August 5, 2008
(This post also ran as an opinion article in Crosscut).
With gas prices still on the north side of four dollars per gallon, more people than ever are riding King County Metro buses in Seattle and some parts of its suburbs. Ridership was up 7 percent last year, and as the Puget Sound Business Journal's Dierdre Gregg reports, continued growth is straining the system. One effect: more riders get bypassed at stops as stuffed buses too often breeze right past. PSBJ:
For riders of King County's jam-packed buses, there's good news and bad news. The good: The Transit Now program, which voters approved in 2006, will add 15 percent to 20 percent more service over the course of 10 years. The bad: That growth pace doesn't come close to matching the growth in ridership. The number of people climbing aboard Metro has gone up by 20 percent in three years. Moreover, the number of full buses that bypassed waiting passengers jumped by 45 percent in just the last year. "Are we meeting the demand for bus services? The answer is no," said King County Executive Ron Sims. Despite the ardent desire of regional leaders like Sims to boost ridership, they have not carved a clear path for meeting the demand. Instead, local politicians are divided over whether to add transit taxes, fees and fares.
Sometimes Metro buses don't show up at all, or arrive far more than five minutes late, which is the system's on-time standard. An anecdote: Last month at 1st Avenue and Jackson Street in downtown Seattle, I waited for a Route #21 bus back to West Seattle that simply never came.
The same afternoon I was stood up by the #21, the #22 that was supposed to arrive 10 minutes later was still nowhere in sight 15 minutes after its scheduled arrival. I left. I learned later from Metro it did actually show up at First and Jackson. Eighteen minutes late. I'd like to say that in my experience these were isolated incidents, but they're not. It's been my impression, as a regular rider with an employer-provided bus pass, that about one in four waits for a Metro bus turns irrevocably fruitless either due to a no-show or excessive tardiness. I've received similar reports from other riders. The Seattle P-I noted earlier this year that on-time performance was down to 74 percent (it had been around 80 percent), and that more passengers getting on and off has added to delays.
To top it all off, lower than anticipated sales tax revenues mean Metro will be short $45 million, or almost that amount, in this and each of the next two years. As a result, Metro is publicly grappling with fare hikes higher than the envisioned 25 cents, or cutting back on new Transit Now service for which voters thought they were paying when approving a 2006 sales tax increase of .1 percent. The new money was supposed to fund more runs on heavily-used routes, and five new quasi-Bus Rapid Transit routes known as Rapid Ride. The triple-whammy of costlier fuel, slackening sales tax revenues and growing ridership is hitting bus transit systems nationwide.
Stiff fare hikes seem a small price to pay, if Metro can figure out a way to winnow its routes and improve consistency. To salve delays, Metro does offer an online, real-time tool so you can check if your bus is running on time before heading to the stop (no information is available for re-routed buses). The service can be helpful, but plenty of people don't have access to the Internet before going to a bus stop. Adherence to the published schedule is crucial, as is adequate capacity on major routes.
Cut the lowest-ridership routes, let's say the lowest one-third, and re-deploy the buses and drivers to the busiest runs, where riders are most often bypassed. Where regulations require that regional sub-areas be apportioned a certain percentage of total Metro bus service, the King County Council should confront those mandates head-on. We can let politics undermine a common-sense re-deployment of limited resources. But let's not.
There's some hope. Metro does indicate that it wants to consider cutting some routes to beef up others. In its 2007-2016 strategic plan, the agency discusses (on p. 1-4) the possibility of expanding, modifying or terminating some routes, based on performance.
Good. Metro also wants to make the published schedule more accurate. On p. 1-5 of the strategic plan, the agency says it aims to "improve on-time performance through routing adjustments, splitting of unreliable through-route pairs, adding of recovery time between trips...and adding time or trips to schedules to account for slower travel speeds or recurring overloads." The ten employees in the county's transit "speed and reliability" division should be able to figure it out. Myself, I'd settle for reliability. Predictability. It's the holy grail of transportation. Another way to cut loading and debarking times and help the buses run on schedule is with a mandatory pre-paid fare system, including scanners for fare compliance at dual, ground-level entrances/exits on each bus.
The issue of such costs tends to raise the issue of revenues, and smart financial planning. And there's an elephant on the bus. Metro needs a higher fare-box recovery ratio. One-zone peak hour per-trip fares are currently $1.75. At the same time, operating revenues provide little more than one-fifth of the operating budget, if you do the math on this Metro fact sheet. Users need to pay more freight. To set the tone, double the one-zone peak hour per-trip fare to $3.50. It's just a shade more than 20 minutes worth of wages for the lowest paid workers in King County. Let's raise the cost of monthly passes by a third. Sound extreme? So's the cost of fuel here compared to before; and that's not likely to change much in coming decades. Did we really expect to fully sidestep steep gas costs by riding the bus? If we don't pay more to ride the bus - a good bit more - we still pay a good bit more. Just in other ways (see above).
What's not on the table now, but should be, is a whole new business paradigm. Private bus operators would bid for key Metro routes, with contractor payments pegged to their adherence to on-time, service volume, capacity, cleanliness and other performance goals. It's not as though public-private partnerships for bus service are unheard of hereabouts. Sound Transit will be contracting for between three to five years with a private company to provide operations and maintenance for its Everett to Bellevue express route.
But for starters, Metro needs to brave controversy. First with a hefty fare hike, not an anemic 25 cents. Then by identifying the weakest performing routes and cutting them to help the real workhouse routes. Metro must also use its fairly robust internal performance reporting system to better effect, re-calibrating schedules so they more often comport with reality.
There's a way out of this whole mess, but it will require leadership from the King County Council and Executive.
| Comments (
June 9, 2008
In 2006, Cascadia Center co-sponsored an event, "A New Vision for Developing Transit for Livable Cities," which featured Enrique PeÃ±alosa. This weekend, the estimable The New York Times Magazine, featured PeÃ±alosa in its "Questions For" column.
Q: As a former mayor of BogotÃ¡, Colombia, who won wide praise for making the city a model of enlightened planning, you have lately been hired by officials intent on building world-class cities, especially in Asia and the developing world. What is the first thing you tell them? In developing-world cities, the majority of people don't have cars, so I will say, when you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing democracy. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality.
When the former BogotÃ¡, Columbia, mayor and Bus Rapid Transit proponent spoke in Seattle, he focused on his city's implementation of the TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit system. King County voted to implement a Bus Rapid Transit program not long after our event in 2006.
If you have the time, Deborah Solomon's brief one-page interview is interesting and certainly worth a few minutes. Whether you agree with him or not, PeÃ±alosa is always thought-provoking. And it's good to see that The New York Times Magazine's editorial team sees value, as we did nearly two years ago, in hearing (and sharing) what PeÃ±alosa has to say.
| Comments (
October 1, 2007
Being a good, environmentally-conscious citizen, I attempted to use mass transit to get from my home on Capitol Hill to my workplace in Renton the other day.
I went to King County Metro's trip planning page. The first round (point-to-point, .5 mile walk) culled 3 options averaging 3.5 hours and 4 transfers. The second round (point-to-point, 1 mile walk) gave 3 options, with two transfers and 3 hours. Third try (house address-to-Southcenter mall): an average of 1.25 hours, between one and two transfers. That does not include the 20 minute walk from Southcenter to the office in Renton. Total: close to two hours.
Are you kidding me?! Between 2 and 3 hours to get to work... each way?
Figuring this couldn't be right, I rode to Southcenter anyway. Two hours later, finally at work, I realized this scenario is why we will never solve our congestion problem with the current approach. Why would anyone take public transportation when it takes 2 hours to get to work... and only 20 minutes by car?
TECHNORATI TAGS: >PUGET SOUND, SEATTLE, SUBURBS, BUS SERVICE, COMMUTING, TRAVEL TIMES, ENVIRONMENT>
| Comments (
June 6, 2007
As part of its current budget proposal, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Los Angeles County is planning to add eight more "Metro Rapid" bus rapid transit routes to the 20 that will already be in operation by later this month. The LA Times reports. If you're someone at all inclined to take the bus to and from work once or more a week, see how this sounds.
Service on the Metro Rapid Program, implemented in June 2000, is 25% faster than regular service because the buses make fewer stops and run every three to 10 minutes during peak travel times, the MTA says. Also, the Rapid buses have equipment that extends green lights or changes red lights 10 seconds faster. By June 2008, 500 Metro Rapid buses, up from 359, will serve 28 transit corridors covering 420 route miles and 35 cities throughout the county.
More here on what makes Metro Rapid rapid. One additional factor is "low floor," near ground-level entrances; rather than the usual several steps. That's part of a larger Metro Rapid emphasis on cutting the amount of time that buses are stopped - either for passenger ingress and egress, or traffic signals.
In the central city-suburban core of the Seattle region, King County Metro, which operates a bus system and wastewater treatment facilities, is planning to initiate five bus rapid transit "RapidRide" routes as part of the "Transit Now" package approved by voters last fall. This map shows the routes. Metro says RapidRide service will include increased frequency, new buses, upgraded passenger waiting areas, and technology to synchronize traffic signals.
A clear and publicly-stated emphasis on fewer stops, enablement of faster boarding, and specific pledges of reduced travel times - as in LA - would be helpful, and increase public interest in the planned RapidRide routes. It would also be good to see King County Metro gather and make easily available online information on which among all current routes have the highest and lowest riderships. This could help guide decisions on re-allocating existing funding to additional, selected RapidRide routes.
Ridership data made easily available to the public online should include average and peak hour load factors (percentage of seats filled) for the given routes, and the system-wide average and peak load factors. Where a route's load factor continues running significantly below the system-wide average even at peak hours, that route should be cut, and the savings funneled into expansion of "best practices" rapid bus service on high-capacity transit corridors.
RELATED: "Fewer Bus Routes, More Frequency."
TECHNORATI TAGS: >BUS RAPID TRANSIT, LOS ANGELES, SEATTLE, KING COUNTY>
| Comments (
May 21, 2007
On days when telecommuting won't work, I park my car on a side street in West Seattle and take the bus downtown. After one or two round trips per week for four months, I'm not on the verge of driving instead, but I'm pretty unimpressed with King County Metro's on-time performance. The #54 is regularly five to ten minutes late getting to its Alaska Street stops on the way downtown, and two days in a row last week, between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m., the #55 bus from downtown back to West Seattle was running at least ten minutes late. The first time, when it finally did arrive, we sat through a green light while the driver finished up a personal cell phone call. The next day, more than 10 minutes after the #55 was to have left a stop two blocks north of where I was waiting on First Avenue, it still hadn't showed, and I boarded another bus headed near enough to where my car was parked.
For several years, riders on some Metro routes have been able to use certain cell phones or handheld Internet devices to tell when their buses are really expected to arrive. Now, a research project underway at the University of Washington is examining improvements in bus tracking via wireless Internet and global positioning system technologies. More and better information will be helpful, but, knowing the bus is running late doesn't get it there on time.
We may need to really re-think how our region's bus system is arranged. Quite possibly, what's needed are fewer routes, more greatly concentrated along selected major corridors, running to and from designated transit hubs with increased frequency. Add to this a greater reliance on paratransit options for the last few miles.
Punctuality is a minimum baseline expectation in the world of business and education. Managers and elected officials need to ensure their public transit systems conform to that expectation, and convey added value through speedier service delivery.
TECHNORATI TAGS: >KING COUNTY METRO, BUSES, ON-TIME PERFORMANCE, WEST SEATTLE, CORRIDORS, HUBS, PARATRANSIT>
| Comments (
April 6, 2007
Last updated August 25, 2008
The research, it just keeps coming. On this page, we'll compile links to key studies and reports on innovation in transportation.
MANAGING, PLANNING & FUNDING TRANSPORTATION
Cascadia Center Reports
"Lessons In Public-Private Partnerships & Climate Change: What British Columbia Taught California, And What Washington Can Still Learn," 10/07.
"A Tale Of Three Cities: How San Diego, Denver and Vancouver, B.C. Raised Major Regional Funds For Transportation," Doug Hurley, Cascadia Center For Regional Development, 9/06.
"Travel Value Pricing: Better Traffic Operations Management & New Revenue For The Puget Sound Region," John S. Niles, for Cascadia Center, 4/06.
"Transportation Working Group Recommendations," Transportation Working Group, Cascadia Center For Regional Development, 2/15/05.
Transportation Working Group background, members, and resource book.
"An Institutional Conundrum - A Simplified Overview Of Metropolitan Institutional Reform Applied To Transportation In The Puget Sound Region," Deb Eddy, Cascadia Center For Regional Development, 2004.
"How Do We Get There From Here? A Transportation Future For The Puget Sound Region," Bruce Agnew & Bruce Chapman, Cascadia Center For Regional Development, 2003. View the video, as aired on Seattle Channel, 5/20/05.
"Just Pricing: The Distributional Effects Of Congestion Pricing and Sales Taxes," Brian Taylor, UCLA Institute Of Transportation Studies; Lisa Schweitzer, School Of Policy, Planning And Development, University Of Southern California, 5/08
"Transportation For Tomorrow," National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission, 1/08.
"Running On Empty - 2007 Annual Report," Washington Transportation Commission, 12/07.
"Building New Roads Through Public-Private Partnerships: Frequently Asked Questions," Leonard C. Gilroy, Robert W. Poole, Jr., Peter Samuel, Geoffrey Segal, Reason Foundation, 11/07.
"Review Of Congressional Earmarks Within Department Of Transportation Programs," Office Of The Inspector General, U.S. DOT, 9/7/07.
"Case Studies Of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships In The United States," Aecom Consult Team, for U.S. DOT, Federal Highway Administration, 7/7/07.
"Case Studies Of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships Around The World," Aecom Consult Team, for U.S. DOT, Federal Highway Administration, 7/7/07.
Draft Vision 2040 Puget Sound Regional Council, 7/07.
"Lake Washington Urban Partnership," Washington State Department of Transportation, 4/30/07.
"Report On SR 520 Bridge Replacement And HOV Project Funding Alternatives," Seattle-Northwest Securities Corporation, Montague DeRose & Associates, LLC, 3/28/07.
"Destination 2030 - Taking An Alternative Route," Washington State Transportation Center/Booz Allen Hamilton (For King County Executive), 3/05/07.
"Overview Of National Strategy To Reduce Congestion On America's Transportation Network," USDOT, 3/07.
"Public-Private Partnerships For Toll Highways," Robert W. Poole, Reason Foundation, Testimony To U.S. House Committee On Transportation & Infrastructure, Subcommittee On Highways & Transit, 2/13/07.
"Report On The Transportation Innnovative Partnerships Program," Washington Transportation Commission, 1/07.
"Regional Transportation Commission Final Report," Regional Transportation Commission (of Puget Sound), 12/31/06.
"Washington Transportation Plan 2007-2026," Washington Transportation Commission, 11/06.
"Reducing Congestion In Atlanta: A Bold New Approach To Mobility," Robert W. Poole, Reason Foundation, 11/06.
"Public-Private Partnerships & The Development Of Transport Infrastructure: Trends On Both Sides Of The Atlantic," Benjamin G. Perez, PB Consult Inc., James W. March, Federal Highway Administration; 9/06.
"Transportation Finance At The Ballot Box: Voters Support Increased Investment & Choice," Center For Transportation Excellence, 8/06.
"Building Roads To Reduce Congestion In America's Cities: How Much & At What Cost?," David Hartgren, M. Gregory Fields & Robert W. Poole, Reason Foundation, 8/06; (WA state congestion analysis, from study).
"Why Mobility Matters," Ted Balaker, Reason Foundation, 8/06.
"Current Toll Road Activity In The U.S.: A Survey & Analysis," Benjamin Pereze, Steve Lockwood, for U.S. DOT, Federal Highway Administration, 8/06.
"Remarks Of Pat Jacobsen - CEO, Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority - To House & Senate Transportation Committees of Washington State Legislature, 1/19/06.
"Traffic Congestion & Reliability: Trends & Advanced Strategies For Congestion Mitigation," Cambridge Systematics & Texas Transportation Institute (for Federal Highway Administration), 9/1/05.
"2005 Urban Mobility Report," Texas Transportation Institute, 2005.
"Unclogging America's Highways - Effective Relief For Highway Bottlenecks," American Highway Users Alliance, 2/04
HUBS, CORRIDORS & GATEWAYS
" Canada: A Macroeconomic Study of the United States' Most Important Trade Partner,"U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Updated 9/15/06
Canadian Embassy State Trade Fact Sheet 2006, Canadian Embassy, 2006.
Canada/U.S. Regional Economies, Canadian-American Border Trade Alliance.
"Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative: The Basics," U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Resolution Of The West Coast Corridor Coalition, 11/03.
"From B.C. To B.C. - And Beyond - the Story Of The West Coast Corridor Coalition."
"Spatial Concepts & Cross Border Governance Strategies," Susan E. Clarke, University of Colorado, (presented to EURA Conference On Urban & Spatial Policies), 4/02.
"The Character of Non-Governmental Transborder Organizations In The Cascadia Region of North America," Lawrence Douglas Taylor Hansen, Revista Mexicana De Estudios Canadienses, 2/02.
SURFACE & MARINE TRANSPORTATION
Cascadia Center Reports
"Testimony In Support Of King County Passenger-Only Ferry District," Matt Rosenberg, 11/13/07.
"Alaskan Way Replacement: Alternative Approaches," Ove Arup & Partners, for Cascadia Center, 11/06.
"A New Vision For Developing Transit For Livable Cities." Enrique Penalosa, former
mayor of Bogota, Columbia speaks at a Cascadia Center co-sponsored event on implementation of Bogota's TransMileno Bus Rapid Transit system. Seattle Channel video, 9/27/06.
"Statement of Tom Till to Washington Transportation Commission On Amtrak & Related Issues, Including Availability of Federal Funding," 1/18/06.
"King County Passenger-Only Ferries Project Briefing Paper," IBI Group, for King County Executive, 11/7/07.
Puget Sound Regional Council Passenger-Only Ferry Study, 2007 (ongoing).
Chapter 7, "I-405 Plan: Transit and HOV", in "I-405 Congestion Relief & Bus Rapid Transit Projects - Final Recommendations Report," WSDOT. (See "I-405 BRT Service").
BNSF Corridor Preservation Study, Puget Sound Regional Council, 2/27/07.
Statewide Rail Capacity and System Needs Study, Washington State Transportation Commission, 12/06.
Columbia River Crossing Project Alternatives Page.
Willamette River Ferry Feasibility Study, City Of Portland Department of Transportation, 2006.
Waterborne Transit Policy Study, King County Department of Transportation, August, 2005.
Rich Passage Passenger-Only Ferry Study, Phase I, WSDOT, Federal Transit Administration, 4/05.
"Report Card For America's Infrastructure," American Society Of Civil Engineers, 2005.
TECHNOLOGY & ENERGY
Cascadia Center Reports
Speaker Presentations At Cascadia/Microsoft/Idaho National Laboratory "Beyond Oil: Transforming Transportation" conference, 9/4/08 and 9/5/08, Redmond, Wash. (Topics included electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, renewable energy, traffic management systems and technology, transit. Many of these files are very large and may take several minutes to open/download depending on your internet connection).
"Greening The Highway From Baja To B.C. - A Discussion Brief," Matt Rosenberg, 9/19/07.
"Replacing Oil With Electricity And Biofuels In Transportation: The Convergence Of Technology And Public Policy," Steve Marshall, 8/7/07.
Speaker Presentations at Cascadia-Microsoft "Jump Start To A Secure Clean Energy Future" Conference on Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Alternative Fuels, 5/7/07
Roger Duncan, Austin Energy/Plug-In Partners (4.78 MB)
Mark Duvall, Electric Power Research Institute (1.13 MB)
Andrew A. Frank, University of California/Davis (1.33 MB)
K.C. Golden, Climate Solutions (1.81 MB)
David Horner, U.S. Dept. of Transportation (700 KB)
Michael Kintner-Meyer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (1.91 MB)
Felix Kramer, CalCars.org (708 KB)
John M. Miller, Maxwell Technologies (496 KB)
Philip Mote, University of Washington (3.88 MB)
Tim Murphy, Idaho National Laboratory (674 KB)
Vic Parrish, Energy Northwest (494 KB)
Bill Reinert, Toyota USA (2.00 MB)
Bill Rogers, Idaho National Laboratory (1.05 MB)
Greg Rock, Green Car Company (82.9 KB)
Neil Schuster, Intelligent Transportation Society Of America (2.14 MB)
Rogelio Sullivan, U.S. Dept. of Energy (1.08 MB)
John Wellinghoff, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (4.23 MB)
Nick Zielinski, General Motors/Chevy Volt (1.79 MB)
"Basic Research Needs: Catalysis For Energy," (report from U.S. Dept. Of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Workshop), 8/07.
"Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles," Electric Power Research Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/07.
" Joint Science Academies Statement on Growth and Responsibility; Sustainability, Energy Efficiency and Climate Protection, for G8 Summit, 5/07.
"Fourth Assessment Report of Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change," United Nations, 4/07/07.
Annual Energy Outlook 2007 - With Projections To 2030," U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, 2/07.
Impacts Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles On Electric Utilities and Regional U.S. Power Grids; Michael Kintner-Meyer, Kevin Schneider, Robert Pratt; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 12/06.
"Alternative Fuels Study: A Report To Congress On Policy Options For Increasing The Use Of Alternative Fuels In Transit Vehicles," Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 12/06.
"Intelligent Transportation Systems Regional Architecture", Puget Sound Regional Council, IBI Group, 8/21/06.
"Future Visions," Washington Transportation Plan Update Process, WSDOT/Washington Transportation Commission, 6/17/05. (See pp. 27-34, "Intelligent Transportation Systems").
GridWise Program Overview, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Technological Basis For GridWise, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Primer On Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration, Intelligent Transportation Society Of America.
TECHNORATI TAGS: TRANSPORTATION, RESEARCH, TRANSPORTATION GOVERNANCE, TRAFFIC CONGESTION, TRANSIT, BUS RAPID TRANSIT, PASSENGER-ONLY FERRIES, TOLLS, PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS, SEATTLE, PUGET SOUND, CASCADIA, WEST COAST CORRIDOR, FRIEGHT, INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS, ALTERNATIVE ENERGY, ALTERNATIVE FUELS, PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES>
| Comments (
April 3, 2007
In a summary of its updated "Commuting In America" study, the Transportation Research Board reports that what might be called "commuting with benefits" is growing, as more drivers make more stops for other purposes on the way to and from work. Commutes are getting more complex, and the trend could lead to still more cars on the road rather than fewer. Planners, many politicians, and environmental advocates would like to see more transit use, but especially where key suburban commuters are targeted, that will depend on speed, frequency and convenience of service.
How does "trip chaining" play out presently here in Central Puget Sound? Driving back from your job in Bellevue to your affordable home in Maple Valley, you stop for groceries at the Renton Wal-Mart, then in Maple Valley at the dry cleaners. On to pick up one child in after-school care, and another a mile away as her dance lesson ends; she's been ferried there in the family's second vehicle by her other, work-at-home parent, who then departed for a carefully-timed business meeting in a local coffee shop. Multiply across the region, and stir.
From the "Commuting In Amercia" fact sheet:
This 'trip chain' increases the efficiency of overall travel but has the effect of increasing the number of non-work related trips occurring in the peak period.
The effects of "trip chaining" are also discussed in the Dec. 31, 2006 final report of the (Central Puget Sound) Regional Transportation Commission study group to Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state legislature, on pages 20-21:
...the majority of automobile trips are for...other than directly travelling from a residence to a place of work (during) peak hour because "trip chaining" commuters make stops in route to work or home; for example, to day care, school and shopping destinations. Increased travel is also a function of the increase in two-worker households, more dispersed trip patterns, and growth in areas that are accessible only by private auto.
Yet transit or carpooling can work for some commuters during peak hours on heavily-travelled corridors. The RTC report on p. 29 (Figure 3-15) notes that according to 2000 WSDOT data, during morning rush, 37 percent of person trips in peak direction on I-5 at Southcenter were HOV or transit; along with 23 percent on I-90 at Eastgate; and 30 percent on State Route 520 at 140th Ave. N.E. That's nothing to sneeze at, but commuters lacking neatly compact urban lifestyles will do what they must to get around.
Faster and more frequent transit in major corridors connecting suburbs to suburbs, combined with ample park and ride lots at both ends could help get some of these drivers out of their cars on some days. That transit solution could take the form of a Metropolitan Puget Sound Bus Rapid Transit System, along the lines of that proposed by Donald L. Padelford of Seattle. The vehicles might look something like that pictured above, right; and would run in dedicated lanes. We're a ways from any such decision, however, with a fall ballot measure looming to expand Sound Transit's light rail. Should that fail, it will be back to the drawing board, and surveys on transit preferences could help guide subsequent proposals to voters.
Commuting isn't mainly a spoke-and-hub proposition anymore. The TRB's "Commuting In America" study reports that trips from suburb to suburb now account for almost half of all metro-area commuting in the U.S., and for almost two-thirds of job growth. There is also sharp growth in the number of commuters who leave their home county for work. It's some 34 million daily, 85 percent more than in 1980. Solo drivers account for 80 percent of commutes, and carpooling and transit for most of the rest, in the nine largest U.S. metro areas, of population five million or greater. Go-it-alone drivers comprise 90 percent of commutes elsewhere in the U.S.
Yet TRB says "there are signs of saturation in the use of the private vehicle," as gains from 1990 to 2000 were markedly less than from 1980 to 1990. In five U.S. metro areas, solo drivers actually declined as a percentage of commuters from 1990 to 2000. The changes were exceedingly modest, though; less than one percent in four of the regions. In metro Seattle, that decline was greater than anywhere else, 1.5 percent.
A key indicator for any metro region, according to the authors of "Commuting In America," is the joint share of carpooling and transit in daily commutes. Few areas are above the desired 20 percent benchmark, which must be calculated based on all work-related commutes within a region, not just during peak hours, in one direction, and at selected locations.
Central Puget Sound of course faces the need for new or expanded roadways to replace two dangerously earthquake-prone and outmoded facilities, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and State Route 520 floating bridge. Across the region, other, congested corridors demand expansion and investment, as well. With funds scarce and taxpayers wary of shouldering too great a burden, public-private parterships and tolls need to be closely considered to help foot the bill. Better prioritization and coordination would result if a regional superagency were empowered to plan and order projects, and develop funding strategies for transportation across Snohomish, King, Pierce - and perhaps Kitsap - counties.
Expanding transit market share effectively and economically necessitates a market-driven emphasis on faster travel times, service frequency in key corridors, and more seamless connections - which, combined, can draw the necessary volume to yield rational per-user costs for equipment, infrastructure, operations and maintenance.
We should take a mode-agnostic approach and evaluate differing technologies such as Bus Rapid Transit and light rail through carefully calibrated computer modeling to see which delivers the better return on investment. Additionally, now-free carpool (HOV) lanes could be converted into HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes where solo drivers gain access in return for a time-variable fee (costing more during rush hours) which is charged to their accounts via windshield transponder technology.
This will require focus and political leadership heretofore lacking. This much is clear. The tired and polarizing "roads versus transit" debate is a road to nowhere. We need smart, cost-effective investment in both roads and transit, which have the actual effect of reducing congestion and giving commuters real choices.
TECHNORATI TAGS: >CASCADIA CENTER, SEATTLE, COMMUTING, TRIP CHAINS, TRANSIT>
| Comments (