will likely be wired in to folks who roam the buses (for security and fare payment purposes). This doesn’t mean that transit jobs will go away, just that there will be a lot fewer of them per vehicle. This will likely increase the number of buses on the road, especially smaller ones. But the cost doesn’t drop to zero — you still have everything I mentioned, plus the capital costs of the vehicles as well as the maintenance costs. But in general it could be a huge improvement, just as self-checkout is at the grocery store.

      3. Now transit is just a small part of the automation story in driving, but driving is a significant part of the automation story overall. A huge number of people basically drive for a living, and automated cars could put a lot of people out of work over the next generation. More and more automation, more and more unemployment, more and more people with little stake in society, more and more tricksters figuring out how to troll the automated buses? Or a real Luddite movement, blocking all the automated cars, provoking a response that would have to be labor-intensive (I think we’re more than a generation from automated domestic policing, drones notwithstanding).

        I have no doubt automated buses could be made to work well enough to be permanently deployed somewhere, within a generation. Then I think of Nathan Vass’ stories and wonder whether, for lower labor costs, we’d just be getting what we paid for, more security and police calls due to a lack of human judgment and contact with full context. Then I remember that most train systems have similar interaction characteristics these days without an overwhelming number of problems. I guess that means it’s happening, barring effective Luddite strikes, or global thermonuclear war, or a mass human dieoff, or…

      4. You could even see civil disobedience operations where people take an extremely slow amount of time to board buses, thus delaying them. In other cities, there has been periodic fare protests of paying fares with the lowest possible coinage allowed (nickels and pennies) to just slow down operations. Remember that most security guards have no power – they are only there to observe and report, leaving law enforcement to sworn professionals, of which more and more is being asked of.

    2. How much of the service hour cost is the driver? Isn’t s/he the single most costly part of the service? If we can eliminate the cost of the driver…do we care about fare enforcement?

      I worry more about (perception of) crime – the driver is eyes on the bus (and hand on the radio).

      1. I worry more about (perception of) crime – the driver is eyes on the bus (and hand on the radio)

        Drivers do approximately zero to dissuade crime on the bus. Two to three Metro drivers get assaulted every week, so their first priority becomes “don’t get involved” – keep your head down and aggressively ignore anything happening behind the yellow line. Law-enforcement is absolutely NOT in their job description.

        My father-in-law got mugged on the #4 several years back. When he tried to talk to the driver about it, he was told “don’t cause any more trouble.” Rent-a-cops doing Link-style fare enforcement patrols would be a vast improvement over the status quo.

      2. Maybe, maybe not. Drivers’ simple presence may deter crime in ways you can’t measure.

      3. I agree with Breadbaker here. In addition to be a subtle deterrent to crime, the mere presence of a driver (or transit staff/security) can also give peace of mind to the rider. It’s uncomfortable enough for some people at some times to even ride the elevator–but at least you can get off (or not get on) and catch another one in a few seconds if you feel threatened or otherwise unsafe, and you’ll be in a well-lit area typically with others around. What do you do on the driverless bus? If you don’t choose to get on, maybe it’s some time until the next one; if you are already on and somebody boards that you are uncomfortable with, it may be a while before the next stop, or the next stop may also be in an unpleasant, empty, or otherwise unsafe location. The person may not be doing anything wrong at all on the bus other than making you feel uneasy, so you can’t really hit the button to talk to security, but that doesn’t make you feel any more safe. I can’t imagine talking to someone who isn’t immediately available gives a great sense of security at any rate.

    3. I’ll spitball some solutions here.

      How is fare enforced? What if someone’s ORCA card isn’t working?

      The same way it’s handled on Link. With the money we save on operators, we should be able to afford to build full off-board payment infrastructure, including cash-accepting TVM’s if we absolutely must preserve the cash option.

      On a crowded bus, how to ensure that people are moving all the way back?

      moving to off-board payment allows all-door boarding, and that should make it (mostly) a non-issue. But I would also envision a system where there is a control center, where humans monitor the cameras of several buses (maybe a ratio of 1 human to 10 coaches or something) and can queue up pre-recorded PA announcements or speak directly to the passengers if need be.

      What if a passenger wants travel directions or for the driver to let them know when they get to some landmark?

      A one-button kiosk to contact Metro Customer Service, (similar to the “talk to the driver” button on Link trains) could be installed on the buses or at stops. That paired with automated stop announcements should do the trick.

      Waiting for a passenger to exit and remove their bike from the rack?

      It’s simple enough for the bus to monitor the human mucking about at the front of the bus and not drive off until they’re done… just add a “bicycle button” near the doors to alert the bus to wait. Alternately, the bicycle button could hold the bus until a human in the control center (see above) gives the all clear. Or, avoid all those complications altogether with SWIFT style on-board bike storage.

      If a car was parked in the bus stop zone, would the bus wait indefinitely, or let passengers on/off 20 feet earlier then drive around?

      Again, I would have that situation flag a human in the control center to determine what the bus should do. Which might be an improvement over the current situation, because that controller could then also alert parking enforcement, where a human driver typically curses at the illegally parked car and drives on, rather than attempt to radio it in while driving.

  7. It’s not explained in the video, but these vehicles do not go very fast. That improves their safety but also means that they aren’t good for going 1 or 2 miles from their base.

    In a transit system, they make a great way to link areas with light rail stations. They would be quite an attractive replacement for feeder routes that run every 30 or 60 minutes.

    I don’t see it taking lots of jobs away. Most transit agencies would still need bus drivers on high-frequency, long routes. Drivers in the field for 1 vehicle will become monitors or support staff for 4 operating vehicles – and yet these vehicles would be at higher frequencies so there would be a vehicle arriving 4 times more often as today.

    It would probably surprise the younger posters, but there was a time that almost all elevators were had an operator on board. I see this as a natural progression of convenience to replace infrequent feeder buses.

    1. Also notice the bus has an attendant. Labor cost hasn’t gone down a penny yet, actually has gone up with a driver at the control center. But, these are growing pains in the early stages of development.

    2. Al S., does the Smith Tower still have elevator operators? If so, worth ORCA fare to Pioneer Square Station to go upstairs and ride. If building windows still open, good “feel” for the office world that people rode PCC equipment to work in.

      Too bad neither the Tower’s insurance company nor MUNI’s Risk (to the Voters’ Taxpaying Rear-Ends) Management limit the feel of an elevator control handle, a cable car grip, and the controls of northbound Route 24 Divisadero trolleybus to employees.

      A shift each at all the controls above will give everybody the knowledge they need, in their muscles and bones, to decide this: what’s farthest distance from steering, braking, and acceleration a trained and skilled human can physically sense and feel their machine push back at them and respond. Fast. To variables they can’t consciously sense.

      Right now there’s something more PT Barnum than Elon Musk about this discussion. I’ve been a professional driver demanding machinery, including an untried use of it. So I don’t trust straw hats, bad cigars, rattan canes, and medicine bottles for transit technology decisions.

      So I’m waiting to see actual proof that for second-to-second operations-the Speed of Death- a skilled, trained, rested, and well-motivated human being can’t out-drive a vehicle remotely controlled by another transit-worker in same condition. Let alone a minimum wage worker who’s gone home for the night.

      Folk Legend time! MUNI 24 Divisadero whole route, full work day, for a week in the winter. Human side will carry ordinary passengers. Automated-side-proponents only allowed on theirs. MUNI Risk Management won’t budge on that one. No matter how bad the union wants to put inevitable result on Twitter. Oh yeah, song can only have three chords.

      Mark

  8. Cross Kirkland Corridor excuse of the week.

    Every once in a while, the don’t be evil company has free catered food and music for its employees outdoors. (If you don’t work there, dress in jeans, t-shirt, and a hoodie to blend-in). I encourage people to help themselves their food and drink, because when you consider how much rents has increased because of them, they really do owe you.

      1. I waited the full 9 minutes for the crash at the end to no avail.
        Now here’s a good video in under a minute.

      2. Glenn, and Mic:

        I think steam locomotive footage is from an early campaign to eliminate single track. Telegraphers doubtless pointing out growing problem with written train orders too.

        Doubt anybody in those days would get 50′ from a structurally compromised steam locomotive. The fluffy stuff was only vapor. Reason you don’t see it on film is that the live steam that actually powered those monsters, equaled an invisible jet-fuel explosion.

        Personally, don’t think the JMU ever existed. It’s really fake imitation ’50’s Sci Fi propaganda to discourage transit on a certain corridor in Kirkland.

        If this doesn’t work, YouTube has video of steam locomotives with sixteen driving wheels and a whistle that would break every window in King County, and the general presence of a mile-long black earthquake trailing smoke like Mt. St. Helens.

        Which, since a couple of these really exist, a summer full of excursions could be used to convince Ballard speculators how fast their days of unlimited value rise could come to an end even better than that other steam train footage.

        Mark

      3. Sorry. No crash. After the high speed rail experiments were over they removed the jet engine and sheet metal front end, and used the car in commuter service. It was scrapped in 1984 with much of the rest of the fleet.

        The 183 mph speed record they reached on essentially unmodified joined rail is still a speed record for conventional railroad equipment on a non-test track in North America.

      4. Adding a jet engine to a RDC was just a test to see how fast a rail car could go if it was jet-propelled. No one ever planned to use this in passenger service and after the test, the car was restored to its previous condition.

      5. Shhhhh! Don’t let the Save our Backyards from Noisy Bicycles crowd Sam is talking about hear that. We want them to think Boeing has a new product it will be testing.

  9. Okay–I can see driverless buses becoming a thing if they have their own on-board power supply (internal combustion engine or battery, provided the vehicle is smart enough to know when it’s running out of fuel/juice and begin heading “home” to take on more), but as far as a driverless electric trolley bus, I’m completely baffled by one critical aspect of operation–if the coach dewires, how is the bus going to instinctively know where the wires are so they can reconnect?

    1. SR, for line-haul transit able to change one lane to clear a blockage, Metro is already using two methods.

      Pole mechanism lowers and secures poles either from driver’s seat or when it senses dewirement, and batteries power the bus to where driver can get out and guide the poles to the line. Very likely sensor-guided mechanism already invented. Also, experiment with overhead battery charging station, which bus pulls under.

      And asdf2:

      https://www.amazon.com/Lunatic-Express-Discovering-Dangerous-Trains/dp/0767929802?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

      Your non-union risk-courageous dream world already exists! It’s actually called “The World.” Getting there won’t cost you anything. Just talk briefly with someone in work clothes who doesn’t speak much English and trade him your passport and social security card for advice on how to replace him in the country he left.

      Better transit experience, however, would be flight to Mumbai, and immediately trade your passport and social security card for somebody’s place in a mob the size of King County waiting to get on a commuter train. Because upon reading your comments, the new right wing Indian prime minister has now eliminated the tax-wasting morgue operated by the train system. And is looking for experimental material to evaluate the new automated one.

      And don’t fret for your legislators here at home. While the five remaining union members are trying to talk ST fare inspectors, and Pierce Transit and IT drivers into letting them ride free to Olympia, legislators’ clients already have automatic withdrawal. And have been unionized since the beginning of capitalism.

      Mark

    2. 1) Put a trio of reflective disks (yellow ?) on the anchor bracket for the trolley wires.
      2) Put a different colored reflective disk or bar (1 red + 1 green) on each pole.
      3) Put a couple of narrow-scope, variable-focus cameras on the roof.
      4) Teach a computer to reconnect perhaps as follows :
      A) Retract both poles to 50%;
      B) Pull bus forward until a set of yellow disks are in view;
      C) Raise left pole while maintaining a yellow-red-yellow-yellow pattern until re-connected;
      D) Raise right pole while maintaining a yellow-red-yellow-green-yellow pattern until re-connected.

      There’ll probably be a need for a short-range LIDAR unit that can track those reflectors and give an indication of re-connection by measuring the distances to the various reflectors. It’s a straight-forward machine vision problem that I believe has been solved already for other, similar applications (e.g. robot vehicle docking).

      The other option of course is a split pantograph approach with the hot wire up high on the left and a ground wire lower down on the right hanging from a short bar. This would be less compact and run the risk of running the hot pantograph into the ground wire. This approach makes the twin trolley pole approach, manual or automatic, seem almost elegant.

    1. “Gondolas” as in :

      Venice?

      or as in :

      Whistler?

      either way would/could be fun….

  10. I dreamed last night that I was somewhere around northern Lake City and it was dark. A bus came, number 8. I vaguely thought, “The 8 doesn’t go out this far”, so I thought maybe it’s another 8 I didn’t know about. I got on, and the bus immediately went on I-5 northbound which was adjacent. I thought, “Is this bus not going to stop until Lynnwood? Did I get on the wrong bus?” I was sitting in the front right seat, directly to the driver’s right, where the door is in our buses. I turned to ask the driver if I’d gotten on the wrong bus and where it would stop — and there was no driver. The seat was empty, I looked down the articulated bus and it was all empty: I was the only one on it. I thought, I’ve heard about autonomous buses, but they haven’t been tested yet. Am I in an autonomous bus going down the freeway that has barely been tested? I started getting anxious that the bus was likely to crash. And then I woke up.

    1. Nah, it was just automatically avoiding the Mercer Mess of 2030 by going on the next non-congested east-west street north.

      Which is probably somewhere around 200th.

  11. Would you be more nervous putting your bike on the bike rack of a bus with a driver, or without a driver?

    And with that, I believe I just won this debate.

    – Sam. Master debater.

      1. After careful consideration of the laws of Internet the Court concurs with Brent that there was no debate; however, by offering no thesis, Sam has won the no-debate.

        We now conclude this session with a ceremonial, “Play ’em off, Keyboard Cat!”

      2. Try saying “Sam, the Master debater’ 10 times really fast without giggling.
        ‘You’re welcome Sam’,

  12. I really like the idea of some automation in transit. Paratransit cannot go 100% automated (many paratransit users truly need an attendant), but certainly urban squares would be better off with automated buses going in loops trump streetcars that tear up roads to put in rail & the ridership from the Seattle Streetcar isn’t as great as it could be.

    I’m not a believer automated cars can replace high capacity grade-separated mass transit and I never will be. Yes sitting in a seat of an automated Tesla is more comfortable than sitting on a bus or train, but the sheer surface area take up per passenger is just not going to pan out.

    I hope I’m making sense. You tell me.

  13. It seems like driverless trains ought to be much easier to develop than driverless cars. Why hasn’t there been more research into making it happen?

    1. Trains are small fleets with professional drivers. There’s some agitation to get rid of the drivers and their union wages, but it’s really a small issue. The other argument is that driverless trains could be much more frequent because of the lower cost, like the 5-minute Skytrain at 11pm. But people aren’t very aware of the possibilities of transit that they haven’t seen, both in terms of the possible frequency and in how it would transform society and make people more satisfied with transit. Meanwhile there are some 200 million drivers in the US, and if even a tiny itty bitty fraction of them got interested in making autonomous cars, it would lead to the companies that are pursuing it.

      1. I’m thinking more about following distance. Can we get more trains on a line, with lower headway than ST is planning, with automatic control, even more so than what is currently being called “automatic train control”?

      2. This is the premise of the moving block signals that was the subject of the Sunday Open Thread some weeks ago.

  14. Continuing my trend of asking last-mile-to-transit questions on open threads: Do any of you use kick scooters or their electric variants as a companion to riding transit? I’m debating whether to get one of those to use on the just-under-a-mile trip from my house to a more convenient bus stop. They seem like a better idea for going back and forth to work than my full-sized bicycle or than getting a folding bike to carry onto a bus.

    1. I used to use them for that purpose. The nice thing about them is that they fit under your seat on the bus, and I’ve flown carry-on with them a couple of times. They don’t ride well up steep hills, but they’re light enough so that walking them up steep hills isn’t that big of a deal. I have even carried kick scooters up Seattle staircases that, with a bike, I would have had to go around. You can even take a kick scooter on a plane as carry-on luggage.

      Now, the disadvantages. Compared to bikes, kick scooters are much more sensitive to pavement quality. On smooth pavement (e.g. newly repaved parts of the Burke-Gilman), they cruise at a steady 10 mph and are fun to ride, but when the pavement gets rough, the ride very quickly becomes much slower and much noisier, and you feel each and every bump. And kind of grooves in the pavement become very noticeable on kick scooters, which means a very bumpy ride on nearly every Seattle sidewalk. Kick scooters also do not have as breaking power as a regular bike, and I would strongly recommend walking down anything resembling a steep hill for safety. Finally, kick scooters do not last nearly as long as conventional bikes and the wear and tear of regular use will become very noticeable after about a year. Repair work is also more difficult, as most bike shops don’t work on them. After replacing my scooter a couple of times, each time with a few thousand miles on it, I eventually stopped using them. Today, I use a mixture of jogging and Pronto bikes for trips that were formerly done on the scooter.

      1. regarding the bumpiness & braking of scooters:

        a neighbor “handed-down” a scooter to my daughter that his girls were no longer using — but I have kept it as my own. it’s really handy for some short, quick trips. And fun!

        It’s a [much] bigger brother of “Razors” and their ilk — 12.5″ pneumatic tires, front and back hand brakes, etc.

        Now it won’t fold, so it doesn’t go under a bus seat or into a backpack like a razor — but it’s [reasonably] comfortable, more safe, and easily tosses into the back of most cars.

        And a 55-year-old doesn’t look too ridiculous on it…. do I?

  15. Forget about the bus.

    Look under it. It has dedicated bus lanes. And people were still able to get around on bikes too. And the world didn’t collapse.

    I want one of those first.

  16. I just need to vent…..

    I’m at a stop near uvillage with my son. We rode our bikes there and had a nice morning and are now waiting for the bus. When we left the bus was on time. when we arrived at the stop, the bus is now 25m late and getting later every few minutes. It’s of course a 30m headway bus.

    I’m a huge transit supporter, but this stuff just kills me. You can’t count on anything transit related in this city except the train, which hardly goes anywhere.

    Now I’m just stuck here with an 8 year old, in the sun, without even a bench. I’d just ride home but he’s not strong enough to get up the hills just yet. What a shitty way to end a nice morning.

    1. I’ll commiserate with you. FWIW, I looked around UVillage on OneBusAway and my guess is you’re referring to the 65 back to Lake City that’s, as of this writing, shown 51 minutes behind schedule.

      I ride the last 545 back from Redmond to Seattle. Especially on Saturdays, it usually winds up being between five and twenty minutes late. Five I can live with; it’s a rounding error. Twenty has now broken my transfer to the 48 and I’m waiting for up to thirty minutes because the 48 goes to half-hourly after midnight (which is still a vast improvement prior to Prop 1 funds.

      This is why I am so angsty about where light rail is or isn’t going in this region and why I keep pushing for more dedicated bus lanes (preferably with bollards or something to keep out general purpose traffic).

      1. This is why we need the scuttled Eastside restructure that would have replaced all-day service on the 545 with all-day service on the 542. Today, it is just too unpredictable how long it takes the 545 to get through downtown, and the service hours that the 545 squanders inside of downtown (which directly translates into poor evening/weekend frequency) is appalling. In fact, under typical evening/weekend traffic conditions, the 545 spends about as many service hours getting from one end of downtown to the other end as getting from Seattle all the way to Redmond.

    2. Should be able to find some shade and somewhere to sit over at the Union Bay natural area. I’m pretty sure I’ve sat on a bench or large rock or something like that over there.

    3. One thing about the late bus at the U-village – OneBusAway has a bug where, sometimes, while a bus is sitting in layover, OBA will think that bus hasn’t quite finished its previous trip, so the “delay” will keep getting larger and larger, until, finally, it’s time for the bus to start moving and then, all of sudden, it goes from “27 minute delay” to “on time”. So, it’s possible that if you didn’t give on your bus, that it may not have actually been late.

    4. This is why I don’t use Metro on the weekends. I can usually walk to my destination before the bus actually shows up.

      1. Hell, I do that on the 11 most weekday afternoons — and can almost always get over a mile, not infrequently the 2.5 miles to my destination, before it catches me.

  17. I think it’s time we reopened the conversation about electing ALL transit boards in the State of Washington. WPC’s new transportation policy lady is fire starting the conversation, so we need to respond with something of our own.

    I cannot in good conscience as a Skagit-based transit advocate get all happy about making the Sound Transit Board elected (and possibly lose Claudia Badassuchi) but yet Island Transit, Community Transit, King County Metro, Skagit Transit and more who need elected boardmembers don’t get ’em. If there’s pushback to doing this too, then we can stop this request for Sound Transit reform.

    I mean who doesn’t want Martin H. Duke and Dan Ryan and Joe A. Kunzler on a transit board? Oh the same people who oppose ST3.

    It’s also no secret I don’t care for smacking around or picking on Sound Transit, the Seattle Seahawks of public transportation.

    1. FWIW I think the existing ST Board does a fantastic job, especially the Seattle representatives I’d replace in Joe’s fantasy. So even assuming I was willing and able to win an election, I’ m not sure how that would change policy much.

  18. The architecture and engineering firms conducting the feasibility study for the Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola in D.C. held an open house last week (interestingly both of them have offices in Seattle.) They presented a program called Gondola 101. The slides are posted online and a must see for anyone interested in cable transit.

    http://www.georgetownrosslyngondola.com/public-meeting/

  19. I found this list of Seattle-funded parts of the U-Link restructure. This is what Prop 1 is paying for, and thus what will go away when it expires in 2020:

    8: 12 minutes daytime; weekend frequency (15 Sat, 20 Sun); AM peak
    10: 10-15 min peak; 15 min daytime, Saturday & Sunday; weekday reliability
    11: 30 min Sunday
    12: 10-15 min peak; 15 min daytime & Saturday; 30 min Sunday “morning/evening” (not sure if that means extended span or frequency)
    26X: night until 1am
    28X: AM peak
    32: 30 min evening
    44: 10 min peak; 12 min midday; improve Saturday reliability
    45: 15 min Saturday evening; 15 min Sunday midday & evening; AM peak
    47: resurrect route
    48: 10 min peak & midday; 15 min Sunday midday & evening; AM peak
    49: 12 min peak & midday & Saturday; 15 min evening every day; improve Sunday reliability (that may mean not through-routing with the 7)
    70: 15 min evenings every day; 15 min Sunday
    73: evening until 10pm

    “12 minutes” means improved from 15-20. “15 minutes” means improved from 20-30. “30 minutes” means improved from 60.

    1. I’d also add that several routes–the 45 and 48, most notably from my experience–have extra late night trips. For example, the 48 used to stop at 12:53am (near my house), now its last trip is 1:19am. And the every-15-minutes span runs until 11pm instead of 10:30pm.

      Hopefully we can keep this level of service after Prop 1’s expiration, either by a renewal vote or savings from opening Link to Northgate and the associated efficiency gains there.

    2. Those must be from hours recycled in the restructure. My list is things Seattle says it’s propping up.

      The North Link restructure will probably spend its hours in north Seattle.

  20. For autonomous buses:
    Small and inexpensive, 4-12 passengers. Think golf cart with weather protection. Generally not faster than 10-15 mile per hour.

    First use, feeding light rail and bus routes, and steep hillsides. Decrease number of stops by half. Buses would get there sooner without having to travel faster.

    Booking and paying for rides via smart phone, (or a small dedicated device for those who don’t have them). You enter starting and stopping places and book the entire trip. Smart phone tells you when to get to what corner to start the trip, and minimal waiting times at transfers. I understand that multiple transfers are acceptable to most people IF they do not involve much waiting.

    Surveillance cameras, to detect and deal with bad behavior. And yes, real live persons to be available close by most locations.

  21. Mercedes just demonstrated a bus in autonomous mode in Amsterdam:
    https://www.inverse.com/article/18447-autonomous-mercedes-future-bus-amsterdam

    Also, this technology will be developed for military supply convoys and truck freight regardless of whether it’s used in transit. There is no question in my mind that it won’t be available. The question is how to best use it to benefit society. Personal sports cars for everyone and their dogs certainly isn’t the correct answer. Many of the caveats will need to be worked out. For security or to aid with para-transit, perhaps “drivers who don’t drive” will be common. Maybe “wranglers” will be in charge of 10- to 20- minibuses in a particular “last-mile” neighborhood or BRT line to deal with mechanical issues or to provide special assistance.

  22. Haven’t stopped by STB in a while — just caught up with last month’s “page 2” discussion of Juneau, a favorite town of mine to visit and work in.

    Someone made a reply in the comment section mentioning the weird & ugly 5 story parking garage built right in the middle of town — right on the waterfront!

    As crazy as it is, the structure does have a silver lining — and it’s always made me wonder why more parking garages don’t incorporate this feature: something nice and interesting on the top. In Juneau’s case, it’s their public library. There it is, 5-storys up, spacious, full of light, beautiful views.

    As long as you are going to chew up that much of a real estate footprint, ain’t it great to have that same square footage dedicated to public use up on top of it all?

    just sayin’…..

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