“This agreement sets the stage for continuing Sound Transit’s fruitful partnership with Metro as Link continues to serve more riders,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We appreciate Metro’s readiness to partner with Sound Transit by controlling some costs immediately while pursuing further efficiencies going forward. The professionalism and commitment of Metro’s operators and leadership will continue helping to expand Link’s success in giving riders an alternative to ever-worsening traffic jams.”
A show of public hand-holding and kum-ba-yah singing caps a contentious month between the two agencies, as Sound Transit floated, then rescinded, a proposal to add supplemental bus service from private contractors.
Bus base capacity issue was a big topic during last month’s Sound Transit Rider Experience & Operations Committee meeting. Not only did numerous members of ATU 587 show up to protest the private operator proposal, but Sound Transit’s Brian de Place gave a presentation (starts at about the 1 hour mark here) on ST’s ongoing bus capacity challenges. The presentation had quite a few interesting details regarding the costs ST pays to various partner agencies. It also made the obvious but important point that, as congestion worsens, more buses are required to maintain the same headways.
A couple of slides in particular highlight ST’s conundrum (apologies for the quality of the screen caps). First, there is an acute need for bus capacity in the next couple of years:
After 2025, though, ST Express bus service could drop considerably as Link opens to Lynnwood and Redmond. The board, therefore, is hesitant to make long term commitments:
(Note that these hours are for ST Express bus service only, and don’t include Stride BRT on I-405 and SR-522, both of which will have dedicated funding streams as well as their own maintenance & storage facilities. Total ST bus service hours would remain in the 600k-800k range though 2040.)
Meanwhile, Metro is expanding base capacity as well, and the city of Seattle is buying as much service as it can. As CEO Rogoff said at the meeting, the region has a huge appetite for bus service and officials need to all work together to meet it, irrespective of what’s in various long-range plans.
The ST board indicated that it’s hoping to get a bigger picture, including the partner agencies, about regional bus needs over the next decade or so in order to help facilitate better planning. The fundamental issue remains: congestion is worsening and more buses are needed to maintain existing service levels. The only real way out is through capital spending, either through more base capacity, or, even better, more dedicated right-of-way.