71 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: America’s Next Transit City”

  1. Here when I saw “America’s Next Transit City” I thought it would be somewhere surprising.

    I consider Seattle to already be a transit city (for the USA anyway) as the percentage of the population that uses transit is quite a bit higher than many others.

    1. I think its about it being on the verge of joining the ranks of New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco.

      1. Exactly. KCM has a greater portion of it’s service area set up more like a suburban system with greater distances between transfer points. That’s not to say that there aren’t grid sections to speak of, rather there are just fewer of them. L. A.’s MTA is kind of similar, but there are local systems there to fill service voids like BBB.

      2. Our light rail system needs a few decades of rust, entropy, and neglect before we can join their ranks.

    2. Transit does have a 45% mode share for downtown commuters, and SOV driving is down to 31%, so that’s something. It just hasn’t spread to other job centers yet. .

  2. We need to do a few things if we’re going to earn this label:

    1. Improve bus/rail integration at existing stations and better plan for this at future stations
    2. Accelerate ST3 projects as much as possible
    3. Upgrade our current streetcars to the standard to which center city line is being designed
    4. More aggressively designate and enforce bus only lanes to move our armada of buses through traffic

    The list could go on and on to include lots of specific route design and operational improvements, but if we made progress on this short list, we could really create a usable system that facilitates more transit trips and reduces car dependency.

    1. Hear, hear

      Also be more willing to remove parking and SOV lanes to accelerate transit at bottlenecks.

      And make transit function, especially transfers, a requirement for all future infrastructure, whether built by WS-DOT, cities, or agencies. No more bad designs like Mt Baker, UW, SR-520 Flyer deletion, and HOT lanes without good transit access. And moving to HOV 3 if the lane ia bogged down

    2. oh the bus/rail integration drives me nuts, this should be the main driver in location and design of the station. UW and Mt Baker are among the worst. Cap Hill isnt even all that great. Most of all, put the station under/over the main surface transit street so you can exit/enter the station on the correct side of the street for the connecting buses

      1. Integration in more ways than one.

        Sure are a lot of systems out there where you can buy a ticket at a TVM and have it be good for both buses and trains.

      2. Have a single and consistent set of fares, fare policy, and media that go across Metro, ST Bus and ST Rail. The complexity and confusion generated by the differences are completely unnecessary and make the system harder and less approachable. I’ll extend that beyond fares, it should include websites and schedule books. It’s completely ridiculous that ST and Metro duplicate so many functions.

      3. In my opinion this is the biggest weakness or our system. Link does a pretty good job of getting to the essential places, probably because there are so few. UW, downtown, Bellevue maybe — that is really it. Just about every other place in town is somewhere in the middle — worth serving with a subway, but not essential. It would be great if we could serve all those places with rail, but we probably can’t. Even after ST3, we’ve left out plenty of very good locations; Lake City, Bitter Lake, Fremont, Wallingford, Belltown, most of the Central Area and most of Queen Anne won’t have rail stations,

        This doesn’t mean the only way we can build a decent transit system is to build something similar to the (very expensive) D. C. Metro. But it does mean that good bus service — and good bus connectivity with rail — is essential. This is what I consider to be the big failure within the planning. They didn’t prioritize bus service.

        There are exceptions, of course. They did do a pretty decent job of freeing up bus service (e. g. UW to downtown lead to truncations that have saved a lot of service hours). Other changes will do the same, as the system moves north and east. This is probably the strongest aspect of the system from a bus standpoint — the changes will save plenty in terms of service hours.

        But there has been little concern about enhancing the grid. The best way to do that is to focus on the places that have (or would have) intersecting bus service. Link does manage to hit some of these places. Mount Baker Station sits at a major bus intersection. But Link completely ignored 23rd and Madison, which is a similar area. In fact there are no stops on Madison east of the freeway, which is huge omission. (This lead to the restructure debacle last year — Metro couldn’t do much with what ST gave them). Unlike 23rd and Madison, though, a lot of the choices would have been tough. For example, Lake City is not only a decent destination in its own right, but a major bus confluence. But if you served it, then it would be a lot harder to properly serve the north end buses that would be coming via the freeway. Of course the biggest missing piece that would enhance the grid is Ballard to the UW. This is one of the few areas where you already have a major, well functioning grid (involving our most popular buses) that only suffers because east-west traffic is so slow. If bus service had been prioritized, this project would have been bumped up the list.

        A similar failure was to largely ignore bus bottlenecks that are extremely expensive to fix. The Metro 8 is a great example. While you can make a case that the entire thing should be a rail line, the really tough part is crossing the freeway. Link will, eventually, do this. But it will do it in much the same way that our buses do it — go downtown first. This will mean, for example, a trip from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union will involve two train rides, and probably two additional bus rides (or a lot of walking). I see no change in the basic route of the 8 (it will slog over Denny) because there is no decent substitute for it. In contrast, consider this: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1308r8SwFLRFlLG40rPl3rKuV_W4&usp=sharing. Now you have eliminated the slowest part of the Metro 8. When Bertha is done and you can cross Aurora via Harrison (hopefully in a bus lane) the second slowest part of the 8 will be eliminated. The 8 could be modified to completely avoid Denny — after crossing Aurora on Harrison, it would head south on Fairview and then go on Boren. For most riders, you’ve created a fast two seat ride (bus, train) instead of a three seat ride (bus, train, train). You’ve also done that 25 years sooner, while saving a huge amount of money (which could go into building bus tunnels or a Ballard to the UW subway).

        That is what would be possible if they prioritized bus service. Unfortunately, it really was never a consideration. I still remember being at an open forum talking to the ST CEO, when Mike asked him about bus to rail interaction. Rogoff assumed the question was about truncation, not complementary service. I still remember Mike and I moving our arms side to side to make the point clear. It really wasn’t anything they talked about much. Given situations like NE 130th (which wasn’t part of the original Lynnwood Link plan) I guess it isn’t surprising.

        So, unfortunately, we will just muddle along. About all we can do is fix up the few good connections we do have (Mount Baker Station, 45th and Brooklyn, NE 130th, etc.) and hope that the RapidRide+ projects can improve things, even though they do so largely in isolation.

    3. In Toronto most subway stations outside the Greater Downtown Area have bus bays incorporated into the station so you can wait indoors when you are transferring from subway to bus.

      1. Be careful what you wish for. I’d rather see a #7 going straight down Ranier and wasting time to go in and out of a transit center, just to save a few feet of walking for riders making a connection.

        Of course, the 106 currently does the worst of both worlds, taking time to go in and out of Mt. Baker TC, in spite of the fact that it is actually increasing the walking distance to/from the station, rather than decreasing it.

      2. The ones I’ve seen are Spadina and West Lawrence Stations, where the bus and streetcar routes terminate, so they’re not going in and out and further on. The Spadina subway goes diagonally and turns north in the outer part, so people transfer to the subway if they’re going further in the same direction or turning perpendicular. I haven’t seen the Yonge subway transfers but I think I read that all east-west buses that reach Yonge terminate there, and some people criticize that because they think the western and eastern routes should be interlined.

        But also, when you transfer from a subway top a bus at the transfer stations, you don’t pay a fare, the same as subway-to-subway transfers.

  3. I don’t think that Seattle can really qualify as a “Transit city” until the norm is using transit instead of car ownership. Yes, things are getting better but the vast majority of Seattleites still have cars.

    1. As my dad used to say when I was unconfident, “You’re comparing your inside to other people’s outside.” Look at the northwest landscape. We see gray and drizzle and long dark winters, others see the beautiful mountains and forests and shorelines and sufficient water. The context is the US circa 2017, not some absolute scale. “Next transit city” means a city that’s increasing its investment in transit, like “fastest growing city”. It’s about overcoming the anti-transit forces and neglect that took over the US in the past century. We have five cities with century-old comprehensive networks, and two that made a major investment toward it since 1970 (DC and Los Angeles). The designation means that Seattle’s investment in transit is comparable to LA’s. Not whether it’s exactly the same size, but the same quantum level. At the money per capita, ST3 is more than 30-in-10. Other American cities fall far behind it far behind it and have a smaller transit share; look at Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix.

      The old comprehensive networks are characterized by frequency and speed: fast frequent trains, and ubuquidous frequent buses with night owl. The surface light rail towns are characterized by low speeds, not always frequent, and a skeletal bus network that’s mostly half-hourly or hourly. They invest little, vote no on more extensive expansions, and have low transit mode share. Seattle is the only one in between, with a “light rail” that’s really light metro, meaning mostly grade-separated with faster speeds and good frequency, and a cost reflecting the tunnels. It’s not fully recognized because ST backed into it. It originally intended a low-cost surface system running mostly on freeways and boulevards (like Portland, San Jose, Sacramento,San Diego, Dallas, Phoenix, SLC, etc), with only minimum tunnels/elevated where hills and waterways required. But one by one as it designed the segments, the public demanded more grade separation and were willing to pay for it. That’s what led to a light metro network. It wasn’t as visible in the first phase because MLK and SODO are surface, but ST2 and 3 are almost entirely grade-separated. (Some freeway segments are technically surface but they have no level crossings so effectively they’re grade-separated.) And it still uses the phrase “light rail” which makes it sound like one of the cheap surface systems and confuses people.

      So ST3 is a larger investment per capita than LA’s, and Move Seattle is on top of that. That significantly increased the full-time frequent bus network and is tripling the “rapid” lines. The video didn’t get into Metro’s long-term plan, ans Seattle’s and Bellevue’s and Marysville’s transit master plans, or Lynnwood’s urban plan (downtown and along 99), but those are on top of the other two, and the video’s producers must have had them in mind too. And if it’s happening in one city it can happen in others, hint hint to them.

      1. Well said. Commentators seem to have missed the “next” in the title. We aren’t a transit city yet, but we’re on the right track, at least in terms of spending money on transit.

      2. Good description Carl. The problem I have with the idea of Seattle being “the next great transit city” is that it assumes that you always get what you pay for. That would be like saying five years ago that the Brooklyn Nets were going to be the next great basketball franchise. The owner was spending money like crazy, but the team stinks. It still does.

        I see our system being remarkably like the Bay Area. BART is similar to Link. Some of it is a great value, even though it is very expensive. The downtown transit tunnel, for example, is fantastic. But ST didn’t build that. They did spend a lot tunneling north from there, and that was definitely the right choice. But leaving out stops was not. Urban areas are short changed while the system focuses on mileage instead. They are making the same sort of mistake that cheaper American systems (like Dallas) have made — it is hard to get around town once you get there. The result is that it doesn’t work well for that many. BART carries way fewer people than DC Metro, even though the Bay Area is much more populous. More people ride the bus — just in San Fransisco — than ride BART, even though the buses are the slowest in the country. The trains are fast (faster than ours) but speed doesn’t equal quality. If you ignore density, proximity, and the role that complementary bus service can play in building a high quality system, you are bound to spend way too much money for what you get (at least where rail is concerned). You end up doing what San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley are doing, which is to try and patch things up with major bus initiatives. At least you have decent bus headways and in some cases, you might be able to build pretty fast, effective bus routes. But if the most cost effective parts of your system are the buses (e. g. Madison BRT or Van Ness BRT) then it is hard to say you are doing things right.

      3. The “Carl” comment was me. I didn’t realize it prefilled the wrong name.

        The fundamental disconnect between ST’s network and an ideal urban network is that ST doesn’t see that as its mission, and most of the political weights and voters behind ST don’t see it as its mission. If ST did see its job as making an optimal Seattle network and a separate plan for the suburbs (connecting and/or interlining), they would give staff different instructions, and the Seattle result would be more walkeresque. Then Denny Way might have got more attention. But ST sees itself as “regional” transit as opposed to local transit.

        This also comes back to faulty planning in the 1990s, by ST, the cities, and the public. ST should have led creating a comprehensive regional+local transit plan like Metro’s current LRP. It should have incorporated the cities’; TMPs. The cities TMPs should have existed and been urban-minded. The suburbs should have put the region first rather than trying top steer jobs and stations to their jurisdiction to maximize their tax base. Then a Forward Thrust like network would have naturally emerged. But none of that happened. And the last part (suburban tax bases) is exacerbated by state tax formulas, crippling Eyman initiatives, and their “local control”, “all in it for myself” ideology. Add to that the need for medium density over a larger area to complement the ideal network.

        Another factor is the level of density and crowding that existed in the 1990s and mid 2000s when these decisions were being made. Braodway was still four stories and the CD was mostly less than that. Trying top expand urban villages went nowhere. There was no crowding: rents weren’t going up astronomically. Capitol Hill spilled out into the CD but that was less than a mile’s difference and slightly longer walk and somewhat worse transit. Traffic was bad but not as bad as it is now. SLU was just climbing out of its decades of neglect (the city deferred deciding how to rezone it). Paul Allen had been trying to redevelop SLU since the 80s, with two failing ideas (the Commons and a biotech hub) until it succeeded (a cloud-computing hub, more or less). So everybody expected SLU to grow, but hardly anybody realized what the full effect of this growth would be. They also didn’t predict the severe drop in the vacancy rate after 2011 and the consequent explosion in rents and house prices. That has caused everyone to reassess their demands and to allow more density and expensive rail lines more than they previously did. Not “everybody” because urbanists wanted density and multiple rail lines all along, but other people began seeing it as inevitable. No more “Who the hell would buy a townhouse in Snoqualmie Ridge that’s as dense as New Holly?”, but “I’m glad I can afford that townhouse in Snoqualmie Ridge.”

        Sadly, most of these alignment decisions were made before that revelation. There was no motivation for large urban villages, little acceptance of bus restructures, no importance put to transit master plans, and tax revolts that hindered governments from preparing and sucked up the oxygen. People thought inner-city Seattle would get a little larger, not that it would get a lot larger and overwhelm the existing transit capacity, People thought that moving out to Everett and Tacoma was quirky, not that it would become a necessity for swathes of the working class and middle class. ST3 was the first ST decision made in this, er, DotCloud era. So naturally SLU got added to Ballard Link.

        BART’s biggest problem in San Francisco is it doesn’t reach 3/4 of the city at all. You can take a fast train to Walnut Creek but you can’t take a fast train to Geary or the Haight or North Beach or the Sunset or the southwest. That is similar to Seattle’s Ballard and West Seattle lines and the lack of a 45th line, Lake City line, or CD line. Buses will always carry the most people because a lot of people are going everywhere and subways can only serve a few of those trip patterns, but at the same time a fast link between urban villages is an important part of mobility that has been neglected in Seattle and across the US, which has led to people having to drop activities or waste time traveling inefficiently or having to drive excessively.

        “You end up doing what San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley are doing, which is to try and patch things up with major bus initiatives.”

        And the Central Subway, and before that the MUNI T line.

      4. Cool, Mike. Yeah, I agree. Part of the problem was the timing. The folks didn’t see the huge “return to the city” movement along with the gigantic growth in general that has made a lot of the transit decisions seem silly at this point. But if the latter never happened, then I’m not sure why any major investment would have made sense. If we didn’t grow, then twenty years from now someone would ask why, in heaven’s name, we are running a train to Lynnwood, when a bus running in the express lanes is faster? Because it isn’t anymore. So unless the growth occurred *only* in the suburbs, then the current emphasis on ignoring those urban areas was really misplaced.

        Even that is cutting them some slack. The Bay Area is extremely suburban. But BART doesn’t carry that many people from the suburbs. D. C. Metro kicks its ass, basically — the same way that the San Antonia Spurs kick the ass of the Brooklyn Nets — by being smarter with the money they spend. So if South Lake Union never developed, and the Central Area remained what it always was, then you would still, definitely, without a doubt, prefer the alignment I drew up. Denny traffic has always been terrible, and various parts of Queen Anne have had apartments well before Sound Transit was formed. Same with the Central Area, of course. No, they aren’t the shiny new six story buildings that everyone associates with density, but the classic mix of houses, small apartments, and yes, houses with small apartments, in them. Serving them, whether directly with a light rail line, or indirectly (and much, much more cheaply) with stations that integrate well with bus service has always made sense.

        As to why that happened, I accept your theories, but I also think a lot of our leaders were simply asleep at the wheel. We know what works — a little research and it is pretty obvious (my God, just ask our nearest neighbor, eh?). We just didn’t bother to think about it.

  4. Major problems with Light Rail today as there is no service between Stadium and UW Stations.

    The first text at 8 am stated that there was a disruption in service due to a disabled train followed by the next text at 827 am that shuttle bus service has been requested for service between Stadium and UW stations.

    Then at 941 am the text message stated that the problem is now an overhead power issue and that shuttle bus service is operating between Stadium and UW stations. No estimate when the issue will be resolved.

    It is good that this is on a Sunday instead of a weekday but it is still a problem for riders needing service today.

    1. Thanks for the word, Jeff. But I wonder what it would take to patch the passenger public in on real-time on system communications about service disruptions like this.

      Not only would we be better able to adjust our travel plans to changed conditions, but we’d gain some insight into how transit really works. Would definitely improve both quality and quantity of complaints.

      But more important, give us the technical knowledge we need to give the best instruction possible to our elected representatives. Who can also listen in personally. And also lose any excuse not to know.

      Over last several years, every (outside the Tunnel) platform where I’ve ever been during operating trouble, multiple people have at least nature of problem, vehicle location and likely ETA.

      Not generally known, but obvious: same cat can now be both audience and star. Especially if they cause the delay. And since it’s transit, ferrets too.

      Hate term “zero tolerance”, but two credible threats. Word “issues” should be termination for anybody in passenger information. And not a word, link, image, or tweet on twitter.

      Can’t have fare evaders crowding out terrorists and killers for announcing their crimes in advance. Like who’s their next cabinet appointee and how many more hydrogen bombs we need for infrastructure.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I got so frustrated with the lack of any substance in the text messages from ST when there is a disruption service in Link Rail that I sent them an email last fall. In my note I pointed out that all their text messages say is that there is a disruption in service but not telling riders on where is the disruption in service,, is it affecting the entire line or just portion of it and if it is the latter what portion is disrupted. I pointed out that the lack of information leaves riders up in the air on what they should do like make alternate transportation arrangements or wait or what.

        The response I received back was a typical government bureaucratic response meaning that they didn’t respond to what I was saying. Instead they said they want to out text messages ASAP to tell riders that there is a problem. Well maybe in their mind they think that is fine but if the text messages don’t tell you anything what is the point of sending them out.

      2. I always assumed the initial disruption message meant the entire line was shut down or at least no more trains were leaving their origin, and the second message meant they had contained the problem and restarted service on the rest of the line.

      3. That is what is confusing about the first text message ST sents out because you don’t know what the situation is.

        I was on a northbound train between Othello and Columbia City stations when I received a text message that there was a disruption but the train kept operating all the way until the UW station and there was no disruption. At the same time I would see trains operating southbound.

        That is what caused me to write my email to ST because I was wondering where was the service interruption.

        While I am writing this another text message from ST where they now say that trains are now operating between the Capitol Hill and Westlake Stations where previously they texted that the trains were operating between UW and Westlake. So is there a different problem between Capitol Hill and UW? Obviously but no information from ST in their text message.

      4. All mine say Westlake to UW, latest 12:52pm. I assume the gap is that they don’t want to turn trains around at US or PS.

      5. I figured why that might be. For a train to reverse it would pull into Westlake and back out. So if it went to Pioneer Square it would have to reverse in place, and if a bus were just coming in from Intl Dist it would have to wait for the train to visit three statons both directions before the bus could move, and that would take over five minutes and seriously disrupt the bus schedules.

    2. Anyone know how to get access to the “real time” arrival times that are posted on the screens at Link stations? Its definitely not the same times as those scheduled times posted on OneBusAway

    3. There have been updates on the Link Rail problems.

      Trains are operating between the UW and Westlake Stations and Stadium and Angle Lake Stations with bus shuttle service between Westlake and Stadium Stations.

      The overhead power problem is at International-Chinatown Station and at 10 am ST estimated that it would be several hours for the problem to be resolved.

    4. Huh, that’s interesting. Last Thursday — I think it was — in the morning on my way to work I heard an electrical sound, like something was arching, and saw a flash coming from above the train. That was Northbound between Westlake and Capitol Hill. It stuck out because I hadn’t noticed that with Link before. It reminded me off the trolley buses.

      No idea if it has anything to do with the problem today, just putting it out there.

    5. I was in Westlake Station at 8AM this morning, waiting for northbound Link. No hint that anything was wrong from the supremely useless voice announcement and text display systems; only the usual platitudes about being sure to buy a ticket, not to get too close to an incoming train, etc.

      After two successive scheduled northbound trains failed to appear (and no trains came thorough southbound), a number of us figured out Link was probably down, and went up to the surface to catch the #70, #49, or #10. It would have been nice to have known sooner.

      1. Nobody at the consoles is to blame for the condition of our passenger information system.

        But considering how swiftly we’re developing a fast, crowded rail system like Seattle has never seen before, our numerical rating is going to plummet when somebody gets killed over an official communication mistaken or misunderstood.

        Good passenger information doesn’t always require advanced electrical or mechanical engineering. But it does need a comprehension of what’s going on all through the operation, what measures the system is taking, and what passengers should do.

        And the ability to deliver it well, keyboard and spoken. Exact critically important skill in which transit drivers get little or nothing of in training. No accident so many messages are automated.

        But might be best if passenger-information career track included the shops, the drivers’ seats, and the supervisors’ stations, with trainees being taught whatever “mike” skills they need in addition.

        I’ve also met platform guards whom transit itself should hire directly to Customer Services, and retrain them for passenger-information and direction during major service disruptions. Whose mishandling, as service and train-loads increase, can kill as many people as gunfire.

        And all above with refresher and update sessions frequently as possible. And paid time to ride service ’til they all know the system, from a passenger’s point of view, by heart. Changes, revisions, and all.

        UW opening began the level of operations where things previously annoying turn can turn flat deadly. DC Metro’s maintenance, case in point. And where “Top” and “Number One” are dangerous measurements, because they both focus attention in the wrong direction.

        Mark Dublin

      2. I have an idea for ST. Get a dry-erase sandwich board for each DSTT platform and have the security guards write announcements on it. They could even radio in the times of the next trains once an hour and the guard could write it on the board. It wouldn’t be perfectly accurate especially with unknown future delays, but it would be better than nothing.

    6. Jeff and everybody, here’s one for the coveted “Gimme A Friggin’ Break!” award. 12:52 pm, emergency bus service:


      Angle Lake Station to Stadium Station take Link
      Transfer to Link Shuttle (route 97) at Stadium Station

      Link Shuttle (route 97) stops:

      SODO Busway and Royal Brougham (Stadium)
      4th Ave and Jackson St. (Intl District)
      3rd Ave and James St. (Pioneer Sq)
      3rd Ave and Union St. (University)
      5th Ave and Pine St (Westlake)

      OR if you have an ORCA Card

      At Stadium Station take KCM routes 101 or 150 to Westlake Station
      Transfer to Link at Westlake
      Link is running Westlake to University of Washington Station

      Waitaminitwaitaminitwaitaminit…Like in the middle of an hours-long emergency, LINK passengers without ORCA cards will have to ride surface buses through Downtown to pick up trains at Westlake?

      By the rules, LINK-bound bus passengers can stay one their buses l all the way to Westlake, go upstairs and get a LINK ticket, and head north- can’t they?

      But considering massive inconvenience through no fault of any passenger, word to ST’s and Metro’s attorney and mine: peep one out of a fare inspector and we’re all headed to court. I’ll buy the LINK tickets if anybody can’t find their pass.

      Seriously doubt anybody’s fare-inspecting. But would bet whoever issued that paragraph is at a console someplace where bus-bridges never happen. Like Bombay.


  5. Can we get rid of the login/agree screen on the Tunnel WiFi? Does anyone read it? Does it have any legal teeth? All it does is delay my ability to get data in the tunnel, and sometimes completely malfunction as the phone doesn’t seem to wakeup the login screen.

    Anyone at Metro or ST that can fix this? If they really want an “agree” save something on my phone that says I’ve agreed for a year and just get online automatically.

    1. I dont see that going away anytime soon, almost everywhere there is public wifi there is a log-in and accepting terms and conditions. Luckily cell service is coming very soon.

      1. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary or serves any purpose. Somewhere there’s some bureaucrat or lawyer who requested it, or some vendor who offered that module because they could charge more. No login screen required, please.

      2. I wonder if passengers could “crowd fund” an attorney to draft a 48-hours-to-read agreement that not a single passenger will pay a dime of fare (fare inspectors will then have an ironclad excuse to take the day off) and give not even issue warnings about “taps” in gratitude.

        Until “agreement” is just no death threats where you’re just kidding and give your cat a point-and-shoot polaroid. And confessions only on parchment with a goose-quill in the style of Edgar Allen Poe, stuck in the police-station door with a dagger. Or a hat-pin.

        And also only images respecting senior citizens by telling them to just drink more water and find a girl their own age.

        And also, right to sue for a lifetime pass good on trains, buses, 200 mph hydrofoils, and anything out of Sea-Tac if we ever find out we’ve agreed to limitless amount of time stuck in elevators ’til next Administration gives us a repair grant. On twitter.

        And if they legal profession doesn’t comply, ugly threat to destroy their industry by just bringing back savage clan revenge (links to every motto and Gaelic war cry in the Highlands), or Sicilan matriarchs declaring the Vendetta, like in “Broadway Danny Rose.”

        But let’s drop out of Warp. Use a magnifying glass to examine every photograph of subway passengers in the back in the years where air conditioning was a little revolving fan in a cage and LINK monthly ridership stats would barely fill a car.

        How many passengers can you count with a 1924 Remington in their laps? Or a phonograph with a big cardboard cone and a dog looking into it. Or a phone cord trailing out the back end of the train all the way back to Flatbush? Just shut your eyes and switch your own brain back on for ten minutes. Didn’t they have to do that on the subway in LA or someplace to invent wi-fi in the first place?


    2. WiFi is not a replacement for real-time screens. This is a symptom of it. And they could offer a limited OneBusAway feed without a login screen. At worst they couyld have two WiFi networks, an unrestricted “Tunnel Limited” one and a restricted “Tunnel Full Internet” one.

    3. +1million on getting rid of those login screens. I have a hard time believing they really provide useful liability protection to ST.

    4. “Sometimes completely malfunction as the phone doesn’t seem to wakeup the login screen.”

      Yes. More times than not this happens. Small sample size, but the problem seems to occur most often at Westlake.

  6. I’m rather surprised that there isn’t much presented on the impact of the U-Link opening. It’s one of the highest single-line light rail ridership lines in America already, and the Northgate opening will raise it even higher in ranking.

    1. Have observed swift complete cures with elementary comprehension of terms “blind spot” and “following distance.”

      In emergency cases, like a hundred percent of them, responder should remove every cell phone and iPAD from passenger compartment, insert them under the nearest tire, and order the driver to “floor it.”

      Where’s my Nobel? Damn, left it in Sweden. Did I ever tell you about the time that instructor made drive a 70′ streetcar right through town square in Gothenburg at noon? Crazy as a coot ever since! Swear nobody Swedish even looked up.

      Must be Single Payer health care, lawyers all got asylum in the United States, and if you get run over you get hired to cleaning crew.Try that with FHS, SLUT (forget Swedish word, have to see that Bergman movie again!) and LINK.

      Uh, uh, uh..Oh yeah, Mark!

  7. So I made a trip to Seattle for four days this winter. I’ve been to Seattle often enough to be a little familiar with it, and I read STB off and on because I am interested in transit, and I think, gee, this will be easy. And then I’m standing at a bus stop with a RapidRide branding setup and I think, oooo, lets see how this Seattle BRT project works. And then I notice that the stop has no map. None. How do I know if this RR bus will go near Fremont (where I want to end up) if there’s no map? I don’t live in Seattle, I can’t know that the bus destination sign will tell me anything useful.

    Later in the day, I notice that another Metro stop that also has Rapid Ride branding—I can’t even remember where, now—and again, no map, just a little listing in text of the stops on the line, like a timetable. How do I know if the intersections listed are within the neighborhoods I want to go? I could pull out my smart phone and look at a map, but that kind of defeats the purpose of station information. It also is something I’d rather not do, given its cold, and I’d have to take off my gloves, and my battery is being sapped by the temperatures.

    If Rapid Ride is really going to be anything meaningful, they need to get some new thinking into their stop designs. (This is true of the larger Metro stops in general.) In the end, I took regular Metro buses that I knew from previous experience would get me where I wanted to go.


    1. Well you were in bad shape to start with if you thought a rapid ride was going to get you to Fremont, unfortunately.

      We rely too much on people figuring it out with their cellphones or having system knowledge themselves.

      FYI the bus yoy wanted was probably the 40.

      1. Which, of course, if there had been a map, I could have known instantly.

        I think I ended up on a 26, and walked in from the stop just north of the bridge, at 38th.

      2. The two buses that go from downtown to Fremont, the 40 and the 62, do not stop at the Rapid Ride stops. Downtown buses stop at alternating stops, and of course there is no information telling you that.

        Contrast this to the buses in London. At every stop there is a map of that stop and the nearby stops and a list of the buses that stop at each one (and a schematic showing generally where they go). So if we were (as we in fact were) at Piccadilly and wanted a particular bus, we could look at any bus stop, see where the bus stopped, and look up and see that bus stop C (or whatever) served that bus and head there. And that stop would have a nice big C on top of its sign so we would know we were in the right place.

        Given how less complicated Seattle’s buses are, you’d think we could do the same. But I’ve been here for 37 years and am not optimistic.

    2. All the RapidRide stops I’ve waited at have maps but I haven’t checked all of them. There’s a difference between RapidRide “stations” and RapidRide “stops”. Stations have all the features, stops have only some of them. I think the difference is stations have an ORCA reader, but they may be the ones with maps too. At first it sounded like the stops would always be stops (and some of them are excessively close together), but at one point Metro was talking about upgrading all the stops to stations as it had funding.

      The current Seattle RapidRides are C (SLU – West Seattle), D (downtown – Ballard 15th Ave), and E (downtown – Auroora Village). For central Fremont take the 40 or 62. The 5, 26, and 28 stop slightly further away. (The 26 and 28 did serve central Fremont until last March but the 62 took over that role.) By 2025 the 40 will be RapidRide along with a half-dozen other routes.

      1. What mystified me is that at least one had a shelter—two shelters in fact—so plenty of real estate for a map.

        So, un-sarcastically, what’s the point of Rapid Ride? I thought it was meant to be a BRT system, given its separate branding. In that case, I was expecting frequency and ease of use, similar to rail transit, which led me to expect frequency, limited stops, and maps (and possible off-board payment, but that’s not a must for me personally). Or is it stuck in that hell of “is this BRT or is it just enhanced bus?” that every other US BRT system seems to be stuck in?

      2. Yeah this is kind of a sore-subject here. Rapid Ride leaves a lot to be desires and we get very nervous when anything new proposed is said to be BRT or has any mention of Rapid Ride for comparision. Rapid Ride is really just a higher profile bus line with red buses.

      3. I forgot to ask, which RapidRide station?

        Swift started in the late 1990s and it’s a limited-stop overlay on highway 99 in Snohoimish County, with fully off-board payment and full transit/BAT lanes. Metro initially said RapidRide would be like that. It got a Transit Now levy federal grant for the five initial likes that are running now. But Eyman’s initiative 695, which the court ruled unconstitutional but the legislature enacted its terms anyway, blew a hole in transit agencies’ funding across the state, and Metro had to use the Transit Now money to backfill existing service rather than all the RapidRide features. So we ended up with the quality of lines we have now, which in some places is not much better than regular bus service, hence poncho’s remarks. Some neighborhoods also resisted transit lames to preserve their precious parking.

        But RapidRide does have some definite advantages: it’s universally frequent through 10pm everywhere it runs, which doubled the evening/Sunday frequency in most areas. And ridership has gone way up affer an uneven start. The E is Metro’s busiest route, and the C and D have gotten the second- and third-largest ridership gains in Seattle. The A in Federal Way has been middling, while the B in Bellevue/Redmond and the F in Renton have been disappointing. But the suburbs love their RapidRides anyway; it’s just Seattle residents who are more demanding and find fault with it.

      4. The proper way to thing of Rapid Ride is a service that is able to carry more passengers than a typical local bus route, without running more slowly as a result of increased dwell times, due to those additional passengers getting on and off the bus.

        Normally, the way buses work, the more popular a route becomes, the slower it gets, as every bus stop has that much many more people trying to squeeze on and off. RideRide attempts to buck this trend by operating buses with three doors and more standing room than an ordinary bus, and also by allowing Orca passengers to enter through the rear door.

        Even with all that, the bus is still not any faster than an ordinary local bus carrying 1/2-1/3 the people. But it is definitely faster than a plain-old vanilla bus carrying the same load of people.

        Sort of like how transit does not really eliminate traffic congestion, but rather allows more people to get where they’re going with the same level of congestion, RapidRide does not really eliminate dwell times at bus stops (only an express service can do that), but, rather, allows more people to get where they’re going while experiencing the same level of bus stop dwell times as before.

      5. As an example of this, you can compare RapidRide here with a typical local bus route in a city like Houston. The Houston bus will probably average better miles per hour than the RideRide bus, while serving bus stops at about the same interval. But, it will be for all the wrong reasons. The Houston bus will move fast, in spite of zero priority treatments or other investments beyond basic buses and bus stops, because it will carry few riders, and blow by most of the bus stops without actually stopping, while, at the same, travel on wide, fast roads engineered for maximum car throughput, with only 1-2 stoplights per mile, rather than 3-4 stoplights per mile here. If somehow, enough people in Houston decided to suddenly stop driving that bus that the route there would get the passenger volume of RapidRide here, it would very quickly slow down to a crawl.

      6. BRT is an ambiguous term. Unless I really want to be ambiguous, I avoid it. People may have certain expectations, but those expectations are often wrong. The same is true for subways, unfortunately. I expect a subway, for example, to be fast and avoid traffic. But I would also expect the same thing with commuter rail. The difference is that I would expect a subway to have lots of stops inside the city. So is Seattle building a subway, or a very expensive version of commuter rail? Like BART, I would consider it a hybrid (and severely flawed as a result). But very few people call this a subway, anyway. They call it “light rail”. But that merely describes the trains themselves, and says nothing about the implied service. Streetcars (a loaded term) are often made up of light rail. Not our streetcars, mind you — they are too tiny.

        All of this is to say that when I am trying to be precise, I try and avoid those labels, and concentrate on what is really being offered. Off board payment, level boarding, grade separation (and how much) are really the key. Well, that and serving areas that deserve the extra cost of providing that.

    3. As far as maps go, do all Link stations have that? I know they have light rail maps, but what about the big regional transit maps that are common downtown? If they only list all the stops, then I would assume that it would lead to the same sort of frustration.

      For example, let’s say you are headed to Seattle U from Rainier Beach. You know that it is on First Hill, and that First Hill is east of downtown, but you don’t know much more than that. Should you take Link, and if so, where do you get off? If you look at a map like Oran’s (https://seattletransitmap.com/app/) it is pretty clear. You can get off at University and take the 2 up the hill, but it looks a lot easier to get off at Capitol Hill and then head south (by streetcar or on foot).

      This is why even if they had a list of stations, in might not have helped. You would have seen a bunch of numbers, and you would have to know that getting off at 45th means walking quite a ways. So, yes, those big transit maps are really nice, but that is true everywhere, not just by RapidRide stops. If you are at 45th and the Ave, for example, you have plenty of choices. You can take the frequent 49 that heads over to Capitol Hill. To get to the train, you need to take one of several buses (or walk a long ways). To get to Ballard, you want to take the 44, but if you are headed to lower Fremont (half way between) you are better off taking the 31 or 32. My point being that if I had to prioritize the location of those big signs, I would not give that much weight to whether the stop was on the RapidRide line or not. For some stops — as Mike explained, the RapidRide “stations”, not “stops” — I would certainly put them there. But other stops on a RapidRide line wouldn’t be a priority in my book.

      1. Link stations have a map of the immediate station area next to the wall schedule. It shows the bus stops and immediate routing but not where they go. There’s also an ST system map, which violates theprinciple of showing the most likely-wanted trip options rather a single agency’s service. If I’m at Othello I more likely want to know how to get to Seward Park or Graham than how to get to Puyallup on Sounder. So what’s missing is a larger 2-mile map. The Sounder info is a curiosity I might use someday, whereas the 2-mile circle addresses many people’s intermediate trips.

        Downtown bus stops mostly have a map of downtown routes. They sometimes have a list (not a map) of all the county/regional routes with number and neighborhood. Outside downtown, major Metro stops have a full system map or or a third of it. But no stop-area or 2-mile map.

        RapidRide stations usually have a map of that line. However, I looked downtown at 3rd & Pike and there’s no map. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a multi-line RapidRide map where multiple lines overlap, or even a separate map for each line side by side. Instead you have to get the schedule brochure in the bus.

      2. “If I’m at Othello I more likely want to know how to get to Seward Park or Graham…”

        … and what’s there when I get there. Where exactly is my destination? What’s in walking distance around it?

      3. Thanks Mike. It sounds like there is a mix of maps, some better than others. I do wonder if they are just going to fade away though, as people get more tied to their phone. It is a shame. A very large version of something like Oran’s map — but for the entire region — would be fantastic. More than once, while bored and waiting for my bus, I’ve “browsed” the big Metro map, looking at all the buses going everywhere.

        The great thing about his map is that it does answer that question (what’s there). How about Harborview, Virginia Mason and Swedish?. Yes, on the map. Even Swedish Cherry Hill? Yes. Every high school? Yep. What about universities, and community colleges? Of course. Parks? Oh yeah. Not just the big ones; but places like West Queen Anne Playfield, which is a tiny park that I used to play soccer at two or three times a week. Really, as silly as it seems to write, it is all there.

        If someone wants to fund a “Put Oran’s map at every bus stop ” kickstarter, count me in.

  8. This feels like a commercial for transit and land use planners in other cities to come to the Northwest and join our experent.

    If so, I welcome it.

    Sound Transit has their work cut out for them in hiring enough folks to make ST3 happen.

    1. Streetfilms is a group of transit/urbanist activists as far as I know, so they’re similar to us but with a different focus. They make videos of everywhere, showcasing urban streets. Local residents would notice that the interviewees are all politicians and agency heads and the leader of the largest and most businessy activist group. But that kind of relates to their goals of focusing on organized movements that are making things happen. By the way, it’s an honor if Streetfilms feels so positive about Seattle’s direction.

    2. Well NACTO was just here, and Urban Land Institute’s Spring Conference and the 25th Congress for the New Urbanism are coming this spring.

      Looks like they filmed a lot of this short film at NACTO including Scott Kubly handing the mayor Jan Gehl’s book.

    3. Congress of the New Urbanism? I’m going. If it’s not a thousand dollars or something.

    4. CNU 25.Seattle. “In Seattle, the future of transit in American cities is unfolding.” Hmm, similar theme as Streetfilms. Does that make you optimistic for other cities, or feeling like “Is this as good as it gets?” Haha.

      Cost $775 until March 31st. Hmm, maybe not, $125 for one day. But sometimes these things have an inexpensive or free Exhibition Hall pass. May 3-6, Benaroya Hall, Convention Center, Moore Theater, SAM.

      1. Ha, The thing reads like the beginning of Portlandia (The Dream of the 90’s is alive in Portland) .

      2. Now you just need a statue to serve as the name of a TV program on a cable channel nobody has ever heard of before.

        Pacific Leningrad or something, maybe?

  9. As of an hour ago: “Whew!” But question for next time- which will get more important the more trains, and passengers with International flights to catch, we operate:

    Why can’t the 97’s be in the DSTT? Know that joint-ops are temporary, but no proof anybody, like a Woolly Mammoth, knew exactly when the Pleistocene would end either.

    Wouldn’t bet against another day we can prove we really are at the top. Name me one other system in the world that can keep its main downtown subway running with buses when needed.

    Bet DC Metro and BART wish they could!


    1. “Why can’t the 97’s be in the DSTT?”

      Good question. Probably they planned the 97 assuming the tunnel would be closed when it was needed, and they’re not flexible enough to reroute it on the spot. Or maybe they just never thought of running it in the tunnel.

    2. Great point, Mark. As the system ages (and we get more, typical problems) it would be nice to have a backup.

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