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Monday, March 31, 2008

They’ll Get You There—Eventually

posted by on March 31 at 16:26 PM

As ridership on Metro buses has grown, on-time performance has gotten worse. The result: buses are fuller—and later—than ever before.

One thing I would like to know is whether Metro looked at on-time performance on urban vs. suburban routes. This is completely anecdotal, I know, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in the rain, waiting for a bus to Fremont or Wallingford or wherever, and watched a dozen buses bound for Kent or Auburn or Redmond fly by with almost empty cabins.

RSS icon Comments

1

Every time I see a packed 44, overflowing with hipsters, I smile inside.

Posted by egid | March 31, 2008 4:32 PM
2

ha! speaking completely anecdotally... routes to the suburbs completely suck. if you think the city routes are bad, you have no clue how spoiled you are.

i lived in town and out of town for bus travel, and the reliability may be just as bad -- though i doubt it -- but there are always alternatives in town. in the suburbs, you miss a bus because it's early or late, and you are stuck waiting an hour. also, they may zip by in seattle, but by the time they actually reach kent, they might not be so zippy, regardless of the number of passengers.

i've often wondered, though, why some route do run. i've been the only person on a bus in the south end on multiple occasions.

Posted by infrequent | March 31, 2008 4:32 PM
3

@2, It's because of the goddamned 40-40-20 rule. Which makes me sooooo angry.

Posted by John | March 31, 2008 4:34 PM
4

the suburban buses will only be full at the normal rush hour times (and then they will be standing room only). But in order to inspire confidence as the only systematic way to get around town without a car or bike, metro is leaving a lot to be desired. If their funding could be fixed i think they would be able to run more of the routes in the city that we need to get around efficiently, but there isn't momentum by our politicos to increase revenue to keep up with demand.

Posted by vooodooo84 | March 31, 2008 4:35 PM
5

how about we raise prices to take a bus so that they are less full? right ECB? right?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 31, 2008 4:36 PM
6

getting home on the 76 can take over 50 minutes. it's 8 miles from downtown to my house. and it runs at bizzare intervals.

metro could be better.

Posted by max solomon | March 31, 2008 4:37 PM
7

of course metro could be better but thats part of the fun in living in Seattle. Things here are so obviously broken but no one is willing to give an inch to fix 'em that we all can relish in just complaining about the problems.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 31, 2008 4:40 PM
8

Yea, nice work Metro (and most bummed out/don't care much drivers). Raise the fares and suck a little more. Honestly, will Seattle ever be a legit big US city w/o fast, reliable mass transit? It would be advantageous if drivers would "train" the riders to get on the bus with some expediency, and what the hell is it about dumb shits that can't move back when people are standing? How hard is it? Jeez, go to NYC, Boston, or Chicago sometime.

Posted by elliott | March 31, 2008 4:42 PM
9

Also, what's the deal with the 28? It's always late and never full. How does that work?

Posted by egid | March 31, 2008 4:42 PM
10

All the genius Metro-haters never seem to have any suggestions as to how to improve the service, other than "cut fares and increase service! and make service better!" Honestly folks, do you think it's that easy?

Posted by lorax | March 31, 2008 4:52 PM
11

I'm just reading the stats on the Montreal's transit society and how their five busiest bus-routes ALONE serve about 210,000 boardings a day, which is comparable to King County's 350,000 (and of course not counting the 800,000 subway boardings).

Anyway their on-time performance is 83,7% using identical methodology. Worth also mentioning that the above-mentioned routes run often enough(

This made me laugh, but also cry. Cheers!

Posted by John | March 31, 2008 4:54 PM
12

I dunno how that got so screwed up. I was just saying I don't even check their schedules, but that got replaced by a parenthesis.

Posted by John | March 31, 2008 4:56 PM
13

40-40-20 is just another way of denying Seattle it's due.

We provide 40 percent of the taxes. We have 30 percent of the population. We get 20 percent of the new bus service.

Time to just DOUBLE Seattle bus service.

AGAIN!

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 31, 2008 4:59 PM
14

Agree with #2. When I lived farther north, my primary option to and from downtown was an express route. It always zipped through downtown and onto the express lanes, but if I missed it, I had to wait a long time. After about 6 or so I was stuck taking the 358 for an hour. I've never been to Hell, but I imagine it's a lot like that bus.

@9, it probably comes from a different route and turns into the 28 downtown. The outbound #17 is constantly after 7 pm even though it's never full -- it starts out as the #23 from White Center to downtown, takes forever getting downtown, then drops off most of the White Center-ites. Then it becomes the #17.

Posted by joykiller | March 31, 2008 5:00 PM
15

oh, and our bus service costs (yes, costs) 10 percent when you do income from bus pass and fare box minus operation expenses.

So, we pay the most and get the least.

Screw the suburbs. Let them negotiate with Sound Transit - but give Seattle our DUE for Bus Service!

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 31, 2008 5:05 PM
16

I would have used this space to address the widely acknowleged phenomenon that is the "vanishing #8". or why riders can be standing around waiting for the 8 on Capitol Hill at any given time, well before its scheduled arrival, and it will never materialize. however, the next one always come EXACTLY at the appropriate time.

I would have liked to address this, BUT today is the last day I'll have to take a bus to Queen Anne for work.

Posted by Lee | March 31, 2008 5:10 PM
17

"...and that's why Hillary should get the democratic nomination."

Posted by Banna | March 31, 2008 5:48 PM
18

Sometimes, during rush hour, I've walked from the U District to Capitol Hill instead of taking the 49. It would finally pass me somewhere around St. Mark's.

Posted by tsm | March 31, 2008 5:54 PM
19

The 40-40-20 whiners and their cheerleader Erica should lobby the city to fund more city bus service. Why they expect anyone in Kent to want to pay for any more of their service than they already are is beyond me. It would be nice if the people of Oregon funded my kid's college education, but I haven't convinced them that it is in their interest yet.

Posted by spit | March 31, 2008 6:02 PM
20

Boo hoo. The fucking suburbs are always taking my money. Why do I have to pay for them? Why can't that money go to ME?!

Next you'll be complaining about those damned poor people and their expensive drug treatment services.

Posted by Greg | March 31, 2008 6:08 PM
21

Soooo about that multi billion dollar Sound Transit Light rail proposal?

How would that money affect bus reliability, bus intervals, and bus ridership, if it all were just put into buses?

Posted by questioner | March 31, 2008 6:09 PM
22

Tell you what, you pay 40 percent of the taxes to Metro, you can complain about Seattle demanding 40 percent of the added bus service, ok?

(pin drops)

Light rail serves as a trunk line, once the system is expanded far enough. Even if monorail would have been a cheaper addition ... bygones.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 31, 2008 6:17 PM
23

@16. Funny, I live in lower queen anne and I always see the #8 just sitting in weird places around mercer. Sometimes the driver is in there, sometimes no where to be found. I never take it, but I have often felt sorry for the people who are waiting for it.

Posted by hp | March 31, 2008 6:28 PM
24

@1--As one of the people sometimes crowded on the 44 (though I doubt I qualify as a hipster), it would be great if there was a 44 Express that could pick up everyone at UW, make one stop in Wallingford, one at Fremont and then stop at Phinney and make the rest of the stops into Ballard.
@23--The 8's 1st stop is in front of the Bank of America, then it goes up to Queen Anne Avenue and stops in front of Kidd Valley. When it returns to Queen Anne it goes around and stops for a rest in front of the big apartment building on Roy down the block from the BOA. That might explain why you've seen it hanging around. Why it doesn't seem to arrive for Lee @16 is a mystery.

Posted by madamecrow | March 31, 2008 7:05 PM
25

The bus is hard to take. Infrequent, late, and full of crazy people and hostile drivers. I wish there was an alternative to driving but right now the only people who bus it are extremely environmentally-conscious or have no other choice.

Posted by Dawgson | March 31, 2008 7:17 PM
26

@8 People that don't move to the back and otherwise slow things down aren't idiots. They know what they're doing; and they also think nobody is going to call them on it.

I will say in a polite tone: Excuse me, I'm sorry. Do you realize you're holding up everyone else on this bus by not moving to the back?

Or I guess you could try: Do you realize you're an idiot? And then blow a loud whistle directly in their ear. Seems kind of harsh though.


Posted by collie | March 31, 2008 7:23 PM
27

The solution is for Seattle to leave Metro. Let the suburbanites sort out their transport. The city can have a great transit system for its residents, and the suburbs can fund themselves. A $50 a day downtown parking charge will change peoples minds.

Look at San Francisco. They have the Muni, but SamTrans, AC Transit and BART.

Posted by Dave Coffman | March 31, 2008 7:30 PM
28

@25 speak for yourself. i have plenty of choices (walk, bike, drive), and while i try to make environmentally friendly choices when i can, i'm not "extreme" in any way.

and is it really that hard? this is how it works: you use the online travel planner to figure out which line you need, then you stand at the stop, put your money in the slot, and take a seat.
and if you are a real moron, you can even ask the bus driver (many of which are VERY pleasant actually) to tell you where to get off.
there! you've just had a lesson in riding the bus! now go out there and try it!

you know, i kinda think that the only people who don't take the bus are kindof stupid. you don't have to look for parking, pay $4/gallon for gas, worry about parking tickets, deal with traffic, or even DRIVE. you can read. talk to your friend next to you. zone out. do work. whatever.

Posted by onion | March 31, 2008 8:56 PM
29

Hey, this is a start...

http://seattle.gov/news/detail.asp?ID=8316&Dept=19


City Gains 45,000 New Hours of Bus Service

Bus routes enhanced through Bridging the Gap

...

In 2008, Seattle residents will see improvements on the 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 14, 26, 28 and 44 bus lines. In the spring of 2009, they will see enhancements to the 2, 13 and 48 routes. The program will be finalized in 2010 by augmenting service on the 5, 7, 8, 60, 70, 74 and 75 lines.



...

Posted by frobly | March 31, 2008 9:09 PM
30

@28: Maybe I was spoiled by the NYC subway, but it went everywhere I was going, came regularly and was full of a broad mix of people. And I almost always waited underground where I wasn't getting drenched in rain or buffeted by cold winds.

The bus here, on the other hand, has a schedule it doesn't follow and is staffed by people who are quirky at best and hostile at worst. There's inevitably at least one aggressive person, be they mentally ill, homeless or just unpleasant. I have not had a single bus ride where I haven't seen some sort of unfortunate event or altercation.

I walk when I can now, take the bus when I can stomach it, but generally end up driving.

Maybe you've never lived in a city with good transit, onion. Otherwise you'd realize the bus here totally sucks.

Posted by Dawgson | March 31, 2008 9:13 PM
31

[quote]will Seattle ever be a legit big US city w/o fast, reliable mass transit?[/quote]

San Francisco seems to get by OK with Muni, which actually was so poor at meeting its schedule when I lived there that they simply did away with having a schedule at all.

Posted by Jaye | March 31, 2008 9:35 PM
32

@30: The bus here, on the other hand, has a schedule it doesn't follow

Hate to break it to you, but there's more than one bus here in Seattle. There are dozens and dozens of routes and even more buses driving those routes. You apparently have had some bad experiences on a bus. Fine. That's not the norm though. You also state that there's "at least one aggressive person" on each bus. I've ridden the bus nearly every workday in Seattle and know that your statement is not backed up with facts (unless I'm the aggressive person and don't realize it).

Oh, and you very rarely will be "getting drenched in rain" here in Seattle. It drizzles, it rains. It seldom downpours like you experienced in NYC. I, and most others here, don't require umbrellas. And I'm not talking about transit riders, I'm talking about all types of people walking around this city.

Posted by stinkbug | March 31, 2008 9:56 PM
33

@32: I'm just saying the subway was a much more pleasant experience. There's no need to get defensive -- I moved here for a lot of other reasons. Transit just wasn't one of them.

Posted by Dawgson | March 31, 2008 10:29 PM
34

I'm not trying to say "Oh, NYC is so much better," simply that you got a lot better service for your dollar there. I'm not sure if the MTA was better subsidized or more widely used. It might be that New York is just much more dense. There were also less transit options as very few people had cars, so everyone took the subway, making it more of a universal experience.

So far I've regularly taken the 16, 44, 54, 55 over the last four months. I've seen 2-3 men start fights, a handful of dudes hitting on or harassing women, seemingly crazy people trying to start conversations or staring intensely at strangers, a sh-t load of drunks and one bus driver stopping the bus to climb out and grab something random off the ground and put it into a Gap bag under her seat before starting back on our trip.

I just want the bus to depart and arrive within 5 minutes of the time advertised and not smell bad and involve a gauntlet of crazy, high, drunk, or stoned individuals. Is that so much to ask?

Posted by Dawgson | March 31, 2008 10:44 PM
35

Even though I'm pretty pro-bus I haven't hesitated in the past to describe the 44 as the route with the most crazies on it. I think it's the only route I've been on in which I've witnessed a rider opening smoke up (and he was the seats right behind the driver). There's just some strangeness built into that route.

My bus to downtown in the morning in on-time nearly everyday. The bus back is sometimes a bit late at rush hour, but it's not that lengthy of a delay.

Posted by stinkbug | March 31, 2008 11:30 PM
36

I guess I must be blessed.

I've taken Metro almost every day for the last 24 years. In all that time, on routes ranging from the dearly departed 307 to the 2,3,8,26,28 and 74, I've had a grand total of three people who were obviously mentally ill or drunk. And I guess I must be used to the smells I see people complaining about - I don't even notice.

No transit system is perfect. The NYC subways work great today, but talk to people who used them in the '70s and you get a different perspective. Billions of dollars were spent putting that system back together again. This region has a hard time investing in transit - I think with the additional Bridging the Gap funds we'll see ridership continue to increase.

What we really need, though, is a Bus Riders Union - SF has SaveMuni, NYC has the Straphangers Campaign - to work with Metro to fix some of the driver training issues they have. Metro ignores the drivers to a great extent, and a good citizen organization might be the perfect tool to get everyone working together.

My other hope is that we'll see some benefit in terms of service hours once LINK finally opens next year. While we still get screwed by the 40/40/20 rule - thanks, Will, for pointing out the tax realities - hours that are in Seattle won't leave.

Posted by John | April 1, 2008 5:30 AM
37

@30

I'm calling shenanigans on your rose tinted memories of the NYC subways. There were no freaks screaming and howling at the moon? No mentally ill? No teenage thugs starting fights with each other and everyone else around them? No bums covered in their own shit passed out at the end of a car? Riding the 7 into midtown every morning was a journey into the mountains of madness.

Riding around in Seattle is fucking Candyland compared to NYC.

Posted by Rotten666 | April 1, 2008 7:19 AM
38

I take the 64 from my place to work and home every day. And it has been running at least 5 minutes late every morning. I would ride the bus during the weekends but found that it is faster and more reliable to take a cab instead.

I no longer vote for any additional funding for metro until my bus runs on time on a regular basis.

Posted by Andrew | April 1, 2008 7:34 AM
39

@37: I would say on the trains I rode (F, G, L and sometimes J during the day) that I saw much MUCH fewer mentally ill people. I probably saw a dirty/smelly bum two or three times a week, and teenage monsters once every couple weeks. Percentage-wise, I had a lot less bad experiences.

But everyone likes to dog on New York here in the Northwest because you can get away with it. I was at a party in Portland last weekend and this dude was talking about how scary and dangerous his incredibly gentrified block in Brooklyn was until I called him out on it (I'd lived two blocks away and we were in spitting distance of three French restaurants, an organic market and two hipster bars). Then he changed topics and started ragging on Seattle in a similarly biased way until he learned I lived there now.

Maybe the 7 train was significantly different or you were riding the train at different times than I was (during school hours?) but otherwise I call shenanigans.

Posted by Dawgson | April 1, 2008 7:52 AM
40

Here's why the routes to Kent/Auburn/etc are always empty in Seattle.

When you live in downtown Auburn, and you need to get to a service in downtown Kent, unfortunately, the easiest route is usually the bus that also runs to Seattle. Once an hour, or maybe once every half hour from Auburn, but only between 6a.m. and 9a.m., and then between 4p.m. and 7p.m. So when you need to get to your appointment, you wait an hour, or catch it two hours early, to your appointment in the next town over, which, for the most part, doesn't have a shuttle around town a la the 200 in Issaquah, so you get off the bus 2 miles away and walk, sometimes through a sketchy part of town, to get to said appointment. When you are done, you wait, maybe an hour, maybe more, until the bus runs again. This time, when you get on, it's full of commuters, and you can't sit down with your child/children/wheelchair/etc. Hell, you can barely even get on because it is packed with people that ECB might not be seeing on the bus, but get on further south.

If Metro had routes that were more regionally based (having one that ran from Issaquah to Renton would be a nice start), instead of using Seattle for a hub for every bus route in King County, maybe more people would use the buses. But because Metro hasn't figured out that sometimes, someone doesn't want to go to Seattle, they just want to go to the Trader Joe's in Overlake without detouring through downtown Bellevue or downtown Seattle. I fucking love the 200 in Issaquah-- it does a loop through the local shopping areas 5 days a week, every half hour, and it's free.

More of that would mean more riders.

Posted by Jessica | April 1, 2008 8:02 AM
41

@39 I don't know man. I rode the 7 a bunch (lived in LIC), but I saw crazy shit on every line. Crazy shit. My experiences in Seattle have been totally different.

And I don't mean any disrespect, but I'll "dog" on New York all I want. Figure I got the right since I lived there for 30 fucking years.


Posted by Rotten666 | April 1, 2008 8:26 AM
42

Will @ 15: yeah, screw the suburbs! Because it's so much better for the local environment if they're all driving single-occupancy vehicles for their hourlong rush hour commutes, right? Wrong.

Posted by Hernandez | April 1, 2008 8:27 AM
43

Please don't act like SF's public transportation is something to point to as a great model (Too much of a patchwork of multiple systems). Especially not SamTrans. I lived on The Peninsula for most my life and SamTrans makes Metro look good and reasonable.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 1, 2008 8:45 AM
44

@41: I actually "dog" on New York a lot... I'm just saying we had different experiences. When I lived there I thought the subway was nightmarish: There were detours at night and on the weekend; in recent years a strong rain storm could take out some lines for a couple hours; they were incredibly overcrowded; etc etc etc.

Now I realize that we actually had it pretty good: It ran 24/7/365 and took me everywhere I wanted to go.

I do have to admit my Seattle bus experience is pretty limited. I took a bus out to Bellevue the other day and while it took FOREVER (90 minutes) to get home, it was clean, the driver was friendly and the people were nice. Maybe if I was traveling between more suburban/residential areas I'd have a better trip.

Posted by Dawgson | April 1, 2008 9:11 AM
45

if you want crazies ride the 2 by harborview. you have the drunks, the homeless, the junkies going to the clinic over there, the insane...

i almost got stabbed by a crazy guy on that bus. he had a shank made out of a piece of metal and was all agitated because he just assaulted someone on the street and was using the bus to abscond from the scene before the authorities got to him.

so there i was sitting in the window seat and home dude pops on and starts telling me his story while accentuating his points by jabbing me in the leg with his shank. if i wasn't such a polite and understanding fellow, those jabs might have been stabs.

he experienced the entire spectrum of emotions within six blocks. from seething rage to hysterical laughter to soul crushing sobs. the entire time with a thin piece of metal wire clenched in his fist, pointy end waving around.

my point being: there are crazy people on the bus.

oh, and nobody will help you when you have a crazy guy waving a weapon around. they just look at their feet.

Posted by some dude | April 1, 2008 9:28 AM
46

@25: "...right now the only people who bus it are extremely environmentally-conscious or have no other choice."

Bullshit. Thousands of us ride the bus and leave our cars home in the driveway (or drive them a short distance to a park-and-ride lot): We save money, we don't have to hassle with parking, we don't have the headaches of driving in traffic -- and yes, we're not contributing to pollution and congestion.

Don't try to speak for everyone else to justify your own SOV habit.

Posted by BobH | April 1, 2008 9:36 AM
47

The 8 is a piece of shit. Only half of the scheduled busses run all the way down Madison to MLK Monday - Saturday and it doesn't even run that far at all on Sundays.

I would like to take the bus places on the weekend but I am tired of putting up with 30 minute or hour long waits. It especially bad when we don't have a way of tracking busses via cellphone or with a ticker at the stops.

I commute by bus daily but I barely use it on the weekend.

Posted by Sir Learnsalot | April 1, 2008 9:41 AM
48

But ECB -- you said that busses where the glorious, holy savior to all our traffic problems in Seattle. How can they possibly do anything wrong?

Posted by montex | April 1, 2008 9:52 AM
49

@46: SOV means Single Occupancy Vehicle?

I don't want to give the wrong impression. I currently telecommute so the only time I drive is to run errands or visit friends. I take the bus about half of those trips and regret that decision 90% of the time.

I can only speak for my own experiences, but the busses I take at the times I take them suck. And the every half hour schedules for them (even during rush hour) make them an extremely unpleasant proposition.

Again, it's a limited sample set, but the people I've met here (friends of friends, strangers at parties, prospective employers) all avoid the bus whenever possible for the reasons I've listed throughout these comments: Many busses are off schedule or don't show, the routes are infrequent or inconvenient, and there are often scary or unpleasant people along for the ride.

Maybe your routes are different. I can only speak to my own unpleasant experiences.

Posted by Dawgson | April 1, 2008 10:05 AM
50

you have a situation where the suburbs exist, and they are spread out. if you want those people to commute, you have to provide options. getting insular and saying people who live and work in seattle shouldn't support people who only work in seattle does not address the large problem of commuters -- usually the poor ones.

and please let me reiterate, the buss service in seattle even as it is, is markedly better than in the suburbs.

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 10:07 AM
51

okay, off the top of my head some (not yet thought through) ideas to improve service to the suburbs:

use a txt message service to determine wait times at a stop.
- say you are waiting for the 174. you are at stop #4427. you text 4427 174 to a metro number, and it replies with the wait time based on the position of the next bus.

use smaller busses aggressively.
- switch from a large bus to a small bus at a hub if necessary.

try to remove these meandering routes as commuter routes.
- even the new light rail meanders a bit too much. i would have preferred a main line and a couple of offshoots. but the backbone needs to be quick and straight.

a corridor of hubs with rapid transit.

coordinate hub runs with the neighborhood routes.

track rider paths (especially when switching routes) to determine where routes are needed most.
- this could be done by swiping your card as you enter and exit.

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 10:22 AM
52

The 3/4 run by Harborview, not the 2. That said, sitting next to a dude with a shank isn't any fun.

Curious about "use smaller busses aggressively" - the problem on the routes I ride is a lack of seats. How do we gain from running smaller coaches?

The idea of corridors is part of the RapidRide stuff Metro's working on now:

http://www.metrokc.gov/kcdot/transitnow/chart_rapidride.pdf

One would hope that LINK will serve as a corridor as well.

I think we should provide transit service to the suburbs. I think they should pay their share, and I think Seattleites who are making trips around town shouldn't suffer less service because of the 40/40/20 rule. Given the structure of most suburban routes, the overwhelming majority of demand is at rush hour - few suburban routes exist to move between suburbs on non-peak hours. Perhaps we could charge a bit more for the peak hour trips from, say, Issaquah to downtown Seattle? I'm not trying to punish anyone who isn't making a lot of money, and I get that housing costs have pushed people farther and farther afield. But on the other hand, the folks who are riding the 2/3/4 in my neighborhood at mid-day are often doing it because they don't own or have access to a car, and I don't want to punish them either. If you go back and look at Metro timetables from the '80s, you'll see we actually had more frequent service on many of the in-city trolley routes than we do today. Tell me how that's fair.

Posted by John | April 1, 2008 11:51 AM
53

john -- small busses in the suburbs.

one question about the suburbs would be: is the goal to provide transit alternatives or commute alternatives?

i almost think changing more during off-peak hours would fit the model better. meaning, the higher cost in the outlaying areas is to support off-peak hours.

Posted by infrequent | April 1, 2008 12:01 PM
54
Posted by Dawgson | April 2, 2008 2:12 PM
55

I take it back.: As if one cue, two drunk homeless (?) guys got on the bus and harassed me, the woman next to me, and the two men across from us. They educated us about how we were "faggots" and how our goal was to "get straight men with families to suck our dicks."

One started getting in our faces while exiting. I refuse to believe this is just my bad luck -- I think this is frighteningly common on routes that aren't work commutes. Why is the behavior allowed?

Posted by Dawgson | April 2, 2008 9:27 PM

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