Today is the last day you can take the survey on Sound Transit’s proposed 2021 service levels. You can read Brent’s summary of the very complicated ST Express changes. It’s worth highlighting that the expectation that Link will run at 15-minute intervals through all of 2021 undermines the entire rationale of light rail.

Given plummeting ridership, sharp cuts at the start of the pandemic and a gradual restoration make a lot of sense. But if “reduced rush hour demand” is the reason to still keep service levels low, it’s perplexing that the worst hit times are everywhere but rush hour, where riders might wait 2 minutes more than they did in 2019:

Major employers like Amazon plan to return to work in January 2021. My guess is that will slip, but the recent service change applies through March. In the past, both Metro and ST haven’t been flexible enough to ramp up service in between scheduled changes. Far better that they plan to provide full service levels and cut them ad hoc, as they’ve demonstrated the ability to do in 2020, then budget for lower levels and be trapped when they prove to be inadequate.

Revenue is down, but the basic value proposition of light rail is a frequent, rapid, high-capacity spine that’s always there. Bus service has centrifugal properties: the roads they run on are everywhere, tempting leaders to put just a little service everywhere. The very large investments associated with light rail demand intensive service levels to justify them. If it’s just another route to be watered down to marginal utility when times get tough, the $20 billion or so in current dollars we’re still slated to spend stop making so much sense.

Furthermore, Metro is continuing a years-long process to reorient bus service to get people to stations rather than run parallel to Link. Frequencies that might be acceptable for RapidRide become less so when every minute is a transfer penalty for people that used to have a one-seat ride, and undermine people’s trust in changes that would build a more robust system in the long term.

In the bad old days there were some seasons where night ridership was atrocious, but Sound Transit ran one-car trains rather than renege on its understanding with the riding public. That sentiment appears to be gone.

Sound Transit did not respond to numerous questions about this subject.

55 Replies to “The Link recovery plan is a disappointment”

  1. This is why I don’t drink alcohol, except in very limited circumstances (New Years Day).

    The sky is falling, the wolves are howling, and zombies run amok.

    Link frequency is adequate for the time being.

  2. Fact I don’t vote for anybody on the Sound Transit Board was not through any choice of mine. Though I do have some representation in the Washington State legislature.

    But what I’d suggest Sound Transit think about is how Seattle Transit Blog is going to keep on defending ST’s very existence when its enemies become the ones who are demanding the same information.

    Martin, for ST’s own sake, I think it’s time you and your colleagues insist on a meeting. Official of your choice, though I’d pick Paul Denison. Before Mike Lindblom and the Seattle Times editorial board become the ones who are asking the questions.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I agree.

      Sound Transit needs to WAKE UP and realize it is once again in a fight for its own life.

  3. I agree, Martin.

    Another thing that bothers me is that they aren’t being honest and open with the public. Their stated reason for very low frequency midday service is that there is less rush hour demand. That doesn’t make any sense.

    The unstated reason is cost. But what is it costing?

  4. Thank you for the reminder. I filled out the survey and asked for more Link service. I agree, “reduced rush hour demand” doesn’t mesh with a service decision to preserve all rush-hour service, while gutting the non-rush-hour service.

  5. I do wonder if the schedule will change when pandemic situation improves. There are a lot of companies that are asking their employees to work from home “permanently”, but that is just another way of saying “indefinitely”. They plan on having their employees go back to the office, it is just a lot easier to say that, then have keep announcing three month or six month plans. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sound Transit improves service about a year from now, especially if things improve as expected.

    1. It may, but we shouldn’t have this uncertainty for months all the way up to that point. ST needs to articulate its current vision of frequent service and the criteria for increasing it.

      It’s similar to the issue of the election. Maybe things wlll be all right and we’ll have a fair result and a peaceful transfer of power. But we shouldn’t have to worry about that all the way up to election day. It should be clear months before that.

    2. I’d feel better if Sound Transit said something along the lines of Link frequency potentially improving in September 2021 if COVID is abating. But, that’s not what they’re saying. What they’re saying is that the current schedule will persist until at least spring 2022, maybe we’ll beyond that, no matter what. This means, for example, that if the Mariners resume, people might have to wait over an hour to get home before a train shows up with room for them.

      Yes, it’s money. But, the cost of running what they have is tiny compared to the cost of building new lines. If push comes to shove and maintaining current service means Link to Everett opens two months later, that’s a trade worth making.

      1. Ah, but “building new lines” is what ST lives for. What better way to curry favor with local elected representatives than give them frequent reasons to cut a ribbon?

      2. Mike, yes you are right. I mean the management and staff: the people who plan and “create” the system.

  6. They need to ramp-up frequency in 2021, even if ridership is still way down, or else the ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the new stations will be depressing.

  7. I am in agreement with the major points in the post and echoed in the comments. ST should commit to a minimum 10-minute minimum service between 5 am and 10 pm. It’s essential for the new bus system structure — and that’s different than dismissively focusing on ridership. If anything, having more trains is better for public health reasons since social distancing is much easier in a train. I’ll also point out the the Federal funding is based on justification ratings based on a more frequent operating plan with both high frequency trains and a restructured bus system feeding Link in a service change.

    I’m also bothered by ST management of this situation in general. Any “normal” transit board would have this discussion as a routine agenda item. ST management appears to be saying that this is how it is, and is not giving it’s board any choices here. ST could roll out two or three service scenarios and get direction from their board. Instead it’s a pronouncement from management with no board feedback.

    1. No argument about the arrogance of ST’s board and leadership. I imagine if miraculously ridership returned to pre-Covid levels in 2021 frequency would increase. But still ST and Metro have taken a huge financial hit that will continue until … at least sometime in 2021, and there is no way to recoup that money.

      I think it was Mike Orr who posted earlier you can’t fiscally run a transit system with 3 or 4 riders per bus or rail car. But who in their right mind wants to get on a packed bus or train right now? Or who needs to if you take transit to commute to work?

      I suspect ST and Metro have done quite a bit of internal modelling for ridership post-Covid 19 (including lease renegotiations for office space), which is why its schedule is through Sept. 2022, but would rather not publicly disclose those models because it blows huge financial holes in ST’s future projects and plans. According to the Seattle Times ST’s most recent 5 year plan through 2025 does not even account for Covid-19. Talk about denial.

      What I am seeing in these posts is the disconnect between those who use transit to commute to and from work, and those who rely on transit for basic mobility. (Commuters who are working from home are not housebound, but they are driving for mobility since there is no traffic congestion). The commuters don’t need transit right now, and are not thinking about it, but they tend to fund the system for those who rely on transit for mobility. ST has never really cared about those who need transit for basic mobility because the money is in the commuters.

      Buses and trains might be mostly empty, something many dreamed of when crammed onto a standing room only bus, which means their frequency is going to go way down, for logistics and for financial survival.

      If the commuter comes back so will frequency. Don’t count on it though.

    2. The threshold for a cost-effective bus route is 10 riders per service hour. This is just an international average approximation for laymens’ purposes. Agencies will have a more precise/complex formula and local factors. It means 10 people at any point during the hour; e.g., some people may get off and are later replaced by other people. Many routes are an hour or less from end to end. Even low-volume coverage routes that look “almost empty” usually reach 10 people/hour. If they don’t, they may be close, or they may reach it in 5-10 years if the service continues.

      In contrast, demand-response transit like taxis and Uber reach only 1-2 passengers per hour. All that time going to odd houses, coming back empty, and waiting for the next order add up. Via, a Metro experiment in Rainier Valley, was unusually productive at 3-4 people/hour. At that rate, even a badly performing fixed route — or two — would be better. Thus, more coverage routes could be a solution for Mercer Island, southeast Seattle, and other places.

      1. I once drove a taxi. No taxi driver or Uber driver would meet their “nut” (the cost of the cab, plus fuel) with 1 or two rides per hour, even from the airport.

        The point of taxi dispatch or Uber/Lyft is the closest car to the customer is given the fare. Drop someone off and the next fare is based on your location. I believe the number of miles Uber/Lyft in 2019 for King Co. was some insane number like 175 million miles, which is why Seattle and Transit were so keen on taxing Uber/Lyft and other costly measures like making drivers employees to force riders onto transit.

        In the urban core riders per hour are closer to 10 for a cab if it is busy. I am not sure about Uber, but I am sure drivers are not averaging 1 or 2 customers per hour. Plus when Covid-19 hit Uber/Lyft were just rolling out ride share apps.

        Grade separated transit beats Uber/Lyft if the ride is long and/or the distance great if there is congestion. And in cost. Otherwise Uber/Lyft have much superior convenience. For example, taking a bus from Mercer Island to Seattle to catch a train to SeaTac is over an hour with no traffic, 1.5 hours when factoring in the time to get to the bus station, whereas with Uber/Lyft it is around 20 to 25 minutes if there is no congestion (plus can be written off as a business expense), and you don’t have to haul your luggage on transit.

        Apparently there is a strain of logic in transit that if you increase the frequency in five or ten years citizens will make life choices that will end up supporting that frequency. Interesting theory, if money were no object. Since transit receives huge public subsidies above fares, money is an object.

        Frequency follows number of riders or transit goes broke.

      2. “Apparently there is a strain of logic in transit that if you increase the frequency in five or ten years citizens will make life choices that will end up supporting that frequency.”

        That’s how all new routes work. Link, the 62, the 31/32 through-route to U Village and Children’s, the A, B, and F, etc. It takes several months and years for people one by one to:

        A. Notice it exists.
        B. Realize how it might improve their trips.
        C. Move to a new apartment or buy a new house or condo.
        D. Move from out of state.
        E. Move from a city with a higher expectation of daily transit use, which they bring with them.
        F. For people who don’t use transit to vacate station-area units and be replaced by people who preferentially choose station-area units.
        G. Increasing density bringing more people to the station area.
        H. The overall transit network. As with the telephone network, the addition of a new line increases the usefulness of the entire network.

        “Frequency follows number of riders or transit goes broke.”

        Then transit will never grow. There are people who won’t take a 60-minute route who will take a 30-minute route, and ditto for 30 to 15, 15 to 10, and 10 to 5. 15 minutes is the minimum level of service for which you can expect a robust level of ridership near the sweet spot. There is a ceiling of ridership, but there’s also a minimum level of frequency that riders will tolerate.

      3. Apparently there is a strain of logic in transit that if you increase the frequency in five or ten years citizens will make life choices that will end up supporting that frequency.

        That isn’t it. Ridership goes up almost immediately when you increase frequency. You don’t have to wait five or ten years. Here is an essay with several studies showing the relationship: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2019/02/25/frequency-ridership-spirals/. In this article, the author mentions frequency in only one section, but it clearly shows the relationship: https://humantransit.org/basics/the-transit-ridership-recipe#frequency. The relationship is real, and has been verified with numerous studies. Frequency and ridership go together.

    3. I don’t know the threshold for trains; it’s probably different than for buses. But even in the heights of the pandemic when I rode Link between Westlake and SODO, there were at least six people in the half-car I could see. And Link normally gets at least one or two on/offs per station. They were spread out across the half-car, and all except one or two were wearing masks.

  8. It’s a disappointment, but I am not so sure that this service level is necessarily wrong. What are the major destinations on Link? Downtown, UW, Capitol Hill. All three destinations are all but completely shut down at the moment. And the “essential workers”, i.e. people who still need to go to work, by and large can’t afford to live near Link stations anyway.

    Not to mention that I doubt Amazon will be back to normal so early. We (both in the US as a whole and, yes, in Seattle too) are doing a terrible job dealing with this virus. Assuming a vaccine is available in January, most people aren’t going to be vaccinated right away. I expect many people to refuse a vaccine altogether. Link demand is going to be low for a long time to come.

    1. I think the current service level probably matches demand pretty well today. The concern is not improving it when demand improves a year from now and more people are funneled onto it due to truncations in the bus routes.

      If Sound Transit said 15 minutes for now, improving to 10 minutes in fall of 2021, I wouldn’t be complaining.

      1. If they said 15 minutes for now, improving to 10 minutes in fall of 2021, and the funding and ridership needs were not there in 2021, they would be subject to who knows what nonsense from the likes of Tim Eyman, so I can see why they would not want to make such a blanket commitment. And qualifying the statement further would just make it meaningless.

        Fundamentally, the issue is one of trust. At the moment, it appears that ST is losing a lot of trust from the transit advocacy community, after having already lost (or never having had) a lot of trust from… let’s say “more skeptical of transit” communities. This is not a good thing for anyone, unfortunately. But it’s the issue that needs to be solved, not the specific wording, IMHO.

      2. The ridership won’t come back until the frequency comes back. People won’t ride if they have to wait a long time.

        You can’t just set frequency by dividing the expected hourly ridership by the capacity of a 4-car train.

      3. I do not disagree with the point about how to set frequency. Nor with the first point, to an extent.

        I think that increasing frequency is a somewhat necessary, but definitely not sufficient, requirement. I.e. even if frequency is increased ridership may not return. The obvious example is SLU – you could magically conjure a Link line to SLU today and very few people would ride it until all the tech companies are back in office. This is an extreme case, to be sure. But it’s part of the problem. There is more to lose by promising frequency increases now, and having to go back on the promises later (due to funding or the pandemic not subsiding) in 6 months, than to not promise anything until it is safe to do so.

        Having said that, I get the fear about ST not doing “the right thing”. I feel it too. This is why I am saying that the fundamental issue is lack of trust, not lack of transparency. To give a concrete example, my manager at work knows a lot more about our group’s future projects than I do, but I do not mind not knowing what we will do in 6 months to a year, because I trust him to make the right decisions given the situations. I did not feel this way about my previous manager – it is part of why I am no longer in his organization. My sense about ST is similar – they cannot be trusted to do what is right, and it is hard to hold them accountable because doing so seems likely to lead to throwing the baby out with the bathwater (i.e. giving more ammunition to those who want ST abolished, not just fixed).

        I hope this helps clarify my thoughts a little.

      4. “increasing frequency is a somewhat necessary, but definitely not sufficient, requirement. I.e. even if frequency is increased ridership may not return”

        You’re assuming there’s a universally-agreed threshold of ridership to justify each level of frequency. There isn’t. ST has its idea, voters have their ideas, and transit experts have their ideas. There’s nothing articulated between ST, the public, and political leaders that X frequency requires Y number of riders or Z% full trains. The same applies to ST Express and Metro. There are also other reasons for frequent service beyond raw ridership or load.

        ST between 2009 and 2019 had a commitment to minimum 10-minute service until 10pm. Now it has abandoned that, and we have no idea what its current vision and thresholds are, or if it even has them.

        10-minute service makes it easier for the remaining riders to get around town and fulfill their errands. That was one of the purposes of Link, to have a transit network better than the one before it. It makes it more feasible to truncate bus routes at stations, and was a promise when the 255 was truncated, It also allows long-term ridership to build, numbers which may not be visible now but might be visible in five years. If people know Link runs every 10 minutes, it will affect their decisions whether to buy a car, where to move to, and what job locations to consider. All that happens in the 5-10 years after a service-level change. Link had a good record and momentum but it has now broken it. Restoring 10-minute frequency, or at least saying when it will or under what criteria it will, would help to restore that momentum.

      5. Mike,

        Thank you for your comment, and almost completely agree with everything you said.

        Regarding this part: “Now it has abandoned that, and we have no idea what its current vision and thresholds are, or if it even has them.”

        This is exactly what I mean, so thank you for stating it as well. The issue is that ST is not trusted by people like those of us commenting here. If we could trust ST to engage with transit users and experts, and make an informed decision at an appropriate time, this would not be an issue. But we do not trust them (justified or otherwise).

    2. Link also runs through Rainier Valley. Did Rainier Valley disappear? Because even after widespread, brutal cuts by Metro (https://seattletransitblog.com/2020/09/01/two-axes-to-swing-for-metro-in-september) the 7 will continue to run every ten minutes during the day. That means that the bus that runs through Rainier Valley will be less frequent than the train.

      The primary destination for the UW Station is UW Hospital. Did they close the hospital?

      Speaking of hospitals, Link does more than serve one seat riders. If you are trying to get to Children’s Hospital from the south, it is pretty much your main route.

      The UW may have fewer students, but people still live downtown and on Capitol Hill. There may be a lot fewer people going to work downtown during rush hour, but there are still a lot of people out and about.

      Besides — your premise would suggest that the best thing to do is cut rush-hour frequency, while increasing all-day frequency. Just run the trains every 10 minutes, all day long. That is still worse than a year ago, but better than what exists now.

      1. Do you have a link for the breakdown of destinations at various stations (including UW Station)? I am genuinely interested in seeing it. I have no doubt that UW Station probably does serve more people at the hospital than on campus, because students are most likely to take buses or bike or walk to campus (due to where housing is in the area), and a lot of professors also walk or bike or drive. So that leaves mostly the classified staff for public transit from farther away – a large number, to be sure, but the hospital is likely the larger destination for Link. So that’s my intuition, but you usually have great sources to back your comments, and I was hoping you might share this one, too.

        Thanks in advance!

      2. Got it. Thank you anyway, too bad there is no such study (that we know of).

        I assume it could be to some extent derived from the ORCA data correlated with demographics but since we do not have access to those things…

  9. Questions for anybody who has ridden the train this week:

    1) Are the correct schedules now posted?

    2) Are the trains 3 or 4 cars long?

    3) Is there signage clearly showing the requirement to wear a face covering?

    Thanks.

    1. Mask signage? ST can’t even get their own security personnel to wear masks at Seatac Station. The requirement is a stale joke at this point when it comes to mass transit. My latest ride averaged about 33% noncompliance among riders and 1 employee not bothering to mask up.

    2. I didn’t look at the printed schedules, but it was nice to have the real time arrival signs working again. Trains are 3 cars long, and they pull all the way forward as opposed to the prior stopping spot for 3-car trains which filled the rear portion of the station. There was signage in the train about masks, but I don’t recall any at the station and I tune out the announcements so I don’t know if it is part of the rotation of canned messages.

  10. It bears repeating that ridership on Link was still on Connect2020 the-train-will-show-up-when-it-shows-up mode when the pandemic was declared. It took some online reseach on ST’s website that doesn’t look like any other transit agency’s website that I have ever seen to discover that there was actually a schedule.

    We don’t know what ridership would have been like if ST had allowed Link to return to its normal schedule for a week or two. That said, staffing availability forced a few of those early cuts, regardless of ridership.

    1. Brent, have you checked any of those other websites since the onset of both the pandemic and its economic consequences?

      If they’re still coming out ahead of us, could we have some references to check out and maybe learn something?

      Mark

  11. Thanks for the timely reminder. I left feedback railing about these embarrassingly substandard Link service levels. 30 minute service on a core transit line just isn’t a thing we should be contemplating outside the context of a civil emergency or total financial collapse, and we’re no longer facing either of those things.

    I note with interest that all the internet commenters and former STB authors who insisted that rail services never get cut, allegedly due to the higher status of rail in the popular/political imagination, have gone radio silent.

  12. Can anybody tell me what every additional non-Tacoma Link car costs to operate? But what makes me a lot uneasier than Sound Transit not answering its phone is that I’m hearing, and reading, nothing from anybody who either drives Link or supervises it.

    The more inactivity the system becomes accustomed to, and, worse yet comfortable with, the harder, slower and more expensive it’ll be to re-energize when we and our economy finally recover our health.

    Morale needs maintenance as much as motors, on trains, buses, and streetcars alike. Martin, since you’ve got more authority than me, you might issue a request to the Sound Transit Board and senior staff:

    “Those of you haven’t in fact taken early retirement….is there anything Seattle Transit Blog can do to help?

    Mark Dublin

  13. ST is still in denial about the changes and cuts it will have to make. ST really needs new leadership at the top to come to grips with future lines, projects, and service levels. The current leadership just won’t accept their original vision will have to be modified.

    Of course the 15 minute intervals are about money. It is silly to argue run the lines more frequently and the riders will come. No, they won’t. They are at home. If there were more riders the lines would run more frequently. The irony though is this leads to more crowded trains and buses, and ridership has plummeted in large part because of fears of contracting the virus on transit.

    I also suspect at least some at ST don’t see ridership returning to pre-Covid 19 levels after it has passed. The elephant in the room is working from home, which is much more cost effective for businesses (and great for the environment, but devastating for transit.

    Working from home does not have to be full time to significantly affect transit; if workers cut back to 3 or 2 days/week at the office that is a 40% to 60% reduction in transit ridership, when ST is predicated on huge increases in future ridership numbers. Renegotiations over office leases in Seattle right now lead me to believe working from home will become permanent for a significant portion of the workforce. It saves businesses a fortune.

    Another often missed issue, at least for commuters, is if traffic congestion declines due to more working from home more commuters who took transit will drive to work. Many workers in urban centers like Seattle don’t live there, and transit levels are because they are coming in from areas outside Seattle’s core to work and take transit due to congestion, not cost. They would rather drive, except for traffic congestion.

    The other issue I try to raise — and is more acute on the eastside where getting to a feeder bus stop requires a car, let alone to a light rail station — is ridership levels are determined by first/last mile access. You have to get to transit to ride it.

    In urban parts of Seattle that means buses, which is not something I am qualified to write about but is clearly a hot topic on this blog, and on the eastside is park and rides, ideally at light rail stations because I don’t think eastside commuters going to Seattle will drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to get to a rail station to catch a train to Seattle. They will either drive directly to the park and ride at the rail station, or drive to work (or work from home). Most eastside commuters take transit because of congestion, not cost.

    The commuter is the funding engine for transit because it is usually full fare, and the buses and trains are packed. Lose that money and transit really goes back to its core function, and that is serving poor communities that need transit for mobility, and that is much more cost effective with buses than light rail, especially in Seattle’s difficult topography.

    The good news is transit advocates don’t have to worry about rezoning residential neighborhoods or global warming anymore. Everyone will be working from home (and no doubt taking the home office deduction), in suburbia.

    1. It is silly to argue run the lines more frequently and the riders will come. No, they won’t. They are at home.

      Over 100,000 people are riding the buses right now. They aren’t at home.

      Transit riders are being hurt by current service levels. Even if you don’t believe the science on ridership and frequency, it is wrong to punish essential workers who rely on transit. Sound Transit needs to be honest with the public, and explain how much it would cost to increase frequency, and what the alternatives are.

    2. I dont see the current crowd that works from home staying there once a vaccine is widely available. After the last pandemic people returned to cities for jobs and culture. Businesses don’t want to maintain remote workforces, but everyone is surprised at how productive our economy continues to be, so it is accepted for now. By Christmas 2021 our kids will be in school, our offices will be open, and people will return to their pre-covid routines.

      I also have an issue with your comment about transit’s core function is to serve poor communities. First, your privilege is showing. Second, what about the planet? We all can’t continue to drive cars and have a climate we can live in, much less spend time with our families because we spend 2 hours in traffic each day. The core function of transit is to move ALL people with increased efficiency and less carbon emissions. Full stop.

      1. everyone is surprised at how productive our economy continues to be…

        Wait, What??? The GDP dropped over 30% last quarter: https://www.bea.gov/news/glance. That is the biggest contraction ever recorded. It took unprecedented actions by the Federal Reserve (essentially printing trillions of dollars) and the U. S. government (running an enormous debt to get money into the hands of people) and we are still nowhere near recovering. Congress needs to pass yet another huge stimulus bill just to keep the country going (and they probably won’t do that). This is not sustainable. The economy won’t recover until we recover from the pandemic.

        But that doesn’t mean people aren’t riding transit. Transit ridership often goes *up* in a recession.

  14. What are the alternatives? I see the 550, which at one point I believe was ST’s busiest express bus, with 3 riders on it. According to Metro riders on buses and light rail system side is 61,369,989. http://isotp.metro.net/MetroRidership/Index.aspx

    From what I can tell half of the riders are paying a fare. How much can Metro or ST increase frequency if fares are free?

    Do you think ST and Metro currently have the funds to increase frequency but just don’t want to spend it, and if they did increase frequency there would more riders and more fares, even though most riders don’t pay a fare? Or greater frequency would allow fewer riders so it would be safer for “essential workers”.

    Or are you suggesting some kind of general tax subsidy to increase frequency, and if so from which fund, and which jurisdiction? And would you start charging fares on all routes?

  15. I think may have read the Metro chart wrong. There are 61,369,989 miles, but 16,206,771 riders. From the link on the Metro site that appears to be a 50% reduction from pre-Covid 2020.

  16. “the worst hit times are everywhere but rush hour, where riders might wait 2 minutes more than they did in 2019:”

    Oh, the horror. The horror. But I’d say that if 2 minutes either way is such a life or death situation, then you shouldn’t be taking any form of mass transit. Period. If 2 minutes is just that important then buy a jet pack, or helicopter or something.

    But again, peak is actually going to 7.5 min frequency. That is fine for now. Nobody should complain about reliable transit at 7.5 min frequency. And the core interlined section will be getting 3:45 frequency in 2023 when East Link opens.

    And I suspect the 7.5 min peak frequency is driving the 15 min off-peak frequency. Basically the easiest, and cheapest way to scale back service off-peak is simply to remove every other train from service. So if your peak is 7.5 mins, then off peak is 15 mins. Do it again for night owl type service and you get 30 mins. It’s called math.

    Effectively operator hours drive cost, so if you are budget constrained, then control operator hours. Any other approach and you need cash to grow on trees, or Federal dollars to fall from heaven like manna. ST is wise not to count on either thing happening.

    1. > Oh, the horror. The horror.

      That’s the point. The least inconvenience applies to the time of day where ridership is most off 2019 norms.

      1. It’s ridiculous to have spent billions of dollars on this infrastructure and capital equipment, and to expect it to serve as the spine for connections that save on operating costs of buses, and now to economize for small amounts of operator costs. And if transfers are part of the efficient operations then it needs to provide decent frequencies at all times. 10 minute headways all day long. Maybe there isn’t a need for higher frequency in the peak, maybe there is. Maybe you increase train lengths in the peak. But running a four car train every 30 minutes on a spine for connections is insane. Run it every 10 minutes with a train length that makes sense. And the cost of switching from 7.5 minutes to 10 minutes frequency is not dramatically different than switching to 10 minutes. But with the investments we have made in capital and the principle of connections, give us the 10 minute standard all day 7 days per week as the backbone of the system.

      2. Yeah, Lazarus, you completely missed the point. It is perfectly reasonable to cut frequency at rush hour *a little bit* since that saves money and that is where ridership has dropped the most. But also cutting off-peak ridership *a lot* is unnecessary, and causes real hardship on the more resilient period.

        Carl is right. It would be cheaper — and a lot better — to just run the trains every 10 minutes all day long.

      3. @MD,

        Ah, no. It matters not one nit what service levels were like in 2019. It only matters what ridership demand looks like now.

        ST has made the decision that current demand can best be met by 7.5/15 frequencies. Undoubtably cost is a part of that decision, but that is the real world that ST needs to operate in.

        I have no problem with 7.5/15 for the near future. I just hope ST responds to increasing ridership by expanding the hours that count as “peak”.

  17. Daniel, you might want to be careful about “Working From Home” always meaning “Locking Yourself In.”

    And since invention of the laptop, and its welcome acceptance by cafe owners because they make the place look intelligent, a fair number of people can do a couple hours’ work at Beacon Hill’s Station Cafe, before they take Link downtown and take the 512 to Kaffeehaus de Châtillon at Alderwood Park and Ride.

    Julius Meinl espresso is good enough to be really, really snooty about. Also, STB’s problems getting answers out of ST officials may be due to the fact that the homes they’re working out of might be even farther outside the service area than Olympia.

    Making it more important to put Olympia in the service area before I get regentrified out of it.

    Mark Dublin

  18. And incidentally, with Computer Assisted Manufacture programs like SolidWorks, I could easily do an order of masks at the Empire Cafe at Rainier and Edmunds, before I take the Route 7 to Mt. Baker Station.

    Because the ground-effect jet-boat I’m designing can only be designed at a confidential cafe a block from Kirkland Transit Center, an easy RapidRide from that ugly tunnel entrance in Bellevue. For which SolidWorks can also deliver some dynamite Arts One Percent.

    “Working From Home” just means a gig. Because to Generation PostCovid 2020, the whole world’s home.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark, the nimble fingers of Bangladesh can out-mask your SolidWorks goo any day of the week [and who would wear it…]. You don’t need CAM to make masks.

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