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Monday, July 23, 2007


posted by on July 23 at 19:18 PM


Dominic Holden took this picture five minutes ago at the corner of John and Broadway. In addition to the four stalled buses pictured—the one in the intersection stalled, the others can’t move—there is a fifth bus behind him.


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It's the great pumpkins way of telling us to all ride bikes.

Posted by Joh | July 23, 2007 7:35 PM

This is far too coincidental to be anything but a coordinated failure.

Posted by Gomez | July 23, 2007 7:49 PM

when is this little pretend town going to get a real public transit system and become an actual city?

Posted by douglas | July 23, 2007 7:49 PM

Build. Light Rail. Now.

I don't care if they pave from here to Yakima. Give me an alternative.

Posted by MHD | July 23, 2007 7:56 PM

Here comes BRT!

Posted by Eric Grandy | July 23, 2007 8:07 PM

LOL... I'm so glad I decided to eat on 15th instead of taking a bus downtown. :D

Anyhoo... Can we get some kind of new system that works? Please?

Posted by Phelix | July 23, 2007 8:28 PM

Ha ha! Ha ha! Mr. Edison. You and your shortsighted little minded tinkerings. See where they get us!! Wires, wires, wires. Just like an American like the marionette wire the secretly guide your every move, marionette wires pulled by the agents of wealth and avarice. You Mr. Edison have taken a great force that should rightly have been harnessed to liberate mankind and have turned it into an agent oppression. May you rot in hell Mr Edison. May you rot in hell.

Posted by Nicoa Tesla | July 23, 2007 8:29 PM

HEY GUYS... coordinated failure!! I'm not being facetious! Six buses don't all stall at the same time in the exact same place!

Posted by Gomez | July 23, 2007 8:33 PM

These buses are trolleys. That means all those buses have only electric engines and run off the overhead powerlines. The same overhead powerlines. It looks like the one in the intersection either lost its connection to the lines or broke down. No electricity = no power to the engine= no movement. With it blocking the way the other buses can't get around without losing their connection...etc, etc.
And so, while I agree that light rail is a great thing, I would point out that the same problem can and does occur on rail lines. There is no way to get around a breakdown when everyone is running on the same lines- rail or, in this case, power.

Posted by Alli | July 23, 2007 8:36 PM

Gomez, doesn't it say that the first bus is the one that's stalled? The others have no way to go around it, but they're not "stalled" per se, they're just stuck.

Posted by Matt from Denver | July 23, 2007 8:37 PM

@ 9-

For myself, my problems aren't just with the #43 getting stuck and causing a back up of five buses or so. I understand that problems happen, and then the people who run the system have someone come and fix it.

My problems are how unreliable the buses are. How dirty they get. How they get bogged down in traffic.

What I want is a clean, timely, reliable system that is able to by-pass traffic, either by having a dedicated lane, or being elevated, or underground, or some other method. Give me that, or start working towards that, and I will be happy.

Posted by Phelix | July 23, 2007 8:46 PM

Phelix @ 11:

We already have infrastructure in place that enables cars, trucks, and buses to bypass surface street traffic with dedicated lanes. It is called the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Posted by ivan | July 23, 2007 8:56 PM

PROTIP: The only electric-only buses are the articulated MAN buses from decades ago and the single-axle trolleys. The articulated Breda buses (like the one on the near right in this picture) used to be the tunnel buses. They have diesel engines they can switch to when they go off electricity.

Posted by The CHZA | July 23, 2007 9:00 PM

This is what BRT looks like.

Posted by Dan Savage | July 23, 2007 9:08 PM

Before Metro/ST bought the new hybrids, the buses in the tunnel where dual mode Bredas. They had diesal and electric engines. It is my understanding that after the hybrids where put into service, some of the Bredas where reconfigured for trolley service only and thus had the diesal engines removed.
It doesn't really matter. The point is that sometimes the system backs up and you end up with buses lined up and down the street. The trolleys get stuck and the diesal coaches go around- if they can.
And I agree about the stinky buses. However, unless Metro is willing to put more money into security in the transit system, there are going to be people who stink up the trains too.

Posted by Alli | July 23, 2007 9:21 PM

I hav been saying for years to get rid of the trolley buses. This is why. That, and the unsightly wires.

Posted by elswinger | July 23, 2007 9:31 PM

Mmm...I just bypassed this clusterfuck in a 1976 AMC Pacer. Fuck ya.

Posted by Sally Struthers Lawnchair | July 23, 2007 9:36 PM

Hey Alli - the same problem can, but doesn't, occur on rail lines.

Posted by Ben Schiendelman | July 23, 2007 9:38 PM

Pacers are badass. The MOST badass.

Posted by Fnarf | July 23, 2007 9:40 PM


Posted by Mr. Poe | July 23, 2007 9:41 PM

10. Okay then, I'll quote Christopher's actual entry:

In addition to the four stalled buses pictured

If they're not stalled, then don't say they're stalled. Say they're blocked by a stalled bus. Four BLOCKED buses.

Posted by Gomez | July 23, 2007 10:20 PM

Re 18:
On a rail line it's often possible for a stalled train to be pulled or pushed by another train. Buses generally can't tow other buses.

Re 21:
Maybe the power to the trolley wires is out, and they're all dead in the water.

Posted by Orv | July 23, 2007 10:27 PM

People using this anecdotal evidence to claim that BRT doesn't work are using deceptive tactics. Our transit system is not a broken machine, it's just not a well-oiled one. I live in high-density Capitol Hill, take the bus every day, and 90% of the time have no problems whatsoever. The bus system needs three things. One, more routes to lower-density neighborhoods (Ballard, Phinney Ridge, et cetera). Two, more buses on the busier routes. And three, can we PLEASE get rid of the free ride zone? It turns the things into disgusting, smelly-assed rolling homeless shelters. Ugh. The sanitariness of our rapid transit system would skyrocket if we did away with this wrongheaded system. I'm sick of it. (That last bit was a little off-topic, I know, but it's a pet peeve.)

Posted by Justinius | July 23, 2007 10:59 PM


People using this anecdotal evidence to claim that BRT doesn't work are using deceptive tactics. ... The bus system needs three things. One, more routes to lower-density neighborhoods (Ballard, Phinney Ridge, et cetera). Two, more buses on the busier routes. And three, can we PLEASE get rid of the free ride zone?

OK, Justinius, you start by defending BRT and then you bestow on us the three things our bus system needs -- presumably needs to make it BRT. Well, I'm sorry to inform you that more routes and more frequent buses do not constitute BRT. Sure, King County Metro may want to pass it off as that, but it's not.

If we're going to bandy about the initials "BRT," let's at least talk about actual BRT. I can think of a few minimal features:
* An extended dedicated right of way. Not just intermittent bus lanes in the few stretches where those lanes don't inconvenience anyone.
* Handicapped-ready buses that load like trains, with wide doors and cabins that are level with the loading platform.

The sad irony here is that the political reality that makes people like Venus Velazquez happy to talk about "bus rapid transit" is the same political reality that ensures that the audience Venus Velazquez et al are trying to please would cry bloody murder if we actually went ahead and built real bus rapid transit.

Posted by cressona | July 23, 2007 11:44 PM

Is Metro the new Seattle Weekly?

Jesus fucking christ, this scene can be scene at any given moment in downtown Seattle between 8am and 6pm. I still managed to get from downtown to Capitol Hill in about 5 minutes -- on a clean bus.

I could care less about BRT, but still, fuck y'all. Drive or bike. Just shut the fuck up about buses already. You already proved you don't know a goddamn thing about using the system, since some of you "don't do buses."

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | July 24, 2007 12:42 AM

May I take a moment to murmur quietly that, pre Tim Eyeman, we had a well-funded and CLEAN transit system.

But at least now we have $30 car tabs.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | July 24, 2007 6:37 AM

For you BRT aficionados, how do you propose that we build BRT on Capitol Hill? Which streets would we need to ban vehicular traffic on in order to get the system up and running? And how would you deal with the traffic at intersections? The new capitol hill subway will have none of these problems. It will have its own dedicated right of way, underground with no intersections to deal with.

Posted by Tiffany | July 24, 2007 7:29 AM

Pet peeve: It's a motor not an engine.

1.a. A machine that converts energy into mechanical force or motion.
b. Such a machine distinguished from an electric, spring-driven, or hydraulic motor by its use of a fuel.

The system that the transportation reporters and editors at the Stranger support for the west side of the city is Rapid Bus which is described by Metro (Sims) as having some dedicated lanes and frequent service. The key missing elements for BRT are the complete dedicated lane routes and the loading platforms on which people prepay or pay to enter so getting on and off the bus works like the free bus zone. BTW that's the main reason for the zone quick load and unload.

For about 95% of Capitol Hill residents the new subway will take longer to get downtown than it does now when considering door-to-door travel.

And it's diesel.

Posted by whatever | July 24, 2007 8:20 AM

This may just be a smidge of a taste of what's to come from August 10 - 29 when there's the complete shut down of I-5 North on the south end of downtown.

Vacation, carpool, bus, bike, or walk!
The DOT is requesting a 50% reduction in traffic flow in order to avoid city-wide gridlock.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | July 24, 2007 8:24 AM

To the transportation division of the Stranger (read anti vehicle pavement staffers) could you let us know what jobs you've had that involved driving a truck? This has more to do with the recent Stone Way to-do. When discussing any kind disruption of this kind of work (light industrial) it seem a perpective that may be lacking.

Posted by whatever | July 24, 2007 9:13 AM

ah perspective

Posted by whatever | July 24, 2007 9:16 AM

Ivan @ 12-

The viaduct doesn't serve the whole city... what if I want to go from downtown, say Pacific Place, to the University District, or more likely Capitol Hill. The viaduct does nothing for me there.

Posted by Phelix | July 24, 2007 9:28 AM

22. Well then, it would go back to my original point. I was simply humoring the notion that only one bus has stalled.

Posted by Gomez | July 24, 2007 10:52 AM

"I live in high-density Capitol Hill, take the bus every day, and 90% of the time have no problems whatsoever."

Justinius, so have I - and oftentimes it was faster to walk. And you're probably only going a short distance; take a look at all the buses jammed up on the HOV lanes coming into the city each morning and see what happens the second they have to merge into general purpose lanes - then, multiply 3x the congestion, and that's what we have coming in 25 years. (those suburban buses then get to struggle back against the tide and against reversible express lanes to go back to pick more people up)

People like Gomez preach BRT, but haven't been able to figure out where those BRT lanes would actually go in densely populated areas like Capitol Hill. The streets are already filled with cars, and local business depends on on-street parking for their livlihood. So, I ask again, where do the bus lanes go????

"The bus system needs three things. One, more routes to lower-density neighborhoods (Ballard, Phinney Ridge, et cetera). Two, more buses on the busier routes."

Transit Now is delivering some new service hours and bus facilities to Ballard - but the routes will still be pretty slow. And packed, as Ballard grows by leaps and bounds. Phinney Ridge has limited bus service, as most of those hills and narrow streets cannot be traversed by Metro's coaches. Not only that, but there simply aren't any available new service hours to keep up with demand in the city (the suburbs got tired of subsidizing the city, and have gobbled up 80% of new available service). The 70's series are packed to the gills (even when UW is out) and now we have public high school students being switched over to Metro service - again, with no new service hours to accommodate them.

We need good bus service for local routes and to feed rail lines, but we need rapid rail to get us transit patrons out of gridlock. And we 'ain't seen nothin' yet when it comes to gridlock...

Posted by BusRider | July 24, 2007 2:50 PM

I hav been saying for years to get rid of the trolley buses. This is why. That, and the unsightly wires. elswinger

Because diesel exhaust is healthier? Because diesel exhaust is smellier and would validate Dan "Republican" Savage's prissy aesthetic objections to buses? Because backups like the one pictured are so rare that they are jumped on and given hysterical coverage by Stranger stafftards?

Posted by greg | July 24, 2007 3:46 PM

We have had Trolleybuses for 67 years now. The problem is, we decided to find cheap ways of sustaining them, and missed out on several attempts at a joint order, the latest was with Vancouver's Translink. Of the 5 remaining systems in the U.S. with Trolleybuses, most chose to have either an APU or a battery. Perhaps it was a bad idea not to include at least a Diesel APU int he 4200s, in their older life, they had a Diesel Engine as well as the electric motor.

Now with Light Rail, High Speed Crossovers would allow the trains to pass.

Posted by EvergreenRailfan | July 24, 2007 6:59 PM

Here is a little bit on what Metro missed out on by deciding to go with converting the Tunnel Fleet into new trolleybuses.

Now I would like to see more trolleybuses, as Seattle's terrain was made for them, in a way. In 1970, Seattle Transit almost gave those then and now who hate trolleybuses there wish. THey tested a brand new GMC Diesel against a 1940 worn out Twin Coach Trolleybus, on the toughest grade. Queen Anne Ave, the Trolleybus won. Trolleybuses have superior braking capability. the brand new diesel in the test at best got 9MPH on Queen Anne Ave, the worn out Trolleybus, got 18MPH. The AMG General Trolleybuses that were bought in 1978, and retired in 2002/2003, were part of a joint order with Philadelphia. Philadelphia almost dumped their's a few years ago. Instead, they bought new ones. They also have some routes that have an extra set of wires for express operations.

Posted by EvergreenRailfan | July 24, 2007 7:12 PM

To the commenter who suggested we get rid of the electric buses: you must not be from planet Earth, because if you were, you would care about planet Earth and not want more of those pollution-spewing diesel and diesel hybrid stink-pots!

It's good to see that most of the commenters appreciate the benefits of electrics!

The only problem with the electrics is that Metro is a bit too cheap to do it right by having auxiliary power like other bus companies - Vancouver and SF, for example - do with their electrics. Auxiliary power eliminates most of the problems like those in the picture by letting electrics get out of the way on the relatively rare occasions when they become disconnected from the wires.

Instead, Metro recycled their worst old buses into trolleys - the only kind of recycling I don't like!

Posted by Bobby H. | July 24, 2007 8:33 PM

Evergreen, you seem very excited, ol' chum. Don't neglect to mention that stopped on the steepest of inclines, electric buses have 100% torque upon release of the brakes, ol' chap.

Posted by John H | July 24, 2007 9:10 PM

the incident seems to be on westbound John Street at Broadway. The lead coach was a 43 shuttle trip returning to base via Broadway. Behind it was a Route 8 diesel and two more Route 43's, one of which was probably going downtown via Bellevue Avenue and Pine Street.

The lead coach got caught in a deadspot (no power due to a gap in the special work) while in the middle of its turn and stalled. This sometimes happens when a driver must end a turn when interrupted by a pedestrian or other vehicle.

The last MAN articulated trolley was retired this week. All the articulated trolleys in use (e.g., routes 7, 43, 44, and 49) are the converted Bredas with the diesel engine removed.

The slightly good news is that due to a recent change in relief practice, there are fewer Route 43 shuttle trips making the movement shown blocked.

What could SDOT do to improve trolley flow? Provide in-lane stops. They did just that at a few stops on North 45th Street in Wallingford for Route 44. But consider Broadway used by Route 49. It has a stupid three-lane profile and each bus stop is a bus trap. And, both Broadway and 10th Avenue East have too many bus stops. We can walk a bit more. Let the buses go.

Posted by eddiew | July 27, 2007 12:23 AM

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