It’s Time Metro Marked the Frequent Service Network

I’m not sure whether it should be by route or stop location (since there are pairs of non-frequent routes that combine for frequent segments), but King County Metro needs to clearly, obviously, and visibly label the frequent service network. This has been a known issue for years, and many people have called for it, but it hasn’t been done. Other cities like Portland and Columbus already do it (by logo and route color, respectively), but people need the ability to passively notice where they can rely on a bus coming every 15 minutes or less, and where they can go on those routes. I’d love to gather a team of guerilla activists to go mark a set of bus stops, but I don’t know who would do it (the Transit Blog people if they were useful. Alas.). Plus Metro might have valid complaints about that. But increasingly it seems like we’re not being listened or responded to. I haven’t seen data (very curious to), but I’d bet that ridership goes up when you provide people this kind of increased and improved information–we know that happens in similar situations.

I don’t really care if frequent service is defined as every 15, 12, or 10 minutes, and the route schedules and maps should also be labeled on paper and online, but the critical thing is physical visibility at stops and on bus routes. This is for far more than just bus riders, to help encourage good transit-friendly location decisions. Even a new color of paint on the street where frequent routes go would be good. But frequent service is the core of what enables car-free life (not just work commutes or planned trips). It’s Metro that owns/maintains the stop flags, benches, and shelters.

There is so much critical work around here that needs to be done but which no one is funding. Just the kind of project I would undertake if I had a basic income.

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Derailment Highlights Importance of Redundancy

One critical lesson we can take fromyesterday’s tragic train derailment is the importance of REDUNDANCY in any transportation system. Sound Transit built straighter, more direct track to save time on many commuter and intercity passenger rail trips that will no longer have to go out of their way on older freight. This was a good and necessary project.

You never know many details of a service disruption in advance–you can’t know when they will happen, where, or for how long. But the nature of life is that you do know they WILL happen, like our 9.0 earthquake. If your system only works when everything goes right, it’s failing. You can’t rely on everything always going right. You need alternatives available. This is one reason why grid layouts of streets work so well.

Obviously the new bypass track has been out of service since this morning, and will remain so for a while. But the old, indirect freight track can still be used. Amtrak and ST riders needing to travel through the accident area are delayed, but they can still get where they’re going (like a coworker who took the Cascades to Portland today; we only had to cancel one hour of tests). 

This is exactly what ST is NOT doing with light rail. We know there are many disruptions and other problems with the MLK segment especially. But there will be no parallel track redundant to the “spine” (part of why it’s so idiotic). One line will run from Ballard to Tacoma, a good 35 miles or so, and any disruption on MLK will grind the entire line to a halt. Buses have much less capacity and can only move a fraction of the people; we need a parallel rail line. Similarly, ST is building street-running Link on Bel-Red Road. That will be the weak link on the other line from Everett to Redmond, putting it at risk of halting entirely. Based on the service patterns ST plans to use, only the West Seattle stub and Kirkland-Issaquah segments will be immune to this. A system with only one north-south route or one east-west route lacks redundancy and therefore fails. For the ability of people to keep moving between here and Portland, we’re lucky we built redundancy we’re now benefitting from. Now imagine what happens when 200,000 or 400,000 riders a day get stuck on Link due to a similar disruption without redundancy. To allow that for $54 billion is unconscionable.

Car2go Still Falling Short

My Car2go rental today wouldn’t end properly, so they want to charge me for a 40 minute rental instead of the 10 minutes I used. Grr. 

They asked if they could help with anything else, so I noted their recent addition of bigger, more polluting, more expensive cars to the fleet. Instead, I requested smaller, less polluting electric or hybrid cars that would cost less to borrow (Zipcar charges about 30% less to use hybrids). They said users asked for bigger cars in the fleet. I noted the existence of bigger cars like the Prius that use less gas and emit fewer greenhouse emissions. They said they’re owned by Mercedes and suggested they can’t (won’t) use cars made by anyone else. I think that’s a really lame, shortsighted excuse. I like the small size of Smart cars, but they’re gas-only and get 39 mpg. The first generation Honda Insight around 2000 got 70 mpg. That would be cheaper to borrow and save me money.

Today in Poverty

So. Two weeks ago I saw the doctor. She referred me to physical therapy for my arm and an eye doctor for regular checkup (eyes are vulnerable to diabetes). At the Poor People Clinic, referrals never work properly, so neither place had received one from the clinic. I called the PPC and had to insist to speak to the referral coordinator, and ask specifically when they sent the referrals and how. She repeatedly interrupted me, which is infuriating when your brain is autistic, but I try to explain that and people just get indignant. How dare you call out their rudeness! It’s not like they use email or have website where you can do this. Of course, this woman reflexively blamed the clinics and declared there’s no problem with the PPC referral system, even though another worker there explicitly told me otherwise when a previous one took 6 weeks of fighting to get through. She said she’d call the clinics and get back to me. She called back later and said the clinics had received the referrals. I asked when that happened, and she just said Yes, they got them. I again asked when, and she admitted it only happened today. Her earlier claim was a lie, and if I weren’t angry and persistent about this, I’d probably spend another 6 weeks playing go-between among the clinics to get my PT and eye check.
 
Then I called the disability law firm seeking a second opinion. I’ve left them messages before, and they say they’ll call you back in 24 hours, but they’ve never called me back. Someone took some information from me and said they’d call back. I wouldn’t bet on it. My appeal hearing is scheduled for March, and the judge warned that she won’t grant another delay without a “compelling” reason. The clock is ticking, and I’m apparently better off withdrawing my 2 1/2 year old claim and starting a new one (so, July 2019?) than getting an adverse ruling on this one. You see why I want to make sure before I kill and restart the process.
 
The client I’m sitting for has a home “security” system and seems irrationally worried about crime. So when I leave to walk another dog, I set it before leaving. What I apparently forgot is that it has motion sensors inside, and that I’m supposed to leave two big dogs shut in a bedroom while I’m out so they don’t trip it (I don’t think the welfare of animals should be dictated by alarm systems). Apparently they did. While on the bus to walk another dog, client texted me saying the “security” people called. He asked several questions about what’s going on and what I did. He had me call them to explain the alarm, disable it, and cancel the police call. So I had to give them my name, client’s name, and his address and password. Over the phone. From the bus–where riders around you can hear what you say. Then client told me the alarm is pretty loud and might scare the dogs. So this comes full circle causing lots of frustration while accomplishing nothing. The alarm system that was triggered by dogs tripping a living room motion sensor–not any kind of theft, burglary, or crime–jarred the dogs. And bothered my client while he’s on vacation, and interrupted me from my normal day, making me worry about the dogs and the client’s reaction toward me.
 
These systems do not deter crime. They do not protect property. They do not increase anyone’s safety. What they do is prey on racist fear of cities (Seattle has little crime among big US cities), constantly create false alarms (this is hardly my first time), and make lots of profits for the “security” industry. (Recall Rep. Darrell Issa made his fortune on car alarms) They exploit and increase fear, anxiety, aggressiveness, harmful stereotypes, and division among people. They make us afraid of and alienated from each other. Ironically, the reason it takes me so long to get around town is our mediocre transit system; driving is faster, but much more likely to kill you–compared to both riding transit and being a crime victim. The press sensationalizes crime, while car “accidents” are treated only as traffic issues. But if you look at mortality rates, ignoring the causes of death, they are lower in cities because we use cars less, and cars cause more death than crime. If your goal is to avoid crime (which is no more or less than what WE define it to be), move to the suburbs. If your goal is to stay alive, move to the city.

Angle Lake Station a Near Total Waste of Money

Go visit the 1120 “free” parking spaces you’re subsidizing! They’re a top contributor to air and water pollution and cancel out the environmental benefits of rail. This station was expedited to placate Federal Way politicians upset that their extension got delayed due to the stupid “subarea equity” policy. This station won’t have 1/3 the daily riders of UW station, thanks to it being surrounded by parking instead of homes or jobs. That also means most of the investment in trains, tracks, and the station will be wasted because it won’t collect much in fares. It will also make it harder, and take longer, to run more 3-car trains. And it totally duplicates the existing A Line. This is what the vast majority of ST3 does.

Income-Based Transit Fares!

Please sign this petition against 2nd class transit. Here are my comments:

ORCA Lift is a great program, and I commend you for taking the leadership to implement a low-income fare in a major jurisdiction like King County. As a transit junkie and advocate, I know there are many good reasons for shifting fare collection away from paper and toward smart cards. One of these is the ability to create just about any fare category you want, and charge it to targeted populations. So I’m interested in working *with* ORCA rather than seeking a step backward (in the long term) toward paper fare media.

I appreciate the rationale for peak-hour and two-zone surcharges; they make sense from a transportation perspective. And I understand the reasons for having senior, disabled, and youth fares too–I use an RRFP myself. But it seems to me that these last three are indirect attempts to help people who really need it, which is mostly people with the least money. And a large share of peak-hour commuters paying both the distance and rush hour premiums are probably employees whose fares are subsidized by their employers anyway, so the surcharges raise more money but don’t have the transportation or location effects desired.

I increasingly believe that simplicity is of great and underappreciated importance, and income inequality nationally and locally has become so great that I think it’s now more important than the reasons for, and effects of, the rush hour and two-zone surcharges. So I propose that, short of violating any federal requirements, Metro end the surcharges, abolish the special senior, disabled, and youth fare categories, and charge fares entirely based on income. We have lots of good ways to verify income for people under 200% of the poverty line; we can use existing infrastructure to charge still lower fares for people below 100% and 50% of poverty. Above that, the County has a large role in health care, and the ACA offers premium subsidies to people up to 400% of poverty. I suggest that the Health Department, perhaps working with WA Healthplanfinder, use that information to verify incomes in the 200-400% poverty range and apply an appropriate income-based fare category. This would be simpler and fairer for everyone.

Thanks.

Never Mind Upzoning; Can’t We AT LEAST Have Backyard Cottages?!

IS1rpku0qpwn030000000000I walked by this house today. It’s quite the sight to behold. What if everyone could live like this? The median home in Montlake is $990,000, and interestingly the foreclosure rate is 12% which is much higher than citywide. A 20% down payment at this price is more than most people can afford as a purchase price. What really sticks in my craw about it is that–forget upzoning the part of Montlake near UW Station–the mayor already agreed to scrap his compromise committee’s recommendation to allow ADUs (accessory dwelling units) in single family neighborhoods. Those are modest, affordable, unintrusive, and can add revenue for the homeowner and diversity to the neighborhood. Zillow says this home’s Walkscore is just 59, but consider all these perks of the site:

*walk to light rail
*shorter walk to frequent bus (48, 271) and several other routes (43, 167, 277, 540, 541, 542, 556)
*walk to campus and UWMC
*adjacent to park
*adjacent to Ship Canal
*quiet!
*ample parking
*right by 520 interchange
*pretty damn private for a major city
*good bike infrastructure around
*walk to library branch
*good boating access
*every neighbor seems to support Bernie Sanders (must be among the 10 richest US neighborhoods to love Bernie)

Ignore the logic of upzoning this area and the wealth (privilege) that prevents it. Isn’t it kind of elitist or selfish to reserve this location for people who can afford well over $1 million on a home, instead of allowing some backyard cottages too? They’re not a silver bullet, but they would definitely help.