Page Two articles are from our reader community.

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!

North by Northwest 10: Zero Accountability to the Community by Island Transit?

Yes, Island Transit has seatbelts!
Island Transit Bus Seat Photo by Author

Seems as if KING 5 has finally joined the Accountability Convoy heading to Coupeville.  We sure welcome KING 5 participation in seeking the truth from Island Transit.  One thing caught my eye in their half-complete report – namely nobody from Island Transit would go on-camera to explain the Island Transit financial mess nor has Island Transit posted to its website statements to its Board about these events.

Already Bob Pishue of the Washington Policy Center has tweeted his policy paper to KING 5Perhaps with their silence, Island Transit 100% agrees with Mr. Pishue that ultimately, “Instead of trying to secure more money from state taxpayers, Island Transit officials should better manage public tax dollars to rebuild the public trust and restore reliable and efficient bus service.”

Recently I asked Martha Rose, Executive Director of Island Transit the following questions – which I will post here.  When I get a response, I will copy-paste the replies:

BTW I listened to the audio from Friday’s meeting last night and put it online a moment ago:  The following questions arise from my listening to the audio:

  • What would have happened if Island Transit not gotten a loan for its operating budget shortfall?  More cuts?  Insolvency/bankruptcy?
  • What exactly are these state operating grants to help transit agencies with shortfalls?
  • Who provides these grants?
  • Who assured Island Transit officials the grants would be likely dispersed to Island Transit?
  • When will the grants arrive, if provided?
  • What if the grants do not arrive and the soft money disappears?  Any backup plans such as renegotiating the loan terms?
  • Why are Island Transit statements given to Board Members about the fiscal crisis/morass not on the Public Information tab of the Island Transit website yet?

That e-mail to her and Island County Commissioner & Island Transit Boardmember Helen Price-Johnson was sent Tuesday at 12:40 PM/1240 Hours.  I am still writing up the notes of the Island Transit meeting, and have other work.

Before calling for action, I would hope if Island Transit cannot answer these questions a through review by the Washington State Auditor’s Office can answer these questions.  State Auditor Troy Kelley has promised State Senator Barbara Bailey – with my hyperlinks:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about Island Transit. I appreciated reading the attached news article and letter containing serious allegations relating to Island Transit. Although we had been in contact with the Transit’s Executive Director and seen the news article, we had not received the letter until you forwarded it to us. Additionally, we are evaluating the questions posed in the letter sent by the elected delegation for the 10th Legislative District.
Based on our communications with the Executive Director, we are scheduled to start an audit at Island Transit on August 11, 2014. Our financial and single audit will review the Transit’s fiscal year ending December 31, 2013 financial statements and federal compliance. After examining the documents you provided along with the District’s activities, we will also conduct an accountability audit to evaluate their internal controls that ensure compliance for the safeguarding, and use of, public resources.
As part of our audit work, we will evaluate the questions you have identified in your letters. Upon the completion of our audit work, we will be in contact with you to discuss our conclusions.

Without alleging anything but to be proactive one would hope since state legislators are exempt from the Public Records Act, the State Auditor’s Office will make full and immediate disclosure of their audit results – not just findings but also any management letter(s) and verbal recommendations.  Because it sure appears Island Transit HQ doesn’t feel accountable to the community… or to even its rank and file.

Your relevant comments and observations are always welcome.  Spammy comments will be deleted without warning.

North by Northwest 09: A Slight Update…

Black & White of an Island Transit 411C
Island Transit 411C Photo by Author

Figured some may wonder why I haven’t filed anything since Saturday.  My apologies, have been truly busy writing up notes from the audio from Friday’s Island Transit Board Meeting and with other non-transit responsibilities.  Also am grateful I got one of my posts (North by Northwest 08) promoted to the main blog – and sincerely appreciate & invite all non-spammy (aka non-49er) comments there.

That said, some updates…

  • Special thanks to Tawnya Smith, Legislative Assistant to Representative David Hayes and Mary “Marummy” Lane Strow of the House Republicans Comm Shop for getting my sticky hands on a 1 August 2014 10th Legislative District Letter with four questions for the Washington State Auditor’s Office (SAO) to mull over.  Most important parts:

    “The article states that Island Transit had $6.2 million in reserves in 2010 with $4 million dedicated to the matching funds for the facility. That leaves $2.2 million in reserves. The article continues by stating that Savary spent $1.2 million of the reserve over the next two years. That should have left a balance of $1.0 million in reserves. Now they need loans totaling another $2.3 million to cover the matching money and operating expenses. This accounts for $3.3 million dollars that is in question, is there a detailed accounting of these expenditures?”
    “It appears to us that Island Transit started drawing down their reserves in 2010. Can you look back at the previous audits and see if the auditor was given correct information to provide an accurate audit report?”

  • Thanks to Tawyna Smith also for State Auditor Troy Kelley’s response letter and the only important part was the below with my emphasis:

    “Based on our communications with the Executive Director, we are scheduled to start an audit at Island Transit on August 11 , 2014. Our financial and single audit will review the Transit’s fiscal year ending December 31, 2013 financial statements and federal compliance. After examining the documents you provided along with the District’s activities, we will also conduct an accountability audit to evaluate their internal controls that ensure compliance for the safeguarding, and use of, public resources.

  • I will be riding ze Sounder North on Friday afternoon in part to conduct interviews from regular users for a future investigative piece.  So if you happen to see this avgeek get on at the Mukilteo station at 5:47 or 6:17, flag me down please and I’ll interview you on how you feel about the service.
  • Again, I have the audio from Friday’s Island Transit Board meeting on YouTube.  Listening and making notes in the evening while I edit photos… tentatively a go for a Sunday Special.  Once done with that, we’ll see what’s next.
  • Finally anybody besides me interested in a piece about transit photography?

With that, please keep comments to the above items.  I’ll reply to almost any comment… as I believe news is a conversation.

14 SUMMIT in 1974

The 14 SUMMIT was a bus route with strong ridership and frequent service until the mid 1970s. Today’s 47 SUMMIT provides just a fraction of the service that was offered by the historic 14 SUMMIT. The 47’s routing is pretty much the same as the historic 14 route, except that during peak hours the old 14 SUMMIT was extended to Main Street (southbound via 2nd Avenue/northbound on 3rd Avenue). There were also route 14 trips that live-looped in downtown Seattle and interlined with the 9 BROADWAY.

The decline of route 14 began with the commencement of route 43. The historic 14 schedule shows service every 18-20 minutes off-peak and peak headways in the 5-12 minute range. Before the 43 was established, the 14 was the only bus route that operated on Bellevue and Olive. With the addition of the 43, the 14 began to share its service area with another frequent service line and the 14’s ridership began to fall. Effective in September 2014, the entire 47 SUMMIT route will be discontinued in the first round of service cuts. But with the 8 and 43 providing very frequent (although somewhat unreliable) service nearby, most of the 47’s riders will be within walking distance of bus service.

North by Northwest 07: Community Transit & Rebounding Into Paine Field…

Paine Field Transit Map – Version 0.1

Primitive STB Paine Field Transit Map – V 0.1

Readers, sorry if you’re getting North by Northwested a bit much but… we’ve had an Island Transit fiscal crisis about to explode again, a need to remember there’s more to Northwest Washington Transit issues than my aviation tourism advocacy, and the news is flowing thick & fast.  That said, as promised in my intro post on Paine Transit service that I’d make a special post, I finally was able to make contact with Sam Brodland, Community Transit, Supervisor of Service Planning & Scheduling in the middle of his plans for a September Service Change to start climbing out of the Great Recession – which I appreciate.  In fact, Mr. Brodland said I was “timely” several times in our conversation.

As other Seattle Transit Blog reports have mentioned (our editor Martin H. Duke’s report, Brent White’s warning about Community Transit’s hole , and a 2010 report of Community Transit service cuts)  Community Transit got hit hard by the Great Recession.  Sunday service and holiday services were wiped out.  Also according to a Community Transit press release, “In 2010 and 2012, Community Transit cut 37 percent of its bus service and laid off 200 employees as a response to the recession’s impacts on sales tax revenue, the agency’s primary source of funding.”

As such, it’s realized Community Transit is undeserving Paine Field.  We discussed two of the locations most under served – namely The Future of Flight which is part-museum, part-store, part-HQ for Boeing Tours, part-observatory, and part-events center.   According to a PDF factsheet, Future of Flight “draws approximately 200,000 visitors per year and generates an additional $3.5 million annually of tourism spending in Snohomish County.”  There is the possibility at some point of a route adjustment to bring current Mukilteo Community Transit routes out to the Future of Flight.

Then there’s the difficult location of Flying Heritage Collection stranded at 3407 109th Street SW Everett.  That one’s going to require some serious public desire.  Currently, to reach Flying Heritage Collection requires significant hiking through industrial areas at the moment to reach from current transit services (e.g. 1.5 mile hike from the nearest Swift Stop) – not what I’d consider safe for somebody packing $500 or more in camera gear like me.  Plus such a hike would leave one a bit winded arriving at Flying Heritage Collection to walk around the exhibits.

So how do we voice that public desire folks?  Mr. Broadland recommended if we who support transit for Paine Field museums wanted to have our voices heard make sure to send an e-mail to riders-AT-commtrans-DOT-org and testify at upcoming Community Transit Board Meetings.  Those are at 09/04/14 3pm and 10/02/14 3pm at 7100 Hardeson Road.

Ultimately, to be successful: My efforts are going to need to become our efforts.  Stay tuned!

Amtrak Cascades – in 1971?

When Amtrak started operation in 1971, there was actually some optimism about investment in passenger train travel. In those days before it became the political football it is today, plans were being made to do some great things for passenger trains.

Among them, Amtrak had identified what we now know as the Cascades Corridor as a key place where improved passenger service could likely make a huge impact quickly.

Little time was left for the dust to settle after Amtrak started service. In late August of 1971 the Department of Transportation and United Aircraft brought to the northwest one of the new Department of Transportation TurboTrains to give a demonstration run between Portland and Seattle. It was part of a national tour to get people thinking about what a future with better passenger trains could be.

One of the people invited to ride on the demonstration train was a member of the Pacific Northwest Chapter (the Portland, Oregon Chapter) of the National Railway Historical Society. His report was featured in the organization’s newsletter of September of 1971.

Over the last year or two, this organization has made a huge effort at placing historic copies of its newsletter on its website.

Those interested in reading up on the events of August of 43 years ago may now go to the September of 1971 issue of the group’s newsletter and read it, starting on page 3. Sadly, Amtrak would be stuck running outdated coaches on the corridor into the early 1980s, and light weight trains with a comfort enhancing suspension described in the article would not arrive in regular service here until 25 years after the article was published.

Perhaps even worse, the speeds described in the article reached by the demonstration train can not be reached on the line today.

Glenn Laubaugh (Glenn in Portland) has a diverse set of responsibilities at a small company in Portland that builds electrical equipment for railroad cars. Any opinions expressed here are most certainly not approved by or the opinion of his employer or any of its customers.

North by Northwest 06: Island Transit Update

Island Transit 411W @ Rest at Mt. Vernon Transfer Station
Island Transit bus photo by author

A little Island Transit update…

First tomorrow at 0900 hours at the Island Transit Operations & Administration Building, 19758 SR 20, Coupeville will be a monthly Island Transit Board Meeting.  According to the meeting agenda, there will be public comment specifically on the Transit Development Plan and then general public comment on other items.  I have placed a request for the meeting audio from Island Transit before the close of business tomorrow – and have friends who might get some video as I have a bum right ankle to heal.

First and a half, I have read Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose’s letter to Island Transit Board Members.  In Exec Director Martha Rose’s letter, she references the fact Paratransit will be stressed in South Whidbey and Island Transit “will be applying for a Consolidated Operating Grant so that we can get back to health financially. The applications are due into WSDOT by mid-November of this year. Awarded funds will be available effective July 1st of 2015.”    I’m sure the comments below on that application will be interesting… Mrs. Rose also said she expected a large crowd.  Island Transit Boardmember Jim Campbell also publicly wanted to have former Island Transit financial advisor Barbara Savory speak to the Island Transit Board.  Again, I’m truly sorry I cannot attend as I will be writing Saturday evening an editorial for Sunday morning on this Island Transit mess.

Second, in the past two weeks, several disturbing pieces of intelligence have came to my attention.  Been holding back not wanting to fixate on Island Transit.

  • On July 31st, State Senators Barbara Bailey and Curtis King wrote the State Auditor’s Office to give tasking to the upcoming audit.  They reference an anonymous whistleblower letter full of rumor and innuendo plus a South Whidbey Record news report.  State Senator Bailey then goes on to say in a press release, “This is indicative of larger issues in our transportation system, where there is a complete lack of transparency and accountability. That is why I have asked the state auditor to perform an audit as soon as possible. In recent years, the state has provided over $9 million to Island Transit and the public must be assured that those funds are being used responsibly.”  In other words: Island Transit’s problems could be used to smear public transit systems in general.
  • On August 12th, the Stanwood-Camano News reported, “Martha Rose, executive director of Island Transit, said she “absolutely will not resign,” despite allegations of mismanagement and calls that she step down.”  Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson said to the reporter seeking a statement on Island Transit like her two colleagues gave back on 4 August, “We’re hearing about a culture that does not allow scrutiny. I’m disappointed and disillusioned by the apparent lack of transparency.  It matters to a lot of people, and no personality is more important than that system.”  To tip my hand a bit about the aforementioned editorial… I agree with Island County Commish Helen Price-Johnson: “This is the public’s transit system … The public deserves a sustainable and dependable level of service and to have the credibility of Island Transit restored.”
  • On August 19th, the Stanwood-Camano News reported on the ongoing State Auditor’s Office audit of Island Transit seeking to “find where $3 million of Island Transit’s reserves went and, more importantly, why no one allegedly knew the money was disappearing.”  State Auditor Troy Kelley is in receipt of multiple state legislator letters on this audit and wrote back he’d look into questions about, “whether funds were illegally or improperly used; whether there was adequate oversight from Rose and the board; whether aspects of the new facility are excessive in the context of and other comparable facilities; whether travel funds were used improperly; whether the agency is failing to maintain and update its fleet.”  Finally another tip of the editorialist hand in that I concur with Island County Commish Jill Johnson,  “If you’re cutting routes because you can’t cover the operating expenses, and now you’re in debt on top of that, how are you going to be able to afford it in a year?” (When Seattle Transit Blog gets a copy of all the letters, will post here.)

North by Northwest 05: The Price of Apathy, Skagit Edition

Sunset at the Chuckanut Park and Ride..
Chuckanut Park & Ride – Photo by AvgeekJoe

[Joe 2300 Hours note: Skagit Transit hyperlinks corrected.]

Recently Bruce Nourish wrote a fine piece on Spokane’s transit woes.  Woes perpetuated by the moneyed interests of that fine city based on prejudicial myths of transit users.

I see some similarities in my Skagit County – we too have a ruling elite to the point one family is about to marry massive economic power with sizable political power, we too have all the mainstream news owned by another family with declining resources for muckraking government, and we used to have a transit hub in the downtown of Burlington at the Cascade Mall which was good for commerce.  Now we have courtesy of the Washington Department of Transportation a Park & Ride at the north of Burlington for a transit hub linking Skagit Transit Routes 300 between Sedro-Woolley & east Burlington, 80X to Bellingham, 90X to Everett and 208 to Burlington & Mount Vernon shopping. See an aerial view below:

View post on

Granted, the Park & Ride is convenient to drop folks off, to pick up buses and next to Interstate 5 with 369 parking slots.  But the previous hub was the Cascade Mall with vast amounts of parking plus lighting & security cameras that did not cost Washington State taxpayers $11,852,000.

Now… there is no restroom with all the sanitary issues that entails, there are few places to shop within a walking distance, and there is no commons area that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer – all of which the Cascade Mall provided the public.  There is only now apathy, a lit bus shelter, video cameras, and 369 parking slots.  There is only each Skagit Transit user’s silence to blame – don’t let this happen to you.

To invigorate any effort to be proactive perhaps consider the reply to my recent comments into the Skagit Transit 6-year Plan asking for a restroom and a temperature-controlled commons area: “There are no plans to add facilities to existing park and rides and no change will be made to the 6-year plan to address restroom facilities. … Bathroom facilities at un-staffed park and rides are commonly vandalized and can even become a safety and security risk. The high rate of vandalism and associated cost makes the provision of restroom facilities at the park and rides prohibitively expensive.”  I spoke up too late, not while this facility was in the public planning stages where proposing a public restroom and the recruiting a Starbucks franchise to the Chuckanut Park & Ride would have been so immensely helpful.  The nearest espresso stand is instead across a very busy boulevard with no public restroom or place to stay warm.

Put bluntly as so many transit users – including yours truly – were apathetic during the planning process for this $11.8 million facility; transit planning travesties like this occur.  For too long, moneyed interests and entrenched bureaucrats in cushy jobs have taken advantage of transit users’ apathetic unwillingness to speak up and be treated like customers.  Only when we transit users band together and reply as proud customers of transit will we make things right as in business: the customer is almost always right.

The Evolution of Route 60

In the mid-1970s, Metro had 2 routes that partially served the corridor that is today’s route 60 between Georgetown and Broadway. The 38 – 15th Ave S was a legacy route from the 1940s that connected Georgetown/Boeing Field with Beacon Hill via 15th Ave S. By 1975, the 38 schedule showed Monday – Saturday service with irregular headways and an infrequent tail to the King County Airport terminal. Metro had also created a new route, the 60 YESLER – BROADWAY that offered very infrequent and unbalanced service between Broadway and Jackson St. In 1975, a trip from Cleveland High School to Seattle Central Community College without transferring downtown would have required 3 buses (and a great deal of luck): the 38 – 15th Ave S, the 3 JEFFERSON PARK, the 60 YESLER – BROADWAY. Eventually, Metro realized the potential ridership on the Broadway-Beacon Hill-Georgetown corridor and by 1979, the 60 BROADWAY – GEORGETOWN bus was established. The trip that previously required 3 buses in 1976 could now be made with 1 bus. The span of service on the new 60 wasn’t good, headways were strangely irregular and the useless tail to the King County Airport remained, but more Beacon Hill residents had a one seat ride to Broadway or Georgetown.

The sad irony is that the 2015 service reorganization proposed by Metro will eliminate the one seat ride between Georgetown and Broadway and re-establish the 3 seat ride of the mid-1970s.

The cover of the 1976 YESLER – BROADWAY features a north-facing shot of Broadway taken from somewhere near Broadway and Madison. There is some distortion in the shot caused by a strong telephoto lens, but you can see a 9 BROADWAY trolley making the turn from Pine onto Broadway. That’s St. Mark’s looming in the background, but there are very few other notable landmarks that identify the dreary looking, traffic choked, early 1970s version of Broadway with the hip strip it is today.

The Creation of Route 8

In the early 1990s, I was working on Capitol Hill and became part of the Broadway Business Improvement Association. One of the pet projects of the Broadway BIA was to establish a direct bus link between the Capitol Hill and Lower Queen Anne neighborhoods. Prior to 1995, a bus trip from the Seattle Center to Capitol Hill required a transfer in downtown Seattle. The effort to establish the direct bus line between the two neighborhoods had been on-going since the late 1970s, with Metro steadfastly refusing to create the connection–usually citing a perceived lack of demand or lack of vehicles (a real problem in the 1980s). Finally, after nearly 2 decades of wrangling with Metro, a grand bargain was reached where service on other routes would be reduced and a new route–the 8–would run every 30 minutes, 6am to 6pm, weekdays only between Group Health Hospital and Lower Queen Anne. The 8 began service on Monday morning, February 13, 1995 and has been successfully serving riders every since.

The Rider Alert pamphlet for February 11, 1995 details the reductions and changes on routes 2, 10, 12, 13 and 43 needed to fund service hours for the 8. I don’t have a timetable from February 1995 that shows the original service schedule; but, this timetable shows that within 1 year evening service had been added. Weekend service, service until 11pm, the extension to Madison Valley and Rainier Valley and 15 minute peak headways all followed within a couple of years. Despite Metro’s initial misgivings, the 8 has been a huge success, and in 2014, it would be difficult to imagine what transit ridership would be like without the 8.

Repurpose This Building

Space at a transit center in the heart of a growing downtown should be at a premium. Strangely, The Bellevue Transit Center has a 2,100 square foot building taking up useless space. Here’s why I think it should be repurposed, and I’d love to see some ideas on what could happen instead.

First, a bit about what is there: the Bellevue Transit Center has 12 bays, 23 bus lines, and thousands of passengers every day. It also has the Bellevue Rider Services Building which SoundTransit described in 2008 as

…adjacent to the Bellevue Transit Center. Several rider amenities are available including transit schedules and other rider information, public phones, community information, bike racks and public restrooms. The building also houses a station for the Bellevue City Police.

The majority of the stations users are workers in the core of Bellevue. They are extremely likely to have access to transit schedules via computer or smartphone. They are also unlikely to need a public phone (wait, there are still public phones?), or access to paper community information. There are no bike racks in the building (though there are *many* in the nearby area), and the police station closed 3 years ago.  In addition, just a  few feet away is a small building attached to the transit center that housed a ticket office at one point. Now, it is a very expensive and big map holder so you can find your bus in the 12 bays of the transit center.

Before going forward, you have to wonder what SoundTransit and the city of Bellevue were thinking here. In 2006, payphones had all but gone the way of the dodo bird, and the city of Bellevue’s headquarters is two blocks away — why would they need a station so close by? The public restrooms are a nice item to have, but I’m frankly surprised they have lasted – Seattle’s experiment with public restrooms didn’t go as well. Overall, it seems like the building you would want in 1985, not in 2006 and certainly not in 2014.

Moving forward, that leaves a $3.5 million dollar 2,100 square foot  built in 2006 sitting mostly empty. What would you do with this building and the accompanying former ticket office?

North by Northwest 04: Transit at Paine Field

2014-07-09 Paine Field Panorama
2014-07-09 Paine Field Panorama by Joe “AvgeekJoe” Konzlar

[Note: Unlike most Page 2 posts, this is slightly edited for clarity.]

Fellow commenters on Seattle Transit Blog know my passion for more mass transit services to and from Paine Field.  I’ve even written a letter to the Everett Herald editor sharing my aspirations for a route serving – counterclockwise from the northwest corner – the Future of Flight, Historic Flight Foundation, Flying Heritage Collection and the Museum of Flight Restoration Center.

Now what and where are these marquee facilities?  See a Paine Field map also showing a few others not open to the public. The Future of Flight is part-museum, part-HQ for Boeing Tours, part-observatory and part-events center.   According to a PDF factsheet, it “draws approximately 200,000 visitors per year and generates an additional $3.5 million annually of tourism spending in Snohomish County.” Historic Flight Foundation is a flying museum at the end of Bernie Webber Drive that preserves aviation history from 1927 to 1957 with many historic aircraft. The Flying Heritage Collection is Paul G. Allen’s (mostly) flying collection of historic warbirds that range from WWI to a modern Mig-29.  There are also other artifacts like several ground vehicles, cutaway engines and disarmed rockets. Finally, the Museum of Flight Restoration Center restores aircraft for static display and is open to self-guided tours much of the year.

Everett Transit Route 12 serves the Future of Flight museum.*  It required a nice 0.8 mile hike – partially through a Boeing parking lot and partially on a nice trail.  The problem is that in inclement weather very few wish to hike almost a mile to visit the Future of Flight.  Please see pictures below from my trip on the 12:

Looking at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center...
Museum of Flight Restoration Center through the Everett Transit Route 12 window(1)

Everett Transit Route 12 Pulls Away...
Getting off Everett Transit Route 12 in a big Boeing parking lot.

A View of Paine Field from my hike to Future of Flight
A view from my 0.8 mile hike from the nearest Everett Transit Route 12 bus stop to the Future of Flight

I asked local transit agencies what they could do about this situation. Community Transit couldn’t respond by press time except to refer me to Everett Transit. An Everett Transit spokesperson told me Everett Transit will take comment in late winter or early spring on route planning.  I’m going to start a petition for extending Everett Transit Route 12 that last 0.8 mile to get a bus stop at the Future of Flight Monday through Saturday on a trial basis with performance benchmarks.

There is is a much appreciated Community Transit bus stop at the foot of Bernie Webber Drive, the road that goes up to Historic Flight Foundation that serves several routes that link up with Swift (Bus Rapid Transit) to the south and both Sounder North and Washington State Ferries to the north. The Everett Herald reported a Community Transit Park & Ride is in the works for that location, which is sensible considering Historic Flight Foundation uses the proposed grassy area for special event parking anyway.

Now if only Flying Heritage Collection would get some transit service…  Recently Flying Heritage Collection had a special event called Skyfair on July 26th and provided a bus shuttle to and from a nearby park & ride which is nice for those whom needed parking.  Problem is there was no adjoining service from either Everett Transit or Community Transit to supplement and amplify those services – requiring me to hail a cab from Everett to attend.  With Flying Heritage Collection having Fly Days on many June, July, August and September Saturdays with hundreds of attendees; it’s illogical to deny Flying Heritage Collection direct Saturday transit services.  Heck, I’d pay a few bucks for a shuttle to/from a Swift (Bus Rapid Transit) stop.

Ultimately, I argue that the international aviation geek community deserves some love and mutual cooperation from both Everett Transit & Community Transit.  In a perfect world where Paine Field did not fall between the Community Transit & Everett Transit service areas, having a Paine Field circular that would link to Swift (Bus Rapid Transit) would make economic sense because according to Paine Field’s official website, “Paine Field and its tenants have a $19.8 billion economic impact on the region and the state. Additionally, the Airport and the businesses utilizing the airfield provide $79 million in tax revenue to the local and state governments”.  I argue that from $79 million in tax revenue we could get some decent transit services to all of Paine Field’s tenants.

* You can also get out to the Museum of Flight Restoration Center by using Everett Transit Route 12 and disembarking at the 100TH ST SW & AIRPORT RD stop for a 0.23 mile walk.  To walk from the Museum of Flight Restoration Center to Flying Heritage Collection is a 1.5 mile, 30 minute hike through an industrial area.  Not exactly tourist friendly by almost any stretch of the imagination…

The correct way to restructure routes 177, 179, 181, and 197

I live in Federal Way, and I have been watching the King County Metro cuts page like a hawk. If you’re familiar with the coming transit cuts in the city, you’ll know that there are two restructures coming for routes in Federal Way: Combining routes 187 and 901, and restructuring peak service to Seattle. I will focus on the latter in this post. I am providing a sample restructure for the morning peak. The afternoon peak could be restructured similarly, but I won’t provide a specific example.

This is just an example of how the service could be restructured in the morning in a way such that it almost strictly follows the February 2015 service reduction recommendations:

– Give route 177 21 trips, and add a stop at Federal Way Transit Center (also two I-5 freeway stations)

– Discontinue route 179

– Add extra trips to route 181 (number of trips not specified in the recommendation) between Twin Lakes Park and Ride and Federal Way Transit Center only*, to give it (specifically) service every 15-30 minutes in Federal Way

*In this example, the extra 181 trips go to the Federal Way 320th St P&R before the transit center. This is the only deviation from the recommendation.

– Reroute route 197, and keep the same number of morning trips

Additionally, this example has the benefit of:

keeping most one-seat rides from Twin Lakes Park and Ride to Downtown Seattle (for route 179 riders)

– Guarantees a successful transfer from route 181 for every 197 trip (for old route 197 riders)

The way this works is that all extra inserted 181 trips turn into route 177 trips after they get to the 320th St P&R. That way, people on these buses can get off at Federal Way Transit Center or Seattle, just like the current route 179.

Here is an example schedule:

181 Mornings
Twin Lks P&R 320th St P&R (to route) Fed Way TC Supermall Auburn Stn. 4th & M GRCC
5:08 5:23 177 5:28
5:23 181 5:40 5:52 5:58 6:05 6:13
5:38 5:53 177 5:58
5:53 181 6:10 6:22 6:28 6:35 6:43
6:08 6:23 177 6:28
6:23 181 6:41 6:54 7:00 7:07 7:16
6:38 6:53 177 6:58
6:53 181 7:11 7:24 7:30 7:38 7:47
7:08 7:23 177 7:28
7:23 181 7:42 7:55 8:01 8:09 8:18
7:38 7:55 177 8:00
7:53 181 8:12 8:25 8:31 8:39 8:48
8:23 181 8:42 8:55 9:01 9:09 9:18
8:53 181 9:12 9:25 9:31 9:39 9:48
177 Mornings
(from route) 320th St P&R Fed Way TC To Seattle
181 5:23 5:28
deadhead 5:38 5:43 *
181 5:53 5:58
deadhead 6:08 6:13 *
181 6:23 6:28
deadhead 6:38 6:43 *
181 6:53 6:58
deadhead 7:08 7:13 *
181 7:23 7:28
deadhead 7:38 7:43 *
181 7:53 7:58
deadhead 10 more
197 Mornings
320th St P&R Fed Way TC To U-District
5:40 _ 5:45 *
6:25 * 6:30
6:40 _ 6:45 *
6:55 * 7:00
7:10 _ 7:15 *
7:25 * 7:30
7:40 _ 7:45 *

* Asterisk means that this trip will wait for route 181 to arrive at this location before leaving. This is how successful transfers from route 181 are guaranteed. This exactly how Pierce Transit route 62 works in the afternoon, and how Sounder connectors work (except with waiting for a bus instead of a train)

This is in contrast to a restructure that one would imagine by reading the recommendation, and follows the letter of the recommendations exactly: (I’ll refer to this as the “immediately obvious” restructure)

– Route 177 is a freestanding route

– Route 179 and all one-seat rides to Seattle from Twin Lakes are eliminated

– Route 197 doesn’t wait for any route 181 trips to arrive before leaving, and one-seat rides from Twin Lakes are eliminated

– The extra 181 trips are from 2 buses that keep shuttling between Twin Lakes P&R and FWTC

So what’s better about my plan?

– 6 one-seat rides from Twin Lakes to Seattle are saved

– at least 12 transfers from route 181 are guaranteed to Seattle and the U-District

– current route 179 and 197 riders from west of the transit center only need to adjust their schedule slightly

it costs less to operate than the alternative restructure

Yep, you read that last one right. Here’s why: in the immediately obvious restructure, there needs to be 2 extra drivers hired to run the extra 181 trips. The service hour cost is the extra trips themselves, plus two deadheads per bus to/from south base (this adds up to 8 extra runs to/from Tukwila each weekday). In my example restructure, the drivers that do the extra 181 trips are the same drivers that do some 177 trips, so no extra drivers need to be hired. The deadhead for the extra 181 trips are the same deadhead for some 177 trips, plus a drive from I-5 to Twin Lakes P&R (these could be reverse peak 181 trips if so desired).

If you want me to clarify anything, sound off in the comments. What do you think?