65 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Electric Buses”

  1. The next recession is coming. King county and sound transit should cut operation expenses in preparation. Given the passage of I976, the rainy day fund needs to grow. This is what I propose.

    King County Metro should cut service by 25 percent. Eliminate the poorest performing routes in the system. Run all Sunday service between 30 and 60 minute headway’s. End Bus Service at 11pm for most routes.

    Sound Transit should abandon ST3. Focus on building extensions under construction. Revamp red and blue line service to run every 15 minutes on weekdays and 20 minute service on weekends, all times. Shared line stations will still have frequent service.

    Eliminate Sunday ST Express except for 550 and 512 bus. Run hourly service on those lines between 8am and 8pm on Sundays. Cut ST express Saturday service by 50 percent. Leave weekday unchanged. Savings will be generated and placed into rainy day fund, lessening cuts during next recession.

    1. Some of those proposed cuts reek of The Great Recession, some of those cuts reek of retaliation over 976 – which is not OK.

    2. I encourage you to check the latest election results, as opposed to initial count Tuesday night. I-976 is now failing in King County by almost 20 points. Even adding Pierce and Snohomish counties to the mix, the combined total for the three counties has I-976 down by about 51-49. Considering that most conservative areas of Pierce and Snohomish counties are outside the Sound Transit district, I-976 is mostly failing in the Sound Transit district by about the same 54-46 margin that passed ST3 year years ago.

      Even though the initiative is still passing statewide (52-47), it is only because of conservative Republicans elsewhere in the state, who do not pay taxes to Sound Transit, and have exactly zero stake in what happens to the state of the Puget Sound transit system.

      If you look at the votes of the people who are actually paying the taxes, it is most certainly *not* a mandate to cut service.

      1. Thank you asdf2. It’s very clear what 976 is: Tim Eyman being a bully, undoing what local communities and the Puget Sound region want. It isn’t 1999 anymore.

        If this was a 2020 vote, I guarantee 976 wouldn’t pass.

      2. It doesn’t matter who voted for I976 and who did not. I’m talking about generating a profit from transit’s budget to allow for an expanded rainy day fund. We are spending every penny that has been allotted. This is not a wise business day practice. We should live well within our means, by cutting service where it makes sense. Sunday service is an area where buses dont’ need to run every 15 minutes, but can run every 30,45, or 60 minutes. The savings from operation can be significant. For instance, run KCM Route 8 every 45 minutes from 8AM to 7PM. Route 10 duplicates most of red line service. It can run lifeline service, every 60 minutes from 8AM to 8PM on weekends.

      3. We are already saving money in a rainy day fund. This was one of the reforms after the last recession.

      4. This is not a wise business day practice.

        The government is not a business. Governments that operate like businesses are run by fools.

      5. Joe S, I think that Sound Transit would make a much larger profit if they reduced every route to daily service, with service on the especially underperforming routes (522, 545, etc) cut to once a week. Also, you’re leaving out the question of fares. Fares should be raised to $100 per passenger, to maximize profit. That way they would save a ton of money while dramatically increasing farebox revenue.

        Oh, wait

    3. I the last recession who can me out ahead? Those people who invested.

      Now is not the time to retrench. Your plan would freeze transit service at a less than optimal level with no way to get better. After all, there is ALWAYS another recession on the horizon that you would be ‘saving’ for.

      First state government should be closely looking at fixing the broken funding paradigm that we have.

      Second there should be a parallel effort to pass an additional initiative, or initiatives, to back fill st3 and metro funding. Even if these initiatives would use KBB values per I-976, (which could be illegal), at least get the effort going now so that no time is lost.

    4. Joe

      By definition, the next recession is always coming. We can also raise revenue for a rainy day fund, instead of cutting service to reduce spending. There’s two sides to a ledger.

      Transit service provides value. It’s not just a cost. People go to work, shopping, and to see family and friends on evenings, nights, and weekends. Again, there’s two sides to a ledger.

      1. By definition, the next recession is always coming.

        Well said. When the next recession hits we won’t need as much bus service. People out of work stop commuting. Making decisions based on fear of recession is one of those self fulfilling prophesies.

        FWIW, we have two cats.

    5. What’s the point in cutting before a recession so we won’t have to cut as quickly during it? That’s just austerity for no benefit. ST is not overspending on operations: we need all the current service and it’s already less than optimal. The 550 and 512 should be 15-minutes full time like RapidRide. That’s what cities who take transit seriously do.

      Your service reductions are far more severe than I-976 requires or we had at the nadir of the recession. They sound like you’ve never tried getting around on transit on Sunday or in the evening, or seen how rapid transit can transform a community when it lives up to its promise of being full-time frequent.

      1. I think the 550 can run effectively with the below timetable

        5am-7am – service every 20 minutes
        7am -9am – every 15 minutes
        9am-3pm – every 45 minutes
        3pm to 7pm – every 15 minutes
        7pm-9pm – every 45 minutes
        9pm to midnight – every 90 minutes

        7am-7pm every 45 minutes
        7pm -11pm every 60 minutes

      2. No, it can’t. And, if they tried, people would be left behind at the bus stop. You need to try actually riding the 550 before proposing such drastic changes.

      3. I think that’s too generous a schedule for the 550. The new schedule should have four weekday trips, two in the am and two in the afternoon.

        Two trips leaving Bellevue downtown at 7am and 8am, and two leaving Seattle at 3pm and 5pm, with no weekend service. Also, sound transit should use a 30 ft bus for the service.

        Beung sarcastic….

    6. Your proposed cuts sound draconian. Some people have to work on Sundays and overnights. Or use Sundays for running their errands. Not as many as are working M-F 9-5 sure. But shouldn’t those people still have access to usable transit?

      My personal opinion is if you’re only running a bus once an hour, you might as well not bother running it at all. It’s not useful for people – the penalty of missing the bus is so high that you have to build in extra time to get to the stop extra early. Which makes the bus even less competitive with a car. Or for cases where you can’t control when you get to the stop – who knows how long the doctors appointment will be, or how long the checkout line will be at Safeway or if your kid will really really need the bathroom at just the wrong time? – relying on a bus becomes a gamble.

      1. Draconian cuts would be eliminating 85 percent of service. Selling hundreds of buses to other cities. Maintaining a skeleton fleet of 154 buses with weekday only service from 6am to 7pm, with hourly service on all routes.

    7. I am pretty sure just abandoning ST3 would require a vote of the people (which would likely uphold it) and a rather painful early buyout of ST3 bonds. That “cure” sounds much worse than the “disease”.

    8. “King County Metro should cut service by 25 percent. Eliminate the poorest performing routes in the system.”

      That’s what it did in 2014. The routes with only three people per hour are already gone.

    9. The MVET is just 13 percent of the ST3 revenue estimated in 2016 ($6.9B of $53.1B). It’s only 25 percent of the three sources of locally levied revenue. At most, that would seem to limit just a modest amount of ST3 projects.

      Cost overruns and lack of enough funding contingencies — along with pet enhancements — will probably be just as impactful on the program. I’d expect a fix like another tax increase or maybe more Federal or state funds in a more favorable political environment to replace any lost revenue.

      1. Operations cost a fraction of building rail extensions. If something has to cut, it will be part of the extensions. That’s what the ST board intends, the public expects, and the governments expect. Why not stick with it? Some of us (including me) believe ST3 is not as essential as ST2; I mean the extensions beyond Lynnwood and Federal Way, and even Ballard and West Seattle, and certainly Issaquah.

        But what does exist must be frequent. Both Link and Stride and ST Express. Because it’s more useful when it’s frequent. As Larry said, an hourly bus is so useless it’s barely worth existing. Some people who are desperate and have time will use it, but we should aim for more than that. Most people who would use 15- or 30-minute bus won’t use an hourly bus, either because they can’t with their schedule, or they refuse to put up with it. Everybody has a different threshold for what they tolerate and what they can use, so every frequency there are people at the margin who could go either way, and it just takes a little nudge to make them take the bus or drive or forego the trip. A 30-minute route gets more than twice the people of a 60-minute route, and ditto for 15 minutes. When you get to 10 minutes and especially 5, it’s unreasonable to expect more, because the randomness of when you get to the platform is the same margin of error as the headways. 10 minutes is a reasonable time to wait when transferring between the 8 and the 48, or any other route. 15 minutes is already starting to get long, and 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes is just progressively worse. Especially when you can drive door-to-door in 20 minutes.

  2. I thought I’d wait until an open thread to post this. Most won’t care, but I appreciate the sense of community we have down here in the STB comment threads.

    I also think the world has enough sour grapevines so I won’t plant another here. [] Plus let’s just admit it – my moderate politics are now clearly wrong for the Seattle of at least the early 2020s.

    I sincerely hope and wish well the Seattle Transit Lobby. You hand-picked Dan Strauss; so I hope you get your bus lanes. I’m very, very genuinely sincere about that. I hope Dan Strauss will connect with a good transit hero of mine in Bowinn Ma – in North Vancouver, BC who had to spend last winter from December until March fighting hard to get them for her North Shore and was only partially successful. Had to even give up going to a transit geek Christmas party I invited her too… ;-(

    Also deeply sincere that we need to come together and fight 976. []

    I am not so confident in the state legislature’s response; but hope most Central Puget Sound will make very clear there will be no forgiveness if the state legislature backs 976 to defund local transit. Unsuccessful pro-transit candidates from these local elections should make clear to those legislators whom consider betrayal that they’ll primary those legislators whom vote to betray the next day. We’re going to “score” this one big time – this is you’re either with us or you’re with Eyman. Thanks.

    Thanks guys. Many warned of the danger of 976. Repealing that crap must be our first focus. WE FIGHT BACK.

  3. What’s the breakdown for how the Sound Transit subareas share the planning/design/construction costs for DSTT2? Who pays what percentage?

    1. The formula is what percent of runs in both tunnels benefit the subarea. I don’t have the numbers.

      1. Hmm, calculating that in the crudest way I can imagine (assume each of the 3 lines runs at identical frequencies and each train runs the full length of its line, give each subarea a “point” if a trip passes through that subarea,then divide up by the total number of points) this is what I get:

        Pierce: 12.5%
        South King: 12.5%
        North King: 37.5%
        East King: 12.5%
        Snohomish: 25%

    2. I thought I saw those numbers recently on an ST report I had been reading. IIRC, I believe the allocation is supposed to be based on expected ridership by subarea. I’ll see if I can find the source and (hopefully) report back.

  4. The top three richest US citizens have about $300 billion in wealth. The US government spends $4.4 trillion per year. If US confiscated 100% of the wealth of those three, it would last less than a month. The US gets enough money. It’s being wasted on the military. But threatening the military budget is political suicide. Bashing the wealthy is a dog whistle for dumb people.

    1. Sam, let’s talk about cats instead!

      About 1/3rd of US households have cats. There are nearly 94 million cats in the United States- that’s a lot of cats!

      Do you have a cat? They make lovely, friendly companions!

  5. How will Pierce and Snohomish county politicians respond to I-976? It increases the strain that Sound Transit has always faced- Seattle is happy to tax itself for transit infrastructure, while the suburbs have less desire for transit and the taxes needed to create it. Here are the current by-county votes for ST3 and I-976:

    ST3 (yes/no): 58/42
    I-976 (no/yes): 59/41

    ST3 (yes/no): 44/56
    I-976 (no/yes): 34/66

    ST3 (yes/no): 51/48
    I-976 (no/yes): 42/58

    Just going on realpolitik, it’s not surprising that the city of Seattle and King County are filing suit against I-976, while Pierce and Snohomish County are not (AFAIK). Moreover, If I-976 is upheld, I expect Seattle and King County to try to find a way to backfill the revenue shortfall, but based on the ST3 vote, I expect Pierce and Snohomish County to be less eager to do so.

    Slowing the construction, or cutting back ST3 in the north and south suburbs has the potential to start a spiral of decreasing voter and politician support for ST3- which was already negative (in Pierce County), or balanced on a knife’s edge (in Snohomish County). How many marginally pro-transit voters will retain their enthusiasm for ST3 if Tacoma Link gets pushed back into the mid-2030s (or later) and Everett Link gets pushed back into the early 2040s (or later)?

    1. When considering county numbers, you also have to consider that the ST3 vote included only the Sound Transit taxing district, while the I-976 numbers include the entire county. The areas outside the ST district are generally exurban and rural and probably voted for I-976 by big margins, even though they’re not the ones actually paying the tax. The only way to make a true apples-to-apples comparison is to look at precinct-level data.

      Overall, it appears Sound Transit may have lost a few percentage points of support in Pierce and Snohomish, but actually gained a few percentage points of support in King (which also contains rural/exurban areas not in the ST district) to make up for it.

      1. Right, we’ll have to wait until the end of the month for prescient-level data. I anticipate we’ll see something like we did with did with ST3 where denser areas were more supportive of transit than less dense areas.

        As you say, it’s likely that ST has lost some further support in Pierce County (where support for ST3 was negative) and Snohomish County (where support for ST3 was very marginal).

        My concern is that the I-976 vote would seem to reduce the incentives for Pierce and Snohomish County politicians to support Sound Transit, and if I-976 goes through, its likely effects (curtailing or greatly slowing Tacoma and Everett Link) are likely to reduce voter and politician’s support for Sound Transit even further.

    2. These are longstanding issues; they didn’t start with I-976. The reason Sound Transit is structured as a three-county tax district with one common vote is that Pierce and Snohomish knew it would fail there without King County to bring it above 50%. Pierce defiinitely; Snohomish is more on the threshold. Southeast Pierce and Mukilteo-land were tax-adverse in the 1990s as they are now. What’s really happening is the county/city governments in Snohomish and Pierce desperately want Link because they believe it will attract employers and jobs to their cities; employers who will go to Seattle/Bellevue or outside the state if they don’t have it. That’s the fundamental dynamic. Car tabs are another hot issue, because people are sensitive to taxes on cars in a way that they’re not about other things. It’s part of the “Driving is Americans’ birthright; parking should be free and plentiful” mindset, and taxes on cars or gas threaten that. Add that to the first dynamic and it’s adding gasoline to a fire.

      So what should we do? There are several answers. I’m not opposed to letting Pierce and Snohomish secede if they want to. But I am worried about stranding 1.5 million people with no access to regional transit, and growing car dependency. That’s the mistake we made in the 20th century, and it turned out horrible. A more sensible idea would be to keep Tacoma/Lakewood/Lynnwood in, and get the legislature to give cities/counties more tax autonomy and flexibility so that the urban areas can build what they need, and the exurbs can go their own way.

  6. Everett Transit is considering a merge with Community Transit. With I-976 ET loses part of its funding. It is currently facing a budget deficit.

    Sales taxes are higher in the CT serving area however. Everett voters would have to approve the merge.


    1. Thanks for the post; I’ve been following this issue of late as well since I live in the CT district. Currently we pay 1.2% in sales tax, in addition to the 1.4% for those of us who are also in the ST district. (This 2.6% in sales tax revenue dedicated for transit represents 25% of the total sales tax rate of 10.4% for my area.)

    2. I think it makes sense to merge. If you look at the existing Everett transit system, it seems overly geared towards serving the mall. Since much (if not all) of the funding comes from sales taxes, and the Everett Mall was a major source of revenue, this made sense back in the day. But I get the feeling this is no longer the case. I think it is much tougher to justify service centered around it. Everett transit also isn’t quite the bargain it used to be (probably in part because of the lost revenue). Meanwhile, the area is likely to need a major restructure soon. With Lynnwood Link as well as all the various Swift service, it makes sense to change all of the bus routes. Doing so as one united agency is much easier — both practically, and politically. I think it is time to merge.

      If Everett wants additional service (beyond what the county as a whole can provide) than the model Seattle uses seems appropriate. It is still all Metro service, but the Seattle routes have more frequency.

      1. My understanding is that Everett being separate is the opposite of STBD. Instead of paying more taxes for more service, they want to pay less taxes and get less service. The level of bus service in Everett is really awful.

      2. And that’s a shame, because unlike most of the county Everett actually has a connected street grid and good bones for creating a walkable, transit-oriented city. If you’re looking to create a new Ballard or Fremont, it’s way easier to graft one into Everett than it is around Lynnwood’s “downtown.”

    3. “The earliest a measure could get on the ballot is fall 2021,” the article quotes the Community Transit CEO as saying. Why then, and not fall 2020?

    4. We will have a post about this later. I haven’t been able to research the issue since I am a few time zones away, but rest assured it will be covered.

  7. https://www.seattlepi.com/local/transportation/article/I-976-aftermath-Lawsuit-planned-by-Seattle-14818766.php

    Might put our own recovery farther ahead if we pay some attention to today’s lead topic.

    My brother’s wife, a career school teacher, tells me that in today’s American schools, large amounts of history and government just aren’t taught because information like the implications of China’s return to world dominance isn’t considered worthy of WASL.

    Like with all the other times in world history when China was the world’s major power, whatever military prowess they ruled with owed very much to business and engineering. Could be that jingoism is a manifestation of old age, but watching the Chinese run catenary-irrelevant loops around our electric buses, might motivate me to stitch up some wear on my own Stars-and-Stripes to see my country “throw down” with a revival of the PCC streetcar and whatever Pullman and St. Louis Car Company used to deliver for an electric bus. Only updated.

    Which might also be good motivation for our own government and its voters to show the world a renovated St. Louis Car Company whose fine machines aren’t conceived and born in a police state- something China has unfortunately never been able to do. Wish the government of a free country didn’t require so much work out of the average citizen to maintain.

    Like so many of Nature’s other creations, everything Conceived in Liberty requires a fragrant amount of physical effort to create and deliver.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Yeah, that was cool. How fantastic to win a championship on home soil. OK, it is not really soil, it is plastic with bits of rubber. But still, it is wonderful. I used to watch the old Sounders back when they played in the Kingdome against guys like Pele and George Best. Good times then, even better times now. Congrats!

      1. Nice. I was fortunate enough to see Pele play twice before his retirement as a member of my hometown club, the NY Cosmos, in the late 1970s. I’ll never forget the excitement #10 brought to the city’s true “football” fans. Still, as you obviously are aware, soccer wasn’t broadly embraced anywhere in the US at that time, especially compared to the other four professional sports leagues. That’s what’s been so cool about the Sounders and this city seemingly fully embracing them amid this growing fan base (hence my earlier Mariners comment). I wish I could’ve made it to the parade today. Darn. Oh well, again, well done Seattle Sounders!

  8. Controversial topic, but with the hundreds of millions we spend on transit every year, couldn’t we partner with Uber and Lyft, offering dollar Uber pool rides for residents. In other words, decommission the bus system, in favor of subsidized Uber and Lyft rides.

    1. Uber and Lyft are losing billions every year. A better question you might consider is: How will Uber/Lyft ever make money?

  9. Throwing this out to the horde, in the wake of the recent city council election results, should the Mayor be nervous about reelection? Do we expect a serious Challenger to the major? (I thought Lorena Gonzalez would be a good mayoral candidate, but I think she is running for AG? Who do you think will run?

    1. Yes, I think she should be nervous. There is some discontent, and ultimately, the buck stops there. She can blame the city council, but the voters aren’t buying it. She doesn’t have the support of The Stranger, and with few exceptions, The Stranger editorial staff are inline with voters. If Gonzalez ran against her, I think Gonzalez would win.

      On the other hand, experience matters. If she runs against someone without political experience (i. e. another Cary Moon) she would probably win easily. After all, every incumbent city council member won, even those who weren’t that popular (e. g. Sawant).

    2. Seattle mayors during the past two decades have a poor record of being re-elected, so I think any mayor should be nervous.

      Probably the biggest factor in her favor is that if she makes it to the general election, she’ll probably be the more conservative candidate, which should give some advantage in an off-year race, though perhaps less than it used to.

      I basically agree with RossB. If she faces most opponents with significant political/electoral experience, the odds will be against her, but if she faces someone else who’s never held office before, she’ll probably win.

    3. I think the mayor is hoping on a Democrat win in 2020 do she can go back to a federal government job.

  10. This is just so friggin’ unnecessary! When the Legislature was writing legislation to authorize the ST3 vote, they should have required all future MVET taxes be based on the more recent and much fairer evaluation table.

    Knowing all the history with Tim Eyman and $30 car tabs, it was legislative malpractice to base new MVETs on that old and discredited evaluation table. Yes, I’m angry. That was Legislative Malpractice!

    1. “When the Legislature was writing legislation to authorize the ST3 vote, they should have required all future MVET taxes be based on the more recent and much fairer evaluation table.”

      I so agree. And the legislature has now had three sessions to address the matter and has failed to pass anything.

      1. “I so agree. And the legislature has now had three sessions to address the matter and has failed to pass anything.”

        Frankly, our state legislators are an embarrassment. All too often their main consideration is to try to not offend anyone, and that means they do nothing.

        It’s one thing about Trump that I give him credit for – namely not being afraid of offending people. Of course, he doesn’t get much done either, but that is not because he is afraid of acting, but more, I think, because he only mirrors the policy beliefs of those people who speak the loudest around him, and whose only core belief seems to be that anything that keeps him in power longer is good.

        An opposite example? Probably Warren, who strikes me as an anti-trump in that she also seems to not be afraid of offending people in order to get things done, but actually has a coherent policy strategy.

        but I digress!

        I guess what I’m saying is that this political model of not taking a firm stand on things so as to keep your job is pathetic, and I agree that three sessions of the legislature without a fix is terrible.

        Unfortunately, given the bleats coming out of the state democratic leadership about across the board cuts, and departments now having to fight it out amongst themselves for revenue ‘hunger games style’ I expect more of the same.

  11. What will be telling is the results at the precinct level.

    If the No votes within the RTA taxing district boundaries are still a majority it means the voters don’t care what the MVET schedule is.

    They would be confirming that the taxes have value.

    Trust me, I talk with the public a lot, and for the most part, (pardon my French), they haven’t got a fucking clue how transportation is funded.

    They’ve basically slit their own throats with a “yes” vote, especially the rural counties.

    Oh, in their ignorance, they’ll point the finger at the legislature.

    If they want the “money to to be spent wisely “, then ALL transportation projects should be put to a public vote.

    1. it was a knee jerk reaction for most voters, people believe that driving is their god given right along with gas guzzling SUVs and trucks. Let them enjoy the pot holes and Matt Shae’s Liberty State, screw em.

    2. “If the No votes within the RTA taxing district boundaries are still a majority it means the voters don’t care what the MVET schedule is.”

      I don’t know if one can necessarily draw that conclusion. For one thing, it will be interesting to see what the precinct data tells us, particularly in the parts of the district that are not yet served by light rail. The Pierce County subarea rejected ST3 and the measure only passed with a modest majority in the Snohomish County subarea. (Frankly, I think if the ST3 vote were held again today it would fail in the Snohomish County subarea, based on my own anecdotal experiences with my neighbors and other members of this SW SnoCo community.) Thus, I don’t think one can say that the RTA district is composed of such a homogeneous group of voters, even among those who consider themselves transit supporters. I include myself in such a group and accordingly voted against I-976. But I also voted against ST3 after voting for Sound Move and ST2. In other words, I think I-976 was such a loaded ballot measure I don’t think one can reduce the results to just a referendum on the MVET issue.

      Now, had the initiative focused solely on the MVET component (and by reference, the relevant section of ESSB 5987), I think we would be having a totally different discussion, and I would likely concur with your previous assertion if the measure were to be rejected (by the RTA district voters).

      1. The RTA is certainly not homogeneous. The past results of ST3 votes and Metro and Pierce Transit votes have shown consistent support in Seattle, Bellevue, the other main Eastside cities, Tacoma, and Lakewood, vs consistent skepticism in south King County and southeast Pierce, with Puyallup being borderline. Snohomish is closer to going either way, and I don’t know enough about how the different cities there lean. As I said elsewhere, the RTA was designed as a single tax district so that King County would weigh over skepticism in Snohomish and Pierce, because otherwise they couldn’t get any capital projects built, not even Sounder.

      2. “The RTA is certainly not homogeneous.”

        Agreed; that was one of the points of my reply above. I actually stipulated that the RTA district is not a homogeneous group even among transit supporters. My larger point was that I think one needs to be careful in his/her analysis of the I-976 results, particularly when drawing conclusions about any single component of said measure, like the MVET, and how that relates to the ST3 vote in 2016. The loaded nature of the initiative muddies such an analysis.

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