In 2017, Metro began a pilot where it allowed employee shuttles from Microsoft and Seattle Children’s Hospital to use nine public bus stops scattered around Seattle, in exchange for a fee. Aside from money, sharing stops might improve inter-system transfers and foot traffic. But beyond global concerns about how the shuttles impact public transit ridership, the local concern is that shuttles might cause delays at these stops. A UW/UC Davis study used Metro’s real-time data to measure the impact of the pilot on reliability data six weeks before and after the pilot began.

You can see that none of these stops are particularly saturated to begin with:

The quickest summary is that shuttles didn’t make much of a difference at all. The raw on-time data suggest things got a bit worse, but that data did not control for other reliability issues. When the study applies those controls, the effect disappears. When the study applied advanced statistical techniques to individual stops, they found a small negative impact on Stop B. Notably, this stop has only one bus length of space.

The study recommends expanding the program at other “low volume” stops. It’s good news that sharing stops provides a few benefits without causing significant problems. But it’s intuitive that quiet stops could stand to take a few more buses. It would be far more interesting, if riskier, to try this out and some of the really busy stops in the system and understand what the limits of this program are.

19 Replies to “Study Finds Little Downside to Stop Sharing”

  1. It doesn’t seem like something that should take much study to find out. It seems like something that should always be fine given a set of requirements (e.g., max two shuttles per hour max), at least at low volume stops. Then the only unknown is the trustworthiness of the shuttle operator and exact timing.

    Where it would get interesting is with high volume stops, or if Metro requests shuttle operators to arrive halfway in between two metro buses.

    But when there are stops with 3 or 4 ten-minute frequency Metro routes that share stops, I think the fact that when you take a stop with a single frequent route and add a few buses per day, and reliability doesn’t change much, that is not rocket science.

  2. Two points.

    1, Single studies are wrong half the time. Don’t believe me? Bing it.

    2, Also look up why bus bunching happens. The smallest delay can cause it to happen.

    “But Sam, this study showed no evidence of Metro bus bunching from stop sharing!”

    See point 1.

  3. Couldn’t resist the image I Iinked, Sam. But the problem isn’t statistical research accuracy. It’s that in 12 days, Metro will have spent 28 years using its experience with the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to establish beyond doubt the definition of the term “acceptable on-time performance.”

    But politically now, strong chance shared-stop plan could really get us a whole space-time-warped future full of ST’s. Fifty years ago, the Washington DC police parked the whole city fleet bumper to bumper so a night-long tear gas barrage could be just driven into the base overnight and saved ’til sunset.

    Flash ahead to – hey, this November!- we can update the tactic by putting a joint-use zone wherever the Guard needs the barricade to start. The natural workings of the mechanism will automatically keep these wheeled-shields moving at the regulation tenth of a mile an hour, SDOT approved for max blockage.

    We’ll lie and tell the Feds it’s dirty diesel. And prove those Boeing Vertol cars weren’t really billed to the Department of Defense!

    Mark

  4. Reading between the lines, it sounds like they don’t have any direct data, so they’re relying on indirect data (has the on-time percentage changed, and can that change be explained by other factors, such as worsening traffic, which affect other routes without private shuttles sharing the same stops).

    Of course, if the shuttles run much less frequently than the buses, the percentage of buses impacted is, by definition small. But, that doesn’t mean that the shuttles aren’t having an impact which would increase to something noticeable if the number of shuttles were to increase.

    The easiest way to measure the real impact would be to have the driver press a button when he gets delayed by a private shuttle blocking a stop, and count the number of times the button is pressed. It sounds like they can’t do this, so they’re relying on whatever indirect data happens to already be collected, instead.

    1. Good point. Sometimes people study things in a round about way, and this seems like a good example. My guess is they never talked to the drivers, preferring to study the issue in the abstract (as you would with traffic). You could even just interview the drivers after the fact. Sure, that is anecdotal (asking them to remember if they were delayed that day) but it is probably more accurate than this. It is also very simple (one question, not a big survey to fill out).

  5. IIRC, the “Google Bus” managed to tick off MUNI riders in SF, leading to delays in MUNI (and people complaining that the Google wifi was so powerful it disrupted neighborhood wifi use. It would be interesting if they tried it on the 15X stop at 15th and Market (where there is a potential of 3 bus stacks of D, 15X, and whatever shuttle) or near Market and Leary.

    1. Some aspects of that protest were unique to San Francisco, and unique to SF/Oakland’s leftist/protest culture. It has to do with how San Francisco sees itself, and the almost complete obliteration of the San Francisco dream (which meant a lot of different things). It had to do with Mark Zuckerberg buying a multimillion-dollar house in the Mission. If Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos bought a house in Seattle, there might be some mutterings but not nearly that level. (Where does Bezos live anyway? I’m just stunned because when I looked at moving to SF in the late 90s the tech companies were just starting to move into lofts and the situation was completely different. I haven’t seen the Google vans so I don’t know how much they disrupted MUNI’s service. But I haven’t really seen any disruption here with the Seattle tech shuttles. It will have to be evaluated on a stop-by-stop basis.

      1. They used the same stops (and IIRC, they paid very little for the use of the stops because the law did not contemplate another service).

  6. If private, company shuttles are given permission to use public bus stops, they should be required to have the the companies logo displayed for whom they are contracted to.

    Both Microsoft and Children’s have their logos on their buses and subsequently seem to have good drivers. Compare to Amazon’s plain white shuttles, which tend to be driven without any regard to other people and basic traffic laws.

    The logos will at least make it easier to lodge complaints or keep track of which company’s shuttles are abusing the bus stops.

    1. Is that who those white shuttles are. I used to see them at Convention Place and they listed several stops but Convention Place was the only one I recognized. I assumed they were another biotech thing like Childrens’ shuttles.

      1. On Pine, across from the Paramount? Those are currently MV+ Transportation private charters. They’re likely parking shuttles as the local community had to run Masterpark and SP+ out of the exact same spot. We’re tired of all the private charters illegally stopping/parking in the area.

      2. Yes, I think it said something like MV, which meant nothing to me. So they’re parking shuttles for some number of businesses in the Pike/Pine-Denny Triangle area? What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it better than more garages and cars in the Pike/Pine-Stewart-Bell area?

  7. Response to Mike Orr (maximum replies reached?) What’s wrong with that? The lane they’re using as a bus stop and layover zone is a combo bus lane and bike lane, marked No Parking Will Be Towed. They’re committing a criminal act. Seems pretty wrong to me, putting business in front of mass transit, bike transit, the law, and public safety (increased potential to hit a bicyclist).

    1. The only public concern I see is if they slow down the buses. As to “No Parking”, loading/unloading passengers is not parking. They shouldn’t be in the zone when a bus is there, but if they can go in between the buses without getting in their way (a big if, of course), it’s not necessarily a moral problem or a legal problem.

      1. Loading/unloading in a No Parking zone is considered obstruction of traffic, and is also a misdemeanor. It is also a moving violation, and higher level offense.

        It is most definitely a legal problem. 100%.

        I’m curious about this whole “as I see” thing. What makes you put your opinion ahead of the RCW? That seems incredibly antisocial, egotistical, and detrimental to the community, does it not?

      2. The bike lane thing gives you no concern at all, apparently, as you didn’t reply to it. Cyclists know they have to deal with Metro/ST buses and plan for it. These vans (often also seen sticking two feet into the Sixth Avenue bike lane, where the rent-a-cops directing traffic out of the Amazon parking lots don’t give them a second glance) are not a hazard we should have to deal with.

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