Yesterday, Metro announced “The Dash“, a new data visualization tool (also available in Spanish with other languages coming soon). Metro continues to lap other agencies in putting data about its service quality out in a timely and attractive format.

If you’re just trying to catch a bus that won’t pass you by due to capacity limits, this data isn’t particularly helpful. Instead, this data might provide a more informed kind of public comment, leveraging data instead of anecdotes, and aware of how other routes are faring in the current environment.

“King County Metro is committed to providing mobility for all, but that does not just mean providing the mobility services themselves, but also the information that will empower the public to use them,” said Terry White, Metro’s general manager. “At Metro, we value transparency and continuous improvement, and recognized the interconnectedness between the two. We’re pleased that The Dash will help move us forward on both of those fronts, and help the public be better informed about our services.”

30 Replies to “Metro’s new “The Dash””

  1. Yeah, there is a lot of interesting data here. It is almost like a service report in dynamic form. It is interesting to see the buses that still carry a lot of people, despite big drops in ridership. Things really haven’t changed that much in terms of the most popular buses. The E is still on top. The 7 jumped over a few RapidRide lines to take second place, but it was always top ten. The C and 40 took huge hits, dropping several places, but still carry more people than the more resilient F.

    In terms of downturns, it is mostly what I would expect. Routes that largely serve commuters headed downtown or people headed to the UW got hammered. Lots of people working and studying from home (and not working). The 8 was hammered very hard as well. Maybe that is due to retail being crushed. Lots of people no longer working at restaurants, or visiting clubs. I’m not sure why the F was so strong — lots of Boeing and warehouse jobs still operating? I thought the A would take a bigger hit. Highline College is all online except for medical classes (maybe there are a lot of those). Maybe SeaTac employment is a bit more resilient.

    Without stop data it is hard to say. I sure wish it was easier to get stop data, but I guess we can’t have everything.

      1. Or, maybe 30 minute Link frequency caused people to switch to the 10, instead, and the gains from Link cancelled out some of the losses.

      2. Good point. I could see that happening. The 49 didn’t go down that much, despite the main set of trips (to the UW) going away, which suggests that people were using it and the 10 as an alternative to Link.

        It is probably a bunch of little things, and it would be very difficult to tease out the various causes without stop data as well as dates. A lot happened in 2020 — so many reasons not to ride transit.

    1. “What I find interesting is that the 10 retained more riders than the 11 and 12.”

      Really? That’s interesting because when the 10 moved to John there was a massive switch to the 11, and the 10 was left pretty anemic. It may be that the 11 was hit harder by the loss of commuters.

      The 10’s and 11’s frequency have also changed differently, although the results are inconsistent with the trend. Between 2016 and September the 10 was 15-minute frequent full time, and the 11 was 15-minute frequent weekday and Saturday daytime. Now the 10 is 15 minutes only weekday daytime. The 11 is 20 minutes weekday daytime, and half-hourly otherwise.

  2. Percent of trips where the number of people onboard exceeded Metro’s reduced capacity limits. December.

    7: 24.7%
    E Line: 27%
    250: 0.8%
    255: 0.1%
    B Line: 1.3%

  3. The data shows how nonsensical and contradictory Metro’s Northgate planning is right now. On the one hand, they are shifting service outside of the area, in the name of equity. As one of the data points, the county has looked at the routes that lost relatively little ridership. The logic behind this is clearly flawed. I can think of cases where this is backwards (there are lots of low income students whose community college classes suddenly went online). But if you are going to use that line of reasoning, then use it.

    For example, ridership dropped over 80% on the 309. The routes serves First Hill but only during rush hour. These are jobs that didn’t go away, and didn’t become remote. This is one of those cases where it looks like people just shifted to driving.

    Yet Metro wants to shift service to those routes. Routes like the 309 are flawed for various reasons — they perform poorly no matter how you measure it. Ridership per hour of service is poor, and most likely, it does a poor job in meeting the needs of those who are dependent on transit. Yet as of the last restructure, Metro is adding service to routes like it, while cutting back on service between Lake City and Northgate.

    It is worth noting that both the 65 and 75 lost a smaller percentage of riders, despite the fact that their main destination — the UW — is essentially closed. Not only are there a lot fewer students, but a lot fewer people working on campus, or in any of the places around it. Yet these neighborhood buses were more resilient; likely because fewer of the riders have cars.

    Any way you cut it, it makes way more sense to run the 61 (all day) and give up on the commuter express runs.

    1. I think a big reason ridership on the 65 and 75 remained is actually that the UW isn’t really closed. UWMC is still open, with a huge number of employees and patients, and there are still students living on campus (there were actually a number on the 31 I was on today). On top of that, they go by Children’s, which is also still open with a large number of employees.

      I definitely do agree with your premise that there are still “local” destinations to go to, though; the Ave, Fremont, Roosevelt, etc. all have a decent number of restaurants and shops that are open.

      1. You have a different definition of “decent”. By and large, all restaurants are closed for everything but takeout. Same with bars. They are “open”, but most are simply trying to make rent (and many, of course, are failing). It is a pandemic, after all.

        Yes, the 65 and 75 serve the UW Medical Center, but as medical centers go, that is puny compared to First Hill, even if you throw in Children’s.

        Almost all of the people that used to travel to First Hill still travel to First Hill. You can’t say that about the UW. The big difference is that the folks that used to take the bus in the middle of the day still take the bus, while the folks that are lucky enough to work the day shift have switched to driving.

      2. It’s also worth noting that UW still has a lot of ongoing research that requires in person work (President Cauce insisting that the university never closed was only partially a slogan). The department I work in probably still has 50+% of people physically present, just with staggered/limited shifts. If you go to the Ave, there’s still quite a few people – not like normal times, but it’s no ghost town.

    2. RossB, your analysis is still solid. First Hill needs better two-way all-day service connecting with Link. Current one-way peak-only routes 63, 64, 193, and 303 and proposed routes 302, 303, and 322 do not fit the work schedule well; they fit the 1980s office work pattern instead. When routes are deigned to be transfer-adverse, they wiggle around (e.g., routes 193, 303, 303, and 322) and take riders on deviations. (This is a flaw with Ride2 and Via as well). Note that current routes 63, 64, and 309 serve both SLU and First Hill and provide faster service to the former. It is an awkward pairing of markets. Note that two-way all-day routes 2, 3, 4, 12, 36, 44, 45, 48, 60, 65, 67, and 75 also serve essential workers at the UWMC and on First Hill. In addition, the two-way all-day network serves many other markets; it is resilient.

    3. What i constantly see on here is people who don’t understand the funding for certain (commuter) routes is highly subsidized by certain employers(mostly hospitals). The 64,65,75,303, and 309 are all highly subsidized by hospitals to allow their employees to get to work based on hospital shift schedules. These hospitals reduced there parking at the time and can not replace those lost spaces. Even if you cut these routes the funding can not just be shifted to a route you think more deserving.

  4. It’s great that a tool like this is available! It will be useful in years ahead to inform rational discussions about Metro service planning.

    It’s a good time to mention that tools about line performance carries a risk. That risk is assuming that route alignments are fixed, and thinking that the only service adjustments are for frequency. I think Metro staff gets this dilemma, but the larger public or local leaders may not.

  5. Re “trying to catch a bus that won’t pass you by due to capacity limits” – do bus drivers actually deny boarding onto buses that are at “capacity”?

    1. At least sometimes… back during tunnel operations, it was pretty common for eastbound afternoon peak 550s to skip the Ranier Ave stop entirely.

    2. Yes. If an articulated bus has 16 people or a non-articulated bus has somewhere around 8 or 12, and nobody is getting off, the bus may have a “Bus Full” sign and bypass stops until enough people get off to bring it under the limit. So “full” currently means something very different than it did before covid. The seated capacity of an articulated bus is 55, or 100 with standees, or 125 if crushloaded for a short period. Sometimes drivers allow people to get on anyway, and sometimes the “Bus Full” sign is on when it appears to have spare capacity, but it does get full on some routes, mostly between 2:30 and 6pm weekdays. The 7 has even more full periods, including weekend afternoons, where it might be full from Mt Baker station to Jackson Street.

      1. Mike Orr, thanks for the opening to ask this. The original operations plan for the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel was to run the buses in “platoons”.

        Since frame-wise, these buses could not pull coupled trains with each other was because their linear structures couldn’t take the tension and the twisting. Would’ve meant a heavier and more extensive coach.

        Making the “train” of buses act like a rolling accordion. The faster the speed, the longer the train. Spacing in the hands of all four drivers? Training-intensiveness, you can guess. Supervision- anybody want the job?

        Might or might now work to smooth our 7-Rainier, but fiscally there’s a precedent. For a week or two Metro sent out a parade of articulate buses down I-5 to the Speedway. Which we’d laid out with cones to stand for stations. And a drag-racing stop-light in a pickuup bed to handle dispatching.

        Prior to Opening Day, Sad to Say, Metro got a Writ of TTMV (for Too Much Work). And calling Sir Isaac Newton to the stand to testify that in the world of Physics, whatever goes in one end of the worst-designed tunnel invariably eventually come s out the other.

        Flash ahead to the NOW? Precisely BECAUSE buses cannot couple, the trains just plain need to occupy all the space that’s that’s there. No room for anyone to stretch.

        But all the way through the CBD, and Jackson to Rainier Beach coil-springed “Slinky” spacing surely worth a try. PA can easily be programmed to do a WOOO WOOO WOOO WOO-TWANGGGGGGGGG!

        Mark Dublin

  6. I’ve had a difficult time finding any information about how people get to the bus from Metro’s reports. In particular, I would like to know how many riders are transferring. With Link going from 16 to 36 or 37 stations in King County the next four years, I think it would be valuable to differentiate who transfers to Link (or Sounder or an ST bus) as well as to other Metro buses.

  7. It is a tool, but now during a pandemic is hardly the time to be making permanent route decisions. Communities that need transit for basic mobility will continue to have high ridership, and even now have fairly high ridership levels. But who knows about peak hour commuter routes, which is a big focus for ST, if less “equitable”.

    The problem with declining transit funding and service levels is neighborhoods and cities begin to compete for service. Their goal is to preserve or get as much transit service as possible. If ridership doesn’t necessarily support their community switch to some other argument, like equity. Telling a community or its leaders they have too much transit isn’t going to make them feel bad, or “privileged” over transit of all things. They will simply think they have won.

    Just like any public service this is how it is politically allocated (“pork” to others). Traffic engineers might pull their hair out but how many total traffic engineers are there, and what district or community has argued for what is fair and just for their community — according the them — and nothing more?

    The tricky issue is if fairly allocated cuts to transit service should go to less dense, suburban, car oriented, wealthier areas. After all the only transit “density” for them is the peak commute, and that might end. It really isn’t clear how willing any transit rider will be to get on a packed bus or train for a long time, and the whole point of commuter transit is packed buses or trains. Who would have thought a virus was transit’s Achilles heel.

    These communities might not notice the loss of transit (and some like where I live have none anyway) but their elected leaders will still fight for transit because that is their job, and how representative democracy works.

    With ST subarea equity that means fights among cities and neighborhoods within each subarea, unless that subarea has more than enough money, which ironically is the Eastside which needs and wants the least transit, certainly non-peak service.

    For Metro the trick will be cutting transit service to these communities — especially if peak ridership is down — but not losing their support for future county wide transit levies. Equity is probably an easier sell for these Eastside communities than ridership for some other reason, and to them equity means disadvantaged communities of color is south Seattle. After all they voted heavily for a massive Harborview bond but would never go to Harborview.

    Metro can do what it wants to some degree on allocating service if future levies are not a goal, but that means a long, sustained reduction in transit services.

    The fundamental truth about transit is it is heavily subsidized, up to 80% for buses. That means you have to convince some/most citizens to pay more than what they use, which is hard and why we have ST subarea equity which is politics over rational allocation, except otherwise there would have been no ST 3. Irrational allocation is better than nothing to allocate.

    1. “It is a tool, but now during a pandemic is hardly the time to be making permanent route decisions.”

      Exactly. Cutting service to areas based on pandemic ridership, only to have the cuts take effect right around the time that everyone is vaccinated doesn’t make sense.

    2. Well, let’s just give Fundamentalism it due, Daniel. Weapons manufacturers and their sales staff get at least some pocket change pocket chump-change, don’t they? Any soft-heart willing to give it to them free should get cited for willful aid to beggars, shouldn’t they?

      And in post 2008, what stripe of Perpetrator-Kisser gave “Woo Hoo!” screaming WAMU loab officers their banks back..made not only Whole but also completely “Jail-Free?”
      Somebody oughta g, not jail to jail but work. With a re-hab favor: never tow their Home out of a 7-11 parking lot.

      And where did this idea come from that Equity and Fights are even in the same ring, let alone same-breath? Fights are what both Equity and Politics are there to head off and prevent. Meet together, certainly. Definitely aboard Transit, and then sit down together to see how much contention’s really shareable.

      Western Front or Western Avenue, fights happen because someone wants them to. Nobody forcing obedience upon us. Choice is up to, thankfully, us. Give us all the info we need, especially technical in laymen’s terms, and finally bang the gavel.

      A position in Civil Government should guarantee an ORCA card for life. And it should also be pre-requisite for High School graduation. Calculus and trigonometry, leave those to community college.

      Where, after brushing the tassels aside, every graduate should, before they throw their mortarboard in the air, cut a hypotenuse across it blind-folded from the keyboard of their laptop. ORCA card? Let the Inspector blink their flip phone. Possession=Innocence. Just do it.

      Mark Dublin

  8. Could really be an intergenerational thing, but to me, that vertical bar-chart needs a translator. Also feels like an attitude thing: “Can’t read it? Well, go on-line for “Dyslexia Treatment.”

    Communication I get is that to the issuing agency, communicating with passengers is ‘way on down the line, is talking to itself, and also giving proof it’s at least doing SOMETHING!”

    RossB, you’re doing valuable service with your vehemence about Lake City Service. Spirit of BLM at its best. “Shine me on and you’re gonna get scraped off!” What “Will Not Stand” needs to be not, “Propped Up”, but buried.

    Luckily, though from my own sense of cures, by the time Transit’s once again able to do anything, Connecting Lake City with the world, the Agency, every sub-area, and the Boards of KCM and ST will have finally gotten straightened out this service.

    Buses at their functional best. For the experiment, no catenary necessary, but also no need to turn it down if offered. Same with train-tracks, line-haul and streetcar. Send buses out to see what works. If it doesn’t, take the buses out and do something else with them.

    Hmmmf. History doesn’t list any ferries serving Lake City. But the satellite map shows me that from where 125th swings into Sand Point Way, a gondola could easily connect a bus stop from a ferry-floating island. Not seeing where researching this is a COVID-19 symptom.

    Mark Dublin

  9. “If you’re just trying to catch a bus that won’t pass you by due to capacity limits, this data isn’t particularly helpful.”

    That’s what I was looking for, not necessarily to the day, but a general indication of which routes and times are likely to be full. Specifically, I want to know when I can take the 150 or 101 to the Soos Creek Trail in eastern Kent without encountering full buses. I often see “Bus Full” signs on the 124, 131, 132, and 150 southbound in Pioneer Square between 2:30 and 6pm weekdays. But the data doesn’t really tell me, do I have to go early in the morning or on a weekend, or on a weekend morning? And I see even more “Bus Full” signs on the 7, widespread in the afternoons including weekends. So it makes me more sympathetic to the cause that South King County and south Seattle need more service, because there are significant gaps when you can’t go there, especially when you’re starting from the middle of a route. Like the 7 northbound at Mt Baker, or the 124, 131, 132, 150 southbound in SODO. I don’t know how people who have to travel every day at those times can deal with it.

    Still, the 41 corridor between Lake City and Northgate should not drop to half-hourly evenings when Link opens.

    1. The map on the “Missed Stops” page shows that there are heavy concentrations of missed stops on the north end of Rainier Avenue (Rt. 7, 106), 12th Avenue S between Jackson Street and the Rizal Bridge/PacMed (Rt. 36/60) and along Aurora between Green Lake and Shoreline (RR-E).

      Not really surprising. Thankfully, all those routes have retained short headways.

    2. There is that information … to a point. If you click on My Route, then Select a Route, in the bottom right hand corner you’ll see a box titled “% of Trips over Reduced Capacity by Period.” It’s broken down by time of day. For example, from 3 pm to 7 pm, the 255 is over the reduced capacity limit 0.1% of the time. But with the route 150, during that same time period, it’s over the reduced capacity limit 34% of the time.

  10. A lot of the data is clearly focused on the pandemic. It wouldn’t make sense to present it in, say, a couple years. But a lot of it would be relevant, and furthermore, I prefer the way it is presented. The last Metro evaluation report has some of the same data: https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/transportation/metro/accountability/pdf/2018/system-evaluation.pdf. In both cases you can find out which buses carry the most riders. But this makes it so much easier — you can easily sort by ridership. This also lets you sort by which routes are going up or down (in this case, it is all down of course). But five years from now, it will be sort by which routes are becoming more or less popular.

    The biggest difference is that this doesn’t show ridership per hour of service or passengers miles per platform miles. In the future, it would be nice to be able to sort by these (more important) metrics.

  11. Mark, whoever says “Too much work” with a “V” in it is making fun of somebody with a lot more streetcars than we’ll ever have. Needs to Go Chase an AARD-“VARK” around the BLARK!

    Mark Dublin

  12. Would also like to finish up being dead-level-straight about this. In this weather, into which we’re just getting started, on service as critical as Link, NOBODY should be getting by-passed for half an hour.

    System’s losing good passengers by letting COVIDIA get them. The trains that are doing the by-passing, what’s the number of cars in the consist? Anybody know? And how long does it take to couple or “drop” one in-service? Seems to me it’s the ideal mode for both adding and dropping capacity.

    And Growowowowwowrrr yourself, COVIDIA. Make a yarn-ball out of my Afghan one more timed and I’ll have somebody at JBLM load you up and see to it you have to get yourself back from Balochistan!

    Biggest and oldest railroad tunnel in the world. Don’t say you don’t need the exercise. Just look on the scale. And since there’s no way you’ll fit under any seat on Earth, no headway will make any difference for you at all. Uh uh! Touch my watch and your time’s UP!

  13. One thing I’d like to look at: mask-use by route. Agency-wide usage may be in the 80 percentile but I wonder if there are repeat offenders… like the E-line.

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