Page Two articles are from our reader community.

SODO Station Transit Center

I have been advocating for quite some time to establish a large transit center at SODO Station and I’m glad to see that others readers are now debating the issue. I’d like to summarize my reasoning and present the outline I’ve created for the SODO Station Transit Center and invite others to build on my ideas.

Why build a transfer station at SODO?
Metro will be facing a transit capacity problem on the streets of downtown Seattle when the bus tunnel is finally closed to buses. During peak hours the streets are already congested with bus traffic and adding the buses that currently use the tunnel to the surface traffic will only make congestion worse. When the buses are removed from the tunnel, those riders who currently have a one-seat ride into downtown Seattle will experience a longer, more agonizing trip to work which will make transit less appealing. By creating the SODO Station Transit Center, many of the buses that would be making a one way trip through downtown Seattle on surface streets would instead turnback at SODO Station and riders would transfer to Link trains at SODO.

Aren’t forced transfers one of the things that people hate about riding the bus?
Yes! But building a transfer station at SODO is the best possible location for building a transfer station without forcing transfers. SODO is the Link station that offers the best connectivity to the greatest number of locations. Because of its close location to downtown, SODO could be connected more easily to locations like West Seattle, First Hill, Beacon Hill, Belltown and South Lake Union than other stations further south on the Link route. The most compelling advantage of SODO Station is that it can effectively offer connections to many more prime destinations. I’m purposely making a distinction between forcing transfers and offering transfers. A location such as SODO can be more effectively connected to many more locations than a location like Rainier Beach Station. The problem with Rainier Beach Station is that it is the definition of a forced transfer. There’s very little commercial activity near RBS, the walk shed is terrible and there is very little opportunity to improve density or commercial activity in the vicinity. Also, the geographic layout of the neighborhood makes it very difficult to make easy bus-to-train transfers at RBS without having to walk long distances or cross several busy streets.

But SODO Station would still require that riders might have to wait up to 10 minutes to catch a train, isn’t that too long?
Yes it is. My solution to that problem would be to terminate both the RapidRide D Line and the RapidRide E Line at SODO Station. The E is currently running on 12 minute (or better) headways and the D Line runs on 15 minute (or better) headways. That would add a minimum of 9 RR buses per hour between SODO and downtown. Combined with at least 6 trains per hour, if schedules were timed optimally, the maximum wait times between SODO and downtown could be as low as 4 minutes. Once the buses are kicked out of the tunnel and if all those buses are added to the surface streets, it’s inevitable that the one-seat ride trip time through downtown Seattle will increase. At that time, a 4 minute (or less) wait at SODO won’t be a negative factor.

Another benefit of terminating the D and E at SODO would be that the C Line would need a new destination beyond downtown Seattle. How about Uptown for the C Line terminal? If the C Line is terminated in Uptown, the D Line could then skip the Uptown deviation and run faster to Ballard via Denny and Elliot Way. Hopefully, without the Uptown deviation, trip times between Ballard and downtown on the D Line would be about 5 minutes faster which would compensate for the added running time to SODO. If the D Line’s faster service attracts more riders, then headways could be moved to 12 minutes, which would add even more connectivity between downtown and SODO.

Another suggestion for creating better connectivity at SODO would be to build a major bike share facility at the station with dedicated bike lanes to downtown and the other nearby neighborhoods.

The SODO Station Transit Center isn’t a perfect solution to a complex problem, but it does offer the best solution I can see to provide timely and cost-effective connections between downtown Seattle and the more distant areas of the service area.

What are your thought?

Notes from the 10th InnoTrans Show

Croation Railways EMU on display at Innotrans in 2010, “HZ 6112 001-0 1” by MPW57 – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Since 1996, the bi-annual railroad technology convention and trade show known as InnoTrans has come to Berlin. Friday, September 26th, was the final day of the actual trade show, while Saturday and Sunday are open to the public to allow them to take a look at some of the remaining exhibits, particularly the rolling stock displays, that stay on hand over the weekend. [Note from 1 Oct 2014: Reports say as many as 15,000 members of the public came on the weekend to view some 145 pieces of rolling stock on display.]

I did not go to InnoTrans, but thanks to the Internet it is possible to take a look at some of what was on show this year without being there. Railway Gazette covered the show fairly well using both their own articles as well as accumulating Twitter posts from various attendees. Some items below only appeared as Twitter messages, while others had solid English language industry articles written about them by trade show magazines also attending. Here are a few things that caught my eye, some of which perhaps one day will be seen on railway equipment (or maybe other transportation equipment) operating here:

  • Talgo was showing off a model of a proposed Talgo based suburban train. It’s another step at making trains lighter. Maybe one day the Cascades corridor will have Talgo longer distance as well as Talgo local trains that look like this.
  • [Added to article 1 Oct. 2014] Railway Gazette continues to go through its notes from the show, and on 30 September noted in an article that a company promoting dimmable windows in light rail cars was on  hand at the show. This concept has been around for a few years for buildings, with the basic concept being similar to the LCD welding helmets that have been around for many years now. The welding helmets are clear most of the time, but when the arc is struck by the welder the liquid crystal is immediately activated and protects the eyes of the welder from the blinding light of the welding arc. The concept for building windows is to put the liquid crystal display in the window glass, and make the window transparency adjustable for various lighting conditions. The transit window concept (at the show it was displayed in a Bombardier Flexity 2) is actually a film applied to the glazing. Heavily tinted windows in transit vehicles are OK in the daytime, but once it is dark this tinting makes it very difficult to see where you are. Being able to tune the window tinting to suit the interior and exterior lighting conditions would be wonderful in many situations. I’m not sure how easy it would be to get such a system approved for use on any rail equipment in the USA, as NFPA 130 has some fairly difficult smoke and fire resistance requirements for films placed over “fixed guideway transit systems” in the USA. However, it would probably be possible for such a system to get approved for use in buses in the USA as the material requirements aren’t as limiting.
  • The new ThamesLink trains (three cars of which were on display at the Siemens booth) will be able to show riders what cars have space available in them.
  • Back in 2010, Bombardier was awarded the contract for the Riyadh Monorail. This year, they had a short monorail train on display before it heads to Saudi Arabia.
  • Plastic based foams are used to absorb collision energy, and composite materials have been used as light structural materials. However, they can not be recycled very easily, can be expensive to work with, and have other disadvantages when used on railroad cars. One solution presented at the show is to make railroad car structures out of aluminum based foam. It seems to me this could eventually lead to lighter passenger trains being accepted in the USA.
  • Alstom is working on fuel cell trains for use in Germany.
  • Seeing Machines and EMD (the locomotive builders now owned by Caterpillar) have partnered to develop an anti-driver fatigue system.
  • It’s an international show, so some seat patterns used in equipment on display are perhaps a little too eccentric for North American consumption.
  • One of seven derailment response vehicles ordered by the Iraqi Republic Railways was at the show. Talk about a difficult operating environment!
  • Not too many convention centers welcome locomotives through their front doors.

With some 2,700 exhibitors from 55 countries represented this year, even wandering the InnoTrans web site virtual marketplace can take a lot of time. Certainly, there is far more to this show than what I have here.


Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is employed at a small manufacturer of electrical systems for railroad passenger cars.

North by Northwest 19: Island Transit Still in a Storm

The world isn’t a fairy tale, and it could be more brutal than we want to acknowledge. Equally, it could be better than we’ve been led to believe, but either way, we have to start seeing it exactly as it is, with all of its problems, because it’s only by seeing it with all of its problems that we’ll be able to fix them and live in a world in which we can all be happily ever after. — Heather Brooke
(SOURCE)

Photo of Island Transit Bus Without A Driver

Beginning with another Heather “Newsbrooke” Brooke quotation because folks, we could sure use one.  Many, including I, thought last Friday’s supposed end of the Martha Rose era was not the beginning of the end but a finite end of the beginning to play off of a famous Winston Churchill quotation.  The Wednesday afternoon Island Transit Board Meeting, being held under the cloud of the Island Transit Acting Finance Director’s insubordination and outrageous allegations, did not resolve the issue to the point where a long sortie full of detail is now necessary.

At least Common Sense and Island Politics took video of the latest Island Transit meeting and provided commentary.  The mainstream media hasn’t launched a response yet.  I have helpfully clipped the video to the most important part of the meeting – namely addressing the solvency of Island Transit and the epic failure of Island Transit’s Acting Finance Director to report to the Island Transit Board on the status of Island Transit’s deferred payments to the Washington Transit Insurance Pool.

Before posting the video, I would like to note as a lapsed Washington Coalition for Open Government member that for the record Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson was right in citing RCW 42.30.080 on special meetings that states, “Final disposition shall not be taken on any other matter at such meetings by the governing body.”  However Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley was also right in stating the meeting’s agenda said only “Management Transition” and “Executive Session if necessary” arguably giving him clearance to address the Island Transit Acting Finance Director issue.  Clearly clarity from the state legislature or from a set of Attorney General’s Office Model Rules on the Open Public Meetings Act or a more finite Island Transit Board Meeting agenda would be constructive.

That said, here’s the clipped video – originally from Common Sense:

If I may be snarky, perhaps there’s a reason why the picture for this news story is of a driverless Island Transit Bus.  While writing this story, Island Politics got part of the scoop on an e-mail the Acting Financial Director sent to many if not all Island Transit employees defining McCarthyism.  But Seattle Transit Blog obtained an e-mail sent this morning from Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley to the Island Transit Acting Executive Director Bob Clay confirming an Island Transit response to a Seattle Transit Blog public records request there still is no Executive Director Martha Rose resignation letter – fueling suspicions Martha Rose didn’t resign and certainly creating more chaos at a bad time.

As if this crisis needs to be put into more stark relief, recently Seattle Transit Blog received a comment stating in part with my emphasis:

The employee manual section 2.03 prohibits any employee from speaking out for fear of being terminated. This is a bizarre code of ethics section which is ambiguous enough to be used against anyone attempting to reveal just how badly Island Transit is mismanaged. Any employee questioning anything is quickly silenced and counseled not to ask disruptive questions. Senior drivers who are not in jeopardy of losing their stature also defend the regime without question, to show loyalty in order to save their paycheck. Fear and intimidation are the workplace standard.
Martha has help in the blame game with former finance manager now reinstated finance manager Sandra Kuykendall who also made statements against Barbra Savary. Martha stated in the newspaper she brought in Kuykendall after Barbra Savary was fired. This is a complete lie. Barbara and Sandra worked side by side for two weeks during the transition period of Barbara’s voluntary resignation of the position. If the Board of Directors wants to investigate and audit, simply look at the days on payroll for both of the financial managers and question the overlapping time period.

According to the Island Transit Personnel Policies Manual, section 2.03 contains in part, again with my emphasis:

Actions of an uncivil, immoral, or indecent nature and use of profanity or vulgar language while on duty (on-the-job) or on ISLAND TRANSIT property are prohibited. Employees must remember that, as public servants, they are expected to present a favorable public image and to cooperate with the public and their fellow employees. Employees are reminded that disruption of the workplace with loud, obnoxious, unruly behavior will not be tolerated.
. . .
Reporting to management suspicious, unethical, or illegal conduct by coworkers, customers, or suppliers

I’m sure the Kuykendall sortie served as a strong validator of allegations of a hostile work climate in Island Transit – and those of other former & current Island Transit employees posted to multiple websites.  I’m also sure the fact the Island Transit Board does not know if its payments into the state insurance pool – with no less than two lawsuits having been field – is equally unsettling.  No wonder Oak Harbor Mayor Dudley has grave doubts about the solvency of Island Transit and made the public allegation the Island Transit Board with a “lack of accountability and lack of responsibility” is “responsible for the financial situation we find ourselves in today”.


Personally, it would take serious changes arguably on Island Transit’s behalf to convince me to ever again sortie to the Washington State transit advocacy community and ask the 38 other counties of our state to rescue any services of Island Transit It’s time we in the transit advocacy community started openly discussing options what to do with Island Transit and keeping Island Transit’s reputation separate from other transit agencies’ reputations.  In military aviation, they’d call it “Response Options”.  Response Options we’re going to need as the State Legislature restarts in about three months in January…

One of the things the transit advocacy community is going to need to do is explain Island Transit is the outlier, not the ‘new normal’ of transit governance.  That politics on Island County are bordering on dysfunctional – Exhibit A being the Beyond Stupid land use policies around NAS Whidbey Island’s Ault Field and Outlying Field Coupeville that sparked the progressive anti-Navy insurgency in Central Whidbey.  That Island Transit has suffered from Leaderism for some time.  That we in the transit advocacy community are open to new vaccines to keep another bout of “Island Transit cancer” from spreading to our local agencies.

So here are four ideas for transit advocates to consider:

  • Perhaps we would be willing to grudgingly accept having all of Washington State’s transit boards elected by their district elected statewide instead of appointed in return for Sound Transit 3/ST3?
  • Perhaps we should let Island Transit go down the tubes if the Island Transit Board and/or Island Transit Administration reacts inappropriately to the upcoming release of the Washington State Auditor’s Office Audit and continues to react inappropriately to the issues of the Island Transit Acting Finance Director’s insubordinate misconduct?
  • Perhaps we could demand transit administrators forgo the company cars and use the transit system they administrate to commute to/from work at least 75% of the time each month?
  • Perhaps we should sign a petition demanding a study be done within 365 days of the logistics of collecting a fare on Island Transit – not saying I’m pro a fare, but I’m pro an updated conversation.

Just attempting to spark a conversation among the wider transit advocacy community… one we need to start having.


Finally, just an editorial note of reassurance that at some point I need to insert: I am doing some research on Paine Field’s transit situation.  Non-financial research that is so Everett Transit & Community Transit you may exhale.  Please do.

Once the Island Transit crisis simmers down, I will pick up where I left off on my Sound Transit Sounder North research as well.  However, we do have a crisis that is being closely monitored in Olympia and it seems happily ever after is bordering on impossible here.

At some point, I also want to poke around Washington State Ferries…

Test Downtown Ticket Machines?

Is There Any Question about What Date THIS is Valid and When it Expires? by Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”)

As part of yesterday’s discussion of the Proposed King County Metro Budget, Mark Dublin notes:

Possibly transit’s worst hemorrhage, in money and passenger goodwill, stems from anything that slows service by a single minute. Especially if it’s five minutes stuck aboard a packed and un-airconditioned bus northbound at Westlake the height of PM rush while the driver argued with a nut over a fare.

In a few past discussions of the problems faced by “quarter fumblers” in downtown Seattle, there have been a few suggestions that peak trip bus stops be equipped with ticket dispensing machines, so that those paying cash (or card since TVMs accept plastic) would be able to purchase a ticket beforehand.

Would ticket vending machines be worthwhile? Luckily, Metro might have the opportunity to run a test without actually buying the machines themselves.

TriMet’s contractors here in Portland are making great progress on the Orange Line, but most of the stations are still being outfitted with shelters, electrical conduit, and elevators. The current TriMet administration likes to open these lines early if at all possible, so there tend to be parts on hand before they are needed, just in case progress of some sort can be made on non-critical path projects should there be a lack of materials on critical path items.  Two cases: the rails were on hand and waiting for installation long before they were needed.  Public art at the Tacoma Street station was installed about two years ago, before anything else was on the site.

Therefore there is a good chance that the ticket machines for the line are still in a warehouse waiting for the proper time for installation. Operator training and other operational testing isn’t scheduled to being until June of 2015, and the line is supposed to open in September of 2015. With any luck, they might be able to push the opening a little early like they did with a couple of the other lines. However, the fact remains, these are some of the last pieces to put in, while many of the stations have much heavy work yet to finish.

The machines would require a bit of tweaking to get them to print a King County Metro ticket (TriMet no longer has fare zones, and there is no peak period surcharge here, so a few different screens would need to be reprogrammed). There is obviously the issue of how to get power and communications to a temporary location.

Due to the possibility of confusion among those that don’t use transit regularly (which of course will tend to be “cash fumblers”), if the experiment is attempted then the best place to try it would be at extremely busy bus stops only served by King County Metro. That reduces issues when a Community Transit or SoundTransit bus appears at the stop and someone attempts to claim their KCM printed ticket is valid.

Sure, there will still be cash fumblers entering the buses, but how many? If the ticket machines prove to be an unreliable way of reducing cash transactions on the buses, then no big deal. The TVMs were never intended for Seattle anyway. Turn the concrete pads they sat on into additional bus stop benches and soon everyone will forget they ever were there.

On the other hand, if the experiment works and cash transactions are reduced significantly, then maybe it will be worthwhile to purchase a permanent set of TVMs for popular bus stops.


Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is a native of Portland, Oregon and works as an engineer / technical writer / technician at a small company that builds electrical equipment for railroad passenger cars.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST 18: Island Transit Acting Financial Manager INSUBORDINATE

An Island Transit Small Bus in Oak Harbor...

“Insubordination can be divided into two categories: unwillingness to carry out a directive from a manager or supervisor and disrespectful behavior toward a manager or supervisor. -… Disrespectful behavior toward a manager or supervisor can include cursing at a supervisor, verbally or physically intimidating a manager or supervisor, or speaking loudly or argumentatively to or about a supervisor.”

Society for Human Resource Management, Disciplinary Issues: What constitutes insubordination?
(Emphasis mine)

Good morning, it seems as if Island Transit is still in trouble after the resignation/retirement/firing of Island Transit’s executive director. In today’s Whidbey News-Times is an insubordinate letter to the editor by one Sandra Kuykendall, Acting Financial Manager of Island Transit. I’m going ahead and republishing her letter in full so you can see what I mean by insubordinate with my emphasis:

Editor,

Friday I witnessed a vigilante mob lynch an outstanding public servant.

Scott Dudley and his dopes spewed bitter half-truths and intimidated our elected board officials to fire Martha Rose.

Bob Clay, Helen Price Johnson, Jim Campbell and the rest of you board members, do you really think making Martha a scapegoat and bowing to McCarthyism is going to make the silent majority vote for you next go-around? The answer is … oh no.

You and the state auditors saw the same false information that Martha did, and none of you raised a red flag either.

This error was so hidden that nobody, including the state auditors, to whom we pay tens of thousands of dollars every year to catch this type of an error, recognized it.

Most of us who worked with Martha over the years are all angry and shocked that this type of a lynching was approved by the board, especially before even getting the audit report.

Martha built this organization into a national award–winning agency and worked for years getting the grants to build this much-needed facility. The angry “employees” that write letters to the editor are 90 percent disgruntled ex-employees who were fired for not doing their jobs.

Martha has given her heart to this community and fell prey to an incompetent finance manager.

Once she recognized the problem, she took strong action to pull our agency out of a financial nose dive. And she developed a financial plan that could do it. We couldn’t be in a more precarious point in our recovery to lose her guidance now. We, and I speak for most of the employees of Island Transit, are heartbroken, disillusioned and disgusted at you self-serving politicians. What is the world coming to where McCarthyism is allowed to be practiced?

Sandra Kuykendall
Acting Financial Manager, Island Transit

Folks, let me be clear here: To publicly call an Island Transit Board Member a bully and then to accuse individual citizens using their First Amendment Rights of being McCarthyite dopes – and for you young ones, that’s a serious charge from the Cold War and the Red Scare of the early 1950s leading to many good folks losing their jobs & reputations. Anybody who listens to Mr. Lauderdale’s speech can see he’s no McCarthyite but a US Navy veteran using the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. Below are his remarks from Friday:

 Let me also add when a public official uses her position to blast members of public plus her elected board and sign a letter with that title, watch your liberty! You heard me – watch your liberty! When government officials publicly abuse members of the public for speaking out not just in print but by walking out – well then who’s next? Would it be okay for a Sound Transit Sounder manager to blast Seattle Transit Blog for criticizing Sounder North? Would it be okay with you Seattle Transit Blog readers for transit board officials to work to limit us at public comment?

After all, if a former US Navy Commander cannot tell his elected officials what he thinks about Island Transit without fear of Island Transit officials working to destroy his reputation and accuse him of lynching… then we as Americans have something fundamental to fear.  There are many great Americans who love America and want to serve but distrust their government because of tiny people with big titles like Sandra Kuykendall.

Let me put it this way: We at Seattle Transit Blog have read reports of intimidated employees in the comment threads (an example) and even hyperlinked a letter sent to the State Auditor’s Office via State Senator Barbara Bailey alleging the real McCarthyism is led by Martha Rose and her pet attack dogs.  With Sandra’s disgusting outburst speaking as an Island Transit employee to silence fellow American citizens, it lends credence to these allegations.  So what do we do here at home while our troops are risking their lives to stop ISIS ‘Over There’ and our First Responders are ready to protect the home front?  In the words of one VAQ-139 Cougar currently preparing to do battle over the Middle East:

We are all Americans enjoying our great freedoms and rights thanks to the military and the firefighters/EMTs/police officers who serve and protect us…NOT ONLY today, NOT ONLY on the Anniversary of 9/11 but EVERY SINGLE DAY of our lives. CHOOSE to keep those flags flying, CHOOSE to be a proud American Patriot, CHOOSE to keep that spirit alive, and in doing this we will HONOR all of those we lost on 9/11 and all of the troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice NOT ONLY TODAY but ALWAYS!

Today there is an Island Transit Emergency Meeting at 4 PM/1600 Hours at their HQI would highly advise Island County Residents to fire this monster in your midst and clean up your honour before 38 other counties have to.  Why?  Proud American Patriots should ensure this aggression will not stand.

One last thing: Already now former Executive Director Martha Rose admitted on public record there would likely be an audit finding last Thursday due to inept record keeping.  Why wait for the State Auditor’s Office report Sandra?  Some lynching…

Bellevue Hotel Project, Squandered Potential?

Saw that there are plans to build a Hilton Gardens in downtown Bellevue as a six story “mid-rise” smack in the middle of a sea of high rises. These seems weird and squanders prime high rise real-estate.

They should do what is common in other cities and build the hotel to occupy a portion of a larger building.

http://downtownbellevue.com/2014/09/22/new-plans-downtown-bellevue-hilton-garden-inn-unveiled/

Meanwhile, in a far and distant land… the poor, the workers & transport for London

I would encourage ST readers to visit the web page of The Guardian of September 21, where there appears a report under the title “Looming London Transport crisis ‘risks sparking riots’ says TfL chief”:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/21/london-lack-affordable-transport-risks-sparking-riots-tfl-chief

Sir Peter Hendy, the Transport Commissioner of London has stated that without significant improvements in transport access at affordable fares that political and social unrest may occur.  The story is more complicated than that, but I bring it to our collective attention in the context of our own service curtailments and fare increases in relation to where the working poor of Seattle may be able to reside.

I should note that the rest of England (even more, the rest of the (still) United Kingdom regards the reports of London’s transport problems with some hostility.  The columns of several British papers keep returning to the impacts of high fares, and over-crowded transport services.

North by Northwest 17: Island Transit CEO Out

“If any of us were faced with a huge bag of free money and very little accountability, it would be human nature that you would make the most of it.

Today, 19 September 2014 brought about the end of the Martha Rose Era at Island Transit.  Folks testified at the Island Transit meeting and took video – which will be uploaded as an update to this post – stating their deep concerns with the reports coming from anonymous Island Transit employees as well as Island Transit’s fare free policies.  There was also one Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley laying down a pasting to a point “he lost faith and competence” in the Executive Director.  In short, Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose was forced to hand in her resignation today and Island Transit Board Chairman Bob Clay has taken over emergency CEO responsibilities until at least September 24th at 4 PM/16oo Hours in a clear victory for transit users.

The Whidbey News-Times reported tonight :

The embattled executive director of Island Transit quit Friday after a tense meeting with the board of directors and an hour-long executive session.

It was unclear whether the board asked Martha Rose to turn in her keys during the closed-door session, or even whether she retired or resigned. The board members voted unanimously — with Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson participating via speakerphone — to accept Rose’s letter of resignation.

Afterward, Rose said she was retiring, not resigning.

Rose previously said she had no plans to leave, but changed her tune after the Oak Harbor City Council appointed Mayor Scott Dudley to the transit board on a temporary basis. He is filling in for Councilman Jim Campbell, who’s on an extended vacation.

Before the Whidbey News-Times reported, IslandPolitics.org got the scoop of the victory of accountability and I think the entire transit community sincerely hopes they are right that “a new era for Island Transit” has dawned.

Finally, Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson issued a statement I will copy-paste in full as Commish Price-Johnson illuminates issues the mainstream media has missed:

TRANSIT UPDATE  –  part 2

At this morning’s Island Transit meeting the Board took unanimous action to accept the immediate resignation of Executive Director Martha Rose. Though I was in Ellensburg for another meeting, I was able to participate in the vote by telephone. As per the bylaws, the Chair of the Board Bob Clay will serve as director while an interim executive is selected. A special meeting for this transition is scheduled for Wednesday September 24th at 4pm in the Transit Board room.

The Island Transit financial reports are showing positive gains. The auditor’s review is continuing. Martha Rose served Island County for 26 years and deserves credit for her role in building up the Island Transit system. But she acknowledged today that her presence had become a distraction to the important work of recovery. With the action today the Board will now focus on moving forward in rebuilding this vital system for the good of our community.

Operations staff is working on a draft plan for right-sizing of the transit runs which will be sustainable. Public input is encouraged. I will keep sending updates as this unfolds.

So will we at Seattle Transit Blog…  over to your comments.  Please keep them on-topic to Island Transit and try NOT to spike the football too much.  If for no other reason than there are some people who through NO fault of their own have lost a job serving the public through Island Transit…

North by Northwest 16: Cometh the Moment, Cometh the Man

I pick this quote because about 10 years ago, I was talking to the British Counsul General about Tony Blair and getting his autograph.  The Consul General taught me this phrase, a phrase I believe applies to Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley and his forces as they begin to save Island Transit.  I also pick this phrase for another reason… and am happy the Scots will likely as of posting remain British.

So getting back to STB’s mission here are some rapid-fire updates on the crisis building in Island Transit:

  • Earlier this week in a resounding, refreshing development the Oak Harbor City Council and the Oak Harbor Mayor quit their infighting and came together to send Mayor Scott Dudley to fight “scary” Island Transit mismanagement.  You can watch the video HERE.
  • Tomorrow morning at 0930 Island Transit will have a board meeting at their HQ (Agenda with address of meeting site).  I have a situation at a new job very likely keeping me away from this community confrontation.
    Please stay calm everybody and if you do sortie please keep your anger at home, realize the best six inches you got is your brain to paraphrase Marine General Mattis, and stand together – we are NOT Citizens Obviously Egregiously Repugnant jackrabbits who get their rocks off telling people to “bring your anger” to public meetings.
  • Apparently Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose is in for one rough ride after a letter she sent Island Transit Board Members today with these statements:
    • “It was pretty obvious to see that the budget deficit shocked you all. That certainly wasn’t the intent. We have been finding so many errors. Just Monday of last week we discovered that there were two entries for a single grant entered into the budget; in other words, twice the amount we really have/had.”
    • “Unfortunately, the files for the facilities project, as well as the files for the accountability audit were/are a disaster; nothing had been filed correctly; files have been found in archive documents that are not archive documents. We continue to be shocked with what we’re discovering and we’re completely mystified. The audit book that historically has kept all the information we know the SOA will ask for during the audit for the given year, was not done. “
    • “Unfortunately for the single audit on the Facilities Project, we have been unable to locate the back-up documentation for the prevailing wage checks on vendors. Joe Anastasi, through a contract with URS, was responsible for doing all that work. I reviewed those documents with Joe during the time he was here so I know that they physically exist. When Joe passed, some of the boxes he used and filled up (Joe was fantastic!) were turned over to Gary Hess and the rest of Joe’s boxes are ‘somewhere’ with URS at their Seattle offices. I have repeatedly asked URS but no one is able to find those particular documents. Part of the URS contract included an individual with URS who was charged with the responsibility of verifying that the Contractor submitted certified payroll and reviewing that the prevailing wage requirements were met. We have hounded both Gary and URS for those documents but nothing has come forward since. I am sure that we will get a finding for this lack of documentation. URS states in their documents that they practice a ‘No Surprise’ policy. We were surprised.”
  • Finally and most importantly a group of patriots is coming together to put together a posse to deal with the mismanagement of Island Transit.  You can check them out on Facebook and note how Bill Burnett of IslandPolitics.org is calling for Island Transit’s elimination.  You’ve been forewarned folks…

A First Experience on Island Transit

The ongoing “North by Northwest” series by Joe Konzlar (AvGeekJoe) which frequently feature recent trials of Island Transit remind me of some of my transit adventures northwest Washington.  I haven’t been able to visit that part of Washington for over a year, and so a lot of things have changed. Thus, I write this from a past tense perspective, since things have obviously changed quite a lot.

Unfortunately, my first effort at using Island Transit to get somewhere wasn’t a resounding success, but most of this was not due to Island Transit’s organization, as will be seen.

This trip happened as I was visiting Port Townsend, and wanted to leave there and return to Seattle around mid-day.  Other than Island Transit, there really isn’t a whole lot connecting various points in northwest Washington during the middle of the day. At the time of this trip, the earliest afternoon series of connections between Jefferson Transit and Kitsap Transit was 4 in the afternoon, leaving Island Transit as the only option at that time of day.

The first part of that trip went very well: I walked to the Port Townsend – “Coupville” ferry to get to Fort Casey State Park. That part was simple.

However, getting from that end of the ferry to Island Transit route 1 going south was a terrible introduction to Island Transit. IT route 6 was out of synch with the ferry, so that a bus had just left about the time the ferry arrived. Furthermore, The #6 at its southern end was terribly out of synch for transferring to the #1 at Keystone. Today, this is a bit better as the Steilacoom II is no longer operating this route as a single boat, allowing for somewhat better time planning.

The result of this was it took a bit over an hour to travel the approximately two miles from Fort Casey State Park to Keystone, where the nearest bus stop for route #1 happened to be. I could probably have walked this faster, but the road connecting the two has fast traffic and not a wide enough shoulder for me to want to risk this.

Once the #1 showed up at the stop at Wanamaker Road and Highway 526, things were a much different story. The bus was reasonably crowded, and made very good time, with the driver doing everything possible to speed the trip up a bit, as we were slightly behind schedule.

It is a very good thing that it did move along well, as there was very little room for error once the bus approached Clinton.  On this trip as well as a subsequent trip a few years later, the bus driver called someone at the ferry terminal when the bus was some distance away, to let them know where the bus was and how many passengers to expect. That way, they would load the autos first, and be prepared to board the bus passengers after the bus got there.  In both cases the bus actually arrived slightly late, as the auto traffic was already being loaded. However, once auto traffic had finished loading, we bus passengers were then allowed to board rather than making us wait for the next boat.  By us I do mean there were at least 20 or so passengers that boarded the ferry from IT# 1.

Sadly, upon arrival at Mukilteo, transit passengers were greeted with yet another example of how well transit agencies in the USA are when it comes to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I got to watch at least one bus vanish up the hill when the boat was less than a minute away – in contrast to Island Transit’s effort at making sure one of its primary backbone routes had good ferry connections, the connection at the other end was rather incidental.

I’m not sure exactly what happened to the rest of the Island Transit #1 passengers, but several of us got on the only bus that happened to be sitting there.  Everyone else probably followed the instructions that Google Transit gave (and still gives) for Mukilteo-Seattle trips.  It essentially says give up, go find a bar, and wait several hours for the first northbound Sounder train to Everett and try your luck there, since Mukilteo had (and still has) terrible bus connections.

As it turned out, this probably would have been the best thing to do.

Just after all of us boarded, the bus driver announced that it was time for him to take his end of route break and shut off the engine, and said he would be back in 20 minutes. Just then another bus went by going up the hill.  What it was or where it was going I have no idea, but at least it was moving, which was more than what I was going to be doing for the next 20 minutes.

Since the next 20 minutes of the trip involved no actual transit movement in any direction, I will spare the details of how I occupied 15 or so minutes in Mukilteo, but eventually the bus did depart for the top of the hill, and somehow I managed to be on it.

I think the bus I was on was Community Transit #113, but in looking at the timetable it seems like they may have changed this route a bit from the year I did this trip. I remember taking an hour long tour of various neighborhoods between Puget Sound and Interstate 5, while today the schedule shows it doing this tour in a blistering 40 minutes.  Maybe I was also counting the 20 minute annoyance at the ferry terminal?  I don’t remember.

Naturally, upon arrival at Ash Way Park and Ride, I would be able to get an express bus to downtown Seattle.

In fact, I got a real good look at said express bus vanishing into the distance just as our local bus arrived.

I then got yet more great looks at express buses coming from downtown Seattle, all of which then turned into deadhead runs returning to downtown Seattle with no passengers.  It would be another long frustrating wait for an actual in service express bus to arrive and take passengers going south.

Then came the icing on the cake:

How well do you remember September 20th, 2010? It so happens there was a fire south of Seattle in the afternoon that day, near enough to Interstate 5 that I-5 south was closed “briefly” (so said news articles) in the early afternoon. This caused an immediate backup so that by mid-afternoon southbound traffic was backed up so far north nobody could figure out where the backup even started. Maybe somewhere in the Yukon Territory?  This mess continued deep into the evening rush hour – which I was told by some fellow riders that by that time was really no worse than normal.

Compounding that problem was that at this time the HOV lanes on Interstate 5 were single direction only, outbound afternoon. So, northbound peak traffic was flying along just fine, while the express bus I was on moved at walking speed for the next two hours – in traffic that apparently didn’t exist since obviously if the traffic we were stuck in existed, they would have operated reverse direction HOV lanes there, and perhaps even a southbound Sounder trip or two.

My eventual arrival in Seattle was somewhere around 20 minutes or so earlier than had I departed Port Townsend on that 4 pm series of connections starting with Jefferson Transit.

So what should you take away from this experience of mine?

Somehow even working between agencies and services as different as Island Transit and Washington State Ferries, the 1 was able to connect with the ferry at Clinton and do so in a way where people at the ferry terminal knew exactly where the bus was and how long it would be before it arrived so they could do everything in their power to make the connection between the 1 and the ferry work well.

Despite all their other troubles, somewhere, at some point in time in the past someone at Island Transit knew that one of their backbone routes would depend on a true timed connection at the ferry, and made every effort to make sure that connection worked as well as possible.  It was a cross-platform cross-mode transfer that required all of 30 seconds of walking to perform, between two transportation routes operating at relatively infrequent intervals. No other connections over the course of this trip worked well at all.

Now if only the connections on the Mukilteo end could be executed just as well, Island Transit would probably have far more passengers on route 1 than it does now – and the bus was nearly full by the time it arrived in Clinton.

Of course, I know all too well that I am preaching to the choir here, but the effort put into making this is how transit integration and cooperation really should work. It is a shame that an agency that at one time had this type of effort put into its efficient operation has experienced such an apparent management lapse.


Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is employed as an engineer / technical writer / technician at a small company in Portland that builds electrical equipment for railroad passenger cars. It may be a small company, but he has only once been assigned the task of washing bottles, and therefore can NOT be described as being the chief bottle washer. Primary commute: TriMet #10, but sometimes seen on MAX Green Line, #14, #17 and #75.

North by Northwest 15: Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson Statement…

Just Practicing My Motion Blur on an Island Transit Bus...

Just got this statement a few hours ago.  Posted in full below with my bold – and then my rather brisk commentary.  Here goes.

Joe


TRANSIT UPDATE  

As an Island County Commissioner I serve as one of five elected officials from across county who meet monthly as the Public Transit Authority. The Board members knew that a portion of cash reserves were going to be used to match the federal grant used to build the new transit facility – a much needed capital investment. However the monthly financial reports the Island Transit Board received were inaccurate. What was discovered this spring was an ongoing cash shortfall in the operations budget. Action was taken swiftly to address the problem as it was described, but it was subsequently found that the depth of the shortfall was larger than first reported. Executive Director Martha Rose acted to implement emergency measures restoring fiscal balance to the organization. This included cutting administrative staff in June and July, reducing several routes and cutting Saturday service on September 1.

Executive Director Rose claimed full responsibility for this situation. She fired the finance manager for withholding vital information, and conducted an internal audit to review and rebuild the financial reports. The State Auditor’s office in currently examining the details and their report is expected next month. Legal counsel has been contacted to examine whether there was any crime committed. The Board has taken action to increase transparency and public access to financial reports. Stronger checks and balances have been put in place to prevent this from happening again. The Board is holding special meetings to stay abreast of the developments and take necessary actions.

The routes cut on South Whidbey have impacted families, workers and some of our most vulnerable citizens. Transit staff is drafting a plan for a complete revamp of the system to put out for public input. Individuals should contact Island Transit staff to share their concerns and suggestions. A short term and long term strategy is needed to restore a viable level of public transportation services.

Many folks have asked if charging a fare would solve the problem. Probably not. A quick review of similar sized transit systems  shows only a 10% average collection of revenues from fares. Whether or not charging fares would have more negative outcomes such as reducing ridership and increasing costs, than the positive cash it would generate, is not certain. It would be helpful to put this question to rest in the months ahead.

Island County wants and deserves a transit system which is dependable, sustainable, flexible and responsive. We can and must work together to achieve that goal.


Thank you Commish.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. I agree Island Transit needed a new headquarters.  Neither the new HQ nor fare free caused this fiscal mess – rather bad fiscal management by the finance manager and the Island Transit Executive Director did.
  2. Claiming and taking “full responsibility for this situation” are two different things. Between this crisis and hearing Island Transit Boardmembers still befuddled at what’s transpired financially in just the last 90 days – especially at last Friday’s special meeting, I request the Island Transit Board to have a public confidence vote in their Executive Director in the next 45 days…
  3. I would hope that criminal investigation is well underway.  So would most of the Seattle Transit Blog community.
  4. Although it’s obvious this statement was in the works for some time, last night’s sortie about how Fare Free did not cause Island Transit’s problems and I argue would only catastrophically add to them sure was timely.

Finally, Island Transit has a Board Meeting in their Coupeville HQ at 0930 Hours on Friday.  Just so you know.

North by Northwest 14: Fare Free Did NOT Cause Island Transit’s Fiscal Crisis…

Island Transit Gillig Parked in Oak Harbor...

Full Disclosure @ the Outset: At an early point in the crisis, I publicly voiced a willingness to pay a fare for Island Transit services.  Especially if I could see & hear OLF Coupeville.  However, the fact it seems the “fare free” policy is being used by some to blame riders for the fiscal crisis Island Transit has entered, it’s time to push back against this dangerous narrative of blaming riders for management failures.

I am now taking the refined view that before asking us transit users that already subsidize roads through general taxes (SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2)… please note we transit users do not:

  • Have a single representative on the Island Transit Board – only elected officials with other responsibilities such as First Responders, land use, parks, etcetera which diminishes the importance of transit and the ability of transit riders to write policy and influence election debates for these positions.
  • Have hire/fire power over the Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose or her staff
  • Hire finance directors who fail to produce a monthly balance sheet the Executive Director ignores
  • Write transit budgets
  • Produce budgets with failed/incorrect numbers
  • Have a Board Chair to authorize an additional 100 Hours of Washington State Auditor’s Office (SAO) staff time to help conduct the most important accountability audit in Island Transit’s history
  • Cause Island Transit board members to be confused and befuddled at times during recent meetings (I’ve listened to the audio)

Therefore how can the tone of the debate be turned to blame US the transit users for and also demand we transit users subsidize fiscal mismanagement?  Seriously.

Yes a fare may be a good idea but we transit users are mainly being relegated to the sidelines.  Most Island Transit users aren’t able to attend 9 AM or 9:30 AM Island Transit Board meetings and yet everybody wants a quick fix to Island Transit’s problems.  There also have been public promises made by the Whidbey Tea Party blog Island Politics to repeal the Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) if a fare is implemented and right now is the worst time possible for Island Transit to agree to a public vote without new leadership and rebuilding public trust.  Even Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson – no Democrat-In-Name-Only – who sits on the Island Transit Board is applying the pressure to seek a study into transit fares.

But we transit users know the truth that if you collect fares, you’re absolutely going to add time and physical resources into collecting those fares.  First when you have to insert change that takes a few seconds – and if a few dollar bills possibly a minute per rider if the machine doesn’t like the dollar bill.  Trust me, I’ve had that embarrassment at 6:30 AM in a Sedro-Woolley parking lot enough to the point I change dollar bills into coin the night before and preload my ORCA for trips south of the Snohomish-Skagit County line when I can.  Not everybody’s going to be that thoughtful.

Therefore, transit schedules are going to get hurt – which means missed connections from Island Transit to Skagit Transit and Washington State Ferries.  Not to mention stresses on multiple Island Transit runs.  Why have Tri-County Connectors funded by state taxes if the connections cannot be made to keep Washington State counties connected?

Or Island Transit is going to have to buy, fuel, operate and maintain many more buses to expand the transit fleet adding costs that would easily eliminate any farebox recovery?  More buses just to provide the services Island Transit already provides but with a fare added with the cumulative time needed to collect the fare – a major problem when Island Transit has to go farther than Everett to Seattle but connect directly Oak Harbor with the Washington State Ferries’ terminal in Clinton.

Then there’s the security risks of driver assault and highway robbery.  Risks no security camera can eliminate, only fare-free.

Finally, remember when I noted there is not a single transit user representative on the Island Transit Board – only elected officials with other responsibilities?  Perhaps the groupthink has blinded Island Transit to a revenue raising solution that would not punish riders and would give business opportunities called advertising on the exterior of the buses.  Perhaps the fact is in a brisk Seattle Transit Blog interview, Island Transit Board Chairman Bob Clay stated “No” he did not “believe fare free policies contributed to Island Transit’s fiscal problems?”  Perhaps it is time come mid- to late-October, when the State Auditor’s Office audits of Island Transit are made public, some difficult decisions are made about Martha Rose’s future with Island Transit – if not sooner.  Perhaps finally it is time to restructure the Island Transit Board and other transit boards around this state so folks are directly elected to transit boards.

One last time, I am unopposed to a fare on the principle.  I am raising concerns about the logistics of an Island Transit fare.  Logistics of an Island Transit fare that seem bordering on insurmountable but being greased in the name of political expediency and championed by some in the general public to punish riders.  Perhaps other revenue-raising options ought to be seriously sought out like wrapping buses (Example 1- King County Metro, Example 2 – Pierce Transit) or putting signs below the windows of buses (Example 1 – Sound Transit) before putting more stress on Island Transit balance sheets – as part of a backup plan if grants don’t materialize in the works somehow.


Finally, I would like to thank Island Transit Board Chairman Bob Clay for briskly answering a few quick questions today to help with this editorial and debunk some reports out there.  Much appreciate.

North by Northwest 13: The Curious Case of Everett Transit Stop #5245…

The Curious State of Everett Transit Stop #5245

Author’s Black & White Photo of Everett Transit Sign for Stop #5245

Last Saturday the 13th I was at Paine Field with friends to watch Flying Heritage Collection (Paul G. Allen’s (mostly) flying collection of historic warbirds such as the F6F-5 Hellcat and B-25J Mitchell) conclude their Fly Days (my Flickr album of the events – with more pictures to upload) and then visit the Museum of Flight Restoration Center to the north.  While working my way back to the main Everett thoroughfare Evergreen Way for some dinner plus a Community Transit Swift to connect to Amtrak Cascades, I walked .2 of a mile away from Paine Field into a wooded lot and into an industrial area.  Finding it a bit odd to place a transit stop on 100th Street over 1,000 feet away from a major tourist attraction, I decided to make some time to write while my memory was fresh.

Now as I have not written about Paine Field’s transit issues for a while, please enjoy the map below to help orient yourself around:

Paine Field Transit Map – Version 0.1

STB Paine Field Transit Map – V 0.1

I had to carpool from Everett Station down to Flying Heritage Collection and then over to the Museum of Flight Restoration Center.  No complaints but if an aviation geek who cannot or won’t drive doesn’t have gracious friends… or the money for cabs – yeoch!

But the main reason why I decided to write a request for Everett Transit to reconsider its transit network and put bus service preferably at 100th Street Southwest & 29th Avenue West is so that we can get more users of transit in general.  I also overheard while waiting in the Museum of Flight Restoration Center waiting to cross the busy intersection to my bus a very low number for attendance for the day to the Museum of Flight Restoration Center and yet… there was quite the line for pilot autographs at Flying Heritage Collection much greater than that number.

Is this me as an aviation buff hoping to inspire improved networking to grow the economic ecosystem of these four complimentary Paine Field museums all with strong leaders?  You betcha.

Also would I argue the failure of imagination and foresight by Everett Transit to see that maybe a family wanting to go out to Paine Field’s museums via bus really wouldn’t find the below all that inviting to take the kids along – or in my case tote around $800 worth of camera gear if I got robbed:

Everett Transit Stop #5245 Looking Back at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center

Everett Transit Stop #5245 Looking Back at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center

With over 3,000 visitors a year to this wonderful facility and now quoting The Museum of Flight, “a big garage packed full of airplanes in all states of restoration and looming over it all is the nose of a de Havilland DH.106 4C Comet poking through the specially modified hanger doors”; I would argue the next Everett Transit route realignment needs to please consider Paine Field’s role in Everett tourism efforts.  Especially as Everett’s Mayor publicly wants long-term light rail for Paine Field and realizes Paine Field is vital to Everett’s economy!  Furthermore, the farebox recovery from nobody riding an Everett Transit bus equals the same as a fare-free and full Island Transit bus: Namely zero so perhaps if serving a tourist attraction is still unattractive to easily increase the number of potential riders by 3,000 annually to improve farebox recovery is still unappealing; then perhaps I can never explain business sense to anyone!

Noting that on-topic comments are welcome, comments that stray off-topic get one warning and spammy comments get deleted, you tell me please what you think.  Please.

Commuter Bus Priority For Vancouver, WA

In the wake of the Columbia River Crossing project abandonment, Clark County is at a crossroads. (Crossrivers?) For the western half of the county to continue growing it needs some amelioration to the daily standstill in the return commute and growing congestion in the morning.

Since Senators Benton and Rivers appear inadvertently to have given Portland exactly what it wanted but could not obtain during the negotiations for the CRC project design – no new general traffic capacity across the Columbia River – those of us living in Clark County are at a disadvantage. We need to bring something to the table which evinces a sincere belief that Portland CBD Express Bus and MAX-linked Bus Rapid Transit can divert a significant portion of new auto trips to transit before they will renew negotiations.

That describes the politics of the current situation fairly well. Senator Rivers and Representative Pike have been able to attract interest only from junior Republican officeholders in Oregon. The Democratic powers that be on that side of the river have as much as said, “You need to wait a decade while we work on our own transportation issues before we return to real negotiations.”
So Clark County needs to do something to alleviate the ever-lengthening snarls at the bridge by making transit more attractive. To prove we mean business, I have a suggested package of several things which could be done for a modest investment to give buses priority without removing existing general purpose capacity. I am fully aware that any proposal to convert lanes within Washington State is dead on arrival.

What I would like to propose is several specific “betterments” which would use the ramp lanes of I-5 on both sides of the river to provide bus “jumps”, paid for almost entirely by WSDOT and Clark County funds. Obviously, to do this we would have to get ODOT’s agreement, but as you will see, the projects are relatively benign for traffic flow on the Oregon side. On the Washington side there would be almost no penalty for general traffic at all, at least in the initial stages.

The Washington-side project can be done in stages, but the Oregon side projects should be done as a group or not at all.

The first stage Washington side project would add a new bus-only, camera- or gate-protected on-ramp which is connected to the middle (“SR14”) lane of Washington Street between the existing on-ramp from the left-hand lane and the cloverleaf from SR14. The ramp meter for SR14 would have to be moved back about three car lengths to accommodate the merge for the buses, but that’s a vanishingly trivial change given the length of the existing queues for the meter.

This ramp would give priority to routes 4, 44, 46, 47 and 105 at all times. If and when Fourth Plain BRT comes to Vancouver, route 4 would be replaced by the Delta Park shuttle.

However, the second stage of the project would be to add a pair of lighted signs above the second lane on Fifteenth Street between Main Street and Washington. It would be lighted during times of freeway congestion in the morning rush hour and would allow buses only to turn left onto Washington from the second lane of traffic. Since the right turn from the southbound Mill Plain off-ramp is “free” and both Fifteenth and Washington are synchronized one-way streets, the 134, 157, and 199 buses could deviate to the Fifth Street bus jump when congestion on the freeway is bad enough to warrant the detour.

Given the volume of residential construction in the I-5 catchment area I believe we can expect the morning commute to return to the levels of congestion typical before the third lane was added across the Vanport plain within no more than two or three years. The 99th Street TC buses often would exit at Main Street and travel the 71 route to Broadway and Mill Plain. They would typically turn left and use the Mill Plain southbound on-ramp, but the existence of the proposed bus jump at Fifth would mean they could turn right two blocks and follow the express route. That would avoid the sometimes long queues at the Mill Plain on-ramp.

The third and following stages on the Washington side of the river would be deferred until congestion throughout the corridor becomes such that even using the old Main Street bypass is of little benefit. It would first focus of by-passing the 99th Street southbound on-ramp by adding a new bus-only on-ramp just south of the northern exit from the bus loading area. It would also be camera- or gate-protected so that only buses could use it.

To improve the value of this ramp a fourth stage could be added at 39th Street. The southbound off-ramp to 39th takes a sharp curve immediately after it underpasses the street; this configuration was chosen because of the grades that would have been necessary to build a standard “diamond” interchange. However, the difference in elevation between the start of the curve and the southbound on-ramp just before it merges with the SR500 west to north flyover is only about eight feet. A bus-only camera- or gate-protected lane between them, and a ramp meter light for the 39th Street southbound on-ramp to stop vehicles when a bus comes, is entirely sound from an engineering standpoint. It would also put buses in the Fourth Plain/Mill Plain combined off-ramp.

And as a final portion of the project another short section of ramp between the southbound Fourth Plain off- and on-ramps could be added very inexpensively for buses only as shown below. These last two stages would only be completed if congestion returns to the epochal levels of the late 1990’s.

On the Oregon side the needed construction would consist of three “bridge lanes” between adjacent northbound on-ramps. Together they would extend the priority that now exists from northbound buses leaving Delta Park/Vanport all the way to the bridgehead.

They would not be cheap and the auto forces would probably squawk, but in fact the only adverse effect on auto traffic would be that cars would no longer be able to “cheat” the merge from Victory Boulevard. Because the on-ramp from the merge just north of the tunnel to the acceleration lane is effectively two lanes wide, often selfish drivers entering from Victory hug the jersey barrier between the on-ramp and the northbound Marine Drive off-ramp, passing cars which have completed the merge soon after the white point ends. Such drivers would be thwarted, because the existing single lane from Victory would be moved west a bit to force the merge earlier and a new right hand bus lane would begin in the widened break-down lane just to the east of the tunnel portal.

The bus lane would continue in the widened break-down lane until the difference in elevation between the Marine Drive off-ramp and the Victory Boulevard on-ramp has disappeared. At that point the jersey barriers between the ramp would be breached and a new bus-only lane between the two ramps would appear. The northbound Marine Drive off-ramp would probably have to be moved over six or so feet to accommodate this new lane, which would be separated from the off-ramp for a few hundred more feet. After an appropriate distance the jersey barrier on the I-5 side would begin again and at the same point the Jersey barrier between the off-ramp and the new bus lane would cease, to allow buses taking the Marine Drive off-ramp to transfer to the bus lane.

Then, about the point at which the lane for eastbound MLK and Marine Drive branches off, a Jersey barrier between the off-ramp to westbound Marine Drive and the new bus lane would begin. When the westbound Marine Drive off-ramp swings to the east to belly under the freeway, the new bus lane would go straight to a junction with the northbound Marine Drive on-ramp, just a few yards beyond the ramp meters lights, which would have to be moved back about five yards or so. The lights would be red when a bus approached.

The same sort of off-ramp-to-on-ramp slip would also happen between the northbound Hayden Island off- and on-ramps as shown below. Again, the ramp meters would have to be moved “upstream” a few yards.

The final element of the project would likely be the most controversial: the HOV lane in North Portland would move from the center lane to the right lane so that buses could easily exit from the main freeway at the northbound Marine Drive exit in order to access the slip ramps. This would probably slow the HOV lane marginally because cars using the ramps would have to be allowed in it through the off-ramp transition zones. There might be more “cheating”, though if the buses carried cameras as they do in San Francisco and photographed any car directly in front of the bus for proof of another occupant, the deterrent effect might eliminate cheating.

In any case, I believe that any delay would be more than made up in bypassing the mess around Marine Drive where the HOV lanes abruptly.

I believe that this set of projects, if fully implemented and supported by additional bus runs would divert enough riders to transit that the existing bridges would again become tolerable, at least for the decade and a half it will take to agree to a new design and realize it. And of course, with the exception of the Fifth Street bus ramp and the slip ramp on Hayden Island, both relatively inexpensive improvements, they’ll be permanent enhancements to transit in Clark County.

P.S.  This post was to have had maps illustrating the links proposed, but apparently STB has very reasonably disabled the Add Media button.  I hope that the text is clear enough so that when you look at Google Maps or Mapquest you can evaluate the proposed changes.

Route Fail: 91 in 1991

Metro has successfully started a number of new routes over the years. In previous posts I have written about the 43 BALLARD and the 8 CAPITOL HILL/UPTOWN–both great successes. But this post will look at a route that was a complete failure: route 91 INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT/DOWNTOWN, a downtown-only, off-peak trolley circulator that started from the International District/Jackson Street, ran to 1st Avenue then to Virginia Street, turned around and ran back to the ID. The 91 schedule operated weekdays and Saturdays with 15 minute headways. Other than pretty good frequency, there wasn’t much to like about the 91. There were plenty of other bus routes that connected the ID with central downtown and almost any bus that used 3rd Avenue or the just-opened bus tunnel would have been faster. In fact, the opening of the bus tunnel may have been the reason that Metro started route 91. During the bus tunnel construction phase, when 3rd Avenue was torn up, the trolleys that normally used 3rd Avenue were re-routed to 1st Avenue. The 91 may have been an attempt to continue serving 1st Avenue with frequent service once the bus tunnel was opened and the trolleys returned to 3rd Avenue. Unfortunately, ridership on the 91 was almost non-existent and within a few years, the 91 was history.

If you read my post on The Creation of Route 8 you will notice that when Metro started route 91, they were still stonewalling community efforts to start route 8. Why did a dud route like the 91 get the green light while Capitol Hill to lower Queen Anne got the red light? The people who were advocating for a Capitol Hill to Queen Anne bus connection were being told that there weren’t enough service hours available for their project, but Metro was able to find the service hours to assign 4 trolleys* to cover the 91 route. How much of route planning is an art and how much of route planning is a science? And how much of route planning is political pressure and arm twisting?

Metro’s new route 40 looks like it is performing well. Part of its success is that it connects Ballard with Fremont–a connection that the communities have been requesting for decades, but Metro had always resisted. Is anyone surprised that a frequent, one-seat ride between Ballard and Fremont is popular? I’m expecting the upcoming Metro marriage of routes 8 and 106 marriage will bring much success to those corridors. Now, how about a connection between Rainier Beach and Southcenter?

*Metro did eventually adjust the 91 schedule to operate the route with just 3 trolleys.

North by Northwest 12: Island Transit Sued Again…

When it just can’t get any worse for Island Transit before the Washington State Auditor’s Office audit is released, Island Transit affairs of state get worse.  According to the Whidbey News-Times with my emphasis and abridgement:

Everett attorney Rodney Moody represents Latroleum Lawrence in a complaint for damages filed in Island County Superior Court on Aug. 29.

The lawsuit names Island Transit and Rose personally as defendants.

It is the second lawsuit filed against the beleaguered agency this year; financial difficulties forced transit officials to lay off employees and cut routes this summer.

. . .

The newest lawsuit states that Rose fired Lawrence, the only black person in the maintenance division, following a pre-termination hearing in April.

According to the complaint, Lawrence explained that, during the meeting with Rose and other representatives from Island Transit, the concerns about his performance were baseless.

The lawsuit states that Rose later testified at a Washington State Employment Security Department hearing that Lawrence raised his voice and became irate during the meeting.

Lawrence claims that he recorded the meeting on his iPhone and the recording proves that he spoke “in a calm and restrained matter.”

The lawsuit alleges that Rose fired Lawrence because of his race and age; he was replaced by someone younger who received a lower wage, according to the complaint.

. . .

He said Rose disseminated information about the meeting to the Washington State Employment Security Department. She claimed that Lawrence committed misconduct, he said.

The administrative judge found there was no misconduct and granted Lawrence unemployment benefits.

There you go.  I warned last week any further fiscal stress to Island Transit would bring the whole ship down.  That fiscal stress is most certainly incoming like a raging bull.


Editorial Comment: Pardon my ex-farmhand angry vernacular but this Beyond Stupid leadershit needs to be collectively gathered up in a wheelbarrow with pitchforks and put in a compost pile wrapped in log poles & fenceposts so the next generation can learn from these mistakes and take root in the compost to grow something better.  Letters to the editor in the defense of one individual are thoughtful (recent example) but still?  An administrative judge has came to the defense of a manager of maintainers who if he didn’t do his job would get passengers like me hurt and for his due diligence I salute Mr. Lawrence here, financial statements were not checked for their veracity resulting in no reserves, internet comments for weeks on Whidbey Newsgroup webpages were seeking answers about the termination of this very individual, an anonymous whistleblower letter has been sent to a State Senator who forwarded it to the State Auditor’s Office, there are legitimate fears Island Transit might go bankrupt, a State Auditor’s Office audit is due in the next 2-5 weeks and magically one Island Transit Boardmember is taking a two-month roadtrip out-of-state at the apex of this crisis?  Okay, where are the people of Island County in collectively demanding new leadership for Island Transit with their petition?


One last thing on a personal level: If the next link round-up wasn’t until Thursday I sincerely would let my editors handle this.  I wish there was some good news to write about as having to report on the implosion of Island Transit makes Joe deeply depressed, dismayed and most of all disgusted to the point of procrastination.

43 & 44 In 1979

The 43 BALLARD/MONTLAKE/DOWNTOWN was one of Metro’s early hits. When it was created, the new route 43 combined most of the old 4 Montlake route with the busiest part of the 30 Ballard/Laurelhurst route and connected the University District with Ballard and Capitol Hill. Ridership soared on the whole corridor and by the late 1970s, the 43 BALLARD timetable shows peak hour service running as frequently as every 4 minutes between the University District and Ballard. Most trips, however, were operated using standard length diesel buses. But it was undeniable that ridership on the 43 was booming.

Unfortunately, timekeeping on the route was atrocious. The current 43 and 44 routes are known to be slow and unreliable; but back in the 1980s, there were several bottlenecks that caused even worse delays. The turnback 43 MONTLAKE trips (from Ballard) used a terminal that was located south of the Montlake Bridge, so when the bridge opened, the bus would often be delayed. The turnback loop that the current route 44 uses has eliminated the need for 2 bridge crossings, which makes for much better timekeeping. There also was a different street configuration in the area where the current 44 passes under the Aurora Bridge. In 1979, to get onto Greenlake Way N. (the street that travels under the Aurora Bridge), the westbound 43 would head north on Woodland Park Ave. from Midvale and have to wait at a stop sign before making a pedal-to-the-metal left turn onto Greenlake Way N. The delay at that point could be very lengthy because of the high traffic volume on Greenlake Way. When the route was electrified, the city reconfigured the streets in that area to make it easier for the 43 to get onto Greenlake Way.

Back in 1979, the entire route between downtown Seattle and Ballard was designated the 43. The 44 FIRST HILL route was an extension of the 43 through downtown Seattle that operated via 1st Avenue and Madison Street to 15th & Madison (weekdays only). The 44 augmented service provided by the 13 – 19th Avenue route on Madison Street.

There are some interesting things to note in the 43 timetable. The extension to Shilshole was considered part of the 43 route and many of the trips from Shilshole ran all the way to First Hill (as route 44), which made timekeeping very unreliable. There also were trips that originated at 46th & Phinney during morning peak. Overall, the 43 and 44 of today look very similar to the 43 of 1979, but Metro and SDOT have made numerous routing and scheduling improvements that make the 43 and 44 much more reliable today compared to the service that was provided 35 years ago. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a subway between Ballard and the U District?

North by Northwest 11: ETA by Everett Transit

I used the ETA system today
Photo of New Everett Transit Sign by Author

As some may have noticed, Everett Transit has now instituted the ETA hotline.  You can either dial 1-425-257-7777, then hit 1 to enter your stop number or you can dial 1-425-312-6329 then type in your Everett Transit # or text the Everett Transit Bus Stop # to 1-425-312-6329 to get real-time arrivals of your next Everett Transit bus.

Having just last Friday used the service, it’s much appreciated when one doesn’t have WiFi or a cell data plan (if you do, get the OneBusAway app – just do it) to know when to expect your bus.  Especially when the bus is on an hourly schedule and you’re a half-hour early having gotten off of the Community Transit SWIFT.  I sincerely wish other transit networks – like Skagit Transit, Island Transit (assuming I.T. survives the coldest political winter in its history) and Community Transit would license the ETA technology.

Very nicely done Everett Transit!