Tomorrow is Bus Driver Appreciation Day. (Two holidays in one week!) Since last year, I’ve learned that Metro drivers are not allowed to accept gifts, but (as far as I know) there’s no rule against letting your favorite drivers know their hard work matters to you.
One of my very favorite organizations, Transportation Choices Coalition, held a bake sale at Aurora Transit Center this morning (yes, folks, it has come to that) to draw attention to the funding crises that our state’s transit agencies are facing.
Wish I could have been there. In addition to supporting more transit options in the region, I also fully support increased dessert options in my household. We’re down to a single Girl Scout cookie, and Chicklet’s already got dibs.
• Another fare increase: Starting January 1st, a one-zone peak-hour trip will cost $2.25. (Note: Youth fares will not change.)
• No more Puget Passes: Need a bus pass? Get an Orca card. They’re free until January 31st, and then they’ll cost $5. (Note: All passes purchased in 2009–before the December 15th deadline–will be valid until they expire, and all employer-provided passes will be accepted until the employer makes the transition.)
• No more paper transfers between systems: You’ll still be able to use paper transfers within Metro’s system, but only Orca-based electronic transfers will be valid on Link and buses operated by other transit agencies.
You can find all the details in this Metro press release.
Also note: Contrary to the Council’s somewhat misleading press release, February shakeup will include some service loss. Though (thanks to added service in certain corridors) there will be no net loss of service hours, some trips (certainly far, far fewer than we feared) will be eliminated. As far as I know, there’s no way to find out which trips will be cut until the new schedules are published. I’ll post more useful information as soon as I have it.
Update, 1/2: STB posted a good summary earlier in the month.
Assuming its final budget passes next week, the King County Council will not–I repeat not–cut bus service in 2010. From yesterday’s PI:
The council’s soon-to-be-released budget plan will not cut Metro Transit bus service next year as first proposed to fill a projected $213 million revenue shortfall over the next two years, councilmembers announced.
Instead, the council says its final 2010 budget plan will sufficiently plug the gap by diverting money from the King County Ferry District and by adopting recommendations from an audit that found $44 million in potential savings through running more efficient bus routes and other changes. In addition, Metro will eliminate 43 staff positions unrelated to bus service and start selling full bus-wrap advertising.
This is goodness–well, maybe not goodness, but not nine percent across-the-board cuts, either.
Though I happen to love the Water Taxi, I’m all for putting the Ferry District expansion on hold while we figure out how to keep existing transit service afloat. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) I have a feeling that the audit “efficiencies” they’re proposing to implement will actually negatively affect on-time performance, but that’s just a hunch, and regardless, I’ll take ’em.*
I am very (very!) glad to see that bus wraps are back in the mix. When the Council banned them in 2006, Metro lost three quarters of a million dollars in painless** annual revenue. At roughly $100 bucks per service hour, that’s a lot of service to give up over a handful of complaints.*** And since the program capped the number of wrapped coaches at 25, it affected a very small percentage of riders on a given day.
Me? I’d ride a wrapped bus every day (shoot, for every ride) before I’d give up service. But I digress.
The no-service-cuts budget also includes a 50-cent fare increase over the next two years: the 25-cent increase planned for January and another in 2011. Eh–so it goes. Ideal transit scenarios aside, I guess we all have to be willing to pay our fair share.
Update, 11/23: Looks like the budget was unanimously approved today.
*That is, assuming they don’t involve adopting the proposal to replace trolleys with diesel/electric hybrids.
**A vendor managed the selling and installation for a cut of the profits.
***Less than one percent of all of KC Metro’s complaints that year
Link’s Airport Station will open on December 19th.
Passenger service at Sea Tac / Airport Station begins at 10 a.m. on Dec. 19th. Normal Link operating hours are from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. Sea Tac / Airport Station connects to the airport garage via a pedestrian walkway. Airport passengers will follow a separated guideway through the garage to the main terminal. Luggage carts will be available at the station.
See you on the train!
As much as we all enjoyed guessing which routes were running (and where) during last year’s big snowstorm(s)…
Metro’s developed a new plan to improve predictability and communication during severe winter weather. From a KC Metro press release:
This season, customers will be able use the Internet to quickly see which buses in the Metro system are on snow route based on “geographic area.” Just as congestion is measured by color on congestion flow maps, the use of green, yellow or red on Metro’s new online snow map will give riders a snapshot of bus operations in each of seven geographic areas of the county. Green will indicate buses are operating on normal routes, yellow will signify minor reroutes (primarily in higher elevation areas), and red will alert customers that buses in the entire geographic area are on snow route or are being significantly impacted by snow.
If a major snowstorm spanning several days strikes, Metro will activate a newly designed Emergency Service Network for its fleet. When the network is activated, Metro’s regular routes will be replaced with 70 pre-identified “priority” snow routes across the county designed to be reliable in severe weather conditions. Metro will make every attempt to keep service operating on these routes as long as transportation service providers are able to keep roads passable.
…Customers are also being encouraged to sign up online for enhanced Metro Transit Alerts being launched today that will deliver email or text messages about widespread service disruptions or weather events impacting their individual bus route.
Hallelujah. (I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for targeted alerts.) And about those impassable roads…
Based on lessons learned last winter, Metro has revised and simplified snow routes and has closely coordinated with other public works and transportation agencies to make sure bus routes are identified as priorities for plowing and sanding. Agency leaders also negotiated a separate agreement with the city of Seattle to exchange staff during weather emergencies for improved coordination and to help the city plow streets, if necessary, in an effort to keep buses moving.
I can’t say I’m eager to test the new system this winter, but–should the unthinkable happen (again)–here’s hoping for clear sidewalks, so folks can actually make it to the routes that are running.
This one’s for transit-geek types:
Transit Applications and Data Workshop
What: A workshop for developers who make (or want to make) software applications using Metro’s data.
Do you develop applications using transit data, or are you interested in doing so? Come to a free workshop hosted by King County Metro Transit and tell us how we can partner with you to make it easier. The event will include a panel discussion, an opportunity for participants to demonstrate their applications, a breakout session for exploring specific topics such as data feeds, real-time information, and upcoming updates in Metro technology.
When: Thursday, October 22nd, 4 PM – 7 PM
Where: King Street Center
How much: Free! (Registration is required.)
This is goodness. I am glad to see Metro taking advantage of our significant local brain resources. Partnering, educating, and providing easier access to data will only benefit the agency (and all of us).
P.S. – Bus Nerd (my favorite local brain resource) is planning to attend. :)
According the American Public Transportation Association, lots of folks who travel to major U.S. cities this summer will use public transit to get around those cities. From a recent press release:
In its Green Travel Forecast, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimates that 90 million American adults will travel to large American cities this summer. On average, one out of three people surveyed said they will tour green by using public transportation (34 percent)… A ranking of the top ten city destinations and their transit use among visitors follows:
• New York City (48%)
• Washington, DC (46%)
• Boston, MA (43%)
• San Francisco (40%)
• Philadelphia (34%)
• Chicago (31%)
• Seattle (30%)
• Las Vegas (26%)
• Los Angeles (26%)
• Atlanta (22%)
I love taking public transit in unfamiliar cities. Yes, there is the anxiety associated with learning a new system–how and when to pay, where to get off, etc. (thank God for the Internet)–but that is easily offset by the adventure factor. Plus, you learn a lot more about a city on a public bus (or train) than you ever would on a tour bus.
Here are some of the reasons the people surveyed are choosing to ride:
Sixty-two percent said it would be less expensive than taxicabs or rental cars, followed closely by 61 percent who say they won’t have to worry about finding a parking space for their vehicle. Another 48 percent say they will use public transportation when traveling because it is easier to use, while 42 percent like not having to drive around an unfamiliar city…
For those of you who are planning to travel to another city this summer, APTA has put together this guide: “Green Travel Forecast, a Consumer’s Guide to Touring American Cities in a More Environmentally Friendly Way.” The section on Seattle isn’t all that informative (it doesn’t really explain the relationships among the agencies or distinguish between commuter and city service), so I’m not sure how useful the stuff about the other cities is. Still, at the very least, it’s a good place to start for links.
Starting Sunday, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi (of September Golden Transfer fame) will be back in business. Service is free all day, and there will be a party (with refreshments, folks) at Seacrest Park.
From Metro’s site:
You are invited to the Water Taxi Kick Off event on Sunday, April 29th at Seacrest Park from Noon to 2:00 p.m. Enjoy entertainment at Seacrest Park in West Seattle, balloons and face-painting for the kids, free posters, refreshments and more! Service is FREE ALL DAY during the celebration event, so bring the family and friends!
I am so there. And since my dad lives across the street from Seacrest Park (and has never been one to turn down free food), I’m guessing I can talk him into going, too.