Three of the many King County Metro bus routes suspended as of this morning / Photo by Zack Heistand

Those of you who commute to work via a King County Metro express bus may find your route gone this morning. Today is the first weekday of Metro’s biannual service change. It is probably the most painful service change Metro has ever undergone.

David Lawson covered the details of how many routes have been savaged due to Metro’s budget hole. The number if routes shut down entirely is unprecedented. A few were due to a restructure of routes in South King County, but most are simply peak commuter routes that were both expensive per trip, and not well-used. Indeed, about half of Metro’s commuter express routes have been mothballed.

The suspended or eliminated peak expresses include routes 5E, 9E, 15E, 17E, 18E, 19, 37, 63, 76, 77, 113, 114, 116, 121, 122, 123, 143, 154, 157, 158, 159, 167, 177, 178, 179, 190, 192, 197, 214, 216, 217, 219, 252, 268, 308, 312, 316, 355, and 630.

New route 162 will provide some limited replacement service for routes 158, 159, and 192.

Other routes being suspended for reasons unrelated to the South King County restructure include 22, 29, 47, 71, 78, 200, 204, 208, 232, 237, 246, 249, 342, 628, and 931.

There are bright spots amidst this carnage, most notably that Link Light Rail (operated by King County Metro operators) is bringing usable frequency back today, and will be following the schedule posted at the stations for the first time since January 3. If you are used to driving to a park&ride in South King County for your commute, Link, with it’s 8-minute peak headway, could be your new ride, and Angle Lake Station or Tukwila International Boulevard Station your new P&R.

Metro’s budget, and therefore its service, is unlikely to improve much until the economy recovers. The economy will not recover until the virus is defeated. If you want a return normality, wear your mask when around other people, and urge everyone else emphatically to do so as well.

68 Replies to “Metro’s darkest day”

  1. Pretty sure 158 and 159 were deleted as part of the restructure, not because of covid issues. New 162 replaces this.

    1. If you want return to normal just stop the insanity, nothing to do with masks.
      That only perpetuates the hysterical idiocy.

  2. The worse part is the reduced frequency on pretty much every route. ~15min frequency on the 60 was fantastic . :(

    1. Check and print the new schedule. Route 60 shows 15-minute headway or better all day on weekdays from 6:36 in the morning until 6:36 in the evening. Someone forgot to tell the planning department that the schools are online. Maybe employees trying to get to Pill Hill were pushing the capacity limits?

      Evening span of service took a huge hit, though. I guess they think the late evening overcrowding on the bus will go away with the restoration of fares. I know it will impact my travel and shopping plans.

      Should schools re-open, I would hope the schools are opting for yellow buses rather than mixing the kids with the general public, until the pandemic is over. I would gladly see the new STBD funds be largely repurposed to make it happen. I would also gladly give up some daytime frequency on route 60 for the time being, assuming such a move doesn’t lead to the inability to social-distance.

      1. While I think your priorities are well placed, I don’t think it’s a matter of metro getting money meant for school bus drivers very much. I think there are contracts that will keep students on yellow buses as much as possible.

  3. Excellent posting on a rough subject, Brent, especially your last paragraph. But maybe it’ll help that yesterday turned into a day that was one of my transit-life’s brightest, sunshine and all.

    Around 1pm, struck by a sudden thought on the Capitol grounds near my home, via I-5, SR167 and Rainier Avenue, my car and I were in Columbia City about three, with a bus line in mind to be ADD-ed when COVID’s O-VER.

    Some special-work at 57th Avenue S. and four miles of straight wire along a beautiful lake shore will make Renton a twenty minute Route 7 ride from Columbia City. And vice versa. The line used to have tracks under catenary. But meantime, electric artics are fine.

    Most encouraging thing was Columbia City itself, more alive than I ever remember it. Most especially the young people who pulled my Olympia Roasters espresso at the Edmunds Route 7 stop. Who, whatever mess we’ve left them, I’m sure they can handle, and I’ll do what I can to help.

    On my CD drive, The Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie”, fifty years old this year. Google it. ‘Til we get both a vaccine and a Federal Government, our country’s temporary National Anthem.

    Mark Dublin

    New Speedway Boogie The Grateful Dead Album “Working Man’s Dead” 1970

    One way or another, one way or another
    One way or another, this darkness got to give

  4. It’s feast or famine in Bellevue. The mostly empty B Line makes about 90 round trips per day from Bellevue to Redmond. On the other end of the spectrum, tenants at a newly built low income apartment at the north end of Bellevue Way are forced to walk the one mile to downtown Bellevue since their only bus, the 249, has been canceled for months. I see some of the same people making the long march so often I now recognize some of them.

    1. I guarantee you,the B-line is still getting far more ridership than the 249 would. And, at hourly frequency, the 249 wasn’t really much of an improvement over walking one mile anyway.

      1. Route 249 was reduced in fall 2014 to hourly midday headway for the last recession. It had 30-minute midday headway in the fall 2011 restructure.

      2. No argument there. I’m just saying 90 one-way trips per day for a lightly ridden route might be a bit of an overkill (Microsoft workers made up the majority of pre-pandemic B Line riders), and 0 trips a day might also be overkill.

    2. As I said, even tenants of that new low-income apartment complex have feet. They are still not reliant on the 249.

      There is pretty much nowhere on the 249 not within a mile of some other route, except for possibly a tiny corner next to Lake Sammamish.

  5. At least yesterday, riding the 70 and 255, I didn’t notice any difference in the new schedule. Both were running every 15 minutes, just as before.

    I made the trip in the middle of the day and evenings might have had bigger cuts. But, until some semblance of nightlife is able to return, there’s little reason these days to go out in the evening.

  6. It’s batshit crazy that ST was able to put cutesy mask wraps on the ends of all the train cars, but wasn’t able to paste updated schedules at stations, update electronic reader boards with any useful information, or update OneBusAway.

    If STB can go to the trouble of researching and publishing a predictable schedule for Link, and I can go to the trouble of bookmarking it on my phone and calling it up every time I ride, it’s absurd that ST can’t go to the trouble of updating their screens and posting schedules.

    1. Dardanelles, system-wide and not just for Sound Transit, basic communications have gone from bad to pathological. It’s as if whoever is issuing the message has no idea at all as to whom they’re talking to.

      I really wonder if this work is not literally out-sourced to cheap third-party contractors in other countries. The “private company” the fare inspector mentioned when scolding me about my ORCA mis-tap could be one ignorant cut-rate problem-child out of literally a whole world of them.

      OR: would this problem go away if my elderly fingers could work a touch-screen smart-phone, which they can’t? Either way, this information situation is a human rights violation. Just fix it, ST, just fix it.

      Mark Dublin

  7. Local service still seems to be better than after the 2014 cuts.

    I’ve noticed a new feature on two buses: a waist-level gate in the aisle at the driver’s seat. It looks completely inadequate because I was expecting a plexiglass door protecting the driver’s cabin. At first I thought it was to enforce the yellow line, but it’s actually forward of the yellow line. And it has a non-missable sign, “Exit through the rear”. Link should have signs like that for tapin/tapout, not up near the ceiling or at the side.

    1. Local service still seems to be better than after the 2014 cuts.

      Right, but I’m sure there were people saying that we would never, ever, reach the golden age of 2013 levels.

  8. The golden age of buses in Seattle is truly over. The surge in ridership over the past decade was fueled by a unique coincidence of a booming downtown tech sector, hordes of young millennials flooding into the city and open to the idea of forgoing car ownership (out of concern for cost and/or cultural reasons), and a county flush with the cash to increase frequency to levels unheard of in most North American cities. The post-pandemic world will not simply snap-back to where we were in February. The millennials, who are now in their 30s , are packing up to form new households in the suburbs. Hybrid and remote working will greatly reduce the need to commute by any modality. Perhaps most significantly, a hostile city council has shown the country that leaning too heavily into an urban corporate campus model can leave large companies over-exposed and vulnerable to extreme local politics.

    Seattle’s Bus Decade was great while it lasted. It’s time to move on.

    1. Metro pre-pandemic really was a golden age. Best it had ever been in my 25 years riding. Adding in Link and car share made it very easy to live without a car in the city.

      I’m optimistic we can build it back over time to adjust to whatever the new normal is.

      1. I think the transit cuts are reasonable. We’ve lost many choice riders and it will take a long time to get them back. There is already talk that the first vaccines will be less effective than wearing a mask , and mandatory mask wearing will continue through all of 2021. Those two things will limit the choice riders metro wins back.

        And 30 minute service on most routes is doable.

      2. I think we definitely can build transit back, especially if we can continue the trend of new construction being built with less (or even no) parking. The geometry of the city hasn’t changed, nor has the pandemic allowed us to take a year off from addressing climate change.

    2. 2021andbeyond. That is an excellent and realistic post. It isn’t the end of transit, but it needs to be reimagined, less ideological, and scaled back.

      What is really scary about ST is its very vague models to fund future operations, as opposed to just construction, even before Covid-19. Either fares on rail go way up, or general fund subsidies will be required, and I don’t see that. I doubt even after Covid-19 transit riders will tolerate the density on trains and buses as before.

      ST has designed a traditional hub and spoke transit system, with Seattle the hub although building rail in Seattle is the most expensive because so much has to traverse bridges or through tunnels. For the reasons you mention (plus, as noted in the Seattle Times’ editorial on Sunday, Seattle has for decades — despite a 37% in revenue in just recent years and a $1 billion transportation levy — neglected its bridges and other infrastructure it no longer has the funding to repair) the hub is moving east, where the transit needs are totally different.

      Because the eastside subarea is so cash rich running a line along Bellevue Way and 112th to Redmond when most of the line has little density is an extravagance that is affordable. But the rest of east King Co. is so large, has such little density, and is so steep transit there means huge park and rides for first and last mile access and express buses. Plus folks in east King Co. mostly use transit to avoid congestion; if even 15% of workers permanently work from home after Covid-19 is gone the congestion will allow driving, even during peak times, and transit ridership will plummet.

      ST has to abandon rail to Seattle’s neighborhoods because it is just too expensive, and Seattle and the North King Co. subarea can’t even afford the bridges and other infrastructure for the lines, let alone tunnels. (And the second transit tunnel through Seattle may have to be surface line like everywhere else). Instead completing lines to Tacoma and Everett needs to be the priority, although Tacoma and Snohomish County are souring on ST, (and probably wish the lines ran through Bellevue today). The eastside will never consider land use a tool to justify transit, or global warming, and so transit must adapt to the land use in east King Co., and the economics in Seattle.

      1. Link’s projects include operations and saving up for fleet replacement. Ongoing costs are around 25% of one-time costs. If no more projects are approved, when the bonds are paid down the taxes will be rolled back to operation and mantenance levels. .

      2. Yeah that land use won’t survive the influx of climate refugees over the next several decades. We have to keep radically expanding transit and densification efforts just to keep up.

        Nevermind that fossil fuel car use has to curtail drastically (and electrics really aren’t much better with what it takes for their systems and batteries). Suburbia-über-Alles planning is a dead man walking.

      3. ST has to abandon rail to Seattle’s neighborhoods because it is just too expensive, and Seattle and the North King Co. subarea can’t even afford the bridges and other infrastructure for the lines, let alone tunnels. (And the second transit tunnel through Seattle may have to be surface line like everywhere else). Instead completing lines to Tacoma and Everett needs to be the priority.

        Wait, what??? Seattle should abandon rail, even though it clearly will have more riders per dollar spent, and will likely have the most money in the region? But we should build transit to Everett and Tacoma even though they are the opposite? Dude, that’s nuts.

      4. I wouldn’t call ST “hub and spoke.” ST3, like the PSRC growth plans, are explicitly multi-nodal. If anything, a common critique of ST3 is too much spending on moving people within non-Seattle subareas (TDLE, Paine Field alignment, Kirkland-Issaquah), and not enough Seattle-centric investment. Seattle is by far the biggest node, but we don’t have anything like a traditional hub like Chicago or NYC commuter rail systems. Shoot, in a few years 2 of the 4 modes won’t even serve Seattle proper.

        Also, why do you keep referring to East King as “steep”? Places like Newcastle will never get good transit, but that’s a small fraction of East King’s population. The ST2&3 station areas all seem pretty flat to me.

        Mike is correct, O&M is fully funded within the ST financial plan and operational subsidies are fully baked in. At some point, long in the future, ST will roll back some taxes, but unless the Board is trying to shut down service there will be sufficient taxes to sustain both operations and SOGR. Given the entire plan is still affordable post-covid recession with a simple 5 year delay in ST3 project timelines, I don’t see anyone arguing against ST3 projects aside from those who opposed them pre-Covid.

      5. Daniel, somehow I doubt I’m the only non-Seattleite who’s realized how much less gasoline, brake-wear, and collision-risk that workable transit saves my car.

        When I moved to Olympia six years ago, the ORCA card I brought with me made frequent essential Seattle trips cost pretty much the same as when I Iived in Ballard. And another difference.

        Intercity Transit Routes 12 and 612, Sound Transit Express 574, and all Link spent their travel time in motion. To make my car do that- which my mechanic and my checking account consider advisable- I’ve lately had to add twenty miles of two-lane to a thirty mile non-stop trip.

        Sitting stuck in traffic is a lot worse infringement of my personal freedom than either registering a gun or wearing a mask. It’s not only my brake-linings but my life that’s being wasted here.

        So for transit and its funding, where the money is going to come from is the Law of Physics that two things, let alone two hundred thousand cars, cannot all be in the same place at the same time. Whether oil and air supplies are depleted or not, anyplace to put extra cars is certainly gone.

        And about the future’s industrial workplace, I just remembered: Several years contract industrial engineering graphics frequently transferred my work-place between train-seats and coffee-shops on the same trip.

        Mark Dublin

      6. The transit situation in Newcastle would improve significantly if the Newcastle->Factoria bus, which is already there, just went to South Bellevue Link Station, rather than forcing riders to meander to Eastgate P&R and East Main St. Station, only to go back south again.

        I’m not even talking about some dramatic infusion of new service hours, just a rejiggering of the existing bus to connect with Link sooner. The Factoria->Eastgate P&R segment would still have the 245 and Eastgate P&R to downtown Bellevue would still have the 271. The only losers would people riding the bus from Newcastle to Bellevue College (who would have to transfer), or a tiny strip of Richards Road, which would lose coverage.

        But, instead of fixing the 240, Metro’s long range plan doubles down on it by upgrading the same (poor) routing to RapidRide. Instead of running empty buses through Newcastle at greater frequency, they should fix the route to make the buses that are there more useful. 2 hours travel time from most of Newcastle to most of Seattle is rediculous.

      7. @asdf2 – totally. I’m sure there are lots of great ways to serve Newcastle by bus. Issaquah Highlands (more difficult topography) gets excellent commute service via the 219. But the challenging topography of those neighborhoods is pretty irrelevant to the ST HCT network, as those neighborhoods would be just as difficult to serve if they were perfectly flat but contained the same culdesac street grid

    3. You may well be right as far as Seattle proper:(. Let’s hope you’re not right as far as “Seattle” as a metropolis. This is a great opportunity to explore how to improve the “breadth” of the transit system, and to “trim the fat” where the land use precludes efficient transit and transit dependence is low–especially with multiple Link extensions opening up in the coming years. (At least, much of the fat has been trimmed along with too much of the “meat,” but we can at least focus on restoring the “meat” going forward!). IMHO, as an alternative to running more and more busses in ever increasing traffic and fighting for bus lanes inch by inch, Seattle proper (or at least upper Beacon Hill to Northgate) might do well to start taking the “15 minute city” thing seriously. And by that, meaning a 15 minute walk/bike to daily needs/amenities not 15 minutes “without traffic” driving on the expressway.

    4. The surge in ridership over the past decade

      What surge? I’m looking at ridership for the last decade (https://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/about/accountability-center/performance/ridership/annual.aspx) and it hasn’t changed that much. It went down after 2008, then rebounded a bit, then leveled off. Some of that was ridership being transferred to Link (almost all of which occurred in Seattle) but I still don’t see a surge. Anyway, continue, Nostradamus …

      a county flush with the cash to increase frequency to levels unheard of in most North American cities

      Most cities? Yeah, I guess so. Most North American cities are in the United States, and the United States has terrible transit. Is that your point? That we suddenly had transit almost as good as a Canadian city, but not nearly as good as a European or Asian city?

      Fair enough, but you are forgetting that most of that additional funding came from the city, not the county. The county was asked to fund transit — to make up for potential cuts — and they voted no. The city wanted to retain funding, but the local recovery was much faster than the national one, so we ended up with transit frequency almost as good as our nearest (and most similar) neighbor, Vancouver.

      Are those days forever gone? I don’t see why. The city is as left leaning as ever — they will support more funding. This is a downturn, but there is no reason to believe it will hit Seattle harder than it hits Everett, let alone Detroit. The city will likely be much stronger than the rest of the country; none of the fundamentals that allowed it to be successful have changed. As a result, tax revenue should rebound, and with it, transit service. At the same time, the city itself will continue to fund additional levels of support.

      This is just one of the many ebbs and flows that have occurred with transit funding in the region. But the long term trend is clear — transit will get better in the city. What happens in the suburbs is up in the air. I would expect the East Side to do well — perhaps better than they were last year. The northern and southern suburbs may struggle, but that is nothing new.

    5. 2021and, thing about Golden Ages is they’re always judged in retrospect. And always assessed “Comparedtowhat?”

      It’s also a mistake to think that work trips to the office are the only reason people ride buses. Like with the factories of the old days, where well-paid working life was Hell, it’s great nobody has to.

      But worst thing about the pandemic and its necessary countermeasures is that people can’t do what our monkey-descended species needs more than things like food: Getting Together! It’s a tragedy. People aren’t defying quarantine to be pro-Trump- for our species, even if it kills you, keeping company life itself.

      An did you ever notice how, since the invention of the laptop, increasing number of people who don’t have or want an office spend their whole day at a cafe? Early on, cafe-owners tried to discourage this behavior.

      ‘Til they discovered that not only did the laptop-jockeys buy espresso and also publicize the cafe among their friends, but also served the decorative purpose of making the place look like the preferred habitat of people with glasses. Steel-rimmed, not beer.

      Reason I won’t miss the demise of Enforced Ridership Essentiality is that even if you were born to late to ride the Electroliner (look it up, it’s both important and really far-out!) transit’s real core constituency puts riding on the level of breathing.

      And whatever the Far Right does to the post office, always have our ORCA-card paid and tapped, and our schedule memorized, for our ride to the polls. Any chance ST can fight back with drop-boxes in Link stations? And if present trends continue, another likely outcome for buses:

      While streetcars have always been better for taking off the wheels and using them for diners- Siemens-Duwag’s got some quality, but no way I’ll eat a burger in a Breda let alone pizza- my only hope for eventually being able to go home to Ballard is that buses make great mobile homes.

      You “Wheel-less Ones” have your mother-in-law units. No reason a hinge can’t count for a hall-way!

      Mark Dublin

    6. Headline: Instead of Seattle become more like any other world city, it will go back to being like other American cities

      1. AJ and RossB, there’s a real bad problem with a constant self-comparison with one’s standing “compared to everybody else”:

        Every time you look to see where you are in line, you take your eyes off your work. And another classic constant:

        Any time anybody, like for instance the United States of America under our present Federal Administration declares that they’re Number One, they immediately become some lower number.

        Accelerating toward terminal velocity. So why don’t we just concentrate on getting the generation whose first election we’re now approaching the wherewithal to handle the country we’re handing them, which is in the same condition as the West Seattle Freeway.

        From what I’m seeing of them every day, whatever kind of city they make Seattle will work just fine, and best we be damned grateful they were born.

        Mark Dublin

    7. Amazon started marketing its spare capacity (servers, storage) to other companies in the mid 2000s. Surprisingly, companies switched to this cloud-computing model wholesale. That led to Amazon’s huge expansion and became its most profitable division. Especially since it complemented the digitization of everything, the rise of smartphones, a billion people in the developing world getting mobile-sized computers, and the nascent Internet of Things. Amazon and Microsoft are two of the heavyweights in cloud computing, and the mobile-phone revolutions also started here, so they were the beneficiaries of the 2010s tech boom. (Dotcom 2 as I call it.)

      This is unlikely to occur again, as neither Amazon nor any other company is likely to grow so far so fast, or in Seattle. Seattle can’t handle the growth anyway. Amazon’s expansion squeezed out all the slack in the real-estate market (which started in the late 60s when the city’s population decreased due to suburbanization and white flight) and created a severe housing shortage. Seattle could accommodate another Amazon-sized company if it set a population target of 1 million (currently 720K), relaxed zoning, and allowed SLU-like development in Northgate beyond the mall lot (which the mall owner won’t use), but it has refused to. Even with a million people Seattle would still be less dense than San Francisco or Chicago, not that anybody cares. So given our land-use policies and the difficulty in reforming them, slower job growth is the only way to keep housing prices on a slow acceleration rather than a fast acceleration. However, we may get climate refugees anyway.

      The 2010s boom brought in lots of sales taxes, the pubic was eager for transit levies, and Metro had to increase service just to keep up with population growth and avoid overcrowding.

      The 2020s are uncertain because we don’t know when coronavirus will be decisively contained. Trying to say the majority will telework even after covid or Seattle will have a large population loss as people move to less-dense areas sounds like unfounded epeculation. The level of in-office work will probably be lower than 2019 but higher than now. And the trend of companies and people moving to Seattle shows no sign of stopping, so the population increase alone will gradually fill buildings. Did I mention climate refugees?

      Transit’s biggest problem is the 16-person capacity limit is incompatible with universal mobility unless we get at least four times as many buses. This will be an ongoing collision, and is what I’m most worried about during the cuts and austerity.

      1. Yeah, I agree. I really doubt that we will see a boom like this decade any time soon. But that doesn’t mean there will be a bust. San Fransisco has continued growing from 1980 until now — sometimes by a lot, sometimes by a little. Vancouver BC did the same thing. New York and Portland did the same, but their growth started a little bit later.

        It is actually unusual for big cities to shrink. There are exceptions, and they usually involve a hollowing-out (with Detroit as the best example). The region has about as many people, but the city itself is much smaller. That seems highly unlikely for Seattle (or Portland, Vancouver, San Fransisco …). The long term trend is towards moving to the city, and it is hard to see why a temporary pandemic (and it is temporary) is going to change things.

      2. England went through a loss of empire and influence and wealth in the past century, yet it’s still a viable place to live and has active cultural innovations. If Seattle declines I assume it will be like that. We were doing all right before the 2003 growth or the Amazon boom.

      3. King Co. lost net citizens in 2018 and 2019 so I doubt huge population increases are in the future for King Co., especially Seattle. Not for a long time anyway.

        ST gained 1% in riders in 2019. I agree it is hard to predict post-Covid work patterns, but most predict there will be some shift to working from home, or less office working. It just took a push for businesses to set up the infrastructure. After all, who had Zoom before Covid-19? Who doesn’t bank online?

        For Seattle and transit funding the issue is commercial development was already reaching over-capacity, and at least light rail is predicated on huge population and ridership increases. For Seattle it is the huge revenue downturn that is frightening, when Seattle was so poorly prepared for any kind of downturn.

        I think Mike Orr hits on a real unknown: now that riders know how easily any virus or bacteria can be spread on transit will they ever return to a level of capacity that buses and rail need to pencil out. I doubt it, but who knows. They will likely return to large sporting events. Now citizens will be concerned just about the ordinary flu and transit. Metro and ST can’t afford to increase buses four fold to carry the same number of riders.

        Two other issues are:

        1. The huge cost to fix Seattle’s infrastructure, especially its bridges, which must handle transit lines. Seattle went on a spending spree, but forgot its infrastructure, from bridges to piers to roads. (Unless all transit riders are going to shift to bikes). Now it does not have the money, and wants to the region to bail it out, and its transportation levy was wasted on trolleys, cost overruns for trolleys, and bike lanes. I wouldn’t count on a regional or county bail out.

        2. Many take transit to avoid congestion, although they own a car. This is especially true on the eastside, where it is hard to live without a car. If traffic congestion remains low after Covid-19 more people are going to drive to work, if they leave their house for work.

        My own personal opinion is Seattle’s zoning policies will drive more residents out than they bring in. I think it is a real fallacy that zoning be adjusted to support transit, when it is transit that must adjust to zoning. This is why the PSRC estimates most future growth will go to counties other than King.

        Zoning is a main priority for most citizens, especially on the eastside where residents don’t want to live in a shoe box without a yard and a bus for mobility. That simply is not the life they want to live, if they can afford it. Kids and dogs and cats and all kinds of things to store like cars and bikes and boats take room. If they wanted to live in NY or San Francisco they would, or at least in Seattle, not the eastside.

        The number one sentiment on the eastside is don’t make the tragic errors Seattle made. That begins with zoning, schools, and law and order, and maybe taxation. Transit is just not a priority, although the eastside subarea is flush with cash in a part of the county that is nearly as large as Rhode Island with little density, and half the residents own trucks and need tools for work.

      4. Since Amazon does not seem to be either seeking or taking any advice from the rest of us about anything, how about we forget about them and maybe concentrate on recovering the manufacturing that gave our parents and grandparents the first decent living in family, and World history?

        You know what my doctor, and even worse, my chief nurse, ordered that I can’t get? A Number 95 (or whatever) MASK! “Well we’re out of those, but we’ve got one of those T-95’s from…you know, Wuhan?”

        Blatant blazing truth about the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel was that if Pullman (the train company, not the college) didn’t want it, we should have contracted with Kenworth to build The Whole Damned Fleet! And stolen the lead from Sweden in both electric buses and trucks like the ones in Sweden that could do seventy.

        Maybe if we let University of Washington be financed completely by football and turn the State’s educational system over to the community colleges.

        With Lake Washington Tech likely taking an early lead because nobody ever lost money on any program to do with funeral services. Which in the past had no trouble including elegant wood and cut-glass streetcars.

        Mark Dublin

      5. “now that riders know how easily any virus or bacteria can be spread on transit will they ever return to a level of capacity that buses and rail need to pencil out”

        I was saying the opposite, that buses reach the nominal capacity and the driver won’t let any more on, so people are stranded at the bus stop for 15, 30, or even 60 minutes if the bus is infrequent or multiple buses are full. Some routes like the 7, 124, 132, and 150 are reaching that limit in the afternoon. Even if they don’t reach the limit, they can take only two or three more people. Metro eliminated the 5X and said to take the 5, but what if the 5 is full? I haven’t been left behind but I had to strong-arm a seat once when the driver said something I couldn’t quite understand but I think it was, “Three people have to get off before this bus will move.” Yesterday I think a 49 was full but the driver let everybody on, probably because half the people normally get off two stops later. It’s getting tp the point that you have to be agressive about getting on and staying in a seat or you can’t get around. I’ve shifted most of my trips to the off hours (late morning, early afternoon, after 7pm) to avoid full buses, but you can’t always predict it; or if you’re in parts of Rainier Valley you may have no choice but the 7. I took a 50 from Seward Park to its Rainier stop but then there was a gap to the 8 at Mt Baker Station and it was either the 7 or walk. (I couldn’t remember if the 106 was 15 or 30 minutes on weekends, and I didn’t want to get to its stop and find I’d have to wait 30 minutes or it was near full too.) If this gets worse and people find they repeatedly can’t get on a bus or can’t get to work reliably on the bus, then the transit system will have failed us. What’s worst is that Metro’s budget limitations may force cutbacks that cause overcrowding that it can’t address.

      6. Other countries have shown that you can have higher loads without covid outbreaks if everyone wears a mask. That’s one of the reasons Brent keeps repeating “Wear your damn mask” so we can get to that point. Although I haven’t seen a maskless rider since Inslee made masks mandatory on transit a month or two ago. It may depend on the route. But it’s Metro’s choice what to set the limit at, and it may keep it lower than necessary for longer than necessary.


      7. Two other issues are:

        1. The huge cost to fix Seattle’s infrastructure, especially its bridges, which must handle transit lines. Seattle went on a spending spree, but forgot its infrastructure, from bridges to piers to roads. (Unless all transit riders are going to shift to bikes). Now it does not have the money, and wants to the region to bail it out, and its transportation levy was wasted on trolleys, cost overruns for trolleys, and bike lanes. I wouldn’t count on a regional or county bail out.

        2. Many take transit to avoid congestion, although they own a car. This is especially true on the eastside, where it is hard to live without a car. If traffic congestion remains low after Covid-19 more people are going to drive to work, if they leave their house for work.

        1. OK, first of all, bike lanes constitute a tiny amount of funding for Seattle. Second, the streetcar was paid for mostly by Sound Transit, Vulcan, and a local tax. The city paid a relatively small amount (although still more than bike lanes). Most of the transportation funding went into roads. It was hardly a “spending spree”.

        I think there is a good chance the state will chip in for some of the road maintenance. They built a new tunnel even though the city didn’t want it. It is hard to argue that the state shouldn’t rebuild a major freeway, but it is OK to build an unnecessary new freeway (https://wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Gateway/default.htm). The state could rebuild it, and drivers would pay back most of the money through tolls. There would also likely be some federal money for it as well.

        2. This is contradictory. You are saying that driving will increase because driving has decreased. It also ignores the fact that congestion has already returned, even though Covid cases have now peaked. We may be entering the worst phase of the pandemic, and there is still plenty of traffic at rush hour.

      8. Zoning is a main priority for most citizens

        Citation please. Sorry I keep saying that, but you’ve made several statements like this, and the one easily verifiable fact was incorrect. Is there some poll you can cite showing more than half the people in a survey cited this as their first priority?

        especially on the eastside where residents don’t want to live in a shoe box without a yard and a bus for mobility. That simply is not the life they want to live, if they can afford it.

        So don’t live there. No one is going to build a small house unless there is a market for it. The same is true of apartments and condos. They won’t get built unless there is a market for it. If there isn’t a market for it — if no one wants to live in that small house — then no one will mind if they change the zoning laws.

        My guess is that isn’t the case. My guess is that people really do want to live in that small house, apartment or condo. That explains why people show up at zoning meetings, trying to prevent them from being built. They aren’t worried that the builder will lose their shirt building something that sits empty. They are worried that they will be occupied, and build more.

      9. D. Thompson,
        I think you are failing to account for one other thing. By 2021, everyone who had any desire and means to leave the city will have almost certainly already left. While “exodus” seems a bit melodramatic, there is no denying that a certain part of the population has left, either Seattle or this earth in general, with no intention of coming back. Obviously some of the second will continue, but those living here now and not in the process of leaving are probably not itching to leave. I mean, if this didn’t do it, what does it take? That doesn’t mean I’m going to invest in any downtown condos very soon, but Seattle has as good a chance of getting the next big thing as anyone, and with fingers in so many pies (okay, we lag a bit on actual silicon and in biotech but we aren’t impossibly behind) I sure wouldn’t make a decade or longer bet against Seattle or King County.
        I also wouldn’t bet long term against density, either on transit or otherwise. Pandemics aren’t something that never happened before 2020, and while it’s certainly been a while, we didn’t run away from density before and we won’t once this is over… and possibly with people more used to masks we’ll do enough better in flu season to not have people avoiding dense populations so much on that basis either.

        Covid absolutely kicked off a few things that were beginning to trend but hadn’t really built up steam, there will absolutely be people who stop working at work mostly or entirely, and there will be people who left cities without looking back or will leave cities ready to be somewhere else. Automation will boom: as owners and investors realize the risk of workers, they will be more eager to trade them away for more reliable robots. But overall, people will return to work, and slowly to other things as well.

  9. A nit, I admit:
    “Metro’s biannual service change.”
    Should read semi-annual. Biannual is every other year…

    1. Lloyd was right, biannual in precise usage means once every two years, to contrast with semi-annual which means twice a year. But many people also use biannual to mean the latter so it can be ambiguous.

      I learned the difference when I had a magazine subscription that “published monthly, except bi-monthly June/July and August/September, and semi-monthly in December [‘December’ and ‘December 15th’].”

      1. Technically both are commonly used, per dictionary.com.

        https://www.dictionary.com/browse/biannual

        However, according to the paper copy of the Oxford dictionary on my shelf (OCD, not OED, FWIW), biannual is only “twice a year”, as Anon indicated, and as the author used. It is possible that in American English “biannual” as “biennial” is more common, though I am not sure what dictionary I would use to determine this specifically. It could also be region-dependent, though I have not seen evidence of it – if it were, then I might expect regions more closely aligned with British English to use “biannual” as “semi-annual”, for example.

        The point though is, let’s not get too hung up on the specific terminology, but also let’s avoid using confusing terminology :)

    2. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/king-county-population-growth-hits-decade-low-census-data-shows/

      This is the Seattle Times article noting King Co. has lost around 5000 citizens each year, not accounting for those moving from outside the country. Granted it was only 5000 net residents each year for two years, and when including those from outside the country there was a slight gain, but the point I was making is much of ST and transit in general, and much of the region’s new land use policies, estimate huge growth that over the last two decades, and I doubt that.

      While no doubt some might be willing to cram onto a bus despite the Coronavirus, despite Metro’s health policies, ridership at one point declined to 13% of pre-Covid levels. Most buses I see are empty. Again, ridership might rebound after Covid-19, or show a slight decrease, but so much of our population growth and transit estimates are based on huge increases in the future to pencil out. My guess is the declines in routes and number of buses/trains per hour discussed on this blog will be permanent in the future, if not as severe. There were three riders on the 550 this morning according to a friend.

      Density has two parts: 1. commercial; and 2. residential.

      Commercial occupancy is important because of the revenue it generates for cities. Occupancy rates in Seattle were becoming questionable even before Covid-19 (interest rates on loans are often tied to occupancy). One estimate put the loss of square footage as banks close branches at between 1 and 4 billion square feet throughout the U.S. Seattle was already reaching saturation with some huge projects in the works before Covid.

      When it comes to residential density, the problem there is governments try to change human nature. The single family home, dog, yard, garage, kids is the American Dream for most. Claims of sprawl, global warming, equity are just covers for the building organizations that have joined with some of the environmental groups and labor to upzone expensive residential areas. After all, where is all the upzoning and gentrification the line from Seattle to the airport was suppose to create? Upzoning is only about expensive neighborhoods. In Seattle this policy wiped out the main historical neighborhood of color, Capitol Hill, where I group up as a kid in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

      I know eastside zoning by personal knowledge (and as a lawyer very familiar with land use law) since I live on the eastside, and am active in its zoning issues and politics. I only know it in Seattle anymore from clients or friends who are investors, and from following the litigation between Queen Anne and the city over the zoning changes, particularly the change to allow the owner of the property to not live onsite if there is more than one legal dwelling.

      I don’t care what Seattle does when it comes to zoning. I strongly believe the owner of the property should have to live onsite if there is more than one legal dwelling. One of the saddest statistics for me is over 50% of Seattleites now rent, and realize none of the gain from real property, and can’t buy a house because every single family house is now valued as a three dwelling multi-family rental owned by the large housing trusts whose owners of course don’t live onsite; they live on the eastside. I know several.

      I don’t live in Seattle, as one poster suggested. Housing prices in Seattle, especially for single family homes (condo prices have taken a huge hit, in large part due to perceptions of safety — especially on transit — and inadequate parking in the buildings ), are still strong, so a resident can sell and move someplace else if they want, which I think many will. Of course schools and safety are the other main issues why people move from Seattle to the eastside despite working in Seattle, although I think many fewer suburbanites will work in Seattle in the future.

      I like this blog, and find many comments very intelligent, but it is very Seattle concentric, as is ST. And of course the posters are transit aficionados, hardly the demographic to understand eastside zoning. When I hear someone say zoning must conform to transit I just shake my head.

      The fundamental point about future transit, or BLM for that matter, is all governments are broke, even though Washington State was pretty well prepared for a recession, but not a pandemic. Seattle was horribly prepared, and had gone on a drunken spending spree, and refuses to get serious about real reform and spending policies. Instead the council enacts new taxes to drive out businesses or discourage them from moving to Seattle, or dreams of state or federal bailouts.

      Look at the unfunded infrastructure in Seattle: 1. the convention center; 2. West Seattle Bridge; 3. Second transit tunnel; 4. Every other bridge; 5. roads, water and sewer lines. All of these have to come before non- essential transit.

      Urban planners always dreamed of a vision in which workers live in dense cities near where they worked, and either walk or took transit. It is the major theme in every university level planning course. The one issue that thwarted the planners’ vision was the desire for a single family house, that led to more sprawl, roads, congestion, and according to them global warming. But it was what many wanted, even if they have to move to Snohomish or Kitsap County (although the vast majority of King Co. is zoned single family home).

      Now that dream is realized. People will be working from home. Suburbanites will work from their single family homes, and I suppose Seattleites will work from their houses or apartments. The problem is Seattle is predicated on tens of thousands of workers coming into the city each day from suburbia, leasing space, visiting businesses, using transit, paying taxes. That will decline pretty precipitously, and Seattle is not prepared. Nor is transit.

      All I have tried to do is explain not everyone thinks like a blogger on a Seattle Transit Blog, whether it has to do with cars, zoning, or transit. The eastside is not Seattle, and is terrified of becoming Seattle. My guess is going forward all the money will be on the eastside, especially when working from home becomes permanent, and of course the ST eastside subarea has all the money that must be spent in east King Co., although I am not sure where. There is just too much reserves left over after East Link and from ST 3. I don’t think Seattle has prepared well for a downturn, or the council is willing to get realistic about spending reforms until some financial crisis hits. After all this is a council that thinks cutting the police dept. will encourage tourism and business.

  10. According to Metro’s website, the 208 is no longer suspended due to the 628 being eliminated. It has been reduced to only six trips a day in each direction though.

  11. Yep, Metro, like every other organization, needs to re-think its services and customer base. Who works from home? Who can’t work from home? Where do people travel. I used to make a daily 20-mile-each-direction trip to and from work, and often stopped to get groceries at one of two locations on the way. Sunday evening trip to church. Occasional weekends to visit friends. I now leave my house about once every week or two for a necessary shopping trip, and every couple of months to visit friends. On the other hand, there’s my wife. She’s an essential worker, 12-hour shifts. The office-worker commute buses need to stop. Those jobs can be done from home. There need to be buses to get people to and from hospitals and factories. Places that are essential, where work that cannot be done from home happens. Metro seems to be settled into pre-planned service patterns designed a year ago. Why? I’m never going to go back to a daily commute. Ever. Many others won’t either. Could we re-imagine transit around necessities and essential work?

    1. Engineer, you’re an engineer. What do you think the chances are that before the inkjet dries on anything, the officials who’ve settled Metro into anything preplanned won’t grab their retirement package as if it was a parachute, and they’re out the door of a blazing plane?

      Luckily, the people whose lifetime first election will happen in five weeks, however badly, and who every day make my life better by fixing a screw-up generated somebody, or agency, or program, who’s older, are already in action on every essential necessity in sight.

      Making essential as all Hell the necessity of treating them with respect, giving them all help, and staying out of their way. Note to self, Mark: pick up that orange spray can and start “messaging” walls that they can be in the legislature when they’re 18.

      Mark Dublin

  12. And Daniel, any chance Seattle has so much more infrastructure to fix than Bellevue is because Seattle has so much more infrastructure?

    What are the chances that Bellevue would not still be cow pasture if Seattle hadn’t become a city first. As well as a pretty generous revenue source just by being there?

    Because I don’t really give a crap, I’m taking your word for it there’s no corporate crime in Bellevue. And got not time to check police blotters. But it could illustrate one thing: the more people can earn enough money to give themselves and their kids a decent living, the safer everybody’s life will be.

    But here’s my proof as to which place I’d rather live if I only had two choices. Bellevue or Seattle, which city has more kids run away to the other one? And same challenge for the whole rest of the State of Washington.

    Mark Dublin

    1. It isn’t a Seattle vs. Bellevue/eastside issue (except when it comes to ST subareas where each dollar raised in revenue in the subarea must be spent there). I lived in Seattle many years. Like most I moved east when I married and had kids. Kids change everything. Seattle and Bellevue just have different cultures and needs.

      Here are some interesting comparisons between the two: https://www.bestplaces.net/compare-cities/seattle_wa/bellevue_wa/economy

      I have worked in downtown Seattle for 30 years. Until around five–seven years ago I liked the after work scene, and lunch scene in Pioneer Square. Then Seattle began to deteriorate pretty quickly. Ten years ago, after spending a fortune on a babysitter, we would never head to Bellevue for dinner. Now we never go to Seattle. I am not alone. Both sides have good restaurants and bars.

      I used to like the free bus in downtown Seattle, until it became a home for the homeless and vagrants.

      Kids like my own leave the eastside to go to college (and one may go to the UW). They are young enough to hardly even know Seattle. My daughter would never go to Seattle to shop, and they have grown up hardly going into Seattle.

      Bellevue can be a little sterile, although Old Bellevue has great restaurants, and the the greater eastside has great ethnic restaurants. The greater eastside is not as white as some think. When you get older, or have kids, safety and sterile are not so bad.

      This blog is about transit, although I think a fundamental underlying reality is future revenue, including fare revenue. How many buses and trains can we afford to build and operate under new revenue realities? How many riders will be willing to get on a train or bus post-Covid, what will the fares be, how many lines will there be, will there be first/last mile access, how much general tax subsidies will be available, how accurate are ST’s projections, how many will continue to work from home, how many will return to driving if congestion is less severe? We will find out.

      We have bitten off some very expensive transit projects with high future operation costs. Right now the subarea reserves favor the eastside, except most eastsiders don’t really like to take transit. Maybe they will change, but there is a reason ST is building 1500 car park and rides, which are still too small. Transit is needed most in Seattle, but that is the most expensive area to run it in.

      My guess is things will not return to normal after Covid-19 passes. First I don’t think revenue from tourism and businesses in Seattle will recover, I worry the city will continue to decline in terms of safety and attractiveness, and second I think working from home could really reduce the number of suburbanites who come into Seattle every day to work in those very tall skyscrapers that generate a lot of revenue, and fund the transit system.

      It used to be people on the eastside wanted to come into Seattle, so the hassle was worth it. Seattle was exciting. Now it is dirty and unsafe, at least to us. So if working from home, or moving businesses to Bellevue, means someone does not have to go into Seattle, there isn’t anything else to draw them in, and it means future revenue projections for all transit, especially east–west, needs to be reevaluated. That’s all.

  13. Well I guess it’s a good job Covid has me working at home as I just realized with suspension of 232 and 931 Cottage Lake no longer has bus service. I’m lucky to have options but feel for those that don’t as it’s now a 4 mile walk to either Woodinville to get the 522 or 311 (used to come through Cottage Lake in the good old days) or towards Redmond to get the 250 at Avondale/PCC. At least the metro map shows Cottage Lake still has its 2 P&R :-)

  14. I would argue that the saddest thing isn’t the suspended lines. Many were low-performing anyways, and it is more of lines that cater to a few. The worst thing is the loss of frequent service, especially after 8pm or on weekends. It is horrible to see “backbone” routes get 30-60 minutes at those times, and no owl services. Do they remember essential workers don’t work 8 to 5?

    1. I completely agree as well. My partner and I are lucky to live in Wallingford, which has escaped the worst of the axe, but even here losing the 31 on Sundays is a blow, not to mention dropping the 5 to half-hourly on Sundays. I was hoping that being through-routed with the 21 would help given that West Seattle needs as much transit service as it can get right now, but apparently not.

      1. Gah, you’re right. This year has really messed with keeping track of days of the week…

        In any case, I am looking forward to next year, when (supposedly) Metro will add both Saturday and Sunday service to the 31, and re-route the 31 and 32 to serve the new Brooklyn station. As dark as this year is, I think we still have things to look forward to for next year.

      2. But those low performing lines were ahead of their time with natural distancing! I fondly remember riding round trip to work on the the 37 between Alki and Magnolia back in the day when it operated full days 7 days per week. Being a double ended route, it got pretty good ridership the closer you got to city center. Workplace (Army Reserves) and bus service are but a distant memory. Actually only 20 years ago. How times have changed.

  15. If Metro is serious about bringing ridership back, they need to keep the bums and druggies off the buses.
    I quit riding the bus last summer after an extremely drunk bum squatted down in the aisle and took a huge dump. The driver refused to throw this guy off the bus, even though everyone else was screaming about it.
    Until I see proof that Metro is serious about making the buses a reasonably pleasant way to travel, I will continue to drive or bike…

  16. Since the J line will now be terminating at UW instead of Roosevelt, all the more reason for just having kept the 66.

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