Wikimedia. Forgive the clickbait headline, it’s just for fun. :)

Earlier this month WSDOT came out with its annual Summary of Public Transportation, its comprehensive accounting of just how much transit service exists in Washington, how much it costs, and where the money comes from.

Of course, very little service is funded or provided directly by our state, ranking us near the bottom of “Blue States” in terms of the state’s relative funding share. Instead, our patchwork of city agencies, county agencies, and special purpose tax districts combine to provide 9.7 million annual service hours to 5.9 million of Washington’s 7 million people, meaning 84% of the state’s population lives within an area paying some form of transit taxes. As transit is primarily an urban service, the combined ORCA agencies alone (excluding Washington State Ferries) provide 69% of the transit service hours in Washington. But how much does each person get? Which agencies provide the most service per capita?

Now that I’m spending a few days a month in Yakima, I noticed that its transit network – mostly hourly circulators – is abysmal for a city of its size. But anecdotes aren’t data, so I thought it’d be interesting to rank all of our state’s agencies* by per capita service hours – inclusive of all fixed-route, flexible service, paratransit, and vanpool services – to see which ones punch above and below their relative weights in terms of total service provision (rankings below). The results are fascinating, with some small agencies providing high quality service levels (such as Intercity Transit and Spokane Transit), and others (Yakima C-Tran, etc), not doing so well.

Yet all metrics provide only partial insight, and “per capita service hours” is no different. The metric tells us how much is spent and nothing about productivity, and it privileges agencies with either tightly-drawn boundaries, a dense network, or both.

With its dense county-only network, King County Metro comes in first place at 2.12 service hours per capita. On the other end, with pre U-Link data, a tri-county network of “long and thin” express services,  and its current emphasis on capital construction, Sound Transit comes in last place at just 0.23 service hours per capita. Is this damning for Sound Transit? Not at all. To see why, consider an analogy from global currencies.

If our tax dollars are the investment, then service hours are the currency through which dividends are paid. Among the agencies below, all of them except Sound Transit use the same unit of value, the good old bus. Using the same unit of value narrows the range of possible productivity outcomes. You may have 10 riders per service hour or you may have 50, but a bus is generally not going to have 1,000, so analyzing total service output allows for reasonably direct comparison.

Yet upgrading to high-capacity transit is like adopting a higher-value currency, in that a high-capacity service hour has vastly higher purchasing power. RapidRide D has Metro’s highest ridership per platform hour (80). By contrast, Link is projected to have 240 riders per service hour in 2017, and 390 for Sounder. So as we increase passenger density, service hours per capita should fall, plunging Sound Transit to the bottom of the list. Within the bus world, it’s better to be on top, and Metro and Intercity Transit are the cream of the crop. But our recent Yes vote on ST3 told lawmakers that we also want some of our reserves in higher-value currency, grade-separated light rail.

With those caveats in mind, here are Washington’s 31 agencies ranked by service hours per capita.

*Community based providers (HopeLink, People for People, etc are not included below).

Agency

Sales Tax Rate (%) 2015 Annual Service Hours 2015 Service Area Population 2015 Service Hours Per Capita
King County Metro 0.9 4,320,000 2,040,000

2.12

Intercity Transit

0.8 371,900 178,328 2.09
Combined ORCA Agencies Varies 6,680,000 3,530,000

1.89

Ben Franklin Transit (Tri-Cities)

0.6 362,800 251,151 1.44
Spokane Transit Authority 0.6 590,800 417,116

1.42

Everett Transit 0.6 147,717 105,800

1.39

Island Transit

0.9 108,500 82,910 1.31
Pierce Transit 0.6 698,900 547,975

1.28

Clallam Transit

0.6 90,772 72,650 1.25
Skagit Transit 0.4 126,200 109,306

1.15

Grays Harbor Transit

0.7 77,500 71,078 1.09
Community Transit 0.9 (now 1.2) 609,500 565,244

1.08

Twin Transit (Lewis County)

0.2 26,000 24,290 1.07
Pullman Transit 0.0 (2% utility tax instead) 33,995 32,110

1.06

Pacific Transit

0.3 20,300 20,591 0.99
Whatcom Transit 0.6 203,400 212,357

0.96

Mason Transit

0.6 57,900 60,497 0.96
River Cities Transit (Cowlitz County) 0.3 46,400 49,200

0.94

Kitsap Transit

0.8 243,800 262,590 0.93
C-Tran (Clark County) 0.7 356,600 391,480

0.89

Link Transit (Wenatchee)

0.4 98,700 111,063 0.89
Jefferson Transit 0.9 26,500 30,076

0.88

Yakima Transit

0.3 90,800 106,675 0.85
Valley Transit 0.6 43,900 51,933

0.85

Selah Transit

0.3 5,341 7,147 0.74
Asotin County PTBA 0.2 15,875 22,010

0.72

TranGo (Okanogan)

0.4 26,159 38,991

0.67

Grant County

0.2 39,856 93,930 0.43
Sound Transit 0.9 (soon 1.8) 653,000 2,800,000

0.23

OUTLIERS

Garfield County

0.0 (Grants/ fares) 3,293 855 3.85
Columbia County 0.4 12,213 4,090

2.99

Union Gap Transit

0.2 16,400 6,037

2.71

66 Replies to “Ranking Washington Transit Agencies by Service Hours. #2 Will Shock You.”

  1. You know what really shocked me? The title of this post. It’s bad enough that the WaPo and NYT are engaging in this kind of headline engineering, but now STB?

      1. My first thoughts as well about the title.

        As for Intercity Transit’s ranking, it doesn’t surprise me at all — the Oly area is, among other things, a college town. After growing up in Lower QA and being a bus rider there throughout my childhood, I moved to Oly for undergrad (TESC), and found the bus service – and level of use – not that different from Seattle’s at the time. The scale of Thurston Co. of course is quite different though, and with regular (and often full) city buses traveling out through the forest to get to campus one could easily see why it ranked so high.

        Olympia also reminds me of my current town, Ithaca, NY — another smallish college town, with excellent bus service, even into rural areas.

      1. I thought it was funny. And I must say that I’d never seen a click-baity article about one of the candidates start off this way–it’s usually always something related to dieting or food or entertainers or something non-political.

      1. I guess I don’t get the indignation. Clickbait didn’t lose the election. Propaganda (and xenophobia) did. Sure, some propaganda used clickbait. But the lion’s share of clickbaity headlines are innocuous

    1. -1. I thought it was a nice funny headline, and was guessing what #2 would be. Where, pray tell, would these clickbait links be, such that somebody who doesn’t read all STB’s articles anyway would click on it?

  2. It might be interesting to multiply the number of service hours per capita by the passenger capacity per service hour (which requires aggregating separate calculations for buses and trains), then dividing by 365 to get passenger capacity per resident per day. This number represents a rough approximation of the percentage of the population that can ride the transit system for one hour each day without overwhelming the system.

    Taking it a step further, passenger capacity per service hour per resident can then be subdivided into different categories depending on the time of day and day of week (e.g. morning rush, midday, early evening, late evening, weekend daytime, etc.). This would probably reveal some glaring gaps in the system, particularly in the evening. For instance, it would probably confirm my anecdotal observations that if all 40,000 fans at a Saturday night Mariners game were to suddenly decide to leave their cars at home and right transit, the result would be ugly. I can just imagine 500 people lining up at 10 PM for a 545 after the game that runs once an hour and can carry just 50 people per run. By the time the last bus leaves at midnight, 400 people are still waiting at the bus stop, and stuck there all night long. It takes 8 more trips to get them all home, which means the last of the people don’t get on a bus until around 11 AM the next morning (at the current, half-hourly schedule for a Sunday morning) – approximately a 13-hour wait!

    1. It’s the same issue as, what if 10% of the riders brought their bikes to the bus?

      I remember a statistic some time ago, that if we really wanted most people to use transit like they did in the 1920s, then doubling the amount of transit would make barely any difference, you’d have to increase it five times.

      1. And that’s exactly what we need to do if we are going to get serious about dealing with climate change.

      2. Mike, and Mars, remember that for the transit use of the 1920’s, we’d also need for passengers to live in the same crowded conditions that by 1915 had switched streetcar travel onto a hundred years’ downhill grade. As ever more people could buy cars.

        And Mars, sad to remember, but in 1950 Chicago, the coffee-table-book of a streetcar world I lived in at age five, you could chip a tooth on the coal in your every breath. Forcing the average person toward to change climate with a car and a former corn-field for a legendary Back Yard.

        If anybody knows different, I’ll believe you, but I don’t think the Chicago police ever had to wade in with their billy clubs (a lot more effectively Irish than those spring-loaded light-sabers in the middle of all the other black stuff on an officer’s belt now) to break up a “Keep Our Streetcars” riot.

        Only resistance legend I know is in a short story by R.A. Lafferty called “Interurban Queen”, postulating a rural Illinois where all law-abiding normal people ride huge, magnificent cross-country George Benson streetcars through lakes, farms, and forests.

        With beveled-glass cabinets full of rifles, in case they encounter a “Clunker-Maker” (from hidden junkyards) on the lam from robbing a cheese cooperative. Second Amendment? Everybody knows by heart that civilization’s only existential threat has rubber tires and an exhaust pipe.

        But real-life, I think same change of mind about residence-ideal is already underway. Notice that Ground Zero for the Manhattan-South Lake Union-Stockholm-Bangkok-and probably the Islamic State Nuclear Price-Detonation Project is not a “ranch-style” house in the suburbs.

        Doubt many kids of any income bracket are running away to Kent, either. Reason is neither fuel price nor to counter climate change. Same motivation as last pattern change. Freeways are freedom-free, and driving can’t be fun if it sucks. National Anthem will soon be “Take the A-Train!”

        To Harlem, not the Federal Way Transit Center! Don’t passenger information programmers even have a horn section?

        Mark

    2. This is basically why my parents stopped trying the 550 and drive to games instead. A line a couple hundred deep after a game for a half hourly route. Pitiful.

      1. Same – the 550 just can’t handle stadium crowds. I tried to catch it once from South Bellevue P&R. Never again (until East Link)

        However, protip for STB readers – in Bellevue, the 550’s first stop is by the Bellevue library, not the Bellevue TC, and even on gameday there is rarely a line at the first stop.

      2. Now that’s a case of “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowdwd.”

        But don’t they spend the same amount of time sitting in traffic trying to get out of their parking space?

      3. Sadly, no. Last time i tried (Thursday night game), it took 45 minutes to catch the bus – literally the same amount of time I would have spent driving into the city and finding parking. Leaving the game we took Uberpool home … it was ~$10 more than our combined bus tickets, and it was definitely faster than the bus.

        Coming into the city on a weeknight game, the bus takes the same time as driving to cross the Lake because the HOV lane is of limited use. If you park in the CBD (not by the stadium), traffic isn’t that bad getting from a garage to I5 after the game.

      4. Zach and everybody else, given fact that only mode split at stressed times is between those moving at 5.0 mph in cars and .05 miles an hour on transit, the local sports and business worlds might be willing to cooperate with all-levels Government on a major game-night experiment.

        I-90 express lanes transit-only. If National Guard available, we could seize, I mean use, the future 2-way light rail transitway for buses only. But: transit passengers get not only free transit, but also free tickets.

        Hate to be right about this, but still think this is a legitimate national defense-drill. Like we haven’t had in about six generations.Which if we actually had them might impress our likely enemies a lot more than next generation of jet fighters.

        Whose cost wouldn’t cover a single rivet (do they still even use those?) on an F-35. Tell me this. What would any Democrat in the State have to lose by supporting this? I know, I know…Or Anything Else!?

        Mark Dublin

    3. I would like to see ridership per capita as well. It is all good and well if you are sending buses all over town, but are they actually picking up people? My guess is Sound Transit would suddenly jump up quite a bit. Some of the buses (especially Bellevue) are very popular and running a big train through urban tunnels means a lot of riders per service hour. I would think riders per capita would be pretty decent as well. Nowhere near other major urban rail/transit systems, but certainly competitive with Yakima.

      Speaking of other systems, our ridership per mile isn’t great, but it obviously took a huge leap when they finally added the essential piece (downtown to UW). We are in the middle of the ranking for light rail (which includes streetcars) but that also puts us way towards the bottom of other (heavy) rail systems (Note: The data for Link has not been updated)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_North_American_light_rail_systems_by_ridership
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_North_American_rapid_transit_systems_by_ridership

      While there is a strong correspondence between mileage and service hours, it isn’t one to one. A system that deals with traffic would not be as efficient as ours, which is why ours would look a bit better when you look at service hours.

    4. That’s definitely an interesting metric, but most systems don’t run at peak capacity all day, so the maximum carrying capacity at peak of peak is probably significantly higher than passenger capacity per resident per day

    5. Wouldn’t it be the per capita annual service hours, divided by 365 days/year, multiplied by bus boarding capacity?

      For example, 2.12 annual service hours/capita / 365 = 0.0058 daily service hours/capita.
      0.0058 daily service hours/capita x 100 boardings/service hour (a peak hour number) = 0.58 daily boardings/capita. So if all buses were crush-loaded all day long, 27% of the county population could take a round trip each day.

      Actual King County Metro ridership is about 400,000 boardings/day, which implies a per capita Metro ridership of 34 boardings/service hour, and 0.20 boardings/day/capita (10% of the county population taking a round trip each day).

      So, for everyone in the county to take a round trip on King County Metro daily, about 3X current service hours would be needed.

      1. And more on top of that for those who transfer or have more complicated days. I often make a chain trip on my way home, or come home and go out again later.

    6. To be fair, getting home from a game at 10 PM is the kind of thing where the capacity and reliability of light rail over buses helps considerably. So, we as a region, are at least heading in the right direction.

  3. Wow y’all are a serious bunch. I was just trying to to lighten up a dense post. Just read the first half of the headline if you need to.

  4. What’s funny is that there have so far been 10 comments about the headline, and just one comment about the actual article.

      1. I actually didn’t get it. But if I was more awake I probably wouldn’t have chuckled. It is pretty funny.

      2. Your headline cheapened your own work. Clickbait headlines telegraph low article quality, and thus convey a disrespect for both the work and the reader.

      3. It’s not clickbait if it is a non-misleading headline on the actual hosted site.

        The term is really only applicable to advertisements or aggregating / social media sites where misleading or incomplete headlines are used to drive traffic to low effort content and the accompanying advertising.

        Ok you didn’t like the joke. I can’t imagine bothering to type out a comment to complain about the free content because you didn’t appreciate the headline. Go find something better to do. Remember what Mom said? “If you don’t have anything nice to say better to… something something…”

  5. Good post substantively, but please no more upworthy-style, insulting-to-one’s-intelligence sensationalist teaser headlines. (Unless of course it was meant sarcastically and intended to lampoon such headlines, in which case I applaud you)..

    1. Geez people, it was meant sarcastically. You’ve gotta be able to make fun of yourself, and transit writing as a niche is pretty damn narrow, so I thought it’d be funny to pretend something so wonky was worthy of clickbait level interest.

      1. I’m sorry Zach, but you’ll never live this one down.

        In all honestly, I’m just so disgusted with the current state of our dumbed-down, corporate, ireport-based “news”/entertainment media that I’m extra sensitive to things like this, even if they are intended as a joke.

        That said – your point re: not taking things too seriously is well taken! And the post itself is actually pretty enlightening.

      2. Haha, should this controversy be called click-bait-gate? Or click-gate?

        Even I didn’t realize how much a disturbance in the force this caused.

      3. These people don’t deserve you, Zach. I appreciate your satire as well as your content. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ :)

  6. I was about ready to move to Garfield County for the awesomely abundant transit service, then I looked into it a bit.

    I don’t know where the State got a service population of 855, but the transit agency covers the entire county, which has a population of 2,200. Using that population, the per capita service hours are a middling 1.50, decent but not so exciting.

    Then I looked up the agency website. Service consists of one daily commuter roundtrip to Lewiston, Idaho, 35 miles away, a twice-a-week shopper’s shuttle, and an unspecified “local” route. I can see how they rack up the per capita service hours with a route that extends that far outside the county.

    1. As it turns out, service hours per person is probably near useless as a metric for mobility. The number of people living in the area in fact has nothing to do with how much service you need to be able to make it on transit (being myself an introvert, a high hours/person is actually a negative for me), although an interesting stat nonetheless. A better stat I think is service hours per area. Even better, service hours per stop in conjunction with percentage of area covered by a stop.

      But case in point, when I was a resident of Federal Way, I lived and died by the schedule of routes 577 & 578. And although not “frequent” (although by suburban standards, 30 mins is somewhat frequent), I was able to do well highly dependent on that service (even though Sound Transit is dead last on the list) because of one factor in particular: Span of service, and the fact that I, if necessary, could stay until 11pm on weekdays and 10:13pm on weekends.

  7. My worst nightmare is that at this very instant, right between the unappetizing online vegetable that’s supposed to suggest a bladder, and a worse one that’s supposed to be a prostate, Vladimir Putin has just interposed this posting and all its comments.

    Problem I have with stats like this is that they give no credit for effort, especially successful. From my first ride with them 25 year ago, I was impressed how much IT has always cared for their passengers. Followed by their invariably new and well-kept equipment.

    Fifteen minute service to foot of my driveway gets a lot of my votes too, even though we don’t even get any Best Western credit for riding any bus route.

    Their fare system should be industry policy. Cash fare, one dollar, day pass two dollars. Express runs to Tacoma require extra change since IT left ORCA year I got here. One more item to both the Fix ORCA and put Olympia into ST lists.

    Since it serves the capital city housing the State Legislature that passed Tim Eyman’s original initiative verbatim after the State Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional, IT has never been so disrespectful as to return service to Harbor Point Marina, where it went in 1990. Which is definitely higher quality than average ride Statewide, even if only passenger is driving.

    If ridership reports keep leaving out these things, what use are they? Well in post-war Europe, a lot of vehicles pulled a trailer with a contraption that burned charcoal so fumes could be used for fuel. Bet chemically-infused printer paper would work too.

    Any chance the new track south from Lakewood could be paved and grooved-railed like the DSTT from Freighthouse Square south? Because that would turn this document into the next…does America even have a Great Novel anymore? First bus following an Amtrak train would register for IT, ST Express, Sounder, and probably Amtrak too.

    But now for some Truth in Number 2 Posting, Zach: How will ISIS, Russian hackers, Twitter, the Stock Market, bear-blinding flashlights, and the elephant-chasing cat in the video react to fact that Kim Kardashian just lost, or gained, three ounces? THAT could kill every ST ’til Pluto falls into the sun. Mike Pence just said so,

    Mark

      1. Apparently it’s in between an e-bladder and an e-prostate somewhere.

        Best guess is, Mark is either talking about the marina on North Point, or the one way out in Boston Harbor, outside IT’s PTBD.

        But how that was the single point of confusion you pulled out of Mark’s post, I can’t understand.

      2. Mike Orr is right- that’s the only part of the message I understand. A guess at the rest of the message:

        -Mark worries about Putin using Russian propaganda to ruin American transit? Well, that’s one way to keep oil prices high so Putin can make more money (even if you’re sure American corruption is high, DC is squeaky clean compared to Russia when it comes to corruption)…

        -Service stats often don’t account for customer service and maintenance

        -He really likes how close an IT stop is to his house

        -IT has a really good fare policy, but needs to get into the ORCA pod

        -Something about Tim Eyman causing a cut of service to “Harbor Point Marina”? I would guess that Eyman lives or lived here that marina, but IT serves Thurston County, and Eyman lives in Mukilteo…

        -Ridership reports need to include better stats that take into account customer service and maintenance. Until then, we can use them as fuel for buses.

        -He wants the Point Defiance bypass to be usable by buses as well.

        -No idea what the last part means.

      3. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Boston+Harbor+Marina/@47.1399606,-122.9052703,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x4a242a789be65614!8m2!3d47.1399606!4d-122.9052703

        Well ye see’ Mates, those talent scouts (fer th’ likes of us, all the Head Hunters are in Borneo) told me I was goin’ aboard a fine clipper ship to a fine port on a point with more yachts than garbage scows.

        Since my pay grade couldn’t differentiate presence or absence of an “e” on a word, they didn’t even have to hit me over the head with that rum bottle instead of just lettin’ me drink it. Well, could’ve been worse.

        Ye could hear them poor women passengers howlin’ sixty miles away when they came on deck and spied their new home they named after that chief, Settle. Which was last thing on their minds.

        Word is they would’ve beaten the whole crew to death with th’ body parts of their husbands if that slick real estate man hadn’t told them that “Alkali Point” meant it’d be Manhattan in a little while.

        Ye wouldna’ have the name of a ship leavin’ for Boston? The one that’s still got a bus for a sailor to ride in from the Harbor?

        Nobody named anything but “X” will sign this.

      4. I told Mark some time ago he should use “TL;DR” for anything he wants people to do or believe. To me everything else is undifferentiated literature. So no, I don’t think he’s worried about Putin, or at least not about him hacking the STB website.

        Russians have such high regard for their 19th-century authors and poets, that later writers often use imagery as much as they do, to a greater extent than English writers, and much of it is well-executed. I noticed this in Pasternak and Ayn Rand. (Or at least “We the Living”, the one Rand book I managed to read.) I suspect part of it is unconscious, or “just what books are supposed to be like”. Mark has a similar talent.

  8. What about Everett Transit? Glaring omission if you ask me. The only city in the Orca region with a stand-alone service provider.

  9. Actually, number 2 did surprise me enough to look up what Intercity Transit was. I think from the data perspective in the article, dividing the service hours by population just doesn’t say anything really and comparing the ratios between transit pools doesn’t really really really say anything.

    The shocking part to me is that I paid for this as a taxpayer.

    1. p 13 says WSDOT “works with legislative staff and transportation committee members .. to help formulate a document and information that is useful when making policy decisions.” And, “What is presented today has evolved over time.” I guess the legislature requires the report and this is what it wants. p.14 rightly cautions that the most valid comparisons are within an agency over time, not between agencies, because their environments and demands are very different.

      Overall it seems to answer the question, “How much transit does each agency provide for its tax dollars?” I can see some tax-centric legislators viewing that as how “efficient” the agencies are and hopw the legislature is supposed to oversee them. In 2012 the legislature gave Metro a 2-year supplemental tax authorization to cope with the recession’s sales-tax dropoff. It did not give any other agency that even though they needed the same, because they hadn’t taken the same steps toward efficiency that Metro had done after an earlier audit. That was probably based on one of these state transit reports.

      What’s completely missing is a measure of of what the transit needs in each service area are and how much of them the agency is fulfilling. In Seattle in the outer neighborhoods, people feel there’s not enough transit to make not driving feasible. [1] In Skagit county, people are missing midday and weekend service to Everett. The primary measure of transit service should be how completely it meets the mobility needs of the community and offers a realistic alternative to driving. The tax rate and mechanisms should be set to fulfill that. Instead the legislature sets arbitrary tax rates and believes that these are the “right” levels, and obsesses on how well the agencies spend that. But that’s like trying to put out a fire with a line of people passing buckets and obsessing whether they pass them fast enough or have enough buckets. The proper way to solve it is with a fire hydrant with real water pressure and a hose.

      [1] More than one person has said in the media that they lived in Chicago for decades without a car and were quite happy, then they moved to Greenwood and tried to do the same, and they ended up getting a car because they felt they couldn’t get around otherwise, especially in the evening and to places other than downtown. To be fair, this was when the 5, 48, and 358 were half-hourly evenings; now the 5, 45 and E are 15-minutes. So that helps. But there’s still the perennial issue of getting between arbitrary places in north Seattle, most famously Lake City to Ballard, or in this case Greenwood to Lake City.

      Imagine if the legislature invited Jarrett Walker to advise them on how to evaluate the state of transit in the state, and what the agencies are doing, should be doing, and should be enabled to do. How well the state matches the international average for states/couniries of comparable size and wealth. That’s something you’d think a legislature would be concerned about. Especially with Washington being so dependent on international trade and competing with all those other countries.

    2. Some of the suburban agencies have terribly generic names…Intercity Transit could also mean intercity buses (which we have, via Greyhound, BoltBus and Travel WA), Community Transit could mean community-level shuttle services (DART or the 600-series Metro routes), etc.

      As much as I love CT, it would be nice to have a brand that puts location front and center. But it’s difficult when your county shares a name with a city (that isn’t county seat) and the county seat has its own system…

  10. Mike, I think your last paragraph hits on the real problem of governing something like a transit system. Or anything else where someone answerable to thousand voters has to make life and death decisions, in a field where the legislator has no direct experience, based on information from trained and skilled people whose opinions are a 180 degrees apart. Or worse, where comparable experience just doesn’t exist.

    As Seattle probably shows more clearly than anyplace else on Earth, or at least in North America, statistical averages only “work” for projects that have more in common than not. Even for close comparisons, details can make all the world’s difference.

    For instance, vast majority of light rail systems run on, or through tunnels from, transit long past. Perfectly placed for present needs. San Francisco is also narrow, steep, and more crowded than Seattle. With heavy and growing residence on very steep hills. But with urban canyons to carry old established streetcar routes and also BART.

    Our TBM’s first work was a maneuver out of an air-show, performed underground by two untried machines. A side-by-side diving and climbing curve, through ground basically water with some dirt in it. And an operating freight railroad tunnel very close overhead.

    Lake Washington is a fjord. Norse for a place so narrow and deep a subway would have to start at Queen Anne Hill for a grade a train can handle. World’s longest floating bridge to carry rail? I don’t know. But much easier for BART that it had a wide flat bay-floor for its tubes.

    Some really singular politics, too. To avoid being literally killed by a new skyscraper, an advanced light rail tunnel had to break ground immediately. Requiring tax money from suburbanites who are still waiting for a train ride 33 year later. But were still convinced to settle for decades of DSTT rides on buses that nobody wanted to manufacture.

    Jarrett Walker would love to attend, maybe even chair, a week-long legislative seminar on a fair and valid comparison between our system and others. What would he and the Washington State Legislature charge? For all Seattle Transit Blog has done for our system over the years, we really deserve free tickets for ourselves, and also our mates.

    So they won’t leave us for the normal people whose only job is to faithfully deliver the study results their employers specify. KCM could have just started DSTT farebox use, stuck their tongues out at critics, and wiggled their fingers in their ears. Instead of helping save somebody sweet from incurable contagious Asperger’s syndrome.

    Mark

  11. Your characterization of WA as a blue state is incorrect. What, with our Republican-controlled State Senate? With our 1-vote majority Democratic House of Representatives? All indications are “purple.” I live in an area with a bright blue city council and bright red state representatives. Seattle may be blue, but think twice before generalizing our state as blue. Look outside the Seattle city limits when describing the state.

    1. When it comes to local and state politics, the differences between Democrats and Republicans gets a little more nuanced, and the local center line can move away from the “national center”. It’s how clearly blue states like New Jersey and Massachusetts manage to elect Republican governors from time to time.

      A state that hasn’t voted for a Republican president since Reagan, has a Democratic majority in the house, two Democratic senators and the governor, is blue by every definition.

    2. Gave it some more thought. To put my first comment another way, calling a state blue or red is a measure of how that state affects the national political scene. If we’re talking about state politics, it may make more sense to talk about blue and red counties or districts, rather than painting the entire state with one brush.

      So in that sense you may have a point, not because calling Washington a blue state is factually inaccurate, but because it doesn’t really make sense in this context.

    3. Some in Eastern Washington are trying to form a separate state to get out from under Blue Washington’s policies and taxes (and add three Republican Coingressmen and electoral votes). That’s the definition of a blue state. Everywhere, in Oregon and California, Texas and Georgia, cities are more liberal than the exurbs and rural areas around them. Whether a state is red or blue, and whether conservative or liberal state-level policies predominate, depend on what percentage of the state’s population is the cities and the inner-ting suburbs.

      In Washington it’s enough for a Democratic president and governor, no abortion bans, sanctuary cities and a sympathetic state, no voter-suppression laws, and Sound Transit, but it’s not enough for a state income tax, carbon tax, state transit funding, or fixing the anti-transit rules in the gas tax. The conservative policies that do prevail are of the moderate sort. That may be rural Washington’s preference and “live and let live” history, although the fact that it’s not the majority may be keeping iot from becoming more radical. On the issue of tax revolts and caps and public votes, and car+parking privilege, these are not exclusively Republican positions, so some of their power is because Democratic citizens are divided on them.

  12. You can calculate boardings per revenue hour from the state data. Look at the Fixed Route Service summary For example, King County Metro in 2015 had 101,362,881 passenger trips (exactly!). They provided 3,106,165 revenue hours of service. Doing the division, King County Metro had 32.6 boardings per revenue hour. On a national scale, that’s not bad, but I might have expected higher (to do national comparisons, you have to use the National Transit Database, which isn’t as up to date).

    I don’t know if doing a 284 page annual almanac of transit stats makes Washington a blue state, but it’s certainly not something most states do.

    I thought the headline was funny and did not fear that Seattle Transit Blog was turning into Breitbart.

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