How’s the first PM commute with buses on surface streets?

50 Replies to “Seattle Squeeze Open Thread”

  1. My bike ride home is looking wetter than I’ve become accustomed to, but everything is otherwise copacetic.

  2. Sounds like all the doom and gloom of moving buses to the surface was yet again totally overblown. Ya, as of today is am 2720 SM away, but all the media outlets are quiet. Even the Seattle Times appears to be having a hard time finding something to wail about, and they will wail about anything.

    So far so good. How much better is the commute on Link right now?

    1. Link -> Sounder transfer is much less stressful with Link running on time instead of four minutes late. No more mad scramble to get from IDC across the Weller St bridge and on to the train in 3 minutes when the schedule says we should have 7.

  3. The conflict of turning vehicles on 5th and Marion resulted in backups. At approx. 1800, one bus per signal cycle was getting through.

    Perhaps a left turn restriction on SB 5th at Marion may facilitate better transit movement. SB left lane should probably end at Madison to mitigate the wonky SB left into EB right lane and NB buses going to the EB left lane.

    1. Good idea; make the cars turn at Cherry or James. They’re turning to get to the freeway, but the on-ramp is south of James.

      At the absolute least there should be a “NO LEFT ON RED” sign and a camera to enforce it. I expect that the cars just turn at will, stopping only when there’s someone in the north- or east-side cross-walk. That blocks the buses from crossing the solid line of waiting cars.

  4. Something that confused/surprised me is the schedule impact to the 550. Going to Bellevue Transit Center from Westlake Center is now notably faster to take the 271 > Link than the direct 550. Part of that is because the 550 now starts on Union (which makes transfers from the Streetcar or Monorail annoying) which is surprising to me. I was expecting the 550 to go to 9th Ave which is where the replacement Convention center stop was.

    1. I confirmed yesterday that, even on a Sunday morning, 271->Link beats the direct 550 for Bellevue Transit Center to 5th/Pine. The Sunday schedules are set up so that the 271 and 550 each leave Bellevue Transit Center at exactly the same time, allowing you to ride the 271, while following the 550 on OneBusAway. Last week, when the 550 was still in the tunnel, I tried the experiment, and the result was essentially a tie. Right as I was getting off the Link train at Westlake Station, I could see the 550 bus facing the other way (I guess, technically, the 550 won by a few seconds).

      I repeated it again this Sunday, with the 550 out of the tunnel, and made it to Westlake Station while OneBusAway indicated the 550 was busy slogging through stoplights around Pioneer Square. At one point, it looked hopeless, as I was still at the UW Station while the 550 was pulling into downtown. But, that is where Link works its magic. The 6 minutes it takes the 550 to wait at stoplights just around the International District (including the very long one to get off the freeway) is enough time for the Link train to get all the way from UW Station to Westlake, allowing the 271->train option to win easily.

      And, this was a Sunday morning. During rush hour, I would expect the time advantage of 271->Link to be much greater. Bellevue Way is often backed up, and the 550 has no bus lane, while the roads through Medina are likely free flowing. HOV lanes on the freeway are 3+ for 520, but only 2+ for I-90. The intermediate stops the 550 makes before getting on the freeway have a lot more activity than the 271’s intermediate stops. The 271 has a bus lane on the exit to Montlake, the 550 has no bus lane on the exit to downtown. On top of all this, the Montlake bridge is guaranteed not to open, and the Link trains are running every 6 minutes, vs. 10 on a weekend.

      1. I think the bus lane on the Montlake exit is going away within a few months once more construction starts in that area :( I wonder how much of a difference that will make. However, I think 271=>link will still at least beat the 550 when there’s a Mariners game in the evening on a weekday.

      2. Very interesting! I’ve always thought that the 550 would surely win on Sunday. Critical here though is the new bus lane on the Montlake exit. I think that was the last true holdout to the 271 winning across the board.

        The 271 also seems to have consistently better reverse-peak frequency than the 550 (the 550 reverse peak has a narrow window of 10 minute frequency, while the 271 has a more sustained 10ish minute frequency, even though there’s a few 11 minute trips thrown in).

      3. On a Sunday morning, the bus lane on the exit ramp makes zero difference – there’s just not much traffic, then. Weekdays, the loss of the bus lane would be a big deal, possibly enough to turn the 271/Link vs. 550 race into a coin flip.

    2. the slower trips of Route 550 should not be a surprise; they were self inflicted: ST East Link construction took the center roadway of I-90 and the D-2 Roadway; the sale of CPS and East Link construction took Route 550 from the DSTT. This will continue to 2023. to improve the Link and Route 271 connection, it would be good to run Link more often at off-peak times.

  5. I am happy to never again hear that automated voice say, “The train is being held due to traffic ahead. The train will be moving shortly. We apologize for the delay.”

    1. For the most part. I’ve heard that announcement going northbound out of Capitol Hill Station though, so clearly it’s not all because of bus traffic. I could see it happening when a 5pm southbound train accumulates delays in the RV. That’s where 4-car trains will really be helpful.

      1. ST won’t intentionally hold Link trains in the tunnels. So if there is a bus issue SB in the tunnel, and if they already have trains idling at UW because if it, then they will hold the NB at CH Station. They really have no choice, but all of this will improve with buses out of the DSTT.

  6. The turn from 1st on to Columbia was difficult for my operator, supposedly the first time she’d done it. Instead, we slogged to Marion and sat through a couple of light cycles. 3rd seemed more congested as usual with buses hitting the brakes a lot during their usual weave between passing and stopping lanes.

    1. Adding to this, my driver noted that the only training/tutorial they got was this past weekend, which involved a single bus tour of the new 5th/6th route (not actually driving the route, just riding along it). Unfortunately she was working when they had the tour, so today was her first day along the route as well.

      1. I believe this is fairly common. In an ideal situation you’d have one student and one instructor each drive the route. You can’t really send someone out alone in their own bus, because the whole point is that someone is showing you the ropes. So in a 1:1 configuration you have a bunch of people (being paid to) wait while another one drives it. And since SDOT was working on the lane almost a week before it opened, that leaves a small window where you need to get hundreds of operators in, many of which are part-timers that have schedule constraints.

  7. I miss going in the tunnel and being able to take the next available vehicle and almost never having to wait. Now with just Link you have to wait for its 10 minute mid day headways.

    1. Yeah, third is probably a better bet for this, though you can also check the Link schedule. 10 minute headways is actually very nice for remembering the schedule. For example, when I’m in Capitol Hill weekday evenings, I remember that the train comes on the “5”s (9:15, 9:25, 9:35, etc).

      1. They almost come too frequent on 3rd that you have to pick which staggered stop the bus will stop at… a diesel stop or a primarily trolley stop, then theres the blocks with no stops.

      2. With the advent of OneBusAway, I generally don’t try to memorize schedules anymore. I just pull out the app on my phone and it tells me how long I should expect to wait.

    2. Third is much better for nearly any trip that a bus between tunnel stations would have handled before last weekend, with the exceptions being the Westlake area east of 5th or – until you know which routes you can catch – ID Station/King Street Station (why the D doesn’t go all the way there is odd). It’s so much easier to not go down into the tunnel and just catch pretty much any bus that comes by, which most of the day is a matter of waiting a minute or so.

      I used to do the tunnel thing when I was working NE of Westlake and needed to go elsewhere downtown, but with Third going bus-only it’s really not a big deal. Can’t imagine why anyone would take a local downtown trip in the tunnel any more (except as previously noted).

  8. The 150 from Fifth and Union (Metro calls it Sixth and Union but the stop is in front of the Specialtys on the corner of Fifth) was prompt and, as the start of the run, empty. The ride down Union and then to the bus lane on Second was fast and, had I not wanted to test the entire run, it would have been very fast (faster than walking to the University St. station and then taking Link and then exiting at IDS and crossing the notorious Haller St. crossswalk) to get to Second and Jackson, where I could have jumped on Sounder.

  9. Off-board payment was not implemented at 3rd & Pine northbound at 10am. An ORCA reader was installed there a week or two ago in the previously-empty holder, but it still had a bag over it, and there was no boarding assistant. Are the boarding assistants supposed to be there all day or just rush hour? In any case, it only takes one person to take the hoods off the readers and turn them on.

    Also, when I took the 550 a week ago Saturday, there were two ST staff at the Westlake stop handing out a brochure with the new route map and making sure people understood where their best stop was. Metro had nothing like that. That could just reflect that ST has a higher-end budget than Metro, but maybe Metro should have stationed some customer-relations people for the biggest downtown restructure in a long time.

    1. The reader was active on Tuesday.

      There seem to be more buses late or with just “Scheduled Departure” on the display. I’m not sure if it’s a pattern yet.

  10. My commute time pretty much doubled on the 41. It takes 2.5x as long to get in and out of downtown since the 41 now exits at Stewart instead of Pine. It now gets stuck in gridlock trying to travel to/from 3rd. Intersections on the PM commute were jammed with cars blocking the bus lanes – it took a total of 55 mins for the 41 to get from 3rd/James to the freeway. It usually takes me ~45 mins to get home, yesterday it took 1.5 hours.

    1. Yikes, that flips my “fastest commute” option to cycling. 15 miles, from Shoreline. Hopefully, we will see adjustments and mitigations.

    2. Why would the 41s during rush hour use an SOV exit off I-5? Why not just copy the 522 routing into and out of downtown?

  11. The 70 was MUCH slower getting out of downtown at rush hour. It took around 25 minutes for it to go from 3rd to 8th Ave via Virginia. Gridlock was insane and cars were constantly blocking intersections. Hopefully some of the car commuters will change their ways. We desperately need more bus-only lanes and less street parking.

    1. We desperately need NG and East Link to open so we can reroute someone of these bus routes and convert them to feeders. Only then can we start to reduce the number of buses going downtown and start to reduce congestion.

      Congestion pricing downtown would also be a big help, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

      1. so, what is the cummulative travel time increase from the premature end to bus operations in the DSTT so that the convention center can expand on that particular block?

      2. Sounds as though we desperately need enforcement of existing traffic laws at these intersections, particularly where bus lanes are involved.

      3. The buses were leaving the tunnel this year anyway due to a maintenance turn track being installed south of Intl Dist that will somehow preclude buses from using the tunnel. The convention center construction merely advanced it by six months.

      4. So long as we have quality transfers, not like those bus-rail transfers at that garbage UW station. Look to Toronto or even Atlanta for a bus-rail transfer where the bus enters the fare paid zone of the station, now thats a transfer.

  12. I rode Link southbound end-to-end Sunday afternoon. It took roughly 37:15, 45 seconds faster than the schedule.

    The train didn’t dawdle at any station, including SeaTac Airport Station where the train used to have to sit for a full minute to make the round-trip schedule fit right.

    The parts that felt like they were forced to be slow were the minute of crawling leaving UW Station, slower than usual travel to Capitol Hill, slowness from Westlake to University Street, as if a driver new to operating Link were afraid of turning to fast, and the slowness approaching Angle Lake Station.

    Eeking out an extra minute of reduced travel time isn’t a big deal, but being able to pull a couple trains out of the peak loop is, so we can have all three-car trains to get through the summer while we await the more-standing-room interiors of the new Siemens LRVs. Getting those Siemens in service by next March should hopefully enable the SR 520 restructure to finally happen.

    Getting some into service before the 10 weeks of IDCS trackwork might help a little, in conjunction with express buses to TIBS, during those 10 weeks.

    I just hope WSDOT finds a way to preserve the queue jump shoulder lane at Montlake.

  13. What’s the status w/ route 76? N bound had a 40+ min gap during rush hour on Monday with no indication of delay in One Bus Away.

    TBH, route 76 should just go directly to UW link station from its last stop on Ravenna, instead of going downtown.

  14. For the 255, the morning commutes into the city have been fine for me, especially since I get out at the Yale stop. On the trip home yesterday evening (around 4:15) I ended up waiting 20 minutes for a bus at Boren and Olive, but three showed up in quick succession. The first was completely full, the second looked to have all of the seats full, but the 3rd was pretty empty. It will be interesting to see how this works out through the week, or if there will be regular bunching of the busses. As an aside, I do like the bus stop itself and its proximity to I5. Also, each of my three trips this week have been on a new bus, and it has felt like there haven’t been as many riders. I don’t know if we’re dispersing to different stops, or what.

  15. The bus stop at 2nd and Cherry now has over 20 buses yet no rain shelter. It’s counterintuitive for SDOT to promote public transit when bus takers aren’t protected from the rain in rainy city?

  16. I am curious whether or not the Convention Center Extension connects with the original complex. It looks like you would have to walk at least 2 blocks to get from one area to another. That would normally be fine if one of them wasn’t a freeway entrance.

  17. Why can’t all the buses avoid downtown Seattle all together? Have a bus depot in International district and another near UW, and have all city center users take the Link? Having all these buses who’s routes through town are similar seem redundant and makes all of them stuck together in traffic instead.

    1. I think that is what will eventually happen as more convenient light rail stations open up.The 73 I take used to go to the tunnel. Now it goes to Husky Stadium station. The 41 I also take will probably be truncated at Northgate if continued at all. I don’t know how the south end works, but I think they are trying to do some of the things you are thinking. But it will still be very slow.

    2. It’s a tradeoff, and Metro is planning that to some extent. It’s generally focusing on truncating all-day routes while keeping peak expresses until the Lin extensions open. So the 71. 72. and 73 were truncated or deleted in the U-District restructure, and the 255 will be truncated in the Eastside restructure this year or next year. the 106 was truncated to Rainier Beach, then re-extended to replace the 38 and part of the former 42, but even then it terminates at Intl Dist so it gets the Sam seal of approval. In other plans Metro has rerouted routes like the 66 and C to First Hill, Boren Avenue, or SLU, so that they go to an adjacent transit market. Some of these plans have been withdrawn, superceded, or not implemented yet, but we see the same pattern again and again so it must be a strategic decision by Metro. I would have expected peak expresses to be truncated first, but Metro’s reasoning is probably that it would get a lot more criticism and opposition if it truncated the peak routes, because time is money and commuters are concerned about time in the morning and many of them never take transit off peak so they don’t care about that.

      Also, Link is almost at capacity downtown peak hours so it can’t absorb many more busfuls of people, and ST doesn’t have any spare trains until the ST2 order comes in.

      Buses from the north can’t be truncated in SLU because they’d have to go through the congested Mercer Street exit, which is as bad as the downtown ones if not worse.

      1. @mike Orr,

        Yes, Link is almost at capacity peak right now, but that is a very short ter
        Issue. With buses out of the DSTT they *might* be able to squeeze a bit more capacity out of their fleet due to operational improvements, but it hardly matters long term. New rolling stock starts to arrive this summer, and after they clear the demonstration period the new LRV’s will make rapid improvements in capacity.

    3. Because walking a couple blocks to the station, getting two levels down into a tunnel, waiting for a train that only comes every 6-10 minutes, getting out the other tunnel, ascending two levels, and that walking a couple more blocks, is generally slower than walking?

      But just for good measure, lets make the bus connection at ID/CS as slow and painful as possible in mixed traffic, with fences blocking pedestrian access into downtown so you have to exit to the south, remove the crosswalks most of those pedestrians are likely to use, and move it a few blocks away from downtown so you have to catch one of three infrequent buses that aren’t timed to each other to get to ID/CS. Add art. Cut a ribbon in front of the cameras. Pose, and call it a transit investment for the neighborhood. Oh, and gate off the closest housing and build a police substation next to the only-allowed direction of egress. Have I missed any details?

      1. Oh, I forgot. The parking garage. Every station has to have a parking garage, and the garage needs priority over approaching buses, otherwise normal people will be stuck riding those increasingly infrequent milk runs because cars weren’t prioritized for station access.

        And neighborhood stations have to be underground. Otherwise, *those* people will find it too easily.

  18. This is a request grounded in ignorance–I have been trying to figure out where the various routes stops are on Third Avenue. I wrote to Metro and asked if there was a consolidated map or chart that I could consult. It seemed as if they could not understand my request. Their responses were basically–you can find out where your route stops by looking at the timetable map. But shouldn’t there be a map or chart displaying the stop locations?

Comments are closed.