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Hello STB readers. I realized that I have been posting on Page 2 for a couple months now, but I have never formally introduced myself to the STB community, so in this post I will talk a bit about myself. As some of you may have noticed, I usually post something every Thursday. This will be my last regular post on STB, and I will explain why in this post.

I first moved to Seattle in 2002 when I was really little (I’m 16 now). For many years my family did not have a car, so we depended on public transportation a lot. Because of that, I pretty much memorized the entire bus system in Seattle, at least within the city limits. I also payed a lot of attention to the type of bus I was on. I really liked the Breda trolleys because they gave a kind of “retro” feel that none of the other buses could give (except the MAN trolleys, but those were gone by 2007). I also liked the 30ft Gillig buses because those were extremely rare within the city limits. If there was anything I hated about the bus system then, it was the through-route system and the Ride Free Area, the latter of which is gone now. Though it may have been nice to not have to pay to take a bus within Downtown, it was awful to sometimes have to pay as I left the bus, especially because there were many people paying at the same time while a whole bunch of people were getting on the bus. I still hate the through-route system, though I understand Metro uses it to save service hours and layover space.

During my 10 years in Seattle I had always lived in Wallingford. At first I lived in an apartment between Stone Way and Aurora (which I can’t even remember), but later on I moved to a house east of Stone Way. The buses I took the most were the 16, 26, 30/31, 44, 48, 49, 70, 71/72/73, 15, and 8. When Link opened I took it to places in Southeast Seattle such as Kubota Gardens.

I have always been a big fan of nature. My favorite parks in Seattle were Carkeek Park and Kubota Gardens. I do not like crowded places, so I never really spent much time in Downtown unless I needed to. My favorite neighborhoods in Seattle are Wallingford, Fremont, and Capitol Hill because they have a lot of trees. My favorite part of the entire city is the path in Fremont along the canal. I used to ride my bike there a lot. I spent a lot of time in Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard, Capitol Hill, and U District.

As a southeast asian, I really like all kinds of asian food. This meant I had to go to the International District to buy ingredients. Though it may have been easy to get from Wallingford to the ID, it was more difficult to get back home due to the infrequent buses going to Wallingford. In fact, I found it more convenient to take the 71/72/73 expresses and transfer to the 30/31 in U District rather than to take the 7/14/36 and wait for the 16 or 26 on 3rd Ave. Now it should be easier with the frequent 62.

I moved to Chicago in 2012 (right before RapidRide C and D opened), and I soon memorized the bus system there too. I kind of forgot about the Seattle system. I live in Hyde Park, so I usually take the Metra train to Downtown Chicago. I find it convenient, but the train runs way too infrequently (hourly). I would say that Chicago has the most grid-like bus system I have ever seen, and I have found it very convenient. At some point I started writing a document full of suggestions on how to improve the Chicago public transportation system. I never really shared it with anyone other than a couple friends, but I still edit it nowadays. If you guys want me to post my Chicago suggestions on Page 2, tell me so in the comments.

In 2016 I visited Seattle. I was shocked by how much the bus system had changed. I looked online and noticed that there were 3 major restructures during the 4 years I was gone: September 2012, September 2014, and March 2016. I stayed near the U District during that visit, and I noticed that the only route in North Seattle that did not change in terms of routing was the 44 (now I realize there are a couple routes really far north that haven’t changed, but I never really pay attention to those). As much as I miss some of the old routes, I think the transit system in Seattle has improved a lot since the time I was there. I also like the development in South Lake Union; it used to be a whole bunch of random warehouses, but now there are nice buildings in that area.

I then started writing an improvement suggestions document for Seattle. I started sharing my ideas on Page 2 in March 2017. Since then, I have also modified my document according to what people comment on my posts. I have not found anything similar to STB for Chicago, but if such a thing exists, please tell me.

I will probably take a break from posting on Page 2 now since I have basically written every single idea I had on my Seattle document, and now I want to start posting a bit about Chicago. I might come back every now and then with a post. If there is no such thing as a Chicago Transit Blog, please give me advice on how I can start one.

11 Replies to “A Little Bit About Myself (Last Regular Post)”

  1. Thanks for this history and for your series of restructure proposals. Nobody has taken on the network so in-depth before with one-by-one articles on practically every route. I didn’t realize at first how significant it would be, and when I did I started thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But that happens so many times, other people have great ideas I never thought of, and it’s hard to believe we missed the hole beforehand.

    “I noticed that the only route in North Seattle that did not change in terms of routing was the 44 (now I realize there are a couple routes really far north that haven’t changed, but I never really pay attention to those)”

    I suppose that’s true over three restructures. I only think of one restructure or neighborhood at a time, and I’ve experienced more restructures over a longer period so it’s a continuous wave. I don’t remember whether the 75 stopped going to Ballard in 2012 or earlier, or when the 31/32 were created or the 30 stopped running on N 40th Street, it was just some time after I moved away from the U-District.and Ballard. I’m not sure which “really far north” routes you mean, but there’s also the peak expresses, everything from the 74 on north, although you categorically never covered any peak expresses if I recall.

    Oran has posted Metro’s 1984 system map, and that’s what I lived with from junior high through college. In 1990 the DSTT opened and the last incarnation of the 71/72/73X started and the Campus Parkway transfer point. That was the era of my first few jobs commuting from the northern U-District to the Licton Springs, the waterfront, Harborview, and Ballard. So there have been a lot of reorganizations and most of them have been for the better, and I wish it didn’t take so long to get them done. But the atmosphere really changed in 2014 with the discarding of 40/40/20, the adoption of Metro’s ridership+coverage performance metrics, and the recognition that the county could no longer afford to waste money on legacy routings that just one resident objected to changing. Also a recognition that RapidRide alone wasn’t going to solve everything and Metro needed to do more for other parts of the county.

    2014 wasn’t a normal restructure, it was a cut. The restructure part was a band-aid to make the network work around the cuts. It was part of a four-phase plan, only the first of which was implemented. So the fact that it was cuts and squeezing the remaining service hours distorted it compared to restructures without a cut. Although it did give Metro an excuse to delete zombie routes that had lingered because of that “one person objecting” threshhold and county councilmembers intervening to prevent them from being deleted before. Now Metro’s LRP proposed to reintroduce service with different routes, which may be more productive than the legacy routes were.

    I would like to hear about your Chicago analysis and ideas. I’ve been to Chicago a few times; it’s one of my favorite cities in the US, and I was thinking about moving there until the heat/cold/humidity and family ties made me decide to stay here. Chicago is wonderfully urbanist, with many of the benefits of New York without the high cost or or such long distance away. Most of my time has been around Clark Street between Fullerton and Lawrence Aves in the north side. The El is great although not crosstown. The buses are gridded and frequent and always busy, but quite slow. I’ve heard about Ashland BRT but haven’t seen the corridor. Likewise I’ve seen proposals to bring the El or Metra to more of the south side. I can’t believe there was a debate about which one would be better and more effective: of course the El would be better because it’s much more frequent and has a longer span. Better to be already getting off at your destination rather than waiting an hour for the next train.

    As to the lack of transit blogs in other cities, the only thing is to start one. STB was one of the early ones, and it was started to advocate for ST2, so it was motivated by a specific project but outgrew it. A transit blog is another of those things I thought, “Why didn’t I think of this?” But I underestimated the number of other people who care enough about the topic and really want a transit system robust enough that the majority don’t need cars.

    That’s another thing about Chicago you might write about. In New York and London the majority don’t own cars and you meet many people who personally don’t drive because transit is ubiquidous and comes every few minutes and the subways go almost everywhere. But in Chicago and San Francisco the percentage is lower and I meet a surprising number of people who drive in spite of the transit, even practically door-to-door between El stations or BART stations, even though they know where the train goes because they ride it sometimes. So Chicago has a larger gap than New York between its actual ridership and car ownership vs its potential. Why is that gap larger, and what can or should Chicago do about it?

    And what is Chicagoland’s suburban transit like? I know PACE runs all the transit in the western suburbs, and had transit centers at the westernmost El stations. I’ve also heard that transit exists going toward Chicago but is practically nonexistent crosstown between suburbs which forces people to drive. How does Chicagoland’s suburban transit compare to King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, but near and far from Metra stations? Are the northern and southern suburbs like the western ones? How much more advantaged is Evanston compared to other suburbs because it has some CTA service?

    1. Ashland BRT has not been implemented yet, but there has been an experimental with running peak expresses along Ashland. The city does not have the money for this project yet. There will also be a BRT along Western Ave, and there is also a peak express along Western. The local buses are slow because stops are every 1-2 blocks apart. I think this is excessive.

      There are multiple issues with rail transport in South Shore. People were probably debating about the type of service because the South Shore branch of the Metra Electric runs in the street median, similar to how Link runs in the median of MLK. To put an ‘L’ line on this corridor would require a complete rebuild of 71st St. The city has debated this for a long time, but there isn’t enough money for it yet. However, in the future, Lake Shore Drive along Lake Michigan will have to be rebuilt completely, and there is a plan to put an ‘L’ line in the median. I think that is a good idea. In the meantime, the city has implemented temporary solutions, such as the BRT-like service with the J14 and increased headways on the Metra trains.

      Evanston’s main advantage is the Purple Line. During off-peak hours it is just a shuttle between the city border and the northern part of Evanston, but it runs frequently enough that transferring to the Red Line or Downtown express buses is very simple. The local buses in Evanston really don’t do much, considering they are just very short shuttles to serve the Red Line and Northwestern University.

      Anyway, thanks for the suggestions on the Chicago Transit Blog. I will start one soon and notify people here about it.

    2. Chicago suburban transit, at least beyond the most inner ring suburbs, is awful – I grew up there, it was bad then, and doesn’t look like it’s improved much since I lived there. The only thing I’ll really give it is that the Metra trains are much more reliable than driving into the city, but the integration with the L isn’t particularly good, and there’s mostly a lack of non-peak feeder transit to the Metra stations in the outer suburbs. Cross-suburban traffic is pretty much not a thing – for example, I grew up in Buffalo Grove, but if I wanted to travel to Deerfield (the closest 7-day a week Metra station) on transit….nope. Weekday peak service only.

      The big issue is that once you leave the inner ring suburbs, auto-oriented development patterns dominate, even worse than Seattle. At least here there are mountains on one side and water on the other, acting as some sort of barrier to sprawl. Nothing like that exists in Chicago. Lake Michigan stops eastward expansion, but nothing stops the other three directions.

      Urban Chicago is a different story – since the city was about as big at the beginning of the automobile age as it does today, the city in general has much more residential density (keep in mind that it’s 4 times as large as Seattle). There are also no hills in Chicago, and the only natural barrier inside the city, the Chicago River, has plenty of crossings, so it mostly keeps a true grid pattern.

    1. … If you’re interested in doing more than one-man blogging, you should hook up with the various local transit advocacy groups which already exist in Chicago. There’s a “CTA Tattler” at Chicago Now who doesn’t write much any more (http://www.chicagonow.com/cta-tattler/)

      …there’s the Gray Line coalition…

      …there’s Streetsblog Chicago, which is a good place to connect with many of these people. They have meetups sometimes.

      There’s a bunch of transit advocates in Chicago you should really meet if you haven’t already!

      There is one really great website about the history of the L, chicago-l.org, which you’ve probably already found.

      You’ll find some long and dark history relating to the demolition of the Jackson Park branch of the Green Line.

      https://chicago.curbed.com/2017/7/11/15954158/chicago-petition-obama-library-jackson-park-green-line-cta

      And there’s a set of forums entirely about the CTA, as I just discovered: https://chitransit.org/ though they’re more railfans than advocates.

      1. The Gray Line Coalition is specifically advocating for “CTA frequency” Hyde Park – Loop Metra service, incidentally, which would benefit you directly.

        Chicago politics is dark and twisty, however, and for the last 20 years nobody has found the right pressure point to get it done.

      2. Gray line or silver line sounds familiar, so maybe it was Hyde Park I read about. Since I don’t know much about south or west Chicago I thought Hyde Park was one of the suburbs like Oak Park, but Google Maps says it’s between 51st and 59th streets off the lake shore, and that could be the area the article was referring to although I thought it was further south. I may have been there once; we took the Green Line out to somewhere near the end and walk east a half mile and found a university. I don’t know what university it was but it could have been the University of Chicago on Google Maps. But, that doesn’t square with the area not having rail service and wanting either L or Metra. So maybe the unfortunate trainless is further south. But gray line or silver line does sound familiar.

      3. @Mike Orr Yes, that is the Hyde Park I was talking about. I’m not entirely sure what “trainless area” you are talking about, but you might be referring to the Southwest Side. It has generally been underserved, but the CTA Orange Line opened in 1993. Currently the Orange Line ends at Midway Airport, but there are plans to extend it further south.

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