Transit Sleuth Weekly Picture (005)

A little late in the day, but delivered none the less. The Weekly Picture. Enjoy. 🙂

Light Rail Off to the High Rail Segment Over SODO

Light Rail Off to the High Rail Segment Over SODO

 

 

Lunch Grub and a Wondering Trip

I decided to take a trip north from downtown today via the #358.  I then determined I could get some lunch around the Aurora Transit Center.  After that I’d board one of the SWIFT BRT Buses to check out how legit the BRT Service is to Everett.  Once there I wasn’t sure what I’d do exactly, but figured I’d jump on the Sound Transit #510 Express back to downtown.  Well, most of that plan went down without a hitch, however a bit got added on to it.

Android Arrival Times

Android Arrival Times

I checked the ETA of the #358 arrival with the Android OneBusAway App written by Paul Watts via my HTC Evo (This is an amazing phone btw, if you’re in the market for a phone).  At about ten minutes before the estimated arrival I walked out and crossed the streets of Denny and Aurora.  It can usually take about 6-8 minutes because of the all the lights and cross walk nonsense at this intersection.  I boarded the #358 at 11:03am headed north at Denny and Aurora (Hwy 99).  The bus took no time to clear the lights there and merge onto Aurora (99). The #358 Route travels north from the International District (i.e. Chinatown) all the way up Aurora Avenue (Hwy 99) to the Aurora Village Shopping Center, where the Aurora Transit Center is.

Aurora Village Transit Center

Aurora Village Transit Center

The ride is an ok one, even though the scenery for the majority of the trip is just sprawlling highway retail and light industrial with residential shoved in here and there. Away from the highway no more than a block though everything is residential, light and medium. Mostly it is single occupancy housing. However in almost every direction it is unfortunately trashy looking. The highway itself is just beat up and the storefronts along the highway look almost 3rd worldish. I can’t really say I was surprised since most of America actually looks this way and more is beginning to. The middle class only has more of this to look forward to. With sprawl at the intensity it is built out in the United States the more drain it will have on the middle class, pushing them either farther down into poverty or locking them into the mediocrity of it all.

The one hold out along the entire route is the Aurora Bridge across the waterway.  The view is striking in every direction.  When coming back into the city this way you can see the skyscrapers downtown peaking out of the hills.  The rest of the trip really isn’t advised, unless you’re just up for exploring as I was today.

I made it to Aurora Village and had a cheese steak at Jersey Mike’s.  After that I walked the couple hundred feet back to the Aurora Village Transit Center and boarded one of the SWIFT BRT Buses toward Everett.  I noted a few specific things about the BRT Service.

The route map covers 17 miles, so it isn’t a short route.

SWIFT Route Map

SWIFT Route Map

When boarding, but before departure the first thing I noticed was the massive space consumed for the bike racks.  There are three racks inside the bus.  Only bikes can go on these, one can’t stand in the space or sit as they’re positioned in an awkward way.

The Awkward Bike Racks

The Awkward Bike Racks

The second thing I noticed was a minimal amount of seating.  Compared to most of the 60′ buses there is almost 2x as much seating as on these BRT buses.  I do understand though, these buses aren’t really oriented toward sitting, but instead they’re designed to quickly board and hustle you to your next stop.  But this is the US, we’ve strewn everything all over the place, sprawling from one shoreline to the other.  NOTHING is really close together in this country except in a few select cities and in a few select areas of those cities.  We have built this nation from a position of logistical idiocy – which makes the fact that there are no seats for a 17 mile trip, that takes about 30 minutes, rather odd.  Add to that an obesity rate for more than half the population, and you’re bound to have some poor fat person standing up, struggling not to fall over after a short period of time.  But then again, I guess that’s why transit riders are often 2-3x more likely to be in good shape than automobile users.  Anyway, I thought it odd that they have so few seats.

A better solution, than this type of bicycle rack would be to use hanging racks like on the light rail in Portland.  Hanging bikes is a much better option than occupying space that otherwise people could use when there isn’t a bike.

The other thing I noticed was the odd configuration of the handicap area – which again consumes what would normally be about 6-8 seats or more – but I digress, I’m fully supportive of handicap access.

The entry and exit onto the vehicle was extremely smooth.  As one would expect, by paying before you board it makes getting on and off much quicker.  To make this even easier there are three large doors on the bus.

The Three Doors on the SWIFT Buses

The Three Doors on the SWIFT Buses

Overall the ride was very smooth.  Much better than the poor old beat up buses King County Metro uses for the #358 route.  Of course, these are really new buses.  Considering the not so great condition of a lot of the route these buses will most likely be just as clunky in 10-15 years.

SWIFT

SWIFT

On a somewhat less important note, I also observed that the SWIFT branding was really nice.  Especially compared to the dark and humdrum color schemes of King County Metro.  Their colors are rather depressing, but the SWIFT branding was lively and clean.  On that same theme Community Transit appears to be doing a great job keeping these vehicles clean, as the bus was spotless when I rode.

Last but not least, this route being about as long as the #358 route, took about 2/3 as long.  I think it was about 30 minutes for the 17 mile trip, which by any measurement is really quick along a 45 mph mixed corridor roadway.

After the ride I arrived at Everett and walked around the station and took some photos.  I’ve included those below (more blog entry after the pictures too):

Sound Transit #510 from Seattle

Sound Transit #510 from Seattle

Everett Transit #13

Everett Transit #13

#510 Coming to the Transit Center for the South Bound Trip to Seattle

#510 Coming to the Transit Center for the South Bound Trip to Seattle

I-5 Crossing the Waterway into Seattle

I-5 Crossing the Waterway into Seattle

After the arrival on the SWIFT in Everett I didn’t stay around long, possibly a total of 9 minutes before a #510 south bound arrived.  I boarded immediately and off to Seattle I went.  The trip wasn’t too exciting, a little traffic close to the I-5 Biridge, but all else was calm and tranquil.  The overall trip on the #510 is smoother than the #358 or SWIFT, the express bus moving along at 50-60 mph on Interstate makes for a much smoother ride than the old Aurora 99 Highway.

I arrived back downtown and did some work at Zeitgeist Coffee.  When done with the work I up and footed it around the area a bit and caught a lot of photographs.  Here are a few of the better ones.

 

Dragon

Dragon

Sounder

Sounder

Light Rail Sign

Light Rail Sign

Amtrak Cascades Departing for Portland

Amtrak Cascades Departing for Portland

Buses EVERYWHERE!!!

Buses EVERYWHERE!!!

Sound Transit #590 Heading to Tacoma

Sound Transit #590 Heading to Tacoma

King Street Station, Once the tallest in Seattle Looking up to Columbia Tower, Now the Tallest

King Street Station, Once the tallest in Seattle Looking up to Columbia Tower, Now the Tallest

Transit Sleuth Weekly Picture (002)

Sound Transit #554 Issaquah Highlands

Sound Transit #554 Issaquah Highlands

A Few Not So Great Shots of the Snow

…with of course a transit focused emphasis.  🙂

A Little Bit of Commentary

So almost every single bus line is either shut down, on snow routes, or almost non-operational.  Same thing happened to TriMet when it snowed and they got slammed for it.  A few people in the community even ranted and raved about how TriMet had done a horrible job keeping the buses running.  They noted that “Seattle didn’t have this problem and Seattle does way more to keep the buses running”.  I can officially say that is not the case.  The simple fact is, “BUSSES CAN’T RUN DURING THE SNOW!?!?!?!!!!”

Meanwhile in the reality of the realm of physics and serious infrastructure, Sounder and Link Light Rail are running just fine.  There was a small delay on a Sounder run this evening.  Thousands of people used this non-auto, non-bus based transport to get home without interruption or “alternate routes”.  In inclement weather (which it seems we’ll be getting more and more of over the next century) rail absolutely rules.  Rubber on road is an absolutely inferior technology for this type of situation.  Also to add, the streetcar in Tacoma and Seattle are running without interruption.  Seriously, American cities desperately need more rail.  Not BRT, not extended buses, not all wheel drive buses, but rail.  Hard care, large scale, massive infrastructure with trains and light rail on rail.  It doesn’t stop during snow, heat, or otherwise.  It is only minimally hampered in all but the most harsh weather.  But I digress, on to more winter wonderland fun…

…with two last links…

Some news about all the snow on the Capital Hill

…and some sledding/luging down Denny.

Seattle, A Tech Friendly Town? Sort of…

I’m going to start out with a rant, probably end with a rant too.  Seattle has some serious catching up to do.  For such a smart, educated, progressive city it has really missed a few key advances compared to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia.  I’m going to cover a few of these points now, so get ready.

First Point, I Want Transit Data NOW

Trimet has been a leader in this for about 6+ years.  Metro, Sound, Pierce, and the other agencies can’t seem to coordinate this in an efficient, standards based way.  Even though Vancouver, BC hasn’t been a leader with this, they’ve definitely made short order of catching up.

The solution is for the Seattle area agencies to coordinate and get the web services deployed, possibly using cloud technology (Amazon & Microsoft are IN TOWN!?!?!?), that provides real time location and other information.  This has been provided by TriMet for years, and even the MTA in New York (notoriously behind on technology too) has started providing this data.

Second Point

Timeliness has fallen apart completely in the US.  Metro, Sound, and others are on queue for this.  Especially Metro, as I haven’t ridden a bus that is on time. I know I know, it is inherent in any mixed travel lane service.  This is true.  Sound proves this even further with the timeliness of the Sound Commuter Rail.  Their on time arrivals are very high percentages.  But the bus system desperately needs help.

Solution is to either get the first point above taken care of ASAP or get services that can be on time (i.e. BRT, LRT, and dedicated transit lines).

Third Point

Actually get downtown figured out, and stop giving everything to the automobile.  If Seattle wants to get closer to the smart populations of Portland, Vancouver, Chicago, or New York in regards to transit share.  Better yet, get closer to a larger walking share.  Seattle transit authorities need to find some way to work closer with developers and getting downtown oriented more for pedestrians, especially in the residential parts of downtown.

Downtown Seattle absolutely kicks ass.  It is a fun place to be, a fun place to live, and can be very efficient.  However, the transit and development hasn’t lent itself to appropriate pedestrian friendliness.  There needs to be more tree lined streets, dedicated pedestrian crossings (especially on Pike & Pine), and other pedestrian friendly requirements.  New Orleans has it, Portland, Vancouver, and even parts of New York, Chicago, and other places.  Seattle has a rough spot around this aspect of life though.

Solutions Right Here in the City

Some prime examples of pedestrian friendly areas include Fremont, and Ballard.  These two town centers actually provide great examples of intelligent build up that Seattle might take care to notice.  Such as the tree lined streets, a number of streets that are no more than two lanes (yes, Seattle IMHO should decrease the size of some of their multi-lane boulevards).  This creates a much better atmosphere for street shopping, and other such pedestrian activities.

There are other points, and I know Seattle is working on learning from these areas, but it needs to a bit harder.  Seattle needs some hard line edge against the “let’s build more really big roads” mentality.  It doesn’t work and there is enough evidence to point that out.  I’m not anti-car, just anti-car commuter (the SOV people).  The “congestion” based lifestyle that so many “keeping up with the Jones’” create lies in the realm of mass stupidity.  Maybe one day we can cure it?

Metro (and Sound Transit) Rock Star Drivers!

I made perfect connections this morning!  I was stoked!  After boarding the Metro #5 to cover a few quick blocks to downtown I then transferred to the next #545 coming down the street.  To make matters even more awesome, another #545 had just come by running late.  So when I boarded this bus I was the first rider of the route.

This is when the rock star maneuvering of empowered drivers took effect.  We were bunched so closely with the leading #545, it was picking up customers that would normally have been riding this bus.  The driver decided proactively to circumvent the twisted street up off of Olive way and instead head to Montlake.  This would serve two purposes, relieve some of the packing on the first bus, and enable a reasonable pickup for this bus.

The idea worked beautifully!  My commute was looking to be a record 19 minutes flat on the #545.  I’m impressed.  TriMet, eat your heart out on that maneuverability!

Another Way Home

I set out on a very round about alternate route home today.  Events and scheduling of the day had lined up perfectly for such an alternate trip.

My normal trip home from Redmond, Washington is to board the #545 at Overlake Transit Center bound west for Seattle proper, once there I just walk about towards home, sometimes from the downtown core or sometimes down Denny or through South Lake Union.

Today I’m heading south from Overlake Transit Center on the #566 headed for Auburn, Washington.  The bus takes a trip south down through Bellevue, then on down I-405 toward Kent.  From either Kent, or a stop before then, I intend to transfer and hopefully catch a north bound Sounder Train.  Since this is a rather spontaneous effort, I could be stranded at any random location.  However, I’ve no fear, so “meh” I say.

I ended up realizing I wasn’t going to make the Sounder, so decided to get off at the Renton Transit Center in downtown Renton.  It seemed I had good timing as I got off the bus and walked right into the Renton Farmer’s Market!  Kettle corn was smelling great, freshly cooked up, and all sorts of tents offering various things.  I love these bits of community, absolutely great!

I however skipped out on the farmers market and went into a local establishment called Best Burger.  It was located directly across the street from the transit center.  Further along 3rd the Italian Joint almost caught me, but I wanted something along the junk food line of American Burger.

Route #106

Afterwards I scoped out a return trip to Seattle proper.  I ended up with deciding on the Metro #106 Route.  It has a winding route from Renton, by Rainer Beach a ways, and up and over Beacon Hill.  Unfortunately it doesn’t pass by the actual Beach, I’m still curious to see the area.

The bus wound up over steep hills, twisting and turning through the streets.  We left Renton without much to notice we did and onward toward Rainier Beach Area.  The skyline was beautiful, with trees reaching up broke the spears of sunlight.  Each ray of light flashing as the trees gave relief to those sitting by the windows of the bus.  However several people still shielded their eyes from the brightness.

Once the bus made it to the top of the hill, one could look back and see off into the distance as we turned.  The bus stops seemed like they were every block or two now.  If you’ve checked out the link for the #106 route, you’ll see that there are a great number of stops along this route.  This is one of the reasons that I chose it, as I knew the run would be a bit slower, making it easier to take in the view of the route.

Moving along the spine of the hills we entered Skyway.  Once on this rode I knew I had picked a gem of a route.  This part of town was pretty sketchy.  Businesses along the way were open, but just as many were shuddered.  Some of the single level buildings, and some two story buildings weren’t shuddered, but could easily have been mistaken for being so.

We rolled further along the route through residential and commercial districts.  Along the decline of Skyway I looked out and could see the southern stretches of Lake Washington.  Highway 90 was in the distance, with cars the size of ants zipping across.  The water looked smooth glimmering in the sunlight.  The tree lined shores of the island broke the water with vertical ease.  With the sun and blue  skies this was a rare sight for this area I’m sure!

A little further along the route intersected with the Link Light Rail at the Rainier Beach Stop.  From this intersection the route zigzagged back uphill.  Some of the views down on Lake Washington are awesome from up here on this route.  At this point, I’m glad I decided on this one!

Georgetown!

After a bit further a plane came SCREAMING overhead!  I bound across the bus to see where it was in bound for.  Sure enough we were by the Boeing Airfield south of downtown Seattle.  We pulled up at the first stop in Georgetown and I saw a cool music shop and next to it a coffee shop.  I then commenced to walk along the street in Georgetown and be wowed and the coolness of the area.  Absolutely loud, being sandwiched between an air field, the Interstate, multiple rail lines, and other industrial nitty gritty, but awesome atmosphere for rock n’ roll, biker bars, and the like.  Very rock star is what I’m saying.

I walked around for about 45 minutes and then headed onwards toward downtown.  That was my commute home for today, slightly different than the norm.  :)  Cheers!