Just in time for you to vote on gutting it via I-976, the Seattle Transportation Benefit District issued its fourth Annual Report on what it’s doing with your $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax. It’s long but there are lots of pretty graphs. Some takeaways:

More bus service

The percentage of households within a 10-minute walk of “very frequent transit” has grown from 25% to 70% since 2015, well on the way to the 2025 goal of 72%. (More housing construction in frequent transit corridors, as well as U-Link and its associated restructure, have also undoubtedly helped).


Impressively, a sixth of households can walk to 2 or 3 very frequent routes, and 12.8% can walk to four or more. From five very frequent routes in 2015, Seattle is now up to eleven. It’s not hard to see how Seattle has bucked national ridership trends.

79% of the cumulative STBD budget has paid for more bus service. A small fraction of this pot went to Ride2 and Via shuttles, Trailhead Direct, the Downtown Circulator, and (with matching funds) Route 630 to Mercer Island.

Equity and access

The second largest block of appropriations (7% of the cumulative budget) has gone to getting ORCA cards in the hands of people. About 2/3 of this is the “ORCA opportunity” program that issues cards to public school students, and the remainder funds a variety of outreach programs.

Capital projects

When Metro didn’t have the bus base capacity to provide all the buses Seattle wanted to buy, the Council authorized STBD spending on speed, reliability, and safety projects. From nothing through 2018, STBD capital spending has climbed to a little over 10% of the 2020 budget. Some of SDOT’s transit spot improvements (painting bus lanes red, plus more measurable improvements) are funded this way.

The report is not clear about how much matching funds were necessary to supplement the $6.6m allocation in 2019. The 22 projects this year for which the STBD gets partial credit are welcome and cost-effective, even if they’re small-ball.

2020 and beyond

The program has an $77m budget in 2020, partially thanks to accumulated reserves from previous years. $55m funds service on traditional Seattle routes, a steep jump from $44m in 2019. $10m is for capital projects, student ORCA cards and Via/Ride2 are each $4m, and all the other programs and administrative costs compose the remainder.

Reassuringly, the STBD should exit 2020 with about $23m in funds remaining. This opens up some options for renewal. There is a timing problem in that everyone would prefer a county-wide measure, which needs the strongest possible electoral tailwinds in November 2020 to pass. Were such a measure to fail, the reserve would allow Seattle to fund service through the March service change and student ORCA passes through the end of the school year. In theory, a city measure in early 2020 could pick up the baton. Leaders at both levels haven’t decided much about the strategy here, but budget decisions are happening now that create relatively painless options next winter.

Unless, of course, I-976 passes.

56 Replies to “Seattle TBD Annual Report”

  1. The budget is listed on page 21. For 2019, about $30 comes from the sales tax, and $24 million from the car tabs. About $27 million is from “Prior Year Fund Balance Forward”. The plan for 2020 is similar.

    If I-976 passes, it will likely be dragged through the courts. What is the worse case scenario here? It survives a court challenge, and then we lose some of the money for 2020, right? What if you pay tabs in January, and then the court finally approves the law in June? Would people get refunds? Also, I-976 doesn’t eliminate car tabs — they would be set to $30. Who decides what portion of the funds goes to what agency? In other words, how much of that $30 does STBD get?

    Then there is the carryover. If Seattle (or the county) approves a new bill next year, couldn’t they start spending the money immediately? Even just the carryover would be enough to deal with the gap (and that assumes they get nothing from the car tabs at all in 2020).

    I guess the point I’m making is that I-976 would be terrible, but it looks like STBD would be OK. But I’m mostly asking questions here.

    1. I think the entire $30 would go to the state. Seattle TBD would get nothing. I-976 specifically revokes the authority of the city to collect car tab fees.

      If I976 we’re to pass, I think Seattle’s best option would be to kill the downtown streetcar and make up the rest of the shortfall by taxing rides on Uber and Lyft in the city. Given the shear number of rides 91,000 per day in Q2 2018), the per ride tax wouldn’t have to be much.

      But, I would not assume that the city would actually do this, and Uber and Lyft would probably fight it. For now, we have to assume that if I976 passes, half the service frequency improvements within Seattle since 2015 get rolled back.

      1. But Seattle could just raise the sales tax, so that instead of (almost) half the money being from car tabs, and the rest from a sales tax, it would all be from the sales tax. The carryover exceeds the expected revenue from car tabs, so (from what I can tell) it wouldn’t miss a beat as long as the new proposal has adequate taxing and passes.

      2. I didn’t realize Seattle had any legal room to raise the sales tax. I thought it was already at the statutory limit.

      3. I don’t know if they can raise it. I don’t know what the limit is. Shoreline’s is higher though (by a tenth of a percent) so I think they could raise it.

      4. Is the CCC streetcar even part of ST3 and in line for car tab fees? I would eliminate the Ballard station if anything, this would have a definite alleviation affect on stretched drivers, and would eliminate the need to fee them to death.

      5. The CCC is not part of ST3 and construction is unfunded, so we don’t know what future tax it might come from. There may be some STBD money funding planning and that may come from MVET. If so it’s probably not much money because there’s not much happening with the streetcar right now. It was suspended for several months to review its budget, and right now it’s waiting for the city to identify grants and other construction funding.

      6. No, the streetcar isn’t part of ST3. We are talking about Seattle now.

        But it is interesting that you would eliminate the most cost effective part of ST3 if we ran into trouble.

      7. Not a lot of ST3 to remove for Snohomish, Piece and East King areas (maybe BRT or Issaquah would leave East King with something). Continuing with WS, DT and Interbay keeps some equity for the remainder of King. Roll all of Ballard into ST4. Bridge/tunneling and station to Ballard should save at least a cool billion. This will soften the tab blow big time and still leave some semblance of equity.

      8. The CCC is not part of sound transit. It’s a Seattle project, which Durkin proposes to fund with Uber and Lyft taxes.

        If I976 passes and the sales tax cannot be raised to compensate, the city can and should redirect the streetcar money into the Seattle TBD, and use it to keep that buses running. It would not be enough by itself, but it would go along way.

        Again, though, we cannot depend on the city to do this. The natural course of action that would result from inertia would be to continue to fund the downtown streetcar while bus service is being gutted, because of the way the various siloed budgets happen to work out.

      9. If I-976 passes and is upheld, I think we can make a case that our extremely limited tax authority needs to go to operations first. Frequent bus routes help a large percent of the city’s population and neighborhoods. The CCC helps a narrow group of people in First Avenue. And even though that consists partly of money-spending tourists, we need to prioritize basic service for residents first.

        In the late and early 00s, Seattle had a handful of all-day frequent routes. Everything else was 30 minutes all day, including the 8 and 11. 30-minute evening dropoffs included the ancestors of the C, D, E, 5, 40, 49, etc. Meanwhile in San Francisco hardly any route came less than 20 minutes, and many came every 10-15 minutes. Chicago too most north side routes come every 5-10 minutes daytime and 30 minutes evenings. Both cities have half-hourly night owls spaced a mile parallel. Seattle now only partly has what these cities had twenty years ago and SF at least had thirty years ago. Room for improvement.

      10. @les — It is clear you still don’t get it. Generally speaking, ST3 was an extremely wasteful proposal. Enormous sums are to be spent moving very few people (https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/). If you look at cost per rider (on any of those charts) Ballard to downtown is by far the best project. It has the lowest subsidized cost, which makes it the most cost effective. Some of the other small projects are pretty good via other metrics, but Ballard to downtown still ends up close to the top. If they bothered to measure time saved per rider, my guess is Ballard to downtown would still perform very well. Not because it is especially great (Ballard to UW is much better, a Metro 8 subway is much better) but because none of the other projects are especially great. A subway to Tacoma will cost a bundle, won’t have that many riders, and not save those riders that much time over what they have today (commuter rail and express bus service).

        As far as potential cuts go, I think that requires a little bit of creativity. It is clear that some projects are better than others, but some projects could be scaled back (for now), which is what you are suggesting. With that in mind, my (educated) guess is this would be the best option for cuts (in order):

        1) Sounder to Dupont
        2) Issaquah to Eastgate
        3) South Kirkland to Bellevue
        4) Eastgate to Bellevue
        5) Federal Way to Tacoma
        6) Lynnwood to Everett
        7) I-405 BRT (each half is about the same, from what I can tell)
        8) Boeing Access Road Station
        9) West Seattle Link
        10) Tacoma Link (not to be confused with Link to Tacoma)
        11) Redmond extension
        12) Kent to Federal Way
        13) Graham Street Station
        14) Lower Queen Anne to Ballard
        15) Westlake to Lower Queen Anne

        So removing the Ballard station wouldn’t be the last thing I would do — only the second to last. For the most part that is just following the numbers (i. e. the science) but of course that is consistent with every transit system in the world. Density + Proximity = Ridership. I did jump Redmond a bit ahead of its numbers, mainly because I think it will do well in terms of time saved per rider, even if it doesn’t do as well in cost per rider. Of course, by either metric it is nowhere near West Seattle Link, which lags Ballard Link by a huge margin. Yet that Redmond extension towers above many of the other projects, like light rail to Issaquah.

      11. I believe the ST3 measure specifically states that parking garages should be cut first. I would imagine East Link garages would be completed as the work is underway, but delaying parking structures on Lynwood, FW, and Redmond should provide short term capacity to keep things on track before going to the voters for additional funding to keep ST3 on schedule.

      12. @RossB – you’re assuming that if money is tight, the decision on what to cut will be made to prioritize ridership. The actual prioritization is what gets the most votes on a suburban dominated board. I would not at all be surprised to see the spine preserved at all costs, while the Ballard line is truncated at Interbay, with the Ballard station, itself, deferred indefinitely.

      13. I would simply point out that some projects can be built much cheaper if it came to that:

        – Subway sections can be changed to aerial or surface-running, like running through Lower Queen Anne.

        – Outer extremity projects like Federal Way to Tacoma orLynnwood to Everett or East Main to Issaquah can be operated with more single-track sections or self-propelled trains.

        – Stations can be funded by development fees for new construction near each station.

        – Parking garages can be built by the private sector and parking fees can make it profitable.

        Surely the merits of scaling back or dropping a particular project requires a case-by-case assessment but there are ways to reduce costs available.

        Let’s hope the initiative doesn’t pass! If it does, I think we need to give up on our current frustrating and individual-agency funding processes and look to reform how we develop transportation project funding generally. I’d really like to see funding agencies being linked to systems planning agencies — and not to individual building-operating agencies who have their own shopping list. The countywide transportation funding system in California is a good model for that.

      14. “I believe the ST3 measure specifically states that parking garages should be cut first”

        I forgot about that. Wasn’t it a post-ST3 state law rather than part of ST3? I remember the debate but not who enacted it or when. That would come in handy if significant cuts are required. And the pro-garage interests thought it would never happen. They might even vote for i-976 to make it cheaper to drive to the P&R without realizing it would take away their P&R expansions.

      15. @Mike Orr
        “I believe the ST3 measure specifically states that parking garages should be cut first”

        “I forgot about that. Wasn’t it a post-ST3 state law rather than part of ST3?”

        I believe you’re thinking of SB 5955 which was introduced in the 2017 session and then reintroduced in 2018. There was such a provision in the earlier version of the bill but that was stripped out in the subsequent substitute bill. Nevertheless, the bill ultimately died at the conclusion of the 2018 cycle. Fwiw, it read as follows (New Sec. 2, (5)(b)):

        (b) If, when implementing the program, the authority is not ableto deliver projects according to the system and financing plan approved by the authority’s voters in 2016, the authority must identify savings and cost reductions in the following priority order: First, from parking facility projects; second, from commuter rail projects; third, from transit bus-related projects; and fourth, from light rail projects.”

        As far as I know this sort of provision has yet to be legislated, but I may be mistaken on that as there have been multiple bills over the last few years addressing the MVET issue (none surviving however). Perhaps Brent can chime in here as I believe he has reported on these measures previously.

      16. @RossB Regarding your list of projects above, I tend to agree with asdf2’s reply, meaning that I wouldn’t expect Link from Lynnwood to Everett (#6) and Link from Federal Way to Tacoma to be substantially delayed. I think there will be an enormous amount of political pressure to complete the stupid spine in the third phase as planned. (Fwiw, I do understand the point you’re making with the list you’ve compiled as well as the methodology you employed in the process. I found it to be a worthwhile exercise nevertheless.)

      17. Cuts would have to adhere to subarea equity so the results would be different in different subareas. North King has few P&Rs and modest expectations for them, while the other areas have a substantially larger share of their projects in large P&Rs. Northgate P&R is mandatory because part of it is actually owned by the mall and ST must replace the spaces it took for construction. Snohomish is so eager for its Link extensions that it might be willing to defer garage expansions. Pierce is keen on its Link extension too but I’m less sure how it would play out because both Link and Tacoma Dome parking are more peripheral to the county.

    2. In my opinion, the worst case scenario for I-976 is:
      1. It passes.
      2. It gets overturned in Court.
      3. The state legislature wusses out & enacts a law that essentially passes it all over again.

      Certainly that’s the scenario that would piss me off the most.

      1. The legislature did roll over in the 1990s but that was a different era, and the tax-slashing movement was in its initial ascendancy rather than at a mixed plateau as it is now. Now legislature would probably push back on enacting it verbatim and gutting its highway/ferry funds, but it might make limited changes to reduce MVET bills somewhat, and get on with fully implementing the lower valuation schedule.

        In the 1990s it was assumed to be part of a revolutionary wave that would sweep away all legislators who didn’t drastically cap the budget and pledge “No new taxes”, and the public didn’t have experience with what the loss of services would mean, and traffic wasn’t as bad and housing everywhere was affordable. Now the tax-slashers look like extreme cranks and the state realizes it has essential services to provide, and a 1980s level of transit isn’t going to cut it.

      2. Agreed — it also seems like the most realistic “worst case”. I’m not a lawyer (but my mom was, my kid is) but it sure it looks like the initiative will get overturned. I don’t think Eyman cares. He is more about “sending a message” (and collecting his fees).

        I do think that even that worse case wouldn’t necessarily screw up every transit agency. There are parts of this that are quite reasonable (I think it is crap that hybrid owners are paying for charging stations they can never use). I think there are other parts that will simply become part of any proposal in the future. For example, if you pass a car tab tax, it has to be based on blue book. I think it is quite possible that any change *to existing* taxation will have to come with some other funding elsewhere, otherwise, it will be vetoed (and not overridden).

  2. I am confused about the definition of Very Frequent Transit. For example, I live in the area of southeast Ballard shaded blue indicating that we have Very Frequent Transit, pretty close to the 40 and 28 bus routes, but none of the buses in my neighborhood are scheduled to come every 10 minutes during the day. During rush hour, yes, but otherwise the 40 is scheduled every 15 and the 28 is scheduled every 30 minutes. Does anyone here understand their definition?

    1. Good point. It specifically mentions the 40 as running every ten minutes (along with the 44, 48, etc.). But unlike those other buses, it doesn’t come every ten minutes in the middle of the day. The previous chart clearly indicates that ten minute service from 6 AM to 7 PM is what they mean by “Very Frequent” as well as “ten minute service”. Yet the 40 doesn’t do that. It does get close (somewhere around 12 or 13 minutes) but that isn’t the same thing. My guess is they messed up. Maybe they glanced at the route, knowing it got better service, and didn’t realize it wasn’t quite at ten minutes yet. Or maybe they intended to give it a bit more service and put it elsewhere. Or maybe it is coming later, and got their timing wrong.

      What is clear, though, is that the report is wrong (for the 40).

      1. Per my understanding, they count a route as ‘very frequent’ if it has 78 buses during 6A-7P time window( 13hrs x 6 buses/hr) which 40 has.

        While technically correct, it might be misleading.

      2. Yes, the 40 is scheduled every 12 minutes for some of the day and every 15 for some of the day, and it’s nominally every 6 minutes during rush hour, so I guess it might average to every 10 minutes. It makes me wonder if this discrepancy (their report showing conditions as slightly better than reality) is typical of the rest of the city, or if this was a special case.

      3. It looks like the 120 is in the same category.

        I do think it is misleading, though. They even have a chart (reproduced here) which is pretty clear. I wouldn’t expect a “very frequent” bus to run that often on weekends, but during the day on weekdays, I expect it to have “ten minute headways” as the chart says. Averaging in rush hour service could lead to a lot of bus routes being in this category, even if they aren’t that frequent during the day.

        You also have the opposite problem. There are buses that are very frequent, even though they don’t quite make the cut. For example, they specifically call out the 41 for having very frequent service to Northgate, not all the way to Lake City. Fair enough, but in the middle of the day, its service is very similar to the 40, if not better. It is just that during rush hour, it doesn’t run especially often from Lake City (while the shortened version from Northgate does).

        I would rather focus on the minimal level of service, rather than the average throughout the day, since that is a lot more important. On the other hand, I think there is a danger in focusing on arbitrary standards (e. g. ten minutes) as opposed to what matters. If a bus comes every 12 minutes for an hour or two, it isn’t the end of the world — and still better than every 15, 20 or 30. I fear that some of these arbitrary standards can result in less than optimum service. For example, the 75 and 65 both go from Lake City to the U-District. Neither route is much stronger than the other. But the 75 runs ever 15 minutes, and the 65 runs every 10. That allows the city to trumpet the 65 as being another “Very Frequent” route, even though the area would probably be better off with 12 minute service on both buses, especially if they were timed.

      4. 12 minutes seems to mean “We wanted 10 minutes but the budget wouldn’t quite fit”, and likewise for 20 minutes vs 15. The 49 is 12 minutes midday and Metro has positioned it as the most frequent route on Capitol Hill, so it seems they want to run it 10 minutes (to compensate for the lack of U-District Station). The 8 is 20 minutes evenings and Sundays, and Metro made it clear in the U-Link restructure that it wanted 15 minutes but it couldn’t because of public pressure to keep the 43 peak hours and not change the 11 or 12.

        I thought the 40 was 10 minutes daytime because it has repeatedly increased its frequency and I’m seeing it more often, but the last round must have been 12 minutes. The discrepency must be due to failing to notice these 12-minute compromises, or expecting late changes that didn’t happen, or expectations of near-future increases.

      5. the STBD definitions of very frequent and frequent are on page 12. the bar for frequent at off-peak periods is low, only 30 minutes; the bar for very frequent in the midday is 15. so, routes 40 and 44 in Ballard are very frequent.

        note that the first/last mile services have had low productivity. see page 15. West Seattle attracted 130 weekly (not weekday) rides. Via attracted 3,300 weekly rides. in the budget, the cost was $2.6 million in 2019. one wonders whether their duplication caused the local networks in West Seattle and SE Seattle to lose productivity. Also on page 15, see Route 630 and the Solid Ground shuttle; the ridership attracted is not provided.

        Commenters above mentioned the CCC Streetcar. it is not part of the STBD. but note that the CCC Streetcar would take many local millions in capital, service subsidy, and use 1st Avenue. it would not advance the ridership objectives or get frequent service to more Seattle residents, as downtown already has very frequent service.

      6. the bar for very frequent in the midday is 15

        Where do you get that, eddie? I’m looking at page 12, and it has the same chart as on this blog page. For “Very Frequent” it has 6 trips an hour, or 10 minute headways, on Weekdays from 6AM to 7 PM. On Saturdays and Sundays during the day it drops to 15 minutes. From 7 PM to 12 AM, it drops as well. But for weekdays, the route Jessica mentioned — the one that is the subject of this thread — fails to measure up.

        It is only if you average in the extremely frequent rush hour service that it clears the bar. In my opinion, that is misleading.

      7. I thought the 40 was 10 minutes daytime because it has repeatedly increased its frequency and I’m seeing it more often, but the last round must have been 12 minutes.

        It isn’t even that, half the time. I’m just looking at the schedule. From Northgate to Downtown, from about noon to 4:00 PM, there are only four buses an hour. It is just that at rush hour, there are oodles of buses (every six minutes). It does pretty well in the evening as well (both directions).

      8. Tonight’s route 40 had 34+ minute delays during the evening the rush. Very frequent service my backside. You can run busses every two minutes, but if they’re not reliable there’s no point. Commuters need to be able to rely on x bus getting to y location by z time. The 40 fails that metric.

      9. I agree with A Joy the delays (and crush loading) are a big problem. The 40 has reached levels of “nobody rides it anymore, it’s too crowded”. 🙂 I’m not sure if that’s a Yogi Berra quote, and obviously having the route is better than not having it, but I just hate to see this report holding it up as a success story. When I had the option of biking or taking the 40 to work, i biked. I now work in a new office where my options are 28x, running, or the 40 and I’ll do either of the first two. The 40 is unusable unless you have no other option.

      10. “Tonight’s route 40 had 34+ minute delays during the evening the rush. Very frequent service my backside. You can run busses every two minutes, but if they’re not reliable there’s no point. Commuters need to be able to rely on x bus getting to y location by z time. The 40 fails that metric.”

        Bus bunching is an indication the right of way is failing. So we either need significantly improved lane/signal priority,or a new bus road, or a rail bypass. Link is the rail bypass, although it will be in the D corridor rather than the 40 corridor.

      11. I feel that is a vast oversimplification of the greater issue. Metro (and likely ST) has a number of employees called “route coordinators” whose job is literally to design routes that function on time. We’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to alleviate this issue. Clearly they are doing a suboptimal job. In that respect, if the right of way is failing, we’re supposed to alter the route to use better right of ways. We’ve got plenty of roads. We just need to be smarter about which roads we use and when.

        Light rail doesn’t even come up in the argument. One, it does nothing to improve bus service (you know, the whole point of the discussion). Two, it just encourages bus bunching at the light rail stops.

        No amount of light rail will solve a bus issue. By definition, it simply can’t.

    2. Light rail allows people to take the train instead of the bus. Why do you think we’re building Link? Grade-separated rail solves the problem of congestion. Route coordinators can only do so much with limited service hours, a few mediocre street choices, and no control over the signals or lanes. It’s SDOT that has control over the signals and lanes. A large percent of TBD funds is going to extra buses to keep the existing schedules as reliable as they are; without it they’d be even more late and overcrowded.

      1. Light rail allows people to take the train instead of the bus.
        No it doesn’t. Until you have something like London’s Tube light rail allows a small area around stations to have a fancy train to a small area that they may or may not want to travel to. Since we’ve made the decision that Link is going to cover maximum area instead of maximum density it requires MORE (not less) bus service. Unfortunately the funding model assures the reverse.

      2. Link does little to nothing in regards to actually reducing congestion. It slows future congestion, but again, that does nothing to help busses, today or tomorrow.

        Route coordinators are paid to do more with the current situation than they currently do. If they are as limited as you claim, then either they are unneeded administrative overhead or the current coordinators need to be fired so that more competent people can fill their positions.

        A few mediocre street choices? That seems rather hyperbolic.

        Again, extra busses do not increase reliability, especially when the issue is traffic congestion. When road conditions make 12 busses an hour untimely, those same road conditions make 60 busses an hour untimely. TBD funded busses do not prevent other busses from being late. I’ll grant you they help with overcrowding. Timelier busses would help with that too (assuming the late bus is caused by congestion, thereby increasing the route’s time to get from point A to point B).

        Light rail is awesome. But even with the entire spine built out and ridiculous routes like 8 or UW->Ballard subways, the on street conditions that cause our current issues will still be present and still be issues.

      3. Link takes six minutes from UW Station to Westlake Station. No bus can do that. When it reaches U-District Station, it will take eight minutes. If buses in the future as as bad as buses now, people will gladly walk further to Link than they do to the D, so it will serve more people.

        Blaming the coordinators is focusing on an insignificant part of the problem. The problem is the poor street choices and limited service hours. Both 15th Ave NW and 24th Ave NW funnel into the Ballard Bridge and 15th Ave W. The closest other choices are the Fremont Bridge and the Aurora Bridge. That’s four choices, and none of them are exactly wide open at rush hour. From the U-District there’s the University Bridge and Eastlake, the Montlake Bridge and 24th, and I-5. Or you could go around to Broadway or Lakeview Blvd. There aren’t any other choices.

      4. How do you think coordinators could fix bus bunching? A scheduler can’t prevent buses from being stuck behind cars.

      5. From mediocre street choices to poor? Methinks there is no street choice available that is adequate for such a discerning taste.

        Yes, light rail serves more people. That doesn’t justify a “starve the beast” mentality. Intentionally letting congestion get bad just to get more people to take light rail strikes me as very antagonistic to all transportation users. Who cares what those other people have to suffer through. As long as you’ve got yours, you seem to be happy.

        I’ve taken the 40 during rush hour. Most of its timeliness issues I found to be well north of the ship canal. The Ballard->Northgate section is what kills its timeliness. The Fremont Bridge is not without its traffic during rush hour, but it still moves adequately enough.

        Route coordinators have access to relatively real time data and a massive amount of GPS data dating back over 15 years (2001 was roughly when GPS tracking started on Metro busses). They know which roads don’t have cars on them. They could move bus routes to the streets with less congestion on them. This isn’t only what they could do, it is part of their job description.

        A route coordinator can absolutely prevent busses from being stuck behind cars. That they don’t is an issue that needs addressing.

      6. “We” want buses to be faster, more reliable, and more frequent. We’ve been trying to get Metro and the city to make it happen but there’s political resistance to painting more than a few blocks red or converting GP or parking lanes to transit-priority lanes. That’s why buses bunch because they’re stuck behind cars, or have to wait for cars to pull out of bus stops, or end up stopping at every light as well as every bus stop (the worst being the SLU streetcar). What’s a coordinator to do? The bus drivers know they should be evenly spaced, but they can’t plow through cars or run red lights. There are limited alternative streets and most of them are congested too. Metro could do a bit more in avoiding freeway congestion (the UW-Harborview shuttle sometimes uses Lakeview Blvd to avoid I-5 traffic), but that won’t help Ballard where I-5 and Aurora are far away.

        Ideally we should have a pair of transit lanes on all bus arterials. The politicians and voters won’t do that so the second best is grade-separated rail. The third best is any lane priority we can get. These aren’t mutually exclusive. We’re building downtown-Ballard rail, and SDOT has made vague noises that RapidRide 44 might perhaps possibly have some transit priority somewhere, most likely between I-5 and 15th Ave NE. And it did give the 44 a queue jump east of Aurora.

      7. “What’s a coordinator to do?”

        Their job.

        I see I was correct. There is no alternative roads that satisfy you. That’s not exactly helpful.

        Red lanes are nice, but they are not the end all be all anymore than light rail is. You seem to be continuing to dodge the point, as your mention of Downtown->Ballard shows.

        Your top 3 ideas to little to nothing in regards to addressing congestion. They just move the congestion around. 372s are also frequently 30+ minutes late, as downtown congestion morphs into UW congestion due to bus line truncation and extra Link traffic.

        General congestion is the issue this post seeks to address. Not red lanes, BRT, or light rail. You can put lipstick on a pig all you want. It doesn’t change the nature of the pig any.

  3. Also, I know this is hard to quantify, but I don’t think the every-6-minutes service for the 40 during rush hour really should count towards their goal of frequent service, since the bus is commonly full and has to bypass stops, so you might not get on the first or second bus that comes.

    1. That seems hard to measure. Our at least, not measured. But that would be a neat metric. Does anyone know whether Metro or any other agency is collecting data on how many passengers get passed up by full buses? Seems like useful data to determine which buses need to be split or have an express variant created.

      1. They do list on their reports whether a bus is at capacity or not. Metro just hasn’t released a new report in a long time.

    2. I hope it doesn’t. It makes a material difference whether a midday bus stop is guaranteed to have a bus in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 15 minutes. Different people have different tolerances for wait times, so at every level you lose some people, especially if they have the option of driving. Moscow and St Petersburg have 5 minutes, Chicago and San Francisco have 10 minutes, and smaller cities have 15 minutes or 30 minutes.

      Seattle has substantially improved from 30 minutes to 15 minutes in many core areas. The former 15 is now the new 10 (a handful of ultra-frequent routes). The next step is to get to 15 minutes on all non-coverage routes and extend it to evenings, and simultaneously increase the number of 10-minute routes. Eventually we need to get to universal 10-minute daytime (maybe 15-minute evening). And ideally to 5-minute daytime.

      That’s the frequency of all transit in Moscow and St Petersburg: if it exists, it comes every 5 minutes, so schedules are nonexistent. That’s what you need if the majority of the population use transit for their everyday trips. Metro lines come every 2-3 minutes daytime, down to every 10 minutes between 8pm and midnight. At the outer ends of the Metro lines feeder buses and depart-when-full vans come every 10-20 minutes.

  4. My questions about the report:
    Why did the report make it so hard to find the list of very frequent routes? It’s in a footnote on page 13: Routes 3, 4, 13, 40, 41, 44, 48, 65, 67, 70, 120, C, D, Link.

    How do they consider separate routes that share a common trunk? For instance the 31 and 32 both run 2/hour (local). But between the U District and Fremont they are effectively the same route, so they run 4/hour (frequent). Someone who lives in Fremont and works at UW wouldn’t consider the 31 and 32 different routes.

    As others have mentioned, seems like they should have split out peak from all-day. Say you live at Lake City Way / 137th. During the day, the 522 runs 2/hour (local). But there are 24 buses between 6am-10am (very frequent) and 18 buses between 10am-7pm (local). So how is the 522 classified? If you add the 312, which is a very similar route, then there are 45 buses between 6am-10am but only 18 buses between 10am-7pm. Does that corridor count as “frequent”?

    1. The listing on Page 13 you mentioned is a bit confusing. It lists the 2015 “Ten Minute Walkshed”, while I think they mean “Ten Minute Frequency”. Then they list 2016-2019 Ten Minute Walkshed Improvements. These are routes that have been improved to “very frequent”. Thus they don’t list buses like the E, 7 or 36 over again.

      As far as combining routes, they do list some of those, but then they specify the section. For example, since 2015, the Central Area part of the 3/4 has been very frequent (which is why they wrote “3/4 Central District”). Now they list “3/4/13 Queen Anne” as something that has improved. This means that the part of the 3, 4 and 13 that overlaps (in north Queen Anne) is now very frequent.

      Yeah, I was thinking about the 522/312 combination when I mentioned the problem with combining routes and calling them it “Very Frequent”. My guess is if you considered the routes identical, they would be considered Very Frequent, just because there are so many runs during rush hour. But then again, maybe they would fail the weekend test.

      As far as listing the very frequent routes, maybe they didn’t emphasize it because they know that a lot of this is splitting hairs. The 40 makes the cut, while the 41 to Lake City doesn’t. Yet as someone who takes the extended 41 from Lake City, I can tell you that service has gotten a lot better (and it wasn’t that bad to begin with). Reaching some arbitrary (and as mentioned, somewhat misleading) standard isn’t what this is about. It is about improving the overall service level. Pushing some routes above that bar is just an indication of how things are improving. It is an interesting metric, but it shouldn’t be the goal.

  5. When are buses coming to Alaskan Way, the waterfront?
    Certainly people down there are a long way from frequent service.

    1. the part of Alaskan Way south of Columbia Street will have the many trips on the SR-99 in 2020. there will be a stop pair at South Jackson Street. Columbia Street is under construction now; you can see its insides. the part of Alaskan Way north of Columbia Street once had the George Benson Streetcar line. it has some condos. Route 99 was provided as a replacement. but it had to leave for the seawall project. The service of the future is not yet funded. The private sector is funding a free shuttle with orange buses today.

  6. There are great places along the waterfront like the Aquarium, Olympic Sculpture Park, ferry terminal that seem obvious destinations for metro buses. I’ve lived through the sequence of the Benson trolleys, the 99 and elimination of buses along 1st. The blue minibus just doesn’t have enough stops to be really useful. Just saying this is a poorly served part of Seattle.

  7. Looking at the frequency targets, I feel the drop-off between midday weekday and evening/weekend is too severe, especially for the middle of the city. To say that a route has to get 10 minute service weekday daytime to get 15 minute service at 8 PM, or noon on a weekend, makes the bus difficult to use for more than work commutes.

    Fortunately, most actual bus routes do much better than this, and it’s much appreciated. Before the Seattle TBD, the service drop-off was much more severe across-the-board, more in line with what the chart shows.

    Outside of Seattle, the steep drop-off in level of service still persists, and is only slowly changing. Restructures, such as the 255 and RapidRide I definitely help with this, though.

  8. As a reminder, 15-minute evenings came to 5, 8, 10, 40, 41, etc, only with the TBD in the mid 2010s. It also filled in evening gaps on the 49. Without the MVET and a renewal/replacement of the TBD in 2021, that service goes away.

    The U-Link restructure in 2016 had a 10-minute 67 and 15-minute 45 and 65, and very limited 71 and 73. Most of these were later increased thanks to the TBD and a booming economy: the 45 and 65 up to 10 minutes, the 73 with more midday/evening/weekend service, and the 71 with evening/Saturday service. (Approximately.) I don’t know what percent of the additions is TBD-funded but it’s greater than zero. The TBD is also fully funding all the night owls, including the new 65/67 service to Northgate and Lake City, and E service north of 85th. Metro withdrew from night owl service in the 2014 cuts, and at first the city council kept them running, and now the TBD does.

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