With a fresh blanket of snow Christmas morning, even in the lowlands, it is a good time for a refresher on getting all the information you need to find your bus in a snowstorm.

First, since it is Christmas, most transit agencies are either running on a Sunday schedule, or off for the holiday, so be sure to check what schedule your agency is running on.

Metro has an adverse weather page which shows whether it is running on regular-scheduled routes or snow re-routes, for each part of the county. Each route map also shows a red-dashed snow route.

The best way to get the latest information on re-routes is to sign up for transit alerts. You can sign up to get alerts from Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, and Kitsap Transit.

Community Transit has the most technologically-advanced system for warning riders that buses will not be serving their stop during a snow re-route: stickers on the bus signs.

This is a Snowpen Thread. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, or just Blessed Be, and hope you had a safe and wonderful Solstice.

16 Replies to “Prepping for a White Christmas”

  1. Is the snow schedule a normal thing in the US? In my hometown Innsbruck all the lines climbing hills simply get chains, and the tail of our busiest line running articulated buses gets replaced with non-articulated ones and a transfer, but all stops are served, although there usually are some delays.

    1. It’s usually right at freezing like it is now, so the snow is wet like it’s about to melt and then it refreezes and turns into ice, and then more layers come on top of it and do the same thing, so the ice can be anywhere and cars skid in it. It’s especially prone on bridges and viaducts. Land use is probably less dense too so it’s starting from a lower-ridership base, so Metro has more incentive to combine routes and leave off the steepest tails, which may only get a few riders anyway as people stay indoors.

      In the past it was all done ad hoc and there were no predetermined snow routes or snow plows, and they didn’t salt the streets because salt kills the fish, and the city would just shut down for a week and people would go to work if they could or not if they couldn’t. As Chris I said, it only snows every few years and it lasts more than a couple days only every decade, and it’s been getting less often recently. But there was big political firestorm in 2008 I think over being shut-in for a week and the mayor was unelected and the next mayor got snowplows and salt, and announced which streets would be plowed, and Metro published a snow route schedule with routes on the plowed streets so that people would know ahead of time where the buses would be. They do have separate buses on the hilliest tails; they’re called shuttles in the schedule.

      The 62 is the most convoluted route. It splits into two parts at 15th NE, and the shuttle tail is very different from the regular route, a big one-way loop spanning Lake City to UW Station.

    2. It wasn’t that the city couldn’t afford snowplow s, it’s that they didn’t think it was worth the cost when it only snows a few days every few years. But that mindset changes with Amazon’s growth; people now felt the economic cost of people not being able to get to work was too much given the size our economy had become.

  2. Thank you Brent. Listen I am telling all my transit buddies of these continuing education opportunities:

    1) The great, highly accessible paperback & e-book about transit planning Human Transit is half-off with the code “ELON”. But only with the code ELON and only here: https://islandpress.org/books/human-transit, just enter the code ELON when you check out to get the special price of $17.50 for the paperback or e-book.

    I think with a five-year plan in the works for 2018, now’s a good time to get a copy and read it. I know I will be cracking open my copy and reading it again this week.

    2) Right now, a Trimet driver by the callsign of “Deke” has this great book out called, “Just Drive: Life in the Bus Lane”. If you want to understand what a transit operator goes through, read this book at $15 print and much less via Kindle: http://a.co/dC8Ahys

    3a) I was recently walking along the Seattle waterfront to check out Futurama Redux at the Center for Architecture & Design located at 1010 Western Avenue, Seattle. Ends February 17, 2018. Highly recommend walking through the exhibit to get some ideas about sustainability and such.

    3b) About a few blocks up the street at 1400 Western Ave is Friends of the Waterfront. Got to drop in there the same day, really nice exhibits about the Seattle Waterfront. Might get some ideas there too.


  3. @Chris, my transit agency replaces articulated coaches on it’s BRT line with standard ones. For other routes, it’s simply easier to detour and use flat roads than to deal with a plethora of stuck buses (and potential insurance issues after). Of course, all buses are chained up.

  4. For those interested in how King County Metro is coping today, or any day, I have created the King County Metro scanner. It records radio calls between operators, transit coordinators and supervisors.

    Also, I am looking for someone else to host it (just need power, Internet and the ability to forward two ports) as it is currently using a low-speed DSL connection.

    1. Riders and transit system alike can finally relax about passenger information. Will also give the public some badly-missing insight into the way our system works.

      Emphasis on the “our”. Giving us, probably first time in History, both means and duty to Make It So. You deserve a region-wide transit pass for life, Jason. Though I don’t think I ever did anything to deserve getting forced into Social Media!

      Also, glad I don’t even have to think about employee discipline measured by “Likes” and “Dislikes”. Or little pluses and minuses, and thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs. And afraid we’ll soon start to miss the days when Viral meant covering coughs.

      Also, ATU recording secretary is going to have to negotiate language forbidding “Passenger Relations Shaming!” Greatest present since I got that chrome plated Colt .45 cap gun where you put the cap inside the brass cartridge, set the bullet back into the cartridge, and rounds in five of six chambers.

      Though somebow don’t think today’s police would let me live to tell them all the bandits I was just about to get. Hope you make Supervisor real, real soon.


  5. Articulated buses were never designed to handle snow.Tire chains make forty footers reliable. But it’s infuriating that every single time it snows, the hundred percent reason every arterial and freeway is a wrecking yard is immovable cars.

    Tempting to give the Governor the authority to declare an emergency and make it against the law to abet a blockage by getting stuck. But our weather forecasts aren’t accurate enough to make that fair. So:

    When there’s any chance of paralyzing weather, order one lane closed to general traffic on every arterial, before morning rush or earlier. And restrict every freeway to transit and emergency vehicles only. Apps and social media, likely game changer.

    Considering cost of every clearance, rescue, and general waste of effort, I think the State would be money ahead by imposing emergency measures at slightest risk, and reimbursing employers for giving their people paid leave to stay home.

    Cafe’s and restaurants? Owners’ choice if they want to stay open. In city neighborhoods, I think residents would love it, and espresso places would attract customers who’ll be back in good weather too. If it doesn’t snow, compared to usual disaster what’s to lose?

    But best countermeasure is every single improvement to transit in general. Goal should be a regional system that can turn a blizzard into a widespread Christmas party. Our Scandinavian heritage should make it religiously ok to call it “Jul” pronounced Yule. Means “Wheel”, for seasonal cycle. Like Hannukah, real purpose is God’s way to get kids their presents.

    Wish I lived closer to LINK right now.


  6. Why does Metro’s alerts page say “Route 40 does not have pre-planned snow routing,” when its route map clearly does show a snow route?

    1. Did the 40 used to use Northgate and 5th to get the transit center? The only portion of 40’s regular route that differs from the snow route is the portion on College Way and 92nd, so it could be that they forgot to update their alert system to take that into account.

      When the 31/32 were on snow route back in January, the alert said they would be missing their stops on NE 40th St between Stone and Wallingford, which they hadn’t served for nine months due to the restructure the previous year. When I contacted Metro about it, they said they had no automated way to reconcile their route maps and their alerts and had just missed that change.

  7. I rode into town from Renton on the 106, and the driver announced, “You know, I’m staying on Rainier Ave. the whole way.” She wasn’t kidding. Where she was supposed to turn on Henderson to follow Link on MLK, which is flat and is part of the designated snow route, she stayed in the right lane to keep going forward on Rainier. I quickly pulled the cord to get off and walk the few blocks to Link, even though staying on to Mt. Baker probably would have been faster. From Link I could see lots of people waiting for a bus that was not going to come for another half hour at least. Would it be that hard to program in a snow route navigation system to help drivers on rarely used emergency routes? Good help is so hard to find on Christmas Day.

    I took the 101 on the way home. It was still chained up, even though most of the road was bare. Part of the chain was loose, so almost the whole trip was accompanied by a very loud THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP! If you didn’t have a headache before riding, you had one later. Does Metro give authority for the drivers to remove the chains if conditions change, or do they leave them on for the few cases they still need them, such as pulling off the road into a stop?

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