Spokane’s new BRT buses ( https://www.citylinespokane.com/ )

This is an open thread.

45 Replies to “News roundup: left for dead”

  1. I don’t believe covid19 will be seasonal. Its genome has too much in common with the SARS virus. We should expect shut down and restrictions to continue for much of 2020. With so many large and small businesses closing shop, events cancelled, hotels at near zero occupancy, downtown Seattle and the surrounding area will become a no man’s land. Cutting service temporarily can help the state and local government better prepare for the coming recession. Museum closures, attraction closures, long term school closures, will affect ridership. Many buses will have zero riders for extended periods.

    1. I’m curious why people think it could be seasonal. Australia has plenty of cases and it is summer there. And equatorial countries like Thailand also have cases.

    1. I’m amazed at the number of reporters who never ask the question “How fast can it go?”

      The speed affects its utility, as well as the topography that it’s covering.

      When taking into account loading and unloading, it appears that most urban gondolas could only go about 15 mph at a maximum. That’s nice for a half-mile connection up a steep hill — but not so great for a three-mile trip to SODO Link.

      It’s related technology, like BART to Oakland Airport cable-pulled people-mover (like a sideways elevator), can go up to 30 mph. It’s still not great, but i think that it’s a more realistic technology to explore for getting to places 1-3 miles from a Link station.

      1. Apparently they can go 25 MPH (according to the article). Surprisingly enough, when you factor in lower dwell times and much lower headways, they are competitive for that trip. Still not as good as a grade separated train (or express bus) but not that bad considering it would cost a lot less.

        The basic problem is that he is trying to implement a technology out of order. Typically people apply a system (for example, a subway) where it will work best initially (e. g. downtown to the UW) then expand to where it works fairly well (UW to Northgate) and then get carried away, and apply it to someplace inappropriate (Issaquah to South Kirkland). In this case, he is jumping the gun — the first place (and perhaps, only place) where a gondola makes sense is Capitol Hill to South Lake Union to the Seattle Center.

      2. Some other practical connections better than West Seattle to SODO: Pioneer Square to Harborview; a West Seattle Link “hub” at Delridge that goes to Alaska Junction, Admiral, maybe Alki and Morgan junction; maybe some Ship Canal crossings like at Ballard or Fremont, or connections around UW like Wallingford, U-Village or Children’s Hospital; Northgate or 130th to Lake City.

        I’m still more of a fan of guided cables as opposed to free-hanging gondolas, because they can move faster, can load and unload faster and can operate with less human intervention or supervision.

      3. Most of the gondola ideas just don’t pencil out. A bus is almost a better value, or the two areas that people are trying to connect don’t really have enough demand to warrant the cost. The only reason this is being considered is because West Seattle is having buyer’s remorse with the Link light rail (which is inappropriate for the area anyway).

    2. Top speed of 25 mph (meaning average speed with turns and station stops will be significantly slower!) does not qualify as “rapid transit.” If the route were directly across the bay you would effectively increase the speed by shortening the distance, but that option is out because of marine traffic. On top of that, the capacity estimates are very optimistic — I seriously doubt this will be running every 20-30 seconds.

      Most obvious option is just follow Fauntleroy, which is already sanely graded (e.g., for truck traffic) and doesn’t require demolishing anything (OK, maybe a surface parking lot or two for construction staging). Unfortunately, this option is also out.

      1. The New York subway system averages about 17 MPH. There are lines that run about 13 MPH (https://gothamist.com/attachments/arts_jen/subayspeed17a.jpeg). I think most people would consider those (relatively slow) systems as mass transit, and the top speed to be irrelevant.

        As far as the capacity limits, it is very common for gondolas to run every 20 to 30 seconds.

        I’m not saying it is the best choice of mode but this is a reasonable suggestion. No one has actually listed the time it would take to get from West Seattle Junction to IDS via a gondola, but for that matter, I can’t find official numbers for how long it will take via Link. But from my estimates, while the gondola would be slower, it would make up for a lot of that with better headways and lower dwell time.

      2. Gondolas definitely can come every 20-30 seconds, and I’m not aware of any gondola that slows down on turns. They do slow down (but don’t typically stop) at stations.

      3. if they don’t stop, then they’re not ADA-compliant (or barring some ass-backward reading of the ADA, at all useful for disabled people).

  2. Very light traffic today, especially off the West Seattle Bridge. I’d say its lighter than when the Viaduct was closed but the tunnel wasn’t open yet.

  3. Radical Transit Fundamentalists have been trying for years to get Metro to stop accepting cash and issuing transfer tickets on the grounds that it slows boardings. Now, ironically, a hamburger stand, the bane of comment section blowhards, has provided you a strategy to find finally get the transit agency to end the paper payment pest. It transmits viruses!

    Dick’s Drive-In urges customers to avoid paying with cash to slow the spread of the coronavirus.


    1. R̶̛̜̬̹͙̃̒͊ȧ̷̩͈͓̳͈͉̆͗̋̈́̎d̷͙̙̣̳̱̺̳̬̟͚̄̀͑̃͋̓͘i̷̢̛̬̫̼̱̝̙̥̺̎̓̂̋̆̅c̴̨̛̘̜̜͈̫̺͉̗̄̀ạ̵̳̼͋̉̈́̋͐͒l̴̡̺͍̠̩̲͕̙̥̑̇̃̋̂̈̑̋͜͝ ̶̢͇̥̪̲̺̺̬͋́̏̈́͊̆̓͊̚͜ͅT̴̡́̎̚r̶̞̞̖͕͉̠̦̉̿̐̕͝ä̶̧̗͕̼͔́̽̈n̸̡̧͍̜͉̳̫̼̎̈̈́̈́̾͊̋̚̚͝ş̸̱͚̞̭͎̼̞̉̃̔͆̐͠ȋ̶͉̖̜̬͉̥̰̙͊̽́͋̏̍̚t̸͇́̀ͅ ̵͍̳͈̺͑̈̄F̴͓̖͈̩̮͖̑͒̆͆̉͜u̶͎͂̀ṇ̷̢̨͕̹̱͍̍͜͝d̴̤͙̤̑̾̌́͋͝a̸͓̳̰͎̾̄͂͋͑͝͝m̶̖̭̑͐̂̇̌̀̊͒e̵̻͉͛̉͋̈̂͂͠n̴̢̢̠̙̦̟̬̗̪̣̈͝t̶̠͖̞̖̀̆̾̈̑̎͐̈́̓͠ȁ̸̯̻͙̬͍̯̥͕̔͗͛͘l̷͇͔̩̼̝̋͝į̶͍͔͇̪̜̞̞̪͔͆͒̆́͌̓̔s̸̤̍̆͑̆̉̅͝͝͝t̸̠̫̦͍̔͐̉̐̊́͌̒̾̚ͅ

      1. Sam, and barman, thanks for a political definition I’ll never feel insulted to carry: Radical Transit Fundamentalist.

        Starting with dead-giveaway, experience-confirmed belief that anything holding a passenger-transit vehicle in place when it should be moving causes fiscal arterial bleeding worthy of Dracula.

        Also supporting fare assistance that will rapidly convert a passenger who just lost their income, and their residence, back into a taxpayer. Including taxes for transit.

        Will even put up with association with the likes of the late Paul N. Weyrich, the founder of the stellar New Electric Railway Journal, whom I’d normally dismiss as an existentially dangerous Royalist worthy of King George III.

        To me, working definition of the term “Conservative” in its real sense includes advocating streetcars and the “Interurbans” derived from them. The Electroliners were two twin goddesses.

        Also, bristle somewhat as to my fondness for grilled meat enhanced by fresh air. Cite me the rule that says goat-meat and chicken dishes from India don’t count as much as hamburgers?

        Final political proof: Belief that Founders’ understanding of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, was conditioned by their being drafted in The Age of Reason.

        Too early into the present epidemic to say for certain, but the ordinary people I’m meeting generally seem to take Common Sense as working substitute for the rest of our politics.

        Mark Dublin

    2. The bigger point is … and I’m serious about this … this virus has opened up a new way of getting Metro to go cashless. You don’t argue it will speed things up. You argue that it will make people safer.

      1. Even in an “Open Thread”, feel I have to be careful about pushing the boundaries for another translation of [OT]. Which is only qualm I’ve got about this question:

        Shouldn’t certain tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue be a shade more careful about the international company he’s been publicly keeping these last few days?

        Since it’s when people of means are acting inadvisably in large numbers that observation is at its lowest, seems to me that’s when social effects of contagion are at their worst.

        What’s the chance that either Uber or Lyfft are checking the occupants of any seat on their vehicle, starting with the one just back of the steering wheel?

      2. Just my way of leaving you with the credit for advocating this, Sam. Knew you had it in you.


      3. Paying for transit via ORCA and having retailers go cashless are two different things. In transit’s case the card is simply part of the riding process and local to the agency. In retailers’ case you’re heading toward a cashless society, and that has two problems. One, it allows third-party credit-card middlemen to take a cut out of all transactions, at rates ten times higher than the cost of service. Two, it allows universal surveillance on purchases. Some parties in society are pushing for conversion to a cashless society as quickly as possible, and many consumers are voluntarily doing it (the supermarket cash rate is now around 25%). But I think we should hold out as long as we can. I take out a certain amount on Fridays and try to use it for most of my weekly expenses.

        With social distancing I have relented on this and use cards to be contactless, but I hope it doesn’t become a permanent necessity or that the cash option disappears as people flock to Amazon Go the way they flocked to Apple/Google Pay. When I go into a restaurant that doesn’t take cash, I walk out, or if I don’t find out about it until the bill comes, I tell them I won’t come back as long as they have that policy.

  4. How to cut bus service? Here’s a start. How about discontinuing all Metro school trippers, since there is no school? Metro is still running (I believe) all their special school routes … completely empty.

  5. Bruce, is choice over gondolas for West Seattle really a measure of blog maturity, or does it have more to do with comparative cost, capacity, ease-of-building, and earthquake survivability?

    And for fare-enforcement, would like somebody in Public Health to weigh in on implications of a fare system that makes surface to plastic surface contact between card and “reader” a $124 criminal offense for an over-light touch.

    Good to have staff standing by with Lysol to wipe the plastic of both cards and readers? Favor keeping present Fare Enforcers, but shifting their emphasis to information and violence-prevention. Transit used to call them “Conductors.”

    Whatever level of Government has the power- does that mean State?- think it’s way past time to start fare- enforcing the whole of Downtown Seattle Transit with the same rules. “Separate Agencies?” Coronavirus is same disease for all.

    Mark Dublin

  6. Metro’s fare revenue is probably taking a moderate hit now, but I feel like the bigger drop will hit later. Company pass programs are stable now, but if layoffs hit due to a recession that will reduce future pass revenue. I already had to buy my April pass through work, although now I realize that I likely won’t be going to the office until May at the earliest. However I’ll probably cancel my pass for May if things don’t seem to be improving.

    Cutting overlapping peak express routes would be the first step. In Ballard, the 15X (D Line) and 18X (40) are unnecessary when peak demand is lower. Particularly as the D and 40 will travel faster with fewer riders and less traffic. The 17X doesn’t have an all-day overlapping route but some riders could get to the 40 on 24th.

    1. Yeah, the obvious first cut is with peak express service. There is no reason to run buses every three minutes, if capacity is not an issue. You don’t gain anything by running them more frequently, and it is a waste to have half empty buses.

      Except that from a public health standpoint, half-empty buses are good! That is the irony. If this was caused by a major economic downtown (e. g. Amazon decided to move to Chicago and downtown commuting suddenly shrunk dramatically) then it would be different. But running inefficiently — running half-empty buses — is actually a good thing for society.

  7. There are already a few food trucks in that area, and more would definitely be welcome! Apparently they used to have some on Highline’s campus, but after they changed catering services, the trucks had to go…

  8. We should suspend all transit service to stop the spread of COVID19, during this crisis. There was an incident in which an infected homeless person took the bus. This must stop.

    1. So what about the people who still have to work? I can’t work from home doing what I do. I don’t have the money to take Uber/Lyft going to AND from work.

    2. How would people without cars get to the grocery store and pharmacy if they live in a residential-only neighborhood?

      I’ve heard New York City has suspended its transit. But New York has tons of corner stores and higher density so people can get around on foot. People living in the King County suburbs, Delridge, part of northeast Seattle, Magnolia, Mercer Island, etc, don’t have that choice.

      1. Uber and Lyft can spread the virus too. One passenger passes it along to the driver, who then passes it along to the next passenger. I believe there are places where this has, in fact, happened already.

  9. In Soviet Union school bus rides you. In Franklin Pierce School District school lunch rides school bus.

    “We will make the food and then put it on the buses,” (Karen Brown, FP nutrition director) said, adding that students will get bagged breakfast and lunch each day. “We will take it to our highest populated areas, like apartment complexes or neighborhoods where a lot of our kids live.” (Schools, Seattle Times))

  10. Metro may not be cutting routes but it does seem they are lowering capacity. Was behind a 40′ 41 (which I have never seen before!) at about 915pm yesterday.

    1. I have seen the same thing on the # 372 on a weekday. They run the 40′ on this route on the weekends. Of course with the UW online the number of riders have dropped on this route.

  11. Mike Orr, meant to respond sooner to your observation that “cashless” per se might not be a major benefit all around regarding transit.

    Been awhile since I checked, but didn’t every US bill used to carry a declaration making it “legal tender” for every transaction? Making the real issue a an equal guarantee of power and control between parties?

    The $36 Monthly Pass I put onto my ORCA card, I would like it to signify that I’ve paid maximum amount for my every conceivable ride within the calendar month specified.

    Which would give the system a non-punitive protective measure in the event that I either failed to “tap off” or, as is easy to happen on a fast run through a noisy place, contact didn’t completely register.

    All a Fare Inspector should need to do is charge my account for maximum possible trip. My last “Warning” on an otherwise nice supper break at Columbia City, with one or two “clicks” could have been instantly increased to the charge for a ride to Angle Lake. Which happened to be my actual destination.

    All information like time, location, travel direction, and date, incidentally, kept in complete confidence between Sound Transit and me. And I’m especially infuriated by what seems to be ST’s defense that they’re not really in possession of the money I paid.

    Ready Backatcha: “Since just about all the money I own is being held in my commercial bank account….I’ve really got nothing to pay your fine with, do I?” Confirming, if any were necessary, value of plain, simple Proof of Payment.

    Nor does every inducement need to be punitive. PR-Animal world has definite slot for a “Tapmunk” whose whiskers go wet with tears when some meanie neglects to “tap” goodbye. Could enlist every passenger as a Deputy at age three. Nice kick-off for a career as a Conductor!

    Also remember reading recently that Sound Transit’s pay-scale already provides remuneration for extra-good performance. Since term has “Bone” in it, has to mean that for a year, somebody wagged their ORCA card like a REALLY good dog!

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s legal tender for every debt. When you order a meal in a restaurant and the bill comes afterward, it’s a debt (although that didn’t stop the cashless restaurant that irked me). When you pay for the meal beforehand there is no debt.

  12. I believe the Seattle Times (and a lot of other paywall media) makes their COVID-19 related coverage free notwithstanding the paywall. This is an actual public service. So the ($) may be unnecessary.

  13. I believe Metro is going to make an announcement Mon or Tue. about reducing bus service.

    1. Inquiring minds wonder whether Sam has contacts at Metro or a good crystal ball. I wonder what else his crystal ball says. Maybe we’ll learn more in the coming months.

      1. I thin the service reductions will come on the heels of domestic travel restrictions that will be placed against WA and CA. If the viral outbreak continues, expect the same lock downs currently in place in Italy and Spain to begin in the Puget sound region. Metro would be wise to begin a gradual and systemic shutdown of bus service, as a complete lockdown of the region seems to be on the horizon. We can all pray that we will only have to do a few weeks of total shutdown.

      2. If that’s the case, what would be the advantages of doing it gradually and systematically? If anything, I think keeping more routes on the road is helpful to keep people from packing into the few buses that would remain in service.

      3. Domestic travel restrictions would most likely start with banning interstate or intercounty travel. If that is the case the demand for intrastate or county mass transit increases, not decreases.

  14. NYT links:

    The Mystery of the Missing Bus Riders ($). Musings on Uber, the suburbanization of poverty, etc. It misses the primary factor, which is vaguely touched on in the last few paragraphs: the same cities have reduced bus service, or deferred maintenance for so long that trains are breaking down en masse. I sent an email to the Times about this.

    Google retreats on next-generation neighborhood in Toronto ($). Opponents object to surveillance, privacy deficits, and foreign dominance.

    This raises a dichotomy between countries like Sweden that have IKEA neighborhoods with private infrastructure and policing and are accepted by the public, or mostly checkless/cashless societies (I gather), vs countries like the US where people are afraid of companies/the government/poor people taking advantage of them. It’s a difference in social trust across society. The US needs to realize that the lack of a strong social safety net. and the carve-out of favors to politically-connected companies and billionaires (i.e., corruption), do more than just make people poor and funnel money to pigs. They erode the mutual trust that is essential to a well-functioning government, robust economy, and sensible technology upgrades.

  15. Thought all day how to answer this one, Mike. Best I can do is like this.

    Sweden’s population adds up to a figure that’d be more like one of our States. And a lot more to the point, no history to equal the chattel slavery our country was born with. “Ch” word critical. In a lot of the ancient world, including Bible settings, a slave was still a human being.

    Good medical analogy is that the United States of America was born with incurable tertiary syphilis, the stage that does equal damage to body and brain, and is ferociously hereditary. History might say we had it at least two hundred years before our birth.

    Since Evergreen gives breaks to senior ORCA-card holders, I could also get a PhD in American History on the thesis that fifteen years or so after Appomattox, people in the northern states saw no more reason to get any more Union soldiers killed protecting Black people. Giving the South the permission they’d never stopped fighting for to bring back slavery. Re-Christened as the (State name your choice) Department of Corrections.

    Whole story nationwide? Not hardly. But don’t think you’d have to break the skin scratching to start hearing “Dixie.”

    Mark Dublin

    1. Yes, it all goes back to slavery. Everything I try to trace back, including things that are not directly related, eventually get caught up in the South’s resolve to maintain its peculiar values. By which I mean not just literal slavery and the Confederacy but a whole world of things that came out of it: us-vs-them mentality, “welfare queen”, segregation, etc. I read that chattel slavery originated in the Barbados sugar plantations (or at least that’s where the US got it from) and it replaced the previous indentured-servant system that was less race-focused and permanent (meaning both blacks and whites were indentured and could more or less exit it eventually). At the same time, “manifest destiny” and the Indian genocide wasn’t caused by slavery or slaveowners — it happened concurrently — so there were other factors that complemented it.

      Still, every country has its problems. The US is more unequal and corrupt and high-poverty than northern Europe but less than Russia and Mexico. The risk is if this continues we’ll become like those countries, and I don’t want that.

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