Why you shouldn’t put light rail in tunnels. (RMTransit)

In the video Reese argues that German U-Stadtbahn trams work well because they only have a short tunnel in the city center. Beyond that you should either have surface light rail or tunneled high-capacity metro, but not light rail with extensive tunnels. He mentions Link and a few other cities as what not to do.

Salt Lake City’s transit is surprisingly good. It’s a model for other medium-sized American cities. (RMTransit)

A London Overground overview. (RMTransit)

More below the fold….

Living car-free in Las Vegas. (CityNerd)

Tokyo’s musical train stations. (Bright Trip) Link stations have unique pictograms. Tokyo stations have 7-second melodies. I’ve seen a elevator like that, where each parking garage level has song themed after a different city.

Non-video items

East Link update. Target date 2025 (with possible starter line in 2024). Testing is ongoing in Bellevue, track replacement west of Mercer Island (those plinths). Travel times: Mercer Island – UW 20 minutes; South Bellevue – SeaTac airport 50 minutes; Redmond Tech – Bellevue Downtown 10 minutes.

Seattle’s draft comprehensive plan and EIS will be published in September. Community meetings start in November. In the meantime here’s the One Seattle Plan portal.

Seattle’s Art Deco skyscrapers. ($) With pictures of Wooworth’s, the 4th & University building (and the Cobb building next to it), and the Exchange Building.

This is an open thread.

371 Replies to “Video Roundup”

  1. Bingo! West Seattle’s and Ballard’s business panjandrums fighting surface stations in “Old Ballard” and “The Junction” are chopping off their noses. New “high-end” retail districts will inevitably grow up around the terminal stations a few blocks away, drawn by the passengers transferring to collector / distributor buses which won’t be serving the older areas.

    1. I don’t remember anyone fighting against a station close to Old Ballard. Far from it. Locals pushed for the station to be moved west, to no avail. This is a case of ST ignoring the interests of the community *and* sensible transit planning.

      1. Yes, but they wanted it underground, which ST didn’t want to “afford”.

      2. Tom was referring to a surface station Ross. In the past Tom thought Ballard and WS would have to “drink the bitter ale” of surface lines and stations if N KC was to afford DSTT2. I agree with him. Or like the DSA and midtown or SLU or the CID they opt for no station, or like Bellevue a surface station not near anything walkable, which I thought was possible in WS too.

        ST and the Board don’t appear willing to admit ridership or project costs should call into question its plans, even new parking garages along Sounder. Cities like Auburn are able to use the “have to plan for the future” phrase (which has no reference to the present) against ST.

        Ballard Link now looks to be underground. The main issue today for station location in Ballard — according to ST — is the additional cost to move the underground station from 14th to 15th (I don’t think 20th is even under consideration at this time), which I ironic find when WSBLE itself has ballooned in cost to over $15 billion I just can’t find in the subarea’s future ST revenue. What ST hasn’t discussed is who would pay that additional cost to move the underground station in Ballard. Ballard?

        I originally thought any savings would come from DSTT2, whether interlining or using stubs, because I never thought WS or Ballard would drink the bitter ale of surface stations, just as no neighborhood north of CID has. But after the DEIS for DSTT2 I now think Harrell and Constantine think that is the number one priority for WSBLE (although Constantine wants WS to have priority over Ballard although ridership doesn’t support that).

        As long as ST believes planning for the future means completing its pre-pandemic plans — plus making them more expensive or continuing to mis-estimate project costs like 130th — cities like Auburn, Sumner and Kent are going to get new Sounder garages despite plunging ridership because ST and many on this blog are convinced yesterday’ hopes about population growth, density and ridership and not today’ reality will be the new normal “in the future”.

      3. I remember most here agreed when Alon Levy wrote community interests shouldn’t be a part of transit planning. That transit professionals should be left to do their job. So, let the experts do their job. They know best if a station should be located in Old Ballard or not, not the locals, right?

      4. Here’s how to site a station:

        1. Which location has the most pedestrians within a quarter mile?
        2. Which location has the widest variety of all-day users?
        3. Does the station serve bulk crowds? (E.g., stadium, airport.)

        20th & Market meets both 1 and 2. 15th or 14th don’t.

      5. Mike, in reality siting a station comes down to: 1. Cost; 2. Whether it is underground; 3. Disruption to the surrounding neighborhood during construction.

        Then you get to location. And cost. IIRC ST has stated moving the now underground station from 14th to 15th would cost something like $180 million, without stating who would pay that additional amount: Ballard or N KC.

        What we have seen from downtown Bellevue to CID to Midtown is the preliminary question whether a Link station is worth it. More often than not the local area decides it is not.

        ST makes the mistake of beginning every station placement with the assumption a Link station — above or below ground — is worth it, and seems surprised when the local area disagrees.

        I think that is because whatever vibrancy that supports a Link station at that location existed before Link. Link is only necessary when that pre-existing vibrancy becomes too overwhelming for buses or cars. ST somehow think Link is responsible for the vibrancy while the area worriers Link and construction will disrupt that vibrancy for years and add little to the area. The irony is the more vibrant the area the less its residents need to go to other areas, the proverbial 15 minute city the PSRC always hoped for but employers would not allow until the pandemic.

      6. Mike, the problem is, you are basing station placement on a snapshot in time. In the decades to come, more growth will occur along the 15th corridor.

      7. Actually, let me put it this way … A study should be done to assess which Ballard corridor, regardless of where a station is placed, will see the most growth and development in the decades to come. And the results of that study should help determine where the station should go.

      8. “in reality siting a station comes down to: 1. Cost; 2. Whether it is underground; 3. Disruption to the surrounding neighborhood during construction.”

        The goal of rail is to serve the largest number and variety of pedestrian trips. Those are strategic issues that determine how important the station is. “Pedestrian” primarily means people using only their feet, but it can include people coming from a bike locker or P&R car.

        Cost and disruption in contrast are tactical issues. They determine whether we “can” build something we’ve already decided we “should” build. Because if we shouldn’t built it, the tactical questions are moot. Cost and distruption are not goals, because the ideal cost and disruption are zero.

        If something is important, like locating the station at 20th, then the further away we put the station, the less we should build the line. If we can’t build 20th because of cost, then maybe it’s better not to build the line than to build something that doesn’t reach its goals very well. Because that worse line makes it harder to build a better line later.

      9. “In the decades to come, more growth will occur along the 15th corridor.”

        It’s possible that 15th will become denser than any one street in Real Ballard, but not denser than the whole triangular neighborhood. Density in the eastern triangle (15th to 6th) would depend on an upzone beyond what the city is planning. There’s no guarantee that would ever happen, so we shouldn’t throw Real Ballard under the bus for it.

        Even if east Ballard gets denser, you run into #2. I have no faith developers will build a new neighbohood as successful and with as wide a variety of users as the old neighborood. If they did, they’d build new buildings with similar aesthetics and uses as the old buildings; e.g., with narrow deep storefronts to fit the largest number of retailers per block. New development tends to cater to a narrower segment of society. Look at Roosevelt in the U-District vs the Ave. That’s what I expect a built-up 15th would be like.

      10. Sam, local residents don’t think decades in the future. ST made that mistake with the CID.

        A “study” years into the future is speculative. Who would have believed the collapse of downtown Seattle a decade ago.

        Zoning usually has little effect, and the state just dispersed any housing growth throughout the entire region. There is only so much retail any area can support. All customers ask for is retail density. No one minds they have to drive to U village or Issaquah for it (especially if parking is adequate and free).

        The reality is retail density usually grows where it already exists, although planners often don’t really understand why one area is popular and another adjascent area is not.

        Usually zoning has little to do with vibrancy. You usually use zoning to exclude a use, like locating large office towers in the CBD, because the concern is their massing would damage the delicate ecosystem of say Capitol Hill. It is very hard to use zoning to create an area, especially retail and housing.

        I also think a question that is often not asked is whether the intent of the station is to bring folks into the area or folks out. I think ST gets that wrong in some places and misunderstand what the locals think. , maybe because it was originally designed as commuter transit to downtown Seattle, but now must pivot.

        Businesses (the “vibrancy” that supports the Link station) think the purpose of a Link station is to bring people and customers there. So do developers. On the other hand more suburban stations think the station is to take residents out. They don’t want more people coming, certainly on transit. The mistake I think some make is confusing whether the housing created he retail density or vibrancy, or vice versa. After all, why would anyone move to Ballard which is so remote? For the housing?

        The key question for Ballard and WS is what fight they put up based on disruption. Neither sees a Link station as existential, although some on this blog think any transit is existential. It isn’t as if life or mobility are bad today in either city, and it looks pretty clear those additional 1 million t residents are not coming. Personally I can’t see any benefit to WS today from Link, and a marginal benefit to Ballard. It isn’t like Link is building a ferry to an island.

        ST is going to have to sell these stations and locations to two very skeptical areas, and the benefit vs. disruption. It will have to understand each area has micro-areas, and whether the areas nearest the stations think the benefit to them is bringing folks in or taking them out (and no, Mike, it isn’t both for them).

        That began by placing the stations underground because surface Link was never going to be acceptable and I said that from day one. . I think it will be a close call in WS, but an easier sell in Ballard, although like so many areas the Ballard station and its disruption may be located away from the existing vibrancy because residents won’t see any great benefit to offset years of disruption.

        Whether the vibrancy migrates to the station in decades who knows, although a lot of the most vibrant areas have “old” in their names.

      11. “That transit professionals should be left to do their job.”

        More accurately, the transit experts should be left to do their job. The problem with ST is there don’t seem to be enough transit experts. If there were, we wouldn’t have to tell them to follow transit best practices; they’d be doing it already. I’m sure there are people in ST who know what makes transit in Vancouver and Toronto and The Netherlands so successful and are advocating for it, but they get outvoted by people with other priorities, and the lines lose half their potential. The board obviously won’t be transit experts, but they should put transit experts in charge, and learn enough about transit to recognize effective ideas when they see them.

      12. Mike, if the purpose of Link is to serve the largest number of pedestrian trips we wouldn’t have Link outside the UW to CID corridor.

        It isn’t helpful to quote transit theory to local residents about station placement because in this undense area with very good existing mobility — buses and cars — they will agree with you a Link station, even underground, is not worth it. The marginal if any benefit in mobility isn’t worth it.

        Forget about theory. Explain to the businesses near 20th that are already vibrant how years of construction for a Link station benefits THEM.

        So far ST in WSBLE is 0 for 3: CID, midtown, SLU.

      13. Here’s an idea: have Metro design Link’s alignment. If we’d had had that in ST2 and ST3, we’d probably have a better network alignment, and it would have better bus transfers.

      14. “More accurately, the transit experts should be left to do their job. The problem with ST is there don’t seem to be enough transit experts.”

        I agree. I think that this is a much bigger problem than most people think. Given the agency’s penchant for promoting inexperienced talent from within or hiring outsiders who haven’t run a mature rail operation, this is painfully obvious to me.

        The notion that it’s ok for people to spend billions of public money and learn mistakes on the job is fundamentally irresponsible on the part of the Board. There have been so many debacles in the past 6 years yet the Board keeps running it the same way. The East Link delay alone should have resulted in the Board seeing things there very differently — yet it hasn’t seemed to create any change at all. Perhaps it will take some reelection challenges to these elected leaders to make the public more aware that the current ST “plan a dreamy party that is delayed, is user-unfriendly and is unaffordable ” approach is hugely problematic.

      15. Go to Seattle in Progress. Look at a map of Greater Ballard from the canal to Holman Rd., and the Sound to Phinney Ridge. In the filter, select Applied, Approved, and Completed. Deselect “Include Single Family Homes …” Which corridor is experiencing the most growth, 20th or 15th?


      16. Daniel, Ross, the point is that surface is better for neighborhood stations. It’s not “bitter ale”. Look, it rains more in Portland, and winter temperatures are often a few degrees colder even though it’s farther south, because Seattle has Puget Sound.

        But nobody in Portland complains about the surface stations. They do gripe about how long it takes to go through downtown on the east-west line which many folks use. But the stations are popular because they’re so accessible.

        Now sure, downtown Seattle is much bigger than downtown Portland, so it’s appropriate for Link to be tunneled there. And the physical barriers in Seattle are more frequent than Portland’s, and there is a tunnel through Portland’s one big barrier. So they believe in tunnels where they’re necessary, too.

        It would be impossible to serve both UW and Capitol Hill directly with a surface system, so there’s a tunnel through those neighborhoods. WashDOT didn’t want to rebuild the Lake City Way ramps to accommodate Link, so the tunnel continues past the interchange.

        But there is no reason that Tallman or Russell south of Market couldn’t mostly be used for a surface station for Ballard. There would have to be one lane retained for vehicular traffic, especially on Tallman, because of the hospital. And maybe the stretch past the hospital would have to be single-track for a couple of blocks and the buildings just south of Market on the west side of the street removed for the station. But it is doable, and the result would be much more a part of the community than an underground station, no matter where it was placed.

      17. Yes, but they wanted it underground, which ST didn’t want to “afford”.

        Not really. They wanted it fast, and the surface proposals were slow. Even then, the objection was not coming from Ballard specifically, but from the greater transit community. That is why the option along Westlake went nowhere, for example. It is why this proposal seemed so intriguing: https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/12/06/some-thoughts-on-ballard-option-c/. This is surface where it is fast, and underground where it isn’t (downtown).

        But again, Ballard itself never rejected the idea of surface rail through the heart of the neighborhood, as it was never seriously proposed. I believe some very early ideas of crossing to the west were considered, but never got very far (unfortunately). It is quite possible that they could have crossed (above ground) at around 24th, then looped around to the heart of Ballard (around 20th and Market, or maybe a block to the north). This would have put surface rail in the middle of Ballard, which would be ideal in many ways.

        You really had a huge mix of interests. The Seattle Subway folks very much opposes surface transit of any kind, anywhere. Like a lot of their ideas, I find it ridiculous. Just like mode, there are trade-offs. But ST caught wind of the idea, and decided to follow suit, and have largely adopted the “no surface” approach. The crazy part is that no one can really explain the fundamental advantages, other than it is faster (sometimes). But in the case of Ballard (or specifically, getting to Ballard) the speed difference is minimal. One of the best advantages of being completely grade-separated is ease of automation, but folks have rejected that. This basically means they are adhering to a philosophy, but rejecting the main benefits of it. It is like driving a Volvo but not wearing your seat belt.

        So it is quite likely we will have surface rail in Rainier Valley, and above ground rail on a road that has far fewer intersections. Oh, and that is the other reason ST has avoided surface rail. They see the flaws with surface running in Rainier Valley, and think every road is like that. But in the case of 15th/Elliot, there are very few turns to worry about. The main east-west roads (Dravus, Magnolia Bridge) have underpasses for the main arterial (where the train would run).

        The big problem, really, is just the lack of options and creativity in the planning. This was by design. Someone got into their little head(s) that the reason it takes so long to build these things is that the planning takes too long. The dreaded (and largely mythical) Seattle process. We just can’t make up our mind! So if we can speed up the planning process, than the whole thing will be done in a jiffy. Just pick a route, and be done with it. Don’t over-analyze, just do it.

        Of course it doesn’t work that way. Building a mass transit system in an urban area is a measure-twice, cut once proposition. Actually, it requires measuring and measuring and then some more measuring. There are no short cuts. And if you think there are, you end up with crap, which is basically where we are headed.

      18. But there is no reason that Tallman or Russell south of Market couldn’t mostly be used for a surface station for Ballard.

        But again, no one in Ballard has objected to that idea. Nobody. I really don’t understand why you think anyone in Ballard objected to a surface station in the heart of Ballard.

        To be clear, if you want to tear down an old building, then yeah, you might have someone objecting. But running on the surface and ending in the heart of Ballard? Hurray!

      19. https://publicola.com/2022/03/07/for-seattles-next-light-rail-alignment-sound-transit-weighs-short-term-impacts-against-long-term-gains/

        This article notes the history of WSBLE. Both Ballard and WS asked ST to add tunnel options to Link in their neighborhoods. ST agreed but noted 3rd party funding would be necessary.

        A few years later ST stated rising property values made an underground option the same cost as a surface station. Seattle Subway then suggested a route other than 14th, except 14th contains ST owned property that could be used for TOD.

        Although the estimated cost for WSBLE has risen to $15 billion, and CID N was selected in part by the city and county to capture $168 million from redeveloping old municipal and county buildings to offset the extra cost of CID N, I haven’t heard much from the Board lately about 3rd party funding even though the preferred designs for both WS and Ballard are now underground, except for the additional cost to move the station from 14th to 15th.

        It may be that surface and underground options now cost the same in WS and Ballard (which I always questioned) but that doesn’t change the fact that several years ago ST noted that the underground option would need 3rd party money. It isn’t as if the underground option got cheaper when property values increased.

        I don’t think a station on 20th is part of the DEIS. I don’t know how businesses in this part of Ballard would react to years of disruption. The benefit of 14th is fewer businesses and traffic would be disrupted for many years. Plus ST owns land on 14th for TOD which could include affordable/low income housing which would be more difficult near 20th.

      20. “Mike, in reality siting a station comes down to: 1. Cost; 2. Whether it is underground; 3. Disruption to the surrounding neighborhood during construction.”

        If that were the measure of where to to put highways, there wouldn’t be any roads wider than two lanes.

        It would also mean the only light rail line in Puget Sound right now would be Issaquah-Kirkland.

      21. Sam, yes that’s certainly true. But it will be along a car sewer, hardly a “walkable” neighborhood.

        Ballard between 17th and 24th south of 60th is very walkable.

      22. @Sam
        > I remember most here agreed when Alon Levy wrote community interests shouldn’t be a part of transit planning. That transit professionals should be left to do their job. So, let the experts do their job. They know best if a station should be located in Old Ballard or not, not the locals, right?

        I think I would subscribe to that when we know the transit ‘professionals’ are acting professional are proposing excellent alignments. With the Issaquah rail line and the routing under sr-99 the tunnel and not recognizing how it would cause the stations to be much deeper I don’t think it’s a good assumption. Or for past missed opportunities, if they had really planned it out the Ballard link section really should have connected to the convention center portal rather than being an entirely separate tunnel.

      23. To me, it comes back to the question of motivations. Just saying that “when transit professionals work professionally we don’t question them” feels a little like talking from both sides of one’s mouth, though – I don’t think that that is the intent, by any means, but to me a better way to look at it is trying to understand the motivations, and restrictions, of the design. What are the problems that are being addressed, and what are the constraints? Who imposes both? And why?

        To give a more specific example, if South Kirkland-Issaquah is a light rail segment because the Kirkland and Issaquah board members/representatives/etc. made it a requirement for advocating for ST3, then it’s not the rank-and-file staff members’ fault for having a rail segment in ST3. So I would not fault them for it. Similarly, if they are given the assumptions that Issaquah will require, I don’t know, 5x the amount of ridership to downtown that it currently has, rail may well be a reasonable choice then, too. Stuff like that.

        Yes, these are hypotheticals. I don’t know that either is the case, but it’s worth considering the possibilities before judging the rank-and-file ST staff.

      24. @Anonymouse

        > To give a more specific example, if South Kirkland-Issaquah is a light rail segment because the Kirkland and Issaquah board members/representatives/etc. made it a requirement for advocating for ST3, then it’s not the rank-and-file staff members’ fault for having a rail segment in ST3. So I would not fault them for it. Similarly, if they are given the assumptions that Issaquah will require, I don’t know, 5x the amount of ridership to downtown that it currently has, rail may well be a reasonable choice then, too. Stuff like that

        But that is exactly what Alon is talking about. In other countries transit experts they would be the one proposing alignments and the public officials would then approve or deny them. It wouldn’t be the other way around with the public officials proposing them.

        For an American comparison the freeways are proposed federally usually and its the fhwa really proposing these alignments not local cities picking and choosing alignments. And if they ask for too many tunnels/elevated alignments the fhwa won’t fund it then. Actually I’ve find it a bit odd that the FTA doesn’t take a more active role proposing transit alignments or giving support to cities. It instead just waits for local governments to propose routes which is unlike both the FHWA and unlike it’s transit counter part agencies in other countries

      25. WL: Right, and my point is that it is not a failure of the transit experts (i.e. the rank-and-file), but of the political process. So I think that we are generally in furious agreement other than on the phrasing :)

        But the phrasing is important, IMHO, because it sets out the path forward. That is, it’s not about getting better transit experts, it’s about changing the incentive structure and the political system, which is a much, much harder task (it requires teaching up-and-coming politicians, building alliances with the party apparatus, voting-voting-voting over many years, etc. And have I emphasized voting, again.)

      26. “To give a more specific example, if South Kirkland-Issaquah is a light rail segment because the Kirkland and Issaquah board members/representatives/etc. made it a requirement for advocating for ST3, then it’s not the rank-and-file staff members’ fault for having a rail segment in ST3. So I would not fault them for it. Similarly, if they are given the assumptions that Issaquah will require, I don’t know, 5x the amount of ridership to downtown that it currently has, rail may well be a reasonable choice then, too. Stuff like that.”

        But that goes back to the statutory structure. It isn’t really an “incentive” because it is the law. E KC is its own subarea. Tax rates among all subareas must be uniform, and any ST tax revenue raised in one subarea must be spent in that subarea. ST had to choose a tax rate it thought could complete all the promised projects in every subarea, which was always going to mean some subareas would still have too little revenue and some too much (and of course project cost estimates were lowballed compounding the problem).

        ST is very Link oriented. ST STILL estimates East Link will have 43,000 to 52,000 boardings/day. We have HUGE park and rides that are empty. So where could ST possibly spend all that revenue in ST 3 on the eastside?

        Even after Issaquah/S. Kirkland Link E KC will have too much ST revenue. IMO running East Link past downtown Bellevue made little sense, but that ST 2 and 3 revenue has to be spent someplace.

        It is the same problem as with the parking garages in Kent, Auburn and Sumner. Issaquah/S. Kirkland Link is terrible and wasteful transit, no one will ride it despite the fact that is the perfect demographic for in office commuting, but if the subarea has to spend the money where is a better route?

        ST took the revenue for the parking garages in Kent, Sumner and Auburn, and for Issaquah/S. Kirkland Link, and it must be spent in those subareas. The perverse flaw is ST is giving that money back to the subareas to spend but mandating the worst possible expenditure in this post pandemic world that ST won’t accept is the new normal.

        There are probably 100 better ways E KC could spend the $4.5 billion for Issaquah/S. Kirkland Link but it won’t get that opportunity.

        I don’t mind so much the ST taxes, and definitely like subarea equity, what I mind is the money is coming back with required expenditures that are probably the biggest waste of the money, because ST is terrified of admitting this is the new normal.

        Give Sumner, Auburn and Kent the $350 million with no strings attached and give E KC the $4.5 billion with no strings attached and the subareas will spend it more wisely than the required ST projects.

      27. If “Hurray!”, why haven’t you advocated for it? Yes, of course you want the station farther west, and have consistently said so. But you have never said, “even if it has to be on the surface because of costs”. Never that I can remember at least. And I would have seconded you at the time had you done so.

    2. Retail always is terrible in new buildings, it’s designed as an afterthought of leftover space on the ground floor and aims for chains. Plus codes make it very difficult for entertainment uses like theaters and music venues in new buildings. It’s much better to focus on the historic buildings where theres a higher concentration of retail and businesses in general, greater mix of use, more human scaled buildings and more independently owned businesses. Old Ballard will always be the center of Ballard.

      1. Yes, this.

        It is also worth looking at the development patterns. For the most part, the areas to the east are becoming more densely populated. But they are adding high-quality, low-rise development. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, it is just that it won’t contain as many people as the taller apartments to the west. Since it is often high end (and owned by individuals) it is also unlikely to be redeveloped again in the near future. Housing development leapfrogs. An old house that sits on a big lot gets redeveloped into a big apartment building. But a large townhouse on a small lot won’t.

        Then there is 15th itself. It is extremely wide, and takes up a significant amount of space. There is also more industrial land around 14th (which is why there are so many breweries). The breweries are somewhat attractive, but not like Old Ballard, and certainly not like the hospital (which lies to the west). There is less retail, employment and housing density.

        Finally, assume the best for West Woodland. Imagine that after decades the area catches up to the main part of Ballard. It took quite a bit of effort, but now you’ve built something with as many people living, working and visiting the area as the main part of Ballard. Hurray! Except guess what? You still have main Ballard! After quite a bit of effort, you’ve created new TOD in an area of the city that didn’t have that many people, while completely neglecting an area that has had people for decades. That is just not a good plan.

        That would be as if ST put the Capitol Hill Station up by Volunteer Park. Sure, you would see the area transform into a very dense area, but you still leave people scrambling to get to the current station location, just as they scramble to get to First Hill. That is just a bad idea.

      2. “Retail always is terrible in new buildings, it’s designed as an afterthought of leftover space on the ground floor and aims for chains.”

        It’s not an afterthought, but it is usually for chains. National chains have deep pockets that reassure owners they won’t go bankrupt. The wide storefronts in new buildings come from two factors:

        * Parking minimums taking taking the rear part of the floor.
        * Chains want the high visibility of wide storefronts, preferably on two sides. Wide storefronts also limit the number of competitors.

        Note that what chains want is the opposite of what’s best for pedestrians.

  2. This 1928 photo was taken from the Josephinum building at 2nd & Steward. The white, two-story building on the right survived until 2017. It’s where Cafe D’Arte was. Today there’s a 40 story condo tower called The Emerald. I like this pic because it’s a reminder that unless something is done to restrict autos on 1st Ave, the CCC will sometimes find itself in a similar predicament.


  3. I’ve been interested in Brightline videos since there have been lots of news about it during the past two weeks.

    A tour of the Orlando station:

    I always enjoy seeing how the private sector addresses user experience in a station. They are able to do things that public agencies cannot easily do.

    Status of opening:

    Tickets are now on sale for an anticipated late summer opening. It’s interesting to learn about the schedule, ticket pricing and incentives. Note that they will have hourly departures yet it runs on a single track for several segments.

    Being a generally transit-poor state, it’s going to be interesting to see how this for-profit operation fares. I’m sure tourists will enjoy it (many international tourists especially) but it’s how interested locals are that will determine how successful it is. Will it change the perception of intercity rail in the US or will the company be bankrupt with the operation going into a death spiral in a few years? I hope for the best but I am not 100 percent sure it will succeed.

    Personally, I am not that fascinated by Florida. I lived there 35 years ago and it wasn’t for me then. However, if I was planning a trip there, it would be tempting to fly to Orlando and take the train to South Florida.

    Bonus video of the issues about the next phase to head towards Tampa:

    There is a lot of intrigue about a Disneyworld stop given the current Disney-DeSantis feud as well the history of corporate posturing about this topic. The issues sound abstract if you aren’t familiar with how Orlando works, but the topic is fascinating if you know the place.

    1. “I always enjoy seeing how the private sector addresses user experience in a station. They are able to do things that public agencies cannot easily do.”
      I dunno about that. Everything I see is like standard for a European train station. And most of those are state owned enterprises. So I think this notion that the private sector does things “inherently better” seems to not make much sense here. Or I guess I’m not seeing what your seeing here with this station and amenities that make it inherently different or better than public or state owned transportation

      1. Simply put, the private sector does not have to deal with some of the restrictions of public sector stations. They can add security measures if they want. They can eject people from stations more easily if they want. They can place signage and advertising where they want. They can more easily deny disruptive people from boarding a train. They won’t do things like eliminate escalators from a project because someone didn’t budget enough for them five years ago.

        Just look at the simple aspect of ticket pricing for Brightline. They have a four-person ticket discount. I don’t see a public agency trying to do that — and it might even be considered illegal if public funds are involved.

        When it comes to transit stations, there are shameless attempts in this station to sell merchandise that King St or Tukwila stations would not accommodate.

        It’s all very interesting. Not always better — but interesting.

      2. My understanding is the big draw for Brightline is that the Orlando airport has much cheaper airline ticket prices than Miami, so they have a ready market for Orlando to Miami train service.

        They’re using the same overweight Siemens diesel locomotives and cars as Amtrak, so track maintenance will be higher than ideal. I’m guessing they’ll probably cut back to 90-100 mph operation once the track maintenance bills start happening, but by then the media buzz will get them the publicity they need from the 125 mph operation.

        It’s a shame they couldn’t come up with a better approach into Orlando. It’s several miles of 35 mph running, in a U shaped entrance that means they have to reverse the trains to continue any further north

        At Portland Union Station, people are regularly excluded if they can’t prove they are a ticketed passenger, and at King Street they’ve locked all but one door and there’s a guard there that asks for your reason for coming in. Everett and Skagit (Mt Vernon) stations are a lot more public friendly, but don’t really seem to have any homeless living in them or whatever it is that is wanted to be excluded from King Street.

  4. “I always enjoy seeing how the private sector addresses user experience in a station. They are able to do things that public agencies cannot easily do.”

    Ezra Klein has a podcast about this called “The Book I wish Every Policymaker Would Read” ($). He interviews Jennifer Pahlka, author of “Recoding America” and founder of Code for America, a group of volunteers who write open-source programs to fill in gaps in government services. Pahlka focuses on the federal government, and says innovation and efficiency get held back by fear of the compliance monster and complex procurement rules.

    1. I keep saying this every time someone complains about policy outcomes. What are the purposes of the policies they disagree with? What problems are there that those policies address?

      It’s easy to complain about “complex procurement rules” in the abstract. Say that there’s a rule in place to prevent fraud of a particular kind. “But I wouldn’t do that,” says volunteer #3472 (not an ad-hominem by intention; the opposite, I don’t want to put any words into anyone’s mouth but my own with my straw example). “I am honest and these rules hold me back!” Correct, 100% – they are there to hold back those who would not be held back otherwise.

      Of course, all the rules in the world will not hold back everyone who has intent to defraud, or whatever – we have seen plenty of such examples, and recently, too. But, in general, the more complex a system, the more difficult it is to govern, because the interactions between the many parts of it, each run and staffed by people with their own goals and incentives, are complex and difficult to manage.

      Let me tie this back to transit. People here often complain about transit systems being designed poorly in the US, relative to other parts of the world. But you can’t look at it in isolation. You can’t just teleport 100 experts into ST and magically you get Ballard-UW and the right set of stations in DSTT2 (which goes through First Hill and Central District instead of downtown). That’s not how it works, I don’t think. You need to change the culture of the organization, which (and this is critical) is fundamentally tied to the incentive structure of the organization, from the board on down. And the incentive structure is tied to the legislation which created ST, i.e. the incentive structure of the state legislature – both how it is now, and (particularly) how it was in the mid-late 1990s. This is the battle that needs to be fought, not the details of how many experts ST employs.

      And it’s a much, much harder battle to fight, and not one that’s purely about transit. Arguably it’s not about transit at all, it’s about the overall politics and society we have in the US. Which, for better or worse, __are__ different from most of the world in very specific ways. The way we do transit is not the problem, it’s the symptom of that broader societal setup.

      Sunday afternoon musings, over… :)

      1. Anonymouse, what do you mean by the “incentive structure of the organization”?

        Are you saying an organization should not have incentives, or that the incentives they do have (or some have) are flawed? Generally any government agency’s primary incentive is to secure as much funding as possible in order to survive and grow, which is how it’s employees survive and grow. An “organization” is not an animate thing in itself.

        When it comes to ST some fundamental incentives I think were flawed were:

        1. Trying to create a very expensive regional light rail transit system with the same tax rates for all subareas when the region doesn’t have the density region wide in most areas

        2. Not recognizing the subareas would have significantly different revenue to spend because tax rates are the same.

        3. Drawing subareas based on wealth when the projects would be decades — now five decades — away so N KC IMO paid a disproportionate share to create regional Link and too little “urban” Link and E KC has too much revenue for its needs.

        4. Misunderstanding first/last mile access, that it begins at one’s doorstep, and the car in the garage and Uber have no first and no last mile access issue, so Link has to be better than both, and if feeder buses suck Link sucks for the rider. Unlike Lazarus the ordinary doesn’t segregate blame for a bad or slow transit trip. They just find another mode.

        5. Thinking Link was like running a ferry to an Island whose residents have no transportation at all, when first/last mile access and transfers and the fact Link runs along freeways Link isn’t even better than existing buses, let alone cars.

        6. Not understanding local areas even if they got underground Link did not want years of construction, especially when Link was only marginally better transportation than what already exists.

        7. Link creates nothing. Transit creates nothing. You only run Link when EXISTING “vibrancy” whether work or retail or housing overwhelms buses and cars. Link is the last one to the party, not the party.

        8. Not expecting an exogenous event like a pandemic when ST’s assumptions were already stretched to, and beyond, the max.

        9. Not understanding people don’t ride transit for fun, and all those desperate work commuters were desperately looking for a way to get off that bus or train, and got it with WFH. They didn’t drive either, which: 1. Relieved traffic congestion when that was a major selling point of Link; 2. An idle car doesn’t cost the government anything.

        10. Second worst: believing progressive organizations like the PSRC that believes you can make folks do what they don’t want to do, primarily ride transit or live in TOD. For most folks the decision where and how to live is probably number 1. Transit is around number 10 for a small percentage of the population when it comes to where to live, and not any number for the 90% of folks who don’t use transit.

        11. And probably the worst incentive: to pass levies. That led to underestimating project costs and overestimating farebox recovery — and using phony car valuations and future population growth estimates — to keep general tax increases claimed in the levies low while over promising projects to sell those levies.

        ST’s incentive today is back to the most common incentive any government organization has: to survive, and at some point that means closing up shop and admitting no new Link can be built (except ironically in E KC) and the real issue is falling farebox recovery and rising future O&M estimated costs when ST promised a 40% recovery rate and the ST levy Ponzi scheme has come to a halt and budgets for Metro, CT and PT are going to keep getting squeezed by high inflation, lower grants and subsidies, lower farebox recovery, and lower general tax subsidies as their budgets get squeezed.

      2. I am saying mostly that the incentive structure (on the board side) ties too much power in the hands of individual cities. It feels like it has similar effect as the 2-senators-per-state (regardless of population) setup has on the US Senate. The net effect seems to be that ST is treated as a system for building infrastructure in specific cities, rather than addressing the specific mobility issues in the region as a whole.

        I don’t disagree, however, that there would be value in allowing Seattle to tax itself at a higher rate to do more projects than there is appetite for in, say, North SnoCo (the parts which are within the ST District). It’s tied to that same uniformity thing, to an extent, but I concede that it’s a separate issue in itself. And yes, there are ways for Seattle to address it, but that just gets back to my earlier point – the political setup is such that doing the right thing for transit is complicated. But the solution has to address the political setup, IMHO.

      3. I was always impressed about how Calgary and Edmonton built new arterial roads with enough land on reserve to add light rail tracks later. Many of their extensions are based on using these lands — that allow for mostly surface running rail lines.

        It’s not lost on me that the cities both approve development layouts as well as run a rail system.

        Applying that to our region, has this been done? No. Why not? We haven’t had open green fields to do that like they have. The only places where we reserved more land than needed has been with our freeways, which aren’t often so good for building neighborhoods next to stations. I’m not aware of any local city reserving arterial corridor land to add light rail later.

        Then when a line gets proposed, it’s not as if the corridor has been expected for a few decades. The neighborhoods instead get upset because residents weren’t expecting it.

        Ultimately it comes down to the structural fact that cities and WSDOT have no interest in reserving land for rail in arterial corridors like they do in Alberta. Cities expect ST to pay to buy the land when this high cost component could have been much cheaper had the right of way been there all along. Plus, if residents expect the corridor to have light rail in the future, they don’t try to fight the project to either kill it or force it into a much more expensive subway or aerial corridor segment that takes many more years to open at a much higher capital cost.

        Moving forward, should there be an effort to reserve corridor land for light rail in the future? If so, where?

      4. Al, are you asking where we should build new arterial roads in greenfield areas in order to reserve space along the arterial for future light rail?

        I would say nowhere. Greenfield areas generally don’t have the density to support arterial roads let alone light rail, which is very expensive even at grade.

        The greenfield land the arterial will be built on is owned by someone. The government condemning that land for an arterial has to pay market rates for it, including the extra land for light rail which more than likely will never be built because it is hard enough to afford bus service in the areas you are thinking about.

        Plus what developer or business or homeowner wants to own land next to a future surface light rail line. I live along an “arterial”, North Mercer Way, although the citizens demand it look like a rural road. Cities and neighborhoods object to bike paths let alone a surface light rail line.

      5. Private sector companies can be better or worse than government entities in different ways. On the good side, they don’t have thousands of patchwork requirements to wade through. On the bad side, public entities’ mandate is to provide a service to everyone at a reasonable price. Private companies’ incentive is to extract as much profit as possible, even if it means serving only the well-off and not providing much product.

        Brightline may be a one of the better examples of a company that has high quality and serves everyone at a reasonable price, but there are tons of conterexamples. Our half-private healthcare system costs twice as much as peer countries. Housing developers build luxury units for the top 10% or 20% and there’s nothing for the bottom 50%. Some cities like Chicago have leased highways to private companies and they charge high tolls.

      6. Sometime before 2020, I remember looking up Brightline prices, and it was somewhere around $60 to go from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, which is basically a commuter trip. They were only running trains of a single locomotive with two or three cars at the time.

        We’ll have to see what they wind up charging for the entire line once it’s up and running.

  5. I would have to disagree Anonymouse. It is the cities’ money. In fact the Board is made up of elected politicians who ran for office in those cities. Even if Board members were directly elected they would be elected from their individual subareas and have the same political motivations. I could see direct elections for Board members resulting in members from three subareas that vote to leave ST and take their money with them.

    The election debate in S KC, Pierce and SnoCo would be do we want to take our hundreds of millions of dollars in ST revenue and use it how we want, or have Seattle determine how our money is spent?

    I think too much Link was built in areas that are not “cities”. The cost of Link makes sense in dense urban areas. The idea Link will attract development along freeways where none is now is badly flawed. It’s just that the region is too undense.

    The idea any agency or government organization — especially transit — is above the interests of the cities or local control is IMO a bad idea. Let’s not forget more than 90% of the region’s citizens basically don’t use transit. But even if we are talking about roads and freeways that over 99% of the citizens do use no agency has carte blanche in any city.

    ST didn’t do a very good job explaining to local areas why or how Link would benefit them over existing transit. Mainly because in most of the region Link is not a benefit. Even Harrell, the CID, DSA and apparently SLU are having a hard time seeing the benefit of Link, or WSBLE.

    Ironically, the “cities” that do see the benefit from ST are Auburn, Sumner and Kent, and yet folks on this blog want to take that benefit from them even though the parking garages were directly in the levy.

    1. > Ironically, the “cities” that do see the benefit from ST are Auburn, Sumner and Kent, and yet folks on this blog want to take that benefit from them even though the parking garages were directly in the levy.

      I’m not quite sure where your assumption comes that Auburn, Sumner, and Kent still really want this parking garages. I checked the survey responses and residents’ in those cities questioned why the parking garages were being built as well. And in new articles when questioned some of the city councilmembers didn’t even know about the parking garage being built or the delay. This hardly seems like the response of something a city is clamoring for.

      1. WL,

        Sheesh…. those S. King Co. parking garages were part of the ST2 levy. Just build them and be done with it. If you’re not a south ender…. why on earth get so bent out of shape about this?

        Actually not everybody is all that excited by the parking garage in Auburn, so maybe Sound Transit can just write a fat check to the City so they can do whatever they want with the money?

        But let very clear about something. Public transit is 100% fucking dead in South King Country. Dead. There’s low ridership on the train and no way to add any more trips. The Metro driver shortage and rising inflation means that the bus service that’s already there…. is going to be cut. Learn the term “transit desert” because where South King is headed.

      2. Sheesh…. those S. King Co. parking garages were part of the ST2 levy. Just build them and be done with it. If you’re not a south ender…. why on earth get so bent out of shape about this?

        Because it is a gigantic waste of money. We don’t want those areas to be screwed for the same reason you (a person from Tacoma) don’t want people in Seattle to be screwed. It is just common civic responsibility. You speak up for people everywhere.

      3. @tacomee

        > Sheesh…. those S. King Co. parking garages were part of the ST2 levy. Just build them and be done with it.

        I’m just confused why Daniel assumes these cities’ residents are clamoring for the parking garages? I don’t really see evidence of that.

        > If you’re not a south ender…. why on earth get so bent out of shape about this?

        Not sure why there is suddenly this location gate keeping for talking about a project? If that is the case practically everyone here would not be able to discuss about any project.

        > Actually not everybody is all that excited by the parking garage in Auburn, so maybe Sound Transit can just write a fat check to the City so they can do whatever they want with the money?

        Well uhh yes that is what we are discussing what to do with alternatives instead of the parking garage?

      4. I don’t think anyone would argue the parking garages in Kent, Sumner and Auburn are a good investment, certainly for transit. After all, it is hard to make an argument to continue running Sounder S. with its current ridership and 11–13% farebox recovery, let alone station and platform upgrades that will cost over $1 billion.

        The question is why they are getting built, because that exposes some fundamental flaws in the system, and future estimates underpinning so many of these questionable decisions.

        I agree with Tacomee that if you don’t live in these two subareas and three cities you really don’t have standing, which often means one does not understand the motivations behind the garages. Probably nothing rubs these cities the wrong way more than having Seattle transit progressives telling them what is best for them with their money, certainly if it is bus service or moving to TOD. I suggest having a beer in one of the taverns one night in one of these cities to understand them.

        On the one hand, you have ST, and some transit advocates, (which they see as Seattle oriented), who refuse to believe this is the new normal. They believe commuting to downtown Seattle will return, 1 million new residents will move to the area, and folks will move to TOD and switch from driving to transit. So they claim we “must plan for the future”, except that future is unlike the present.

        You have Timm actually meeting with BNSF to discuss increasing service on Sounder S. Go figure. N KC is planning on building DSTT2 to meet future capacity and spend $15 billion (the current estimate) because the subarea apparently believes huge ridership numbers from West Seattle and Ballard, many times the current ridership on pretty good buses, will switch to Link. Tacoma and even Fife will get billions in light rail. If that is what they want to believe, and basically have to believe unless they want to close up ST, how do you argue with ST?

        That is the macro picture.

        The micro picture is at the subarea level, and actual individual cities demanding the garages.

        In 2008 the garages were part of ST 2 because ST and the OFM and PSRC predicted huge gains in transit ridership, the legislation demanded “regional” light rail when 90% of the region does not have the density for light rail, including Sounder S., and there really isn’t any other form of first/last mile access for these huge undense regions except park and rides, except ST and so many transit advocates hoped Link would eliminate the car. Same on the eastside: huge park and rides at the Link stations, and huge park and rides for feeder buses to handle the estimated 43,000 to 52,000 riders/day ST still estimates on East Link, except the work demographic on the eastside at least works in offices (which is why it was so easy for them to shift to WFH).

        If the future does include another 1 million residents, who return to in office work in downtown Seattle because that is where the tracks run, and lots of TOD and folks switching from driving to transit, and Seattle becomes vibrant again, then those decisions will have been wise. But not many believe that future will occur even though ST doesn’t want to admit it.

        The reality of course is including Kent, Auburn and Sumner in ST was crazy. It was urbanist ideology over common sense, or any understanding of these suburban and really rural areas. Link was never going to serve these cities, their demographic is not the downtown Seattle office worker, first/mile access is nearly impossible except with huge parking garages, which of course don’t make sense today.

        But what else does? They paid all that money into ST that has helped fund Link in other subareas. They see N KC building tunnels and underground stations everywhere, and spending $15 billion on WSBLE. So how do these cities get a cut of the pie?

        Feeder buses don’t work, because the rider must start at a park and ride somewhere because they can’t walk from their doorstep to anywhere, and don’t want to change their housing for transit, and generally want one seat transit from that park and ride if they do use it. ST simply has never understood first/last mile access begins at someone’s doorstep, and most of us can’t walk to a bus. Plus suburbanites don’t ride transit intra-suburbia, and rarely for non-work trips. These cities feel they are owed $350 million FOR SOMETHING because everyone else got SOMETHING. The question if not parking garages than what? With subarea equity this is a decision for each subarea.

        The one comment I do agree with Ross on is simply giving these cities the money would probably be a better idea, because I can’t think of a more wastefully expenditure than huge parking garages for a train no one is riding. It doesn’t help that FW and TDLE are both extended, again, but those were never going to serve these cities anyway, and telling them Fife gets a Link station and they don’t even get Sounder garages is not going to go down well. ST took the tax revenue from these cities and is now giving it back with restrictions on the use that mandates probably the worst use of the money if this is the new normal, except ST will never admit this is the new normal, so the Board is boxed in, and Timm is meeting with BNSF to increase service on Sounder S. Who could make this stuff up, where $350 million is chump change and must be spent on garages that will never be needed except ST and the Board can never admit that?

      5. I agree with Tacomee that if you don’t live in these two subareas and three cities you really don’t have standing, which often means one does not understand the motivations behind the garages. Probably nothing rubs these cities the wrong way more than having Seattle transit progressives telling them what is best for them with their money, certainly if it is bus service or moving to TOD. I suggest having a beer in one of the taverns one night in one of these cities to understand them.

        There you go again Daniel. Look, I’ve had beers with folks who live in the South Sound. I have relatives who live there. One of my closest friends lived in Puyallup for years, and died there. My girlfriend of several years lived in Bonney Lake. I’ve also lived in Lynnwood. During my time in Lynnwood, I was living without much money. Lynnwood has changed, and become a little more upscale. In contrast, much of South Sound very much resembles Lynnwood when I lived there.

        Now then, how about you? You are from Mercer Island. Why should we care what you have to say about the subject? For those who don’t know, Mercer Island is an upscale suburb. What makes you think you understand what it is like to live in a suburban trailer park (like my now deceased friend)? How can you possibly comment on such things, given the fact that you obviously live a very charmed life?

        Clearly I know way more about what it is like to live in Auburn than you do, which therefore completely invalidates every argument you are trying to make about the area. Right?

        [Yes, I know this line of reasoning is idiotic, harmful, and against several of the rules of this blog, but apparently everything goes now. ]

      6. Feeder buses don’t work

        Yes they do! Again, look at the 586. It had two stops: A park and ride in Bonney Lake, and the Sounder station. Yet it had over 1/3 the ridership of the station! In other words, over 1/3 of the ridership of Sumner Station was due to the feeder bus that served one additional stop! Clearly that is working, and working extremely well.

        You just assume that folks there would never take a feeder bus, and yet they do. Clearly you don’t understand the people that live down there. Maybe you should go have a beer with them.

      7. “Now then, how about you? You are from Mercer Island. Why should we care what you have to say about the subject? For those who don’t know, Mercer Island is an upscale suburb. What makes you think you understand what it is like to live in a suburban trailer park (like my now deceased friend)? How can you possibly comment on such things, given the fact that you obviously live a very charmed life?”

        You shouldn’t care Ross. Neither should the folks who live in Auburn, Sumner and Kent, or their elected leaders. That was the point I was making. They shouldn’t listen to you either.

        We both agree that to spend $350 million on three parking garages for Sounder S. when ridership is down significantly and so is farebox recovery is perplexing. But the reality is they are being built.

        What I have learned as a lawyer is there are usually reasons decisions are made, even if perplexing. In this case, part of the reason (IMO) is ST continues to believe the future will be much different than the present, these cities want their cut of ST they have paid into, and in 2008 and again in 2016 the only way to give them their piece of the pie is these parking garages, at least in their view and that is all that counts.

        It isn’t my money and I don’t have any standing on this decision. My subarea has its own problems with ST and those do or might affect me. I have clients and friends in these cities, and you are correct: as soon as I walk into the tavern they know I am not from there, probably because I drive a BMW and not a truck and look like a lawyer. Who am I to tell them they don’t need or deserve those parking garages if ST is telling them they do? The art is to understand why THEY think they need those parking garages.

      8. I were on a debate team and forced to argue the position that massive new parking garages in Auburn are a wise investment, I would probably say that the downturn in downtown office space is temporary, that commuters will eventually return and Sounder will eventually fill up again, and also that construction costs go up with time so deferring the garage to a later date would only make it more expensive. My guess is that if the Sound Transit board has bothered to think the issue through, that this is what they are thinking.

        The counter argument is that is that we don’t really know whether/to what extent downtown office utilization will actually come back, and that it is prudent to wait and see rather than spending huge sums of money blindly based on hope. And also, so long as there are sufficient empty spaces at the existing Sounder parking garage, nobody – not even people who drive to Sounder and use the parking – benefit from having more parking. Parking is not one of those things where having 1000 empty spaces in the lot vs. 500 makes it more useful. So long as there’s enough unused capacity that you can drive to it with reasonable confidence that it won’t be full, any additional empty spaces doesn’t help.

        And, the above statement should hold true regardless of where you stand on the park and ride vs. feeder bus debate. It is also true regarding parking for anything, not just transit. A grocery store that never has more than 50 people in at a time does not need 500 parking spaces, and no matter how car oriented the neighborhood is, no matter how dysfunctional the transit system, it doesn’t change anything – even if every single person drives, 50 people do not require 500 parking spaces.

        Now, there is also the counter argument to the counter argument, where you could argue that there is literally nothing else to spend the money on in a way that’s consistent with the ST2 mandate, so it’s either build the parking or just hold the money in escrow. You can counter that argument by saying “what about ST express buses?”. To which you’ll get back a reply that anything that runs on tires is so worthless compared to anything that runs on rails that even a 5% that the garage is needed is still better than adding more buses. I personally think this argument is wrong – more buses are quite useful – but it’s still an argument I can easily envision politicians who never ride the bus making.

        Another problem worth pointing out is the inflexibility of the whole system causes by the full project list being determined in advance, unable to adapt to changing conditions, and the mandatory uniform tax rate. In a more holistic environment, it would be possible to reassess. Even simply lowering the tax rate for the South King sub-area, returning the garage money to the taxpayers (if it were legal, which in the real world, is not) is still better than building a white elephant parking garage that nobody may ever use.

        But, this gets into an issue that everybody is so ideological that it is impossible to have a real debate over whether something is a good use of money or bad use of money. You have one camp which supports transit and says everything transit is automatically good use of money, whether it makes sense of not, and then you have the other camp that says everything transit is automatically a bad use of money, whether it makes sense or not. The percentage of the electorate that has enough nuance to say “I think this project is worth the money, but not that one” is vanishingly small. Small enough that transit elections are determined by whether the pro or anti camp does a better job at getting out the vote, and the actual merits of the project have little or nothing to do with it.

      9. I’ve been saying all along that ST should TABLE the garage project. That is different than to CANCEL the garage project.

        As long as the land is acquired, what’s the rush? Maybe the need will return. Maybe it can be used to build parking —or something wild like a new hotel or a sports venue or county jail.

        I haven’t given up hope that demand will return. I’m just giving up on hope that it will return by 2026.

      10. Al, I don’t think eminent domain allows for that kind of flexibility.

        asdf2, if I was your debate coach, I would suggest you also consider the “total unique annual riders” argument, in that while most days the garage is the same number of riders, over the course of a year (particularly for event service), the total number of unique riders for a garage can be compelling. Is simillar to why airport trains are popular – daily ridership might be low, but many people find the infrastructure occasionally useful.

      11. Unique riders is a valid argument for parking over feeder buses, but it’s not an argument for adding additional parking capacity when the existing capacity is not being used.

        To justify building over tabling, you have to also make optimistic ridership assumptions *and* assume escalating construction costs that would make the garage cost substantially more to build later if it’s deferred.

      12. I’ve been saying all along ST should Table EVERYTHING.

        Finish Redmond, FW and Lynnwood Link since ST is in too deep on those, but suspend everything else including WSBLE, DSTT2, TDLE (already effectively “tabled”), Everett Link, Graham St. (the 130th station will cost as much as the three parking garages), certainly an East Link starter line, Issaquah Link, eastside park and rides. You can’t just table the garages in Kent, Auburn and Sumner because the future is unknown, especially when Lynnwood Link is getting four large park and rides.

        I also agree placing the funds into some kind of escrow account would make it easier to sell tabling the projects, and letting the cities with the projects that are getting suspended think about how else they would spend that money if they could, whether transit or not. If Harrell had his choice does anyone think his first place to spend $15 billion would be WSBLE? Or maybe deal with the bridges and upcoming budget shortfalls, with about $11 billion left over.

        The real issue is many of these transit projects are some of the worst ways to spend all this money if this is the new normal.

      13. asdf2:

        ST would seem to fulfill any eminent domain legal requirement by creating a parking lot. It doesn’t even have to be paved; it can be gravel.

        As far as the stipulations on ST2 funds go, the wording in ST2 is deliberately and explicitly flexible and doesn’t require a garage at a fixed number of spaces. The property could be purchased for anything from a feeder bus parking lot to an escalator supply warehouse to a huge bicycle parking lot (deliberately ridiculous examples) and fulfill the ST2 language.


        I would suggest that ST simply needs to get the ST2 projects opened as its first expansion priority! In all the giddiness of WSBLE, the leadership and Board failed to monitor the completion of ST2 Link projects and that lack of attention seemed to result in the problems with opening some of them. All those months of “realignment” took up thousands of hours of staff and Board time that could have been spent to get on top of the East Link delay. At least 50 percent of every System Expansion committee meetings in 2023 and 2024 and 2025 should be laser focused to get ST2 Link projects opened.

        I was pretty outraged with the preferred WSBLE not getting the technical work done before its selection especially because it’s more radically different than any of the options debated between 2017 and 2022. In that sense, I heartily agree with you to table this project.

        Some other ST3 elements are also worthy of tabling. The schedules are slipping anyway so tabling won’t matter. TDLE has gone from 2030 to 2032 to now 2035 (with also a new alternative albeit less radical than the WSBLE preferred alternative), for example.

        However, I don’t see the need to table some ST3 projects. Downtown Redmond LE and Federal Way LE are both technically part of ST3. Stride is fairly low cost (although I do think the South Renton and Tukwila stops have major problems resulting from originally bad site layouts). So I wouldn’t table everything.

        The one area that I actually think needs more attention in ST3 are the pedestrian access projects and funding categories. What’s the DSTT renovation plan? Will the increased demand or pre-ADA elevators necessitate rethinking these stations?

      14. So the debate on the S. King County parking garages goes on and on…. but what does it really matter. Mass transit is on the way out in Puget Sound.

        If I’m the Mayor of Auburn, getting that parking garage is important to me. That garage in a physical asset that can’t be taken away. It might more be useful in the future… who really knows? But it was promised to the City be ST. Sound Transit owes a debt to Auburn, right?

        And yet we’re now talking about “feeder buses” ? Where the hell would that money come from? Metro is broke and has a driver shortage, remember? And don’t think Auburn is stupid enough to let ST use their parking garage money for buses… because the cash would just run out and service would be discontinued.

        Right now we have rail projects sucking up billions and broken bus companies cutting back service. Please tell me how that’s going to work? Once again– Transit is dead in South King County.

      15. If I’m the Mayor of Auburn, getting that parking garage is important to me. That garage in a physical asset that can’t be taken away. It might more be useful in the future… who really knows? But it was promised to the City be ST. Sound Transit owes a debt to Auburn, right?

        My point is that it isn’t much of an asset. Imagine a future mayor: “Come, visit our lovely city, and see our wonderful parking garage.”

        Sorry, no. It does very little, if anything, to actually improve the city itself. It is a means to an end, and the end is leaving town and going somewhere else. It is basically nothing more than a giant on-ramp heading out of town. In contrast, feeder buses serve double-duty. Yes, they get people to the station, but they also get people to the area around the station, which in most cases is a fledgling downtown area. For low income residents (of which there are many) it is a way to get to work downtown, or get to medical appointments. For others it is a convenient way to get to the heart of town (for business or pleasure).

        And yet we’re now talking about “feeder buses” ? Where the hell would that money come from?

        From not building the parking garages, obviously! That is what we’ve been talking about from the get go. Shift the money from the parking garages to feeder service. Basically two things will happen:

        1) Ridership on Sounder will rebound, and the feeder buses are popular and carry plenty of riders (like the 596 did).

        2) Ridership on Sounder remains low, as working from home remains common, especially for people who live a long way from work (like South Sound to downtown Seattle). Transit continues to evolve to be more geared towards local, all-day trips.

        Either way it is better to have the shuttle buses. The buses that serve the station provide additional coverage (or increased frequency) for areas that wouldn’t have it otherwise. Service is hub-and-spoke oriented, with downtown as the hub. This in turn helps improve commerce in the downtown area. It isn’t just private investment either. The county or state is far more likely to build a major project in an area that is easy to get to by transit than an area that isn’t.

      16. Enumclaw has a bus that goes to Auburn. The route 915. It runs once an hour, ends at 7PM, runs from 10AM to 6PM on Saturday, and doesn’t run on Sunday. So why do Enumclaw residents need a parking garage in Auburn to drive to when they have a perfectly good bus route to take them there?

      17. Tacomee, some think the issue is whether post pandemic the three parking garages at $350 million are good value. Unfortunately, those folks who think that include the ST Board, Auburn, Kent and Sumner. Not many on this blog think they are good value, unless I guess the future is different when it comes to commuting to downtown Seattle on Sounder S.

        So the real question — since the garages are not a good use of funds today (for anything) — is why do ST and the cities they think they are.

        For ST it is the optimism that this is not the new normal, or their entire model is obsolete. $350 million for parking garages when the riders on Sounder S. are no longer taking it to downtown Seattle is a drop in the bucket compared to running Link to WS, Ballard, Everett, Tacoma Dome, FW, Redmond and Lynnwood (which has four large parking structures). E KC continues to spend $64 million on ST express buses that no one rides every year.

        For the cities it is exactly what you said: “That garage is a physical asset that can’t be taken away.” Mayors and county politicians like “things” they can show their voters, especially when it is their money and the garages were promised in a levy, and anyone looking at WSBLE or Link to date and all the tunnels north of CID who doesn’t understand subarea equity would think their money is going to Seattle.

        But even more than that, sadly, it is the parking garage is the best choice FOR THE CITIES among the choices they are given. A new parking garage in a very car/truck-oriented city is not a bad thing, and too expensive for the city to build usually.

        Bus service in this area is not a good exchange for the funds. Buses in this region need first AND last mile service. Bus service in this region is impossible, and many just don’t understand first mile access in this region is going to force a resident to drive from their doorstep to a park and ride SOMEWHERE, so why not at the station, paid for by ST (with their money). Very few use transit within this region. They drive. They took Sounder S. to Seattle (or someone did).

        When you write, “Once again– Transit is dead in South King County”, I would argue it has always been dead in SE King and E Pierce Co. The area is huge and undense, and the demographic is not transit oriented, even if the local transit agencies had the money or drivers to serve these areas.

        The original sin was including these areas in the ST district because it was never going to be possible to serve them with Link. They voted no on ST levies because they knew this. Link is about Seattle. Sounder S. even in 2019 was expensive per rider, and basically served one trip: to downtown Seattle where parking is expensive and last mile access is not needed. The population and ridership growth estimates underpinning all Link were on steroids for this region.

        The second sin is not giving these cities the same amount of money necessary to build the garages and letting them spend it how they want (assuming of course ST’s project cost estimates for the garages are correct so they could choose to build the garages if they wanted to). Transit is probably low on the list of best uses, but under ST’s rules these are Sounder funds, and I am not even sure they can be spent on ST feeder buses let alone Metro/PT feeder buses.

        There are so many better uses than a parking garage for these cities, except between the two choices — bus service or parking garage — the parking garage is the better choice for the cities. This money could go towards affordable housing, rent assistance, gentrification of the town center, more police, park maintenance, you name it.

        The tragedy is ST took the $350 million in taxes from these cities that never wanted to be part of the ST taxing district when it knew it could never serve them with Link or express buses and now is returning that money with one option, a parking garage for Sounder S., because the only other option — more bus service — is even worse.

        Sometimes transit advocates think any transit spending is better than no transit spending, except when one looks at the near uselessness of these garages — and any kind of increased bus service in this region — and compares it to all the other better uses this money could go towards to really help people in this area, which as Ross notes has a lot of poor folks.

        My guess is if all three cities were simply given their ST tax revenue with no strings attached not one of them would build these garages, although they might use some of the money for better bus service, but only a fraction because bus service in this area is not a very good use of the money either compared to other needs.

      18. I think that the cities in South King were included in ST3 because Sounder South was an early win when ST was created. Once added the district lines don’t easily shrink, particularly if the service is still offered.

        I think that the cities want to increase their property values and offer their residents better access to higher paying jobs. Working at Walmart locally pays less than working in a job that requires specialized skills in or near Downtown Seattle.

        However, when I visit these cities I often see pedestrians on the high speed stroads within them. There are many people in these places without a car. They do have low skill local jobs. Many often appear to be foreign born. I know these people are invisible to those that sit in their huge houses typing snide comments on blogs that “transit is wasteful” just because it doesn’t benefit them personally. When an agency spends its transit resources building garages when there isn’t demand to use them, these poor people on foot are the people whose lives aren’t improved and the very people who are hurt most with local service cutbacks.

        The advantage of feeder buses is that these people can get some utility from them. They can either make a local trip or connect to a regional transit vehicle to complete their trip.

        If the feeder buses connect to daylong regional services, the odd working hours of these people can be served by transit regardless of how far they must travel to get to work.

        Sounder garages differ from Link garages in that the riders that can use them pretty much must have a traditional weekday 9-5 full time job to use the garage.

        To that end, I would argue that the solution is for any feeder bus route to serve both Sounder and Link stations and run several hours a day — as opposed to a feeder bus that meets a handful of Sounder trains with only a few runs each day.

        Of course, ST could propose an overlay transit service for the hours when there is no Sounder train but that’s not been fully explored. Plus, the driver hours of running such services can get expensive and most stations aren’t adjacent to 167.

        It’s why I see the solution is some sort of route with one end (or maybe two ends) at a Link station that also passes by a Sounder station or two.

        Finally, I expect some existing Sounder riders who park at a station will switch to parking at a Link station a mere two or three miles further precisely because of the limitations of returning at any time (rather than be forced to wait or forced to not work late). Sure Link will take longer than Sounder but what good is a faster transit trip if the service doesn’t run when you need it? The one thing that is happening is that partial WFH is a situation that isn’t going to go away and those people won’t be on Sounder unless the schedules change significantly and lots more train trips at other times of day happen . The prognosis for Sounder to return to 20K riders a day just on their pre pandemic service hours of operation appears pretty hopeless at this point.

      19. Bus service in this area is not a good exchange for the funds. Buses in this region need first AND last mile service. Bus service in this region is impossible, and many just don’t understand first mile access in this region is going to force a resident to drive from their doorstep to a park and ride SOMEWHERE, so why not at the station, paid for by ST (with their money). Very few use transit within this region. They drive. They took Sounder S. to Seattle (or someone did).

        Again, you are ignoring the facts. The 160 serves Renton, Kent and Auburn. It comes nowhere near Seattle. Yet just last month, it had 5,000 riders. In contrast, Auburn had about 600 Sounder riders; Kent 750.

        This is nothing new. In all of the King County Sounder locations, more people rode the surrounding buses than rode Sounder. The exceptional stations are ones like Sumner, but only because Sumner has only one bus! Even then, that bus — with only two stops — made up more than a third of the Sounder ridership.

        Before or after the pandemic, people rode buses in the suburbs way more than they rode Sounder. This is a fact.

        This doesn’t mean that every feeder bus will be a huge success. But if you run feeder service — especially service that does more than just feed Sounder — you are likely to get a fair number of riders, whether Sounder is full or not. If you build a bigger parking garage, it is likely to be a huge waste of money.

      20. Ross, no one is arguing ridership today on Sounder S. supports building three new parking garages. That is the point. I am not sure ridership on Sounder S. ever supported the cost, although the farebox goal was only 23% (still more than Metro).

        The other point is the ST Board and these three cities think the garages are the best use of their funds with the options they are being offered. You live in Pinehurst. I live on MI. As you noted in another post, what you or I think is irrelevant.

        I just don’t think you understand this area of SE KC and E Pierce Co. very well. The geography and demographic don’t support much bus service based on my experience, but again I would defer to the cities themselves. I am not saying no bus service, just not very much, is possible in these areas.

        The garages are going to be built. I am not even sure more bus service was a legal option, and who would provide it. The real question is why, when we all agree spending $350 million on three garages serving Sounder S. makes no sense.

        What I have tried to address is the why because whether the garages are built is no longer an option, not whether the why is correct. The why requires understanding the thinking of the folks who actually made this decision: the ST Board, and the cities themselves. They had their reasons. I think I understand those reasons, although I have no skin in the game.

        My ultimate point is just give the money to the cities and let them spend it any way they want. They should have never been part of the ST taxing district, and anyone familiar with this area knows that if offered the garages or more bus service they would opt for the garages, whether you think that is the best use of the money or not. But that should not be the binary choice.

        My guess is the citizens and councils would do something other than build new parking garages with the money, and they would not spend much on bus service, because they know their area and their voters, and they just think differently than you do. But the Board knows if they did that probably every city would want the same deal because ST just does not benefit them much post pandemic, certainly not compared to what they are paying in taxes. Let E KC use the $4.5 billion for Issaquah Link on ANYTHING else.

      21. Let’s try to keep this as simple as possible and stick to the facts.

        ST2 promised Auburn a parking garage. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea, but ST has been collecting taxes for the garage for 20+ years. The elected officials and general public want value for their money– they don’t some run around from ST or self proclaimed transit gurus.

        Feeder buses are not something ST does, that’s Metro’s job. If you haven’t heard Metro is currently cutting service and even their website is kaput. So these “feeder buses” are 100% bullshit. What part of “driver shortage” and “budgetary restraints” don’t you folks understand? There’s no money and no political will here. “Feeder buses” will not happen in South King Country.

        Metro is in a lot deeper poo than most everybody on this blog realizes. The stealth means they’re using to cut service is a sign they’re hiding just how made the situation is.

        So what the Hell is the mayor of Auburn supposed to do here? Take the parking garage and be happy? Let Sound Transit squander his voter’s tax money on some out-of-subarea project far away from Auburn?

      22. Tacomee, I think PT would be responsible for feeder bus service in Auburn and Sumner to the county border. Metro would be responsible for Kent to the county border. Unless Metro decided to serve Pierce Co. or vice versa for continuity across county borders.

        What is PT’s financial status today, and does it have the buses and drivers to serve this area of Pierce Co.?

      23. The elected officials and general public want value for their money”

        We’re still talking about the up to $280,000 parking spots, right?

        This, of course, is why we get dumb stuff. Back when it was only five figures, it might have made sense. But local partisans don’t see it’s their pocket getting picked for tax dollars. They just see a fat pile of regional dollars and want their piece. So nobody ever thinks to say ‘wait a minute… ‘

      24. Oh, this is hilarious. Since I wrote about those outrageous costs in 2020, they’ve tacked on another $40 million to the budget. Can’t tell whether they ever informed the board -you have to do a side by side of the 2020 documents with the recent deck. This is what happens when nobody cares about your money.

      25. But it’s THEIR money Dan that these cities have paid to ST over 20 years and received nothing.

        Don’t blame them for the fact ST can’t build anything for less than 2X or 3X what private developers would pay. MI had bids to build 100 underground parking stalls for $90,000 per stall with ST matching money.

        The problem isn’t the cost of the garages. That is chump change for ST. Look at $850 million for a station on 4th Ave. S.

        The problem is ST is not allowing these cities to spend THEIR money on better projects. It is ST that is insisting the money can only be spent on one use: parking garages, and even worse ST will insist on building the garages at twice or three times what they should cost if built by the cities.

        Just give the cities their ST tax revenue and trust those cities to spend it more wisely and more efficiently than ST, because the reality is there is no “wise” way to spend $350 million in this undense area.

      26. Careful, Al. If Andrew were the author of this article, you’d be “[ah]’ed” for alluding to “snide comments”. To the content of your comment, I agree heartily. There are a lot of poor people in South King County, and they could use better local bus service more than they can use Sounder South. Maybe it needs to be “micro-transit” but something needs to be provided for those people walking along the stroads. Too many are going to be killed one-at-a-time over the next decades.

      27. Dan,

        The word for today is….. inflation. Everything costs a whole lot more now. Sound Transit could have saved a lot of money if they would have built those South King County parking garages years ago.

        Posters here go on and on about crap they have no idea about… but let me break it down for you. When I was a kid, I was busting my ass building things for $15 an hour. Back then a small fixer-upper could be had for under 100k in Tacoma, 125k in South King and maybe 135k in Columbia City. A job driving a bus certainly put you in range of a home mortgage. It was a steady job with value.

        The reason those parking garages cost more is the work I used to do for $15 an hour now costs $25 or $30. And the sad part is the guys and gals doing it now are in a worst place financially than I was back in the day. If you can’t pay, you can’t play. Sound Transit made all sorts of innuendos and promises around the ST3 vote to get it over the line. Now cities and counties are saying…. Pay up. Do you think South King is just going to let ST slide?

        And here’s everything you need to know about Puget Sound Transit in a couple of paragraphs. Right now Metro wants to hire bus drivers at at a little over $20 an hour, part time. After 6 weeks training drivers get a pay bump to a little over $26 an hour and part time work… drivers need to be ready to drive from 3:35 AM until near midnight…. and new drivers get all the weird, crap shifts. I wouldn’t do this job. Would you?

        The top end drivers get better shifts and $37-$38 a hour. That’s like 75k- 85K a year. Journeyman tradespeople get 2X that in Seattle. If Metro wants to really hire drivers, they need to 70k out of the gate and go up from there. That’s a living wage in Seattle. What Metro is offering now is an insult to the blue collar working class.

        I find most of the authors and moderators on this blog classist. They all want these shiny new trains and new affordable housing. The trouble is those things cost money and tradespeople deserve a living wage. Pay up or shut up.

        So I’m waiting for one of the authors around here to write an open letter to Metro and demand a guaranteed wage of 70k for all new drivers, and no part time work, and either AM or PM shifts. It’s a thing called social justice… you may of heard about it.

      28. Let’s be clear what the “feeder routes” are. It’s not some brand-new thing with all-new service hours. They’re in Metro Connects. The South King County restructure a few years ago prepared the way for RapidRide I, and got routes closer to their future Link alignments. The full Metro Connects additions are still unfunded but a lot of it will be simply restructured existing service.

        The driver shortage affects 5% of service. If things get twice as bad over several years it might drift up to 10%. That’s still 90% intact service.

        Inflation is coming down now. Future inflation we don’t know. It depends more on whether the war in Ukraine reaches US wheat and oil prices, how likely a China collapse is, how well the reshoring of North American manufacturing goes, what future climate activity does to our crop yields, and whether Congress can manage to avoid an unnecessary default in the future.

      29. Mike Orr,

        I have a pretty good view of the bus driver shortage from friends who work at Pierce Transit. Looking at the number of long time divers, who are stable, homeowners for large part, who are looking at retiring, things could get much, much worse with bus driver numbers. New drivers get the worst shifts and it’s not that hard to find a job that pays 100K with a CDL. The offers Metro/PT/CT have on the table now for new drivers are 20-25k short of being competitive. Maybe Sound Transit can start cutting 10k bonus checks for new hires for Metro/PT/CT? If you think the cuts are going to stop at 10% of service next year…. you’re kidding yourself. If bus drivers don’t make at least 70k, workforce instability is going to crush local transit.

        And transit is not alone. Most of the non-profits working with the homeless population can’t (or won’t) pay a living wage. Why on earth do progressives believe somebody is going to sacrifice to bail out Seattle?

        What I’m not seeing from local transit leaders, the Urbanist crowd, and writers on this blog (Seattle Subway is way worse) is the acknowledgement that labor costs, starting with bus operators and ending with construction workers, have risen. The answer is really simple…. put off capital improvements and increase pay.

        I just don’t see how defending low pay and bad working conditions for drivers is supporting transit. Enlighten me Mr. Orr.

      30. “The driver shortage affects 5% of service. If things get twice as bad over several years it might drift up to 10%. That’s still 90% intact service.”

        Sam’s figures have disruptions at around 9% and based on complaints that seems about right to me. At the same time, if the issue is a driver shortage Metro has to build in a cushion between drivers who are out and drivers who are available, which should be around another 5% above the current levels of suspensions or cancellations, otherwise Metro won’t solve the issue of unpredictability.

        The long-term issues are:

        1. Will Metro’s or PT/CT’s ridership rebound more than the 59% of pre-pandemic ridership seen today?

        2. If not, to what degree does Metro scale back service and infrastructure improvements to match the new normal ridership and farebox recovery?

        Basically, is today the new normal?

        Some transit advocates believe coverage comes first to create a grid no matter how undense the areas being served, and you can never eliminate that, and then believe “induced demand” is caused by frequency, although like Lazarus I believe that unless the latent demand is already there then frequency is only a correlation to ridership. For example, even post pandemic widening 405 south of Bellevue is a good idea because one can see TODAY there is more demand than capacity. Too often transit advocates demand that one waits to see that demand from more capacity or frequency even though pre-pandemic transit ridership was down around 14% across the U.S.

        Al points out Bart once had a 60% farebox recovery. But all indicators suggest that ridership will never return. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-06-12/westfield-giving-up-san-francisco-mall-in-mounting-pain-for-city

        The CA legislature approved general subsidies for transit despite a $31 billion deficit, but at an amount around half of what the transit agencies say they need now that Covid stimulus has run out (and Newsom has not agreed to this deal yet, and he wanted a zero subsidy). The legislature’s subsidy forces transit agencies to fund current levels of service for a few years hoping the future changes or fund future infrastructure projects.

        Basically, the legislature is telling the transit agencies they have one or two years to recover the ridership or make some fundamental cuts to operating expenses and future infrastructure projects, which is what many urban cities, office building owners, and transit agencies are unwilling to believe in 2023 because the new normal is terrible for them.

        I think CA is a predecessor for this region. Seattle is very much like San Francisco when it comes to WFH and issues on the street that are forcing citizens to abandon the city. Seattle in April 2023 has a 44% office occupancy rate and a 44% foot traffic rate compared to 2019. Seattle will see large deficits in its upcoming operating budget (and a new council), and IMO today’s ridership levels are pretty much tomorrow’s ridership levels, and Seattle’s occupancy rate won’t rise. If I am wrong then building the three parking garages in Kent, Auburn and Sumner will have been a good idea, because transit agencies will never admit the present is the new normal.

        ST’s fantastical future ridership estimates and the OFM’s future population growth estimates prove agencies will make up the future to support their funding and plans, so it is hardly suprising they refuse to accept the present.

        Future budgets for Metro, CT and PT (and ST although it has the benefit of being a newer system and so can ignore the future replacement and maintenance costs hoping for a bailout down the road) are going to decline or remain flat. The driver shortage is just a temporary influence. So future budgets will force our transit agencies, like in CA, to choose current service levels or future infrastructure projects or expansions.

        Sam is correct, cutting Metro services forces a choice: coverage or frequency, equity vs. non-equity. At 5% the cuts can be papered over, but not at 20% which I think will be the level this Sept. based on the accelerated suspensions right now.

        But one factor Sam doesn’t raise is at what point do areas that pay a lot of Metro taxes but don’t use it much post pandemic object to losing service, and begin to question the level of taxes they pay for declining Metro service. The irony with “equity” is the poor don’t pay much toward their use of transit although they need it more.

        The key for me is Metro decided to accelerate its suspensions set for Sept. to right now, even though that caused a lot of logistical problems due to the short time to prepare. I think another round of suspensions or service cuts will come in Sept., and maybe as Mike notes a county wide restructure, although in the long run it will be budgets that determine levels of service even if there is no driver shortage. Like Bart.

        I think part of this problem is ST’s claims of savings for Metro/CT/PT due to truncation were exaggerated (say it ain’t so) because the transfer Link caused forces BETTER feeder bus service to equal prior one seat service on a bus, east to west no less, and maybe Metro/CT/PT will decide they need to either get a bigger cut of the feeder bus/Link fare, or cut feeder bus service to Link.

        This is the new normal. The developers abandoning hotels and malls in downtown San Francisco and Nike abandoning downtown Seattle for Factoria are the canaries in the coal mine because their loans make it impossible to wait and dream of a different future, a future that transit agencies refuse to accept, at least today.

        This fall Seattle will replace most of its council, but before then the current council will have to begin to prepare its operating budget like every other city. So will the county. My guess is Sept. will see a major restructure of Metro, which is probably good because we have waited too long hoping for a different future, except those paying the most Metro taxes might not like losing most of the service, especially since transit agencies and advocates and writers have repeated the mantra transit is not just for the poor for the last decade, but during the cuts will claim transit is for the poor.

      31. tacomee,

        It is worth pointing out that one common suggestion I have seen offered on this blog, in response to mentions about the cost of labor required to provide good transit service, has been to move more strongly in the direction of driverless vehicles, which eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the labor marginal cost.

        Pointing out that this will likely reduce in a net reduction of good, middle class union jobs, has not been successful in swaying people away from that approach, as the benefit to society from improving transit service is viewed as more important than the risk of losing middle class jobs.

        I have already made my own position fairly clear on the subject, and have no further arguments to make; I am, however, interested in hearing others’ take on it, as always.

      32. Driving jobs are the number one job for males with a H.S. degree. There is no doubt driverless technology will be a disruptor, just like WFH, Uber and AI are disrupting life and work. But it is nearly impossible to stop these kinds of advancements, and in the long run they are good for society.

        IMO driverless technology will roll out slowly, mostly fixed routes at mostly low speeds. This means some kind of fixed dedicated route shuttle. But those pursuing this technology know all the money is in the driverless car.

        For me, Uber is the picture of the future for driverless technology. In 2017 Uber had 94 million miles driven in Seattle alone, in part because short urban trips are perfect for Uber because there is door to door service and no parking (and you can drink alcohol). Mass public transit like buses will become cheaper if driverless, but so will micro transit and Uber, which is why I think Metro is experimenting with micro transit, in places like Sammamish of all places. So I see the urban and suburban bus going away unless the route is very congested at specific times, and light rail for longer trips because first/last mile access to Link goes away with micro-transit and becomes economical.

        I also think as more young people enter the work market WFH will increase. Generation Z thinks WFH is very important to their work/life balance, and have grown up in a virtual world.

        So we will see many more discretionary non-work trips and fewer peak work trips that are the most non-discretionary, mostly by Uber or micro-transit EV’s with some shared ride features which is already available on Uber to cut costs, and light rail (or a personal car) for the longer trips because with door to Link service on both ends Link is a good way to travel for long trips.

        At this point living without a car will become much easier, and parking requirements for buildings will likely decline, at least in more urban areas or close in suburban areas. The transit user will have the same door to door service as a car owner, and neither will need parking at their destination.

        From what I have read and heard in seminars many think there will be fleets of driverless cars with Uber’s app. and the financing of a large rental car company, and users will sign up for a monthly lease with per trip costs, but keep a personal car in the garage (rather than two or three) for personal trips like skiing or to Spokane etc. My guess is the grid will need some oversight by a government agency. I just hope cumbersome transit agencies like Metro don’t try to compete in this market with their own antiquated micro-transit service like Via.

      33. “My guess is Sept. will see a major restructure of Metro,”

        It’s too late to move routes or reorganize the agency by September. The proposed September cuts are a straightforward reduction of existing runs. It could end up being larger, but I don’t see routes moving around. First, Metro planners would have to determine whether there is a better structure to go to. Then it would have to propose the changes six months ahead and have open houses. Then it would have to go to the county council three months ahead — which is right now.

        The next anticipated restructures in South King County are Federal Way Link, Stride 1, and RapidRide I, whenever they open. The subarea has already been through a few rounds since 2010 that have optimized the low-hanging fruit. Our debates about whether a few routes are justified like the 162 (Kent-Seattle peak express) are just a few routes. Metro is protecting South King County and South Seattle service for equity and because ridership never fell as much as other areas. If anywhere is reduced the most, it will be the Eastside, where ridership per capita is the lowest.

        It’s too late to move routes. The county council would have to vote in it right nowMetro would have had to start planning it last year, held hearings, and the county council vote in it right now.

      34. Mike, I wasn’t suggesting that Metro flip a switch in Sept. and suddenly restructure all its routes. I was suggesting it begin that process in Sept., certainly before it begins piecemeal restructures for areas or projects like FWLE.

        Lazarus writes that what Metro should do is simply reduce frequency on high service RR routes that are underperforming in the short term to avoid having Metro haphazardly suspend parts of many routes and create even more confusion. This sounds like a good idea to me, and could be done quickly with minimal disruption to the entire system.

        But in Sept. Metro needs to get all the stakeholders together and begin the process if 2023 is the new normal for ridership and budgets.

        It’s called planning. No one likes to plan for a likely future that will include painful cuts, and it has been a while since progressive in this region have had to consider cuts, but that is when planning is most important, and the stakeholders need to be involved rather than Metro ad hoc suspending some routes now, or in a week, or for two weeks, or maybe Sept., without a very good explanation why those routes, and without incorporating the changes into Metro’s schedules.

        I just get the idea no one at Metro is looking at the big picture, or is willing to consider coordinated system wide changes. It looks like denial to me. Time to get the stakeholders involved.

      35. @DT,

        “ IMO driverless technology will roll out slowly, mostly fixed routes at mostly low speeds…….But those pursuing this technology know all the money is in the driverless car.”

        You are correct on both counts, but it really doesn’t matter if a bus runs over a pedestrian at low speed or at high speed. It still hurts.

        That said, in-line with your comments, the logical place to start with self driving vehicles is with Link LR.

        Since Link is on rails the technical problem is much simpler, it basically becomes a just problem of throttle management and intrusion detection and response. A much, much simpler problem then with full self driving road vehicles.

        The cost would also be much lower since not every cab unit would require the technology. Since Link almost never operates as single LRVs, only the end cabs would need the tech. Basically 2 cabs out of 6 for three car trains, or 2 cabs out of 8 for four car trains.

        That is much cheaper than for buses where every bus would need to be converted. And the number of operators replaced would also be lower since Link employees fewer operators.

      36. @Mike Orr,

        “ It’s too late to move routes or reorganize the agency by September.”

        That may, or may not, be true. But that is why approaching this from a frequency reduction point of view makes more sense.

        A frequency reduction on resource intensive routes like RR wouldn’t require council approval or an equity analysis, and could be done quickly. The main overhead item would be the reprinting of paper schedules.

      37. what Metro should do is simply reduce frequency on high service RR routes that are underperforming in the short term

        What routes are those? From what I can tell, every RapidRide route is performing quite well. They are also seeing impressive month-over-month increases. The A and C increased ridership by 500 last month; the C and E over 350. Here are the daily numbers by route:

        A — 8178
        B — 4,214
        C — 7,224
        D — 8,805
        E — 11,057
        F– 4,508
        H — 6,850

        Some routes are longer than others, so this is not necessarily a reflection of ridership per mile. The B looks pretty weak, but it isn’t very frequent, especially for a RapidRide. It seems designed for future Link service, and of course, that has been delayed. The F is not doing as well, but again, it is less frequent. These two buses run every 15 minutes in the middle of the day — if you run them 20 you don’t save that much money. If you run every half hour, you destroy them. There are a lot of buses I would cut before these.

      38. The RapidRide lines were chosen to be the most strategic routes in the area, and their ridership gains reflect that, so they should be the last ones to be reduced. People count on the RapidRide lines for at least one full-time frequent route in the district. The A, C, D, and E are clearly high-performing and speak for themselves.

        The B is the biggest ridership corridor in the Eastside, and the Eastside’s only frequent route evenings and Sundays.

        The F has always been challenged; it’s the runt of RapidRide. Its biggest problem is the large detour to the Sounder station and the tower-in-the-park office buildings in southwest Renton. This makes it slow for Southcenter-Renton and Southcenter-Landing trips, so it doesn’t attract as many riders as it would if it were more direct. Metro chose this routing to avoid having a separate peak-hour feeder to Sounder and the office district, bur it’s superfluous when Sounder isn’t running or the offices are closed.

        The F has always been challenged

      39. @RossB,

        “ From what I can tell, every RapidRide route is performing quite well.”

        How can you tell? Because the ridership numbers you posted are immaterial to whether or not any of the RR routes are good candidates for frequency reductions.

        When considering frequency reductions what is important is not total ridership, but rather current ridership vs current capacity. A RR line might well be producing 8000 riders per day, but if it’s capacity is 16000 riders per day, then it is only running at 50% capacity and is an excellent candidate for a frequency reduction.

        Currently Metro is running at about 45% of pre pandemic ridership levels, and service reductions haven’t been that large. Meaning about 50% of capacity is going unused. It’s logical to assume this also includes RR, and that makes RR an excellent candidate for a frequency reduction.

        “They are also seeing impressive month-over-month increases. The A and C increased ridership by 500 last month; the C and E over 350.”

        Again, ridership gains aren’t that important when considering which routes are excellent candidates for frequency reductions. What matters is unused capacity.

        And those gains aren’t that big. For the A that is about a 6% gain, and for the E the gain is about 0.3%.

        A gain of 0.3% in ridership is not significant.

      40. @Lazarus

        Note didn’t quite follow all the above comments, but yeah the route productivity numbers are in the system evaluation pdf.

        https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/metro/accountability/reports/2022/system-evaluation (Page 60 and 61)

        Off Peak rides per platform Hour ; Peak riders per platform hour
        A line: 33; 37
        B Line 21; 20
        C Line 17; 18
        D Line 30; 30
        E Line 29; 28
        F Line 24; 20

        In comparison bus route like 20 or 56 hovers around 10 rides per platform hour. While other more popular bus routes like 70 or 4 have 20 rides per platform hour. The only real ‘underperforming’ rapidride line would be the C Line. And assuming the Rapidride H has the same ridership as the before route 120 also has approximately 18 rides per hour as well.

        But those are well above the underperforming routes at 5~10 rides per platform hour such as 212, 73, 56 etc..

      41. @WL,

        There. Exactly my point.

        If you go through that doc it clearly states that there are NO issues with crowding across the system. That would imply that ALL routes are candidates for reduced frequency, including the RR lines.

        And even at those levels of rides per platform hour, none of these routes appear to be operating close to full.

        Note: The document doesn’t provide the exact parameter of interest, which would be either rides per platform hour divided by available seats, or rides per platform hour divided by the crowding index. But since most of these high productivity routes use artics, it would appear that they are running a bit over half full when compared to available seats, or a little less than half full when compared to the crowding index.

        That leaves plenty of room for reduced frequency.

        It is interesting though how Metro doesn’t actually provide the crowding data. They just describe the methodology briefly, declare it isn’t a problem, and then omit the data. Very strange.

      42. @Lazarus

        > But since most of these high productivity routes use artics, it would appear that they are running a bit over half full when compared to available seats, or a little less than half full when compared to the crowding index…. That would imply that ALL routes are candidates for reduced frequency, including the RR lines.

        There is crowding data it’s on the ridership dashboard page. King Metro has been consolidating other routes that have very low ridership, but also it gives less pay off past a certain degree on these rapidride bus routes that are half filled.

        As in the fixed cost is the driver mainly, and so while they might drive a longer articulated bus that capacity is typically just used for peak time. Versus having one regular bus during off peak times and then needing a second driver and second regular bus for peak time.

        Unless if your plan is to reduce off peak bus frequency from like 15 minutes down to 30 minutes/1 hour making people wait to fill up the bus.

      43. Lazarus, as long as sales tax revenues hold up, as many frequent buses as can be run with the available staff should be run. Nobody appointed you “Auditor of Metro Productivity”.

        Using your logic, all cars with only the driver should be banned from the roadways, because “their capacity is underutilized”. From a climate perspective, that would be great, but it has a snowball’s chance in Phoenix of coming to pass.

        [ed. note — in the previous paragraph, it appears that “Phoenix” is equated to “Hell”. That was intentional.]

      44. @WL,

        The data on the capacity dashboard, sparse as it is, actually indicates that the RR lines are not operating at capacity and therefore have room for frequency reductions. Ya, something less than 1% of trips are at capacity, but this is exactly what you’d expect from an unreliable system with cancelled trips, bus bunching, and random sporting events, etc.

        That said, the goal here is to move Metro towards stable and predictable operations, and to do it without injecting even more chaos into the system. And that is exactly why Metro should focus on resource intensive routes like RR.

        Small changes to resource intensive routes like RR free up a large amount of resources for redeployment and system stabilization. Essentially one change produces large benefits.

        Will Metro do it? I sincerely doubt it. I expect this problem to continue.

      45. Tom, Metro’s general funding was based on 41% more riders (actually more than 41% because of future population growth and ridership estimates). Like any government agency its primary incentive is to collect and spend as much funding as it can, and usually any kind of efficiency is not a great concern, especially if there is more revenue than needed.

        The “stakeholders” are represented by their elected political representatives. THEY have the authority and obligation to make sure an agency’s funding is commensurate with its need, and the agency is doing a good job, because those politicians are supposed to make sure taxes are used wisely among many different needs. Especially if local governments are looking at budget deficits.

        For me this includes ST and Metro. That is why I am not sure spending $350 million on new parking garages in Sumner, Kent or Auburn is a good idea, or billions on platform and station upgrades for Sounder, or even TDLW, Everett Link, Issaquah Link, or WSBLE and DSTT2, even if the subarea has the money for those projects. The ridership is not there for that kind of spending, and never will be, and neither will be O&M funding. For the same reason I don’t support spending billions on dozens of new ferries in case future ridership spontaneously increases.

        What strikes me as strange is Metro’s funding (not including reduced farebox recovery which according to the Times now has a goal of 25%) is still at 2019 levels, ridership is 41% lower, and still Metro is having difficulty providing reliable service. I get the idea Metro doesn’t know what it is doing to address these problems and is making things worse. I think it will take the stakeholders to tell Metro this is the new normal so plan for it.

        I think it is time — just like the CA legislature’s temporary subsidy for Bart and Muni forces those agencies to get real — for the stakeholders and Board to begin a comprehensive review of Metro, its funding, levels of service, routes, coverage, frequency, because so much is different today from 2019. Bring it an outside transit expert who will tell the Board: 1. how much funding Metro needs based on current ridership; 2. what levels of service the stakeholders should expect for that money, or get a new CEO; and 3. how Metro can operate more efficiently, including better farebox recovery.

        There are some on this blog who think a government CANNOT spend too much on transit, even on empty buses or trains. Then there are some like me who want my transit taxes to be closer to ridership, some attempts at efficiencies, and realistic future estimates even though my city gets very little transit. I think transit is important, but not the most important, and just one of many important social needs. I also understand few if anyone rides transit unless they have to, and right now they don’t have to.

        At the same time, I would like a deep dive into the industrial housing complex in this region I think is doing a terrible job compared to the taxes thrown at the problem. If policies in Seattle make attracting bus drivers too difficult, or drive away normal fare paying riders, I don’t want my taxes going to trying to solve those self-inflicted wounds. Maybe it is time for Metro to go to a subarea model within the county.

        Private businesses spend every single day trying to figure out how to better serve their customers more efficiently. If their customer based declined 41% they are generally out of business, or there is a drastic restructure. If business declines during a pandemic but does not recover post pandemic a new CEO is hired (and look at the spectacular success of Uber post pandemic whose stock price is up 71% this year because Uber has a fantastic CEO).

        PT is hampered because the region is so hard to serve and the residents don’t want to pay a lot in transit taxes. Not much you can do about that.
        Metro does not have that excuse. I am tired of Boards like ST and Metro who refuse to accept the new normal, and think it is ok to allow poor and redundant service while constantly proposing to raise taxes. We know ST is doing a crummy job because the consultant told us so. Let’s see what an outside consultant tells us about Metro.

        Because one way or the other, like Bart and Muni, the loss of revenue forces this on agencies anyway. Better to start now then wait until billions in state subsidies are needed, because in WA I doubt the legislature will come riding to the rescue.

        No one appointed Lazarus auditor of Metro, but the real problem is no one has appointed ANYONE auditor of Metro. Let’s hire an outside auditor.

      46. As much as Metro has frustrated me recently, these problems aren’t insurmountable and the service change this week has had a demonstrable effect. Look at the Pantograph missed trip reports for pairs of days this week and last week — there’s about 15% fewer missed trips now, and the 44 (the route I’m on the most) has had fewer than 4 missed trips per day. I don’t see any reason why the September cuts won’t largely solve the problem of mass, seemingly arbitrary, trip cancellation. I hope that if Metro has a bigger driver buffer, it’ll be easier for them to disseminate the cancellations that still do occur in a more reliable way than they are now.

        As an aside, I do think we have to be careful with the Pantograph missed trip data. It’s hard to get a baseline out of it, and (I think) impossible to get a reason. Even with a fully-staffed Metro, there will still be mechanical, traffic and other problems that cause trips to be cancelled. For exaple, I don’t think the New Flyer steering issue has been fully resolved and, while part of that surely is lack of mechanics, some of it might very well be lack of parts.

    2. “Metro has to build in a cushion between drivers who are out and drivers who are available”

      That’s what the September cuts aim to be.

      “is today the new normal?”

      We won’t know for a few years. Ridership is currently increasing due to return to office. It remains to be seen how much that will be, and whether that combined with cuts will cause overcrowding. And the Link/Stride/RapidRide restructures over the next four years will throw everything around. When all these have settled into sustained patterns for a few years, then we’ll know what the new normal will be.

      1. “Metro has to build in a cushion between drivers who are out and drivers who are available.”

        “That’s what the September cuts aim to be.”

        No, that is what today’s accelerated cuts aim to be. My point being the cuts need to exceed the level of disruption. If 9% of trips are disrupted, you don’t cut 5% of trips because then you have unpredictability. Mike stated 5% cuts would be adequate. I stated if Sam’s data are correct and 9% of trips are disrupted than the cuts need to be 9% + 5% cushion = 14%, likely increasing in Sept. when I think a major restructure will be necessary because Metro has run out of time.

        “is today the new normal?”

        “We won’t know for a few years.”

        Transit advocates will be saying the same thing in 2044 if they don’t like the present. Agencies like ST inflated the future to validate its funding, budgets and designs, along with very optimistic -even pre-pandemic- future population growth estimates, and still today refuse to budge off even the inflated estimates. So ST is building $350 million worth of Sounder S. parking garages, because “we won’t know for a few years” what the new normal is, and must “plan for the future”.

        “And the Link/Stride/RapidRide restructures over the next four years will throw everything around. When all these have settled into sustained patterns for a few years, then we’ll know what the new normal will be.”

        What Mike is really saying is continue with 2019 transit funding plus more to make up for reduced farebox recovery even though ridership is down 41%.

        This is what drives me nuts with transit estimates. Ridership is down 41% on Metro. But if we increase coverage and mode and frequency and spend hundreds of millions of dollars more it will change that fact, and the future will be dramatically different than the present. The old induced demand argument: mode will increase total ridership when reduced ridership post pandemic has nothing to do with mode.

        In the end, just like with Bart and Muni, funding will determine levels of service. If the ridership and farebox recovery return to 2019 levels, and municipal and county budgets don’t have to be cut, then the current levels of service will be sustainable depending on inflation and efficiencies.

        At least in CA — which is going first — according to the legislature (if Newsom goes along) state subsidies for transit at 1/2 those asked for force transit agencies to truly decide whether 2023 is the new normal and cut current operating levels or future infrastructure plans. Their choice.

        2022 was the new normal for travel and work patterns although many did not want to accept that (although so many rejoiced if you now WFH). 2023 is the new normal for budgets, and naturally many don’t want to accept that but budget deficits and reduced farebox recovery can’t be ignored any longer. Metro does not have “a few more years” worth of money.

      2. “My point being the cuts need to exceed the level of disruption.”

        That’s what Metro says that’s what September cuts are. The immediate cuts are less than the September cuts. 5% was Metro’s figure; I can’t say it’s wrong. Sam’s 9% is a one-day snapshot, while Metro’s is more of a long-term average.

        “This is what drives me nuts with transit estimates. Ridership is down 41% on Metro. But if we increase coverage and mode and frequency and spend hundreds of millions of dollars more it will change that fact, and the future will be dramatically different than the present.”

        People’s behavior is based on the usefulness of the transit network. We leave potential ridership on the table by not having a network like cities with higher ridership. But this is a longer-term issue; we can’t increase service right now.

        “in Sept. when I think a major restructure will be necessary because Metro has run out of time.”

        What do you even mean? Do what to the structure? And if this will be a long discussion, please start it in a top-level thread.

  6. > In the video Reese argues that German U-Stadtbahn trams work well because they only have a short tunnel in the city center. Beyond that you should either have surface light rail

    I did find it a bit curious that we chose light rail, and then for ST3 all these alignments basically are grade separated.

    Anyways I wouldn’t be too surprised if a lot of these alignments are downscaled from elevated to at grade and shortened tunnels since there isn’t enough money. The 15th Ave/Elliot Way section could use center median alignment for example (this was one of the alternative candidate proposals so it is generally feasible). Though south of that, it’d still need to be tunneled if they insist on 4-car trains.

    Regarding West Seattle, I’m actually wondering if splitting the DEIS will cause the FTA to reject the West Seattle DEIS for the high costs and low ridership projections since it can no longer lump together the new downtown tunnel section? But anyways, I don’t really know what West Seattle link can do to save more money. Unless if the rail line just goes at grade down Delridge. Or alternatively they could try taking a lane/two from Fauntleroy so the elevated approach no longer needs to destroy an apartment complex

    1. The choice of (low floor) light rail was due in part to the desire to initially share the downtown tunnel. That was the basic practical argument. Even then, it could have been avoided had they made different choices. The buses got kicked out of the tunnel once we reached a “tipping point” — the point at which a lot of tunnel buses no longer went downtown. Metro didn’t cancel many buses as Link went south — most were just rerouted to the surface. As the train went north, however, the buses were truncated. Thus if they had started with Northgate to downtown, they could have avoided the awkward bus/train period, which means they could have built it with high floor train cars. They also would have had a lot more riders per service hours (and just riders in general). The main reason they went south was to prove to suburban riders that they could build something (and building that direction was less likely to have issues). So again, it was more political than practical.

      But light rail was also chosen for vague political reasons. Light rail has become popular in the U. S. simply because of the name. It sounds cheaper, easier and more modern. There is practical benefit, and we take advantage of it in Rainier Valley, but even then, there are only three surface stops. It could be high floor (and surface running) quite easily (just raise the platforms). There was always vague talk about light rail saving money, but I don’t know if anyone actually seriously considered it for the bulk of the line. The whole “spine” idea doesn’t fit well with lots of surface stops.

      More recently, ST has been adamant about avoiding surface running (and thus surface stations). I’m not sure if ST has ever articulated any reasoning behind this decision. It would make a lot of sense if their goal was to automate part of it, or if they felt like the increase in speed was worth it, but there has been no mention of either. It is just taken as an assumption that surface running is bad, even though major subways occasionally have trains on the surface.

      1. I wouldn’t consider “prove a new mode is financially viable and a new agency is capable of project delivery” a non-practical logic. Even if the train had been built northward first, ST1 still assumed buses operating in tunnel in perpetuity. At the time the decision was made, it was still a plausible outcome to have a train running from Northgate to the Airport, no cross-lake train, and buses on I90 & I5 both using the DSTT.

        Ross, your last paragraph is sloppy. I’ve never seen anything where ST is “adamant about avoiding surface running.” ST3 alignments avoid at-grade intersections, which is frustrating & foolish, but that’s very different than “no surface running.” The comment “major subways occasionally have trains on the surface” is a red herring, because “major” [i.e. 3rd rail powered] subway systems do run on the service but they still avoid at-grade crossing, and at-grade stations still require grade-separated station access.

      2. @AJ

        Ross, your last paragraph is sloppy. I’ve never seen anything where ST is “adamant about avoiding surface running.”

        Originally the Everett Link to Paine Field was supposed to be surface running not elevated. The station in Ballard was going to be at-grade as well. So was West Seattle.

        These were all changed to be elevated/tunneled with further changes as the DEIS has gone along. Notably “In general, future projects are to be designed as aerial or tunnel guideways,” said John Gallagher, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, in an email. “For projects not currently under construction or in planning, Link light rail crossings will be grade separated moving forward.”

        I’m not sure how tenable that will be though given there really is not enough money to build West Seattle/Ballard/ (elevated + to Paine Field) Everett

      3. I wouldn’t consider “prove a new mode is financially viable and a new agency is capable of project delivery” a non-practical logic.

        No, but it is was politically motivated. It is worth noting that board members were split. Some wanted to go north, simply because it would get more riders. Rainier Beach (then called “Henderson”) to UW was by far the most cost effective stretch by every metric (riders, rider time saved, etc.). I believe the mayor of Edmonds at the time pointed that out. He basically wanted to build what the experts told him was the best project. But going south was more impressive, and was a clear sign to the suburbs that ST cared about them (that this wasn’t going to be just a “city project”).

        Even if the train had been built northward first, ST1 still assumed buses operating in tunnel in perpetuity.

        Then why kick them out now? From what I can tell, the initial line didn’t truncate any buses. I am not sure though. The only record I can find is this: https://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Seattle_Metro_Tunnel. The buses from the south continue to run downtown. The buses from the east continue to run downtown (of course). So the only buses that have been truncated were from the north. Thus anyone with any foresight would have started from the north so as to avoid the mixed operation issues, while also building the train with higher floors. That should have been the initial line for many reasons.

        Building with automation in mind follows as well, but probably would have required a complete rethinking of the various assumptions that have driven everything about Link (like whether we should build a line so far from the urban core). Automation is great when it comes to operations, but surface running can be very cheap. If you are focused on distance (i. e. quantity instead of quality) you often end up running on the surface with level crossing (e. g. Rainier Valley).

      4. RossB hints at a key ST decision to build Link south-first rather than north-first. The decision was made in 1999-2001. The initial line would be south-first and serve the airport.

        Theoretically, the tipping point discussion may have happened. But bus operation was ended prematurely when the county sold CPS to the Washington State Convention Center. CPS has several key transit functions: access to/from I-5, access to/from Olive Way, ETB substation, layover, and passenger facilities. Theoretically, joint operation could have continued until Link headway was shorter; we know it worked at six-minute headway. ST is not planning a shorter headway until East Link.

        As RossB wrote, north Link leads to more change in the bus network than south Link. In 2010, Route 194 was deleted. In 2009, Rainier Valley peak routes were deleted.

        The ST south-first decision put tremendous pressure on the surface streets of downtown Seattle to carry more bus trips. SDOT did quite well.

        The three-county governance structure of ST seems to have led to the spine. the long LRT lines may have some awkward aspects. It is being assigned several purposes. This may be similar to the RM Aukland story.

    2. “I did find it a bit curious that we chose light rail, and then for ST3 all these alignments basically are grade separated.”

      That shows the political structure and assumptions here, and how they evolved over time.

      The Everett-Tacoma-Redmond spine was the vision from the beginning. Light rail was chosen because it was street-compatible for low capital costs. Previous US light rails were 95+% surface: MAX, VTA, San Diego. Link would obviously have more tunneling due to the existing DSTT and the hills and waterways, but it was intended to be surface where it could. That meant from Intl Dist around the northeast side of Beacon Hill and down MLK to SeaTac and presumably Tacoma.

      But then Paul Allen wanted a Stadium station, and ST wanted a SODO station for industrial ridersk, and Tuwila objected to rebuilding 99 again, and Roosevelt wanted to extend the tunnel. And after the initial segment was opened, MLK’s slowness was noted, and collisions happened, and noise complaints.

      So ST2 went to all grade-separated. Then Bellevue pleaded for a downtown tunnel, and asked ST to economize elsewhere in East King to fund half of it. That led to parts between Spring District and Redmond being lowered to the surface.

      The assumption going into ST3 was that it would all be grade-separated, unless there was some specific reason to surface it as in the Bellevue tunnel situation. ST3’s alignments are still being decided, and so far no specific reason to surface it has come up. “Lowering cost” may come up in the future, but then it would have to overcome those concerns about speed and collisions, and that wouldn’t be easy.

      Some segments are technically on the surface but in freeway right of way, so they have the dual advantage of low cost and no level crossings. When people say “surface” or “at-grade”, what they usually mean is level crossings. The technical definition may be slightly different, but we’re not writing the engineering blueprints.

      1. That shows the political structure and assumptions here, and how they evolved over time.

        Yeah, exactly. It was definitely an evolution. The quote WL mentioned is not that old: https://southseattleemerald.com/2022/02/17/sound-transit-eliminates-design-that-made-south-end-light-rail-most-dangerous-stretch/. It contradicts earlier thinking. I think WL is right, in that they may back-off from that, given cost constraints. If you read the article, it is clear that there is wiggle room — unlike Seattle Subway, this is not a blanket statement.

        By the way, it may seem pointless to bring up the opinions of Seattle Subway, except that they pushed for state legislation with this exact idea in mind (grade separated rail). It is was in the bill that didn’t make it into law (although they will likely try again). It is reminiscent of the monorail project (just plain silly). Transit is always a compromise, and focusing on one mode, or in this case, an implementation of that mode, is a really bad idea.

  7. What’s going on with Metro trip cancellations? My primary route is the 372. Every day this week, 23 trips will be cancelled. The cancellations are throughout the day, and they aren’t evenly spread out, so at times during the day there’s only 1 bus every 45 minutes.

    And to add insult to injury, the Metro service advisory website is giving a 404 error, so I can’t even check other nearby routes.

    1. @Larry,

      And so it begins.

      Metro is facing a labor shortage and hasn’t figured out how to get ahead of it so they can offer reliable service. They have been canceling routes with little warning because they simply don’t have the operators.

      Today was the day they were supposed to fully suspend some routes for a 2 week period, and also the day they were to start some service cutbacks for the summer on other routes. The idea was that the service cutbacks/suspensions on some routes would allow them to at least maintain reliable performance on the remaining routes.

      That said, I didn’t think the 372 was on either list, although I will admit that it has been hard to figure out exactly what Metro is doing at any given time.

      And the fact that their webpage is crashing is a bad sign. But here is the latest Seattle Times article:


    2. Hi Larry,

      As a bus rider myself, I’m sorry you’re having trouble with Metro 372. Metro seems to out of drivers, buses, money….. and credibility. From the press releases and word on the street, it’s supposed to better in a few weeks. Honestly I’d guess you’re hosed long term. Metro sucks.

    3. @Larry,

      Ha! The Metro website says they are experiencing problems with their webpage because they are migrating to a new platform.

      Score one for Metro! On the very day they implement all these route changes they also inject yet more chaos into the system by migrating their webpage.

      Sometimes it’s just too much to beleive.

      1. “The Metro website says they are experiencing problems with their webpage because they are migrating to a new platform.”

        The same thing happened a few months ago. Metro rolled out a new layout, and it took a few days to adjust stranded links.

    4. It turns out when you fire employees over a vaccine mandate, and pay employees to voluntarily separate, you end up with less employees.

    5. @Larry,

      Oh, this is extra rich.

      According to the Metro website, they are suspending the 320 for at least a week, maybe two weeks.

      The Metro recommended alternative bus? The 372!

      So it would appear that Metro is both canceling one route while directing the effected riders to another route upon which they are also simultaneously reducing service.

      Go figure..

      1. @Ross,

        To be clear, that isn’t Larry’s problem.

        Larry’s problem is that his route is experiencing service reductions.

        Where is the Metro news release detailing which routes will experience service reductions, and how large those reductions will be?

        I didn’t think the 372 was getting a service reduction, but apparently it is. Where is the news release detailing the service reductions (not just suspensions).

        And why on earth would Metro suspend the 320, direct the 320 riders to switch to the 372, and then simultaneously reduce service on the 372???? That makes exactly zero sense.

        Someone on the 320 must have really made Metro mad!!!

      2. Metro email last night: “Metro is working to fix temporary technical difficulties with our trip-cancellation data which is impacting our Service Advisory page and some third-party apps.”

    6. Oh, and you can see the cancellations of the 372 on the page for the 372: https://kingcounty.gov/en/dept/metro/routes-and-service/schedules-and-maps/372.html. There is a red triangle and a down arrow to the right of the bold “Service Advisory”. If you click on the down arrow, or that red triangle (which has a “2” it in) additional text is revealed. Both of these are service advisories. One is about a park and ride closure. The other lists the cancelled trips. For those that don’t follow what I just wrote, here are the cancelled trips:

      to University District scheduled at 6:56 AM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to University District scheduled at 7:15 AM from NE Bothell Way & Kenmore P&R (Westbound)

      to University District scheduled at 7:29 AM from NE Bothell Way & Kenmore P&R (Westbound)

      to University District scheduled at 7:59 AM from NE Bothell Way & Kenmore P&R (Westbound)

      to University District scheduled at 8:44 AM from NE Bothell Way & Kenmore P&R (Westbound)

      to University District scheduled at 8:56 AM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to University District scheduled at 8:59 AM from NE Bothell Way & Kenmore P&R (Westbound)

      to University District scheduled at 9:30 AM from NE Bothell Way & Kenmore P&R (Westbound)

      to University District scheduled at 11:32 AM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to University District scheduled at 2:02 PM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to University District scheduled at 2:17 PM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to University District scheduled at 4:58 PM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to University District scheduled at 5:09 PM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to University District scheduled at 5:27 PM from UW Bothell & Cascadia College (Eastbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 7:34 AM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 8:19 AM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 10:19 AM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 12:49 PM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 3:28 PM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 3:39 PM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 3:50 PM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 6:28 PM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      to Kenmore P&R scheduled at 6:38 PM from 12th Avenue NE & NE 47th Street (Southbound)

      I’m not thrilled with the new Metro website, but I think this particular part was very easy and intuitive. Just go to the main page for the route, and select the service advisory and “more details” drop downs. If you go to a route that has been suspended (e. g. the 301) the service advisory drop down states that the route has been suspended (as well as the other routes that are suspended). It all seems very clear to me.

      1. Metro’s service advisory page, which was working several days ago, is much more efficient than looking up individual routes. If I decide that instead of the 372, I’ll walk a few blocks to try the 65, I would need to go onto the Route 65 timetable (whose URL turns out to be “065” not “65”. Or I might try the 522 to Link, but while the 522 is listed on the general service advisory page, I need to go to Sound Transit’s website and search for it.

        So really my complaints are twofold. 1 – there are substantial service cuts leaving large, seemingly random gaps throughout the day, and 2 – Metro doesn’t have an efficient way to communicate the cuts to general ridership.

      2. @Larry,

        Ya, I think most people knew that you could go to the individual route page and look up the service alert, but what is catching people off guard is the scope and scale of the service reductions.

        Part of the problem is there doesn’t seem to be a central location where the routes experiencing service reductions are listed. You can find that info for suspensions, but not reductions. But hey, maybe Metro doesn’t know either.

      3. Part of the problem is there doesn’t seem to be a central location where the routes experiencing service reductions are listed. You can find that info for suspensions, but not reductions.

        Probably because it doesn’t matter for someone who is actually riding the buses. For the press — and folks like us — it is interesting. But if you want to go from one place to another, you look up your route, and if that route is cancelled, you look at the alternative routes.

      4. @Ross,

        Ah, no, that is ridiculous. If you are a regular rider it actually matters more that you have this info.

        For example, my wife’s bus is having service reductions today. She had no idea. The only way she found out was because I got curious after Larry’s post and decided to check for her.

        And if your bus just got suspended, or had an unannounced trip cancelation (surprise!), there should be a better way to get this info than just hunting around in he service alerts for other routes.


      5. Larry says: “If I decide that instead of the 372, I’ll walk a few blocks to try the 65, I would need to go onto the Route 65 timetable (whose URL turns out to be “065” not “65”. Or I might try the 522 to Link, but while the 522 is listed on the general service advisory page, I need to go to Sound Transit’s website and search for it.”

        Ross says: “Probably because it doesn’t matter for someone who is actually riding the buses. ”

        Ross, are you (a moderator of this blog) really implying that Larry is lying when he is suggesting how he would use the website as a transit rider? Would you say the same thing to me? Because my own strategy is the same as Larry’s – if I see that there’s an alert of any kind on my route, the thing I do next is go to the main alerts page to figure out all the alerts, not try to go route by route. This is what I did all the time during weather alert periods while going to UW, and in fact for many of the same routes Larry listed. I did that during 2008 and I did it in early winter 2012 as well. So the fact that I almost never ride today (and have not been affected by the driver shortages) does not disqualify me from being a “transit rider” for purposes of this discussion.

        You were quite eloquent in your explanation of why ad hominems are bad. Other forms of rhetorical discourse are just as bad, though. Gaslighting is one of them, and I am sure that you would not want to be known as someone who engages in it. Please retract your comment above.

        Thank you in advance for your understanding.

      6. On Pantograph, the percentage of total trips seen decreases every Friday. Fridayitis?

      7. The simple text format on the website for listing cancelled trips is also quite cumbersome for the rider if your stop isn’t the stop that they list the time for. For example, let’s say you board the 372 at Lake City around 8:00 AM and are used to just showing up at the bus stop and taking whatever comes first, not paying too much attention to the schedule.

        Now, all of a sudden you have to look up what time the 8:00 bus in Lake City has left Kenmore – a segment you don’t even ride and previously didn’t care about – just to tell whether your 8:00 departure from Lake City corresponds to the 7:29 departure from Kenmore. This is a lot of extra cognitive gymnastics that shouldn’t be necessary just to answer the basic question of “is my bus running today”.

        At a minimum, the cancellation page should list the full schedule in grid format with a strikethrough line to indicate the cancelled trips. Also, the trip cancellation information needs to be communicated to software such as Google Maps and OneBusAway so that they can silently and automatically remove these phantom trips from the displayed schedule.

      8. No website should ever get a 404. I’m not excusing that. Nor am I saying that Larry’s approach is a bad one. But a full list of every bus that is experiencing problems is really no different than looking up the individual route. The service advisory page is working right now, and it basically lists every single route: https://kingcounty.gov/en/dept/metro/rider-tools/service-advisories. I don’t see that as being much different than simply putting in the route number you are interested in (on the main page — https://kingcounty.gov/en/dept/metro). I would consider it an extra step, really. My guess is the vast majority of riders who are interested in whether say, the 44 is having problems would simply go to the main page, type in 44, and look at the trips that are being cancelled (for this week).

      9. It’s more of a problem when you’re looking at cancellations for non-core routes (I consider the 44 a core route). In 2008, I was searching for status on 5 routes: 68 and 372 (running up on 25th) as well as 71, 72, 73 (running up on 15th). For another example, people looking at getting from downtown Bellevue to areas in NE Bellevue would have to look at 226, 249, and B line, all of which get reasonably close to each other in parts. Yes, it’s possible to go through them one by one; but having a list of the 20% of bus routes with cancellations in one place would help for quick scans of “is this a problem or not”. A summary page that includes the specific run times being cancelled can also help.

      10. Or I might try the 522 to Link, but while the 522 is listed on the general service advisory page, I need to go to Sound Transit’s website and search for it.

        The old Metro website used to link to Sound Transit buses. It would essentially redirect you to the Sound Transit website (as opposed to displaying the information on the Metro website). Apparently, this went away with the new website, and I think this is a failing. It looks like they are still adding things, so hopefully it returns. I don’t think ST ever linked to Metro (or CT or PT) buses, and that would be nice as well. I think it is less of an issue, simply because ST is a small subset of the bus network. It is more important that Metro add back this lost functionality.

        Back to the other topic. Again, the Service Advisory Page should never be down. But I think it is far more important that the individual route pages have that information than the service advisory page. If the individual page doesn’t have the information, everything would be normal, and you would be screwed! In contrast, it is a pain to put in each route you are interested in, but at least doable. I don’t mess with the URL, I just put in the number (and then hit back, then put in another number, etc.).

      11. Yes, it’s possible to go through them one by one; but having a list of the 20% of bus routes with cancellations in one place would help for quick scans of “is this a problem or not”.

        Right, and that is what occurs normally. But it looks to me like it isn’t 20%, but 100% (or pretty close to it). The service advisory page lists every single bus, from what I can tell. Not every bus is cancelled outright, but often that doesn’t make a difference. For example, if the 73 (an infrequent bus during normal times) skips a trip, I might wait close to an hour. At that point, I find other ways to get there (e. g. Link, walking, other buses, etc.). This is a massive outage.

        The simple text format on the website for listing cancelled trips is also quite cumbersome for the rider if your stop isn’t the stop that they list the time for.

        Agreed. It makes sense for the main Service Advisory page, but not the individual route.

        At a minimum, the cancellation page should list the full schedule in grid format with a strikethrough line to indicate the cancelled trips.

        Yes, and this goes back to what Sam wrote. This needs to be treated like a snow day. It means that the webpage needs to be more dynamic. Individual routes that are cancelled should have a strikethough line. Same goes with the PDF (and other data). That is more work for the IT staff, but helpful for these sorts of outages.

        I am now curious about things like Google Maps. Do these changes show up?

      12. I played around with Google Maps, and I think it has incorporated the changes. I picked a trip that makes the most sense on the 73. For the particular period, the buses would be coming by every 15 minutes with the old schedule. But instead they are scheduled to come every half hour (according to Google). So basically Google has got the data. I assume by this that the data feed that Google (and others) rely on are up to date and working.

        I think this is a very big deal. My guess is that a lot of people ignore the Metro website when it comes to trip planning. I’ve used it, but I usually use the one from Google.

    7. Maybe Metro needs an ESN not only for major snow events, but also for periods of major understaffing. So, instead of routes being suspended, or random trips cancelled, Metro pours all its manpower into a core, ESN-like network of routes that are always staffed and filled, so there is no confusion as to what’s running, and what’s not.

      1. Basically that is what is happening right now. I almost made a comparison to snow days up above. Routes are being cancelled, and other routes are running fewer trips. Like a snow day, you have to check in. The routes being cancelled and the trips being cancelled are listed on the route’s page. For example, the 73 is cancelling about a dozen trips (6 north, 4 south). This is all in the name of reliability. (Not only for that route, but for the overall system.)

      2. Yes, that’s basically what’s happening now, except I’m saying take it one step further so that riders can be 99% positive their bus will show up. As it is, 5-10% of all trips are missed trip. Riders currently have to frequently check for missed trips. I’m saying, instead of promising 100, and delivering 95, Metro should promise 95, and deliver 95, so riders can be more confident in the reliability of the system.

      3. So maybe Metro should just advance the September cuts to now rather than doing this partial thing. Then add back only what it has guaranteed unused driver capacity for.

      4. @Mike Orr,

        Ya, I don’t get what Metro is trying to do here.

        First they announce the suspensions will occur in September, then they announce they will start this week and last 1 week, and then they announce they will start this week and last 2 weeks.

        I don’t really see the point of suspending some routes for 2 weeks, then restoring them for 2 months, then suspending them again semi-permanently.

        Just suspend the routes and reallocate the resources first. Get the rest of the system working reliably and without spot cancelations, and then maybe try to restore a few routes.

        The other transit agencies have managed to do this. Maybe Metro can just ask for advice.

      5. @Mike Orr,

        Oh, and here is another problem.

        The Metro announcement on the suspensions says that the suspensions will last until June 23rd.

        But if you go to an individual route, like the 16, the route based service alert page says the suspension will only last until June 16th.

        Metro needs to scrub their alert info and at the very minimum make sure it is self consistent.

      6. Normally Metro needs a few months’ lead time to change the schedule, and it prefers to do it in September and March. But the current schedule is melting down with unexpected changes every time you turn around. First Metro said there would be one-week suspensions, then the next week it said two, and then those unexpected 372 cancellations, so we really don’t know what service will be, and anything Metro says today will probably change next week anyway. We need something more than just flailing for the next three months. If that means advancing the September cuts to now, just do it.

      7. Pantograph says on Friday, 91% of trips showed up, 9% didn’t. What percentage of trips will the September cuts account for? In other words, let’s say currently 5% of trips are missing on average. And let’s say the Septembers cuts only account for 1% of all trips. Won’t that mean that even after the cuts, there will still be a lot of missing trips?

      8. Changing or restructuring schedules is different than dealing with current instability in routes due to a driver shortage. Is there a pool of unassigned drivers who are on standby or come into the hubs each day to cover drivers who are out sick or for other reasons? I would think there are always going to be some drivers who can’t make it in on any given day who need to be substituted for.

        First Metro stated that a driver shortage was leading to too many unanticipated cancelled trips so Metro would need to suspend the less productive routes. Made sense, except Metro stated the suspensions and changes would not be implemented until Sept. Why the wait if the unpredictability is now?

        Then Metro accelerated the suspensions to immediately, which made sense because there is too much unpredictability for riders right now. But Metro then said the suspensions would only last one or two weeks, which didn’t make sense unless a huge number of new drivers would be coming onboard in two weeks, and if that is the case why schedule the suspensions in Sept. in the first place? Suspending and then unsuspending routes hardly provides predictability for riders.

        My guess is Metro lost more drivers than expected recently so it couldn’t wait until Sept. The current suspensions will likely be permanent, but unless more drivers are found, and more current drivers retained, there will be further suspensions in Sept. Or Metro and the union can figure out a way to allocate drivers to routes at the last second because a driver is out.

        Metro may be thinking the total needed suspensions by Sept. will be large enough to qualify as a major restructure across the board, much more than 10% of routes, and the stakeholders and different areas will have to be involved, so Metro hopes to limp into Sept. with the suspensions it has outlined and then do a major restructure in Sept. with the stakeholders, probably closer to 20% — 25% of routes. But with ridership down 41% such a restructure is overdue. If this isn’t the new normal Metro can deal with that in the future as Mike notes.

      9. @DT,

        Metro needs to downsize their route structure and do it now. There is just too much instability and unpredictability in the service they are providing.

        And it has gotten so bad that Metro isn’t even able to keep their online user data up to date. Metro appears to be confusing themselves just trying to keep up with all of their own changes.

        And these little statements from Metro about how they are still delivering 95% of their service are immaterial, and, if Sam’s data from Pantograph is accurate, outright inaccurate.

        All this chaos and confusion is just going to hurt ridership, and that isn’t good.

        Time for Metro to step up.

      10. “Metro may be thinking the total needed suspensions by Sept. will be large enough to qualify as a major restructure across the board”

        Metro does have to ask the county council’s approval for significant restructures, and the September cuts may be above the threshold and require it. But Metro can ask the council for an emergency change based on unstable conditions. It’s not like the councilmebers don’t know Metro is struggling, and they’re probably getting complaints from their constituents. This is an unprecedented situation, more than just the level of last-minute and short-announced cancellations we’ve been having since 2020. If Metro has to suspend routes for a week, then come back and change that, then change it again, then clearly it’s time for the council to consider an emergency measure to change service immediately.

      11. Was taking the 131 last week, and we had the vanishing bus problem. Two different apps (OBA and google) were giving two contradictory statements, and both were wrong. Bus coming in 1 minute, then *poof*. Bus disappears from the app. Twice. 40 minutes later, we finally get one that doesn’t vanish.

        Is there any place where we can be confident in the data provided? Are the service announcements on the website real-time and accurate? Thanks!

      12. On OneBusAway, any bus that is either early or late by a nonzero amount is a real bus. A bus that is exactly zero seconds late or just a scheduled arrival is suspect.

        Note that the above is not reliable until the bus has actually left its terminal, so it won’t work if you’re getting on the bus at or very close to the first stop. But, if the bus has to drive awhile before it gets to you, this technique is extremely useful.

      13. “Is there any place where we can be confident in the data provided? Are the service announcements on the website real-time and accurate?”

        No, this is a longstanding problem. Metro and ST don’t have reliable data. So the data going to the displays and One Bus Away and the other apps is unreliable. Each app modifies the data based on its own assumptions of what usually goes wrong. That’s why two displays/apps can say different things or contradict each other. It won’t be solved until the inaccuracies in the data are fixed.

        ST is doing that right now with Link: it has the next-arrival displays on for testing so it can determine how accurate they are and what causes mismatches. Buses will be a much bigger issue, because there are exponentially more routes, they run in mixed traffic where unexpected things happen, wheelchair ramp openings delay the bus, a bus transponder may not be working, its radio signal doesn’t get through, etc.

      14. I’ve gotten caught in “Scheduled” hell several times recently. Sometimes the bus shows up; other times it doesn’t; so you never know. “Scheduled” means the app doesn’t know where the bus is.

      15. Yeah Mike I heard the new station announcements when I took Link today and saw the new electronic signage announcing anticipated train arrivals. It’s definitely better than wondering when the train will show.

        Unfortunately, they still are using the words “northbound” and “southbound”. There is no permanent rognage stating directionality. Today, a couple asked me which platform goes to the airport. The directional announcements will be hella confusing when Line 2 opens in full. At Capitol Hill, will it be “southbound to Redmond” or “eastbound to Redmond”?

      16. “any bus that is either early or late by a nonzero amount is a real bus”

        But even those sometimes don’t show up, or they vanish from the schedule when they’re about to arrive. Or sometimes it says “Now… None.. -2 minutes” as if the bus came but it didn’t. Real buses don’t wink into or out of existence like that, so it’s unclear what the data referred to.

      17. @Mike Orr,

        “Metro does have to ask the county council’s approval for significant restructures, and the September cuts may be above the threshold and require it”

        Probably, at least in normal circumstances.

        But it doesn’t really matter. Metro could achieve the same effect while keeping all (or most) of the current routes in place. Just cut back frequency to match demand.

        Most Metro buses haven’t even come close to recovering their pre-pandemic ridership. If a bus is only running at a max of 50% full, then just cut frequency in half. Problem solved, and no sign-off by the council required.

        It’s really not that hard, but for some reason Metro seems to be intent on making it hard.

      18. Thanks. Suspected as much, but good to have it confirmed. We were debating walking to the H. Should have.

      19. When Metro decided to cancel 20% of the 44 trips this weekend, there was no service advisory, Twitter post, email, or canceled trip message in the OBA or Trip Planner apps (yes, I checked all of those sources since Metro has used any/all of them at various points over the years). It seems as unpredictable as the cancellations themselves whether and how they announce the cancellations.

        Checking OBA/Trip Planner for the dreaded gray “scheduled” trip works probably 3/4 of the time, but sometimes the driver just forgets to turn on the transponder or a bus is subbed in at the last minute and has the wrong transponder setting entirely. It also doesn’t work for stops close to the beginning of a route, because a laid-over bus will show as “scheduled” for its next trip until the driver turns on the transponder.

        It would certainly help if Metro had some standard process for announcing cancellations if this has become the “new normal”.

      20. It’s not just Metro and ST. The software for this is terrible.

        I find PDXBus easier than OneBusAway, but then I use it a lot more. Cancelled trips on PDXBus still show the number of minutes but with a red X through the minutes and a cancelled note. It’s blue if it can see the bus, grey if it’s just scheduled data, and magenta if it’s running late, and red if it’s less than 5 minutes away.

        Layover points and trips to/from the garage are programmed so it can see buses that are laying over or on their way to start their trip.

        If a bus goes off route to get around construction or whatever? It vanishes from the display and can reappear just as suddenly, creating some pretty wild changes in the display.

      21. “If a bus is only running at a max of 50% full, then just cut frequency in half.”

        That defeats the purpose of having transit in the first place. If it doesn’t come when you need it, it’s not useful. If people have to schedule trips around half-hourly or hourly pulses, it means they’re wasting time and can’t accomplish as much as they could in a day. And when many people have cars or can get somebody to drive them, they won’t tolerate it and will drive instead. Then we have more cars on the road and more pollution and carless people stuck, which was the problem we were trying to solve in the first place. And for 2+-seat rides, all those waits add up, to possibly 40 minutes of waiting for a 40-minute trip. That’s what really turns people away from transit. There has to be a good minimum frequency. If we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it, but then that’s a problem that needs to be solved, not an indication that the community doesn’t deserve good transit. It’s why the US has such bad transit compared to the rest of the industrialized world.

      22. Pantograph says 1014 trips were missed on Friday. The total number of scheduled trips for the 20 routes that will be suspended in September was 191. Meaning, even after those routes are suspended, there will continue to be a lot of missed trips in the system, all other things being equal.

      23. Sam, that’s a good point about the magnitude of the current problem vs the proposed solution, but hopefully the difference is a lot smaller than it appears at first. Many of the routes to be suspended/cut back are peak-hour routes, where there’s a lot of overhead in dead-heading to make a single trip. All-day routes can spread that cost out a lot better, and a single bus+driver can make a lot more trips than with a peak route.

      24. @ Mike Orr,

        “ That defeats the purpose of having transit in the first place”

        Not really, it actually sort of preserves it.

        Look. Metro has pretty much said they don’t know how to hire and staff their way out of this problem. That only leaves two options. Cancel entire routes, or reduce frequency. There aren’t any other options if Metro can’t staff appropriately.

        So what is it? Cancel entire routes and create coverage holes? Or reduce frequency on underperforming routes and maintain coverage while spreading the pain?

        At least with reduced frequency you maintain equitable coverage while right sizing to actual demand. Some people would call that efficiency.

        But hey, it’s a big mean world out there. Time for Metro to make some hard choices, or at least figure out how to hire and staff appropriately.

      25. Not to pile on, but:

        “If it doesn’t come when you need it, it’s not useful. If people have to schedule trips around half-hourly or hourly pulses, it means they’re wasting time and can’t accomplish as much as they could in a day.”

        Mike, please don’t tell others how they should feel. I know that you didn’t intend that, but your “if people have to X it means Y” is borderline patronizing to those of us who are, in fact, quite happy to schedule our life around half hourly pulses. You don’t know how I spend my time; you don’t have any reason to assume that I’m wasting time while waiting for the bus, whether I’m home, at work, or just walking through the city. Yes, it would be more convenient to have more frequency, but as I have said a number of times, I prefer reliability over frequency. That’s a choice, not one that you make – and that’s okay! – but a choice nevertheless. My first instinct when I read your comment was that I was being gaslit – and I KNOW that that wasn’t your intention, in the slightest, but please please PLEASE think about how your tone can come across to those of us who choose to live our lives a different way. Even when that particular way does, in fact, entail organizing our life around half hour transit.

        One last bit: you do realize that much of local CT bus service is half hourly, right? You’re basically telling those of us who have ridden those buses for years that our ridership doesn’t matter, because the “real riders” don’t ride them unless they’re 10 minutes or more frequent, or whatever. If that’s the message you want us to get, so be it, but I am almost certain it is not, so please think of a way to clarify that message.

        One last bit. I didn’t want to jump in the debate about “urbanists” and ad-hominems too much, but it’s useful to think about how comments like this basically build the stereotype which was used in an earlier post.

        Thanks in advance.

      26. We’re taking about hundreds of thousands of people wasting time, and a loss to the economy and society because of it. Yes, some people might not mind, but that’s not the average case.

        Lazarus, I’m talking about ideals, what makes good transit. You’re talking about how to manage a shortage of resources. They’re two different things. Cutting frequency in half because you don’t approve of buses less than half full, is throwing a lot of people under the bus.

        Anonymouse, I don’t even understand your comment. I wasn’t talking about you or your feelings, much less telling you what you should feel. I was talking about facts. The fact that our society undervalues bus riders’ time is one of the problems of our society. That’s the third principle of Human Transit.

        1. It takes me where I want to go.
        2. It takes me when I want to go.
        3. It is a good use of my time.
        4. It is a good use of my money.
        5. It respects me in the level of safety, comfort, .amenity it provides.
        6. I can trust it.
        7. It gives me freedom to change my plans.

        Infrequent service hinders 2, 3, and 7.

        Yes, we can work around it. You do, I do. But we need to ask why it’s this way, and whether there’s a better way. Asking it is not disrespecting people who are content to work around the bus’s schedule.

      27. I guess my point is three-fold:

        1. Transit also costs money. I would rather, personally, see more money going towards building housing to get people off the streets than to increase frequency of transit.

        2. Your assertion that it violates principles 3 and 7 across the board is incorrect. That may be true for you; it’s not true for me. Yes, these are both anecdotes.

        3. (And perhaps most important) the way you said it was, no offense, dismissive towards those of us who do work with the system as it currently is without complaining.

        Here’s another example that you may consider about frequency. It would actually benefit UW bound buses to be “less frequent” but have higher capacity around class change time. I don’t know how often you’ve ridden the 372 at class change time. I have for years. What happens is that you get crushloading at class change time, a bunch of people are left behind to wait for 15 minutes, and then the next 372 conveniently shows up on time in 15 minutes to pick up the crowd. What would be more useful is to have two 372s coming 5 minutes apart so they don’t get bunched up, and then a 25-minute gap until the half-way point to the next class-change time. This would not fit your “frequency above all” principle, but it would actually work better with the way the ridership actually behaves. You see the same phenomenon with any educational system – Metro is poorly positioned to support Roosevelt HS students who also end up being left behind along NE 65th St.

        So, when you make a claim like “If people have to schedule trips around half-hourly or hourly pulses, it means they’re wasting time and can’t accomplish as much as they could in a day.” – you are not taking into account the fact that ridership is not uniformly distributed in time. In Capitol Hill perhaps it is (and I mean this genuinely from a technocratic perspective); however the whole world is not, in fact, like Capitol Hill.

        As I said, I know that what you _meant_ is not the direction in which I took your comment; but I am trying to get you to see that your comment can be misinterpreted as being much less considerate than you likely intended, towards transit users (like myself) who have different priorities, and different perspectives, on ridership than you do.

      28. @Mike Orr,

        “ I’m talking about ideals”

        Well then, there is the problem. Because this Metro problem isn’t about ideals, it’s about reality.

        The reality of the matter is that Metro simply doesn’t have enough operators to run their current route structure at its current frequency. And apparently Metro can’t hire their way out of the problem.

        So the reality of the matter is that Metro basically has two choices: 1). Delete routes, or 2) reduce frequency.

        So what is Metro to do? If they delete routes they supposedly create coverage holes and will make transit unviable for many users. But if they reduce frequency people can still get where they want to go, they just need to wait a bit longer and plan ahead a bit more.

        This is not an ideal world, this is the real world. What’s it going to be? Lower coverage? Or longer waits?

        A few notes:

        1). Frequency has nothing to do with #3 in the list (“a good use of my time”). That refers to the speed of the specific service. You can have a frequent service, but if it is incredibly slow then it is or “a good use of my time”.

        2). Relying on bus-to-bus transfers to fill coverage holes after deleting routes still violates #3 above in most cases. Bus-to-bus transfers are incredibly slow and unreliable, and tend to make the service not “a good use of my time”.

        3). Anonymouse Is fundamentally correct, reliability is incredibly important. If a user can’t count on transit to do its job when they try to use it, then that user is going to give up on transit all together.

        And that is how we got here, because Metro can’t maintain reliability with its current staffing and current service plan. The system has become to unreliable to be viable for many users. Metro has to change something. What’s it going to be?

      29. A few notes:

        1). Frequency has nothing to do with #3 in the list (“a good use of my time”). That refers to the speed of the specific service. You can have a frequent service, but if it is incredibly slow then it is or “a good use of my time”.

        That is incorrect. Frequency effects time. https://humantransit.org/basics/the-transit-ridership-recipe#frequency

        2). Relying on bus-to-bus transfers to fill coverage holes after deleting routes still violates #3 above in most cases. Bus-to-bus transfers are incredibly slow and unreliable, and tend to make the service not “a good use of my time”.

        It depends on the frequency of the buses. A transfer simply means a second waiting period. A transfer that requires a short wait period is better than a direct bus that requires a really long wait. Many trips can not be timed. It is also impossible to eliminate all transfers, which is another reason why frequency is so important (it creates a better network).

        So the reality of the matter is that Metro basically has two choices: 1). Delete routes, or 2) reduce frequency.

        So what is Metro to do? If they delete routes they supposedly create coverage holes and will make transit unviable for many users. But if they reduce frequency people can still get where they want to go, they just need to wait a bit longer and plan ahead a bit more.

        But if they reduce frequency than it becomes unviable for many users as well. Basically the trip takes too long. Not because the bus(es) are too slow, but because they aren’t frequent enough. Just as with coverage, the inflection point depends on the particular rider and their needs. In both cases, however, there are studies showing common behavior (a tipping point, if you will).

        I should also note that many routes do not have unique coverage. These are the routes that tend to be on the chopping block. For example, the 16 is very similar to the 5 — it just skips a few stops. Another example is the 64. It has a unique path, but not unique coverage. It avoids a transfer, but the transfer involves one of the most frequent lines in our system (Link).

        Sometimes decisions like this come down to a classic coverage-versus-ridership trade-off. For example, do we retain coverage for a route that has very little riders, but unique coverage? Hard to say. Other times, though, it is simply a question of which riders have to wait additional time. Cancel the 64, or reduce frequency on the 28? Either way people have to wait longer.

        From what I can tell, there is very little in the way of loss of coverage*. For example, the 15 is being cancelled, but this only covered a tiny part of Western (that the D didn’t cover). Other routes were similar, or in many cases, didn’t provide unique coverage at all. Those routes — like the 15 — made sense when the main bus was crowded, but make less sense now. If you think of this in terms of ridership versus coverage, it is largely (if not entirely) a question of where (and how much) we will lose ridership because of the loss of frequency and speed. (Speed is lost because there are fewer express service buses the 15 and 64.)

        * I haven’t looked at all of the eliminated routes, but from what I can tell, none of them have a significant amount of unique coverage. Let me know if I missed a bus (or several).

      30. Metro’s September cut does actually reduce frequency on one route, the 10. That happens to be one of my routes, which will go from 15 to 30 minutes weekends and evenings. A few peak runs are removed from the 7 and 36, but I don’t consider those reducing frequency the routes will still have 7-10 minute peak frequency, which is good, and these runs were just capacity relief. I assume Metro wouldn’t put the cuts there if there if the other runs would be overcrowded.

        So Metro doesn’t have to reduce frequency on several routes because it only has to make up 5% of service, not 50% or something.

        My main concern is that cutting frequency beyond a baseline should be a last resort.

      31. Metro is reducing frequency on quite a few routes. More than anything, this is a reduction of frequency. It gets a bit confusing, because there is also a loss of express service. But often the loss of express service also translates to a loss of frequency. For example, if you are on 15th and headed downtown, either the 15 or D will work. So without the 15, frequency on the D is reduced.

        In this case, the reduction is pretty small. In other cases I’m sure the wait is longer. For example, cancelling the now infamous 237 will hurt riders trying to get from downtown Bellevue to Totem Lake. Right now the buses that leave Bellevue after 5:00 are:

        342 — 5:08
        237 — 5:18
        342 — 5:43

        Thus the loss of the 237 creates a much bigger evening gap in service (from 25 to 35 minutes). To be fair, those buses were never timed very well (which might explain the really bad ridership numbers on the 237). Either the planners screwed up, or maybe the bus is needed for some other purpose (trying to time things can get very complicated for that reason).

        A few peak runs are removed from the 7 and 36, but I don’t consider those reducing frequency the routes will still have 7-10 minute peak frequency

        I believe it is more than that. My understanding is that the 7 is dropping to 10 minute frequency (from 7.5) all day. This is definitely a reduction in meaningful frequency, as you are nowhere near the point where it doesn’t matter (which is generally considered to be around 3 minutes*).

        * This is a somewhat complicated subject, actually. Buses (and some trains) have trouble getting below 3 minute frequency, simply because they bunch. So added frequency doesn’t do much. But when studying the subject for trains (that can be more frequent) they’ve found an increase in ridership, no matter how frequent they get. It is basically a curve, where the increase approaches, but never actually gets to zero. This makes sense, when you think of it in a greater context. For example, if Link ran trains every minute through downtown, some riders who use surface options switch to using Link. For others that tipping point is two minutes, etc. Regardless of all that, 7.5 to 10 minutes is definitely a meaningful reduction.

      32. @Ross,

        I wouldn’t put much faith in a blog post, even a blog post from Walker. Such public facing websites are not meant to inform public policy in any specific case, and are more meant for a lay audience, and often a lay audience with little or no technical background.

        That doesn’t make such information bad, or incorrect, it just means it shouldn’t be taken literally when informing specific policy.

        For example, the frequency discussion on that blog. It’s very general and more akin to a fluff piece. The part that is true is that people don’t like to wait, but shaving 5 minutes off headways isn’t going to make that much of a difference if you have a one seat ride that already lasts 50 minutes. The difference is 50 mins vs 55. Most people who have already resigned themselves to a 50 min bus commute aren’t going to switch modes because their commute is suddenly 55 mins.

        And that is another thing he glosses over – captive audiences. Unfortunately we have become a country of the haves, and the have nots. And the have nots are increasingly located in the suburbs and the rural areas. If the have nots have no other option than the bus (no drivers license, can’t afford a car, can’t afford parking, can’t afford to live close enough to walk/bike), then it doesn’t matter what frequency the bus service, they will use the bus. They are captives.

        And his correlation with ridership and frequency is fairly suspect as well, but that misses the point of this discussion.

        To get back to the actual topic here, in the real world, if Metro can’t hire their way out of this problem, and if Mike Orr is correct that major route cancelations would require the approval of the council and couldn’t be implemented until later this year, then that only leaves one option for Metro to pursue – Metro has to reduce frequency.

        How much? That is something for transit experts with real data to determine. I hope Metro still has the appropriate staff to make such determinations. If not, maybe ST could loan Metro a few of theirs (temporarily of course).

        I’m sure Jarrett Walker would agree.

      33. Lazarus, during the height of covid, when some Eastside routes were suspended, but the B Line continued to run 170+, very frequent, but mostly empty trips per day, I suggested reducing the frequency on the B Line ever so slightly, then share some of those service hours in order to restore a suspended route, like the 249, which goes by some transit-dependent, low-income housing projects that rely on the route. The comment section became so agitated and angry at the idea, I honestly believe if I had suggested the idea in person, I would have been in physical danger.

      34. I wouldn’t put much faith in a blog post, even a blog post from Walker.

        The blog post is simply a summary of information he has in his books. The books are backed up with dozens of references to studies. You can read the studies and the book or just get the gist of it by reading his blog post. None of it is contradictory. The relationship between ridership and frequency is widely accepted in the academic community, the same way that climatologists accept the basic theories behind global warming.

        And his correlation with ridership and frequency is fairly suspect as well

        No, it isn’t. Again, you can look at the various studies. It is all in there. You are refuting the general consensus on the science without a shred of counter evidence.

        The part that is true is that people don’t like to wait, but shaving 5 minutes off headways isn’t going to make that much of a difference if you have a one seat ride that already lasts 50 minutes. The difference is 50 mins vs 55. Most people who have already resigned themselves to a 50 min bus commute aren’t going to switch modes because their commute is suddenly 55 mins.

        Yes, the longer the trip, the less frequency matters. Again, there are studies to support this. It is also intuitive. A classic example is travel between cities or within a city. For example, a trip between Seattle and Portland, or a trip between Northgate and Capitol Hill. With the former, ridership does increase with frequency, but you reach a “saturation point” much quicker. For example, hourly service between the two cities would be adequate, and you gain very little as you add more trips. In contrast, hourly service on Link between Northgate and Capitol Hill would be a ridership disaster.

        And that is another thing he glosses over – captive audiences.

        That is simply not true. Walker has written quite a bit about “choice” versus “captive” riders (he isn’t fond of the terms, even though they are commonly used). For example: https://humantransit.org/2010/01/unhelpful-word-watch-captive-rider.html

        Even if this is the case — even if there are riders who will take transit no matter how bad it is — that is no excuse for making bad transit. As he puts it “I’ve always felt that the best discipline for a transit agency is to treat all of their customers as though they’ve made a free choice.”

        Metro has to reduce frequency.

        Yes, which is what this is: https://kingcountymetro.blog/2023/05/11/metro-will-adjust-schedules-on-sept-2-to-improve-trip-reliability/. This is a reduction of frequency. The coverage loss is minimal; the main savings come from running the buses less often. As I wrote, even the loss of express service is largely just a loss of frequency.

        Look, it is easy to imagine the opposite, which is a major cutback in poorly performing coverage routes. For example, the 230 and 231 both perform especially bad for all-day routes. They are way worse than buses that will see major cutbacks (like the 28). Thus it is easy seeing both being cut completely, as this would garner a fair amount of savings, with relatively few people being hurt. The problem is, these people would be hurt a lot! You create a major new coverage hole.

        Metro has chosen to make mostly frequency cuts, with a tiny amount of express-service cuts (which are also effectively frequency cuts). It will make next to nothing in the way of coverage cuts.

        Are you suggesting that they make some coverage cuts? Are you saying they should avoid express-service cuts? If so, doesn’t that run counter to what you have been saying for quite some time, which is that we shouldn’t have buses like the 320, which largely duplicate Link? Or are you just criticizing these cuts because you like to criticize Metro?

      35. Walker’s 7 principles I got directly from the book. The book he uses to market his consulting company to transit agencies.

      36. Ross,
        In addition to the times leaving Bellevue for Totem Lake are the trips on 532 and 535. This adds trips at 5:09, 5:13, 5:39 and 5:43. This reduces the gap to 21 minutes if you don’t care what color the bus is. The 532 runs more frequently in the 4:00 hour.

      37. @Mike Orr,

        “ Walker’s 7 principles I got directly from the book”

        I realize that, but my point was that there is nothing revolutionary about his principles. They are what you would get if you asked a citizen focus group what things would get them to ride transit. And they are just about as general. And that generalization makes them very hard to apply to specific policy decisions in specific circumstances like what Metro is facing now.

        Take for example that first link Ross posted on frequency. The chart shows a strong correlation of ridership (and associated economics) with frequency, right? Right!

        Except that this is a correlation, not causation. That chart is nothing more than a survey of existing systems. It says nothing about the ability of frequency to produce high ridership and improved economics. Nothing.

        And Walker alludes to that for those who care to take the time to read the details:

        “ (b) frequency tends to be deployed where it will succeed.”

        I.e., he is adding a caveat, a very big caveat. What he is saying is that in many of the frequent systems in that chart, the frequency was deployed in response to preexisting ridership demand. Essentially that the ridership resulted in the frequency, not that the frequency produced the ridership.

        This is to be expected in high ridership corridors. Agencies with high ridership potential will naturally deploy high frequency to met that demand. But the frequency is a response to demand, not the prime driver of demand. And the economics that follow are also a result of the pre-existing high ridership demand, because high ridership corridors have significantly different ridership patterns and associated economics.

        None of this is to say that Walker is wrong, he isn’t. And none of this is to say that frequency has zero effect on ridership, because clearly it does. But these effects are much more nuanced than what the believers in Frequency Above All would have us believe.

        Frequency is not a magic knob that can be turned up to solve all the world’s problems. It is not an elixir to remove all of a transit system’s warts, and in some cases it can actually be the cause of a transit system’s problems.

        That is where Metro is now. They can’t solve their current reliability problems unless they cut routes, or cut frequency. Or a combination of the two.

        What is Metro going to do?

      38. None of this is to say that Walker is wrong, he isn’t.

        Then why are you wasting your time obsessing over the idea? The reason people link to blog posts is because it is much easier than linking to studies. Others — like Walker — have done the dirty work, and have summarized things so that ordinary people (who don’t have time to read through the academic literature) can grasp the idea, which is not necessarily intuitive.

        It is like the vaccines. A lot of people simply didn’t understand the point. They thought you get a vaccine to protect yourself. There is some of that, but the main reason you get a vaccine is to slow or stop the spread of a disease. If someone doesn’t understand that, what do you do? Cite some sort of epidemiology textbook? Reference dozens of studies that all back up the same idea that has been around for decades? No. You cite some article somewhere that explains the basic idea in a way that a normal, ignorant human being can understand. (In this day and age, probably some YouTube video with animation.)

        The same thing is true with transit fundamentals. Both speed and frequency are important. Numerous studies show this. But people tend to focus only on speed. Thus there is a major disconnect between the importance of frequency, and how people view frequency. This, despite examples of when frequency is critical: shift work that starts at 8:00 sharp; picking up your kid from the neighborhood day care; medical appointment at 11:30; and of course, transfers. These are all activities in which frequency is very important. Yet people tend to ignore it. This is why books like Walker’s — aimed at the general public — are so important. It is why Walker’s blog posts — which again are geared to the general public — are so helpful.

        [Metro] can’t solve their current reliability problems unless they cut routes, or cut frequency. Or a combination of the two.

        First of all, cutting a route is meaningless without knowing what the route does. For example, there used to be long and short versions of the 73. The (short) 73 Cowen Park, and the (long) 73 Jackson Park. The short version was simply a subset of the long version, meant to add frequency on the most commonly used section (UW to downtown). Now imagine they eliminate the short version (Cowen Park) completely. This gets listed in the news as one more route being cut. But here is the critical point: This is cutting frequency. Everything else is the same.

        You are treating the elimination of routes as if they are fundamentally different than other changes. They aren’t. Back up here and look at the basics. What can be made worse is speed, frequency, coverage and extra transfers. That’s it. Every change can be assessed in that manner.

        What is Metro going to do?

        We know what they are going to do! It has been reported here and in the newspaper many times. Do you want a summary? Sure. They will mostly reduce frequency. A tiny bit of coverage is lost, and a handful of riders have a slower trip. Similarly, a few people will be forced to transfer to Link. But mostly it is a cut in frequency. Even the cancellation of routes is a loss of frequency (as mentioned). Sure, there is some loss of speed, and some riders have to transfer to Link, but the biggest hit is in frequency, simply because every change effects frequency. A good example is the 64. It has everything. With the cancellation, riders will lose frequency along the various corridors, their alternative will be slower, and some will have to transfer to Link. But the 64 runs 4 times a day (one way). In contrast, the 28 (which will just lose frequency) will lose about 30 runs.

        This is mainly a cut in frequency, which is why it will hit hard. They are preserving coverage, even for routes that carry very few riders. I’m not saying it is the wrong choice — it is tough either way — but this will definitely hurt ridership, and hurt a lot of riders.

      39. Ross,

        So, to summarize your post: “both frequency and speed are important. Metro understands that both are important. Metro also understands, also, that frequency and coverage are also both important. Metro chose to cut frequency, which is consistent with observations that frequency is “important” but a small loss of frequency in the most frequent routes will not, in itself, reduce significantly ridership in the short-to-medium turn.”

        If I understand correctly, that is pretty consistent with everything Lazarus has said in their previous post as well. Worth pointing out that you are likely closer to each other’s positions than it might seem like during the debate.

      40. @Anonymouse — Not entirely. I don’t think Metro is focused on ridership at all. I think they are focused on minimizing complaints. The reduction in frequency of the 7 and 36 is significant and will effect a lot of riders. It may result in less ridership, even though the change is temporary. But going from 7.5 to 10 minute headways is not likely to get many complaints.

        I also don’t want to minimize the pain that other frequency changes will cause some riders. The 10 will go from 15 to 30 minute frequency evenings and weekend. The 28 will be hourly throughout the day. The 255 will go from 15 minute to 30 minutes in the evening. The 345 will go from half-hour to hourly at night. The 79, 225, 230, 231 will be hourly across the board. These cuts are big (in my opinion). Some of these buses don’t carry many riders, but some do. This will definitely hurt ridership (although it will be hard to measure given the general trend — locally and throughout the country — is an increase in transit use).

        Again, I’m not saying I would do anything different. Cutting coverage routes is bound to get more complaints, because people focus on coverage (not frequency). A lot of routes (like the 28) will become largely unusable, but from a PR standpoint, it isn’t as bad as eliminating them entirely.

        @J. Reddoch — Good point. I forgot about the ST buses serving the same combination.

      41. Even if Metro wanted to cut frequency on some routes, politically, it might be unwise, because many of the most frequent routes travel through equity priority areas. Maybe when things like route frequency are discussed, the county isn’t doing transit math, they are doing equity math. That’s why the temporary June suspensions of six routes are all located to the north and east, and 75% of the twenty September suspensions are to the north and east. Equity considerations is a big part of transit these days.

      42. Instead of saying “Even if Metro wanted to cut frequency on some routes …” I should have said “Even if Metro wanted to cut even more frequency on some routes.” I know they are cutting frequency, but I think they have to be careful how much the cut on some routes, mostly for equity reasons.

      43. @Sam — I don’t think so. The 7 runs through Rainier Valley. The 36 covers Beacon Hill. From what I can tell, this is where most of the savings are coming from. They are going from 8 buses an hour to 6 buses, all day long. I don’t think equity played a part in this.

        I think they looked at several factors, but I think the aim was to minimize the number of complaints. Ridership was one consideration (fewer riders, fewer complaints). I don’t see an equity aspect to these cuts, as the really poorly performing routes just happen to be in wealthier areas. Another consideration is how harsh the changes will be. In some cases, the alternative is slower, but not that much slower. In other cases, the wait time is longer, but not that much longer. Some people have to make an extra transfer, but often it is to Link (and even then, not too many people are going to switch).

      44. Let me clarify why I said that “ridership losses will not be high in the short term”. My sense (as a layperson, not based on evidence) is that ridership is “sticky” with frequency decreases in the short term because, in particular when it comes to the high frequency routes (but, I think, in general as well), the lifestyle choices have already been made and those will not be reversed because of short-term frequency decreases.

        To make this more concrete, if someone made the decision to live in RV and go carless because the 7 runs at 7.5 minute intervals, I think that they are unlikely to go and buy a car when it temporarily drops to 10 minutes. Even with the 345 which will be hourly in the evening – one can temporarily adjust their schedule for some things, like stay out a little later or leave a little earlier from social events, etc. Obviously, some people may choose to drive instead – but I think that it is unlikely that people will fundamentally rework their lives (get a car where they did not have one, move) based on short-term schedule adjustments. Some of this is from personal experience, I guess, though it’s mostly intuition as the routes I have been riding have generally been stable schedule-wise over the years.

        Having said that, if the changes are longer term or the instability is perpetuated, then yes, I believe that we will start to see more of those lifestyle changes take place.

      45. @ Anonymouse,

        ‘Let me clarify why I said that “ridership losses will not be high in the short term”.’

        You are correct. Small, short term reductions in frequency are not going to drive any significant reductions in ridership. Ridership is not so strong a function of frequency that small changes in frequency will generate large changes in ridership. And, as you say, once people bake in certain lifestyle choices they tend to stick with them. Their use of transit tends to become “sticky”.

        Thanks for making that point.

        That said, unreliable transit can turn riders off of transit, and do it fast. And that is why Metro’s approach to this problem is so problematic, because they are not making changes to frequency in the traditional meaning.

        At least according to their on-line info, Metro is still just canceling specific trips from the affected routes. This is not a change in frequency in the traditional sense, and it certainly doesn’t help the rider standing on the curb waiting for a bus and holding a paper schedule. Metro is effectively creating schedule gaps and not changing the base frequency.

        And, to make matters worse, Metro still hasn’t scrubbed their online info to produce consistent and accurate info. They are still showing the suspensions as only lasting a week, they are still showing schedule info (with cancelations!) for rotes that are suspended, and they are still presenting schedule info without route cancelations for routes that actually do have cancellations.

        Metro needs to scrub their online info first. They need to present clear and accurate information to the rider. Not doing so will only lead to more confusion and frustration, and larger ridership losses.

        After that Metro needs a better approach. A better approach might be to take resource intensive routes like a few of the RR lines and simply reduce the base frequency by an appropriate amount. Metro should have the data to know which RR lines are not operating at capacity and therefore have room for a frequency reduction.

        Why does Metro seem intent on blowing holes in published schedules instead of reducing base frequencies?

        I would *guess* it is because Metro is still overly reliant on paper schedules and doesn’t want to incur the expense of reprinting them. But that is why focusing on a few, high resource routes like RR makes sense. Because you would only need to reprint schedules for those few routes, and the resources freed up would be larger than from making similar changes to the less resource intensive routes.

        But I’m not holding my breath.

      46. I don’t think that unannounced gaps in the schedule will cause people to stop riding any more than reducing frequency will, again (emphasizing) __in the short term__, because of the stickiness factor.

        What I think they will, however, is more readily reduce trust in the system, and that reduced trust can cause changes in long term behavior.

        As someone who is mostly transit dependent, if I felt that transit were unreliable, that choice would involve moving closer to my primary destination so that I may walk instead of riding daily, and still ride transit the rest of the time. However, for someone who owns a vehicle, that would likely change in favor of driving more often, and moving to a location which allows for that to happen more painlessly, even if it comes at the cost of losing transit access for other trips. And the latter category of people (those who are not transit dependent) is much higher, in the US, I believe.

        So, overall, I agree with Lazarus’ point that the unscheduled trip gaps are a bigger problem than just reducing frequency.

      47. @ Anonymouse,

        “ So, overall, I agree with Lazarus’ point that the unscheduled trip gaps are a bigger problem than just reducing frequency.”


        But I do think Metro could do themselves a really big favor by cleaning up their public facing online info.

        It’s aggravating enough to have Metro cancel the trip you normally rely on, but it is much much worse to have them publish confusing and inaccurate info AND THEN cancel your trip and catch you off-guard.

        It’s trust destroying.

      48. And I do agree a reliable schedule is more urgent than frequency. I’m just chronically frustrated we set our sights so low on frequency.

      49. it certainly doesn’t help the rider standing on the curb waiting for a bus and holding a paper schedule

        First off, I doubt there are many riders doing this. I’ve been called a Luddite by my friends for my aversion to using a smart phone, but even I haven’t used a paper schedule in years.

        Second, you are calling for changes that will make those schedules obsolete anyway. Standing on the corner with an outdated paper schedule (as opposed to the brand new one, published just this week) doesn’t really make things better.

        There is a huge difference between a bus that is spontaneously cancelled, versus one that is cancelled ahead of time. It is basically what you have been arguing this whole time! Better to cancel way too many buses with advanced notice, than see a bus cancelled at the last minute. I get that. Now you are saying we shouldn’t reduce frequency, because information that someone holds will be out of date? Seriously?

        Look, no matter what, a lot of information that people assume to be true no longer is. That is the nature of these changes. People who were used to taking a particular bus at a particular time will have to adjust. There is just no way around it. The idea that we should wait until we can publish new paper schedules is fine, and is basically what they are doing in September. The agency is used to making those changes then. They are used to presenting the information about those changes then. Are you arguing that we should do them now? If so, doesn’t that make the information gap worse, not better?

  8. Are we sure those people hanging around outside the Metro garage are homeless?

    They could be TriMet managers in disguise handing out the TriMet $1,500 cash contract bonuses for drivers agreeing to come to Portland and work for them…
    Look for suspicious suitcases of $20 bills…

  9. https://www.theurbanist.org/2023/06/12/woodinvilles-mayor-wants-you-to-know-hes-not-a-nimby/

    Since both housing improvements and the “NIMBY” definition regularly come up on this blog, it’s worth (and informative) to read the Urbanist summary of the discussion with the mayor of Woodinville.

    One topic that some people bring up here is that of utilities expansion; that is, to me, the most informative aspect of the interview, but I am definitely curious to see what others think as well.

  10. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/other/california-s-3-1-billion-transit-bailout-forces-trade-offs/ar-AA1cst41?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=d29e861a47c241908f7ba0e96b3b9cec&ei=22

    “California lawmakers agreed to provide billions of dollars to the state’s ailing mass transit systems as agencies face continued ridership losses and the expiration of federal pandemic-era subsidies.

    “The package worth more than $3.1 billion offers new operating subsidies and infrastructure dollars intended to help prevent severe service cuts that would further hamper the recovery of cities throughout the state.

    “Newsom has yet to comment on the agreement announced by both houses of the state legislature in a budget bill late released Sunday night. The legislature and the governor face a June 15 deadline to agree on a budget, although negotiations on public transit can continue later in the year.

    “But the legislative package sets up painful trade-offs for California’s transit agencies, which have asked for $5.15 billion in new taxpayer dollars, while they seek more reliable funding in the coming years through local ballot measures.

    “This plan offers a temporary lifeline that will delay draconian service cuts and provide valuable time to identify more cost-saving measures in operations and explore new sources of revenue,” said Jim Wunderman chief executive officer of the Bay Area Council in a statement.

    “California transit agencies will be forced to choose between using money for long-term transportation and bus infrastructure or to keep their buses and trains running in the short-term.

    “Wiener said Bay Area transit agencies are reluctant to spend capital dollars on transit operations because they would lose out on matching federal grants that received a big boost from President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill.”

    My guess is Newsom will go along with these deal.

    I believe ST will be faced with this same dilemma because its farebox recovery won’t match rising future O&M costs, although ST is a much newer system. Whenever transit agencies are faced with O&M shortfalls the most likely place to skimp is in the replacement fund, hoping for a state or federal bailout.

    1. As I’ve explained many times, BART is budgeted for a much higher farebox recovery ratio than other systems in California. With a drop in ridership, BART is in a much more serious budget problem because of this. Systems like OCTA, VTA and AC Transit as well as small systems rely much less of their fares.


      1. I can’t speak for any of the systems you listed, however one thing I would caution about the Wikipedia link is that it is very important to note the year when the information was captured. I state this because the TTC, for example, is listed at only 26% recovery rate – but this is in 2021, at the height of the pandemic slowdown. If you read the link from which that number was obtained you can find out that two years earlier (in 2019) the TTC farebox recovery rate was 65%, which is much more in line with what they were doing for years prior to that (as I recall, it was bouncing around the 65-70% rate for decades).

      2. Oh I agree that the year in the research is problematic , Anonymouse. I included it mainly as a qualitative indicator that some systems rely on fares to cover expenses more than others in California.

        There are data for pre-pandemic years here, but it feels like it’s pretty stale given the current transit loss of ridership.


        We won’t know 2022 data until later, and frankly 2033 data or even 2024 data will provide a better comparison source when it’s finally available. While the pandemic is recently declared no longer a crisis (vaccines, treatments) it’s only now that employers are forcing workers to go back into offices regularly.

        I guess someone could play with the NTDB and generate data by year — but because the results are either within the pandemic or before, it’s certainly not informative to what is a reasonable farebox recovery.

      3. Anon, since BART has been making such a large portion of the operating expenses from the farebox, when the farebox drops the drop represents a much larger drop in the percentage of total revenues coming in.

        If an agency gets 60% of its revenue from fares, a thirty percent drop in fares means that it has lost 18% of its total revenues. If it was getting 20% of total revenues from fares, a similar drop of 30% in fare revenues means that it has only lost 6% of total revenues.

        While relying on tax revenues may be a bit unseemly and embarrassing, it is much more reliable.

      4. Tom,

        Right, I agree with what you indicated (the predictability of the funding stream), though of course tax-based systems are also susceptible to economic changes (we saw that with Metro in the Great Recession).

        My point was different, though – when comparing BART (which, as you note, is more reliant on farebox recovery rate than many systems) with others, it is important to note that pre-pandemic other systems looked more like BART than that Wikipedia article shows. I gave an example of TTC which also had high 60s farebox recovery rate; I am sure that there are others. So it is interesting to see which systems have been reliant “despite” the pandemic, but also worth not going too far in making predictions about the future farebox recovery rates as the pandemic effects are still there in many places.

      1. @Glenn,

        Maybe I don’t understand Portland’s organizational structure, or terminology, but where does the Streetcar appear in those charts? Or does it even?

      2. It looks to me like it doesn’t include the streetcars. TriMet operates the streetcars, but Portland owns them, so that may explain why they didn’t put it on the charts. Here is a chart, and like the buses and Max, ridership continues to grow: https://portlandstreetcar.org/about-us/ridership-performance. Note: Ridership on the streetcar is listed daily, while ridership on the TriMet page is listed weekly. To put it in weekday terms:

        Streetcars: 8,000
        Max: 80,000
        Buses: 150,000

        Oh, and less than 1,000 daily riders on WES (the commuter rail).

        The “Efficiency” or cost per boarding is interesting. Max and the buses are about the same, which is different than the pandemic. This makes sense, as the train costs a lot more to run, but can carry a lot more people. As overall ridership continues to increase, I expect both numbers to continue to get better, but the ones for Max to eventually exceed the buses. The more frequent buses perform better than infrequent buses, which is typical for any system, any time. The cost per boarding for the rarely used commuter rail is extremely high, but again not surprising given the low ridership (and high cost of operating commuter rail). The paratransit service is expensive, but again, typical in any system.

      3. “The “Efficiency” or cost per boarding is interesting. Max and the buses are about the same,”

        It’s an oddity with TriMet ridership. Cost per boarding is about the same between bus and MAX, but cost per passenger mile is much less for MAX. In other words, MAX gets used for much longer trips.

        TriMet does report the streetcar on some data sheets, but the streetcar is mostly a city of Portland operation and even has a separate operating grant from the federal government. The city contracts with TriMet for certain heavy maintenance and the operators.

        City of Portland:


      4. TriMet might do the reporting, but the streetcar and the arial team are listed separately for City of Portland as they are the owner of those. The links to the two NTD data sheets are above.

      5. Thanks for the info, Glenn.
        I guess the footnotes for reporter 00058, city of Portland, are pretty important to read:

        ¹Includes data for a contract with another reporter.
        *This agency has a purchased transportation relationship in which they buy service from Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (NTDID: 00008), and in which the data are captured in this report for mode SR/PT.
        *This agency has a purchased transportation relationship in which they buy service from Doppelmayr (NTDID: Entity that Does Not Report to NTD), and in which the data are captured in this report for mode TR/PT.

        Frankly I wish APTA would segregate the ridership data for the two modes.

  11. In searching for recent videos of dt Redmond or Bellevue station areas, I came across this video from a month ago on the ST Express 545 somewhere in Redmond. A passenger filmed another passenger smoking something out of foil on the bus. The smoker became angry she was being filmed, so she took out her hatchet. A little later, the man who was filming her took out his own hatchet.


      1. Lol. You’re on a roll now, Cam! Loved that reply comment you made recently, on the previous open thread I believe, about changing the money into singles for the next “Thunder from Down Under” show. I was in stitches after reading that one. :)

        Keep it up!

    1. I think the person filming “dis-hatcheted” the smoker. The hatchet waving at the end looks exactly like the same hatchet as the one she pulled out of her bag earlier.

      Q: What’s the probability that two people on a bus who get into a confrontation each has the same oddball hatchet?

      A: Really, really, really, really, really, really small.

      1. I think you are right! Good catch. I never noticed that. There is no way two people on a bus, who aren’t together, both have white hatchets.

      2. https://www.soundtransit.org/ride-with-us/routes-schedules/545?direction=0&at=1686639600000&view=table&route_tab=schedule&stops_0=1_21765%2C1_81755&stops_1=1_81755%2C1_21850

        The 545 serves many Seattle stops, including 6th Ave. S and Royal Brougham S. where Metro can’t get homeless drug addicts off Metro buses at the end of shifts. In fact, over half the stops are in Seattle, in areas where drug use is pretty rampant.

        Eastside ridership on the 545 is down significantly post pandemic, and the bus looks empty. The woman on the bus doesn’t look like Sammamish/Redmond/Kirkland/Bear Creek folks to me. The person filming the woman can’t be seen, but good for him.

        This is a HUGE concern on the eastside. East Link that we won’t use returns dirty trains from Seattle to the eastside, or due to lack of fare enforcement becomes roaming drug and homeless hotels.

        What I don’t quite understand is where do these folks get the fare for a ST express bus to and fro. That is $6.50 to go from Seattle to Bear Creek and back to Seattle. ST promised the eastside the high fare for East Link and strict fare enforcement would prevent the worst elements of Seattle coming to the eastside, but we don’t see any fare enforcement today, and this woman may be the future.

        Which is why eastsiders are so agnostic about the delays in opening East Link. We see very little benefit from East Link for us, certainly over the buses, but worry the lack of fare enforcement on East Link or lack of secure stations will migrate Seattle’s issues to the eastside, like fentanyl addicts with a hatchet in their purse, which suggests this woman lives in an area or on the street where a hatchet is needed for self-defense, although the Seattle Council just voted to not adopt or enforce the state’s new drug possession laws. As long as it stays in Seattle Seattle can do whatever it wants, but when it migrates to the eastside that is something different.

      3. According to the death rate by county:
        The worst place in Washington for overdose deaths is Mason County.

        Does she look like someone from Mason County rather than east King? It’s not difficult (time consuming, but not difficult) to get from there to Redmond by bus.

        According to the Redmond, Washington city page, King County purchased the Redmond Silver Cloud Hotel to serve as a Health through Housing facility, which may be why Redmond has such a low homeless population: they’re actually doing something by providing homeless people housing.

      4. Actually Glenn, the Silver Cloud Hotel in a lower income neighborhood on the border of Redmond and Bellevue was repurposed to house Ukrainian refugees. https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/redmond-hotel-refugees/281-61d6b6cc-d39d-4aa2-a06b-32f4b064b81c

        The neighborhood residents objected to siting a low barrier shelter in The Silver Cloud Hotel in their neighborhood because it already had a disproportionate amount of affordable housing. They were concerned the low barrier shelter would result in drug use on the street and on buses, and people carrying hatchets on buses. My guess is Constantine chose The Silver Cloud Hotel to house Ukrainian refugees because of the neighborhood objection to a low barrier shelter, and some incidents that occurred after the shelter opened.

        By all accounts, the surrounding neighborhood is very happy with and supportive of the Ukrainian refugees, and the refugees have been great neighbors.

        I don’t think the low number of homeless in Redmond has much to do with The Silver Cloud Hotel. If that were the case, the argument could be made the high number of homeless in Seattle or other cities is due to those cities providing inadequate shelter or services compared to Redmond, and I don’t think that is accurate.

      5. The reason why Redmond (and every other Eastside city) has relatively low homelessness is they have the luxury of being able to load them on a bus and say “you’re Seattle’s problem now”. They also severely restrict services for the homeless to make sure that when they’re sent across the lake, they don’t come back.

        Meanwhile, Seattle can’t do the same thing because they’re too compassionate to turn people away, and no other city will take Seattle’s homeless population anyway.

        It’s a big win for Eastside politicians because they get to “solve” their homeless problem for cheap while also having a boogeyman across the lake to bash to boost their own political prospects. But really, expecting Seattle to absorb all the impacts of homelessness and may for the full cost of services, for the entire region, almost entirely by itself, is unfair. The fair way to do it is to distribute the homeless and services in proportion to each city’s population, but of course, the non Seattle cities would never go for that, they like it very much the way it is.

      6. The homeless should be sent to suburban Eastside cities, sorta like Florida and Texas sends immigrants to other states?

      7. “The 545 serves many Seattle stops, including 6th Ave. S and Royal Brougham S. where Metro can’t get homeless drug addicts off Metro buses at the end of shifts. In fact, over half the stops are in Seattle, in areas where drug use is pretty rampant.”

        That isn’t happening on the 550, so why should it happen on the 545? I ride the 550 at different times between late morning and the last run at night, and I’ve never seen homeless-looking people or drug users on it. I get off at the last stop in Seattle and the second-last stop in Bellevue, so I’d see anyone sleeping who can’t wake up, and there aren’t any. I’ve commented about fentalyl users at Bellevue Transit Center, but they don’t get on the bus. Just one time there was a man who got on with alcohol and refused to get off. One time out of twenty-five years.

      8. “Metro can’t get homeless drug addicts off Metro buses at the end of shifts”

        Sam said he heard his brother’s cousin’s aunt’s daughter-in-law had a neighbor who said she saw it on TV, but we haven’t gotten confirmation on it yet. Sam was going to do investigative reporting late at night but hasn’t reported yet.

      9. ““Metro can’t get homeless drug addicts off Metro buses at the end of shifts”

        “Sam said he heard his brother’s cousin’s aunt’s daughter-in-law had a neighbor who said she saw it on TV, but we haven’t gotten confirmation on it yet. Sam was going to do investigative reporting late at night but hasn’t reported yet.”

        Mike, did you not read Jimmy James’ eyewitness accounts? Or are you calling him a liar, and Sam too.

      10. Mike, check Open Thread 9, June 11, 2023, at 1:30 PM for confirmation of the rumor from commenter Jimmy James. He doesn’t just say “I confirm it.” He goes into a bit of detail of what actually occurs.

  12. Multifamily directly across (to the north) from Bel-Red/130th station. The structure is mostly complete, but the website it will be ready in a year.


    Multifamily across the street to the west from Bel-Red/130th station. It’s now a giant hole in the ground, but there’s a lot of activity at the site. It’s supposed to be ready in two years.


    PS, Julie Timm, I understand you are a big fan of mine. I don’t know what to say other than I’m flattered. Anyway, what do you think about my idea of mothballing East Main station until the area around it comes into its own a little more?

    1. Correction, the first apt is kitty corner nw of the station, and the second apt is next door to the south.

    2. What would be the point of mothballing east Main st. Station? It’s done. The trains will be going by there anyway. No reason not to let the trains stop to load and unload passengers.

      Also, as I have mentioned before East Main Street station is within walking distance of some big buildings in downtown Bellevue and, coming from Seattle, saves a couple minutes on the train compared to 6th st. Station. Also, east main St. Station is the connection point for route 240 riders coming from Newcastle to Seattle. I have wished several times Metro would send the 240 to South Bellevue park and ride for a more direct connection to Seattle, But using East Main is still better than sitting on the bus while it fights traffic in downtown Bellevue and switching at 6th st.

      Now, admittedly, the usefulness of east main st. Station diminishes greatly if you’re just talking about a starter line that ends at Mercer Island. But, nevertheless, the marginal cost of opening the station once the trains are running is so tiny, there is still no reason not to just do it. Maybe somebody staying at the Hilton across the street will ride it to Microsoft. Who knows?

      1. Yeah that comment left me confused, asdf2.

        East Main is certainly newt more things than 130th is. Plus it looks like a great drop off spot for anyone coming from the Lake Hills connector. It’s actually an easy walk from there to Target, PCC and Dave and Busters on 116th.

      2. The starter line won’t include MI. S. Bellevue to Overlake.

        With that said I agree might as well stop at East Main. Few will board or get off there but it’s built. Not unlike MI. Or the rest of the stations along a starter line that are based on crazy dreams of TOD. The station never made sense and was a last minute replacement for Bellevue Way. Like the rest along this route through “The Spring Dist.”

        Ordinarily I would say a starter East Link line won’t open. Who is that stupid, right? I am not sure East Link will even run across the bridge and I have followed this issue very carefully since 2015. But then I think spending $350 million on Sounder garages is unwise when Sounder ridership is plummeting, and think DSTT2 and WSBLE are a waste of money. And 130th at the new cost as well.

        Something I worried about and Tacomee has raised is happening: the region is locked into an incredibly expensive light rail system in a very undense region with declining ridership and de-urbanization while our regional bus systems are dying from within. I think the issue is deeper than a driver shortage.

        I guess if you live within walking distance of a Link station and your destination is within walking distance of a station you will be ok, although you probably live next to a freeway, until O&M costs exceed O&M revenue that happens to every single rail system in the U.S. Or you drive a car or use Uber that have no wait and no first/last mile access.

        Whoopee. I live in E KC. Can’t wait for a station along E Main on a starter line that starts at S Bellevue and will take me to Overlake. Reminds me of Paris. Or East Paris.

  13. “they [eastside cities, apparently all of them] have the luxury of being able to load them on a bus and say “you’re Seattle’s problem now”.

    Actually, eastside cities have never placed a homeless person “on a bus” to Seattle, and I challenge asdf2 to cite one public example of this. All eastside homeless persons are taken to eastside shelters, that are run mostly by ARCH, the eastside organization for homelessness and affordable housing. https://www.archhousing.org/ Asdf2 does not know what he is talking about.

    “They also severely restrict services for the homeless to make sure that when they’re sent across the lake, they don’t come back.”

    This statement is untrue as well. As noted in the ARCH website eastside cities have dramatically improved services and funding for the homeless on the eastside, and of course are major funding sources for regional homeless agencies, that unfortunately are in disarray and have squandered millions of dollars. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/whats-going-on-with-the-regional-homelessness-authority/

    There is a split on housing the homeless. Seattle has gone to a shelter first approach, without any mandates for sobriety or mental health treatment, let alone work, while the eastside still believes in the traditional shelter migration paradigm: cot/mat, enhanced room with sobriety, affordable housing with work, non-affordable housing. The eastside does not believe giving any homeless person a free apartment forever whether they try to get sober or not, or work or not, is the best approach for the person, or is affordable in the long run.

    “Seattle can’t do the same thing because they’re too compassionate to turn people away, and no other city will take Seattle’s homeless population anyway.”

    Compassion has nothing to do with it and compassion does not house anyone, and if anything is one of Seattle’s problems, especially when it comes to drug use and addiction, something Harrell hopes to address. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/mayor-harrell-forms-workgroup-to-tackle-public-drug-use/ Too often compassion means feckless self-virtue, or the homeless industrial complex that mainly benefits those who staff it. The issue is housing, and solving the problems that caused the homelessness in the first place, without rose colored glasses.

    “But really, expecting Seattle to absorb all the impacts of homelessness and may for the full cost of services, for the entire region, almost entirely by itself, is unfair.”

    Again this statement is ridiculous. The entire region spends $1 billion/year on housing and homelessness, from Everett to Burien to Tacoma to Redmond to Kent. The idea that Seattle is some beacon of morality and the Sister Theresa of homelessness for the entire region is false. Seattle has been the most tolerant of public drug use and addiction, and camping on streets or in parks, which Harrell was elected to fix, which is why the homeless migrated to SEATTLE STREETS, and homelessness is so much more visible in Seattle. Allowing addicted people to live in tents on the street and in homeless camps is not some kind of success when it comes to homelessness. Just the opposite.

    “The fair way to do it is to distribute the homeless and services in proportion to each city’s population, but of course, the non Seattle cities would never go for that, they like it very much the way it is.”

    This is true, and is what is happening, especially with funding, except because of wealth eastside cities pay a disproportionate share. But Seattle is a draw for homeless because of tolerant drug policies and camping in public. The frustration on the eastside with Seattle is Seattle’s policies create and draw homelessness, and allow it on streets and in public, and not surprisingly eastside cities object to county hotels being turned into no barrier shelters when treatment, funding for local police and medical services, and addiction and mental health treatment, are never provided. One of the ironies of The Silver Cloud Hotel was many homeless tenants left because it was too difficult to find drugs on the eastside.

    There is no doubt large cities attract more homeless, but Seattle does not do itself any favors with its tolerant policies on crime, drugs, and camping in public, and IMO the housing first approach without any requirement for sobriety or treatment or work is not good for the homeless person, the persons they live with, and in the long run is not affordable unless the region is going to give a free apartment forever to every homeless person to live alone in based on taxes paid by the working poor who don’t get any housing subsidies. Seattle has the 18th largest population in the U.S. among cities and the 3rd highest number of homeless. Portland (which just banned daytime encampments), San Francisco, and LA like Seattle all have disproportionate homeless populations because their polices allow it, and the underlying reasons for the homelessness.

    If self-virtue could house someone then Seattle would not have a homeless problem.

    1. Some of the problems with shelters is that they don’t often have safe places to hold belongings while sleeping. Some people are not really crazy about being proselytised to get food and shelter at some of these shelters. It can feel difficult to find help or the right services. I’d also add that since the 80s we’ve disinvested into mental health in the US when we reformed mental care during the Carter administration with local community care centers and then Raegan proceeded to not put a cent into said reforms. Which has exacerbated the problem more than anything.

      There’s also the fact that there exists short tern and chronic homelessness. Short term is often unseen and is usually resolved in a couple weeks to a couple or few months. Whereas chronic homelessness is long term and the one people have heated opinions about how to address as it’s the more visually appearant that we see of the two.

      The problem about Seattle is less “Seattle is sitting it’s hands on the problem and does not care about it.” But rather there exist two ideological extremes to addressing homelessness that are often combating with each other and want to wring each other’s throats for what the other wants to do. There’s the people who take a care and compassion approach and want to see criminality of homelessness dealt with in a different fashion than police crackdowns and sweeps & the people who want to eradicate and criminalize the homeless into jail or prison for the sake of being homeless.
      And everyone who isn’t part of either ideological camp is mentally spent on trying to reason with either group, as they know they won’t budge or concede on their views to compromise. And that just well leaves everyone who isn’t part of either camp annoyed and unhappy at the whole ordeal.

  14. I already mentioned this a couple of days ago, but here’s a better article on the July 8th opening of the Totem Lake Connector Bridge.

    The opening “will conclude with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will include performances from the Lake Washington High School Dance Team and from local musicians. Food trucks, a LEGO model of the bridge, and a petting zoo also will be on site.” A petting zoo? For the opening of a pedestrian bridge?


    1. The article lacks some context.

      The bridge is helping connect Eastrail trail. There’s also more bridges being built on NE 8th street, I405 and others to connect up the bike trail

  15. [I’m moving some comments to new threads, because the particular thread is really long, and beginning to separate into sub-threads.]

    I just don’t see how defending low pay and bad working conditions for drivers is supporting transit.

    No one is defending low pay. But the fact is, until recently, driving a bus was considered a relatively well paying job (for the skill level). These are union jobs, in a country with very few union jobs. Of course they were better paid than average. This was the case for a long time.

    But now things have changed. Now there is a driver shortage. It is not just city bus drivers, it is school bus drivers. It is truck drivers. Again, truck drivers have a very powerful union, and yet there are shortages. This is not common.

    There are a number of reasons, and they are complicated. First, there are general economic trends. Unemployment is as low as it has ever been. Thus non-union jobs that paid crap for decades are now in demand, and relatively high paying.

    Income and wealth stratification has played a part. This increased dramatically with the Reagan revolution, and the subsequent loss of union jobs. This continues. There has been a huge increase in the number of “gig” jobs — short term, temporary jobs that are attractive to many workers. Often these jobs have little long term benefits. But for many workers, this doesn’t matter. If you are just scraping by, you want cash, not a pension. Thus income stratification has played a big part in the attractiveness of these sorts of jobs. But that’s not all. There are a lot of relatively wealthy people who will pay drivers to pick up their groceries, their take-out, or drive them somewhere. Fundamentally, this is nothing new, it is just that it is happening far more often, as a significant amount of the wealth has spread upward.

    Then, of course, you have the involvement of software. Amazon is not fundamentally different than ordering from the Sears Roebuck Catalog, or the Wells Fargo Wagon a-comin’ down the street. It is just a lot easier. The friction (if you will) for all of these jobs and the customer has been removed. There is a much bigger demand for drivers as a result. Every type of driver.

    As a result, a job that would have been considered well paying (again, for the skill set) just a few years ago, simply isn’t. At best it can be considered a good long term job, but many workers aren’t looking at the long term. Many would rather skip paying their Social Security taxes, even though it will bite them in the ass down the road. Again, this is a sensible approach, when you are broke (or damn near it).

    Unions focus on the interests of their members, especially those that have worked there a long time. As a result, they often negotiate for benefits (like good health insurance or pensions) over starting salary. Often this work well for both parties. Public agencies often kick the can down the road with pensions, creating unfunded liabilities. Even when they act responsibly, it can behoove them to provide public service workers with good long term benefits (to increase retention). It isn’t just pensions, either. The relatively good public health care system (essentially Washington State Obamacare) makes a superior health care plan less attractive.

    This is a national problem, not a local one. There may be particular issues (e. g. the cannabis testing or work environment). It is possible that the economy will change. Quite likely though, the only way out of this problem is to pay the drivers more. Maybe it means paying part time workers more, or paying them more on a short term basis, but it means paying them more. I don’t see any other way out of it.

    1. While I agree with almost everything you said, it’s worth calling out that there are a number of other aspects which come into play as well. One is the relative perception of increased “job difficulty”, for lack of a better term – having to deal with charged situations related to masking (or lack thereof), drug usage among the ridership (even a small percentage of which can be highly disruptive), etc. Another is the perceived reduction in prestige of the job (I included links to studies supporting this in a previous post). A third, potentially, is the perception of such jobs being less conducive to a career due to being at risk of automation (GPT is all the rage for automation of white collar jobs this year, but it should be easy to remember how popular the idea that self-driving vehicles will catch on very quickly, thus eliminating driving as a profession). A fourth, as some on the blog may point out, is the potential increase in attrition due to perceived health hazards (noting this as a separate item from the first one in my list as I think of it as a physical health hazard, not emotional risk, but they are related).

      All of these things complicate the situation in ways which potentially compound the need for additional fiscal support, rather than alleviate it.

      1. I think those are all good points. I think many can be addressed with better PR. Management should work with the union in this regard. For example, theoretically, any job can be replaced by automation. If I’m a worker, I would much rather be in a union job though. The union could train some workers to change jobs, work as fare enforcers, buy-out older employees, etc. If you aren’t in a union, you just get fired.

    2. The majority of boomers reached retirement age last year. There will be a low-period of working-age adults until the zoomers’ children enter the workforce in the 2050s. Unless we ramp up immigration like Canada.

      1. Oh yeah, immigration. That is another reason for the shortage. Immigration went way down during the great recession. Then just as we were pulling it out it, Trump got elected, and then the pandemic.

    3. If you ask a driver why Metro is understaffed, they will probably say one of these things: 1, Because a bunch of drivers were fired over the vaccine mandate. 2, Because many drivers took a voluntary separation package. 3, A lot of drivers are either on long-term leave, long-term disability, or take a lot of sick leave.

    4. I think you’re right, but I don’t like it. On a previous open thread, I asked about Metro’s cost per service hour over time. Turns out, it’s going up faster than inflation. Now, sales tax revenue has also presumably been growing with time as the county population increased, but a larger population also means more traffic, which means the same service frequency for a bus route now costs more service hours than it did before.

      In a vacuum, costs increasing at a rate faster than growth in sales tax receipts means either slow, gradual declines on service, or ever increasing tax rates to fund the same level of service, neither of which are good outcomes. So far, I don’t think service is actually worse per say than it was 15 years ago, but that’s largely because we’ve leveraged Link and implemented service restructures to make the bus network more efficient, while simultaneously minimizing the “stuck in traffic” factor by adding lots of red paint bus lanes. The greater emphasis in recent years on all day service as opposed to rush hour service has also helped.

      But, in the long run, an ever increasing cost per service hour will end up swallowing the benefits of all of the above unless it can somehow be brought under control.

  16. [Moving another sub-topic into a new thread.]

    IMO driverless technology will roll out slowly, mostly fixed routes at mostly low speeds

    I disagree. Everything I’ve read suggests they will start with freeway truck driving. Last mile delivery would still be done by human beings though. Freeway driving is way simpler, even though the danger is much higher.

    Likewise, automating Link (as Lazarus mentioned) is quite plausible. The savings would not be huge, but it avoids one of the problems with having a really long line. I don’t know much about implementing automation after the fact, but my understanding is that it isn’t cheap. You are much better off if you design it that way from the beginning.

    My guess is it will take a while before we automate the buses, or see widespread use of automated cars. It is just taking a lot longer than a lot of people predicted. I don’t think switching over is trivial. You need lots of different sensors and cameras. You probably end up with a huge crew at a central base, monitoring everything. Then you have another crew ready to spring into action if the bus gets “stuck”. It is a big transition, not a simple switch. It won’t be quick, and it is highly unlikely we will be the first agency to transition.

  17. Going back to the tradeoff of parking garages vs. feeders…there is also a 3rd option, which is to create a new express bus route connecting downtown Seattle to a new park and ride a few miles from the old one, absorbing some of the demand. Since we’re talking about a one-seat ride all the way to downtown, there is no feeder issue. In other words, routes like the 162.

    This option is cheaper capital-wise compared to the “expand the parking garage” option, but it is very expensive service-wise because you have to run all these new buses all the way down. At a minimum, we’re talking far more expensive to run at a given frequency than the feeder bus approach. Nevertheless, when the trunk service to downtown is already bus-based, this often becomes the most cost effective option since, once the buses are full, accommodating additional demand requires running more buses downtown anyway, so you may as well run them from a parking lot in a slightly different location to avoid need that capital expense of building parking garages. But, when the trunk service to downtown is a train with lots spare capacity, now the “3rd option” involves duplicating the train with bus simply over parking issues, and is quite likely actually more expensive in the long run than simply building the bigger parking garage.

    In a world with driver shortages, this “3rd option” I think should definitely be off the table, but I’m mentioning it anyway for completeness sake, as it is a solution that allows more people to drive to a one-seat ride, but with smaller surface lots rather than large parking garages.

    1. Sounder exists, provides 20-minute headway, is faster and more reliable than bus, and has plenty of capacity. The one-way peak-only routes are a terrible way to use scarce hours, buses, and operators. The fall 2020 changes were seven years after the Sounder service improvements.

  18. As it has been presented, the service cutbacks are driven more by a lack of drivers than a lack of money. All the chatter about how to cut is complex because different driver shifts may affect routes in odd ways — particularly if a driver shift runs on one route then becomes another route.

    If the issue is budget, then the solution is to reduce hours or increase fares. But if the solution is to get more drivers, the solution seems to be how to get drivers on the job. Things like cancelling vacations or offering more overtime or offering to bring drivers out of recent retirement or hiring from other places come to mind.

    I’m rather surprised that the situation has gotten this dire. How did Metro suddenly end up like this? Wasn’t this problem approaching gradually? It all seems like it was known by management all along. Did they tell the Board and the Board wanted kept quiet, or did they keep the Board in the dark?

    Before any sort of structural solution can evolve, it’s important to get an idea of the apparent management debacle.

    I’m wondering how much of the problem is due to a surge of summer vacations, for example. Did drivers defer vacations and now want to take them so it’s a short term problem, or is something else going on?

    Here we are all scrambling to make sense of it all. But has Metro really clarified how much each of the possible factors contributed to this drastic sudden service reduction?

    I can’t help but feel that this is a significant management debacle and this dimension needs to be better explored.

    1. Bus drivers are unionized, which means the contract probably specifies how vacation rules work. I doubt that Metro can unilaterally cancel vacations. Even if they can, I could see that as grounds for some drivers to decide to look for another job if it were imposed unilaterally, which could well backfire.

      Offering to bring drivers out of retirement is fine, but it’s not like Metro has no openings posted. Those drivers can presumably choose to apply on their own, too, if they see the positions as a good deal. If they have been gone long enough, however, presumably their seniority levels reset, and I could imagine this not being viewed as a good deal. On the other hand, being re-instated with their old seniority levels may also run afoul of union contracts. And that’s even before all the other possible reasons people may choose to not drive Metro, like the perception of unsafe work environments, etc.

      I’m playing devil’s advocate, to a great extent, but it’s worth thinking about all the ways that the “simple” solutions may just not work, before blaming Metro for not thinking outside the box.

      To me, the problem seems fairly simple: Metro is not offering a “good deal”, so drivers are voting with their feet. Metro presumably is trying to figure out what a better deal might look like that is palatable to the management/county side. I have no reason to believe that I can do a better job than them without knowing a lot more about the details of the situation.

      In the meantime, what would go a long way is improving their customer service skills, i.e. how they deal with the problem from the riders’ perspective – making the trips that do run more predictable, and those which are canceled easier to find, seems key to me, as someone who is still only an occasional rider.

    2. Everybody involved in transit has known about rising costs and driver shortages for well over 5 years. There’s no excuse really.

      There’s two ways Metro is planning to cut service… the first is the planned September cutbacks and the second is with “emergency” cutbacks that happen because of low staffing levels. I’d guess “unplanned rolling cancellations” will hit hard around Thanksgiving and Christmas as drivers take time off for the holidays as well as the rest of Summer…

      There’s this silly idea being posted here that Metro can’t just cut routes anytime time without the board’s approval…. well, that’s currently happening. The Metro board and leadership are not calling the shots here. It’s staffing levels.

    3. “How did Metro end up like this?”

      1, Abuse of sick leave is out of control since covid, plus a lot of drivers are out on long-term leave and long-term disability. Sick leave abuse is much greater now because management has relaxed enforcement. 2, A bunch of drivers were fired because of the vaccination mandate. 3, A bunch of drivers were paid to quit through the voluntary separation program. Metro was paying drivers up to $24K to quit.

    4. “How did Metro suddenly end up like this? Wasn’t this problem approaching gradually?”

      It started in the pandemic. It was probably a combination of baby boomers retiring, people quitting because of covid or family situations, finding private driving jobs without misbehaving passengers, afraid of catching covid from passengers, refusing to get vaccinated, switching careers, etc.

      The problem now seems to be on the hiring side, finding enough candidates.

      1. 3 million Baby Boomers took early retirement during the pandemic so that has definitely affected the work market. From my own personal experience, younger generations want a better balance between work and non-work, which means less work. Also, for many years society has told these young folks to get a college education (generally a good idea) but has not emphasized trade work for those who can’t or don’t go to college. So today we have too many computer programmers and lawyers and too few trades people.

        Eddie lists many good ideas to make driving a Metro bus more attractive, except I think they would be expensive to implement, and Seattle progressives would object. If Metro ridership is down 41% from pre-pandemic levels and that is the new normal some kind of major restructure will be necessary, unless Metro can find the drivers and money to run mostly empty buses on many routes to create a “grid”, although the “grid” is terribly unreliable.

        If I were a Link advocate I wouldn’t take any glee in the issues Metro/CT/PT are experiencing because they are first/last mile access for Link for those who can’t walk to a station (everyone outside Seattle) or don’t drive to a park and ride that serves Link. Ordinary riders don’t segregate out Link and the feeder bus (and already are unhappy with the transfer, especially if the trip is not very long) if the trip is too long, or longer than a one seat bus. They find another mode.

        Link can run at 7-minute headways 24 hours/day but if someone has to wait for a bus that doesn’t come or comes way late or has become a milk run because Metro has to combine routes to meet ridership that person is not taking Link, and that 7 minute wait for Link becomes 7 hours, unless they decide to buy a new TOD unit next to I-5 and Link goes to within 1/4 mile of their ultimate destination (or nowhere in downtown Seattle due to safety issues).

        It is time for a MAJOR restructure of all bus systems in this area, especially Metro which is flailing around and pretending the future will be dramatically different than the present. Some major decisions need to be made about coverage, frequency, equity, how much does an area pay in taxes for little or no service (i.e. equity), and maybe a better split with Link on joint rides because truncation didn’t produce the great savings some predicted. The obvious layman approach would be if ridership is down 41% then cut spending by 41%. Where to make those cuts needs to be up to the experts.

        Personally, I think it was a mistake for the Legislature to do a 180 on not concentrating future housing near transit and retail and instead focusing it on remote residential neighborhoods, and as I have noted before those neighborhoods aggrieved at this new state zoning are going to demand transit for their new density, which won’t be nearly dense enough to serve with regular buses without decimating more urban and low-income routes. In my experience, the Legislature usually totally misses the unintended consequences when it gets into local issues like zoning, crime, housing, etc.

        Let’s start the MAJOR restructure this fall, bring in all the stakeholders, be honest about the future, and Metro’s driver and funding issues, and hammer out a “grid” and frequency that work, including maybe a better split with Link (which is also way down on farebox recovery goals), and higher fares, and higher farebox recovery (i.e. fare enforcement which not only increases farebox recovery but removes undesirables from the buses, although progressives adamantly reject this or anyone is undesirable on a bus so the normal riders leave).

        It is obvious Metro can’t do this properly piecemeal and is doing more damage to transit ridership than good with its current ad hoc decisions. Every other system and state is doing it, including CA, so time for WA to do it. The next decade will be spent right sizing systems for the new normal, including municipal budgets. The time to start is now, because the endless denial about the new normal is not working either.

      2. “It is time for a MAJOR restructure of all bus systems in this area”

        Specifics please. Choose an area and describe what changes you’d make. That’s the only way we can evaluate this assertion.

      3. “It is time for a MAJOR restructure of all bus systems in this area”

        “Specifics please. Choose an area and describe what changes you’d make. That’s the only way we can evaluate this assertion.”

        Why are you so afraid of a restructure, or stakeholder process to review Metro Mike? This whole thread is about unreliable service by Metro, and terrible online scheduling.

        I list the questions I think should be addressed. I think the stakeholders (mostly politicians) should be involved. They represent the folks who pay for Metro, and who use it. It appears obvious to me you don’t leave this up to Metro when they are not doing a good job or appear unwilling to accept the new normal. I am open about the fact I don’t know the answers, and the answers will be part political, and very much part budget realities.

        As a layman in a city with almost no bus service I would begin with the premise this is the new normal, everyone else is acting like it is the new normal, and if ridership is down 41% then service should be cut to reflect that. Whether it should be cut 41%, or 31%, I don’t know. Increasing farebox recovery also seems like a good place to start to me, but apparently Metro does not think that so you work with the money you have. That is why I have elected representatives to represent my interests and the interests of my city, and if an organization like Metro is struggling and unable to accept future levels of service bring in the stakeholders.

      4. If ridership is down 41% and we reduce service 41%, that leaves no spare capacity if ridership spontaneously increases. And the resulting loss in frequency/coverage would deter people who might be thinking about riding Metro, and would probably cause a further ridership loss.

        Much of the spare capacity is a few rows in a bus, not an entire bus. You can’t cut part of a bus: you can only do it in whole-bus increments.

        Some of the spare capacity may be due to using articulated buses unnecessarily, or having an articulated bus out an entire shift because one or two runs need both halves. And since ridership varies on different days, having a near-full single bus leads to standing-room-only or overcrowding on some days. This happened to me on the 131/132 weekends and the 11 peak hours until Metro put articulated buses on them. Still, maybe Metro could substitute smaller buses somewhere. That would save a bit of fuel but wouldn’t alleviate the driver shortage or reduce costs much because it would still be the same number of drivers. Still, that space in articulated buses raises the “unused capacity” numbers.

      5. Many routes are working great. They have high ridership. Others don’t have high ridership. Does that mean they need to be fixed? I’m of the school of thought that it’s ok to have routes with lower ridership. Not everything can be a route 7. So, even if routes have low ridership, especially in the suburbs, it’s still an indispensable public service, especially to the transit-dependent.

      6. Ridership won’t “spontaneously” increase in the future. Most likely it will remain at current levels although costs will go up. Or it will rise slowly. In that case add service in the future to meet this marginal increase.

        You don’t run an agency or anything at 41% above necessary capacity because it might increase in the future, especially if ridership and farebox recovery are one source of revenue. Imagine if I said let’s build 41% more roads and freeways in case car driver ship increases spontaneously in the future. It is much easier to quickly add transit service than build new freeways.

      7. @Mike Orr,

        “ If ridership is down 41% and we reduce service 41%, that leaves no spare capacity if ridership spontaneously increases”

        Ah, if ridership is down 41%, and has been down for a couple of years now, then there is now way in heck that Metro shouldn’t reduce capacity at least some.

        Metro needs to get control of their operations. They need to rightsize both per what the actual demand is, and per what level of service they are capable of providing with the operators they have available today.

        Not to do this results in very unreliable system that will hurt ridership both today and in the future.

    5. Anonymouse, if it’s the union contract then Metro should be putting out media pressure to get exceptions made — at least temporary ones. Metro and the union should have already sat down and agreed to a set of corrective actions that keeps cutting service hours to a minimum — to get mutual PR credit for addressing the problem so the public doesn’t have to suffer as much.

      Sure there are ways to cut service hours. Still, that’s just one dimension of the problem. The management dimension needs a good in-depth discussion just as much if not more because a lack of attention to solutions seems to be a major cause.

      No matter what the economy, transit systems always need a fixed supply of drivers and need a strategy on how to throttle the supply. Taking charge of the labor supply is a fundamental of transit management (or management of any organization with thousands of employees). When they have too many or too few staff, there has been a management mistake made.

      Maybe it would light a fire under certain elected officials if they weren’t repeatedly given a pass when our region’s dysfunctional transit operations problems come to light. It comes down to accountability. Either an elected official needs to spend time pressuring both sides to solve the problem, or propose a restructuring of the oversight mechanism that better balances their authority and responsibility for managing the agency.

      It’s not easy to run a transit operation. It’s why many systems around the country go out and hire top echelon people to run their system from the outside. They don’t hire transit management who are mere internal “nice guys” that they control behind the scenes, but instead hire transit management who have more of a “take charge” mentality and proven experience to solve the difficult management challenges like this situation we have here with Metro.

      1. You’re joking right? Metro get tough with the unions? You actually believe that any of this shit was caused by bus divers? Or that they should take it in shorts to fix it?

        Shouldn’t surprise me any…. plenty of progressives in this town think social service workers making less than 50K a year will solve the homeless problem. Seattle has a history of big, progressive ideas and them not wanting to pay for them.

        Sorry Al S, you’re not getting tough with the union to fix this. Try raising wages by 25%.

        Let me fill you all in on all the drivers using all their vacation and sick time…. it’s legally in their contract and when they don’t have any left, they’re going to quit. Don’t tell me anybody reading this hasn’t done the same thing.

      2. I agree with tacomee. Metro putting pressure on a union to “do the right thing to people” is no different from Starbucks putting pressure on their unions (not saying it’s the same as closing down unionized stores, mind – just the pressure bit).

        It sends a terrible message, though. “We support unions until they do something that inconveniences people”. It’s the sort of thing that union-busting presidents in days past did, too. If that is the precedent which some people want to follow, so be it – but I would strongly advise against it. Especially when, as pointed out before, the problem is not “that” serious in terms of trip reduction rates – a big problem is the inconsistent messaging, which is not a union problem, and a related problem is the mismatch between scheduled trips and driver availability, which is also mostly not a union problem. So, before Metro starts to pressure the drivers to “take one for the team”, it would behoove them to do the things in their control, first.

      3. It’s not a solely Union thing, guys. It’s about being clear with all the stakeholders to advocate for the riders interests — Board members, suppliers, city traffic engineers, supervisors as well as union members and others.

        It’s gutless management that lets things get so bad that runs just disappear suddenly one day. This is not healthy management practice . This is a great way to kill transit ridership.

        A key contributing factor is that no one in leadership was allowed to give a loud enough warning noise so that this day could be avoided. Why isn’t Dow declaring a state of emergency this week or last month? Because most involved still don’t think it’s a significant problem.

        If you prefer the “quiet nice guy” approach rather than the “riders have needs” approach , prepare to see our transit systems get increasingly unreliable, service gets cut and future ballot measures are derided. Nothing will change unless someone is given the legitimacy to make it happen and they have the temperament to be an advocate for the riders rather than be strong armed by the unions and Board.

      4. Some you are speaking in such broad generalities (it’s a pay issue) that it doesn’t sound like you have actually spoken with anyone who works for Metro. I have. And when I ask why there’s a driver shortage, or why drivers have quit, they never mention pay. Here’s what they mention: Reason for shortages … Vaccine mandate firings. Many drivers were paid to quit via the voluntary separation program. Drivers are unhappy and fed up, so they quit. And, lastly, how do I put it? There are a lot of employees who are unavailable to work.

        Reasons drivers are very unhappy and have quit … Drivers feel more unsafe at work, and relatedly, management aren’t responsive to driver’s complaints about safety and other concerning issues. The Union has the driver’s back, but management doesn’t. If those underlying safety issues aren’t addressed, higher pay won’t solve the problem.

        And, speaking of Metro management, a lot of HQ employees now wfh, and when they do come in, it’s only for a couple of days a week. I know it’s said workers get more work done wfh, but perhaps when an agency’s personnel are scattered all over the county on a weekday, it’s harder to solve the type of problems that Metro is currently dealing with.

      5. Al,

        I agree with most of what you suggest in terms of advocacy on behalf of the riders, however I wonder what makes you say this bit:

        “rather than be strong armed by the unions”

        Do you have any proof that the union is doing any strongarming here? And do you have any proof that the contract, as signed, is unreasonable somehow?

        The reason I am pushing back (and hard) on the notion that the union is culpable is that current US political climate (and for the past 50 years, give or take) has not been particularly favorable towards union, and we all rip the downsides of that. I agree that decreased transit support is a concern; however, I see the lack of union support as a bigger societal failure than the lack of support for improved transit. It is, admittedly, one whose effects are harder to immediately quantify; it is easy to point to how reducing transit hurts specific people. But this is why I am all the more vocal about it, because there is strong correlation between the lack of support of unions and any number of problems in society in general, including (IMHO) the inability for the lower income people to be able to afford living in large cities like Seattle, etc.

        So, with all due respect :) I will continue to advocate for _not_ making the union the villain in this particular story. Because I believe that, in the end, doing so will make transit worse off for all, too.

      6. @Sam — Yeah sure, people quit for all sorts of reasons. But why is it so hard to get new drivers? Pay has a lot to do with it. Again, this is not a local problem, it is a national (if not international) problem for the reasons mentioned.

        @Al — I’m not sure what exactly you are proposing. Renegotiate with the union to increase salaries, especially for new hires? I suppose that would work. The union would love it. But I don’t know how the county gets the money.

      7. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 54 years. When the unemployment rate is low, it’s more difficult for employers to find candidates. Pay is just one component of making a job competitive and attractive to a prospective applicant. I won’t go through the list, but one another is work environment.

        We also have to realize, there is now a large amount of job seekers who don’t want any job that isn’t work from home. That didn’t exist three years ago. Will higher pay draw more applications? Of course. That’s true of most jobs. But, Metro has some serious problems that must be addressed, or else potentially higher paid new employees will turn around a quit. What then? Raise the pay even higher? Eventually some of the things are making drivers miserable are going to have to be fixed.

      8. Anonymouse, you took my comment about “strong armed” way out of context. I was pointing out that management shouldn’t be there just to let other entities run the system as they see fit. The reference to unions and the Board (you omitted my reference to the Board in your quote) are because they mostly end up calling the shots if management is weak.

        I wasn’t saying unions are bad. I’m saying management shouldn’t be weak.

        If the union is so wonderful, I’d love to see how they would have prevented this situation. They could have prepared a proposal. I’ve not seen one. Your earlier comments suggest that the union is only interested in preventing solutions rather than finding them.

      9. Just to be clear, I left the “and the Board” out because I agreed with that part, not to dissimulate in any way :)

  19. I’m still waiting for the authors on this blog to post some possible solutions about how transit in the Puget Sound can deal with operator solutions and rising inflation in general.

    Metro/PT/CT can’t hire enough drivers without raising starting wages around 20% to 25%. Some of this is inflation, some of it unrealistic planning over that last decade.

    So my questions are really straight forward here.

    1. Does transit have some moral directive to pay workers a living wage? $26 an hour just isn’t a living wage in Seattle now.

    2. Where does the money come from?

    1. Metro is attempting the SAFE project. See: https://kingcounty.gov/en/dept/metro/rider-tools/rider-safety/safe-reform-initiative

      In addition, there could be several interrelated steps: a new contract with a higher wage and easier shift to full-time work; a wider use of proof of payment (POP) fare collection with inspection; the inspectors would have uniforms and cell phones and their presence could help with security; humane fare enforcement; the operators would not have to deal with fares as much and would fewer fare disputes; fare inspection would deter those sheltering and doing drugs on transit. The traits of Rapid Ride could be more widespread through the network. SF Muni and many European systems have POP.

      Today, the marginal constraint is operators, not operating subsidy or capital.

    2. “I’m still waiting for the authors on this blog to post some possible solutions about how transit in the Puget Sound can deal with operator solutions and rising inflation in general.

      “Metro/PT/CT can’t hire enough drivers without raising starting wages around 20% to 25%. Some of this is inflation, some of it unrealistic planning over that last decade.”

      Tacomee, Metro/PT/CT already have thousands of drivers working for them. At current wage and benefit packages. They just have too few drivers for their grids right now, and the future pretty much looks like revenue is going to be the major issue.

      Eddie lists many great ideas that are too expensive and politically unlikely, at least in Seattle. If budgets stay the same and you increase driver pay –the main cost of running a bus — 25% or more then you need to cut service 25%, or raise farebox recovery (unlikely), or general tax subsidies when ridership is down 41% on Metro stay the same you will need to cut close to 41% of service over the long run. Non-transit folks might not think spending more general fund tax funds — when budgets are going to be stressed for most cities — on empty buses to create a grid is a good idea.

      I have been suggesting this day has been coming for a while, but some transit advocates think transit is the number 1 duty of any government or society, so ridership and revenue and farebox recovery are irrelevant because the grid and its frequency can’t be touched. I think it is time to bring in the stakeholders, who are mostly politicians so they might not understand transit that well but they know budgets and voter sentiment when other cuts have to be made, and have a discussion about all the issues raised on this blog:

      1. What is the right grid for the money.

      2. What is the right frequency for any route.

      3. Should Metro get a larger cut of the split with Link, or should so many routes truncate at Link, especially with park and rides empty.

      4. Do we need more drivers or fewer routes.

      5. Is pay or driving conditions the major force behind the reluctance of young folks to want to drive a bus.

      6. How do we get serious about fare enforcement and keeping undesirables off the bus so driver and rider FEEL totally safe.

      7. When should “equity” separate from ridership itself.

      I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I want my city and my county representative at the table when these decisions are made because I live in a city that pays a lot in taxes toward Link and Metro and effectively has no intra-city bus transit (and of course no Link). I want the politicians to make these decisions with my money, and I want folks to get serious about the new normal, which will be easier as Seattle begins discussing its next operating budget, with the council already discussing a capital gains tax for Seattle alone which means there will be a HUGE hole in the budget.

      1. I do not know the appropriate increase in wage; it is being negotiated today. I did not suggest 25 percent. Faster and more secure service would attract more riders and farebox revenue. Faster service cost less. Operator would face less stress. The whole network will soon be restructured around ST2 Link and a great reduction in the one-way peak-only network; those routes use deadhead hours, a poor use of scarce and costly operator time. Over time, office work will gradually return. Why would POP be politically feasible in SF and not King County? The Covid trough will probably end.

      2. “I do not know the appropriate increase in wage; it is being negotiated today. I did not suggest 25 percent. Faster and more secure service would attract more riders and farebox revenue. Faster service cost less. Operator would face less stress. The whole network will soon be restructured around ST2 Link and a great reduction in the one-way peak-only network; those routes use deadhead hours, a poor use of scarce and costly operator time. Over time, office work will gradually return. Why would POP be politically feasible in SF and not King County? The Covid trough will probably end.”

        It was Tacomee who estimated a 25% pay increase was needed to attract new drivers to Metro. I stated I didn’t know if pay or driving conditions on buses was the main culprit. I don’t know why Metro has not surveyed its drivers to find this out. It is probably both.

        “Faster and more secure service would attract more riders and farebox revenue.”

        Maybe. Maybe not. But not a lot of riders. Congestion has declined from the pandemic. Riders are not riding transit today because they don’t have to. Induced demand only works if the demand is there to begin with.
        Parking is free everywhere except downtown Seattle, and ironically downtown Seattle is the one place no one is going, in a car or on a bus. Before just recently service has been as fast and secure as pre-pandemic, with fewer riders so more convenience, and still ridership declined 41%

        “The whole network will soon be restructured around ST2 Link and a great reduction in the one-way peak-only network; those routes use deadhead hours, a poor use of scarce and costly operator time.”

        I am not sure that is true. Link is already running in the best corridor, NG to CID. Now it is entering the suburbs. The problem is buses were left with the dreaded east/west corridors, and with the added transfer riders want even better bus frequency and trip times to make up for the transfer and Metro gets only a share of the total fare when it got all the fare, and those peak commuter runs had VERY high farebox recovery rates. I haven’t seen any huge savings from truncation although they were predicted. Where are all the Metro service hour savings from truncation, especially after NG Link opened?

        “Over time, office work will gradually return. Why would POP be politically feasible in SF and not King County? The Covid trough will probably end.”

        I doubt it. The big money doubts this. Investors are walking away from high end malls and high-end hotels in San Francisco and Renton. The CA legislature agreed to subsidize transit 1/2 the amount the agencies said was required and told them to choose current levels of service despite massive declines in ridership or future infrastructure projects. It will be interesting to see which the agencies choose.

        Worst case, funding and levels or service can be increased IF the ridership returns, or lowered further if ridership continues to decline. Like I said earlier, I also don’t support $350 million for parking garages in Sumner, Kent and Auburn, or massive new road and highway construction, or WSBLE, based on the hope office work returns, let alone in downtown Seattle which is mostly served by Link.

        Ridership is down 41%. Tailor levels of service to meet that. If future ridership increases, then increase service. If future ridership declines reduce service. One benefit is maybe Metro will get serious about efficiency, but I doubt it.

    3. Start having day to day operations funding from the state and federal level as part of the yearly budget for transit agencies across the country. This is something every politician needs to wake up to as a political reality instead of sitting their hands on the problem. Pretty much every other country with good public transit funds transit through multiple layers of funding from the federal state down to local or regional levels instead of chalking it up to be solely a local issue. This is one reform that is badly needed. Because experts have talked for years about how state and federal DOT heavily focus on capital projects but operations is often the funding that is sorely needed to keep transit sustainable but is rarely consistently funded. Like in Denver it’s frustrating how the state could be helping in aid funding to transit agencies across the state as it has been with its anti pollution transit funds during the summer. But it’s something that should exist year round. Tho we also have TABOR which adds another wrinkle to the problem of having consistent and reliable funding for agencies.

      1. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), most commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and originally in the House as the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684), is a United States federal statute enacted by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021. It allocates $106 billion to local transit agencies, exclusive of any Covid stimulus funds, or funding for Amtrak.

        “Washington state to get $8.6B from infrastructure bill”. https://www.thecentersquare.com/washington/article_750fa32e-40c6-11ec-bf6d-37485696353f.html

        “The majority of the money – $4.7 billion – will go toward highway programs, with another $605 million slated for bridge replacement and repairs. A portion will be used to repair the West Seattle Bridge, which has been closed since March of 2020.

        “The Washington Department of Transportation says there are 143 bridges out of 7,300 across the state that are considered structurally deficient. The department indicates, however, that such a designation does not mean the bridge is in danger of collapsing or unsafe for travel.

        “Some 5,400 highway miles throughout the state are in need of repair, according to WDOT.

        “The state will also get $1.8 billion for transportation, including $559 for King County Metro and $381 billion for Sound Transit.

        “Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is slated to receive $228 million for improvements.

        “Another $100 million will be used to expand broadband internet access. Estimates show about 241,000 people across the state lack access to it.

        “Some $71 million will be used to build more electric vehicle charging stations. The overall bill includes $7.5 billion to expand the EV charging network across the country.

        “Another $882 million will be used to improve drinking water infrastructure and safety.”


        “Washington state recently approved a 16-year, $16 billion transportation plan that raises fuel taxes, vehicle fees and bonding to pay for finishing the construction of the bridge and other projects intended to reduce traffic congestion and repair crumbling infrastructure in the state.”


        “With new revenue from the state’s climate cap-and-invest program, the 16-year package includes historic investments in transit – including free transit for everyone 18 and younger, safe bike and pedestrian facilities, electrification of ferries and cars, and removal of fish passage barriers along state highways. Move Ahead Washington will support an estimated 2,390 construction and ferries jobs annually.”


        So as one can see, transit is funded from federal, state and local revenue sources. The only revenue source (other than ads) transit provides is farebox recovery. For Link the assumed goal is 40%; for ferries 65%; for Sounder 23%; for Metro 20/25%.

        One unfortunate part of the federal infrastructure bill is almost 100% of the $106 billion allocated for local transit will go toward replacement and capital maintenance that transit agencies have ignored for decades. So little new transit will be built with these funds.

        Transit ridership pre-pandemic had declined 14% across the U.S., although this region had seen a slight increase in ridership. The pandemic changed that. Metro has seen a 41% decline in ridership, which has led to reduced farebox recovery.

        To what extent ridership should influence transit funding is an interesting question (although according to Metro a lack of drivers is behind the recent route suspensions), unless like some transit systems like Bart or Muni the loss of ridership results in a loss of funding that mandates a certain level of service reductions, so the option of continuing the same level of funding despite significant reductions in ridership are not possible, which is nearly always the case, at least over time. One could easily argue Metro is overfunded considering its current funding level is based on 2019 ridership levels, which have declined 41%.

      2. “So as one can see, transit is funded from federal, state and local revenue sources.”
        I said daily operations funding not capital investment funding which is what you’re talking about with your sources.
        These are two distinct different categories of transit funding that exist broadly in the US. Most state and federal funding is capital project funding. What I’m taking about is operations, which is very different and rarely gets the level of funding it needs outside of the emergency funding like what is going on with California giving money to BART and SF Muni.




      3. Zach, all of the federal, state and local tax revenue does go in part to operations. Even at its best ST only recovers 40% of its O&M costs through farebox recovery. The rest comes from general tax subsidies. For Metro that is closer to 20%. It is only because transit systems across the U.S. put off capital maintenance (mostly replacement) for decades that the federal transit funding in the infrastructure has to go mostly toward that. The hope of course was the $106 billion would have funded new transit, and newer transit agencies like ST tend to overlook future O&M costs because new infrastructure projects are more exciting.

        If your argument is the total amount of transit subsidies — other than farebox recovery — is not adequate that is another argument, but every level of government helps subsidize maintenance, operations, and capital infrastructure for transit (and don’t forget buses run on roads and across bridges too).

        Some believe there should be a correlation between ridership and general fund subsidies for transit. If ridership goes up so should general fund subsidies even though theoretically farebox recovery rises when ridership rises if fares are enforced. At the same time, if ridership declines 41% even though levels of service and funding have remained the same during the decline some feel transit levels of service and costs (general fund taxes) should go down.

        It is pretty rare that ridership declines significantly like Bart or Muni — or Metro — over a period of years and levels of service (coverage and/or frequency) don’t also decline because both farebox recovery and general tax subsidies decline, and levels of transit service really just come down to amount of money. The people who make these decisions are the elected folks who decide where all tax revenue goes and have to make decisions about who gets what. Generally, they feel that if transit ridership is going up transit should get more general tax revenue, but if ridership is going down, way down, for several years, then transit should get less general tax revenue, but tax revenue is limited and there are a lot of worthy competing needs.

        Considering how few politicians run on a transit platform it suggests transit is not a top priority for most voters. Education, jobs, healthcare, environment, roads and bridges, housing, are all more important to the majority of voters.

      4. “Zach, all of the federal, state and local tax revenue does go in part to operations. Even at its best ST only recovers 40% of its O&M costs through farebox recovery. The rest comes from general tax subsidies. For Metro that is closer to 20%.”

        That’s all local. Most federal grant programs are limited to capital improvements. State grants are for specific purposes and time-limited. None of them support regular operations, much less on an ongoing basis. The covid package had operational funding, but that was an emergency measure to keep society functioning during the lockdowns. Some other states partially fund regular operations on an ongoing bases, but Washington isn’t one of them.

      5. There are federal operating grants, but they are limited in cases where a city has significant resources. Eg, King County Metro got 0.2% of its operating funds in 2019 from federal grants:

        At Island Transit, with fewer resources and no fare charged (which changes the formula), the federal operating grants were 5% of the operating budget:

    4. @ tacomee,

      “I’m still waiting for the authors on this blog to post some possible solutions about how transit in the Puget Sound can deal with operator solutions and rising inflation in general.”

      I’m not an “author” of this blog, but the answer is easy – “downsize”. Particularly for Metro, at least operationally.

      Transit in the Puget Sound is at a transition point. In 3 years transit will be completely different locally. The opening of Lynnwood Link, East Link, and Federal Way Link will radically transform transit in the region, and will radically transform Metro’s role in it.

      ST will continue to take on a larger share of the heavy lifting, and will be able to do it with a smaller number of operator hours compared to bus operators. This is good, and efficient.

      Metro will continue to transition to much more of a supporting role, and will continue to be operator hour heavy. That will necessitate major restructures and downsizing on the operational side, but overall efficiency will continue to suffer. That will require even larger reductions in Metro operations. There is no way around this, it’s just economics.

      It is hard to say if we are truly at Peak Metro, but we are certainly close. I sense a reluctance on the part of Metro and its supporters to accept these facts, but “a change gon’ come”.

      1. ST will continue to take on a larger share of the heavy lifting, and will be able to do it with a smaller number of operator hours compared to bus operators.

        ST has three components: buses, Link and Sounder. Those three together will never provide the bulk of transit service in the county. The buses will have to do the heavy lifting simply because of the huge gaps, and relatively small coverage of Link. Sounder may rebound, but is unlikely to carry a huge portion of the riders. The ST buses don’t carry that many riders either, and cost a lot to operate. They are inefficient, but quite popular.

        As Link expands there will be more opportunity to truncate buses. Metro has already truncated almost all of the buses it will truncate though. As much as you and I hate the buses that go across the ship canal, there are only a handful of runs each day (and many will go away with the next restructure). Metro runs a few buses over the lake, but only a few. The biggest opportunity for truncation is in the south. But I don’t see buses from Renton being redirected to Metro. The biggest opportunity comes way down south, as Link gets to Federal Way. But most of those buses are run by ST. Will ST truncate all the Tacoma buses at Federal Way? Maybe, and that would certainly make a dent in the driver shortage. Although as already mentioned, it might not help Metro at all, as those buses may be contracted to Pierce Transit. Meanwhile, ST has already tipped its hat with the East Link restructure. The buses that ST runs over the lake are almost certainly run by Metro and they will be restructured to provided better feeder service. There may be some overall savings in there as well, but none that are obvious.

        Eventually Link will get to West Seattle and Ballard, but that still isn’t that many bus trips. Link serves a substantial number of one-seat rides, but as it expands, it is heavily dependent on feeder bus service. So not only do you have lots of buses that don’t involve Link, a substantial amount of Link trips involve a bus (or two). Link is no panacea.

        I think Metro (and the various agencies) need to keep doing what they are doing, just more aggressively. Slow buses (stuck in traffic) require more drivers. The city needs to double down on adding BAT lanes, bus lanes, queue jumps, the works. We need to restructure the buses to be more efficient (which means more of a grid). Yes, we definitely need to get rid of the handful of trips that mimic Link (like the currently suspended 64). Link will definitely help, but from a Metro savings standpoint, Link isn’t going to do anything major for decades. Metro will rearrange the routes (in some cases making them more efficient) but it isn’t like the big savings that came from Northgate/UW Link.

      2. on this point, Lazarus is correct: Link is key. Metro has plans to restructure its network around the ST2 Link extensions.

        But both Metro and ST have been slow to restructure. It would have been better for ST to have more than 62 LRV for U Link. Folks were concerned about capacity. SR-520 radial routes could have been truncated with the UW Link station seven years ago (e.g., ST Route 545 and Metro routes 252, 255, 257, 268, and 311). Today, with the East Link Connections planning, ST is waiting to truncate Route 545; it has not included Route 566 in the project even though it would duplicate East Link between BTC and RTS. There seems room to restructure I-5 South as well.

        Metro will probably consider the deletion or restructure all of its one-way peak-only routes with ST2 Link. Their ridership fell off significantly with the decline of office work. Sounder fell off as well; so, Metro should feed South Sounder.

        To the extent there are operators, there are plenty of routes to improve that would complement Link.

        It would help integration if ST provided short headway on Link. Today, the network would be better off with six-minute headway three-car trains than with the eight-minute headway four-car trains.

      3. “ It would help integration if ST provided short headway on Link. Today, the network would be better off with six-minute headway three-car trains than with the eight-minute headway four-car trains.”

        Since the topic of the month is driver shortages, eight-minute four-car trains seems like the thing to do. Maybe six minutes is the thing to do if trains become driverless someday.

    1. Calling in sick every Friday. Calling in sick every Monday. Calling in sick every every day immediately before or after the driver’s two days off. Calling in sick on every major holiday. Routinely calling in sick the week before or after a scheduled vacation. Calling in sick every time they are assigned a route they don’t like. Etc.

      1. I am a very hard worker. I just happen to be on long-term leave. My company wants me to come back, but I’m fighting it. Besides, transit journalism is my passion.

  20. That would depend on how their contract is defined, wouldn’t it?

    By agreement, an employee is allowed a certain number of sick days per year. Are you saying they shouldn’t be able to take them whenever they want?

    Unless management agreed to sick time with no restrictions, and then management should have enough personal on hand to cover those shifts.

    1. Jim, you’re going off too far into the weeds with this sick leave stuff. Try to focus on the big picture. Btw, have you written a Page 2 or Guest Post yet?

      1. No, Jim is not too far off in the weeds. Sam, you can’t blame drivers for Metro’s failures.

      2. Someone told me part of the staffing problem has to do with sick leave issues. What’s wrong with passing along what I heard?

      3. I only asked what you meant by “abuse”.
        It denotes misuse. That’s something their contract should have addressed.

        Perhaps you should have said “sick leave ISSUES” in the beginning.

  21. The implication that if ridership is down 41% than you reduce service by 41% is not a way to run a transit system. Constantly increasing and decreasing the size of the driver workforce by big amounts every time ridership goes up and down sends the cost per service-hour through the roof. When service is downsized, it’s always the cheaper, less experienced bus drivers that are the first to go, leaving the most highly paid bus drivers behind to drive the routes that are left (this is baked into the union contract and cannot be changed). Plus, when the time comes to increase service, the previously-laid off drivers will have gone somewhere else, and finding replacements may not be easy, so you have to spend lots more money on recruitment.

    Also, bus service is not just about capacity. There is a minimum frequency that a bus route has to run in order to provide any kind of meaningful freedom of movement for people that depend on it. This is very different from airlines, where you are expected to plan your schedule for the entire day around the airline schedule. With airlines, you can cut capacity in half and go from two flights per day to one flight per day in response to drops in demand, and it doesn’t impact passengers all that much. Bus service is different. When you cut service from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes or from every 30 minutes to every 60 minutes, it becomes harder and harder to use the bus without wasting excessive amounts of time standing at the bus stop, and timing the trips to match a bus schedule is not always possible – for instance, you can’t control how long a checkout line will be at a grocery store, or when a child will need to go to the bathroom, or the schedule gap when two buses connect with each other.

    It’s also too early to say whether the 41% decline is really the new normal. Since the 2021 low point, Metro ridership has been on an upward trend and, last I checked, 2023 so far is higher than the same part of 2022. Eventually, when ridership is stable over a period of several years, we will be able to declare what the new normal is. But we’re not there yet and won’t be for several more years at least.

    1. I agree 100%. It is worth noting that the ridership recovery is not across the board. Some routes have abysmal ridership, and continue to struggle. In contrast, the 7 is back over 10,000. This is pretty close to what it had before the pandemic (10,800 in 2017, 11,200 in 2018). Same is true for ST buses, Sounder, Link stations, you name it. The recovery is not across the board, but at least things are trending upward.

      It is too early to tell whether the buses that continue to struggle will always struggle. But if you drop frequency enough, they will definitely struggle. This is known as the “frequency ridership spiral”. Look up the term and you can see a lot of examples.

      1. This is known as the “frequency ridership spiral”…

        I am getting the sense, from some of the comments here, that is a feature, not a bug.

        Never let a crisis go to waste.

      2. So, RossB, the fall 2023 suspensions reduce some two-way all-day routes to hourly headway (e.g., route 28, 79, 225, 230, 231). What will riders do; is hourly headway useable? Did Metro not report that frequent routes lost less ridership during Covid and recovered more after Covid?

      3. Hourly headway is usable, but it’s not easy. People that have all day and nothing to do can make it work, as can people who are truly desperate. But, virtually anybody with options will go some other way. Ridership will not completely go away, but it will definitely decrease.

        The difference between hourly and half-hourly service is huge, much larger than the difference between half-hourly service and 15-minute service.

        I’ve had times, back when the 255 was hourly in the evening, when I got on the bus only because OneBusAway said I was lucky and the wait would just happen to be short, but if I had missed the bus, I’d be going home some other way, most likely an expensive Uber ride. With even half-hourly service, waiting for the next bus when you miss one is often still preferable to paying $40-50 for an Uber car to take you home, which you’d still have to wait 10 minutes for, anyway. When the bus service drops from half hourly to hourly, that changes.

      4. Hourly headway, I find, is usable primarily for one-seat rides or as the starting leg of a multi-seat ride when the next legs are at higher frequency. I’ve done it but it definitely takes deliberate planning.

        Half hour headway I have much less of a problem with, as a user, and don’t mind as much to make more spontaneous trips, especially if the other leg is more frequent – as that reduces my expected wait time to ~15 minutes. That’s the sort of delay that’s just long enough for a quick detour into a store, or walking ahead a few stops instead of waiting if the weather is nice.

      5. A bus that runs once a day is usable — just not by many. My guess is ridership on those buses will plummet from their already low levels. But it depends on the bus:

        28 — The bus does several things. It is an express from Fremont to downtown. It’s poor headways (half hour) makes it hard to compete against slower, but more frequent buses. Lack of downtown commuting may have hurt it as well (although that is rapidly returning). But midday, I just don’t see it used for that purpose. On 8th NW it provides needed coverage to a moderately dense area. My guess is for the most part people will walk to other (more frequent) buses or they will drive.

        79 — This is a coverage bus that feeds Link. My guess is many will just abandon the bus, and walk.

        225 — This is the closest bus to Lake Washington Institute of Technology. Some students will stick with the bus. I feel sorry for them. Other than that, a lot of people will essentially lose coverage. Waiting 45 minutes for a bus just doesn’t work for most people.

        230, 231 — Similar to the 225, in that the tails have unique coverage areas. Going from half hour to hourly is basically the same as removing coverage for most riders. But the 230 and 231 also combine for 15 minute headways from downtown Kirkland to Juanita. I think a lot of those riders will switch to the 255. Others will start driving. Although let’s face it, in all these cases, there will be people who switch to driving.

      6. One interesting thing about the 28 is that if hourly frequency means fewer ride it, that the bus will stop less and move faster, but making for a faster trip for those few who are actually able to ride it. I refer to routes like this using the term “hidden express”.

        For those headed north out of downtown headed somewhere roughly equidistant between the 28 and a more frequent route such as the D or the 5, I think it’s at least worth pulling out OneBusAway and seeing just how long the wait for the 28 would be, just in case you get lucky. If you do get lucky, the 28 will zip through downtown and Belltown much faster than the 5 or D. If not, you just take the other (slower) bus. Of course, hourly frequency means you will not get lucky most of the time, but sometimes you will (e.g. even an hourly bus has a 1 in 12 chance of arriving within the next 5 minutes), and if you don’t bother to check, you will never know.

      7. The 79 is kind of an interesting use case. Half of it replaced the old 74 (and, I think, the 30? was the non-express version) which used to meander through the Southern part of Ravenna and up towards Children’s and Sandpoint. The other half is a new addition along 75th to fill in a hole in coverage. The in-between section replaces some small hole in coverage caused by removing the 71.

        I’ve always wondered how much demand for ridership there was along 75th. It seemed weird that 65th had 3-4 buses during the 2010s (71 and 62, plus the express commuter routes 76 and 64) while 75th had nothing. If the ridership on the 75th section of 79 is that poor, perhaps Metro was right all along, and the population density isn’t there, plus the riders who do exist already have ingrained habits of going N-S, e.g. on the 372 or 65, instead of E-W. So how much better frequency would the 79 need to have to be competitive with the other options which already exist?

        I am only vaguely familiar with the area covered by the 230 and 231, but a couple of things jump out at me. First, the tails are long and pretty different in area coverage (W vs. E of 405). I would expect that their connections to serve somewhat different purposes, too – e.g. the 230 connects to 372, which may make it more useful to UW students and staff; the 231 does not. They also hit a bunch of schools, so as long as the hourly timing are still well aligned with school times, they may still be useful.

      8. People have been asking for service on 75th for decades. When I was in college in the 80s I visited a colleague who lived in an apartment on 75th and was surprised to find how far it was from bus service. The 79 finally addressed this.

        55th in the 80s had the 74, which went down Eastlake/Fairview to downtown and had a peak express variant. Around the 2000s the local was rerouted to N 40th Street instead of downtown. The local now diverged so widely from the express it caused confusion, so it was renumbered to 30. Then the 31/32 took over 40th and the 30 was truncated in the U-District. Then in the 2014 cuts it was reduced to peak-only and then deleted. It was revived later with limited service to 50th & Roosevelt or something, maybe going back to number 74. Then the new 79 route subsumed it.

      9. Mike,

        “When I was in college in the 80s I visited a colleague who lived in an apartment on 75th and was surprised to find how far it was from bus service.”

        Yeah, we looked at living in that area and I had a similar reaction. But the low level of service suggests that people adapted. One could make an argument that maybe a 79 that ran every 10 minutes would get a lot more ridership, but… honestly, to me it seems like people self-sorted. Those who live there now don’t live there because the 79 is there; they live there in full understanding of the limitations of transit on 75th, and will adapt. This is another example of how reducing frequency in a “predictable” matter will not hurt ridership that much in the short term, IMHO.

      10. Mike Orr
        Of course, the former Route 74 has deeper roots. It had a streetcar line. The commercial and multifamily zoning followed that. Between 1940 and 1963, it had electric trolleybus Route 8 extended to 35th Avenue NE via NE 55th Street; it had an off street turnaround loop. It shared Eastlake Avenue East and University Way NE with Route 7. The combined headway was very short as both ran every five minutes in the peaks. There was no I-5 yet. A diesel Route 8 replaced the ETB; for a time, it turned at the NE 74th Street guard shack loop. Later, it became Route 74; it different variants: local via Eastlake and I-5, I-5 via 5th/Cherry and later I-5 via DSTT. As you stated, when the local and express variants were quite different, the local variant was renumbered “30”. It extended to Uptown via Fremont and Westlake Avenue North. The Mercer Street pathway killed that pathway. In fall 2012, routes 31 and 32 were implemented as a pair and Route 30 orphaned and was shuttle only. Then the recession hit and reductions came.

      11. Thanks for that history, Eddie. I’ve always wondered why 55th is so wide (like Woodland Park in Fremont), I imagine that explains it!

      12. The 79 is kind of an interesting use case.

        I agree. I think it is especially frequency-dependent. Every bus (and train) gets more riders if you run it more. But the 79 would get a lot more. Most of the stops on the 79 are close to bus stops on more frequent routes. There might be some advantages to taking the 79, but those disappear if it runs infrequently (as it does now). For example, let’s say you are at 35th Ave NE & NE 55th Street. You want to go to Link. The fastest and easiest way is to take the 79. The 65 involves going through campus and either walking a long ways to the UW Station, or riding the bus as it loops around and drops you off by the U-District Station. But if the 65 is gonna be there in five minutes, you aren’t waiting fifteen (let alone twenty) minutes for the next 79. You take the other (more frequent) bus. Same with 25th and 55th, or even 35th and 75th. Up north, the 79 is much faster for that Link connection, but it just isn’t worth waiting for. Then there are the people who will simply walk farther. If you live at NE 70th, I see very little reason to even consider the 79. Just walk to the 62 if you are headed to Roosevelt, Link, or Sand Point. You have to be much closer to 75th (or north of it) and most of those riders have other (more frequent) alternatives (like the 65 and 372).

        It is a coverage bus that offers very little in the way of unique coverage. What it does offer is a unique combination of trips. It is an east-west bus in a sea of north-south buses. With just a bit more in the way of service, it would be fine. Without it, it will continue to struggle.

      13. I agree about the 79, Ross. It’s got decent density along some parts of its route (two schools, restaurants/bars, apartment buildings at least in Bryant) but is sandwiched between a bunch of 7-day frequent routes. If Metro had the resources to double-down on it to make it frequent and add weekend service, it might perform pretty well. As it is, going down to hourly is just going to make people forget about it.

        The segment of the route along the Ave gets decent ridership, but is slow and a lot of it is intra-U-District and presumably could use the 45/75 or 73 instead. If Metro could find a way to drop that and just start/end the route near U-Village, I wonder if that would free up enough time to keep it at half-hour headways for the rest of the route. 75th especially is a big hole in the E/W network without it.

      14. I agree about your comments on the 230 and 231. Their tails are very different, especially in terms of connections. The 230 connects to the 272 and 522. Thus I could very easily see someone taking Link, then the 522 and then the 230 home. In contrast, the 231’s main connection to the rest of the system is at Brickyard park and ride (which has peak service only to Seattle). Brickyard does have service to downtown Bellevue and UW Bothell, but it isn’t that frequent. Connecting a half hour bus to a half hour bus is miserable.

        When Stride 2 and 3 get here, things improve for both routes. It is the same connections, just a lot more frequent and in the case of Bothell Way, much faster.

      15. “Fixing” the 79 is not easy. They are basically two different, small sections that are tied together. One alternative is make each a tiny route, with live-looping on both: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1EWcpIggDXsQfsRB-TVlWX42YJp8_aZ0&usp=sharing. There are a couple problems with that. First, even though you’ve reduced the distance the bus travels, you have likely increased the layover time. Second, shorter routes have fewer trip combinations.

        They really should be tacked onto other routes. The 74 used to be tacked onto the 31/32, but since the 31/32 went over the Fremont Bridge, it was very unreliable. There aren’t a lot of great options, as I see it. The lower route (74 on the map) should be tied with something from the southwest, which leaves the 70 and 49. The 70 is going to be RapidRide and the 49 might as well be. These are very frequent buses — extending them to what is currently a coverage route is hard to justify. Likewise, the upper part (71 on the map) doesn’t pair well with anything that will exist after the Lynnwood Link restructure.

        I don’t think you can’t do much better than what they have, even though what they have isn’t great. I don’t see it as a redundant bus, either. It is similar to the 28 and the 17 in that it needs more service to do well, as opposed to buses that are crying out for a restructure (like the 73).

    2. Thanks for making that point. Public transit is a utility, not a for-profit private business. Even when routes have low ridership, they are still a lifeline to many.

      1. And this is why prioritizing cutting frequency over removing low ridership lines is (in the short term) the better option – people will adjust to predictable reduced frequency, but removing the one line that goes through Duvall or whatever can really remove a lifeline.

        In the long run, yes, it may be needed, but that should not be done in panic mode, which is where Metro seems to be now. And, to their credit, the September reductions seem well thought out. This is also why I keep saying that to me the biggest issue seems to be partly messaging and partly not having a great interim solution until that reduction goes into service.

        To the extent the crisis is “wasted”, as Cam put it above, it is in that Metro is not appearing to attempt to build trust by showing that they are, in fact, doing everything possible to help minimize the impact on riders. And I think that, by and large, they are trying to do just that, it’s just that the messaging is poor, and that there are some details that are messy.

        I see it very much like the fiasco at Westlake a few weeks ago. ST ended up doing well by its riders but the initial messaging was very poor.

      2. The lifeline argument is fair for routes like the 208 to North Bend or the 224 to Duvall. If they were cut, those who do ride them would left with no transit at all, or even reliable Uber service. If Uber could be found at all, any ride that could replace a trip on these buses would be very expensive. In many cases, the “alternative” becomes adult children with cars taking off work to drive elderly parents to medical appointments. This in turn could force the driver to forego
        vacations or taking unpaid leave from their own job.

        However, arguments like this only apply to coverage routes that provide real coverage, not “coverage” routes that merely get you half a mile closer to some destinations than another route. The 208, 224, and 269 qualify to me as real coverage. The 249 is a poster child of fake coverage. worst case, a person with limited mobility could work around a discontinuation of the 249 with a $5-10 Uber ride to another route. In most cases, route 249 riders could walk to another route. The 79 is similar.

        So, yes, please don’t eliminate the routes that provide real coverage, but cutting fake coverage routes to maintain decent frequency on core routes is much better than cutting frequency on core routes to keep the fake coverage routes running.

      3. “The lifeline argument is fair for routes like the 208 to North Bend or the 224 to Duvall. If they were cut, those who do ride them would left with no transit at all, or even reliable Uber service. If Uber could be found at all, any ride that could replace a trip on these buses would be very expensive. In many cases, the “alternative” becomes adult children with cars taking off work to drive elderly parents to medical appointments. This in turn could force the driver to forego vacations or taking unpaid leave from their own job.”

        Off peak frequency from MI to North Bend will be 90 minutes when East Link opens. Is anyone from North Bend going to wait 60-90 minutes on N. Mercer Way for a bus home? With a free park and ride across the street, or a 1500 stall park and ride at S. Bellevue, and park and rides in Issaquah? No.

        The elderly drive too. My dad drove until he was 90. If an elderly person can’t even drive and lives in North Bend are they really going to walk to a bus stop in North Bend to go….where? If they can drive they will. If not an adult child or friend will drive, or there are services who will take them from their doorstep — in a car — to their medical appointments. If you don’t have the physical capacity to drive from North Bend to Issaquah you certainly don’t have the capacity to take a bus, even if it comes every 5 minutes.

        And where are those medical appointments? Seattle? Of course not. They are in Issaquah, which is not a bad Uber ride from North Bend, and has a major hospital (my favorite unless I have a gunshot) and tons of dentists and doctors. There isn’t much Issaquah doesn’t have.

        The only first/last mile access that makes any sense in North Bend, or pretty much anywhere on the eastside, is a park and ride. Most medical appointments are not peak hours, peak hour congestion is not bad, and every medical/dental clinic and hospital on the eastside I am aware of has lots of parking, mostly free, and what elderly person does not have a disabled parking pass.

        “However, arguments like this only apply to coverage routes that provide real coverage, not “coverage” routes that merely get you half a mile closer to some destinations than another route.”

        Having a bus on the eastside get you to within 1/2 mile to your home or destination is pretty darn good, and rare, especially to your home. For example, MI is 3 miles from downtown Bellevue and Seattle and yet 90% of the Island does not live within 1/2 mile of any bus stop. Sammamish and Issaquah are worse.

        The problem is however 1/2 mile is around 1/4 mile too far for most, let alone the elderly who are so disabled they cannot drive. So for transit to work on the eastside it starts at a park and ride which is within 1/8 or 1/16 mile walk of the bus (closer with a disabled parking pass), and the destination has to be even closer, and there are just not many places on the eastside like that. Issaquah may have just about everything a person could ever want, but it is spread out over a huge area, with huge parking lots.

        So if the bus from MI to North Bend ran every 5 minutes instead of every 90 minutes, I doubt it would have more riders. Not with free park and rides up and down I-90. Because what does a rider do when their bus gets to North Bend? Walk a mile or two or ten to get home?

        This is the classic disconnect between urban dwellers/transit fans and suburban dwellers. First mile access begins at one’s doorstep, not the feeder bus. If the distance is too far from that doorstep to a bus stop to walk — which is almost a certainty in east and south KC — you either have to drive, or drive to a park and ride, to start and end your trip.

        Most just drive to their destination, especially if it is intra-suburbia, but even if they do drive to a park and ride they will drive to the park and ride that has a one seat bus or train ride to their ultimate destination IF they are “there” when the bus or train gets there. Transit fans love transfers, but the regular world avoids them like the plague, even if it just means driving to a park and ride that serves a one seat ride to your ultimate destination. If not then drive to your ultimate destination, which is what everyone does.

      4. “Is anyone from North Bend going to wait 60-90 minutes on N. Mercer Way for a bus home?”

        There exists elderly people with medical conditions that prevent them from driving. And if the only alternative is an adult child taking unpaid leave from work drive from home in Seattle out to north Bend to pick you up, back to Seattle for the appointment, back to north bend to drop you off, and back to Seattle to go home again, then, yes, you wait.

        It’s also not like you’re standing at the bus stop for the entire 60-90 minutes. You can find a coffee shop or something and read a book.

        To which you might ask “if you can’t drive, shouldn’t you move somewhere with better bus service”. But if the person is living off of social security income, where else are they supposed to be able to afford a home other than the house they already bought, which, by this point, presumably has a paid off mortgage and a senior citizen property tax exemption? If the house is near the north bend town center, they can also probably walk to a grocery store use Amazon prime to take care of routine shopping needs that the north bend grocery store doesn’t cover.

        Sure, the number of people in this type of situation is small, but they do exist. And the simple proof that they exist is that the 208’s ridership is more than zero.

      5. Asdf2, how many folks in Seattle go to Issaquah for their medical/dental treatment? Probably about the same number of North Bend residents who go to Seattle for their medical/dental treatment.

        I just don’t understand how anyone old and disabled enough to not be able to drive is going take a bus from North Bend anywhere. How do they get to the bus? Are they then going to make a transfer or two along the way?

        Yes, having elderly parents or relatives sometimes means driving them to appointments. It isn’t the end of the world. The appointments can often be scheduled around work. Old folks like living in North Bend or the eastside because it is safe, their kids are often on the eastside, the stores and streets are clean and nice, plenty of free parking, the same reason I live on the eastside. Few are living in North Bend because that is all the SS can afford.

        The one demographic on the eastside that transit did serve was the peak commuter to downtown Seattle. These folks were young and fit, could walk, still had to drive to a park and ride because their doorstep was too far from a bus stop, and their destination downtown was one seat, although they hated the commute. But they always drove to a one seat park and ride.

        When I take the 554 or 550 these are still the folks I see: young work commuters. I just see fewer of them post pandemic. Feeder buses are not going to work in east or south KC because you still need to drive to a park and ride to catch the feeder bus so why not just drive to a park and ride that serves your ultimate destination, no matter what the mode is.

        This idea bus service on the eastside serves the elderly disabled is crazy. Those folks want free parking and a disabled parking pass. Some have walkers. They would have a hard time walking to a bus on Capitol Hill let alone North Bend.

      6. “Off peak frequency from MI to North Bend will be 90 minutes when East Link opens. Is anyone from North Bend going to wait 60-90 minutes on N. Mercer Way for a bus home?”

        It’s better than 2-3 hours on the current 208.

      7. “I just don’t understand how anyone old and disabled enough to not be able to drive is going take a bus from North Bend anywhere.”

        A fairly significant portion of transit users in the are these very people who can’t drive. In the pre-pandemic days I’ve taken the bus as far as Snoqualmie and such people existed then.

      8. “How many folks in Seattle go to Issaquah for their medical/dental treatment? ”
        People go where they are referred to and sometimes that is someone in like Issaquah either for insurance purposes, wait list is shorter, quality of care etc.
        “This idea bus service on the eastside serves the elderly disabled is crazy. Those folks want free parking and a disabled parking pass. Some have walkers. ”
        In your opinion as a very car centric person. But I know plenty of elderly or disabled who take the bus because it’s the easier option for them. Mind-blowing concept I know /s.

      9. The mind blowing concept Zach is how many elderly and disabled folks FROM NORTH BEND take the bus, let alone to medical appointments.

        What no one on this blog has answered is my preliminary question: how does the elderly or disabled person — or any person — get from their doorstep in North Bend to the bus and then back home again? You have to drive to Issaquah for a park and ride.

        It just goes to prove my point that urbanists and transit advocates have never understood that first mile access begins at your doorstep, a rather common mistake. At least ST understands that by the number and size of park and rides along East, Lynnwood, and FW Link, plus Angle Lake, Northgate and Sounder, ST Express buses, and eventually at Tacoma Dome when Tacoma is much denser than North Bend.

        Will more riders access East Link by bus than car? It depends on how many access the feeder bus by car, because that is the plan for East Link. ST and Metro are not planning on running feeder buses through Eastside neighborhoods. They plan on taking folks from a park and ride on a bus to East Link, although my guess is those Eastside transit users will drive directly to a park and ride that serves East Link or demand a one seat bus like the 554.

        Until the Eastside park and rides are full again feeder buses are unnecessary, especially if riders from areas not served by Link demand one seat buses like the 554 or 630 or 332 (?) from Kenmore.

        I understand urbanists hate cars and SFH zoning. But that is the reality for most of this region. That is why there are so many park and rides (that are empty today). Metro is experimenting with micro transit in Sammamish but I simply don’t see how that will be cheaper or faster than using a park and ride, but I assume Metro is smarter than I am and can see the zillions of miles driven by Uber in this area and sees that at some point in the future that might be first mile access, except with a park and ride the driver pays for the car, fuel, insurance, maintenance, and most importantly driver.

      10. DT: Have you heard of paratransit? It reads like you haven’t.


        “ The ADA also requires ‘paratransit’ service for persons whose disabilities prevent them from using accessible, non-commuter, fixed route bus service. Paratransit service is intended to offer a comparable level of service to that provided by regular bus service.”

        Just like with handicapped parking placards, it’s a hurdle to qualify but the hurdle is a pretty low one.

        Once qualified, the local program is called Metro Access.


        I am not an Access user so I can’t comment on the program. However, I see Access buses all the time so I know it’s being used. I am not sure how the driver shortage affects Access.

      11. Yep, my dad used paratransit for his doctor appointment and PT after recovery from a surgery he had but couldn’t use his car. It’s also useful for people with disabilities who needed to travel with a caretaker somewhere without a car. I had coworkers who were in such a situation when I worked retail a decade ago.

      12. I don’t have any first hand experience with it, but from what I’ve heard paratransit is extremely cumbersome to use compared to regular transit.

        For example, simply qualifying for it requires a significant chunk of time to deal with beurocracy and make trips to a metro customer service office. Then, you have the overhead of needing to call the office to arrange each and every trip you take hours or days in advance, which means no spontaneous travel. Also, due to limited numbers of vehicles and drivers, you’ll likely have to adjust your travel time to fit better with other riders, so if you want to take paratransit to a 2:00 doctor’s appointment that lasts 15 minutes, they might make you arrive at 1 and leave at 3, leaving you sitting around the doctor’s waiting room for 1 hour 45 minutes, in addition to the time spent in the van (and, if you need paratransit in the first place, walking somewhere else in the meantime is probably not an option). And then, of course, just like door to door airport shuttle vans, the route once you’re finally on the van can be anything but direct; a trip that might take 15 minutes in a private car could drag out to over and hour as the van zigs and zags picking up and dropping off other people along the way. And even when a stop is fairly on the way, the stop itself will take much longer than a stop on a regular metro bus because the people who use paratransit will tend to need help getting into and out of the vehicle, and often have wheelchairs, so every stop requires the driver to get out of their seat. And then, of course, there is no real-time arrival tracking system at all – you’re just stuck sitting and waiting until the vehicle eventually shows up. And finally, if you ever visit another city, your paratransit eligibility here doesn’t automatically carry over there, so you’re just out of luck.

        While paratransit does avoid needing to walk to the bus stop, that’s pretty much the only advantage it has. Everything else is a disadvantage, to the point where even people who are eligible for paratransit will often still use regular transit when possible, and paratransit only when the destination is too far of a walk from the nearest bus stop with regular transit.

        Some people imagine that we could save all sorts of taxpayer money while still helping people in need by ditching the regular transit service and running only paratransit. I disagree. A transit service that consists *only* of paratransit would be truly awful to use, to the point where only the desperate would use it. Even hourly fixed route service that runs only during the day is better.

    1. @Alonso,

      Thanks! That is an interesting site. Data is sort of top level, but it shows trends.

      Metro is #9 of 25 for service levels, but only #19 of 25 for trips taken? (vs their peir group). Good gawd, transit is about trips taken!

      It’s interesting if you compare Metro to ST. Metro is providing about 50% more service than is being used (assuming usage and service were balanced before the pandemic), whereas ST only has a 15% pad.

      Additionally, Metro never reduced service levels, whereas ST did for all modes (and continues to offer reduced service levels for commuter rail and buses).

      It would appear from that data that Metro has plenty of room to reduce service levels until such time as they get their operator situation under control. Attempting to offer full service levels while 30% of that service goes unused is exactly why they are having reliability problems today.

      And, interestingly enough, it appears that Spokane Transit Authority is doing really well too. 87% of prepandemic ridership. If Metro doesn’t want to follow ST’s example, then maybe they can learn something from the STA.

      1. Lazarus
        ST also offers reduced Link service; pre-Covid headway was six-minutes; it became 10-minutes; it is now eight-minutes, longer than pre-Covid.
        Metro reduced service significantly during Covid; many routes were suspended; some remain suspended; some that were restored will be suspended in fall 2023.

      2. Attempting to offer full service levels while 30% of that service goes unused is exactly why they are having reliability problems today.

        I don’t think you understand the chart. This does not reflect usage. This is a chart comparing service and ridership levels before and after the pandemic. A train that was full with riders before the pandemic could be 70% full now, and it would show up as 70% ridership recovery. That doesn’t mean that train cars are unused.

        The rest of the comment (about usage) is similar.

        I also think you have to keep in mind other factors. For example, the Kraken debuted during the pandemic, which helps explain the big increase in monorail ridership. During the pandemic, there was a major expansion of Link. The numbers for Link (and Sound Transit) would look much worse if not for that expansion. You can see that if you dig into the particulars using the ridership tracker: https://www.soundtransit.org/ride-with-us/system-performance-tracker/ridership. The downtown stations are down about 30%, despite being connected to more destinations from the north. Same with SeaTac, which is down about 15%. Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley is down around 30%. It is really the expansion that is hiding what would otherwise be a significant downturn in ridership. Yet that downturn is nothing like the reduction in ridership from the ST buses and Sounder. ST Express has about half the riders. Sounder has way less than that.

        But not all buses are the same. For example, the 594 has recovered faster than the 590. This is a good example of how peak service (especially for long distance travel) has not recovered as well as off-peak service. But the 594 still hasn’t fully recovered. I would imagine if ST had increased frequency on the buses to run them every 15 minutes (instead of every half hour) there would be a ridership bump, but of course, there was a drive shortage.

        It is really easy to look at your own little burg and think “we are special”. We really aren’t. These are all just parts of a national trend, or the result of changes that improve (or make things worse) no matter when they are implemented. For example, I was curious why Columbia Missouri had such a big increase in ridership compared to before the pandemic. Turns out, they restructured their routes right before the pandemic. More connections, shorter waits. In other words, a grid, with better frequency. A more recent article mentioned that ridership is way up, but they are having trouble getting enough drivers. Sound familiar?

        There are national trends, as well as best practices. There are — and will always be — trade-offs when it comes to transit. Ridership versus coverage; grid versus hub-and-spoke; bus improvements versus new rail. There is no absolute right answer that can be applied everywhere — it is a matter of using the right tool for the particular situation.

      3. Metro has a solution for the cancelled-trip problem, it just won’t be fully implemented until September due to the time to change a large bureaucracy. We’ll see after it’s implemented whether it’s sufficient. We don’t need to dream up cuts beyond that for a problem we don’t know exists. Someday more cuts may be needed in the future, but we can wait until then.

        The reason Metro didn’t cut service 40% is the county council told it not to. All the politicians agreed it was important to keep up service so that essential workers could get around and so we wouldn’t fall back into a 1980s level of skeletal transit That would put the metro area further behind and be harder to build back from.

        RapidRide is defined as minimum 15 minutes until 10pm every day. You can’t go below that without destroying RapidRide and the reason it exists. That’s to guarantee that at least some corridors have full-time frequent and sometimes faster service. And since RapidRide is among the top-performing routes, it doesn’t make sense to cut them, especially below 15 minutes,.

    2. @Alonso,

      Hey! They have the monorail on there and it is doing great.

      The Seattle Center Monorail is at 107% of pre-pandemic service levels, but is at 161% of pre-pandemic ridership levels.

      Score one for the monorail!

      1. This is due mostly to hockey, and hockey related improvements, although the monorail taking ORCA helps.

    3. There are a number of trends. One is that low density cities (Detroit, Scottsdale) have particularly bad transit recoveries. In a lot of areas, more jobs actually leads to less transit, as people buy (and use) cars to get around. This is especially the case if transit is generally poor.

      I would say the biggest trend is in commuting. Downtown commuter travel has not fully recovered. The farther the trip, the less it has recovered. Muni has 65% of previous riders, BART has 43%, CalTrain 37%. In most cases it is difficult to dig this out, since agencies often do provide a range of services.

      For this region, that is certainly the case. Metro runs buses in the city, and it runs buses from the far flung suburbs (the county is very big). Sound Transit runs trains in the heart of the city, and to distant cities as well. Same with its buses. It is only when you look at the particulars that you can find the trends.

      The urban buses have largely recovered. The 7 is only a few riders short of what it was during the pandemic. At the other end of things, Sounder ridership is much lower than it was. Link had a big expansion, so it is trickier to look at the number. But even with the expansion, most stations have not fully recovered. The exception is Capitol Hill Station, arguably the most all-day, urban of our stations.

      It is important to understand that this chart shows *recovery levels*. Service levels compared to before the pandemic. Ridership levels before the pandemic. It is not a reflection of overall service levels or overall ridership levels. An agency may have fully recovered, but it still may be doing a very poor job in terms of overall ridership, or ridership per service level, ridership per dollar spent, etc.

  22. I see from one of ST’s construction announcements that NE 130th St Station is getting a carpark garage.

    Not housing.

    Perhaps that is the source of the huge cost overrun on a cheap but effective station.

    1. https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/ne-130th-st-infill-station

      Here is the website for the station at 130th. I don’t see a parking garage listed on the design.

      I would hardly call the 130th St. station a cheap but effective station. It may be relatively effective when it opens, and was always based on being an intercept, not TOD, but its price tag has now increased from $72 million in 2016 to $174 million in 2020 https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2020/03/02/sound-transit-to-start-130th-street-link-station.html#:~:text=The%20estimated%20cost%20to%20build%20the%20130th%20Street,be%20determined%20mid-2021%20after%20final%20design%20is%20complete. to now nearly double what ST estimated in 2020 as the project cost.

      130th was never designed as a park and ride. https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/06/16/as-ne-130th-station-opening-slips-to-2026-sdot-moves-to-improve-station-access/

      “Of the 3,400 daily riders expected at NE 130th Street Station, Sound Transit expects just 10% to arrive by personal car in part because the station won’t have a parking garage, unlike the nearby Shoreline South Station at 148th Street. The remaining passengers are anticipated to be roughly split between bus transfers and direct walk or bike trips. Currently no buses serve the area where 130th Street station will be, and biking facilities in the area are not robust.”

      Unless there has been a design change, and as noted above the low ridership estimates for 130th are in part due to the fact there is no park and ride. Each of the Lynnwood Link stations has a parking garage, probably because TOD will take a very long time, and it isn’t clear how popular TOD along I-5 will be, including at 130th, especially post pandemic with commuting to downtown Seattle down over 50%.

      1. As RossB and the ridership modeling point out, most riders will reach Link by bus. The few hundred stalls at the stations cannot produce much ridership; they will fill early and lead to about two rides per day. The stations in urban centers will have significant walk access riders.

      2. The cost of every station in Lynnwood Link went up. Same for pretty much everything that hasn’t been built. I see your point. The increase in costs makes the case against Lynnwood Link stronger. I don’t happen to agree with you, but you are right, Lynnwood Link (which costs over $3 billion now) is “mainly a bus intercept so folks [who] are already on a bus [don’t have to] spend the additional time to go to Northgate” (as you put it). Sure. But in many cases the time savings for those bus riders is significant. Northgate is a good intercept from the freeway (e. g. Lynnwood) but it isn’t great. There are no HOV ramps, and there are a handful of traffic lights to get to the station. It is even worse for the surrounding neighborhoods. Light after light, with major traffic, and no easy way to fix it with bus or BAT lanes. So yeah, I can definitely see your point that Lynnwood Link isn’t worth it, but those bus riders (who make up the bulk of the ridership) will save a lot of time getting to Link.

        Furthermore, the network will be a lot better. East-west bus service will improve quite a bit, in part because buses won’t be so oriented towards going north-south (to get to Northgate). In the case of Community Transit, much of the improvement comes from saving service money. Again, I see your point. If we had simply spent a portion of that 3 billion on running buses more often, we might have a network that is as good, if not better. But that also assumes we can actually hire more drivers. I’m not saying the case for Lynnwood Link is really strong (especially given the added costs) but personally, I think it is worth it. Same with Federal Way Link. If nothing else, I believe it is essential for the terminal station (Lynnwood or Federal Way) to have HOV ramps into it (and both do). This could have been accomplished some other way, but that would cost money too.

    2. It’s a surface parking lot. I talked about it with an ST rep at one of the East Link open houses. He said it’s a placeholder use until Spring District growth reaches that area, then it can be converted to something else. I said I worried that the existence of a parking lot would create pressure to keep it forever. He didn’t think that was likely.

      1. This is 130th St. in Seattle, not 130th Ave. in Bellevue.

        In any case, the reason the cost is so high is because it’s being bolted on after the line was already designed without it, rather than planned for it from the beginning.

        For comparison purposes, the bridge over I-5 at Northgate station was $25 million, I believe. A simple elevated platform next to the tracks, with new new freeway bridges, should not cost three times that.

      2. Asdf2, the issue with the 130th St. station is how far off the estimated cost is from actual costs. First from 2016 to 2021, and then from 2021’s revised estimate to today.

        Transit funding is finite. Choices have to be made. But how can the citizens have an honest discussion about which transit project is a better use of funds than another if ST won’t honestly estimate project costs?

        Is WSBLE worth it at $6 or $9 billion. Maybe. But not at $15 or $20 billion. Is 130th — which I initially supported — worth it at its current project cost that is nearly four times the 2016 estimated cost? No, it isn’t. But we never got to have that balancing test because ST won’t be honest about estimated project costs.

        Yes, Glenn looked silly blaming the current costs for 130th on a parking garage that does not exist because he dislikes cars and park and rides. The main point is whether a “bolt on” station or not, ST has built many similar stations and should have been much more accurate and honest in its 2016 and 2021 project cost estimates, because at today’s cost I think most would have said a station between Northgate and 148th was not worth it, especially a station that is mainly a bus intercept so folks are already on a bus and the additional time to go to Northgate Link or 148th is not worth the cost of a station at 130th IMO. I think the minimalist design of the station at 130th is ST agreeing with me. That station was never critical or worth the current cost.

      3. “Yes, Glenn looked silly blaming the current costs for 130th on a parking garage that does not exist because he dislikes cars and park and rides.”

        I don’t know who you are talking about, but you are the one who claimed several times that all Lynnwood Link stations get parking garages.

        What I have pointed out several times is that TriMet is building the *entire* “Better Red” project for somewhat less than ST is building the 130th station.

        As for the other stuff in your comment, this is a transit web site. Therefore, that is what I come here to discuss.

      4. This is 130th St. in Seattle, not 130th Ave. in Bellevue.

        Right, but the bulletin put out by Sound Transit was nonsensical. There is no parking garage at the (Lynnwood Link) NE 130th Station. There is a parking lot at the (East Link) Bel-Red/130th Station. Thus it is quite reasonable for Mike to assume folks are talking about that parking lot (that exists) instead of the mythical parking lot that Sound Transit notified everyone about. If Brent had linked to the ST bulletin I think folks would have realized how ridiculous it was from the get go (saving us a lot of confusion).

      5. I do get the two 130th stations confused like Sam said. When I say them I usually say “130th in Seattle” or “130th in Bellevue”. I saw “NE” and remembered the parking lot controversy, and didn’t remember both stations are in the Northeast sector. When the lines open and people start seeing the station names on the ground I think people will readily switch to them. Before that it’s harder to remember where a station is. And 130th in Seattle doesn’t have a name yet.

      6. Yeah discussing 130th names would create a whole other discussion. Maybe start a new thread about it?

        Usually street names are used for stations when they are destinations. Things like business districts come to mind. Neither 130th is a known destination. So leaving 130th off the name doesn’t seem like a big loss.

        And streets can be renamed! Maybe name the street something else — and use that for the station name!

        There are so many options….

      7. An old ST YouTube video of East Link shows the Link stations being named: Rainier, M.I., South Bellevue, Bellevue Transit Center Station, Hospital, 120th, 130th, Overlake Village, and Overlake Transit Center.

    3. The station on East Link should simply be called “Bel-Red”. I don’t know why they tack on the “130th”. There is no real ambiguity with “Bel-Red”, as there is no other station with that name. It is also relatively well known. With the addition of “130th”, they make it longer than is necessary AND add confusion. Neat trick.

      It would not surprise me if they double down on the naming mess. 130th is ambiguous. 130th Avenue is not. So now you have “Bel-Red/130th Ave”, instead of simply “Bel-Red”. How does that really help anyone?

      To be fair, there is value in using street numbers for stations. If you are in Lower Manhattan and take a train north (towards Harlem) you can see the numbers getting bigger. If you doze off for a second, you can quickly figure out whether you slept too long. But that really isn’t the case with East Link. There is 120th (again, tacked onto another station name “Spring District”) and that’s it. In contrast, the main line north of the UW could have easily adopted that pattern until it leaves the county (UW, 45th, 65th, Northgate, 130th, 145th, 185th, Mountlake Terrace). This is pretty simple, and with the exception of Mountlake Terrace (which could be abbreviated) uses very few characters, making the signs much easier to read.

      Anyway, this subject has been beat to death. I don’t expect them to simplify the station names. We will still have the occasional confusion when discussing the stations. It is less of a problem for riders, as folks generally know what train to catch (and which direction). The lake is a very good indicator of what is going on. Unless, of course, you doze off during that section.

      1. The number came before the name, so some people are still used to it. The entire area between 116th and Overlake Village is Bel-Red, so “Bel-Red” could also refer to Spring District station.

        Shoreline was so full of itself getting its name into both stations. 185th is closest to Shoreline’s activity centers so it should be Shoreline Station. The other is shared by Shoreline, Seattle, and Kenmore/Bothell Stride, so it should be called something else. There have also been calls to have numbers in other north stations like U-District, where Link goes practically straight north and there’s some benefit in numbers that tell you where proportionally the station is and how many miles north of downtown Seattle.

        I don’t see that happening with 130th in Bellevue. It’s not a strategic street. Bellevueites think of it as “a minor street in the middle of nowhere” and “Is there really a 130th Avenue?”

      2. Yeah, I get that “Bel-Red” is a bigger neighborhood, and includes two stations. But everyone agreed to call the other one “Spring”, and that works fine. So have “Spring” and “Bel-Red” and call it a day.

        It is like “UW” and “U-District” stations. “U-District” definitely includes all of the UW, which means Husky Stadium. Meanwhile, the “U-District” station is used by lots of people headed to the UW campus. So from an abstract geographic standpoint, the names are complete failures. So what? People get used to it. Every day people say things like “Oh, you are headed to the UW — are you getting off at the UW Station or the U-District Station?”.

        The same thing would happen with Bel-Red. But again, it really doesn’t matter. Unless you want to name the stations after intersections (e. g. “Roosevelt and 65th”) you aren’t going to get the station and the geography exactly right.

      3. The confusion will be worse once there is a single line serving both stations.

        In Chicago they have multiple station names but they are on different lines. Eg: Pink, Green and Blue lines all have a California station.

        TriMet uses different names. Eg, SE Holgate on the green line vs SE 17th and Holgate on the Orange, Milwaukie/Main on the Orange vs SE Main on the green, SW Oak vs Oak & SW 1st, etc

        What about maybe calling the 130th & I-5 station something like “Northacres” since that’s the name of the nearby park?

      4. The Blue line has two Western stations. When the Pine line was a branch of the Blue it had three. When I last rode the Blue line, the northern one said “Western” on the map, the audio announcement said “Western & Milwaukie”, and some of the signs built into the wall tiles in the northern paired stations said “___ & Mikwaukie”. So apparently the naming has changed over time.

  23. I just finished a ride on the 75 a few minutes ago from Magnusson Park to the U district. Quite a bit more people on the bus than I expected for a route that Metro wants to cut back to every 30 minutes as part of the Lynnwood Link restructure. And, yes, many did get on in the Magnusson Park area, so you can’t just say “ride the 65 instead”.

    The planned cuts to this route is a big step backwards. I remember when, pre-2016, the 75 used to run every 30 minutes. And going backwards like this to run a few more meandering milk runs in Shoreline seems like a mistake.

    1. I agree. The 75 performed well prior to the pandemic, especially during peak. I see this as a symptom of the bigger problem with the Lynnwood Link restructure (and our network in general). The network is not efficient. As a result, border-line routes (like the 75) are cut dramatically.

      To be fair, riders do have frequent alternatives for the most popular parts of the route to Link. Sand Point has the 62, while further south there is the 65. But fairly common and short trips from Sand Point are made tougher. Trips to Lake City, Children’s Hospital, U-Village or the UW Campus take a lot longer, and require a transfer. Meanwhile, the 79 overlaps the route, but doesn’t really complement it. Now you have two half-hour buses running south along Sand Point Way, with the potential for 15-minute combined headways, and yet they manage to stay far enough apart that I don’t see them working together (even if they are timed appropriately). You might take the 79 and walk, but it certainly isn’t a natural pairing (the way the 65/75 is now).

      So yeah, it is a major degradation for quite a few people. The worst part is, it is a brute-force service reduction. At best this is robbing Peter to pay Paul. The 75 is clearly getting worse. In contrast, consider the restructure idea I proposed before: Send the 348 to the UW, and have it replace the 67. This is a much bigger service savings. There are winners and losers, but at least there are winners. For example, it gets harder for some people (like me) to get to Northgate. But those same people get a one-seat ride to Roosevelt and the UW. All while saving a substantial amount of service. I don’t want to gloss over the fact that there are other losers — but in the case of the 75, there are *only* losers. It is nothing more than a degradation of service, despite being a historically productive route.

      There are much better ways to save service.

    2. Metro has to cut somewhere; if it weren’t the 75 it would be other routes. I’m disappointed at losing 15-minute midday service, but the 62 and Roosevelt Station have been a game-changer, so now a 30-minute 75 is merely poor service rather than devastating. Most riders are coming from the Magnuson Park or Children’s areas, and can take the 62 or 31/32 even if it’s not as direct as they’d like. Those going specifically from Magnuson Park to either Lake City or Children’s exist but are fewer in number.

      The 79 doesn’t really serve the Magnuson Park concentration; it only reaches the far southwest corner. The concentration is between 65th and 78th, while the 79 is only on Sand Point Way between 65th and 55th.

      1. Metro has to cut somewhere; if it weren’t the 75 it would be other routes.

        It isn’t really “other routes”, it is savings that come from restructuring. Send the buses different places, and the 75 (a fundamentally strong route) becomes more frequent. Other routes do as well. I gave an example with the 73; there are others.

      2. “Metro has to cut somewhere”

        Yes, they certainly do. Without enough operators, and apparently with no way to hire themselves out of the hole, they have no choice but to cut back.

        Eliminating complete routes might make sense in certain limited situations, but cutting back frequency on certain resource intensive routes like RR makes more sense.

        Doing so would free up enough operators to stabilize operations, while still maintaining the current operational structure.

        With operations at 97% of pre-pandemic levels, but with ridership only at 60% of pre-pandemic levels, Metro has more than enough room to cut frequency.

      3. “with ridership only at 60% of pre-pandemic levels”

        That’s an average. It varies widely on different routes. You want to take service from the most productive and transformational RapidRide routes. And not just extra runs above 10 minutes that’s solely for capacity, but runs that cut into the 10-15 minute frequency that make it so successful. There are plenty of non-RapidRide lines that Metro can cut a few runs from and is doing so, without breaking the promise of a few full-time frequent routes.

      4. You are confused Lazarus. We switched subjects. We are discussing the restructure after Lynnwood Link, not the current driver shortage. If you want to talk about the driver shortage, then start a new thread (or add to the already existing one). We can discuss your bizarre ideas there.

      5. @Ross,

        I was responding directly to Mike’s comment. That is still allowed, right?

      6. @Mike Orr,

        “ You want to take service from the most productive and transformational RapidRide routes”

        Metro is in a bind. If Metro needs to save operator hours they should first look at where they are spending the largest number of their operator hours, and that means the frequent routes.

        Stated another way: if you need to save resources, look first at where you are using the most resources. This just makes sense,

        My understanding is that none of these routes are currently operating at capacity, and that means that all of them are potential candidates for frequency reductions. Metro simply shouldn’t be lavishing operator hours on services that already have excess capacity.

        And whether or not RR was “transformational” is debatable. What matters is whether or not RR is currently operating with excess capacity.

      7. I guess to me it would make the most sense to try to reorganize based on productivity.

        Eg, maybe that whole triple switchback thing the 24 does in Magnolia could be replaced with a VIA-like service, with the 24 serving only one street? It’s a busy route once it crosses the Magnolia bridge, but is very lightly loaded on the first and second weave.

        During many hours of the day, the 128 makes an odd hairpin extension to serve South Seattle College, but it’s quite far off route. It seems like a route restructure that would go past the college on its way to somewhere else, rather than make a 10 minute detour most trips, would allow hours to be redeployed elsewhere.

        With 15th getting RapidRide D, does the 32 really need to go all the way to Seattle Center? Maybe just end it at Dravus or Fisherman’s Terminal?

        It just seems like there’s a fair amount of underutilized route segments that could be reorganized to try to get the best utilization out of what driver hours are available.

  24. Metro is doing exactly the right thing in response to the decline in ridership. Peak expresses are being completely eliminated and “peak trippers” on all-day routes are as well. Since ‘the peaks” largely consisted of office commuters and employees of the downtown businesses which served them, this is entirely appropriate.

    No, it is not sufficient to reduce operations costs by the same percentage that ridership has declined. But I would assert that much of the remaining “excess” service largely remains essential.

    To solve ther driver shortage issue, Metro may need to pay more to attract new candidates and retain veteran operators. But in reality, even a ten dollar per hour increase in driver pay is only about a $15 increase in total cost per platform hour. A significant fraction of the cost of “benefits” are flat costs per employee. It’s only the social taxes which are levied asca percentage of compensation which rise proportionally.

    That $15 is a relatively small fraction of the current fully-allocated hourly cost per platform hour.

    If “Eastsiders” are now too good to ride a bus, axe most of the coverrage routes there. There are plenty of folks in South King who are less flush and would appreciate more frequent service and more direct routes.

    In general lines should run every half hour or more frequently. If a line can’t manage at least seven or eight passengers per hour at that frequency, maybe it should just go away. Hourly “service” is not useful to most people, except perhaps connections between distant towns and the nearest city. That sort of relatively short-haul “intercity bus service” should be subsidized by the state.

    1. Start advertising in Mexico City. $26/hr and a work visa, and you will have more drivers than you can handle. I know the feds need to be on board to make it work. But that is the obvious solution, even if politically tricky.

      1. I agree. This is a national problem that requires an international solution.

      2. It’s partially a national problem, insomuch as the unemployment rate is historically low, so it’s harder to find workers, but some aspects of the problem are unique to Metro. The top pay for a Link Operator is $37.22 an hour. The top pay for a Streetcar Operator is $37.22 and hour. The top pay for a Metro Operator is $37.22 an hour. Are Link and the Streetcar chronically short-staffed? There are issues, like driver safety concerns, and being very unhappy with treatment by management, that need to be addressed at Metro, or they’ll continue to have staffing problems, despite higher pay.

        Btw, Metro’s understaffing has nothing to do with immigration, because the immigration rate has almost no affect on the unemployment rate. Bing it.

      3. Oh come on Sam. If the government allowed it, you could fill all those driver jobs with immigrants quite easily. That doesn’t mean the unemployment rate would change, simply because so little of the unemployment rate has anything to do with driving. About 3 percent of all jobs involve driving, and most of that is truck driving. “Bus drivers, transit and intercity” make up around 0.1% of all United States jobs (https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/emp-by-detailed-occupation.htm). Lay them all off and the overall unemployment rate doesn’t change. Fill all the jobs and the overall unemployment rate doesn’t change.

        It is just a particularly in-demand sector right now. Oh, and a high percentage of drivers are Latino, which means that if our immigration policy changed, we could easily find enough drivers from south of the border.

      4. Sam – are you suggesting if we allowed free movement of humans across our borders (not just goods and lucre) we would ever see unemployment below 5% again? Maybe if America ceased being America.

        That would also serve to pretty significantly suppress wages, until some sort of new equilibrium were found. And that would harm American workers in the short to medium term, but perhaps improve their prospects in the long-term.

        And in the long term it wouldn’t be American workers. it would just be workers.

      5. Ross, I don’t want to get into talking about immigration right now, but I am curious how you would answer this … Metro and Link pay Operators the same, but, only Metro has serious staffing issues. How do you explain the difference?

      6. “Metro and Link pay Operators the same, but, only Metro has serious staffing issues. How do you explain the difference?”

        All else equal, a driver would rather drive a train than a bus. It’s a smoother ride and you don’t have to deal with passengers. To make drivers equally willing to drive trains and buses, you would have to pay the bus drivers a little bit more than the train drivers.

        “That would also serve to pretty significantly suppress wages, until some sort of new equilibrium were found. And that would harm American workers in the short to medium term, but perhaps improve their prospects in the long-term.”

        From a national policy standpoint, there’s a fundamental tension. You can help bus riders and taxpayers by allowing bus drivers in from other countries to fill the worker shortage. Or, you can make bus drivers and their unions happy by intentionally not doing so in order to drive up bus driver wages. You cannot do both.

        For what it’s worth, I don’t remember the details, but I do recall reading somewhere that the president actually does have the authority to grant visas to workers in critical areas of the economy with labor shortages, and that Biden indeed has done this in a few areas – just not for bus drivers. Unfortunately, granting visas to foreign bus drivers would be politically very difficult, as there is no “wing” other either political party that would want to do so. Republicans would oppose it because they hate immigration in general and couldn’t care less about cuts to bus service in cities where 80% of the residents are Democrats. But, on the Democratic side, you don’t really get support for this type of proposal either. Progressives would oppose because progressives like unions and the bus drivers’ unions would oppose. Moderates might care less about the unions than progressives, but they also care much less about transit in general than progressives, so the union concerns still carry the day with them too.

      7. Metro and Link pay Operators the same, but, only Metro has serious staffing issues. How do you explain the difference?

        Metro operates Link. They also operate the RapidRide buses. None of them are being cut. They are priority routes.

        Walk into Denny’s and the waitress says “we don’t have everything on the menu, one of our cooks is sick”. You ask if they have pancakes. “Of course — we are Denny’s” she says with a smile.

        Link is like pancakes at Denny’s.

      8. Jim, some Link Operators take the job because they love trains, but there are other reasons. A big one is they don’t want to have to interact with passengers anymore. I’ve heard more than a few bus drivers, tired of always being called into their bosses office for yet another passenger complaint, view Link as an escape from that. For some, it’s a last resort. They have such anger issues with passengers on the bus, it’s suggested to them maybe they’d be happier on Link. I’ve heard of others whose bodies can no longer take the abuse that rough roads and potholes dish out, and opt for the smoother ride on rails.

        There are a few downsides for some. Just one line (no variety). Higher stress level/much more strict on the rules of operation. Just one base, so may be much further away from someone’s home than a bus base. Some would miss interacting with passengers. And I’m sure there are some other things I can’t think of right now.

      9. Immigration in order to break unions and depress the cost of labor was the key policy of the Bush/Cheney administration. Along with lowering the tax consequences on capital. Today’s Republican Party opposes illegal immigration for other reasons.

        I don’t think Biden or the progressives would ever go along with a special exemption for Latin Americans with the hope they stay bus drivers, or leave the country when their need is up. Especially since the demographic most harmed by illegal immigration is American Blacks.

        The U.S. has over 11 million illegal immigrants with a historically low unemployment rate which includes employment by those 11 million immigrants and there is a driver shortage for public buses.

        The reality is Metro driving jobs don’t pay enough to offset the negative aspects of the employment. There are better job opportunities. Basic economics.

        It is also unnecessary to discuss blanket exemptions from our immigration laws because an agency — Metro — whose ridership is down 41% doesn’t want to reduce frequency or cut unproductive routes and insists on maintaining a level of drivers based on pre-pandemic ridership that was 41% higher.

      10. The movable door thing Metro already has seems like the best product on the market in the USA.

      11. @ Jim Cusick,

        “Train operators are closet foamers”

        Ah, I know what a “foamer” is, but didn’t know how you thought it fitted in the conversation.

        For the record, I don’t think Link operators took the job because the are foamers. I think they took the job because they think it is a better, lower stress, and safer job than being a bus operator. And that being a Link operator does all that while still offering essentially the same pay and benefits.

        There is a lot to be said for better working conditions with lower stress levels.

        The only bus operator I know who declined an opp to move over to Link did so because he thought driving Link would be boring, and he didn’t like all the interaction with the control center. He preferred to be left alone.

        But he was also senior enough that he didn’t have to take routes like the E. So for him the stress level was not a factor. But then his health failed and he had to give it all up.

    2. It’s not ridership and it’s not costs. Metro has determined the routes are worthwhile, and it has the money to run them. It just doesn’t have enough drivers. Metro has performance metrics and a list of which corridors are underserved relative to its potential/latent ridership. These are more accurate than layman’s guesses of “the bus looks empty” or “Metro can cut 40% of service without harming the network and people’s mobility options”. There are a lot of factors laymen don’t see or perceive.

    3. Tom, when you state eastsiders “are too good” to ride transit I think you miss a few points.

      1. Folks on the Eastside who ride/rode transit are not the wealthy or privileged. The privileged always drove to work.

      2. Ridership is down everywhere. Look at Sounder S. The reality is a large percentage of Seattle clerical workers lived in S Seattle and S KC because they wanted an affordable SFH. These are not privileged folks.

      3. Folks stopped riding transit because they could. Who wants to spend two hours of uncompensated time commuting to an office when their work is on a computer?

      4. Drivers stopped driving. I drove to work for 32 years and don’t miss my commute at all. Now I walk to work, which took me a while to adjust to emotionally.

      5. At some point areas are going to look at the taxes they pay toward transit and the services they receive. It may be time to go to a subarea approach for Metro, with subarea equity, but without uniform tax rates. If eastsiders are not riding transit frequency and coverage should be cut, and so should their transit related taxes. At the same time areas like Seattle that pass special levies to increase transit should not see that transit reallocated to S KC.

      It is important to understand folks — eastsiders — did not stop riding transit due to class privilege, although the declining street safety in Seattle and moving buses out of the transit tunnel hurt, but personal safety is not “privilege”, it is just that they didn’t need to make that peak commute anymore to an area that has very expensive parking.

      Downtown Bellevue has expensive work parking, or did pre-pandemic when more worked there , but I am sure many will take the one seat 554 when it is rerouted.

      People stopped riding peak transit because they no longer had to, and the areas lack of density makes non-peak transit trips non competitive because of first/last mile access. Eastside Metro and ST buses were clean and the riders mostly well mannered, and employers paid the fare. But transit isn’t like Disneyland: the ride is not the attraction (although I do think declining conditions on buses and downtown Seattle is a cause for declining ridership). 99.9% of people ride transit because they have to. Transit is a hassle, there is first/last mile access, forced mixing with the public, and pre-pandemic packed conditions. Who wants that voluntarily?

      I think the big issue going forward is whether to cut coverage or frequency, and that is what Metro is beginning to struggle with. I agree with asdf2 that at some point “frequency” becomes so poor it really equals no coverage, especially in urban areas where transfers are more common or for anxious work commuters.

      90 minute frequencies from MI, a “bus intercept”— to North Bend equals no coverage, although there are park and ride alternatives. I think Metro keeps these useless frequencies because if Metro just cancelled coverage to North Bend — despite the fact they all drive to park and rides in Issaquah — will begin the debate n which areas or subareas demand their transit taxes more closely resemble transit services received. Maybe that is why Metro is experimenting with micro transit in Sammamish, although I think government run micro transit in a huge and undense area like Sammamish is insane.

      You can’t accuse eastsiders or N KC residents of privilege because they don’t have to ride transit anymore, and you can’t take their transit taxes and gleefully demand their transit be eliminated.

      I agree that at least on the Eastside the sparse transit level of service should probably be cut due to reduced ridership, but so should their transit taxes. Right now the only people benefiting are businesses who no longer have to subsidize employee transit fares.

      1. “Ridership is down everywhere. Look at Sounder S.”

        Look at the all-day buses. You’re cherry-picking the worst casualty, which is not typical of transit as a whole.

        “The reality is a large percentage of Seattle clerical workers lived in S Seattle and S KC because they wanted an affordable SFH. ”

        And they buy groceries and go to school and medical appointments and parks. Some of them do it on transit. Most South King County residents probably don’t work in Seattle. Yet you look only at Sounder and buses to downtown Seattle. But people in Kent go to Highline College, Green River College, Valley Medical Center, the industrial jobs in northwest Kent, Southcenter, Des Moines, Renton, and Auburn. Transit between all those is important too, and is being ridden.

  25. I am just curious. How many people on this comment blog have ever had to get a CDL class 1 or 2? The comnents I read says no.

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