Get on the battery bus: King County leads way with $90M+ plan for new electric buses

(Image: King County)

(Image: King County)

You likely won’t see one regularly crossing Capitol Hill until 2020 but King County Metro is accelerating its efforts to reduce emissions and become a carbon neutral system with a $90 million-plus plan to add more than 100 battery-only electric buses to its fleet.

“This puts us in on the forefront of innovation and technology,” King County Council member Rod Dembowski said. “We were innovators in wheelchair lifts. We were innovators in hybrid electric. Transit agencies look to us for what they’re going to adopt.”

“We are signaling that is is proven technology,” the county District 1 rep tells CHS. Continue reading

Starting in 2017, the 8 won’t be (as?) late thanks to changes on Denny and Capitol Hill

route-8-improvements-diagramThe notoriously undependable but much-depended on Metro 8 might be a little more trustworthy thanks to changes planned on Denny Way including two stretches of bus-only lanes and improved bus stops on Capitol Hill segments of its route.

“Though reliability increased when Route 8 was divided into two separate routes in March 2016, late buses are still a problem, especially during rush hour and major events at the Seattle Center,” the agency said in its announcement of the planned streamlining.

On Capitol Hill, Metro announced that “on-street parking will be restricted on short sections of Denny Way, Olive Way, East John Street, and East Thomas Street” and two bus stops on E Olive Way and E John will be expanded “so buses don’t have to leave and re-enter heavy traffic, and to provide more space and amenities for waiting passengers.” Continue reading

Metro wants Night Owl feedback on plan to boost late-night service

304/365 - On a Rainy Night

King County Metro will field public comment through October on a proposal to expand its late night bus service:

The public is encouraged to review the proposal and offer comments via an online survey until Oct. 30. Public comments will help shape a final proposal, which could go before the County Council later this year. If approved, it will take effect in September 2017.

The agency says late night passengers represent “a small portion of Metro’s total ridership,” but that demand appears to be growing, with boarding increasing “by 20 percent in the last five years.”

Details of the proposal can be found at kingcounty.gov and the full announcement from Metro is below. Across the Hill, Route 11 would see boosted service along with possible tweaks to improve transfers on other routes. Continue reading

First look at how light rail, route revisions have changed Capitol Hill bus ridership

Over the weekend, CHS’s Re:Take history series took a look back at some of the lost bus routes of Capitol Hill. We don’t have to look back far in time to find the changes. Late last year, Metro planned out a wave of revisions and reroutes to optimize its service around the opening of light rail service to Capitol Hill Station and UW.

Now, the Seattle Transit Blog has provided the first look at how ridership on the altered bus lines has changed in the first months as ridership on light rail has soared.

STB grouped the impacted Capitol Hill routes into a set of winners…

  • Route 11: up 38% — The #11 is likely absorbing demand on Pine Street east of Broadway for former Route 10 riders unwilling to walk to Link. Continue reading

Metro willing to give you prizes to stop driving alone on Capitol Hill

"Riding the 43 at dusk" (Image: Patricia via Flickr)

“Riding the 43 at dusk” (Image: Patricia via Flickr)

unnamed (4)Metro is bringing a program to encourage people who live, work, and/or go to school on Capitol Hill to get out of cars — and keep track of it — for prizes, giveaways, and a strong sense of public transit righteousness. “By taking part in the program, residents can find more ways to give their car a break and explore healthier transportation options available in their neighborhood by taking the bus, walking, bicycling, carpooling and more,” Metro’s marketing exclaims.

You can sign up for Capitol Hill In Motion here.

For those who already don’t regularly use a car, Metro is also offering rewards for sharing your story — but, just saying, the prizes seem better for ditching a car.

The program is run by Alta Planning Colehour + Cohen for Metro and has been previously introduced in Juanita, South Park – White Center, Squire Park, West Seattle, and North Seattle/Shoreline. (Alta ran the first iterations of the program.) CHS is a community partner in the project to help spread the word.

The full announcement and information on signing up is below.

Continue reading

Bus Stop | What Capitol Hill bus service could look like in 2025 and beyond

The Madison bus rapid transit is slated to open by 2019.

The Madison bus rapid transit line is slated to open in 2019.

With its big U-Link bus restructure in place, King County Metro has quietly begun laying the ground work to adapt to the next phase of expansion of Sound Transit’s light rail system. Within days of Seattle getting its first look at how Seattle’s light rail network will look in 2040 — with service to Ballard and West Seattle, in addition to Everett and Tacoma on the extremities of the system — Metro released a map showing its first attempt to serve our region in conjunction with that system. CHS dug into the Long Range Plan map to find how those changes would affect Capitol Hill.

As we have seen in the past, these plans can change dramatically, even more so with the timelines in decades instead of years. But the map provides an insight into how transit planners at Metro are attempting to serve Capitol Hill riders. Metro is breaking these changes into two conceptual phases: 2025 service and 2040 service.

2025

The biggest change that will be in place by 2025 is Madison BRT. This project will consolidate service on Madison Street in dedicated lanes between downtown and Madison Valley, freeing up some service hours to be used elsewhere to complement.

As a result, Metro is eyeing moving route 2 off Seneca St. on First Hill and onto Pine Street in Capitol Hill.

This change, in turn, will pave the way for Metro to create a new crosstown workhorse between the Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, and Capitol Hill from the current route 49. This route will serve 12th Ave, which perplexingly does not have any Metro service today despite being the eastern edge of one of Seattle’s largest private universities. This will also be the most frequent transfer between Madison BRT and light rail service at Capitol Hill Station. Continue reading

Project to electrify the 48 bus is underway on 23rd Ave

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Red sections indicate where overhead wires will go up. (Image: SDOT)

Red sections indicate where overhead wires will be installed. (Image: SDOT)

Amid the massive overhaul of the 23rd Ave corridor and the uproar it’s caused with local merchants, another project on the street has quietly got underway: building the infrastructure necessary to transition the route 48 diesel hybrid busses into a fleet of all-electric trolleys.

Connecting the U-District to Mt. Baker through the Central District and Capitol Hill, the 48 is the workhorse of 23rd Ave transit, shuttling riders the entire length of the corridor. Much of 23rd Ave has overhead wires to accommodate the 4 and 43, but the 48 has to run diesel hybrid busses due to gaps in the line.

There are currently 1.7 miles of missing overhead wires needed to run electric trolleys on the 48, with gaps from John to Cherry, and Dearborn to Plum.

The Seattle Department of Transportation, which is handling funding and construction for the King County Metro line, estimates the project will cost $14.6 – $17.5 million, with $9.4 million already secured through federal grants. Construction will include installing trolley poles, overhead wires, and traction power sub stations. The second phase of the project is expected to get underway next year, setting up the 48 to go electric in 2018.

“The Electric trolley bus is the really tried and true transit wet have here in Seattle,” said SDOT’s transit deputy director Bill Bryant at a recent city-county joint transportation meeting. “It is particularly well suited for our hilly environment and lots of starts and stops.”

There are clear environmental benefits, too. With its 4 miles per gallon busses, the 48 route uses roughy 185,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year. Electric trolley bus technology was found to be $3.7 million cheaper annually than diesel hybrids, according to an SDOT study. Electric trolleys will also significantly reduce noise along the busy corridor.

In 2023, the 48 will also be the only transit line to directly connect non-downtown stations on all three Link lines: Central Link (Mount Baker Station), East Link (Judkins Park Station), and North Link (Brooklyn and UW stations). Continue reading

Help set the 25-year plan for Metro

"Frequent" and "RapidRide" routes on the Metro Connects service map

“Frequent” and “RapidRide” routes on the Metro Connects service map

Yes, Metro is running yet another planning survey. But this one you’ll probably only have to answer once every 25 years.

The county public transit agency is rolling out its full Metro Connects draft plan April 18th but the draft’s summary is available now:

Metro Transit created an online survey and will co-host a series of open houses with Sound Transit where residents can provide their thoughts on the draft of the plan — Metro Connects — that will set the course for what transportation will look like in 25 years as King County’s population continues to grow.

Metro says the draft plan is the result of rider research and outreach done in 2015. “Residents told Metro that they want more frequent, better-connected bus and light-rail service to more destinations, starting earlier and ending later each day,” the announcement of the draft plan reads. “Metro Connects is the plan to deliver that service.”

The proposed draft plan includes elements ranging from customized local services for “unique” areas to investments that will reduce the amount of time buses spend waiting at stops and changes that will make it easier for buses to navigate the city quickly like more bus only lanes and traffic signal priority. The draft plan also calls for Metro to deliver better real-time information for riders and efforts to “make it easier to move between Metro and other transportation providers” through elements like integrated payment options.

“I invite everyone to share their ideas as we finalize the long-range plan that will shape the future of transportation in our region,” said County Executive Dow Constantine says in the announcement. “Metro Connects will be our atlas as we create an integrated transit system that provides more choices to get to more places on time.”

The survey, in addition to collecting some of your usage habits, is focused on your take on the draft plan. So you’re going to have to read it. You can check out the summary here.

The plan breaks down to five components: 1) More Service, 2) Count on Metro, 3) More Choices, 4) One System, and 5) What We Need to Succeed.

We’ve pulled out Metro’s bullet points for each section: Continue reading

Bus Stop | Planning Ahead — The 3/26 Metro realignment

(Image: Ryan Packer)

(Image: Ryan Packer)

After enjoying our first week of light rail service to Capitol Hill Station, on Saturday it’s King County Metro’s turn to undergo a big reorientation to better serve the station. Here’s a user’s guide to the new schedules and route changes on all of the routes affected by the biggest service change for Capitol Hill buses in quite some time. With this change should come a network that quickly allows riders to transfer to Link, even if the bus does go downtown on its own anyway after it drops you off.

  • Route 10: On March 26, this bus will start serving Olive Way instead of Pine Street. Departure times for all stops will remain the same, except for the last bus of the night leaving Volunteer Park for downtown, which will leave 5 minutes earlier. Moving the 10 to Olive will provide more service between those areas and downtown than the 43 currently does, including 15-minute service until midnight where there is currently 30-minute service.
  • Route 43: Enjoy your last few days of full 43 service. When King County Counci lmember Rod Dembowski added service back to this route as the changes to bus service were being passed by the King County Council, it was peak-only service he was preserving. The trips that are sticking around between downtown and the U-District via Montlake are pretty scant. The frequency is approximately every 30 minutes during peak hours. Caveat: these times are subject to change and are only intended to give an idea of the span of service levels that are coming to the route 43. 

Continue reading

Commuters take their first spin through Capitol Hill Station

IMG_4946Amarinthia Torres was watching a stopwatch on her phone while she waited to board a train at Capitol Hill Station Monday morning. 35 minutes door-to-door was the time to beat to get to her office at a Columbia City nonprofit. That’s how long her typical commute takes by riding the 9 bus from her Capitol Hill apartment.

Even if the light rail took a little longer with added walking times, Torres said she expected riding the new U-Link Light Rail line would replace her usual commute. “I’m hoping it will be less stressful,” she said.

Many riders at Capitol Hill Station had similar thoughts Monday morning during U-Link’s first weekday morning commute. Capitol Hill Station opened Saturday with a slice of a giant pair of scissors and a few booms of confetti. While Sound Transit’s new 3.1-mile U-Link extension from downtown to UW via Broadway will expand tourism and nightlife opportunities, the train’s success will ultimately depend on appealing to daily commuters.

U-Link’s first Monday morning appeared to go off without a hitch as riders tried out new morning routines in hopes of shaving some time and hassle off their commutes. Some riders were confused to see out-of-service trains come through the station as the peak schedule wound down around 8:30 AM. Those trains will resume running at 3:00 PM for the afternoon peak. The real-time arrival signs remained accurate for tracking the next rideable train. Continue reading

To protect its drivers, county proposing cameras on all Metro buses

Of the 1,300 or so buses in the Metro fleet, only 44% are equipped with cameras. King County Executive Dow Constantine Thursday announced a proposal to install cameras on all Metro buses by 2021 in an effort to “dramatically decrease driver assaults”

Metro currently has cameras in 44 percent of its buses, which has contributed to the agency cutting the number of driver assaults by more than half since 2008. Executive Constantine will request funding in the supplemental budget to install cameras in 80 percent of Metro’s bus fleet by early 2019 and 100 percent by early 2021.

“It is intolerable that anyone would harm one of our dedicated, professional drivers who work hard each day to safely and reliably get passengers to their destinations.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done in recent years, in partnership with our unions, to significantly reduce the number of drivers who are assaulted. Now it’s time for us to build on our progress, investing more in what works. That’s why I am requesting the funds needed to install cameras in every Metro bus as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the King County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee will receive a special briefing “on the steps the King County Sheriff’s Office and Metro Transit are taking to ensure the safety of passengers and bus drivers” Tuesday, March 1st.

Metro has been asked to estimate a cost for the deployments.

Metro says it has already installed cameras on more than 600 of its 1,382 buses. The most recent buses purchased by Metro — including electric trolleys, RapidRide models and the newest 60-foot-long buses — come with camera systems installed, the agency said. The city’s First Hill Streetcar system operated by Metro is also equipped with onboard security cameras.

Metro Transit Police deputies made 26 arrests for driver assaults in 2015.

With Capitol Hill Station about to open for service, CHS also checked in with Sound Transit about their security camera deployment. A spokesperson confirmed Sound Transit maintains a vast system of surveillance cameras on every platform, in every elevator, and on every train car.

Metro surveying bus riders ahead of Capitol Hill Station opening

Seattle trolleybuses: new and old

With Capitol Hill Station and U-Link set to open in March, Metro is preparing for planned changes to bus routes near the new light rail line by surveying riders “about their experiences and travel patterns in the Northeast Seattle and Capitol Hill areas” —

The on-board survey – planned 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays from Feb. 19 through March 18 – will help establish a baseline of customer satisfaction and ridership patterns on Metro routes in areas around the upcoming Link light rail expansion. A follow-up study is planned later this year to learn how the changes have affected passengers and to learn their opinion of the changes.

Survey workers wearing Metro vests will be riding a sample of bus trips during the weekday, handing out and collecting surveys from customers. Surveys will be available in six languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Amharic, Somali and Vietnamese. Routes where riders can expect to see staff include routes 8, 10, 15, 26, 28, 30, 43, 48, 49, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 242, 316, 372 and 373.

Though the list of routes involved is long, the depth of change planned for the Metro system ended up being less sweeping than many transit advocates hoped for. Responding to complaints, Metro did announce a reroute of the 10 line that will scrap its E Pine and 15th Ave to E John sections and move the route to E Olive Way to better serve Capitol Hill Station.

Neighborhood groups are looking at the survey process as a way to bolster their favorite routes:

Dear Neighbors,
We need your help to save the #43 bus service. If you receive an on-board bus survey in the next few weeks, please fill it out and include your contact information. Metro plans to drastically reduce the number of trips on the route #43 when the UW Link Light Rail station opens in mid-March. These changes will mean the #43 will only run during rush hour. There will be no service during the day or night. This also means that to get to 15th Avenue E and other stops on the #43 you will have to transfer on East John Street.  Prior to when Metro reduces the number of trips on the #43, Metro plans to conduct surveys to determine how happy bus riders are with the changes to the route. The surveys will be conducted for a very short period of time by hardcopy on the buses. The surveys are designed to be completed during your bus trip, but may also be completed online or by request of a stamped envelope from the Metro surveyor.

Metro also plans to resurvey bus riders in the fall of 2016 to verify the findings from the first survey. Metro will contact riders for the second survey by the contact information you leave for the first survey. So, it’s really important that you provide future contact information for Metro and that you complete the initial survey. These surveys are the last chance for preservation of trips as well as any future increases in trips after the Link Light Rail station opens. Some residents of Montlake rely upon mid-day trips on the #43 as their preferred mode of travel to points along the #43 route. Some residents do not have alternative transportation modes. Many of these residents find walking to transfer points a hardship. Please be aware of the surveys in the mid-March time frame. And, please complete your survey. Most importantly, please provide your contact information so your voice can be heard again in the fall of 2016.

Meanwhile, we asked CHS readers how often they plan to ride light rail after Capitol Hill and UW Station open — 45% of 780 readers say they will ride at least once a week:

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