Brent White is a dispatcher at a private transportation provider in Seattle. He has never owned a car. His frequent routes are Link, 60, 124, 128, 132, 180, A Line, F Line, and the myriad of routes that travel between UW Station and the U-District. His birthday wish is to get to use his ORCA card to ride the monorail.
For the duration of Connect 2020, all trains will be four cars, and will come roughly every 12 minutes (and hopefully less “roughly” as the days progress). This means there will be an increase in off-peak capacity, and a significant decrease in peak-hour capacity. Passengers in the downtown tunnel may also have to use a different platform than they are used to, and it may switch from time to time. Signage and staff will be on hand to point the way, along with automated announcements. Please spread out along the entire length of the platform to fill the four train cars evenly, and stay out of the priority seating area, so wheelchairs users, riders in scooters, and others who need it can board quickly.
King County Metro is helping out by adding more buses on routes 7, 36, 48, 49, and 70, as alternatives to taking Link.
The ten-week period of construction work to install East Link track and switches in International-District/Chinatown Station, a project Sound Transit has dubbed “Connect 2020“, has arrived.
Operational nuisances begin today and tomorrow with a full closure of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Just like happened a couple weekends last fall, shuttles will run every 7 minutes between SODO Station and Capitol Hill Station, and serve temporary bus stops at each station in between. Link will run every 10 minutes on tunnel closure days.
Both the shuttles and Link will be free all weekend. ST staff will be available at both Capitol Hill Station and SODO Station to answer questions.
Today, Thurston County Intercity Transit is embarking on a five-year pilot program to run without fares. That means both their fixed-route buses and paratransit (which, by federal law, cannot charge more than twice the fixed-route fare) will be free.
This experiment is not a dive off the ideological deep end, but, rather, the result of using proper performance metrics. From IT’s fare page:
Fares account for less than 2 percent of our net revenue. After considering the capital and operational costs of a new system, the difference is negligible. The opportunity to offer faster service, increase ridership, improved access and equity is a far better investment.
It seems that Intercity Transit was following my advice to use the proper performance metric — net fare revenue — or that that performance metric is so obvious that many wise minds think alike. (I’m not necessarily counting myself as one of the wise guys.)
King County Metro continues to base fare policy on the much less useful datapoint of gross fare revenue.
There is more scheduling cleverness still to be milked out of scheduling inefficiency on this corridor.
The Georgetown diversion
The most obvious opportunity is to remove the Georgetown diversionary loop on route 107, which currently has the unfortunate effect of adding several minutes to the commutes of students going to and from school at Cleveland High School and Mercer Middle School. Even when Cleveland students get out at the stop before the Georgetown diversion and hike along the narrow sidewalk the last few blocks, it still adds a few minutes.
The Georgetown loop increases the total time it takes to drive each run by approximately 10%. In the process, it likely causes a non-trivial loss in ridership, for reasons similar to the old Veterans Administration Medical Center loop on route 60, but not quite as pronounced.
Author’s Note: SEPTA’s 50-cent electronic fare discount has been added since the original post, thanks to an observant commenter.
King County Metro is at the mercy of cities for giving right-of-way and signal priority to buses, at the mercy of the State (and Tim Eyman) for being allowed to ask for local tax revenue, at the mercy of a more generous federal government for subsidization, and at the mercy of thousands of daily riders to choose to put the speed of buses over their personal convenience when they choose which way to pay their fare.
A very direct way to reduce bus dwell time would be for King County Metro to finally incentivize non-cash payment on all trips, with a lower electronic (ORCA and smartphone) fare than the cash fare.
Thirteen other urban US bus agencies have figured this out:
Tolling in the new Highway 99 tunnel has finally started. Today is the first regular weekday commute to feel the impacts (as yesterday was Veterans Day).
WSDOT is encouraging tunnel users to avail themselves of the Good-to-Go Pass, by giving pass users a $2 discount. (If only someone could explain this principle to King County Metro and/or the County Council…)
Let’s talk about what you see happening today. Are there any impacts to your bus route?
One thing that will impact bus routes today will be the Sounders’ MLS Cup Victory Parade, which will take over 4th Ave from sometime before noon, when the parade is scheduled to start at Westlake Plaza, until 1:30 pm, when the parade terminates at the Seattle Center.
If you haven’t already signed up for travel alerts specific to your route, now is a good time to do so.
Tomorrow is election day. If you haven’t mailed your ballot (making use of the free return postage) or a ballot drop box, do so right now. The deadline to drop ballots at the drop boxes is 8 pm Tuesday. Mailed ballots must be post-marked Tuesday. If you don’t mail it tonight, get thee to a ballot drop box.
Accessible voting centers (which are open to all voters) will be open until 6 pm tonight and 8 pm Tuesday. Check the hours at each site. Seattle’s accessible voting center has moved to the Chinook Building at 401 5th Ave, room 124, between Terrace St and Jefferson St. It will open at 8:30 am today and tomorrow. If you aren’t already registered to vote, you can register in person at any of these voting centers, and then proceed to cast your ballot.
Sound Transit is in the process of reviewing its fare enforcement policies, per a presentation last Thursday.
However, the single most impactful element of that process is still not on their radar. Sound Transit fare enforcement officers are directed to warn, and then fine (after repeat infractions) passengers who possess passes that cover the highest possible cost of a train trip for their payer category, or have tapped on to other services within the previous two hours that have at least as high a fare as the highest Link fare for their payer category, if the passenger failed to tap on for the ride.
Section 4.0 of Sound Transit’s Standard Operating Procedure for Fare Enforcement states:
This includes students who have received “free” passes from their school district. Students who got free passes from Seattle Public Schools who mess up once on tapping will be subject to the same treatment that students who tried to ride for free the first day of school before getting their passes issued. According to ST policy, it doesn’t matter that they have clear-and-obvious evidence with them that the trip is pre-paid.
Sounder trains will serve both the Sounders’ playoff match Saturday and the Seahawks’ game Sunday.
Relatedly, the Link Light Rail Red Line will also be open the full length of the line this weekend, before the bus bridge replaces Link service between SODO Station and Capitol Hill Station the following weekend and two weekends after that.
The Urbanist has published its 2019 general election endorsements. Long-time urbanista journalist Erica Barnett has also interviewed all city council candidates willing to talk with her. Ballots and slick ads abusing the popular term “accountability” hit mailboxes this week.
In case you missed it, The Strangerendorsed Kshama Sawant, not Egan Orion, whose campaign paid for a wrap-around ad over the real cover designed to make it appear that The Stranger had endorsed him. Drama at The Stranger.