Sunday, February 20, 2011

A tale of two new transit services

I find it interesting that in the last two years, there were two transit systems, seemingly so similar in scope, but so different in service - and so different in the outcome.

WES, billed as the nation's first "suburb to suburb" commuter rail line, between Beaverton and Wilsonville.

SWIFT, Washington State's first Bus Rapid transit line, connecting suburbs north of Seattle within Snohomish County.

Both routes are around 15 miles long - WES is 14.7 miles long; SWIFT is 16.7 miles long.

Both are suburb to suburb routes.

Both are new services opened in 2009.

Both expected to have 2,500 daily boarding rides at the end of the first year of operation.

That's where the similarities end.

WES cost over $160 million to build. It required the construction of four specially built "Diesel Multiple Unit" railcars from an unproven builder whose only experience was luxury coaches used up in Alaska.

SWIFT cost just $29 million. It used restyled New Flyer D60LFR buses - a proven workhorse in daily service throughout the Puget Sound region and throughout Canada and the United States.

WES required expensive, high level boarding platforms at each stop; transfers to buses are tedious and sometimes a good walking distance away. Ticket Vending Machines only accept debit or credit cards.

SWIFT uses platforms that integrate seemlessly with sidewalks in the neighborhood, and other bus routes can also use the exact same platforms. TVMs accept paper or coin currency, credit or debit card, or ORCA cards.

WES barely cracks 1300 rides after two years of service, and still fails its first-year ridership goal. WES is one of TriMet's most expensive services, costing nearly $18 per boarding ride (at one point it was as high as $30 per boarding ride.) WES does attain nearly 94 boarding rides per revenue hour, but loses its efficiency in wasting 36 minutes of each 90 minutes by sitting at either Beaverton or Wilsonville (resulting in a drop down to 56.25 boarding rides per operating hour), while many TriMet bus routes far exceed this kind of productivity.

SWIFT met its first-year goal within months, and had 3,300 daily riders at the end of its first year of operation. SWIFT has become Community Transit's most productive route with 21.5 boarding rides per hour - impressive, considering that Community Transit serves only Snohomish County, a suburban county, and not higher populated areas like Seattle proper (except by express route) nor does it generally serve Everett, Snohomish County's largest city.

WES provides just weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes - a total of eight trains in the morning, and eight in the afternoon (first train leaving Wilsonville at 5:21 AM and first afternoon train at 3:28 PM; last train arrives Wilsonville at 9:55 AM and in the afternoon at 8:02 PM.)

SWIFT provides weekday service starting at 5:00 AM and continuing every 10 minutes until 7:00 PM; then every 20 minutes until midnight. SWIFT also provides Saturday service every 20 minutes from 6:00 AM until midnght. (There used to be Sunday service, but due to budget cuts all Sunday service across the transit agency was slashed.)

Wisconsin Governor Walker Reacts to the 14 Democrat State Senators

Interesting bus concept from Kitsap Transit

Worker/Driver Program

The Worker/Driver Program offers yet another option for commuting. This unique program originated during WWII, with the need to transport thousands of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) employees to and from work. This was a time of fuel rationing and the use of buses proved to be most efficient. Kitsap Transit inherited 12 routes when it took over the transportation needs of Kitsap County residents in 1983. Today, the current program operates 28 routes; 27 travel to PSNS and Naval Station Bremerton and 1 to Sub Base Bangor.

Worker/Driver buses are driven by full time employees (“worker”) of the military facilities who are also part time employees of Kitsap Transit (“drivers”). Buses operate much like a large carpool. The driver boards their bus near their home in the morning and travels to work, picking up co-workers along the way. After work, they hop back in their bus with their co-workers and drop them off on their drive home.

Our ridership today is made up of both civilian and military personnel. We design and alter Worker/Driver routes to meet the needs of our passengers whenever feasible. Our current service area extends from Port Gamble to Burley in Kitsap County. (See the area map).

For more information, please see below links:

* Worker/Driver Routes & Schedules
* Worker/Driver Bus Fares


I'm not sure where this would work within TriMet but it's an interesting concept, especially with the express routes and OHSU routes. Let's say, oh, the 94, as an example.

The 94 would overnight in Sherwood at a designated location. The Worker/Driver would go to the bus, and drive the bus on a run to Portland, leaving the bus at a designated location while he/she goes off to their regular job. (TriMet would then send a driver or hostler to the bus so that it can be taken to the garage for maintenance.) The worker/driver would then pick up the bus in the afternoon, drive it back home and park it.

The benefit is that it provides additional bus service at low cost to TriMet.

As for the impact to Union drivers, I of course would make sure that no jobs are eliminated - impacted drivers would be moved to other routes. The worker/drivers would only be permitted one morning and one afternoon trip, so TriMet couldn't try and squeeze work out of them. And of course if a driver had a day off or couldn't drive the route, the route would go to a regular TriMet employee driver so there would need to be several drivers who could get to the bus and drive the route.

Of course, these routes would get TriMet's oldest buses...


Unlike bankers and bondholders, the European social model is being given a haircut -- a light trim in Nordic countries but a brutal short-back-and-sides in some others. 

Someone In Egypt Ordered a Pizza For the Protesters in Wisconsin

Transit management abusing workers

Light rail wrecks-Manilla

Luxury bus transport

Story here

Wis. man killed by tire dislodged from Ill. bus,0,785435.story

Another transit strike

Local ankle biters are filing their fangs

Divide and conquer

Conservatives use divide and conquer rhetoric in Wisconsin union protests

The View From the Front Lines of the Wisconsin Protests

Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

ATU757 President Hunt nonfeasance or misfeasance?


Solidarity Forever

Send a pizza to protestors in Wisconsin supporting workers' rights. Ian's Pizza has put normal in-store and delivery orders on hold in order to keep up with the orders donated to protestors. At last count, they've gotten donations from 30 states and 5 countries, including Egypt, South Korea, Australia, and Canada.

608-257-9248 for Ian's Pizza

608-251-5299 for neighboring restaurant Michelangelos if you want to order coffee or hot chocolate for protestors.