Metro and Rob Gannon move up a notch

Credit: 19adam99

On Monday, the King County Council unanimously voted to separate Metro from the Department of Transportation and make the agency an autonomous, cabinet-level department. In the same meeting, the council unanimously voted to keep Rob Gannon as the director of the agency; as an autonomous department, the Metro director is now a political appointee, rather than a civil service position.

Since its inception, Metro has long been a part of King County’s Department of Transportation. KCDOT administers Boeing Field, the West Seattle Water Taxi, county roads, and the county’s vehicle fleet. Metro has run more or less autonomously for years, but was still supervised by the KCDOT director.

“It’s organizational authority and flexibility,” says King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci. “It gives you more ability to set your own destiny. That extra layer of bureaucracy might not sound like much, but it’s a real thing. I say that as someone who ran a department here.”

Balducci ran the county’s jails from 2010-14. She said that, while she held that position, Metro’s head always sat in on cabinet meetings with the King County executive. That arrangement created awkward conflicts of interest, since the director of KCDOT—the Metro director’s boss—was also in on the meetings.

Continue reading “Metro and Rob Gannon move up a notch”

Transit & Skiing

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

Park City

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

Cottonwood

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

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

King County Metro Route 960

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

King County Metro Route 961

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

Community Transit/King County Metro Route 962

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

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

Kirkland Transit Center Reopens

The new Kirkland Transit Center on Friday

[Correction: route 255 and 540 continue to serve 6th St and will not serve State St]

Today, the new Kirkland Transit Center reopens to transit service. The twenty-two year old on-street transit center was upgraded to improve transit operations and create a pedestrian-friendly environment in the heart of Downtown Kirkland. New passenger shelters, lighting, and an in-pavement flashing crosswalk improve the safety and comfort of users. A green trellis and public plaza welcomes people to the downtown park. There is new sheltered bicycle parking next to the library. The street was completely rebuilt with a landscaped median and 10-inch thick concrete pavement over a 6-inch subgrade to withstand heavy bus loads. More photos of the transit center can be viewed here.

Bus routes 255 and 540 Express return to their original routing along State Street and will no longer continue to serve 6th St S between the transit center and NE 68th St in Houghton.

The project has a budget of $13.3 million and is one of the last bus capital improvements in the 1996 Sound Move program. Construction started in October 2009. At an open house meeting during construction, I asked Sound Transit about the cost breakdown and I checked the figures in the budget. Roughly speaking, $8.5 million was budgeted for civil construction work, $2.6 million for the environmental review (EIS), engineering design and specification, just under $1 million for permits and overhead, with the remaining million for contingency. Some might wonder why it cost so much. The transit center project worked in conjunction with a King County wastewater pump station upgrade project. That project required digging up the entire street to install a new sewer main. I have a call in to Sound Transit to see whether the stated cost includes the wastewater and excavation component.

An interesting tidbit: did you know that the Eastside Interceptor, the main pipe that collects wastewater on the Eastside follows the length of the BNSF east side rail corridor? The wastewater gets treated in Renton.

Editorial: Fares, ORCA, and Low-Income Residents

Photo by Oran

One of the serious limits to fare increases is the impact on low-income people. Indeed, the current system for selling bus tickets to social service agencies will inevitably miss needy portions of the population. If the ticket program were ever radically expanded you’d almost certainly see a secondary market develop, as tickets are about as traceable as cash.

As a poverty-fighting measure, however, low Metro fares are a blunt instrument. First of all, they threaten the service that low-income people depend on. Secondly, a significant portion of the savings are recouped by middle-class commuters, employers (through transit subsidies), and the federal government (passes bought through employers are usually done pre-tax). More after the jump.

Continue reading “Editorial: Fares, ORCA, and Low-Income Residents”

Next Train Announcements as Good as They’re Going to Get

Apparently the two-minute warning is the best we’re going to get without infusion of money technology. Via ST spokesman Bruce Gray:

By contract [with GE Transportation Systems] we only provides a 2-minute warning and a train arriving message. We do not have plans for continuous count down arrival clock.

The rest of the explanation below the jump.

Continue reading “Next Train Announcements as Good as They’re Going to Get”

Metro Puts Data for Developers Online

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One Bus Away is powered by Metro's GTFS feed.

King County Metro has posted a data file that defines all of its routing and scheduling information to its servers for anyone to access.

The data is in the GTFS format, which stands for Google Transit Feed Specification. This feed powers Google Maps’ transit directions and third-party services like One Bus Away. Transit agencies across the world are exporting their data to the de facto industry-standard format, so some applications based around GTFS that are built for Portland’s data, for example, could also work for Seattle depending on the context.

“King County is home to some of the best and brightest tech minds in the world, and we want to tap into their ingenuity,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “Our customers love the apps that are already out there for their phones and computers, and we think there is a lot of potential to create more.”

Metro began opening up the feed late last year, but this is the first time that anyone can access the data without first contacting the bus agency. Developers can access the data file directly online, but must agree to King County’s terms of use. Notably, the terms do not prevent developers from profiting from their use of the data.

Most transit agencies do not post their feeds directly online, and Metro is taking a progressive step that should be applauded.

News Roundup: 82% of U.S. Wants More Transit

This is an open thread.

Gregoire Vetoes 520 Light Rail Planning

Update 3/31 @ 11:20am: The governor’s office tells us that this veto just affects the “legislative intent” section of the bill, not the underlying contents which still directs a work group to study high-capacity transit over the bridge. However, the underlying legislation — with the “intent” section vetoed — does not direct “any final design of the state route number 520 bridge replacement and HOV program accommodate effective connections for transit, including high capacity transit, including, but not limited to, effective connections for transit to the university link light rail line” as the intent section did. I don’t know if other legislation has this provision.

And while the legislation does direct a King County work group to study high-capacity transit over the bridge, it does not require the bridge accommodate any plans from that group. However, we now understand what the governor’s office meant when it defined a section as “vague;” unfortunately, that section had a stronger requirement for high-capacity transit than the rest of the bill, on my reading.

The Seattle PI report we link to below has not been changed as of this writing.

Original report: The Seattle PI reports on another of today’s vetoes, this time not so transit-friendly.

The governor also vetoed a section of the bill [authorizing the 520 bridge replacement] that directed planners to come up with a final design that could handle both carpool lanes and light rail. However Shelton said the governor still supported ultimately seeing whether the replacement span that connects Seattle with its Eastside suburbs could ultimately accommodate high-capacity transit. She felt the language in the bill first section was “vague.”

“We still have work groups addressing those issues,” [a Gregoire spokesman] said. “The work is still going to get done.”

Light rail across SR-520 is a long time away from being seriously considered. Even in the long haul, though, it would be an up-hill lift to build light rail across the bridge if it meant removing capacity — even if that capacity were just HOV lanes. I think if we were to add light rail to the bridge, it should be done in addition to the HOV lanes on the bridge. So that section of the legislation made sense to me; what’s possibly vague about it?

February 2010 Link Ridership Numbers

from the Flickr Pool

February Link ridership numbers increased slightly over January’s average to 16,741 boardings each weekday, 13,744 on Saturdays, and 12,076 on Sundays. That actually beats out the record for weekdays, set in October, of 16,192.  The weekend records were set in the July opener and are unreachable for the foreseeable future.

Prediction and analysis on this subject are fraught with peril, but the major change in February was elimination of the 194 as part of a reorganization of Southwest King County service that also greatly improved bus access to TIB and Seatac stations.

These always turn into really long comment threads, but recall that we have a basically incomplete data set, Link’s most important promises won’t be realized for decades, and these numbers are neither so astoundingly high nor abominably low that anyone on the either side is likely to be convinced to change their opinion on the project as a whole.

For obsessives, the raw data is here.

Should Drivers have Plexiglas Barriers?

[UPDATE 8:00 am: This TV report provides some video of what the shields look like.  It’s hardly an airtight seal.]

The Seattle PI reports that Metro will install Plexiglas barriers between drivers and passengers in a handful of buses as a trial run.

After a bus driver was beaten and knocked unconscious while behind the wheel, officials with King County Metro Transit are exploring whether to enclose drivers behind Plexiglas barriers.

As a pilot project, security partitions will be installed in a small number of buses, General Manager Kevin Desmond said. More details, including costs, will be announced in the next few weeks, he said.

I’m not so sure that Metro’s limited dollars should be going to Plexiglas barriers. As the article notes, a barrier could cement a notion that buses are unsafe. And if a passenger’s first source of aid is behind a barrier, wouldn’t that make one feel less protected? While bus drivers can go through dangerous parts of town, it stands to reason that if a bus is an unsafe place to be then passengers and not just drivers should be protected. That means things like security cameras and a random police presence could be more effective for overall safety than Plexiglas barriers for drivers.

Conservation Board Election

This is only tangentially related to transit, but most of you probably don’t know we have an election coming up tomorrow, and it’s one where you have to vote in person to participate. It’s for the King County Conservation District Board of Supervisors. The Seattle Times has a nice write-up on why things are the way they are, but the practical impact is that voter ignorance makes it much easier for special interests to capture the process.

There are 7 locations County-wide at which you can vote on Tuesday, including the Seattle Central Library. In keeping with our tradition here we won’t endorse in non-transit-related races, but take a look at the candidates and let everyone know in the comments who they should support.

Pierce, Community Transit Relief Survive the House

The effort to attach amendments to the Transportation Benefit District bill to allow additional license fees for transit has met with partial success.  Andrew Austin at the TCC’s blog reports the amendment for Pierce and Snohomish Counties was successfully added and passed the full House.  The King County equivalent did not come to a vote.   The amendment passed 54-44 on a straight party-line vote, except for 7 dissenting Democrats: Finn, Green, Hudgins, Hurst, Kelley, Morrell, and Probst.   The vote was the same for the whole bill, except Hudgins flipped to vote Yes. Now it’s on to the conference committee, and the amendment’s survival is questionable.

If I’m not mistaken this closes the door on explicit relief for Metro this session, although they may gain from reduced sales tax exemptions.  In any case, Metro doesn’t really hit the wall until 2012, so there’s one more session in which to do something.

Vehicle License Fee Back from the Dead

Although the standalone bill that would add authority for a $20 license fee in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties died in the House last month, Publicola reports that the same provision has been proposed as an amendment to SB 6774, an otherwise boring bill about Transportation Benefit District governance:

The amendments—sponsored by Reps. Scott White (D-46) and Sharon Nelson (D-34) for King County and Rep. Marko Liias (D-21) for Pierce and Snohomish—would grant the three county councils the authority to either pass a $20 vehicle-license fee to pay for transit, or to put a license fee of up to $100 before voters for the same purpose. (They could also impose a $20 license fee and put a measure on the ballot, but the ballot proposal would be limited to $80).

My math says a $40 fee alone would solve Metro’s funding problems, or a $30 fee plus a removal of sales tax exemptions similar to the House plan.  However, if I read it correctly this authority would expire in 2015.

Erica says Republicans are hoping for a floor vote to identify who supports the amendments, which have not yet passed.  Someone should tell them that avoiding drastic transit cuts beats doing nothing 3-to-1, even in off-year special elections in relatively conservative districts.

UPDATE: TCC has an email your legislator page for this amendment.

State Revenue Proposals may Help Transit

wikimedia

Both the House and Senate in Olympia have released details of their revenue plans.  As we’ve noted before, to the extent that these eliminate sales tax exemptions, they will also slightly increase revenue at local transit agencies, all of which rely on sales tax for a large chunk of their revenue.

The House proposal (thanks Publicola) contains, by my count, $458m in new sales tax revenue from repealed exemptions in the 2011-2013 biennium.  Our Metro revenue predict-o-tron tells us that that amounts to about $12.5m a year for King County Metro, or about 100,000 service hours.   That’s about a quarter of the budget hole Metro faces in that period.  For Community Transit, it’s about $2m, not enough to restart Sunday service, but enough to buy back about a third of the weekday cuts.

The Senate budget is presented in a way that makes it much harder to figure out what’s sales tax, but my count (see this) says that there’s about $180m for the state over two years, or $5m a year for Metro.  An email to Sen. Murray to clarify the numbers did not generate a response in time for this post.  Anyone who knows more about the taxes mentioned here is welcome to correct the record on this.

Pierce Transit in the Worst Shape of All

Image via Tacoma Tomorrow (click to enlarge)

Evan Siroky at Tacoma Tomorrow has a detailed report on Pierce Transit’s long range budget situation, and it isn’t good.  PT’s reserves run out in 2012, at which point the bottom falls out.

Using current revenue sources, annual service hours will fall by 57% – from 622,000 to 265,000, as the number of bus routes plunges from 51 to 23.  The end of service would move from midnight to 9pm on weekdays, and from 10pm to 8 or 9pm on weekends.  Weekend headways would increase to 60 minutes.

As the map above indicates, there would also be a substantial reduction in the areas PT serves. Unlike in King County, the PT district is not equivalent with the County.  These unserved areas would still be paying taxes to support PT; should the lack of service persist, they would likely pursue the time-consuming and complex “deannexation” process.

PT also provides 33% of service from Tacoma to Olympia, and that would end.

Metro and Community Transit faced potential 20% cuts when their sales tax collapsed.  Spokesman Lars Erickson explains that PT’s would be much deeper because “Pierce county experienced the recession earlier and deeper.”  The long term deficit is about $50m/year.  PTCT saved about $72m through 2012 through staff cuts, fare increases, and deferral of most capital expenses.

The good news is that Pierce Transit assesses a 0.6% sales tax, so they have a further 0.3% they can access with a public vote even if the legislature never comes to the rescue.  The chart below the jump pitches what could be done with that money: a gradual increase to 638,000 hours, including a fourth major trunk route.  The Pierce Transit board is likely to decide on a course of action this summer.

See also the TNT on this subject.

Continue reading “Pierce Transit in the Worst Shape of All”

Regional Transit Task Force Members Appointed

Dow Constantine

We reported a few weeks ago that King County was forming a transit task force to look at Metro’s policies, in particular the weights to which it assigns various objectives such as ridership, reduction in vehicle miles traveled, congestion relief, serving transit-dependent populations, and so on.  County Executive Constantine just released his appointments for the task force’s 28 members:

The geographically balanced 28-member task force includes a mix of elected officials and representatives of business, labor, education, and human service agencies, along with riders…

The task force is being asked to develop policy options for discussion by July and to adopt final policy recommendations by September 2010.

Aside from six municipal politicians, the most recognizable names are probably Rob Johnson of the Transportation Choices Coalition, Chuck Ayers of the Cascade Bicycle Club, and the P-I’s “Bus Chick”, Carla Saulter.

People interested in repealing 40/40/20 will be interested to know that there are 18 slots identified by subarea, with 6 appointees from each.  However, Constantine claims that “I deliberately sought a group of people who are willing to put aside political divisions and think creatively about how to plan a transit system that will serve us well in the future,” which I believe is code for being willing to replace the infamous formula with something based on other metrics.

The proposed appointments will go through a Council committee (Environment & Transportation) tomorrow and should go before the full Council next Monday, March 1st.

Adventures in Fare Policy

King County Metro

The Metro zone fare policy is praised for being simple, and indeed it is, even if it’s still wedded to the idea that all the jobs are in Seattle (Metro, unlike Sound Transit, doesn’t have different zones for East and South King County).  If you cross the Seattle City Line, you pay a two-zone fare.

But what happens when a route drives along the city line?  I found out the answer when I found myself on the 124 to the Museum of Flight.  In this stretch, the east side of the road is in Seattle but the west side is in Tukwila.

Metro has resolved this dilemma by charging you a two-zone fare when you leave the border area, regardless of which direction you go.  If you think it through, it’s a solution that successfully avoids any possible fare-avoidance shenanigans using Link.

Crunch Time for HB 2855

wikimedia

[UPDATE 2/16 7:30 am: Publicola says the bill is in trouble in the House.

UPDATE 2/16 12:00 pm: To lookup your legislator go here.]

HB 2855 is the bill that would allow a temporary $20 increase in automobile license fees and therefore avoid budget cuts in many of Washington’s transit agencies. This $20 increase can be enabled by a simple vote of each agency’s governing board (in King County’s case, the County Council).  A further $30 is available to certain counties (basically, Puget Sound*) with a public vote.  Bertolet says the $20 fee would provide Metro $28m/year, or about 224,000 service hours.  We have 50,000 hours in service cuts planned through 2011, and about 385,000 in the two years after that.  Arithmetic tells us a $40 fee should put Metro right on track for its pre-recession plans.

I don’t have the revenue figures for the CT district on hand, but a tax rise should enable the agency to buy back at least the elimination of Sunday Service, which would take about 48,000 service hours to restore completely.  Most, but I don’t believe all, other transit agencies in the State actually have some sales tax authority remaining, although sales tax increases require a public vote.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the last day for it to get it out of the House.  Transportation Choices has an action page allowing you to email your legislators.  If it passes the House there are still obstacles in the Senate and the Governor’s office. Senate Transporation Chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) is reportedly opposed, and Governor Gregoire chose to veto a $20 measure last year.

Anyway, click on the link to contact your representatives.

* Population > 1m; population > 500,000, adjacent to > 1m; population 200,000, adjacent to > 500,000.  The Venn diagram suggests the second category is entirely enclosed by the third, but whatever…

Go Lines: Bus Branding in Bellingham

ridewta.com

Smaller transit systems generally don’t have the funding to have fast, frequent service, nor the demand to justify it. However, over the last few years Whatcom Transit has found a way to make their regular bus service a little more appealing.

It’s called the “go lines” program. No route in WTA’s system has consistent 15-minute headways, but there are signficant corridors where they collectively meet that standard. Beginning in 2005 with three lines, WTA rolled out a color-coded five line system (completed in January 2008) that connects Downtown Bellingham with major destinations, such as Western Washington University, the Alaska Ferry, and the Amtrak station, in addition to all of the city’s planned urban villages.

All five lines guarantee 15-minute headways on weekdays from 8 am to 6 pm, with longer waits at other times.  In some cases this involved adding a few trips to meet the standard. The Red Line (to the Amtrak station) also achieves 15 minute headways on Saturdays. WTA and the City of Bellingham have also worked to give signal priority to buses on certain segments of the system.

Each of these lines (Red, Blue, Green, Gold, and Plum, map (.pdf) here) have distinctive signage. Unfortunately, “the fleet is not big enough” to allow the buses themselves to be distinctively marked, according to WTA spokesperson Maureen McCarthy. There are also some other routes that share part of a go line’s path, resulting in some potential confusion.

In spite of these problems, the Go lines have been a hit. For instance, according to McCarthy, ridership on components of the Green Line increased 260% after the go line was introduced. Indeed, in 2008 WTA had the highest ridership increase among small and medium-size systems in the nation (32%), and in 2009 experienced a 5% increase in an environment where most transit agencies had significant decreases.

Like virtually all other transit agencies, WTA is facing a funding crisis. Fortunately, they currently only assess a 0.6% sales tax, giving them room to raise more funding without involving the legislature. There is a ballot measure in April that seeks to raise taxes to 0.8% to simply maintain existing service. Polls indicate this measure is likely to pass.

Smaller agencies are often a good source of innovation in simple and low-cost ways to improve service by making it easier to use and understand. Here in King County, we already a suffer from a surfeit of bus brands, and it’s not clear we need another one. However, the Metro bus system is virtually incomprehensible due to the glut of peak-only and otherwise not-that-useful routes. Some effort to highlight more broadly useful routes (like the 15-minute map that Oran has been tinkering with) would make the system more usable for newcomers.

Reduced Service on Monday

For next Monday, February 15th, President’s Day will see some reduced levels of service on several transit routes.

  • King County Metro will be operating under its WNUW scheduling (when there are no UW classes).  The following routes that normally serve UW’s main campus will have a few designated trips cancelled (marked as ‘D’ under the timetables): 31, 65, 67, 68, 75, 167, 197, 205, 272, 277, 372.
  • Community Transit will have normal weekday service for local and University routes, but will be reducing service on several commuter runs (marked as ‘H’ in the timetables): 402, 405, 408, 410, 411, 412, 413, 415, 416, 421, 435, 477.

Sound Transit (including ST express, Link, and Sounder), Everett Transit, and Pierce Transit will be operating normal weekday service.