Seattle’s Space Needle fireworkstransit service winds down around 1 AM on most nights. The evenings of July 4th and December 31st, with big crowds (drunkenly) watching late fireworks, are two nights where that seems less than adequate. Metro is typically reluctant to add additional trips that are hard to usefully publicize, and Sound Transit sticks to its required 4-hour Link maintenance window, even on special occasions.

Nevertheless, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove introduced legislation requiring King County to look into expanded Metro service on these nights. The bill (full text here) would require a report by June 1st, 2017 to discuss service options, peer agency comparisons, funding sources, and coordination opportunities.

The Council referred the bill to the Transportation, Economy, and Environment (TREE) committee, which will hold a hearing on March 7th. Full text of the bill below the jump.

                    WHEREAS, the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are holidays featuring fireworks displays and midnight celebrations which, by their very nature, result in large public gatherings in the late evening and early morning, and

WHEREAS, law enforcement agencies encourage celebrants to behave responsibly and provide increased enforcement of impaired driving statutes in support of the state’s Target Zero initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries, including those caused by impaired driving, and

WHEREAS, despite these efforts, the Washington State Patrol reports twenty-four driving under the influence (“DUI”) arrests in King County during the period December 31, 2016, through January 3, 2017, and thirty-two arrests for DUI December 31, 2015, through January 3, 2016; with two hundred fifteen arrests for DUI in a five-day period for the Fourth of July in 2015 and two hundred twenty-three arrests for DUI in a five-day period for the Fourth of July in 2016, and

WHEREAS, bus service to and from these gatherings is a means of assuring safe transportation for more attendees, and

WHEREAS, transit agencies in Chicago, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orange County (California), Portland (Oregon), San Francisco, San Jose and Vancouver (British Columbia) are among those providing free transit service on New Year’s Eve and early morning of New Year’s Day;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT MOVED by the Council of King County:

A.  Because of the benefits to public safety and personal mobility, King County Metro should explore options for providing free late-night service on the Fourth of July and the evening of New Year’s Eve and early morning of New Year’s Day.  King County Metro should explore partnerships to fund, promote and sustain the free late-night service.  King County Metro should also encourage other transit agencies in the central Puget Sound region to provide free late-night service on those holidays.

B.1.  The executive is requested to develop and transmit a report that identifies options for the provision of free late-night bus service on the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  The report shall include but not be limited to:

a.  analysis and a recommendation on options for extending service hours for these holidays on some or all bus routes in the Metro service network, including a methodology for identifying an appropriate level of extended service including number of routes, duration and provision of service throughout the county;

b.  a report on other transit agencies that provide free late-night service on New Year’s Eve and other holidays, including information on these agencies’ service planning, costs, and partnerships with public agencies and private firms;

c. analysis of costs, potential funding sources, and administrative or operational considerations that could affect the provision of free late-night service on those holidays;

d.  coordination with cities, Sound Transit, other transit agencies, law enforcement agencies and other public sector agencies including, but not limited to, planning, communications, staff support and cost sharing;

e.  coordination with private sector firms including but not limited to trade associations, the hospitality industry, the food and beverage industry, health care providers, transportation network companies, the American Automobile Association and local news media firms;

f.  a list of stakeholders consulted for the report, including but not limited to representatives from groups focused on low-income communities, racial equity, public health, cities, Sound Transit, other transit agencies, law enforcement agencies, trade associations, the hospitality industry, the food and beverage industry, health care providers, transportation network companies and the American Automobile Association.  The report shall explain how stakeholder consultation took into account geographic diversity throughout the county; and

g.  analysis of the role of technology in implementing these transit options for free late-night service on these holidays.

2.  The executive shall transmit the feasibility report, and a motion adopting the report by June 1, 2017, in the form of a paper original and an electronic copy to the clerk of the council, who shall retain the original and provide an electronic copy to all councilmembers, the council chief of staff, the policy staff director and the lead staff for the transportation, economy and environment committee, or its successor.

27 Replies to “Metro May Consider Later Service on Holidays”

  1. Extending service span on holidays like July 4th? Great idea.

    Doing it via a bill in the state legislature? OK I guess? Seems like a silly place where direct feedback to Metro seems to be the proper places to start discussion. I really don’t like the idea of codifying details like this into state law.

    1. Dave Upthegrove is a King County councilperson. This is being done at the county level, not state.

    2. It’s the County Council, not the State Legislature. i.e. the body that oversees King County Transit.

    3. I see, my bad. My point still stands. And to be clear, they aren’t legislating the operation in question, but they are legislating the study, which (as pointed out in a comment below) seems unnecessary, and seems to be lacking future direction unless they plan on expanding it to include provision of service.

      1. The bill hasn’t even been approved by its committee yet. passed yet. Maybe other councilmembers will also see it as overkill, and simply ask Metro to study it. Implementing the service requires identifying a funding source, which could be inside or outside Metro, and could require tradeoffs such as cutting other service, which in that case probably wouldn’t fly. After the study Metro can either go ahead on its own and do it, or if it doesn’t the council can keep asking Metro about it until it does, or pass other legislation to do it. But the study will give the concrete outline of a plan, which doesn’t exist at this point. If Metro does it, if it’s not small enough to be an “administrative action”, then it will come back to the council for approval anyway as service changes are.

      2. It’s called proper oversight of transit agencies. I think we’ve learned the past few years we can’t just shut up and drink the breastmilk when it comes to transit agencies, that some oversight is necessary.

        BTW, yes I am going a bit for shock value.

      3. I agree, Joe.

        But if the only way to keep accountability is through weird, backdoor channels like this, then why don’t we just have direct election of transit agency boards?

        Oh I forgot. That’s a bad thing because republicans support it.

      4. This is a directive to Metro from it’s governing body, the elected King County Council. These are the people who set its budget and approve its service guidelines. It’s their day job to run the county, and while it certainly isn’t the only thing they do, it’s a fairly important part of their responsibilities. \

        As others have pointed out numerous times, directly elected special purpose boards are a horrible idea. Not only does it make the ballot too long to reasonably expect an informed electorate, but it also leads to lots of planning in a vacuum. One needs only look at the Port of Seattle to see how bad things would be.

      5. Doesn’t Metro’s general manager report to the county council a few times a year? That would be ordinary oversight, and a natural place for the council to stress priorities like holiday night service, and ask how much progress Metro has made on them since the last time.

    4. The mere fact that this has to be legislated in any venue is a big problem. I suggests that there is an inability of senior transit management to either implement or have an interest in late holiday service. These kinds of additional special services would normally be handled administratively — like SeaFair or a Seahawks parade. So why is this a motion? What’s the back story? I see this as a potentially disturbing occurrence.

  2. If cities all over the world can figure this out, Metro and Sound Transit surely can as well. Reading the Urbanist’s article regarding ST’s reasoning, they really need to come up with something better than not being able to sacrifice 2 work windows per year then blaming Metro for “tunnel ops coordination” issues.

  3. The bill should have been to implement it, not to study this to death, to determine that this would be a great public benefit.

    1. That would be micromanaging Metro’s budget and imposing mandates without knowing the consequences, which Metro won’t know until it studies them, and the council doesn’t know because they’re not transit experts. The bill basically says “Do it” in a polite way while leaving leeway in case unexpected problems arise. And one study is not “studying to death”. Studying to death is a series of studies one after the other with no end in sight.

      1. The correct way to implement this would be

        WA Leg to Metro::What are your top 5 bus routes that originate from these 4th of July destinations and how much to add two or three, free late night runs to each route for that one evening, plus a small amount for advertising this extended, free service?

        Metro: These 5 routes and $X.

        WA Leg: OK, here’s $X to do a dry run on 4th of July, which is coming up too quickly to do a drawn out study. Also, New Years Eve is a little more complicated, so do a study on an optimal, late night network for NYE, include the results from the 4th of July dry run, come back to us with the study and funding needs and we’ll consider whether to give money to implement this for NYE.

        Metro: Peachy!

    2. Any time the county council intervenes in Metro operations, it carries the risk of port-barrel outcomes, supported by less research then Metro puts in before it forwards a proposal to the Executive and Council.

      I think the council is taking the right approach by asking Metro to fact-find, before taking final action. It sure beats going through the process of hiring a consultant (which also risks the appearance of paying off contributors).

      It’s also more transparent than having council lobby Metro outside of public view, such as happened to save paper transfers when the ORCA program was facing initial skepticism. The council should have put forth a resolution and put their votes on the public record.

  4. There are two issues here: the transit itself and whether it should be fare-free. Free service is not mentioned in the commentary but it’s all over the bill. I welcome the additional bus runs but I’m not so sure free is necessary. If free service is good on three days, then it’s also good on every day. and we should be discussing that more than making exceptions for certain days. Perhaps it could be marketed as a promotional “Intro to transit”. Also, when would the free period start? All day? At 9pm? After the regular runs end (which end at different times)?

    1. Free service after the 4th of July fireworks avoids bus gridlock when thousands of people are all trying to get home at once. A fireworks event draws a bunch of people who wouldn’t ordinarily ride transit, which, in turn, means that, without free fares, you end up with a lot of cash fumbling, slowing down the bus.

      Of course, offering free service without providing enough service to handle the demand is a recipe for angry people standing around, waiting for hours, eventually giving up, calling Uber, and paying 5x surge pricing.

    2. I’m fine with making broad exceptions, especially when most people know what day of the week it is. Why not Sundays and Holidays fare free?

  5. One clear benefit of this would be in suburbs like Federal Way, where (on the 4th of July for example), when the fireworks end at 11 (I think? Not totally sure), buses all stopped hours ago, and the particular flavor of “less service on holidays” Metro uses is Sunday service, which may be good for normal Sunday service (The span cutoff is still really rough though, I think hourly or two-hourly trips farther into the night are warranted), but horrible for a particular day where there will be lots of people potentially taking the bus at night.

    In the case of Federal Way, I could justify Metro having one trip of each route that leaves soon after the fireworks end, and leaving from Celebration Park instead of the transit center, i.e., they could have a 187, 181 west, 181 east, 903, 901, and 182 bus that does one run after fireworks. A-line transfers could be made from 181 east, and 183 doesn’t have Sunday service, so I guess it wouldn’t make sense to add that?
    This is one of the reasons that I think a decent span of service (even on Sundays) is much more important than frequency. Infrequent service makes trips inconvenient, while short-span service makes trips impossible.

      1. You are correct. Still too high in my opinion, especially when there are plenty of alternatives to driving.

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