King County Metro rolled out its spring service change last Saturday, with new green-striped schedule pamphlets.
Several routes’ schedules were adjusted to better serve school bell times, including routes 48, 50, 106, 107, 128, and 269. Routes 106 and 107 will have a slightly different schedule on Wednesdays than the rest of the week.
Routes 302 and 303 were adjusted to better serve shift times for some First Hill employers.
Route 5 is getting several new trips on Sunday.
Route 7 is getting several new trips on weekday and Sunday evenings, to improve span of 15-minute headway.
Route 12 is getting several new trips on Saturday.
One clear loser is peak frequency on the Des Moines Community Shuttle, DART route 635, which connects the Des Moines Marina District and Des Moines Creek Business Park to Angle Lake Station. Peak frequency is dropping from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes, but 30-minute headway lasts all day from ca. 6:00 to 6:00, Monday through Saturday. The route is funded in part through a partnership with the City of Des Moines.
The other clear loser is the South Lake Union Streetcar, which is dropping from 10-minute to 12-minute weekday headway, improving reliability, but removing timing with the 1 Line.
Sound Transit Express 522 (operated by Metro) will no longer serve Green Lake Park & Ride, and instead terminate at Roosevelt Station. Every route that served that freeway park & ride on 65th Ave NE under I-5 also serves the station.
Community Transit service reductions
Snohomish County Community Transit rolls out its service changes today.
All the service reductions are on weekday service, focused heavily on Northgate commuter routes. All the 800-series routes will have some trips cut. ST Express 511 (operated by CT) will have several trips cut, while ST Express 512 will see southbound afternoon service cut to 18-minute headway after noon, and northbound late morning service cut to 20-minute headway between 10:00 and noon. It is hard to blame Snohomish County commuters for favoring fewer-seat rides and work-from-home as the pandemic drags on.
Downtown commuter routes 412 and 435 will lose a greater share of their trips than other routes will.
The SWIFT Green Line will have all-day weekday frequency cut, from service every 10 minutes to service every 12 minutes.
Routes 112, 113,119, 120, 130, 196, 402, 410, 416, 417, 422, 435, and ST Express 510, 532, and 535 will also see some trips cut.
Pierce Transit is also rolling out minor service revisions today.
Everett Transit rolled out its service change a week ago.
Both Community and Pierce Transit have joined Sound Transit in ditching dead-tree schedule books, which is making it easier to make have service changes any time they are needed.
Sound Transit, which has its bus services operated by CT, PT, and Metro; its light rail service operated by Metro; and its Sounder service operated by BNSF Railroad, also rolled out its service changes over the weekend and today. The once-mighty ST Express 545 and 550 are now up to 10-minute peak headway. The opening of the 2 Line, scheduled for 2023, will roughly double staffing requirements for light rail, and, if there are enough operators by then, run every 8 minutes during peak.
Meanwhile, the S Line (South Sounder) will pick up two additional trips in each direction.
Schedules and maps, which shows a list of the actual route timetables and PDFs, was removed from the Ride with us menu sometime over the winter, but is still active and up-to-date, if you know where to look.
85 Replies to “Transit agencies roll out spring service changes”
Sounder “S” line gained back 2 trips in each direction and is just the midday northbound run away from being back to pre-pandemic service levels.
The recent situation downtown has created an unexpected reason to prefer the streetcar over the 40 or C-line buses: the bus option requires dealing with 3rd and Pike or 3rd and Virginia, but the streetcar option does not. For some reason, the drug dealers do not seem to hang out at 5th and Olive.
(Although, the streetcar still remains slower than walking for many trips after accounting for wait time).
The Seattle Streetcar SLU Line will also have longer headway and waits; it has reliability issues.
I would personally just walk because it’s usually faster and certainly more reliable. But, for those that don’t want to walk, waiting a few extra minutes for the streetcar to avoid running the gauntlet of 3rd and Pike, so may find worth it.
Another kind of service change info: Metro now has a list of cancelled trips weekdays. My local 11 has four in the AM peak (two each direction). The 45 I tried to ride a couple weeks ago has three in the PM peak, and the 62 one in the PM peak. But I know a 62 didn’t show up midday on a weekday, a 45 Saturday afternoon, and two 255s on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and a B on Saturday or Sunday, so I’m not totally convinced these are all the cancellations. There were another trip or two I tried to take but the bus didn’t come so I gave up on the trip; I just don’t remember what routes they were.
These cancelled trips are related to the operator shortage; the operator shortage is intertwined with several issues: Covid, fare collection, drug use, and other security issues on the buses and at the bus stops. All the agencies have operator shortages. It extends to trucking companies. We need fast fare collection and humane fare enforcement.
Why does fare enforcement have to be “humane”? What does that even mean? No billy clubs?
Humane fare enforcement must be related to fair taxes and common sense gun laws.
“Humane Fare Enforcement” means fare enforcement that is not influenced by irrelevant factors like race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, appearance, etc. Enforcement is objective, which means the human element is removed, which tends to be more effective anyway. Which means a non-human method to prevent entry into the transit stations if one does not have a fare. Like every other transit system in the world uses.
Otherwise it means non-enforcement for some, as though that is some kind of public good for them.
Objective fare enforcement also tends to create a safer and cleaner station experience, which is important when stations are underground, and there are not a lot of riders in the stations like today. Recently NY has experienced some high-profile subway attacks, and those spook everyone from riding transit, or entering an underground station (when few are willing to wait on a downtown Seattle street for transit. Once long ago staff, especially female staff, felt safe entering a Link station downtown during peak hours. If Seattle and transit do not solve the crime and street issues forget about transit ridership, certainly for the discretionary rider who is critical to ST’s funding assumptions.
It really has nothing to do with “fair taxes” or “common sense” gun control, both loaded terms mostly misunderstood, and conflating the two is the root of the problem with fare enforcement on Link, and using “equity” in general to allocate transit service. I think it was Ross who said ridership on transit alone is proof of equity, no matter what the color of your skin. The wealthy, even peak work commuters, don’t ride transit.
The bigger concern than “equity” is obviously the fare enforcement ST is using is not working, if as Rogoff states up to 30% of Link riders are not paying a fare. I suppose it is great to be a bleeding heart liberal when it comes to fare enforcement, but the two key facts are: 1. there are formal ways for those who need a subsidized fare to get one; and 2. if you slash farebox recovery you slash operations funding which means you slash service. How does that help those who must ride transit?
If everyone riding transit by definition is receiving some sort of equity (subsidy) why do some think those fare paying folks want to share the station and train with those who don’t feel the law applies to them?
Humane fare enforcement simply means operating with a light hand. Fare enforcers are essentially security guards who are essentially cops. This would be the opposite of heavy-handed enforcement, a fairly well known concept. Bus drivers operate this way — largely out of necessity, but also security. They ask for fares, but they don’t arrest you if you fail to pay.
“Which means a non-human method to prevent entry into the transit stations if one does not have a fare. Like every other transit system in the world uses.”
“1. there are formal ways for those who need a subsidized fare to get one; and 2. if you slash farebox recovery you slash operations funding which means you slash service. How does that help those who must ride transit?”
Even as a “bleeding heart liberal,” I think Daniel’s right on this one. I’ve never understood why we don’t install turnstiles. They are race-blind, reduce fare evasion, and may increase [perceived] station security. We wouldn’t even have to install them all at once, a phased rollout would be effective if either the start or end of a trip had gates.
My understanding is that the biggest problem with turnstiles is the up-front expense of installing them. Plus, they would cause queuing during crowded conditions, leading people to miss trains.
Even during uncrowded condition, passing through a turnstile still adds a few seconds of delay and I have had times when I was running to catch a train that, if I had to pass through a turnstile, I would have missed. Of course, having trains every 5 minutes vs. every 10 minutes between Northgate and downtown would help a lot in this regard.
“Even during uncrowded condition, passing through a turnstile still adds a few seconds of delay and I have had times when I was running to catch a train that, if I had to pass through a turnstile, I would have missed. Of course, having trains every 5 minutes vs. every 10 minutes between Northgate and downtown would help a lot in this regard.”
With a 30% non-fare paying percentage on Link you won’t have to worry about five minute frequencies, and you won’t have to worry about missing ten minute frequency trains because frequency will be 15 or 30 minutes. If other transit systems can figure out how to make turnstiles work I think ST can too. I think the few seconds it takes to pass through a turnstile is worth the revenue. So do the world’s other transit systems.
“Humane” now means “equal opportunity” and that everyone on transit is a freeloader? Wow, that’s complex. But, OK, if you say so.
I’m sorry but newer turnstiles are faster than they used to be. There is a huge market for turnstiles so the many vendors have been incentivized to make them faster and faster.
With a 30% non-fare paying percentage on Link …
Are we seriously going to base long-term fare policy on data cherry-picked from the height of a pandemic? I’m not talking about commenters, but about ST management. Meanwhile, the teevee stations showed why fare non-payment was so high in January. The trains were full of homeless people during the omicron surge. (Not really full, per se, but there were a lot fewer other riders, so the proportion of homeless riders was much higher.) So, is tougher fare enforcement designed to increase fare revenue, or decrease accessibility for those who can’t afford to pay?
How many of those “non-fare paying” have pre-paid passes, and so they aren’t really “non-fare paying”, but merely paying the wrong agencies? A back-end revenue distribution correction based on data collected by fare ambassadors, and agreed to by other agencies, seems like a much cheaper approach than installing fare gates, or continuing to issue threats to passengers that they might get hefty fines or trespass warnings, even if they continue to bestow largess upon the collective transit agencies in the form of monthly passes covering the full fare of the longest rides. (Yes, the double beep should have significantly reduced the number who tapped off instead of on when entering the station, but it won’t solve the problem of those who forgot to tap in the first place. Maybe ST could show data on how much the double beep reduced “fare nonpayment”.)
Before the pandemic, ST was regularly reporting just a 4% rate of non-payment (or mis-tapping, but they didn’t collect the data to separate the two). We don’t now how well the new approach will work post-pandemic until we are post-pandemic (and we are certainly not there, despite proclamations to the contrary).
If ST has money burning a hole in its pockets to do major station retrofits, I could think of other more useful installations, like redundant elevators, or N95 dispenser machines.
“Are we seriously going to base long-term fare policy on data cherry-picked from the height of a pandemic?”
That statement is a little ironic when one considers the assumptions and promises ST 1, 2 and 3 were based upon. But I do agree with you, except long-term policy making is continuing: WSBLE, and different zoning amendments to upzone neighborhoods near transit stations when folks who no longer are going to ride transit are not going to live in TOD.
The problem, as you note, is the planners and ST are making the assumptions up today, and basically discounting the fact future revenue and ridership numbers will likely resemble today’s numbers. Let’s pause the DEIS, or any more faux realignments, and let’s pause state zoning amendments that are supposedly based on future transit usage, until we can confirm whether today’s data is the future.
The fact is the pandemic is over. Airline flight reservations are above pre-pandemic levels. People are working, driving, travelling, going out. The economy is strong (hence inflation). Today is the future, and today’s numbers are the best indication of future numbers, until we see something different.
“So, is tougher fare enforcement designed to increase fare revenue, or decrease accessibility for those who can’t afford to pay?”
It is designed to increase fare revenue. If the design was to allow “accessibility for those who can’t afford to pay” ST would not have adopted a 40% farebox recovery rate in order to lower general tax increases to sell ST 2 and 3, and inflated ridership estimates.
I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this, but if farebox recovery is less than estimated the two options are: 1. have those who do pay pay more; or 2. lower operations costs, which means levels of service which for light rail means frequency. When I board a train, plane, bus, or subway in another city they all require proof of payment.
There are formal processes to apply for subsidized transit fares for those who qualify. Just because someone does not pay a fare does not mean they cannot pay a fare.
“The trains were full of homeless people during the omicron surge. (Not really full, per se, but there were a lot fewer other riders, so the proportion of homeless riders was much higher.)”
This is the real danger, because it suggests ST and transit advocates have not yet accepted the 100% fare paying transit slave no longer needs transit: the work commuter. These riders are now discretionary, and without traffic congestion or artificially high parking rates where they are going transit has to COMPETE. Allowing a bunch of homeless folks in the station and on the train is: 1. poor housing policy; and 2. an excellent way to drive the discretionary transit rider into their car, which is their default to begin with.
ST was based on one grand premise: entice or force folks out of their cars onto transit/light rail. Entice by making light rail safe, fast, clean, cheaper, and pleasant with a seat and smooth ride through dense areas. Force by making peak commuters take transit due to traffic congestion and parking costs. Force is now gone with WFH and the deurbanization of the work force and employer subsidized parking, and entice is looking very dodgy and uncompetitive with driving today. Spending $130 billion to house the homeless is not a wise housing policy IMO.
So, there’s no list of cancelled trips on weekends. Does that really mean “no canceled trips”, or that weekends are not considered important enough for Metro to bother telling the public when the cancelled trips are?
asdf2, I think there were a handful of canceled trips last weekend on the 44 and 62, but far less than previously. Metro now reports they are running 99% of their scheduled service and at least in north Seattle that certainly appears to be accurate, which means OBA on a phone is actually usable again too.
On metros trip planner app and even third party apps the cancellations that they know about are posted,
Rapid ride a line the weekend before the service change still had a handful of trips canceled. But it appears to have been restored this last weekend.
Community Transit local neighborhood service appears to have entered the dreaded death spiral, in which frequency cut backs lead to even lower ridership, justifying more cut backs, ect. The ongoing staffing issues certainly aren’t helping, either. Half hourly throughout the day was at least kind-of-sort-of usable. Hourly for most of the day is not, that’s enough to push most people on to Uber or adding an additional household car. I would not have moved where I did if all the busses were hourly. Wouldn’t surprise me if they went to every 2 hours on the weekends in the fall. Hopefully when Lynnwood Link opens up, they will be able to shift more service hours back into local service. It would be a shame to have light rail just down the road and still feel like you need two cars.
PT is the same way. Their bread and butter, highest ridership line, the 1, is barely usable having moved from 15 minutes to half hour. I had looked forward to using it. as it takes me essentially from my house to my job. But not at that frequency. 100% bike, even in a deluge for me.
Hourly service is awful. I would visit the Edmonds/Lynnwood more if the bus service were better.
Hourly service is what I would expect in fringe areas, such as Whidbey Island, Marysville, Skagit Transit, etc. An area as populated as Lynnwood and Edmonds deserve better than that.
We need to jack driver salaries to $30 and guarantee 40 hrs/wk for anyone who wants it.
Pre-COVID, Sound Transit did everything they could to avoid using Metro drivers on King County routes due to their higher wages than Pierce Transit and Community/First Transit. Now it’s certainly evident that you get what you pay for – Metro is able to run 99% of scheduled service, while the other two agencies are clearly struggling badly. TANSTAAFL.
To your point, the 566 was switched from Pierce Transit over to King County Metro with this service change. Metro’s staffing progress seems to have been slow but steady (just obscured by coach recovery from snow, which seems to be resolved now).
Pierce Transit staffing progress seems to be totally flat (judging by temporary service levels). Given Metro’s progress on hiring, I just don’t get it. With Snohomish County service also being reduced, Metro might just be an outlier.
Alex, I noticed the 566 operator switch too, was a bit surprised but it makes sense given Metro’s staffing progress. Other industries have shown that the problem isn’t purely lack of workers, but lack of workers at a particular salary level, which is unfortunate for transit agencies with less resources than Metro.
“Other industries have shown that the problem isn’t purely lack of workers, but lack of workers at a particular salary level.” Which industries have resolved their labor shortages? I’m not aware of any sector in the economy that has all the labor it wants, regardless of the wage level. As Jimmy & I noted below, Metro’s recruitment issues are not driven by pay or fringe benefits.
AJ, this is one local example of a non-profit addressing their own labor shortage and retention issues with raises:
They were lucky that they had the resources and fundraising capacity to cover that. That article links to a Time piece describing how the problem in the trucking industry isn’t a worker shortage, but a pay and benefits shortage combined with general quality of life, along with many other problems:
The 512 is still every 10 minutes weekdays and Saturdays and 20 minutes Sundays. The other routes serve more specialized areas, but it’s not like the only way to Lynnwood is hourly.
PT 1 has been off and on half-hourly for two decades, especially on weekends, and I cry when I see its “enhanced, BRT-like” one-digit routes like that.
Aside from the 20 minute Sunday headways on the 512, which is a big bummer (I think it was every 10 minutes until now, could be wrong though) and lower evening frequency, frequencies on Snohomish County to Seattle service is solid, at least from major points like Lynnwood, Ash Way, and Everett.
Some of the specialized routes that serve other areas do drop down to close to hourly service, but I think a lot of regular people would tolerate close to hourly peak bus service if it went straight to their workplace, and started close to the front door of their house! Especially if they are fortunate enough to have working hours with a bit of flexibility. The way I see it (and I’m weird, so this might not be that representative) if it takes a bit longer, it’s nice to read or relax instead of driving! And if someone needs to transfer, chances are they’ll do it at a Lynnwood TC or an Ash Way, which has overlapping service that will be way better than hourly.
PT is an even bigger bummer. It’s a bit like some of the undoing of Seattle’s frequent network, except it’s going from frequent to half-hourly, instead of going from 10 to 15. The hope is that this will snap back, either slowly or moderately quickly, and it won’t need to be pulled back by the economy just as (or before) things improve on the staffing front.
The other bummer is Stream BRT being delayed to 2025, since that was the last 2024 BRT project in ST3 that was still on track before it slipped. Federal Way and Lynnwood Link, please hold onto 2024 and don’t let us down!
Federal Way is already saying Dec 2024, last I checked. That almost guaranteed to mean spring 2025, earliest.
“Aside from the 20 minute Sunday headways on the 512, which is a big bummer”
It’s better than 30 minutes, It was officially 30 minutes until the September service change, although my friend in North Lynnwood says had actually been coming more often than that for several months. I think it was adding service to avoid overcrowding and allow social distancing but it didn’t want to promise it on the schedule, and now it’s promising it at 20 minutes.
Travel within Snohomish County is often hourly, but it has always been like that. I wanted to try Swift Green for the second time. but the only weekend connecter bus between Ash Way 512 stop and the Swift station was hourly on weekends.
We’re waiting for Lynnwood Link to free up a lot of CT hours and for the three or four other Swift lines to be completed. Then Snohomish County will have more of a frequent network.
The concrete strike is holding back all Link extensions. and some highway projects and building construciton.
Given how the full set of wires are still missing east of Mercer Island Station as well the admitted 43 days behind already for East Link, I’m predicting that ST will try to open East Link from South Bellevue to Overlake to save face on schedule — but it won’t cross Lake Washington until 2024. The bridge and interfacing with 1 Line seem like the most challenging parts of the project and testing will need lots of time.
I mean WEST of Mercer island Station. That means over the Lake Washington bridge.
We were told by ST that parts of East Link cannot be opened before other parts. Mercer Island thought the section from MI to Seattle could open early while the Bellevue tunnel and alignment were sorted out (before post tensioning of the bridge span), but according to ST all of East Link’s electrical system has to be tested together because it is all integrated.
There seems to be very little anticipation on the eastside over the opening of East Link, and there is very little work commuting on transit today, so I don’t think any delay in opening will be a big issue. I just don’t think East Link will be transformative on the eastside, and honestly think the decision to run the 554 down Bellevue Way rather than to MI will have a bigger effect although it mainly reflects changes already occurring, if eastsiders start riding transit again. Probably the bigger impact from East Link will be the increase in frequency through Seattle due to East Link trains, although there may not be any eastsiders on them.
In case anyone missed it, it appears that Link is well on its way back to gaining ridership. Of course, the three new North Seattle station activity makes it hard to compare.
These data show a much less robust recovery for ST Express and Sounder, but that could be affected by more reduced service.
One of my friends just got a job at Metro as a driver. He has split shifts but says it is fine. I don’t know his routes or shifts. His intent was cheaper medical for his wife and 3 kids. The job he had before paid much more per hour, but if you include medical deductions, his take home was less. He believes Metro has a hard time recruiting drivers for mostly these 4 things. Vaccine mandate, split shifts, safety on night routes and (this one is funny), can’t pass a drug test.
Vaccine mandates, split shifts, undesirability of night shifts, and drug tests would be the same thing most employers would cite when trying to hire hourly workers, across all sectors & skill levels. I see it in my job in Mfg and it aligns with what I hear from my colleagues in logistics. Metro’s recruitment problems are in no way unique.
Thanks for the insights!
Split shifts – can’t do much about that
Vaccine mandate – get rid of it, as it’s pretty clear by now the covid vaccine doesn’t stop transmission (not trying to start a covid debate here btw, just voicing my view)
Drug testing – get rid of marijuana testing
Night route safety – tougher nut to crack, so I’d advocate for hazard pay for those shifts while our politicians get their act together on this problem.
There are ways to minimize the split shift issue. Alon Levy advocates to simply run better off-peak frequency; the higher cost of more platform hours is mitigated by better labor retention from avoiding split shifts: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2021/05/24/labor-and-new-york-bus-and-subway-frequency/
Long term, investing in automation (particularly on Link) also mitigates the issue, as centralized control staff can work full shifts while flexing the number of trains deployed throughout the day.
People like to cite a vaccine mandate as an impediment to hiring, but I wonder how much of a difference it really makes, given that such a high percentage of the King County population is already vaccinated. Are bus drivers over-represented among the still-unvaccinated group?
Even if the vaccine does not stop transmission, a vaccine mandate presumably still saves Metro money on health insurance premiums (or direct medical claims if they self-insure) so long as it prevents hospitalizations.
“There are ways to minimize the split shift issue. Alon Levy advocates to simply run better off-peak frequency; the higher cost of more platform hours is mitigated by better labor retention from avoiding split shifts:”
The problem is, not all off-peak service reduces split shifts, only the portion of the off-peak that resides in the middle of the day on weekdays. Since total service hours are finite, increasing service there means decreasing service at other times. So, reducing split shifts by running more buses in the middle of the day (on weekdays) implies less bus service on evenings and weekends.
Since each week has 5 weekdays and only 2 weekends, weekend service would really have to be cut to the bone to free up a non-trivial number of hours for additional weekday service. I think this would be a big mistake. People who work normal jobs are stuck in the office (or home office) on weekdays; evenings and weekends is when they have time to actually go places.
asdf2, I think you are framing it wrong. Total service hours a finite, but they aren’t fixed. Levy’s point was that within a fixed finance budget, more service hours can be deployed if split shifts are minimized.
And ‘not a split shift’ does not mean ‘9-5 Mon-Friday.’ For evening service, every single evening driver can working a full shift, also driving during the afternoon peak? The weekend is covered by staff working Tues-Sat, or Wed-Sun, or whatever. Lots of drivers may prefer to work 4-10s. The key is to give workers regular, reliable hours, and then recruit a mix of workers who will work mornings/middays/evenings/weekend, all of whom work full time.
@AJ. I think if I was looking for a job, split shifts is the only thing on that list I might have a problem with. If I needed better medical, I could overlook that as well. The other 3 are not an issue for me. If you have a CDL anywhere you have to be drug free anyway. And I have been vaccinated since last May.
The COVID vaccine mandate and ban on use of marijuana are federal requirements over which local transit agencies have no control.
That said, knowing all your co-workers are vaccinated would seem like a plus when searching for a job.
No vaccine is 100% effective at any of the measures, which is why dumping the mask mandate on transit is sure to wreak havoc on the availability of willing operators. OTOH, it will probably scare off a larger portion of riders, so agencies will just downsize their schedules. Light rail will get hit, too, as the agency has seen what happens if the trains get too empty.
That the federal government is getting ready to lift the mask mandate on transit shows the sociopathy of the two-party Sithdom. One party moves so far to the extreme that it steps off the edge of the world, hoping to be teleported to some other edge. (This is the Ms. Pac Man version of Flat Earth.) The competing party triangulates, and tries to move as close to that extreme as possible while staying far enough away to avoid getting double-backed on.
The politicians are not following the science on masks. We know they work, and they work in a complementary way with all the other strategies. Rather, the scientists are being forced to follow the politicians.
I’m getting a little grumpy as I enter Day 7 of my grocery store boycott. Central Co-Op was the last to fall, last Thursday, leaving the immunocompromised populations in a bind.
How did the CDCP lower its expectations to turn over a thousand COVID deaths a day into a permanently-acceptable level of carnage?
” If you have a CDL anywhere you have to be drug free anyway.” Fox Butterfield, Is That You?
Another obstacle to attracting new bus drivers is car ownership is pretty much mandatory. While transit drivers with some seniority are able to pick when and where they work, new hires don’t have that option at first. So, a new driver fresh out of training who lives one part of the county, may be assigned to a transit base in another part of the county, and the shift start time could be early, making commuting to work by public transit impossible.
Metro apparently has at least one short-turn 44 trip now, that ends at U-District station rather than UWMC. The unfortunate thing is because of the reroute that stays on 45th due to lack of trolley wire on 43rd, riders (there were at least 8 of us, at 6:30AM) who actually want to get to UWMC without descending into the bowels of the earth and coming back for one stop on Link have to walk several blocks to 43rd to catch a bus. The even more unfortunate thing is that the “short-turn” part is really just deadheading to the UWMC terminal since I saw the bus going down 15th, presumably on its standard route but without riders…
Transit is running too frequently , seeing way too many empty buses. We need to right size transit by running fewer buses in Seattle. During times of high gas prices , Seattle and WA state must eliminate transit taxes. Stop running buses on Sundays and cut weekday and Saturday service by 30 percent. Lower taxes will help boost the local economy.
I don’t see anything wrong with the local economy. Except the poor pay too many taxes, and everyone else too few.
There are too many roadways; seeing way too many empty lanes. We need to right size roadways by closing lanes. During times of high gas prices, Seattle and WA must eliminate gas taxes. Close the freeways on Sundays and reduce lane openings on Weekdays and Saturdays by 30 percent. Lower taxes will help boost the local economy.
I’m going to get on a basketball website and tell them why I think basketball is stupid. I won’t make any attempt to learn anything about the game, or appreciate the complexity or athleticism — I’ll just say we should have less of it.
Then I’ll call myself a patriot.
Seriously though, during high gas prices we should increase transit service, not decrease it. Oh, and the so called “empty buses” issue is covered well here: https://humantransit.org/2020/04/whats-wrong-with-an-empty-bus.html
Get back to us when the average number of car occupants is a rounding error above 1, OK?
Try closer to zero. Most of the cars are just sitting there empty, taking up space.
King county metro is closing the bus stop on third and pine, due to public safety concerns. How about moving all the buses out of third?!?!
A commenter said this on May 29, 2021 at 3:03 PM: “I catch busses on Third all the time and don’t feel even remotely unsafe. … Third is getting more safe as time goes by, not less safe.”
The Macy’s stop is moving one block south to the Ross stop or being consolidated with it. There will still be stops on three of the four corners of 3rd & Pine. The city’s reason is to reduce the number of bus-stop crowds.
This consolidation will put the 28, 40, and 62 on the same block as the D, so if you’re going to Ballard or Fremont you can take whichever one comes first without having to predict it ahead of time. I think the reason they were originally separate was to give RapidRide more space, but that had the unfortunate effect of splitting Ballard service between two blocks.
If all buses leave 3rd they’d have to go to 2nd and 4th. Those streets are less pedestrian-friendly, less-retail, and more car-commute streets. Those streets are more appropriate for suburban expresses. And they don’t have room for all the buses on Third. Third Avenue has more buses than any other street in the US, so you can’t add that to another street that also has a lot of buses. There’s also a steep hill south of Pike Street. If you’re coming from First, Fifth, or Sixth, it makes a big difference whether you’re walking two blocks to Third or up to four blocks to Second.
Metro is already planning to reduce the number of buses on Third when more Link extensions and RapidRide lines open. That will consolidate routes and use capacity better, so that fewer buses will be needed. When that happens, the Downtown Seattle Association is eager to reduce the number of lanes to two with a partial passing lane, and expand the sidewalks into the reclaimed space.
The last time I was on Third there were six or seven police cars and the crowd of riff-raffs was gone. That may only last as long as the police presence is so heavy.
The Downtown Seattle Association has a vision
It’s the McDonald’s stop, not the Macy’s stop, that’s temporarily closing, and not for the reason Mike said. From The Seattle Times: “The purpose of the closure is to increase visibility [by Seattle police] into criminal activity … and to reduce areas of congregation,” spokesperson Jamie Housen said. “During this temporary closure, we will continue to assess whether it is contributing to reduction in criminal activity.”
According to today’s Seattle Times (page A9) the Seattle Police Dept. requested the stop at Third and Pike be closed:
“The purpose of the closure is to increase the visibility [by the Seattle Police Dept.] into criminal activity…and to reduce the area of congregation”.
“Finding an effective and sustainable response to Third Avenue, the site of a well-known open-air drug market, has eluded City Hall for years. In 2015, as part of the city’s “91/2 Block Strategy” the same bus stop was also temporarily moved one block to the south. But in recent months, as foot traffic disappeared during the pandemic, businesses and downtown advocacy groups have raised the volume on their calls for a stronger response. A recent string of shootings coinciding with Harrell’s first months in office, has brought the street into sharper focus.”
What is interesting is the statement that the police will monitor whether the bus stop itself is contributing to the criminal activity: “During this temporary closure, we will continue to assess whether it is contributing to reduction [sic] in criminal activity” spokesperson Jamie Housen said.
I would guess the problems on Third Ave. from Yesler to Pike (the “91/2 blocks) are a big reason business along other avenues would object to becoming “transit malls”. Another issue, at least for me, is whether the reduction in buses along 3rd due to Link will result in this activity descending into the underground light rail stations that are open to the general public. A few shootings in an underground Link station would probably kill any remaining ridership, as would just open-air drug dealing. If nowhere else, the light rail stations in downtown Seattle need some kind of fare paying system like turnstiles to keep non-fare paying persons out, or no one will ride it, especially if they have to transfer downtown (even though downtown is apparently not a Link hub).
“It’s the McDonald’s stop, not the Macy’s stop,…”
So, the RR stop that’s midblock? Just trying to clarify any confusion here.
The DSA vision has errors and mistakes. Third is great for transit and pedestrians. Another approach would be shift trunk lines to Third avenues from second and fourth avenues. Killing the ccc streetcar would help; routes could be shifted to first from third.
The DSA vision has errors and mistakes.
I believe this is the last document they put out: https://cdn.downtownseattle.org/files/advocacy/dsa-third-avenue-vision-booklet.pdf. It has ridership and bus numbers (from before the pandemic) as well as expected future numbers. I can certainly see how the former could be faulty, and the latter different than what they expected. But the numbers seem reasonable to me. They predict a slight decrease in Third Avenue bus traffic in 2025, and a more significant decrease in 2035, but nothing huge. The biggest decreases are seen on adjacent streets — not only in percentage terms, but also in absolute terms (see page 13). This sounds quite reasonable.
Their proposals are not formal, and likely meant as simply ideas (to spark conversation). Every proposal involves buses on Third Avenue. My favorite involves Third Avenue and an adjacent street. On both of the streets you would have two lanes of buses going one way, and a single general purpose lane going the other (https://nacto.org/publication/transit-street-design-guide/transit-lanes-transitways/transit-lanes/contraflow-transit-lane/). In my opinion they made a mistake in the diagram (on page 32), as they show the cars going the same direction as the buses on Second Avenue. That would still be OK, just not as good as the alternative, as cars would mess with buses, as they turn right (as is the case with typical BAT lanes).
Like all of the proposals, this would increase the amount of sidewalk space on Third, which is clearly one of the goals.
Ross, the problem with contra-flow over more than a couple of blocks is that the signal timing messes up the contra-flow vehicles.
I hadn’t considered the benefits of getting RapidRide routes and other routes to North Seattle consolidated, but that has been one of our frustrations now that we live between the 62 and the E. Unless we go to Virginia, we have to gamble on whether the 62 or E will show up first, which is more acute now that the 26X has been deleted. I get that Metro has to avoid bus bunching but it will be nice having a second “transfer point” stop that is closer to downtown than Virginia.
“The COVID-19 pandemic upended many aspects of our daily lives. According to an October 2021 survey by DSA affiliate Commute Seattle and EMC Research, more than two in five downtown-based employees have switched to remote work since 2019. Interestingly, despite the pandemic, the share of single-occupancy vehicle commutes barely changed, staying around 25% of all commutes. Public transit experienced the largest decline in usage, dropping 26 points from being 45% of all commute modes in 2019 to 19% in 2021.
“Survey findings also indicate that the majority of workers still plan to use public transit once the pandemic is no longer a serious threat. A different DSA survey conducted in December 2021 found a similar sentiment. However, the need for improved transit safety and reliability is a major concern for employers and workers in determining when people return to their workplaces.
“The ability to shift to remote work was a powerful tool for some sectors during the pandemic, allowing for continued economic activity while supporting public health goals. However, there has been a cost to small businesses, the service industry and the downtown community as a whole. As pandemic outcomes improve, commuters’ use of public transit will be key to downtown’s long-term economic vitality, equity and sustainability.”
My guess is this concern is the number one issue on Harrell’s plate right now, because so much tax revenue is being reallocated out of the urban core.
I live in downtown seattle and I feel unsafe. My partner had been assaulted leaving work. We too are considering leaving seattle.
There is an open question of how long an employee can work remotely. Lots of that depends on the job responsibilities and other things.
I suspect that staff turnover issues (like inability to hold on to staff because there is no office socialization going on to build loyalty) will result in more and more companies requiring at least occasional if not daily attendance in an office. In that light, I don’t see how any survey from 2021 can be considered as defining a more permanent and irreversible shift.
inability to hold on to staff because there is no office socialization going on to build loyalty
The news coverage I’ve heard states the exact opposite. Employers are finding it’s difficult to hire and retain people unless they offer at least partial work from home. Allstate and State Farm have both gone permanently remote and have sold or have up for sale their large corporate campuses. The office space my wife’s department was in was reassigned. This saves the hospital both the cost of the office space and parking. Plus they now hire from a nation wide pool. My company has announced a permanent policy allowing up to three days per week remote. Of course this doesn’t work if you’re a barista but there far fewer baristas when the number of office workers shrinks. With flexible working requirements households can often share a vehicle rather than one person having to ride transit everyday. Hence the number of SOV work trips remaining the same while transit loses ridership. And with limited trips to the office people are moving farther from work which makes transit less appealing and keeps the VMT about the same.
It’s a whole new Metaverse ;-)
In my line of work, I’ve found great value in in-person work. STB’s resident suburban crank even still apparently sees value in having an office away from home, despite his excessive proclamations declaring the death of the commute.
I just started a new job in a different downtown office. While I prefer working in an office setting with my coworkers easily physically accessible, I know that I would have been chuffed if they required in-person attendance every day. I think the majority of white-collar workers are going to demand some level of flexibility in regards to WFH, even if it’s only one day a week. During my interview process, I observed a lot of uncertainty about how office managers wanted to handle it – it seems that if you want a permanent desk/cubicle/office, most managers will want you sitting there the majority of the week.
Nathan, you simply repeated what I posted in response to Al’s post: no one is arguing in person office work will go to zero days. The Stanford Study predicted one or two days at home per average, or 20% to 40%. After three years of the pandemic 40% seems more likely because people have adapted to WFH. But 40% is a huge amount when it comes to the amount of office space a business will need, and the number of folks who will commute by transit to downtown, without any loss in productivity.
Downtown Seattle has other issues affecting employees willing to work there, let alone take public transit to and from downtown Seattle (see today’s Seattle Times, and yesterday’s Seattle Times addressing the steep decline in transit use and commuting to downtown Seattle).
One of those issues is our local economy is heavily tech oriented, and those jobs easily can be done from home. Another issue is just the amount businesses (like ours) will save on smaller downtown leased spaces (our rent overhead will decline by over 1/2). Then there is the deurbanization going on in general, and the desire of many workers to no longer live in downtown Seattle, some due to the aging of the Millennial, some due to the situation in downtown Seattle some are in denial about, except Harrell and the Chamber.
Probably the biggest issue is getting staff to commute to downtown Seattle and work here, one because no one likes to commute to work, and two too many Seattle as too dangerous to take public transit or even go out to lunch. Three weeks ago while sitting in my office at 1:30 on a Wednesday I heard a person shot to death in Pioneer Square. No wonder no lunch spots are open any more.
Right now many of us have shifted to subsidized parking rather than subsidized ORCA cards, which with the current lower parking rates and working in office less than five days/week is a wash for us. But part of the trade off for commuting to an office — which by definition is an unpaid and disliked waste of time — is being in a vibrant urban hub. So businesses have to compete for the best employees with other urban hubs, most notably downtown Bellevue that people (especially women) like to go to anyway, even if not working, Very, very few people go to downtown Seattle today unless they have to, usually for work.
Look, WFH is a positive in almost every way. It reduces carbon emissions, it avoids the awful waste of life of commuting to work (especially on packed transit), it allows parents more time with their kids and a more flexible schedule, it lowers business overhead, and it allows more people to live where they want to live. It has allowed me to stay engaged in my practice while on vacation or just at home, and ended the dreaded flying for work.
The only two “downsides” are WFH reduces transit ridership by a 100% fare paying demographic dramatically, and it reallocates tax revenue from the urban core to outlying suburban areas when the urban core ends up with a disproportionate share of social costs.
You solve those problems through county tax allocation, much better governance in Seattle so folks want to come to downtown even if not working like Bellevue, and reimagining transit re: where and how much, which means pausing WSBLE.
Big deal. Pandemics tend to change how people live their lives, usually in the long term for the better. So the transit slave is over. Our forms of transit are antiquated, and so is our urban work model in which most workers live outside the urban center because the urban center is so hostile to raising a family and women, and we spend hours of our lives every single weekday on packed transit going to work, time for which they are not paid.
Ross was right: the future was always buses, because buses can be shifted easily, they are relatively economical, the road infrastructure is there and funded by non-transit sources, and you can route buses to where the riders are (or are not) rather than the foolish notion light rail can create ridership. On the eastside, where we have an abundance of ST revenue left over from ST 2 and 3, we are going to need much better bus service to serve that huge area, but we spent $5.5 billion (plus around another $2 billion in subsidies for N. King Co.) to build East Link along 112th. Just look at the eastside transit restructure: routing the 554 to Bellevue Way will have a much bigger transformation than East Link. No transfer, people going from where they want to live to where they want to work in a straight shot, no coercion, no transit slave.
Traffic congestion is already back; there is not enough road space for everybody to drive at the same time I separate cars.
Even if many people are coming to the office only three days per week, if everyone picks Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, the result will be empty roads on Monday and Friday, but prepandemic levels of congestion on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
At my company, about 15-20% of employees have started coming back, but that number is expected to increase significantly over the next couple months, barring another COVID surge. I expect at many other companies, it is similar.
As for the closure of the bus stop at 3rd Pike, after seeing crazies there at 5 PM on a Friday a few weeks ago, I agree with SPD that something needs to be done.
Traffic is back, but not much traffic congestion. We have built our road system to accommodate pre-pandemic peak congestion, and I agree it did not scale back then. Today it does. Traffic might have increased, but there isn’t much congestion, except maybe along I-5 because of its dysfunctional design. There is a fine line at which total traffic creates congestion, and then any additional traffic increases congestion logarithmically.
However the Seattle Times noted that nearly all the drop off in commuting was from transit during the pandemic. SOV commuting to work stayed around the same, which is not my experience on the roads over the last three years commuting to downtown Seattle M-F based on congestion, although I do know many employers shifted to subsidized parking rather than subsidized transit.
A 40% reduction in the number of cars on the road during peak hours would relieve congestion, but at the same time encourage more driving to work, depending on who is paying for parking. There really isn’t anything wrong with transit anywhere other than downtown Seattle depending on how long the commute is: no work commuter is going to balk at a one seat ride on the 554 from a park and ride from Issaquah to downtown Bellevue, and will likely welcome the opportunity to go to downtown Bellevue, but likely 3 days/week, not five.
The point I am trying to make is WFH will likely reduce commuting to the office 40%, as predicted in the Stanford Study, if no other reason the savings to businesses in less prime office space but with the same productivity. It is very hard to justify making employees spend hours of their day commuting to and from work unpaid, no matter where they work, so a 40% reduction for any urban area makes sense.
Downtown Seattle’s situation complicates that analysis, and the rise of Bellevue (and the development in Bellevue and eastside transit restructure). I can look out my office at a 360 degree view of downtown Seattle and the street traffic is just dead, as it is every day.
So my guess is overall Seattle will see closer to a 60% reduction in work commuting to the downtown, mostly by tech employees who can WFH or can choose to work in their employer’s eastside office.
If Seattle turned around its downtown problem (sooner rather than later because it will be hard to get workers to shift back to working or living in Seattle once they have moved out) then I could see the downtown going to 40%, like Bellevue. But that will take years to clean up Seattle, revitalize the retail and restaurant scene, to overcome the hysterical perceptions of Seattle on the eastside, and I don’t see the current council making those decisions.
Ultimately the point all of us seem to agree upon is now is not the time to make transit assumptions for years into the future, or for a DEIS for WSBLE. We are going to need transit, but the mode (and funding for mode), where, how much, is unknown. This is especially problematic for a sclerotic agency like ST that is unable to adapt or rethink its assumptions, even after a three year pandemic.
Traffic congestion is back but it’s very different than the pre-covid rush hour peaks. Coming into Seattle on I-90 at 7am traffic is doing 70mph+. It’s heavier in the afternoon ~5:30PM but still a better than speed limit drive. 405 SB out of Bellevue is a parking lot from the SE 8th to at least Coal Creek Pkwy. I think it’s a combination of freight/commute and discretionary trips combined with all the weave and merge through that section. From traffic reports it seems I-5 into Seattle can be heavy but large delays are accident related. Same for 405 into Bellevue. The short section I drive from 520 to I-90 is heavy but still moving above the speed limit both directions AM & PM. And the volume is virtually the same at 6am as at 7:30am. At 6am there’s a much larger percentage of commercial truck traffic.
People will adjust. The days will balance out although Fridays will always be light. With work from home most jobs have become much more flexible in the hours worked so the peak has been decompressed. And as more people go back in office there will be fewer of them driving to Home Depot or doing their grocery shopping mid day. Schools (HS & college) will continue to offer much of the online content they have developed. Bellevue is looking at a 3 day in class requirement for HS. And a lot of Running Start can now be done online. Lk WA Tech is offering their Saturday Revit class on campus but the section on Thursday is via Zoom. At this point the online version has more enrollment. Hybrid classes where you come in one evening a week instead of attending 3 days a week were popular before covid and the number of offerings has dramatically increased.
The point is that no one’s tearing down the downtown offices. They will eventually refill with desk jockeys and water cooler conversation, and when that day comes, there still isn’t enough space on the street to get everyone in or out in an efficient manner if they’re all in cars. Seattle’s geography will always require high-density transit options to get people in and out of the cultural cores – as we see with 3rd Avenue, buses simply won’t cut it.
A bus-based transit system is a transit system that’s easily defunded and easily deleted. The conversion from rails to rubber tires in the 30’s to 50’s was heralded as a marvel of modernization, but all it really did was make transit worse as buses still had to compete with cars for space on the road, and the systemic defunding of municipal services through the 20th century resulted in many bus systems becoming completely non-competitive to the SOV – resulting in Dan’s “transit slave” being the only transit rider. For someone who apparently can’t imagine why anyone would ever willingly choose to ride transit, he seems to expect a lot of people will choose to ride a bus to work instead of compete for his precious road space in their own electric vehicle.
I’ve lived in the “deurbanized” car-and-bus-centric world that Dan foresees – it’s called Los Angeles. I grew up in the low-rise, business park, freeway wonderland of Southern California, and outside of the small pockets of culture, it’s soul-crushing. For anyone that hasn’t read it, Neil Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” is a great depiction of the logical result of this preference.
I don’t know if Dan made any other on-topic or novel observations in his plethora of garrulous posts, but I doubt it.
“The point is that no one’s tearing down the downtown offices. They will eventually refill with desk jockeys and water cooler conversation, and when that day comes, there still isn’t enough space on the street to get everyone in or out in an efficient manner if they’re all in cars.”
When that day comes would be the time for the WSBLE DEIS, that no one except Nathan thinks makes any kind of transit or economic sense based on the alternatives in the DEIS, and any kind of rudimentary project cost/funding analysis. You don’t spend $130 billion on light rail because you are afraid of transit cuts.
Light rail has to scale too, especially due to its extremely high cost. There must be the ridership to support the capital investment, and the ridership to cover the future operations costs (which includes how many pay a fare). The missing metric is dollar per rider mile. All the engineering gymnastics on this blog about affordable alternatives for WSBLE know that.
To argue buses are not an adequate form of transit misses the point that even after the entire spine is completed most transit riders will be on buses, and on many routes buses will be faster since there is no transfer (e.g. from Lake City to downtown Seattle), and Link is predicated on feeder buses, something ST never understood. The levy party for Link is over so whatever tax revenue there is is it, and a realignment that extends project completion concurrently with extending taxes goes backwards because it is the ROW and construction inflation that is the problem.
Employers and employees don’t tear down office buildings (and one of the issues with steel and glass construction is it can be just as expensive to dismantle as to build), they leave. Either they go home, or they go somewhere else like Bellevue.
I agree we don’t know where they will go in the future, just they are gone right now (and Bellevue seems to think they are coming there based on the development and that kind of money is rarely wrong), or if they will return to downtown Seattle to support the urbanist vision Nathan has, but I would be surprised if more than 50% return. Nathan speaks of urbanism while he lives in a SFH in a SFH zone in Ballard that is a lot closer to Mercer Island than LA or the urbanism he envisions. A lot of folks in Ballard are going to need buses even if WSBLE opens, and those buses will be faster than Link.
The reality is most neighborhoods in Los Angeles have a much higher population density per square mile than Ballard (8590 compared to 7978 for Seattle in general, which is not dense): https://www.areavibes.com/seattle-wa/ballard/demographics/ ; https://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/population/density/neighborhood/list/#:~:text=Select%20a%20ranking%20%20%20%20Rank%20,%20%2016%2C819%20%2084%20more%20rows%20
https://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/population/density/neighborhood/list/#:~:text=Select%20a%20ranking%20%20%20%20Rank%20,%20%2016%2C819%20%2084%20more%20rows%20 (Los Angeles by neighborhood)
Does light rail scale at 50% of estimated ridership? No. Does it scale on the eastside? No. Will it scale to Tacoma and Everett? No. Will it ever scale from West Seattle to Ballard? No. This reality existed before the pandemic, which is why ST inflated ridership, farebox recovery, and low balled project cost estimates.
Rather than the transit restructure for Northgate I think the eastside transit restructure was probably the most realistic and prescient, in part because Metro understands how impossible it is to serve East King Co., and that choices have to be made, and budgets force that reality, a reality ST is only learning. The eastside restructure is all about buses, and one seat commuter rides, and very little about East Link because who is going to take light rail to 112th or Mercer Island, or The Spring District, especially if the trip begins with a drive to a park and ride to catch a feeder bus? What kind of idiot thinks an eastsider will do that? Not Metro.
If the commuter and transit rider returns in droves, and equals or exceeds ST ridership estimates in the levies and submitted to the U.S. DOT then build WSBLE, or Tacoma Link or Everett Link. Don’t build mode based solely on mode.
The point is that no one’s tearing down the downtown offices. They will eventually refill with desk jockeys
I don’t think that’s true. People working 3 days a week in office still have a cubical 7 days a week. Indications are that even when “full” the number of people DT on any given day will be only 60% of what is was pre-covid. And we’ve seen the demise of the Peak as work hours are increasingly more flexible.
We’re also seeing a shift in usage. Retail is making a comeback as the number of people living near DT increases (new grocery in one of the buildings). Expect lots of 2nd floor space to be gyms and sports bars like Bellevue. Top floors may convert CEO offices to C level condos. Some of the space may convert to data processing like the Weston Building as the world continues to push more data and do it remotely.
An DT already has Central Link and soon East Link. Buses don’t need to be DT nearly as much as they currently are. The restructures have been pretty anemic to date. There’s no reason for any SnoCo buses to be DT. When East Link opens there won’t need to be any eastside buses DT. And the best way to improve bus service DT is cordon pricing.
Not “logarithmically”. I think you mean “exponentially”, though that’s not exactly right.
Logarithms increase less for each increment. Exponents greater than one increase more for each increment, which is what a measurement of “congestion” would resemble.
“Ross was right: the future was always buses, because buses can be shifted easily, they are relatively economical, the road infrastructure is there and funded by non-transit sources, and you can route buses to where the riders are (or are not) rather than the foolish notion light rail can create ridership”
Buses get stuck in traffic, have to turn circuitously on streets, wait for traffic lights, have limited capacity, and as long as they have internal-combustion engines they break down more.
“the road infrastructure is there”
Sometimes it’s not there. I’ve been traveling extensively between downtown, the U-District, and Northgate for forty-four years. In the five years before University Link, the 71/72/73X ran every 8 minutes and were melting down with overcrowding, congestion, and unreliability. Trips between Convention Place and Campus Parkway too anywhere between 25 and 45 minutes depending on the day, the bus came at unpredictable times, and you never knew whether you’d make your transfer. There was no road space for more buses — I-5 and Eastlake were already packed. Northgate and Lake City may not have had such severe overcrowding, but they got caught in traffic jams every day between 1:30pm and 7:30pm — not just rush hours. That’s not acceptable and needed something better. Building new grade-separated bus lanes costs almost as much as building rail tracks, so you might as well build the rail and get the larger capacity.
Capitol Hill Station wasn’t as necessary as the U-District, but its ridership proves it’s justified — it has the highest ridership after Westlake I think. You can just look at the crowds on the platform all day and the number of people who get in and out of every train.
Rainier Valley doesn’t have that kind of capacity problem, but the 7 takes almost twice as long as Link. Link from Westlake to Othello takes 22 minutes. The 7 takes twenty minutes at 5am but midday it takes forty minutes. And those are a long forty minutes with stop-and-go waiting at stoplights, merging into traffic, and crawling through congestion. A city of 770K should have better than that, and should have something more competitive with cars. “But we can convert GP/parking lanes to transit-priority lanes.” No, that’s what we can’t do, because the city keeps failing to and the businesses get up in arms about losing customers. So saying we should just improve the bus lanes is the same as saying we should do nothing, and that’s unacceptable.
East Link, I know you don’t think it’s justified. But King County in the 1960s thought Forward Thrust on almost the same corridor was justified, and the majority of voters agreed, they just couldn’t get a supermajority. As few issues can. This was when the Eastside population was much lower. Cities in Europe with much lower populations than Pugetopolis just build rail — they don’t wring their hands in doubt. Because having a robust non-car circulation network is important.
If you think Link shouldn’t have extended further than Northgate and Federal Way, well, I don’t think so either. It wasn’t necessary, but if the public is willing to build it, there’s no reason not to, because better transit circulation is better than worse transit circulation. But you don’t seem to be saying that — that Link Link should have been built to Northgate and Federal Way and then stopped — you’re saying none of Link should exist because Seattle isn’t New York City. And I say that’s wrong. And you’ve provided no other alternative for the severe traffic congestion on I-5 and Eastlake, which couldn’t just be left alone.
“[the road infrastructure is] funded by non-transit sources,”
That’s a flaw in the state’s tax structure, not a reason not to have rail. The tax structure should be fixed, with car drivers paying for most of the infrastructure (including roads and transit), because they cause the most externalities on everybody by far.
“the foolish notion light rail can create ridership.”
Better transit creates ridership. Either bus or rail can do that, but rail is more effective and appropriate in some circumstances. This has been proven extensively throughout the world, including in Pugetopolis. Pugetopolis ridership per capita grew between 2010 and 2016 when it was falling in almost every other American city, BECAUSE we invested more in transit and increased bus frequency. The other cities were reducing transit or not keeping up with population growth, so their ridership fell because of that. You can’t ride a bus when the route is deleted or shortened and there’s no alternative. That’s what was happening in other cities: neighborhoods were just cut off from transit, or it was reduced to hourly, or didn’t run midday and evenings. So of course ridership fell, because you can’t ride a bus that doesn’t exist. Everywhere in the world has shown that when you increase transit and connect more places that people go to, ridership increases. American ridership is being severely held back because the transit is so minimal. It’s not just that Link isn’t finished yet; it’s also that Metro isn’t frequent enough, doesn’t go to enough places, and doesn’t reach them at adequate bus speeds. That’s why ridership is so low. It’s not just that low-density suburbanites don’t take transit; it’s that if there were better transit they would take it — as they do in Canada. In Vancouver and its suburbs. In Calgary. In Toronto and Ottawa. Probably in Edmonton too.
Also, even if ridership isn’t high now (without the pandemic), the population is continuing to increase, and in ten or twenty years it will be higher. Even if you’re worried about downtown offices being empty, the population increase and jobs increase will take care of that. That has been a long-term trend for fifty years. It’s not likely to reverse, because Pugetopolis still has the water views and mountains, a temperate climate that’s somewhat resistant to climate change, a trade portal to Asia, more tolerate attitudes than other parts of the country, and a creative and educated workforce/entrepreneur-force/research universities. Those are unlikely to reverse.
And if you say downtown Bellevue will become as big as downtown Seattle and have more of the tax base, that’s all the more reason to build East Link now so it will be ready for it.
Al, I don’t think no one will return to in office work. The Stanford Study estimated 1 to 2 days/week, or a 20% to 40% reduction for in office work long-term. I think the data nearly three years into WFH suggests 40% — or two days/week although that is much lower than currently — is more likely long-term, which is consistent with the link to the Chamber of Commerce link I linked to in my earlier post. What is interesting is nearly all that decline came from transit riders, which suggests to me more employers are providing subsidized parking than ORCA passes.
The most important factor is the technology now exists for WFH, and employers have had to embrace it. So many employees have a choice. Some employees — especially senior management — may have to go into the office five days/week, but they will all get free parking.
What they choose probably depends on the commute (including first/last mile access and transfers), the location of the business (e.g. downtown Seattle vs. Bellevue), where they live, whether they have kids, what kind of housing they live in (SFH vs. tiny studio), safety, and their personality, and I can personally attest to the fact kids today are much more insular, probably because of cell phones and video games. They live online, especially after three years of Covid.
Here is one example. I have a niece who works for King Co. She is an unmarried millennial. She moved to SLU for the city action. Her job required her to be in person at the Courthouse so King Co. provided free secured parking during Covid, and due to the homeless camp in the park next to the courthouse. A homeless camp formed next to her building in SLU so she moved to a tall, more secure Belltown building, but the unit was very small due to her budget.
Then King Co. decided to eliminate free parking. Like the other staff she refused to return to in person work via transit. So King Co. gave her three choices: 1. take transit to the downtown courthouse; 2. free parking and work at the Kent courthouse; 3. full time work from home, which she had been doing for around a year.
Since she wanted to move to the eastside to get out of downtown Seattle she chose number 3. She now lives in Sammamish near the lake and works from home and likes it, although she did not like WFH in a very small studio in Belltown.
I think that the deciding factor may end up being whether someone wants to go to downtown Seattle. Granted, few enjoy spending an hour each way riding packed transit (after getting to it) to work, but in the past the atmosphere in downtown Seattle — shopping, bars, restaurants — made it more worthwhile. Without that, and with Millennials wanting to leave Seattle for the eastside just to live, I think the WFH crowd (at least for businesses in downtown Seattle) could go higher than 40% long-term in this area, perhaps to 3 days/week, or 60%, which unfortunately will devastate downtown Seattle and transit. However it may be much less, say 20%, in downtown Bellevue.
Transit cannot manufacture riders. It depends on people who want to go from A to B, and feel transit provides a better mode. If people don’t want to go to downtown Seattle then transit needs to be cut on those run eventually and ridership estimates made more honest, although our entire system of transit is based on Seattle being a hub, although some disagree with my assessment. But then why spend $12 to $20 billion to take folks from two bedroom communities like Ballard and West Seattle to downtown Seattle, let alone stubs, if downtown is not the hub?
If in fact the area de-urbanizes and more employment and more living is outside downtown Seattle then we will need to reallocate scarce transit resources to serving those areas. WSBLE is just the opposite.
There are more kinds of trips on Link than just work trips when compared to Sounder or even ST Express. Just yesterday I saw two dozen high schoolers get off one afternoon train at Columbia City for example. Plus, it’s more likely that the long commuters will avoid going to the office much more than short commuters. If the trip from home is under 20 minutes, it’s often easier to go into the office than work from home.
The increased emphasis on short trips is reflected on such strong interest in good station access (avoiding deep stations and hating to use stairs) and circulation. As for long-term trends, we still just don’t know.
“If the trip from home is under 20 minutes, it’s often easier to go into the office than work from home.”
The average Pugetopolis commute is around 20-25 minutes. The longer it gets beyond that, the more dissatisfied workers get.
For ST2 Link from Westlake, 25 minutes will get you to Mountlake Terrace, Rainier Beach, or the Spring District. For the E, 25 minutes gets you to 105th. For Sounder from King Street Station, 25 minutes gets you to Kent.
Average commute was moving north of 30 minutes before Covid, as congestion steadily increased and more housing was built outside of Seattle than within.
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