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dxʷləšucid signs

Some time ago I contemplated whether our buses—wherever they are on Coast Salish lands—would bear place names in dxʷləšucid (Lushootseed), the language of indigenous Coast Salish peoples from Nisqually all the way to Skagit. It was early winter of 2018 when I began packing for my trip to the Samoa archipelago. Something caught the corner of my eye outside the faculty offices of the UW Anthropology department: the Burke Waterlines Map. I perused the map, pinned to the bulletin board unfolded, and, curious as to where the Lushootseed place names belonged on the map, began to piece together village by village, water site to water site, into my head already deeply colonized by the more familiar English place names I was taught to know, love and sometimes hate.

What if public transportation can bear these place names?

Fast forward another nine months to the first ever University of Washington Southern Lushootseed course. For context, there are no first speakers of Lushootseed language. Although this happened very recently, scholars and linguists—such as Arthur Ballard, Thom Hess, Vi Hilbert, and many others—began documenting and preserving the language several generations ago. Now, efforts to revitalize the language (i.e. bring Lushootseed back to a living state) are well underway, including the language courses Ms. Tami Hohn (Puyallup) teaches at the University of Washington.

These edited photographs reflect a combination of my confidence in Southern Lushootseed, knowledge of the region’s public transportation routes, and reliable sources of place names derived from the Waterlines map or Tulalip Lushootseed’s map (for places in Snohomish County). These place names are not simply of the past. They are living memories for indigenous communities across the region. They deserve to live, just as much as our metropolitan public transportation system does.

Check back on my http://incognitotransit.org/lushootseed-signs/ for more updates!

I am forever grateful to Ms. Tami Hohn for teaching me lifelong skills for learning dxʷləšucid.

Gallery

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If this 372X were to go to Kenmore P&R, this is what the sign would look like.
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If this 44 were to go to Ballard and Shilshole, this is what the sign would look like.
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If this Swift Green Line bus were to go to Everett (Paine Field), this is what the sign would look like.
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If this 67 were to go to University Village, this is what the sign would look like.
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If this 880 were to go to Mukilteo, this is what the sign would look like.
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If this 512 were to go “towards Seattle,” this is what the sign would look like.

More coming soon!

Is It Time for Systemwide All-Door Bus Boarding for Metro?

I believe that with the great surfacing of the buses, we have achieved the last of four required policy and network milestones necessary to implement all-door bus boarding systemwide for Metro and at all hours. This is meant to attempt to justify the capital expenditures required to install additional ORCA readers at rear doors, or more pragmatically, justify their inclusion in the next-generation ORCA implementation.

  1. We needed to streamline when fares are paid. This was affected when the Ride Free Area was eliminated, and now all fares are paid at boarding.
  2. We needed to eliminate fare zones based on destination. Two otherwise identical passengers no longer have two possible fares (one zone or two zone) to choose from upon boarding, and operators do not have to change the ORCA readers on an individual-passenger basis for this reason.
  3. We needed wide-scale ORCA adoption. The latest figure that I could find was in the 2016 Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transit Integration Report, which cites Metro’s agency-specific June 2016 ORCA adoption rate at 64% of fares. As Metro’s overall fortunes have risen since then, in conjunction with the simplification of fare policy and rollout of additional fare classes for youth and reduced-fare riders, I believe it is reasonable to hypothesize that the share of fares paid by ORCA card has also increased.
  4. Buses no longer operate in the tunnel, though this was less necessary than the others. The effect was a substantial loss of specialized right-of-way and an increase in the importance and visibility of reducing bus dwell times on city streets (with special emphasis on downtown peaks).

The cost-benefit analysis should be straight-forward:

  • Costs:
    • Capital expenditure for equipment and installation
    • Increased maintenance overhead
    • Predicted increase in potential for fare evasion leading to loss of farebox revenue
  • Benefits:
    • Reduced dwell time leading to service hour savings
    • Incentive to increase ORCA adoption rate
    • Reduce or eliminate need for peak-hour all-door card validator staff

To this point, it’s a math problem: If we can reduce systemwide dwell times by, say, 3%, what does that gain?

My institutional history is still somewhat limited, though, so feel free to note some other supporting or prohibiting factors I haven’t considered.

Seattle Bus Routes after Lynnwood Link

This is a proposal for improvements to the bus network following Lynnwood Link. I assume that the NE 130th station is included. Like previous posts, this is focused on improvements in Seattle. The only Shoreline routes I show are those that enter Seattle.


Many of the routes build on what I’ve proposed earlier. In general I’ve adopted my preferred routing, but at times I’ve favored the current routing. Buses that aren’t listed (such as those exclusively in Shoreline) would be more or less the same, or as listed in Metro’s Long Range Plan.

The design goals are similar to those mentioned in a previous post. The big difference is that one-seat rides to the UW are reduced; the farther you are from a destination, the more attractive a transfer to Link becomes. The station at 145th is largely treated like a transit center, as there are several buses that terminate there. 130th station, on the other hand, only serves buses that keep going. Hopefully the station entrances will straddle the street, allowing riders to transfer from the bus to the train without crossing the street.

Changes on State Route 522

The addition of BRT on SR 522 (Stride) also changes the dynamic in the area. It is wasteful to send lots of buses out to Bothell when Stride will provide fast, frequent service for most of the corridor. At the same time, 522 BRT will not serve Lake City. Service is needed there, which begs the question: Where should Lake City Way buses terminate? The most efficient location would be at 145th. In my proposal, I terminate two buses there. If all buses terminated there, however, it would require a transfer even if someone is trying to get a get a mile or two up the road. I try to strike a balance, by having some overlap. I considered having buses turn around in Lake Forest Park, but that would require adding layover space (or a live loop) in a mall parking lot. I just don’t see that happening. The logical turn-around spot is Kenmore, which has plenty of space for buses, and relatively high ridership. I chose the all-day 312 as the bus for Kenmore. Its segment in Seattle is much shorter than the 372 and I think the route has fairly consistent demand along the corridor.

Specific Routes

41 — This is a key bus route for the region. It would terminate where the D terminates, making the QFC on Holman Road a de facto transit center. I would expect this bus to be very frequent, not only because it would be popular, but because it would provide key connections. Buses that are used for transfers should err on the side of extra service. This one has a lot of connections. It not only connects to Link, but to the E, the 5, and just about every north-south bus in the region. Someone in Lake City, Bitter Lake, or anywhere along the route would have a fast two seat ride to just about everywhere. While it may be confusing to call this the “41”, I believe it deserves such a worthy moniker.

46 — This is a new bus that comes out of the long range plan. They propose something different (the 1010) that I don’t particularly like. I can see the appeal, though. A bus that goes up 15th NW, cuts over on 85th, then up to Northgate and on to Lake City would be popular. But I think it is fairly redundant. I also think the eastern tail to Lake City doesn’t get you much. Like so much of the long range plan, it largely dismisses the geographic advantages of a station at NE 130th. Someone in Ballard trying to get to Lake City would never drive through Northgate — they shouldn’t have to ride a bus through there either. But I do understand the importance of connecting Greenwood (and the rest of the 85th corridor) with Northgate. I considered just ending the bus at 32nd NW, where the 45 terminates. But I think there is value in having service along 32nd all day. I could see this running to 32nd every 15 minutes, while running to Market (down 32nd) every half hour (much like the 3 serves Madrona). Some of the buses could be extended to Lake City if the 75 proves insufficient, although I don’t consider that essential.

65 — This is the existing 65, extended up to 145th, and on to Shoreline Community College. The 65 runs a bit more often than I would expect (every ten minutes) but with this addition, I believe it is appropriate. This would be the main connection between the college and Link (or 522 BRT), so it should have no problem justifying that kind of frequency (if not a little bit better).

67 — As with the Northgate proposal, this replaces the 67 and (3)73. It is now extended to the 145th Station. With fairly fast travel along a relatively dense corridor and three connections to Link, I think this bus would be fairly frequent and popular.

75 — This follows the current route, which is different than my proposal for changes after Northgate Link. It will be the only bus connecting Lake City with Northgate, but I  believe current frequency (about every 15 minutes) is adequate. There should be a big increase in transit traffic to Northgate from Lake City after Northgate Link, then a big reduction once the 130th station is built.

312 — As mentioned, this bus replaces the old 522. It would have more stops than the old 522, providing service along Lake City Way to Kenmore. It would provide a nice one seat connection to Roosevelt, as well as apartments along Lake City Way that I believe have always been underserved. Fifteen minute all-day service seems appropriate (similar to the 372).

372 — Now truncated at 145th.

346 — The 345/346/347/348 buses were the most challenging part of this project. At first glance I was just going to keep the 347 and 348 the same. It wouldn’t surprise me if Metro does this, since the 347 goes by three stations, and the 348 goes by two. However, I found that with a little work, I could save some service, which in turn would mean that each individual line could run more often. It also adds flexibility in the system (e. g. you can run one bus every 15 minutes, and the other every 20). The 346 matches a bus route on the long range plan, and works out nicely with the other changes.

347 — Provides fast service from Link to the hospital, coming from either direction. This also means that the detour to the hospital is acceptable, in my opinion. There aren’t going to be that many riders that take a bus past this point (they mostly connect from either end).

348 — This is unchanged. This will provide a very fast connection from Richmond Beach to Link (reducing travel time to various locations dramatically) and will be the only service connecting 15th/Pinehurst to Northgate. Right now it runs every half hour, but I could see this running every fifteen minutes.

Variations

As before, there are a couple areas where I think either option would be good. The variations are meant to be exclusive (e. g. I don’t expect both an all-day 28 and the 82 to exist). I prefer the first option in both cases.

40/345 Variations

The first option is simple. The 40 follows its current route (providing a connection from Northgate to the backside of North Seattle College) and the 345 no longer exists. Extra service would be put into the 347.

The second variation alters the 40 so that riders have a faster connection from Ballard to Northgate. Unfortunately, this means two buses serving Meridian (as they do now) and this is problematic. The service levels don’t quite match an ideal split, and it is always tricky timing things. Based on the long range plan, Metro isn’t eager to modify the 40 anyway, so I went with the simpler option.

82 or All Day 28

Both the 82 or all-day 28 extension are meant to provide service on 145th. It is not a major corridor, but there are enough apartments and businesses along there to justify some direct service to the 145th Station. Without it, riders would have to take a two seat ride to Link, which in all likelihood means a three seat ride (or more) to their destination. In both cases you double up service along Greenwood. Someone at 125th and Greenwood (or more likely, someone who has finished riding the 5) would have two options for getting to a Link station (allowing them to take whatever bus comes first).

The 82 is a simple coverage route that wouldn’t cost much to operate. I could see the bus being extended a bit into eastern Shoreline (NE 155th, NE 150th) to provide more coverage and connections.

The extended all day 28 is also an option. This is not an especially expensive connection, although Broadview is a fairly weak service area. As with the 3, I could see a truncated version (e. g. have the main 28 run every fifteen minutes, while the extended 28 runs every half hour).

 

North Seattle Bus Routes After Northgate Link (Third Version)

This is the third (and probably last) version of a proposed restructure of bus routes following the completion of Northgate Link. This builds on the other two posts. As with the other two maps, this focuses on all-day service. I still expect some express buses to provide additional connections or coverage.

Design Goals

There are several, conflicting goals I’ve followed for designing this. Some are specific to this area, while others are important for any network:

  1. Make the buses faster by avoiding turns, or congested areas.
  2. Enable straightforward trips from anywhere to anywhere.
  3. Provide fast trips to a nearby Link station.
  4. Make it easy for people to get to the UW.
  5. Match service with demand. This applies not only to individual routes, but corridors that share sections with multiple routes.
  6. Favor more densely populated areas over less densely populated ones.

The first two goals are achieved best by building a grid with frequent service. Not only is this difficult for this part of town (because there aren’t many east-west arterials) but it conflicts with some of the other goals. Link stations don’t always fit nicely on a grid. To get to Northgate Station, for example, you need to make several turns (from any direction). UW Station is particularly difficult to get to. But the UW is a major destination in its own right, and should have direct service from nearby areas. This is why I’ve tried to give apartment dwellers in the area both a one seat ride to the UW as well as a fast, direct bus to a Link station.

Specific Routes and Options

65/66 — The Wedgwood/Ravenna area is one of the bigger sticking points. At first glance, simply running the existing 65 and 62 should be adequate. The problem I have with this is that riders on 35th NE — or at least those not close to NE 65th Street — would continue to endure a time-consuming trip to Link. I also don’t like the northern tail of the 71/76. It is obviously designed for coverage, but it serves low density areas before high density ones.

Variation 1 — I address both these issues with this proposal. The bulk of the apartments along 35th are north of 65th. Those riders would have a fast connection to Link, as well as good connections to additional bus service. For example, a trip from Wedgwood to Greenwood would involve a two seat ride through Roosevelt (instead of through the UW or Northgate). The 66 helps fill the gap left by the change. It provides for a good network in the area, as well as direct service to the UW. The tail of the 66 is messy and similar to the tail of the 71/76. But it is actually significantly shorter than the existing 71/76, while providing almost as much coverage. The layover area is part of the existing one way loop, saving some time. The best part about the new loop is that low density areas are closer to the tail. In that regard, it is similar to the all day 24 (which serves low density West Magnolia last). Thus coverage riders at the end of the line may be costing Metro some service time, but they aren’t delaying other riders. This particular combination also has the tail going to a different location than service along 65th, thus picking up more riders. If you are at View Ridge Park (equidistant to the 65 or 66) you would walk to the 66 if you are headed to Children’s or the the UW. From a service standpoint, I think the 65 would run more often than the 66 in this variation (as more people are headed to Link instead of the UW or Children’s).

Variation 2 — This is more closely aligned with current routing. The 65 is unchanged. The 66 has the new tail but is otherwise similar to the 71/76. This is a reasonable trade-off that keeps most of the existing network, while allowing a lot of the people on 35th to have a fast ride to Roosevelt. Frequency becomes a bit more challenging. With this combination, I think the 66 would be more popular and thus run more often (since it provides for a faster connection with Link). This would have the downside of running the tail of the 66 quite often, unless they ran a truncated version of it (like the 3 to Madrona). It also means that the current 65 is running way to often for what it provides (a connection to the UW and Children’s).

Variation 3 — This is a very lean and fast routing. The tail is gone, and people in that area simply have to walk a bit farther. The 65 would provide a connection to Children’s and the U-District. Thus the connection to Link may not be as fast as if the bus went to Roosevelt, but it is still a lot faster than today. You also double up service between Children’s and the U-District (and thus the fast connection between Children’s and Link). You lose some of the service between Children’s and the south end of campus, which is a natural connection between the two medical areas (and largely the justification for the existing 78).

As with all of the maps, I prefer the first option. Variation 3 saves service hours, but I don’t think it is worth it. I believe the first variation allows for a very good matching of demand to service. The new 65 doubles up service along the densely populated part of 65th, while giving the vast majority of people along the 35th corridor a fast ride to Link. A bus like that would be popular, and thus frequent. Service along the southern part of 65th is less important, but still strong enough — and short enough — to justify 15 or 20 minute frequency. You still have coverage for View Ridge, but it doesn’t cost you that much, because the bus doesn’t run that often. It also serves a different area, which means that it may attract those who are willing to walk a little further for a one seat ride.

346 — This change follows the move of the 26 to 5th Avenue Northeast in the previous map. While that provides good coverage and a faster connection to Northgate, it breaks the connection between the North Seattle College area and Green Lake (or the area and the 45). This puts it back. But there is a cost, as now service from Northgate to North Seattle College (and the surrounding area) is less frequent. I believe the combination of the new pedestrian bridge, the existing 345 and the new 40 (serving Northgate Way) is adequate to serve this connection. If not — if this is simply too much walking — then the 40 could follow its current route. I’ve kept the 345 going to Northgate because it provides front door service to Northwest Hospital. This means that folks who don’t (or can’t) walk that far still have existing service.

You do lose the frequent connection between other parts of Meridian and Northgate. But in return, you get a connection from Meridian to Roosevelt. This means that getting to Northwest hospital (or anywhere along Meridian) is a lot easier for a lot of riders (in Roosevelt, Sand Point, Greenwood, etc.). The variations all deal with the southern tail.

Variation 1 — This follows the 45 to Roosevelt. The only reason I prefer this is because of congestion along 80th, close to the freeway. It is not clear where this bus would layover (it is possible it could tie into some of the 65 buses coming from the east).

Variation 2 — This follows part of a route proposed in Metro’s Long Range Plan. This covers all the bus stops from the old 26. I don’t think the coverage is that important, but it is nice to have the bus loop around and layover under the freeway.

Variation 3 — This is a combination of the above two concepts. It avoids the traffic on 80th, but has a nice layover.

Other Considerations

The 522 should have more bus stops along Lake City Way. The stop on 20th/85th is the second most popular bus stop on this route, north of downtown (exceeded only by the stop at 125th and Lake City Way). Riders along the corridor aren’t just going downtown, either. About 10% of the riders on the 522 are going from Lake City Way (within the city) to places north. As the population increases, so will rides of that nature.

It would behoove Sound Transit to add more stops along Lake City Way. At a minimum, the route needs a stop at 80th and 15th. Likewise, I consider 95th essential, as the 372 does not serve that area, making some otherwise close walks to the bus stop cumbersome.  I would consider 98th optional but would definitely add a stop at 110th. 115th and 120th are optional, as those riders could take a frequent bus to Northgate (even if it is a bit slower). Metro (and Seattle) might have to negotiate with Sound Transit to add as many stops as possible. Adding three stops (80th, 95th and 110th) would still have wide stop spacing, while providing Seattle riders with a good connection to Link as well as the areas along State Route 522.

I used this map to figure out where the apartments are, and where they are likely to be built in the future. It isn’t perfect, but I’ve found it to be the easiest way to get an idea of where the density is.

RFA Revival: Make Link Free in the Tunnel

Until 2012, Seattle had the Ride Free Area, a certain section of downtown Seattle (including the entire DSTT) where one could board any bus through any door, exit any bus through any door, and not have to pay a fare. Funded by the city of Seattle, this was meant to make it easier for people to get around who couldn’t afford a fare, to make it more feasible to make short trips through downtown without a car and without needing to pay full fare for a short trip, and to speed boarding in the busy downtown core and the DSTT (which, at the time, also had bus service in addition to Link). In practice, this resulted in a complex payment arrangement, where you sometimes pay when you board, and sometimes pay when you exit, depending on which side of the RFA your bus was on. And because King County Metro ran many bus routes into downtown Seattle from every part of the county. You could take a bus from Eastgate to Issaquah, or the Federal Way Transit Center to Twin Lakes Park and Ride, and need to pay when you exit if you are taking a bus that happens to be originating in Seattle. This created lots of confusion, and many people just paid as normal, and some undoubtedly exited the bus at the back door without the operator noticing and evaded their fare.

The RFA applied to everything but light rail trains (and I think the Seattle Streetcar as well), which is weird since that is the easiest mode to make free for a specific area. With buses out of the tunnel and trains remaining at 10 minute frequency midday, most of the intra-downtown trips in the DSTT will move to third avenue, overcrowding the already busy corridor and under-utilizing the tunnel. ST is not likely to add midday frequency to the tunnel until East Link opens in 2023, so that leaves four years of significant under-utilization of the tunnel.

One solution that both increases utilization of the tunnel and achieves the goals of the RFA? Make train trips within the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel fare free.

Making a “ride free area” is easy to do with trains; simply make all trip pairs within the tunnel fare free, and don’t do fare enforcement in the tunnel. Riders who are riding within the tunnel don’t need to tap their card at all, and this can make it easier to catch a train if they are in a hurry. This will also increase throughput a little bit during rush hour. It provides an incentive to wait for the train during off-peak hours, since it might take a little more waiting, but you can get a free ride for the wait. And it makes things quicker for fare enforcement, which doesn’t need to check every rider on a train within downtown, but can simply wait until a train exits Westlake Station or International District/Chinatown station, and check riders which are still on the train. There could also be an automated reminder that if you didn’t tap their card, then you need to deboard, tap, then wait for the next train if you wish to continue past the tunnel, which should minimize confusion and give people warning before they are subject to fare enforcement. This would also move some impromptu trips off of busy third avenue, and make better use of the tunnel.

North Seattle Bus Routes After Northgate Link (Updated)

Based on some ideas from other commenters, I decided to update a proposed restructure of Northgate Link related routes. As before, the map is focused on all-day routes in Northeast Seattle.

Specific Changes

26 – The 26 has been altered considerably. It is faster, has fewer turns, provides all day coverage for 5th Avenue Northeast, and provides a better connection to Roosevelt Station. Only a handful will lose out, and their inconvenience will be minor. Overall, I think this change would result in more frequent, more direct service for more people.

40 – The 40 uses First Avenue so that it can get to Northgate faster. This change has been considered by Metro for a while.

University District

I dig into the details with regards to buses in the U-District this time. There are tough trade-offs here, but I tried to focus on a few themes. First is that consolidation is a good thing, but can be too much of a good thing. Without adequate improvements (e. g. off-board payment and bus lanes) it can lead to bus bunching. Certain streets also make sense as through streets, while others don’t. Finally, there is the new Link station to consider.

Given all that, I want to see the buses running on Brooklyn and University Way (“The Ave”). I was temped to run all the buses on Brooklyn, but north of 45th, that is problematic (requiring twists and turns to get there). Likewise, running all buses on The Ave would likely lead to congestion.

Moving the 49 over to Brooklyn works out really well. It would have fewer turns than it has now. Moving the 31/32 to Brooklyn is similar. The 74 also would use Brooklyn, and be paired with either a 31 or 32. The other 31/32 would just end north of Brooklyn.

Other buses are consolidated on University Way. This means that it would be very easy to take a bus to the south end of campus (towards the medical center). There may be too many buses on The Ave, but if that is a problem, then the 271 and 48 could be moved to Brooklyn. I would rather avoid that, because the 45 (which also serves south campus) can’t easily use Brooklyn.

Variations

The map is dynamic. There are variations you can choose to get a good idea of the trade-offs. For each selection, you need to deselect the corresponding other variation(s) to create a meaningful network. For example, you can select one of three options for the 522, but selecting more than one (or none) would make for a silly map. In all cases, my preferred variation is the first one.

45/62 — The 45 and 62 provide east-west coverage in the area. I’ve since come around to the idea that the best approach is the current one (Variation One). This breaks the grid, but matches demand better. There are a lot of people along the 85th/Green Lake corridor, and giving them both a connection to Link as well as a one seat ride to the UW makes sense. Variation 2 provides for a better grid, but it doesn’t add too many trip connections. The main advantage are for folks in the less traveled parts of Sand Point Way headed to 85th (e. g. Matthews Beach). Even then, this route simply speeds up the process (either way it can be a two seat ride).

65 — With the 65, the choice is mostly between speed versus coverage. I also prefer doubling up service on 65th, given the clusters of apartments around 25th and 35th.

522 — The variations on 522 involve getting from Lake City Way to the Roosevelt Station. The third option is straightforward, but likely to get bogged down during rush hour. The first variation should be significantly faster, but would likely require adding a left turn signal on 20th (here). There already is a left turn lane, so this would be a minor change. Ideally the bus would turn on 15th, but there is no room for a left turn lane there. I don’t like to split up routes, but it isn’t clear in this case that it would matter, as there would not necessarily be any stops between 15th and 20th. The second variation uses 20th, which would be more straightforward, and allow for a bit more coverage (on 20th). However, it would mean losing the stop at 15th and Lake City Way (which is a lot more important). There are a fair number of shops on that corner, whereas that part of 20th and 75th has very little.


Layover times and Redmond Loop

What is the average percentage of end of journey layovers to total time for King County Metro drivers? This question is prompted by the 269 Saturday schedules. This service was introduced in March 2018 between the park and rides at Bear Creek and Issaquah Highlands, perhaps about half the length of the weekday 269 between Overlake Park and Ride and Issaquah Transit Center.

The first Saturday bus departs Bear Creek at 8.35 am and arrives at Issaquah Highlands at 9.06 am, 31 minutes later. After a 9-minute layover the return journey commences at 9.15 am and reaches Bear Creek at 9.47 am (32 minutes) which allows a 19-minute layover before the next journey at 10.06 am. Thus, three vehicles are required for the approximately headway of 30 minutes between buses. This is just half of the midday six-bus allocation for the longer route of weekday service.

The 10.06 am journey takes 34 minutes to get to Issaquah at 10.40 am; the bus then immediately turns around, leaving at 10.40 am and arriving Bear Creek at 11.13 am (33 minutes) where a 28-minute layover is scheduled. So, after driving for 67 minutes the driver gets a 28-minute rest.

All this seems reasonable and not too onerous on the driver but look what happens after that! The 11.41 am from Bear Creek arrives Issaquah at 12.15 pm, 4 minutes after the 12.11 pm leaves for Bear Creek. The 12.15 pm arrival pauses for 26 minutes before the return to Bear Creek at 12.41 pm arriving at 1.14 pm where a further 27-minute rest is scheduled. So now four buses are required and there are 53 minutes of rest between 67 minutes of driving.

This pattern of about 44% of time resting continues until the 4.08 pm from Bear Creek which arrives Issaquah at 4.42 pm and then returns immediately, without any rest break, arriving back at Bear Creek at 5.15 pm before a 22-minute break. This allows a reversion to three buses only with rests of around 25% of total time.

Is there any good reason to bring on that fourth bus for about 4½ hours? The schedule would only require very minor tweaking to give drivers at least 20 minutes at Bear Creek all through the day, after 1 hour and a few minutes for the return trips. Or if the drivers do need a little more time, minimum rest times of perhaps 25-30 minutes might mean headways drop from around 30 to 35 minutes in the middle of the day.

When introduced in March 2018 the Saturday 269 attracted very few passengers. However, ridership is now marginally higher as people begin to realize that the service exists. In this respect King County Metro could do a bit better. The posted schedules at Bear Creek, Sammamish and Issaquah Park and Rides all state quite clearly, “Monday to Friday only”. The other point on the Saturday route with a posted schedule is at the 228th Ave NE and SE 10th Street stop. Here the northbound stop schedule also states, “Monday to Friday only”, but the southbound stop schedule shows the Saturday schedule in full. How is it that the personnel preparing and posting these at stop schedules don’t notice inconsistences between what is displayed at different stops?

The Redmond Loop is a shuttle service formed by a partnership between the city of Redmond and King County Metro; it is operated by Hopelink. The service was introduced during 2017. I have taken three rides on this service and observed it passing by on perhaps another 20 odd occasions. Other than my three rides only a couple of times have I noted a rider. Perhaps it is no great surprise that the on-line King Metro schedule for Redmond Loop states “Last day of operation is 12-28-18”.

There are probably several reasons for this very sparse ridership. The vehicle used is a four-passenger Dodge sedan car which just doesn’t look like a public transit vehicle even with “Redmond Loop” emblazoned on the side. The Redmond Loop stops are not standard King County with route and destination clearly displayed. Instead there is a tiny easily missed logo. At Bear Creek (and possibly at Redmond Transit Center) no schedule is posted, but all other services at that park and ride are posted.

Then, was any thought given to the possible market? Perhaps one anticipated use was to connect with Sound Transit and other services at Redmond and Bear Creek. But riders alighting from a 545 or Rapid Ride at Redmond may not always find a 45-minute headway a very convenient alternative to a more frequent 221 or a fairly short walk. Consider the individual boarding somewhere in Education Hill headed for one of the business areas en route; for example to the Target, Fred Meyer etc. complex near to Bear Creek or to Redmond Town Center (and the Redmond Loop is the only transit service serving the Town Center almost directly).  Could be quite convenient, but not for the return journey. The Loop is one way only (clockwise); so to return from Target or Town Centre a rider would have to board the Loop and disembark at Redmond Transit Center and then wait 15 minutes before reboarding the next trip.

Although the planners for this service did not successfully analyze the transit needs correctly, kudos to Redmond City for trying to encourage transit. Can the same be said for Sammamish City? The greatly improved 269 over the last couple of years does not seem to be the result of any interest by the City Council, but to the recognition by King County Metro that a city with a population of 65,000 ought to have rather more than just peak hour commuter services.

East Seattle Bus Restructure

In a few years, RapidRide G will begin service. This will be a major change in the area, bringing fast, very frequent service to Madison Street. At roughly the same time, East Link will be completed, and with it, a stop at Judkins Park. Both of these changes should result in a major restructure of bus routes in the eastern part of Seattle. This area is not to be confused with the “East Side” (i. e. Bellevue, Redmond, etc.), but the part of Seattle with “east” in their address. This can also be thought of as the greater Central Area, roughly defined as the region east of I-5, north of I-90 and south of the ship canal.

Metro has produced a number of route changes in their Long Range Plan (or LRP). I am very impressed with their ideas, and I would be happy if it was implemented as is (and I can’t say that about other parts of the plan). There are some relatively minor changes I would make though, and that is the focus of this post.

The following is an interactive map, with a couple options. Each complete proposal is meant to involve the first two items (“Unchanged Routes” and “New and Modified Routes”) along with one (and only one) of the two options. I didn’t include all of the various bus routes, but only those within the region. Some of the bus numbers may be confusing, as they bear little resemblance to the old route. But I figured it made more sense than using four digit numbers, as Metro did. All of the bus routes are meant to be all day, relatively frequent routes (at least every 15 minutes if possible). What follows is a discussion of the various changes.

Route Details

6 — The new six is identical to Metro’s 3028. Metro has this as a “local”, which is their lowest designation. I think it should be frequent, as I think it would be very popular (it would replace trips that are very cumbersome right now).

14 — Modified slightly to avoid Mount Baker Drive South (the new 60 provides some of that coverage).

12 — Altered to be a north-south bus. This would connect various neighborhoods, creating more of a grid. It would also provide a one seat ride from East Link to Cherry Hill, Seattle U. and parts of Capitol Hill. It helps make up for the fact that the new 60 (just a few blocks to the west) does not connect with East Link. I think the greatest benefit, though, is for trips within the region — it is as close to a grid as you can produce (unless you run a bus down a residential street).

16 — This is based on the 1074, which looks great. The only change is that it crosses Aurora at Harrison. This allows the current 8 (or the new modified 8) to continue on Denny. Doing so provides more of a grid, making it easier for those in north Belltown to get to north Capitol Hill.

27 — This is the existing 27, truncated at MLK. While I like the new 3033 (60 on my map), I have a hard time telling folks on Yesler (including Yesler Terrace residents) that they have to either take two buses, or walk to get downtown. This bus could also provide unique downtown service (such as on the waterfront) in compensation for being somewhat redundant.

47 — This is a combination of the 3122 and 3123. The 3123 (serving Boyer) looks a lot stronger to me. It goes to a more popular area, with greater coverage and fewer traffic problems (the 3122 would get tangled up in the Montlake Boulevard mess). It would be nice to have both routes, of course, but I would rather have better frequency. The 47 would allow folks from Boyer, parts of 24th and Aloha to connect to Pike/Pine. I see this as a fairly popular bus, even though the Boyer part would not have that many riders.

49 — Identical to the LRP 1064.

60 — Identical to the LRP 3033.

Option 1

Option 1 is similar to the changes that Metro proposes in their long range plans.

8 — This is similar to LRP 1061, except that it follows current 8 routing for Denny. Metro has been trying to break up the 8 for a while. I’m not sold on the idea, but it is definitely worth considering.

10 — Modified to serve 19th, retaining service there, and providing plenty of options for a one seat ride to downtown.

39 — Same as LRP 3997. This bus helps cover areas lost by the old 8. It provides a better connection to East Link, but skips part of the Mount Baker neighborhood in the process. It still has a bit of a hole on MLK, but not as big as I originally thought.  Many of the potential riders will just walk to Judkins Park, while others will walk a little ways to catch the very frequent 48. Meanwhile, it does provide provide some pretty good connections in the area, including a ride up the hill to Beacon Hill.

Option 2

Option 2 keeps more of the existing network and might prove to more popular for that reason.

8 — Same as today.

11 — Modified to provide excellent service for Madison Park. Folks there would continue to have a one seat ride to downtown (towards Pike/Pine) or a quick transfer to Madison BRT or Link.

Trade-offs

With either variation, you have much more of a grid within the area. Trips that take forever right now would be fairly easy. In exchange, some riders will have to transfer or walk further to get downtown. But most riders will have plenty of options to get downtown, they will just be different. Aloha will have a frequent connection to downtown, and Madison will have an extremely frequent bus (running every 6 minutes all day). In between there will be another bus (which differs depending on the option) but very few people will have to walk very far to catch a direct ride to downtown.

Coverage and Frequency

While there are some minor truncations, coverage in general is better than today. But the big improvement is much better connections and more frequency. As I wrote in the introduction, I would expect every bus to have at least 15 minute frequency. But some buses will struggle to justify that, while others will be very frequent. In that regard, I see the following as low frequency buses:

12 — I don’t expect this to get huge ridership, but be very popular for those that ride it. Since it makes sense as a connection (part of a two seat ride) more frequency could be justified and likely lead to significantly higher ridership (on the bus as well as the system).

14 — Runs every 20 minutes right now, but it would be nice to bump that up to 15 (which could be justified simply because it is shorter).

27– This is a short route that should have high ridership if it can operate every 15 minutes.

47 — As one of the few buses running directly to downtown, I could see this running more often than every 15 minutes. But much of it is coverage in nature, and likely to be a bit bogged down going over the ship canal. Even if it ran every 15 minutes it would be a big improvement for those that ride the current 47.

60 — The new 60 is mostly a coverage bus, but provides some nice connections and front door service to the hospitals. I think 15 minutes can be justified, simply because it should move fairly smoothly throughout the day.

10 (Option 1) — The 10 runs every 15 minutes now, so it would make sense to keep that.

11 (Option 2) — The 11 runs every 15 minutes now, so it would make sense to keep that.

39 (Option 1) — This is a coverage bus. I would like to have all buses run every 15 minutes if possible, so hopefully that would be the case here.

Every other new or modified route would be 10 minutes or better. The 6 looks like a critical bus that will change the relationship between Capitol Hill and South Lake Union. The 16 looks even better, running perpendicular to Madison, connecting Rainier Valley, First Hill, South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. The 8 and 49 run every 12 minutes, so it would require only a minor improvement to bump those up to 10 minutes.

Existing buses would be similar to what they are now, if not better (they all have 15 minute or better frequency now). All of these times are for the middle of the day, and will of course be higher during rush hour. I don’t see any rush hour specific buses for the area (the 43 will be eliminated) other than express buses to First Hill (like the 309).

Summary

Eastern Seattle is one of the more densely populated parts of the state. There is a real possibility that a very good bus network will operate there, providing not only fast and frequent service to downtown, but to everywhere in that area.

 

Mobility Alternatives to the CCC

On March 30 of this year, Mayor Durkan suspended the streetcar expansion project known as the Central City Connector, or CCC. In a statement released three months later, the mayor asked SDOT to “evaluate additional mobility alternatives in order to understand the transportation benefits that would accrue from either a streetcar or an alternative mode of transit”. Here are a couple of ideas for alternatives.

The CCC in Brief

The CCC would add five new stops along First Avenue, and connect the two existing streetcar lines. For much of the 1.2 mile addition, the streetcar would run in its own center lane. The initial service plan consists of overlapping the two existing lines, so that the streetcars would run more often on First Avenue. Since each streetcar line would run every ten minutes during peak, that would enable five minute frequency in the shared segment. It is important to note that the peak five minute service is only average. Since the trains will start at two different spots and the First Hill train is routinely delayed, it is likely that you will see waits that are longer than five minutes, even during peak.

A short distance, looping route like the completed streetcar line is sometimes called a circulator, and is often found in small cities and towns that lack an extensive transit network. In addition to the overall loop, the First Hill segment makes an additional button hook before it reaches downtown. Both circulators in general and routes that are short, squiggly and looping are often criticized by transit professionals. The particulars are complicated, but the basic problem is that it doesn’t make sense to use it for longer trips, since it doubles back on itself. For example, even if the CCC is completed, it will be faster to walk from Yesler Terrace to First Avenue than use the streetcar. That means that a rider from First Hill who is headed to somewhere on First Avenue could get off the train, walk several blocks, and then take the exact same streetcar as it caught up to them. This sort of circuitous routing means that people will find better, more straightforward transit options for their trips.

RapidRide Solution

The first alternative is fairly simple: Take the right of way granted for the CCC project, but run buses there instead. Buses with doors on both sides would have to be used, which means running the so called RapidRide+ routes on First Avenue. There are several possible routes, but I think the 7 and 70 would be ideal (these are referred to as Corridor 3 and 7 in the RapidRide+ documents). Send them both over to First Avenue in an overlapping manner (similar to the proposed streetcar service plan). The combined service (along First Avenue) would be better, because each line is very popular right now (unlike the existing streetcars) and already has more frequent service than the proposed streetcar.

The routing would also connect to more places. Unlike the streetcar routing, any trip along there makes sense (trips like Eastlake to Pioneer Square or Rainier Avenue to Pike Place). Thus there would not only be more frequent service along First Avenue, but more frequent service to more places. Buses would enable faster, more consistent operations. A bus can avoid an obstacle, and the city can more easily and cheaply make improvements to reduce bottlenecks with bus routes.

One of the big advantages to this approach is cost. It isn’t cheap to build the center platforms and purchase the dual sided buses, but it is still cheaper than adding rail. But the big savings come from the operations. This would cost almost nothing to operate, as these buses have to travel from one end of downtown to the other anyway.

BAT Lane Bus Alternative

The second proposal is even simpler. Just add BAT lanes along First Avenue, and move a few buses over there. There are plenty of buses that could easily use First Avenue, while retaining very good connections to other parts of downtown. BAT lanes are not ideal — cars can clog a lane while turning right — but it is still a big improvement over regular traffic. Fourth Avenue carries dozens of buses in BAT lanes, and it functions without major problems. It is likely that the maneuverability, added frequency and better routing of buses would more than make up for the difference between BAT lanes and exclusive transit lanes.

This alternative could be implemented very quickly. Over time, this alternative could easily evolve into the other one, as we purchase more buses with dual sided doors.

My own preference is for the first approach. Running dual sided buses on First Avenue (in a center lane) makes a lot of sense given the amount of effort that has gone into this project. It is quite possible that grant money could be transferred as it was when Providence switched from a streetcar to BRT. Rides would be faster, more frequent and connect to more places. But even just using BAT lanes and regular buses would be a step up from the proposed plan, and it could be done very quickly, for very little money.

The mayor is soliciting input with this project. You can contact her at jenny.durkan@seattle.gov.

 

 

A Quick Multi-Modal Tour of Puget Sound

Here’s a whirlwind trip I took this morning using an $8.00 Day Pass.

6:45am Purchase $8 Day Pass at Columbia City Station, ride Link Light Rail to downtown Seattle
7:40am Board King County Water Taxi at Pier 52 to Vashon Island
8:02am Water Taxi arrives at Vashon Ferry Terminal, catch Metro Route 118 at Vashon Ferry Terminal
8:07am Route 118 departs
8:35am Route 118 arrives at Tahlequah Ferry Terminal, wait for Tahlequah-Point Defiance ferry
8:50am Scheduled departure time of ferry but due to road construction at the terminal we are delayed about 10 minutes
9:14am Arrive at Pt. Defiance Ferry Terminal
9:21am Pierce Transit Route 11 departs Pt. Defiance ferry terminal for downtown Tacoma
9:57am Arrive downtown Tacoma
9:58am Board Tacoma Link to Freighthouse Square
10:08am Arrive Freighthouse Square
10:30am Board Sounder train to Seattle
11:38am Arrive King Street Station, catch First Hill Streetcar to Broadway for lunch
~1:30pm Walk to Jackson Street and catch Metro Route 36 home

Vehicles used on the trip: Light Rail, Water Taxi, Diesel Bus, Washington State Ferry, Diesel Bus, Tacoma Streetcar, Heavy Rail, Seattle Streetcar, Electric Trolley

For a more relaxing itinerary would suggest a stop on Vashon for breakfast, a stroll along the waterfront at Pt. Defiance and some time in downtown to explore the wonders of Tacoma. There are additional northbound Sounder trips at 4:06pm, 4:30pm and 5:15pm and plenty of trips from Tacoma to Seattle on Sound Transit Route 594.

Transit Day: Rogue Valley (Medford, Ashland, Klamath Falls)

The Rogue Valley region of southwest Oregon is a very challenging place to visit without a car. Medford is the largest city (pop. 80,000) and the only place with commercial air service. Klamath Falls (pop. 21,500), located about 75 miles east of Medford, has once-daily passenger rail service in each direction via the Coast Starlight. Ashland (pop.21,600) is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University but Ashland has no airport or rail service. Nevertheless, despite the distances that separate the population centers and the low overall population density, there is a basic public transportation system that stitches together the communities of the Rogue Valley. Just be sure to carefully plan your trip if you hope to use the public transit system.

The local transit system is operated by the Rogue Valley Transportation District. The RVTD provides bus service on 8 routes, all running through the Front Street Transit station in downtown Medford. The service pattern is based on half-hourly pulses and most routes start at 5am and run until about 9pm. Three of the routes have 60 minute headways, 4 routes run every 30 minutes and the route that connects Medford with Ashland and Southern Oregon University runs every 20 minutes on weekdays. On Saturday, all routes operate hourly and there is no Sunday service. Service to the Medford airport runs every 60 minutes.

Unfortunately, land use patterns in Medford are pretty typical of many mid-sized American cities. On the list of US metropolitan cities, Medford ranks #206, which is very similar to Bellingham (#201). Medford’s downtown core is one-way main aterials mostly lined with bars, antique malls, pawn shops and empty storefronts. There is no visible urban revitalization movement in central Medford and the only new businesses that are locating near downtown Medford are the cannabis retailers. Shopping malls with big box national retailers are still under construction on the edges of town as Medford sprawls into the adjacent farmlands. Meanwhile the local transit system is centered on the disused downtown transit center.

The picture in Ashland is more hopeful. Shakespeare attracts over 400,000 visitors a year to the centrally located theaters and the adjacent downtown streets and parks are active and full of pedestrians. Yes, the local economy is based largely on tourism, but Ashland seems to elevate the experience above the level of “tourist trap”. Hotels, restaurants and shopping are all located within walking distance of the OSF theaters. The RVTD route that serves Ashland, SOU and Medford is the only route that offers somewhat frequent service.

From downtown Medford there is a once-a-day bus line to Klamath Falls, Southwest POINT. The route is managed by the Oregon DOT. Arrival and departure times in Klamath Falls are convenient for Coast Starlight passenger connecting to/from California. Riding to/from the north will require overnight stays in Klamath Falls.

Medford and Grants Pass are connected 5 times on weekdays by the Rogue Valley Commuter Line. Greyhound also offers 4 daily trips to Eugene (220am, 505am, 905am, 405pm) with a scheduled trip time of 3:30 to 3:45.

Car-free travel to the Rogue Valley is possible, but it requires some careful planning ahead of time. You can fly into Medford but I would recommend staying in Ashland where there are more car-free options. Using Amtrak round trip from Seattle would require 2 overnight stays in Klamath Falls or long bus rides to/from Eugene.

When will Kitsap County join Sound Transit?

It is inevitable that Kitsap County will join Sound Transit, with light rail reaching under Puget Sound to serve the current 266,000 residents, and likely 500,000 residents by 2040.

When ST3 is complete in 2041, the residents of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties will be connected by rail, tram, and bus rapid transit from Everett to Tacoma out to Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah.  By then there will be more than 4 million people squeezed into those three counties, and the pressure to fit in more will no doubt spill across Puget Sound into Kitsap County.

Ferries make for a pleasant commute, but not a fast method of travel.  Unlike a light rail train, it takes up to 10 minutes to load and unload the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry, which turns a 35 minute rush-hour ride into a 50-60 minute journey, not counting the time to get to and from the ferry terminal.

This inconvenience is the main reason Kitsap County’s population is growing less than 1% per year, less than half the 2.5% rate of growth in King County.

The Bainbridge Island ferry terminal is only 8 miles from Colman Dock in downtown Seattle (as the seagull flies), and the Bremerton ferry terminal is just another 6.3 for that same seagull.  By car, those two terminals are 32 miles and 55 minutes apart.  By transit, Google suggests the fastest path is 90 minutes, hopping the ferry from Bainbridge to Seattle and switching to the new, fast ferry to Bremerton.

Meanwhile, when ST3’s East Link is done, the 6.3 miles (as the crow flies) between Downtown Bellevue and International District/Chinatown will take just 10 minutes.  Similarly, when ST3 finally reaches Ballard in 2035, the 7.3 mile trip from Ballard to Westlake center will take just 15 minutes, including stops in Interbay, Smith Cove, Seattle Center, and South Lake Union.

We can fix this commute time and open up Kitsap County to the inevitable population growth by adding Kitsap County to Sound Transit’s service, designing and digging a transit tunnel under Puget Sound.

Puget Sound is deep, more than 650 feet deep in the channel between Eagle Harbor and Elliot Bay.  But deep, underwater transit tunnels have been built in Japan, Norway, and most famously, under the English Channel.

It is only 6.3 miles from the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to the future ST3 station at Smith Cove.  An ST3.5 line from there to Bainbridge Island and continuing underground to Bremerton would be a total of 12.6 miles long.

These are two communities that already have large number of public transit riders.  3.3 million foot passengers between Bainbridge Island an Seattle in 2017, plus another 1.7 million foot passengers between Bremerton and Seattle.  Because of that ridership, Kitsap County is well covered by Kitsap Transit’s bus system.

Connecting Kitsap County to Sound Transit is inevitable.  The question is not if, but when.  The key question is the cost of 12.6 miles of deep tunnels and two deep, underground stations.  But the alternative isn’t free.  The alternative is the cost of expanding and operating the ferry system to support the next 240,000 Kitsap County residents who want to reach King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties including SeaTac Airport and whatever high speed rail makes it to Seattle.

Ensuring Quality Transit Service around Northgate Station

In 2021 light rail will begin operating to Northgate. I’ve waited my entire life for this, as I am lucky enough to live close by to the station. I’m thrilled about the upcoming redevelopment of Northgate Mall, and the upcoming density to the area. However, traffic delays that could result from this is a significant concern of mine, not because of the delays to cars, but because of the delays to buses. The amount of people wanting to come to this area will increase drastically over the coming years, so steps should be taken to ensure that transit is a reliable option.

5th Avenue is an easy start. Between Northgate Way and 103rd St, there are two car lanes in each direction and relatively low amounts of traffic during the day. This is a perfect location for bus lanes. On this segment, there is a bus about every 4 minutes on average even on Saturdays. During peak, there are a lot more. This is more than enough bus traffic to justify a lane.

The same can be said for Northgate Way between 5th and Roosevelt, where buses show up less than 5 minutes apart on average.

These decisions are logical although politically difficult. My main worry is that SDOT will try to pit cyclists and transit riders against each other. 5th Avenue, for instance, has bike lanes in the Bicycle Master Plan. The best solution here would be either to provide separate bike paths or to widen the roads to allow for protected cycle lanes. As Northgate redevelops their property, it would be a good idea for the city to purchase just a little bit more right of way (10-12 feet) to ensure the space needed for cycle paths.

Here are what some of those future scenarios could look like:

5th Avenue Looking North Today

Street View

5th Avenue Looking North Near Future

5th Avenue Looking North with Cycle Path

 

Northgate Way Today

Street View

Northgate Way Future

 

The transition between 5th Ave and Northgate Way would have a dedicated left turn bus lane.

Northgate Way Current

Street View

Northgate Way Future

 

This is my first post and I’d love to do more of these! I have a lot of ideas I’d like to share with the community and I’d like to see if any of them stand up to critique.

A more affordable strategy for 405 BRT

As we start to plan for BRT along 405, we’re finding that it consumes huge sums of cash to rebuild freeway segments that can provide direct access to buses in the managed express lanes at the center of the roadway. Just one of these stations, at NE 85th Street in Kirkland, is expected to cost $250 million–most of which is the cost of rebuilding the interchange to accommodate direct access to the Express Toll lanes. Little of this cost would be necessary if we could manage our roadway capacity more effectively. Easier said than done? Consider this…

Our roadway capacity is a finite resource, yet most roads have no means for managing the demand other than waiting in a line we call “traffic.” During peak hours, people sit in cars, burning fuel, wasting time, and keeping anyone from going anywhere. Could we somehow re-shape traffic so that everyone can get where they need to go without clogging our roads?

Consider the last time you went to a popular restaurant. Did you have a reservation? Or did you have to wait for a table? Now imagine a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, yet the crowd extends far beyond its doors.

This is what we see on many freeways today, but the negative impact is much larger, spanning our economy, environment, and families. On-ramp meters that limit the flow into the freeway actually exacerbate this problem on local streets, shifting the congestion from the freeway to local streets, impeding access to local destinations (and impacting the speed, reliability, and cost of local transit services).

Instead, imagine if you could make a freeway reservation, perhaps via a website, SMS, phone call, smartphone app, or even integrated with navigation software–which is even easier than making a restaurant reservation. So now you have a reservation. Where do you put your car if it isn’t on the road?

We often exclaim, “The freeway is a parking lot!” But this mocking also hints at the solution: cars at rest should be in parking lots, not roads. And there are many grocery stores, coffee shops, malls, churches, schools, and restaurants where parking spots are abundant. Any vehicles that can’t be handled on the roads should be diverted to queue in nearby parking lots rather than gridlocking streets. Instead of being trapped in traffic, drivers could park their car and read a book, grab a snack, sit and chat with others, or just put in a few extra minutes at work. The reservation might suggest a place to park and wait; this provides another revenue opportunity for our transportation system: advertising. Your freeway reservation might even include a coupon for a discount at a nearby shop or cafe where you relax or run some errands while you wait.

But sometimes you can’t wait for a reservation. Maybe you need to pick-up kids from child care before the late fees kick-in, you’re running late to catch a flight, or you absolutely can’t be late for work. In these cases you’d be willing to pay a couple bucks if you could just go now. If you can’t spare any time, you should have the option to pay with your money.

Or maybe you simply forget to get a reservation. If that happens, you’ll be charged the prevailing freeway access fee when you enter the freeway.

And if you’re sharing your ride with anyone else (carpool, bus, or other HOV), you get a free pass as a ‘thank you’ for helping increase the capacity of our transportation system.

What if there’s an accident that blocks traffic? People holding reservations could be contacted with an suggestion to postpone their reservation, perhaps including some kind of incentive to encourage them to delay their travel, such as a coupon for a local business.

With peak hour freeway reservations, tolls, and rideshare incentives, we could convert time wasted in traffic to do something useful while significantly reducing roadway congestion. Recent advancements in communication technology make it easy for drivers to easily request reservations and drastically reduce freeway congestion.

The end result? More time with families, living life, earning money, or connecting with others…and less time and energy wasted behind the steering wheel. Freeway reservations eliminate the need to build and manage dedicated HOV lanes or toll lanes, optimizing freeway capacity for greatest efficiency with minimal initial cost. We’ll spend a lot less money on circumventing poorly-managed capacity by properly managing the capacity we have. People will spend more time getting stuff done, rather than sitting in traffic. And buses will move faster, more reliably, both on freeways and on local streets.

Connecting our cities to BRT on 405

In 2024, a new rapid transit line will connect to cities along I-405 every 10 minutes, providing direct service as far as Lynnwood and Burien.

But there’s one big problem: the stations aren’t close to where people need to go.

Consider the proposed station at NE 85th St in Kirkland: the BRT station is separated from Downtown Kirkland by a mile-long hill that climbs the equivalent of 22 flights of stairs, a 40-minute round-trip journey for a fit and capable walker. Sound Transit’s proposed solution is to build a set of bus lanes between 405 and the edge of Downtown Kirkland–throwing $50,000,000 at the least congested segment of the connection, mind you. To travel to or from the station, you’ll spend probably 5 to 10 minutes waiting for the shuttle, and another 5 to 10 minutes for the bus to trundle along thru Downtown Kirkland traffic, just like everyone else.

Isn’t there a better way? Something that’s more pleasant, or maybe even beautiful, fun, distinctive, or inspirational?

Instead, imagine…stepping into an aerial gondola for a four-minute ride with a glorious view of Downtown Kirkland and Lake Washington. Or glide down the hill on your bike, and then roll your bike into the gondola to return to the top of the hill. You know what’s even more amazing? It seems that many on Kirkland’s City Council are already on board with this idea, including Dave Asher, Penny Sweet, and Mayor Amy Walen. Kirkland’s City Manager, Kurt Triplett, has been promoting creative transportation strategies like this for years, and is also excited about the possibility of this aerial connector.

But providing a great connection at one station isn’t enough. We need to think creatively about how to create effective connections between BRT and the places where people need to go, all along this route. How do we create more efficient connections to stations in Bothell? Renton? And Woodinville?

Would you rather trundle along in another bus…or enjoy a unique view of our lovely city from above? Which of these will bring more people to businesses in our urban centers? Which of these will actually compel our residents, customers, employees, and visitors to ride transit instead of further clogging our streets…or taking yet another parking spot? Or maybe you have a better idea? Perhaps a series of covered escalators and walkways? Or just some frequent automated electric shuttles? Maybe some kind of monorail? A mini-metro? Or a cable car on an elevated steel truss guideway? Whatever it is, surely we can do better than just another bus.

The UW Escalator Event: A Quantitative Analysis

On March 16th, the two downward escalators between the mezzanine and sub-mezzanine at the University of Washington Link Station failed. With only elevators available to move people into the station for four hours, a line snaked around the station. On April 4th, a presentation to Sound Transit’s Operations Committee reviewed the event and discussed changes that could be made to prevent and mitigate future outages. While the presentation recognized the poor customer experience during the event, it described the impact in a strictly qualitative fashion.

This is a quantitative assessment of the escalator outage event. Any mitigation or preventative measure is going to have a cost to put in place. Without the ability to assign a cost to the event, it would be difficult to understand which actions should be on the table.

This assessment uses a measurement called Spontaneous Accessibility, published in this year’s Transportation Research Record. At a high level, this measurement describes how well an individual can make an unanticipated, unplanned transit trip throughout a given area. From a technical standpoint, it divides an area into a high-resolution grid of sectors. For each sector it computes, for every minute of a time window, the number of other sectors that can be reached within 30 minutes using transit and walking. This yields a heat map of how easily reachable each sector is, as well as a Network Accessibility Ratio that measures the proportion of time-origin-destination combinations that can be reached within 30 minutes against the total number of combinations. By making modifications to the modeled transit network and calculating the change in the Network Accessibility Ratio, it is possible to make a quantitative assessment.

To model the outage, Spontaneous Accessibility was computed under two circumstances. The first considers the scheduled transit service within the city of Seattle on March 16th, between 3:30 PM and 7:30 PM. The second uses the same temporal and spatial parameters, but eliminates the University of Washington stop from southbound Link trains. This is not a perfect model of the outage, as customers could still reach trains at UW Station after a substantial wait. Nevertheless, to a person arriving at the station and viewing a long line, the station may be considered effectively unreachable. This analysis yielded a change in Spontaneous Accessibility of -0.339%. A maximum reduction of 12.3% was observed in the vicinity of the Capitol Hill Link station, with other measurable reductions clustered largely around Link stations and a portion of the Aurora Avenue corridor. This Spontaneous Accessibility map shows the distribution of impact.

To extract a meaningful cost from the change in Spontaneous Accessibility, it is necessary to bring in some additional data. Over the four-hour period of the outage, there were 1988.28 vehicle-hours of in-service trips serving the city of Seattle. Using King County Metro’s $140.86 cost per vehicle-hour figure as an estimate for operating costs across all transit providers, the cost of in-service trips for the four hour window was approximately $280,069. In the same period, the Network Accessibility Ratio for the unimpaired network would have been 0.10378. Thus $280,069 was necessary to sustain a 0.10378 Network Accessibility Ratio in Seattle over those hours. When impaired, Seattle had a 0.10342 Network Accessibility Ratio. Sustaining this for four hours should cost approximately $279,097. Thus, from a Spontaneous Accessibility standpoint, the cost of the outage was $972.

It is important to be cognizant of aspects of the measurement that may distort this value. Because Spontaneous Accessibility is an isochrone-based measurement, it is not sensitive to the outage’s impact on trips that initially would have taken longer than 30 minutes. Spontaneous Accessibility measurement also acts as though riders have perfect knowledge of the transit network. Actual riders may not be aware of the other options that they have for completing their journeys, and thus may queue at the station instead of finding alternatives. Even if riders were to have this knowledge, Spontaneous Accessibility does not incorporate vehicle capacity, and thus would not account for alternate routes becoming congested as riders switched to them. Particularly thorny in this case is that Sound Transit would largely be relying on King County Metro to absorb that missing capacity.

Any attempt at assigning a single cost to an event is going to have limitations, and this is a basic one using publicly available data, open source software, and back-of-the-envelope math. At this point, however, it describes the impact more quantitatively than Sound Transit has put forth at this time. Sound Transit plans to evaluate certain mitigations by the next Operations Committee meeting on April 20th. These will surely have a price, and it will certainly be interesting to see how they compare to this assessment of the UW escalator event’s cost.

Seattle to improve pedestrian crossings

Mayor Jenny Durkan, who is presiding over a growing city facing transportation challenges, ended the first quarter of 2018 with a cliffhanger for the streetcar. This, after getting pressure from Bellevue to improve matters for pedestrians after Seattle did not nothing but worse than nothing, leaves a bad impression on Seattle’s leadership.

Fortunately, in the time after becoming mayor, Durkan had planned up some “early wins” that can be rolled out in short order that would greatly improve matters, and today the city is launching a much needed improvement in pedestrian walk signals.

As you know from experience, most pedestrian walk signals do nothing (except to tell the signal not to stop you from crossing even though you have enough time to cross, but that doesn’t really count). Of course there are a few oddballs where it does make a difference, but these are usually in places where the green signal is normally so short anyway (1-5 seconds) that a push-button is needed to allow enough time for pedestrians.

Nothing is more frustrating than running to an intersection and missing the light turning green by half a second and you don’t get your walk signal. Also frustrating is a group of people waiting to cross, just to find that none of them pushed the beg button, and now everyone is waiting another cycle.

This is why on April 1st, 2018, Seattle will be rolling out automatic button pushers on all intersections, relieving the frustrations of thousands of pedestrians in a single day. Sure, it’s not anything on the scale of fixing Mount Baker station, but it’s certainly an improvement. Plus the numerous construction projects that close the sidewalk often require pedestrians to zig-zag across major arterials, and this is a helpful mitigation. Never again will you experience the frustration of missing a pedestrian walk signal in Seattle.

Frequent Everett Bus Routes Serving Lynnwood Link

Lynnwood Link will dramatically alter transit in Snohomish County. There will be substantial savings that come from truncating long distance runs into Seattle, and with that money, the opportunity to better serve the region. This is a proposal for three frequent bus routes that would connect the Lynnwood Transit Center to various parts of Everett.

Current System

There are three agencies operating in the area: Sound Transit, Community Transit, and Everett Transit. Sound Transit has four routes there. The 513 is rush hour only, and picks up less than 20 people per bus north of Lynnwood. It performs poorly, and is not worth expanding. The 510 and 511 are both rush hour express buses to downtown Seattle. The 510 serves Everett and South Everett stations, while the 511 serves Lynnwood and Ash Way stations. The 512 does not operate during rush hour and essentially serves all of those locations. Those three buses would undergo changes with this proposal.

There are numerous buses serving the area. Everett Transit doesn’t go to Lynnwood, but is worth mentioning because it would complement the proposed routes. Community Transit has several routes in the area, but most of them run only every half hour. The 201/202 are an exception. These buses run every 15 minutes from Everett to Mariner, Ash Way (the street as well as the Park and Ride) and Lynnwood. The three ST buses (510, 511 and 512) along with Community Transit 201/202 serve as the basis for this new alignment.

I am proposing that we run buses frequently (about every 15 minutes all day long) like so:
map

  1. The 201 and 202 would retain its existing frequency (15 minutes combined) and simply be truncated at Ash Way Park and Ride.
  2. The 510 is largely the same (merely truncated at Lynnwood) but would run frequently all day.
  3. The 514 is a new bus that would also run frequently all day.
  4. The 511 and 512 would go away.

Faster Running

One of the key elements of this proposal is to speed up the travel between Everett and Lynnwood. Sound Transit already does that with the design of the 510 and 511. In both cases, there are bus stops along the way connected to HOV lanes on both ends. This means that buses spend very little time serving those stops. In contrast, because there are no north end ramps connecting the Ash Way transit center to the freeway, the 512 spends extra time dealing with the traffic lights and general purpose lanes. My proposal is to continue the basic idea of the 510/511, but extend it all day long.

Better Connections

The bus serving Ash Way (the new 514) does not get on the freeway north of there. It is instead extended to serve the neighborhoods to the north. By overlapping the 201/202, it allows those Community Transit buses to be truncated at Ash Way. If you are headed from Everett TC to Lynnwood, you would take the 510. Between 128th and 164th, you can take the 514 to Lynnwood.

The 514 manages to serve most of the densely populated areas north of Lynnwood. It connects with both Swift Lines as well as a lot of Everett Transit and Community Transit buses. It can take advantage of the right of way granted to both Swift lines. For many in the area, it would provide a much faster connection to Lynnwood. Someone on SR 99 who happens to be close to a stop can get to Lynnwood using one bus, instead of three. The bus also provides a little extra service along the two main corridors being served by Swift. While Swift is relatively frequent (12 minutes during the day), adding an extra bus along that line would likely be welcome, and not excessive.

Other Options

The 514 is fairly long (about 12 miles). If money is tight, then it could be truncated at various places. There is no point, though, in ending it before (or at) 164th. That would simply be a shift in service, with no benefit over keeping the existing routing of the 510, 511 and 201/202 (but running the first two more often). That leaves a few options:

1) Ending at SR 99 and Airport Road. That would provide a lot of people with a fast one seat ride to Lynnwood, while anyone on SR 99 would have a fairly frequent two seat ride. Unfortunately, a lot of people on Casino Road (which is relatively densely populated) would still have an infrequent three seat ride to Lynnwood. It also becomes more difficult to get to Paine Field and the surrounding factories. There are likely to be alternative bus routes, but probably nothing as frequent (because nothing would pass through as many relatively densely populated areas).

2) Ending at SR 99 and Casino Road. A stop here would connect to several Everett Transit bus routes. However, the Community Transit bus routes manage to skip this stop by using the freeway. This means that connecting service to the airport (and surrounding businesses) would not be that frequent. I could easily see how more bus routes could be changed to serve that area (since it is a crossroad) but if you ended at Airport Road and Casino Road, you wouldn’t have to. That connects to just about every bus in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transit & Skiing

I just got back from a ski trip to the Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah is known for its world-renowned skiing, and the powder was great. But, while there, I never stayed in any of the Mountain Villages, or fancy hotels, rather than Park City or Deer Valley, I stayed in Kimball Junction and Cottonwood Heights. Both towns, suburbs of Park City and Salt Lake City, respectively, center largely around budget accommodations, suburban office parks, etc. But, the real unique thing about this trip was one of the things that really impressed me about the resorts in this area. All 6 resorts (Park City, Deer Valley, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird) had quality bus connections, running all winter, 7 days a week, at up to (or above) 15 minute frequencies. Park City, a town with only 8,300 people, has 14 bus lines, including multiple with 15 min or more frequency. Cottonwood Heights, a part of Salt Lake County has 3 “ski bus” lines, all running at 15 min headways during peak periods, part of the Utah Transit Authority’s ski bus system, with 9 lines serving 5 ski areas, and connecting SLC and the town of Park City.

Park City

Park City, one of the most well known ski towns in the US, home to the Utah Olympic Park, and main venue of the Salt Lake City Olympics, has a fare-free transit system, with many routes across the area, serving the many base areas of the nearby ski resorts of Deer Valley & Park City, sectors of the main town, and suburban areas. The town of Park City has been at the fore-front of ski towns fighting Climate Change, pledging to remove their carbon footprint by 2032, through programs including Electric Buses, solar and wind farms creating a renewable energy grid for the town and surrounding ski areas, and land preservation, fighting the continuous development of a ski town running out of snow. This year has been especially bad on the surrounding ski resorts, grass & rocks continue to poke through the snow, many trails and areas remain closed due to lack of snow. Ironically, Vail Resorts, the owner of Park City Mountain Resort, the largest and most prominent ski area in the region, continues to fund Anti-Climate Change Politicians and PACs advocating against Climate Regulation.

Cottonwood

Little & Big Cottonwood Canyons are home to some of the most legendary skiing in the world, though the two most prominent ski areas, Alta & Snowbird are home to much smaller ski towns, which can hardly be called towns at all. Cottonwood is actually located in the general Salt Lake City area, and therefore relies on the Salt Lake City Regional Transit Authority, or the Utah Transit Authority, UTA for short. UTA runs ‘ski buses’ which run on higher fares, and have special ski racks inside them. The buses generally run from one transit center near the city center, then visit multiple small park and rides, which usually only are served by ski buses, before heading to the ski areas (usually serving two ski areas, and then heading back along the same route. The buses run all day in both directions, at peak (towards the mountain right before opening, and towards town around closing) have 15 min headways. Hotels in the area have small shuttles that run to the park & rides, helping visitors use ski buses instead of driving.

Now, you’re probably thinking, why is this guy writing an article about Utah Ski Buses in a Seattle Transit Blog? Well, I think Utah has set a wonderful example. The Seattle Area is home to 3 ski areas within 2 hours, receiving massive visitation, some among the top 15 in the country. Summit at Snoqualmie, at the county line of King & Kittitas Counties, Crystal Mountain, in Pierce County, & Stevens Pass, which has all of its base facilities in King County, but a few lifts reach over into Chelan County. Sadly, largely due to the fact our county borders rely heavily on Mountain Passes, public transit access to these ski areas would be difficult, and that is one big reason it is yet to exist today. But, I’m hopeful. King County Metro already runs buses to North Bend (the closest town to Snoqualmie) & Enumclaw (the closest town to Crystal Mtn) & Community Transit runs buses to Gold Bar, but not to Skykomish, the closest town to Stevens Pass, largely due to the fact that Highway 2 dips into King County there. All of the ski areas are outside Sound Transit’s district, so new bus routes would have to rely on local transit networks.

King County Metro Route 960

This route will run from Eastgate P&R or Issaquah Transit Center (Eastgate would yield better connections to existing services and less connections, while Issaquah would offer a shorter ride time and still ensure a 2 seat ride from Downtown Seattle vis the 554 until East Link opens) or from South Bellevue Station (once it opens) via Eastgate Freeway Station & Issaquah Transit Center (once East Link opens this option will be the only option with a 2 seat ride from Seattle). You could start this bus from Seattle, which would be ideal for passengers bring skis and other equipment, but would result in a longer ride, and a more difficult starting point. It will stop at (optional stops italicized): Preston Park & Ride, North Bend Park & Ride, get off at I-90 exit 54, Summit East/Nordic Center, (daytime only) Silver Fir (daytime only), Summit Central, Summit West & Alpental. It could easily stop at the current Snoqualmie shuttle stops, and as an incentive for Snoqualmie to support the project, could serve as a replacement for the shuttle, having a quick layover at Alpental and turning back to the Seattle area via all 4 base areas. The route will run from December 5th to April 1st (possibly earlier with closing dates tentative). It would likely start Weekends only, and another special route (possibly 963) could be made for weekday travel, as Summit East is closed all weekdays (except Holidays), Summit West is closed Monday-Tuesday, & Night only Wednesday-Friday & Alpental is closed Monday.

King County Metro Route 961

This route will run from Enumclaw to Crystal Mountain. It may stop in Greenwater, or other places along the way. While the route would be in Pierce County much of the way, it could just be viewed as an Enumclaw Community Shuttle service, serving King County. It could be extended Northwest to a largely Transit Center to connect with Seattle/Eastside transit riders such as Auburn, Kent, or, optimally, Angle Lake/Tukwila Intl Blvd Link Station. Less realistic due to the distance of Crystal Mountain and lack of proximity to civilization or King County.

Community Transit/King County Metro Route 962

Hopefully a cooperation from the two, would travel through both counties from Lynnwood or Everett Station to Monroe to Stevens Pass. Can supplement existing Community Transit 270/271. Again, less realistic due to distance factor and transfers. Bringing skis on a commuter route up to Lynnwood or Everett could be difficult. Would travel through Snohomish & King Counties.

So, that’s my article. In conclusion, ski buses can help supplement one of the few currently almost car-only activities. Our ski areas already face overcrowding issues, and parking issues, with Stevens Pass even rejecting further skiers due to Parking Lots becoming full before the place even opens. This solution could have drastic positive effects for both the ski areas and skiers. Even if my plan is downsized to just serving park and rides for skiers to provide extra parking for the ski areas, it would help take cars off the road and help overcrowding issues.

Magnolia/Fremont Restructure after Ballard Link

There’s already been a community post about what could appear in the Ballard Link restructure. I had some ideas for how changes might look south of the ship canal, and how forcing transfers could allow delivery of very frequent and fast service to Magnolia:

31_32

 

The changes from today’s network:

  • The 24 is deleted
  • The 26X is truncated to U-District station
  • The 31 and 32 routes are reconfigured, and frequency is improved dramatically:
    • Both go to Magnolia, and go along 15th to W Dravus street, connecting to the future Interbay light rail station
    • Both go along W Dravus street to 28th Ave W, where they split to serve different areas of Magnolia:
      • The 31 resembles its current route, though less circuitous and less redundant with the 33
      • The 32 leaves its routing to Seattle Center to follow a routing that covers parts of the wandering path of the current route 24, but skips the parts covered by new route 31
    • Both routes are split for a short distance in Fremont, where the removal of the 26X would leave a hole
    • Both routes run at a frequency of 15 minutes each, meaning:
      • Each branch in Magnolia and Fremont have frequent service, and a connection to fast and reliable Link light rail
      • Overlapping segments are double frequent, with a bus every 7.5 minutes, while connecting to two different Link stations
  • I imagine keeping the 19 during peak (as it exists today) as a similar rationale for its existence today will exist then (namely, convenience during high usage periods), since today it lets certain 24 riders avoid a circuitous route during rush-hour, and in this plan could let 31 riders avoid a forced transfer. I could easily see eliminating the 19 should that be necessary to pay for other service
  • The 33 is retained as is at 30 minute frequency. Could also be truncated at Seattle Center or re-routed to SLU should funding be required, or if doing so could allow it to be upgraded to 15-minute service

The centerpiece of this idea is a dramatically improved 31/32 pair running 7 days/week, providing a strong frequent connection to Link that together provides the following outcomes:

  • Most places in Magnolia now have 15 minute or better service that connects to a fast Link ride to downtown, Seattle Center, and SLU
  • Most places in Magnolia also lose a one-seat (albeit super long) ride to downtown, but get frequency upgraded
  • SPU has 8 buses per hour to both Interbay and U-District stations, providing good commuter access to a wide range of commuters from both north and south
  • Fremont gets frequency doubled on both legs of the new route despite losing the 26X, and the 31/32 are frequent enough to split in that area (partially restoring the pre-U-Link service pattern on Stone Way) and still double the frequency on both paths
  • Northern 26X riders need to transfer to Link, but will enjoy a faster ride because they no longer have to go through Fremont

Paying for this kind of service could be difficult, but if we considering truncations to the D-line and routes 40 and 62 that are very likely with a Ballard Link restructure, I could see it being done.

Your thoughts?