Bellevue buses in the snow, Photo by Oran Viriyincy / flickr

As the snow continues to blanket the region, it is high time we finally discuss a rather heated issue.

Long-time transportation reporter Mike Lindblom at The Seattle Times offered this twish last winter:

Should the transit agencies follow the sage advice of Mr. Lindblom, or continue past practice? Choose your side.

And, no, you can’t take your mask(s) off while on board. For the safety of everyone around you (and yourself), please keep your mask(s) on. If you are sure you don’t have the virus because you don’t have symptoms, you’ve missed out on the science that many carriers are asymptomatic. Nor does getting vaccinated automatically or immediately confer upon you a 100% guarantee you can’t get COVID-19. If you just have a single standard cloth mask on, most buses have medical-style masks available to layer up with your cloth mask and help you increase your protection against spreading or breathing in the virus.

If you really need to travel, find your local transit agency’s snow info page at STB’s snow info link list.

This is a snowpen thread.

46 Replies to “Weekend Snowpen thread: To heat or not to heat”

    1. My vote is for heat on.
      We have about 6-8″ inches of snow so far here in the North Edmonds area. There has been very little traffic on the main thoroughfare which is a county road and served by a local CT bus that is now on its snow route with segments not being served. (The transit agency has the Swift blue line and 26 other routes currently on their snow routes.)

      1. Similar amount in Pinehurst (when I measured it this morning), and it is still coming down. The buses are running though (with chains). I saw a 347 (or maybe 348) along with a 41.

      2. I agree. I’d rather have the heat on high, and be more comfortable with the windows open, than have it be on low or off, and have the bus sealed up.

    2. There’s a difference between having the heat on at all and having it cranked up high. This is more a problem with air conditioning, where some American buses and stores keep the air conditioner so high you have to wear a jacket or shiver. I don’t see a problem with having the heat on. The fact that people are taking transit means they’re using much less energy than if they were driving, and we can use some of that savings for heat and still be ahead.

      1. I think the question was posed because someone who’s riding a distance might have to take their coat off, and that’s a bit of a hassle. The heat is probably mostly free combustion heat from the primer mover.

        Heat on but low is the optimum answer.

      1. I underestimated this location. I didn’t think the area would begin to transform this soon. I’d be nice to have a pedestrian bridge spanning Redmond Way. The area isn’t pedestrian-friendly.

      2. I agree Sam that Redmond Way may need a pedestrian or trail grade crossing. There are crosswalks at the 520 EB off-ramp, the Creekside Crossing shopping center and NE 70th St — but Redmond Way is insanely fast and wide there. With Fred Meyer right there, it seems negligent not to think about pedestrian connectivity.

        It’s not like MLK at Mt Baker though. That’s because the MB bus transfer transit center is on the opposite side of Rainier from the light rail station. In Redmond’s case, there is no route on Redmond Way in that area south of SR 520 — and the way that buses will lay over at nearby Downtown Redmond Link circling the end light rail station with no street to cross is just about ideal for bus-rail transfers.

      3. Yeah for sure the rail-bus issue isn’t nearly as bad. I was more looking at the bowtie intersection and the difficult pedestrian environment it creates.

    1. What award did Sam win? Is there something like the peabody or pulitzer or oscars for transit photography and commentary? Or is it just the Sam award for being the sammiest Sam?

    1. Yeah we’ve a layer cake of snow, then ice, then snow and then ice. Some hospitals are having their staff spend the night rather than try to travel home.

  1. The temperature on some Metro coaches is preset by maintenance, and the most the driver could really do is ask that maintenance adjust the temperature at the end of the day. Besides, the heating system is critical for onboard air circulation–you wouldn’t want a double-whammy of hypothermia and COVID-19, would you?

  2. Seattle’s Covid numbers are almost down to their last trough October 17. King County’s level is approximately the same. (The default view is countywide; click on “City-Level Trends” for specific cities.) We’re currently at 59 positive cases per day (it may go slightly up as more results come in); the last trough was 33. The next goal is the second trough June 7th at 8 cases. it fell steeply from January 12-22, then less steep since then. Congratulations, Seattle, let’s get that decline steeper again.

    I’m still at my second-most stay-at-home level for another month or two because I expect the mutations will cause it to rise by then and I want to keep it down. But so far it hasn’t.

  3. Heat on, full blast, easy answer. Busses have very little insulation and it’s in the mid 20s at times right now. Even with the heat on full blast and a pre-coronavirus crushloaded bus/train, there’s no chance the internal temperature is going to reach a reasonable temperature.

  4. The overall customer experience in transit is subpar. The more we partake in the ever evolving real-time conveniences in everyday life, the more the transit experience declines in quality standard. So forcing people to freeze for a +30 minute commute is not only unnecessary but further turns off people to taking transit.

    I work for a local transit agency and one of the constant complaints we have (aside from late buses and rude drivers) are from peak commuters who feel the bus is too cold. They sit onboard freezing for lengthy commutes.

    If the bus has a heater, lets use it.

  5. Link LRVs are much better at temperature control in all situations. I don’t understand why Metro can’t be just as good. How long have they been at it? They should be able to do better.

    1. Do you have data showing that ST is doing than Metro at vehicle interior temperature control?

    2. Link trains are electric. So are their heaters. Older diesel hybrid busses are using coolant heaters. They are controled by the heat left over from the engine. If the engine cools down, it increases heating recovery time. My guess is that the trolleys control heat better because they are electric.

  6. I want to second the comments that called for low levle of air conditioning. I always wonder why there is a call to save on heating in the winter and no big call or price setting to discourage the overuse of air conditioning. There are so few really summery days in Seattle, and it would be nice to enjoy the weather without preparing for air conditioning. Some heat and a little air conditioning are both fine when the temperatures are low enough or high enough, but temperatures don’t have to be perfect. If in the winter we err on the side of cool, then in summer err on the side of heat. After air conditioning arrived for the trolleys some maintained just a comfortable level of air conditioning. Others were like stepping into a walk in freezer. This is true of buildings as well. Men tend to be comfortable at lower temperatures than women–soo–. A little of either is good.

    1. I agree. If the bus is too hot, then you just take off your jacket. If the bus is too cold (in the summer) you are stuck shivering.

    2. Americans go over the top with luxury, and companies have freezing stores to show they have better air conditioning than the competition. There’s a financial-advisor guy on YouTube who just built an 8000 square foot house in Las Vegas if I understand it right. I thought houses only went up to 4000 square feet, and Bill Gates’ is 5000. He says he did it because he could, and that building up to the zoning limit maximizes the resale value. Well, for the limited number of people who want a house the size of six houses.

      1. Gates’ house in Medina is 32,000 sf, not including the 32 car underground garage that mostly sits empty today, not 5000 sf.

        As part of it’s rewrite of its residential code Mercer Island limited the maximize size of any house to 6000 sf no matter how large the lot, with most minimum lot size 12,500 sf and 15,000 sf. Not exactly housing density, but critical GFAR (house gross floor area to lot area ratio) that determines lot vegetation and neighborhood character, which is quite rural for residential neighborhoods for an island between Seattle and Bellevue.

        But these lots have plenty of GFAR left over for a DADU.

      2. 32 car garage? He must collect cars.

        I think it is for parties. If you look at a lot of the houses for super rich people, it seems to be set up for that. That is the way mansions for royalty were designed (with ballrooms). It is way more space than you need on a regular basis, but allows you to invite all of your other rich friends over, and talk about being rich, or dance, or sacrifice a goat (I don’t know exactly what super rich people are into).

      3. Growing up, I quickly learned to carry a jacket even when it’s 95 degrees outside because you know that the stores are going to be over air-conditioned on the inside. Especially when you’re going to a movie theater, rather than a store, when you’ll be sitting in there for 2 hours.

    1. Bill Gates dad ( the II, the son is the third, or “Tres” ) hired me to join his law firm out of law school. Great guy, great firm.

      The garage was for Gates III. Shirley and the other Microsoft honchos were huge car collectors.

      Gates got married and had kids. Soon he realized he couldn’t zoom around at 125 mph, and even worse he and his family’s lives would be secured motorcades of SUV’s, the terrible price of wealth or fame: loss of anonymity.

      The irony is his wife had the house remodeled into a modern 2500 sf home built around the kitchen/great room like every other house on the Eastside.

      If I am not mistaken Shirley was the first, and only, person to win first prize at the Pebble Beach car competition for a post WW II car, a huge deal among car nuts where price is no option. Some day the gas powered car will be history, but the absolute cream cars through history will be priced like Pollacks, because so few art is truly masculine like Pollack.

    1. I have a friend who lives at that intersection, and she said the first two buses that got stuck were there for over 10 hours. It does make me wonder if Metro should have activated the ESN to cut down on the number of routes it has to run, and let them replace 60′ buses for 40′. In their defense, though, 65th and Roosevelt is not the first place I would have thought they would have trouble.

  7. During freezing weather I say low to medium heat, probably no higher than 60. During really cold weather the bus is, among other things, shelter from the storm. Being able to warm up a little is comforting. After freezing on the sidewalk I’d rather not freeze on the bus, but having the heat too high is uncomfortable and you have to adjust all your clothing.

    1. Precisely. Sixty is great; everyone has several layers in cold weather up here, and shedding one is reasonable. Going beyond that is inconvenient in the extreme, and makes a huge mess on one’s lap.

  8. I’ve been a transit operator in winter weather. Heat on for the driver’s sake, at least. Also, not everyone has the same ability to layer up. Also, some people have a long walk to their transit stop, especially when there’s snow routes, and the bus is their chance to warm up after walking in the cold for 30+ minutes.

    To even have to have this discussion just shows how callous our society has become. Pre-reformation Scrooge would be proud.

  9. There is nothing “callous” about a debate about how much to heat buses. Heating a bus costs nothing, and has no effect on mileage, so Scrooge has little to do with it.

    You raise good reasons why a bus should be heated, but neglect to say how hot, which is the point of the discussion, and why cars allow a driver to adjust the heat.

    I doubt anyone is suggesting during freezing temperatures buses have no heat, but at the same time I have been on a standing room only bus in full winter gear and it has been like a sauna, after I just walked a quick half mile to get to the bus stop and am sweating and have no opportunity to remove any clothing.

    Meanwhile the driver has a seat, and doesn’t have to walk to get to the bus stop, so what is pleasant for the driver may be different than what is pleasant for the riders, and I think rider comfort should come first, but too often comes last.

    1. Very well said. The driver’s station ought to have its own separately controlled vent, but who knows which models do if any?

      There’s always an electric pillow. That makes a HUGE difference….. Jes’ sayin’.

    2. I have talked to some mechanics who work at Metro. If their climate control is programed correctly, they can only adjust from 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Only 4 degrees choice. But the funny thing is they can turn the whole system off and you would not know. I am not sure why this happens but I know they can do it.

      The other issue is if the climate control can’t always keep up with changing conditions. A 2 door bus with almost no passengers may not have problems. But a 3 door bus with a person entering or exiting every other block can easily change temperature and the same climate control system will not keep up. And on my busses, the person who stereotypically looks like they may be using drugs may be hotter and open up all the rear windows. Happened on my trips, prior to Covid, every day. That bus is cold all night long.
      But also keeps that same exact bus from being cool in the summer. It works or doesn’t work both ways.

  10. note picture from Oran. Sadly, Route 234 was retired in March 2020. The 30-foot Gillig high floor buses were also retired.

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