JSeattle (Twitter)

With a couple of inches of dry, powdery snow in greater Seattle, our area has mostly avoided the icing disasters that are common to Seattle snow events. As of last night, only Routes 2 and 13 were rerouted in Seattle, avoiding Queen Anne Ave between Mercer and Galer. Late last night all South King County routes were on reroute, and North Seattle was spared completely. This morning the situation is reversed, with South King County in the clear and all North Seattle buses on reroute. Check the status of your route here.

Sound Transit Express routes are mostly operating normally, except in Snohomish County where routes 510/511 are operating only every other trip, Routes 522 and 535 are on reroute near UW-Bothell, and 542 is on reroute.

With rain in the forecast and temps projected in the mid-40s for Saturday, roads should clear in a day or two.

35 Replies to “Snow Open Thread”

    1. I would assume so, since Link hasn’t had any issues with cold weather. Unfortunately, the ETB fleet still has issues with ice build-up, but I don’t know that there’s a great way to solve it.

    2. Part of Link’s solution is to keep running some trains (or at least 1-car consists?) overnight. I meant to ask ST about the possibility of running those in revenue, but forgot.

      1. Overnight trains would be great, even if the delay between them is significant. However, there might be ramifications on station and line security that would make it hard to open them even if the train makes a few empty runs already.

      2. They usually do that with MAX, but the amount of freezing rain this time knocked out the Green, Red and the north part of the Yellow while the line was still in service in the early evening..

    3. My understanding is no… Link’s solution is the one Brent called out. All-day frequency is high enough to prevent ice build-up on the Catenary, and overnight they run a 1-car non-revenue train to keep it clear.

      1. Why not run an hourly revenue train then? Even if you supposedly can’t run trains at night for maintenance, you can single-track trains at that frequency.

      2. I would also suggest that if one of those hourly trains were to be stopped by excessive ice buildup (or any other issues) Metro would be responsible for a trainload of customers during a period where additional resources are thinnest.

        Add to that such factors as fare enforcement and the need to announce this “special service” and you have an entire back office coming in to work just for a handful of riders.

        I think these trains should be thought of strictly as maintenance work. These runs are not wasted by not having customers aboard.

      3. Passengers can’t deal with a train that might run only if the weather is bad enough. 99% of would-be passengers won’t even know about it. And few people will wait at an outdoor station in Rainier Valley at 3am for a train that might or might not come sometime in the next hour, especially if they consider it an unsafe place to be.

      4. I got off an Orange Line train that was running just fine, but was then faced with an undertaking of sliding down a platform that had become a sheet of ice, and trying to get up the stairs. It was an undertaking that required climbing on all fours.

        It makes me think that if the ice buildup is that bad and trains can still run, maybe it’s best nobody is on the platforms under ice buildup bad enough that might make the trains stop.

  1. Looks like all of North Seattle is on re-route now. I’m assuming Metro is worried about freezing rain/slush on our hills.I’m amazed by the magnitude of the 62 re-routes, which moves it over to Green Lake Way rather than Meridian, and of course the snow shuttle which could use some added clarity. I wonder if it would be better if the 62 followed the 26 route to Ravenna, since then it’s at least clear where the stops are (there are no regular stops along Green Lake).

    I also took the opportunity to look at Metro’s Emergency Service Network route maps. Mostly they make sense, but the downtown map is basically unreadable with so many routes in a small area. In particular, it’s really unclear where route 90 (the emergency downtown shuttle) actually runs.

    1. Metro also has forgotten that route 32 no longer serves Stone Way as of March:


      The re-route PDF says it’s missing the stop at N 40th & Ashworth, which it hasn’t served since March.

      The actual snow route has it going on Stone Way to 45t, on 45th to Wallingford, and then Wallingford back to the regular route on 40th.

      Not sure who to talk to about this, but it makes a confusing situation even more confusing.

      1. Metro has always had issues with consistently updating everything after a restructure. The 176 and later the 173 remained on paper timetable maps long after they were discontinued.

  2. Ballard was struggling more than I would have guessed for 1-2″ of snow:

    17X/18X – didn’t see any running
    29 – running regular route, even Counterbalance
    40 – delayed, crowded
    D – appeared to be operating normally

    Perhaps the snow was worse further north. Probably also driver shortages this morning, easier to cancel express trips.

    1. At least 3 18X buses were stuck in North Beach. Don’t know why Metro kept sending buses into there.

      1. On the news they showed three 301 buses stuck trying to get up a hill in Shoreline right off Aurora Avenue during the morning commute before Metro decided that the route needed to start using its snow route.

  3. I still wonder if employers, schools, and Government can’t arrange that except for emergency workers, nobody has to even try to get to work. Including State very-short-term unemployment checks to workers, and reimbursement to employers.

    With the amount of work that can now be done at home via e-mail and phone, losses might well be less than from usual three days of attempted travel. Saving a fortune by not having to retrieve a whole transit fleet stuck and jack-knifed all over the region.

    Hospitals and police stations can be stocked with bunks and supplies- if they’re not already. And four wheel drive vehicles can either be dispatched or run van-service type routes to bring people in as needed.

    I know weather prediction is hard in this region, but I recall and identical pattern every transit stopping blizzard I got stuck in. If weather even looks like it’s going to start snowing simultaneously in Tacoma and Everett, time to evacuate Downtown Seattle.

    If a Friday pm rush might be involved, savings could go toward LINK expansions that can eventually keep the region working and shopping while the weatherman is still trying to figure it out.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Some states (like Indiana) do have snow emergency statutes. During a “warning” level snow emergency in Indiana, private individuals are prohibited from any road travel unless there’s an actual emergency. I think other states in the Midwest have similar procedures.

      We already have laws governing when traction tires/chains are required or prohibited, so it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to me to extend it to blanket travel prohibitions.

      1. It’s interesting, Skylar, that states in a flat part of the country have winter-weather driving restrictions, and Seattle doesn’t. Though I do remember that the weather is a lot fiercer, and in the Plains states, a breakdown could mean either death by freezing, or carbon monoxide in a warm car with closed windows.

        But the comments about carrying passengers on snow clearing trains bring up some great Holiday season possibilities as our pretty much weatherproof lines build out. And more people start choosing to live close to transit.

        It’ll become increasingly possible and popular to have a shopping- I mean Holiday- season-long celebration all over the region. Meaning regular all-night service could start to finance itself. Not every station would have to stay open.

        Definitely easier with LINK than busways- unless we can get hold of some of those two-story-high plow-and-dump trucks they use on the joint use busways in Pittsburgh. Maybe as a Holiday peace gesture between Mode War factions, we can “wrap” some of our LINK cars red and yellow and put big letters between “G” and “Z” in the destination readouts.


    2. A lot of companies do that, although many on an ad hoc per-person basis rather than automatic closures. On snow days, four-lane roads that are normally choc full of cars can easily fit all the cars in one lane, and some have only one car every minute or two. Many companies try to apportion staying home to those with the longest or most difficult commutes or that have hill/ice conditions around their house. If a storm is expected at 4pm, many people will start leaving work at noon or 1pm. The problem is that some of our storms have come without warning so there’s no time for people to get out before rush hour.

  4. King County metro tracker is showing buses on their normal routes which makes this whole snow reroute confusing. my bus this morning (the 65) went on its normal routing through campus.

    1. I wonder how close technology is to letting everybody with either a smart phone or a computer trace, real-time, every single individual vehicle in the system?

      Would definitely solve what seems to be system’s worst communication problem, which is minute to minute input from Metro itself. By showing where every bus actually is, rather than depending on either sudden changes in schedule or on-the-spot delays or re-routes.

      From experience, because transit-damaging weather happens so seldom here, transit meets non-standard conditions with every classic symptom of lack of hands-on emergency practice. The whole operation just “wings it”.

      15 years and trillions of questionably spent “Security” dollars after 9/11/2001, I think we’ve got a legitimate National Defense case for help with some regular drills for variety of sudden unannounced ends to normal operations.

      Wish people still said “Civil Defense”. True, concept hasn’t got a chance against incoming tweets and twitters. Or associated Presidential election outcomes.

      Because it dates from days when you needed to cut letters out of magazines to keep death threats anonymous, which you then had to mail.

      But also when high school kids could put on arm-bands to drill and assist for emergencies that did not involve zombies.


      1. PDXbus lets you select a next arrival and see where the bus/train is on the map. I use this feature pretty regularly, as there is no point in even leaving for the stop where I get TriMet’s 34 until it extracts itself from a series of badly timed signals on Highway 99E.

        Getting every single vehicle is therefore already possible if someone chose to write something that would do so, but the logistics of dealing with that much data over a mobile connection is probably problematic.

      2. We have this in Miami. The transit app gives you the GPS location of either the next bus or all of the busses on a given route, every ten seconds or so. I was able to use it with a tracfone Android, so it actually doesn’t eat up that much data! Occasional “ghost bus” issues aside, it is invaluable to me, the way Miami’s traffic disrupts bus schedules. I am very surprised Seattle doesn’t already have this!!! I guess it has to do with the agencies not releasing the real time GPS data to the developers.

    2. Doesnt look like any of the north Seattle routes followed their snow routing from observation.

  5. T’is the season to bookmark the adverse weather page on my tablet.

    On this open thread let me share my secret for a successful snow commute. Large jacket pockets, no purse or backpack. Only the basics: wallet, phone, kindle, keys, candy bar.

  6. My 510 this morning was 20 minutes late (even accounting for the schedule change) and came in a pack of three double deckers (including a CT one). Even before that, the 201/202 were bunched from the terminal because the latter had to have chains installed.

  7. Caught the 512 a little before 11 in Lynnwood. Almost on time, only problem was they were using Gilligs. I know why they use them as opposed to the artics, but my god does that make for an unpleasant trip. Mine was complete with passengers yelling at me for not moving out of the way of passengers behind me while being in my way preventing me from moving (If you’re blocking the stairwell I can’t magically walk through you to let other passengers off. Get out of the way so I can get out of the way, moron), and then some genius accusing me of stealing his phone somehow because he was too stupid to remember he left it on the bench until he’d spent three minutes loudly accusing me of theft. The snow itself had very little impact on my commute in, but good lord was that 512 trip unpleasant.

    1. Craig, Community Transit drivers tell me that their double-deckers handle snow well. But if you’d boarded an “artic”, you and everybody else could still be piled up on a shoulder not far from Lynnwood. A chained forty footer generally keeps moving.

      Main thing missing in your account is any action on the driver’s part to get some order among the passengers. That’s why, even with automated announcement, driver also has a mike. Also good reason why Elon Musk needs to be aboard the first overloaded driverless bus in a blizzard.

      “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll make this trip all right. But it’ll be fastest and safest if we all cooperate. Let’s please use every space in the aisle. I can see enough room for two people a few feet behind me. Thank you.” A driver often can actually see standing room where passengers can’t. But lying usually makes passengers find a space.

      “When we stop, passengers can step off to clear the door, and be first to reboard.” And then tell passengers waiting to board, over the outside PA: “Please let everyone exit the coach so there’ll be room for you.”

      Followed by: “This trip, special conditions mean passengers can board and leave by either door. If you have a pass, just hold it up in the closest inside mirror so I can see it.” Amazing how many people seriously self-fare-inspect. Saving transit a fortune in both lost time.

      And some other things. I guarantee that if the driver had taken charge with first boarding, wallet conflict wouldn’t have happened. If not- fifteen seconds’ next events? That many strangers literally trapped, already stressed to the max…bus video footage would have blasted recent Inaugural candidate clean off of Twitter.

      So it’s good that in the 20 years since my last overload, Instruction intensively trains every driver how to handle situations like this. So tragedy here speaks for itself. Only reason the driver didn’t intervene is because they killed him, didn’t they?


  8. Incidentally, Craig, I owe you an apology about what the passenger said was stolen. My point was how fast, in the absence of confident authority, things can go explosively out of hand on a bus, even without added strains of crush loads and winter weather.

    I’ve had a fist-fight between equally matched associates escalate through a half dozen unrelated events and misunderstandings toward a potential multiple-casualty shooting, with plainclothes policemen coming on scene becoming either victims or killers, or both. In thirty seconds. And service back to normal and moving, five minutes after the police arrived.

    A driver has no law enforcement authority. Weapons get you fired. Defense is radio contact with police through Control, relating accurate information to police response. And acting like you’re calmly in charge. The dicier the situation, the more important for the driver to know how to use his knowledge, presence, and manners to keep passengers calm and cooperative.

    Reason I finished last comment sarcastically is that when I drove, necessary training just about didn’t exist. Driver you mentioned needs at least a talk with his base chief. For his own safety as well as his passengers’. Very curious about improvement since I drove. Glad you wrote in.


  9. Looks like TriMet service will be almost normal today. Line 63 is still cancelled due to the number of downed trees, but everything else is apparently OK.

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