Questions continue to roll into the Traffic Lab inbox about buses.
Q: I find there are often two buses running one right behind the other. Why doesn’t Metro spread them out to offer more service without any additional bus hours?
— Jonathan Nicholson
A: Bus bunching — a term for when two buses on the same route going to the same destination show up in unison at the same stop — is never intentional, Gutierrez said. The agency doesn’t schedule buses heading toward the same destination to arrive together and purposefully builds routes to prevent bunching.
When it does happen, it’s usually because of traffic congestion, construction, overcrowding, boarding delays or variations in driver style.
“Metro tries to address delays by adjusting schedules, using standby buses when available, simplifying our fare structure, and working with cities to install transit-only lanes … to help keep buses moving in traffic,” Gutierrez said.
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Coordinators for RapidRide lines monitor spacing from Metro’s Transit Control Center and communicate with drivers to try to keep buses running at consistent intervals.
A: No changes have been finalized yet, but Metro is considering an adjustment to Route 255 that would redirect passengers to the University of Washington light-rail station instead of continuing toward downtown Seattle. This proposed restructure comes as part of the North Eastside Mobility Project designed to improve transit and mobility options for Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland, Redmond and Woodinville residents. Routes 234, 235, 236, 238, 243, 244, 245, 248, 249, 277 and 930 will also be reviewed for potential changes to service. Metro will conduct public outreach on the potential changes in mid-October, Gutierrez said. If implemented, the updates would begin in September 2019.
Q: In simplified terms, what is going to happen to the Metro Route 7?
— Arielle Alexsis
A: Metro is planning to convert Route 7 into a RapidRide Line in 2024, Gutierrez said. That means more frequent service: Buses are supposed to arrive every 10 minutes, service extends into late nights and early mornings and full service is offered every day of the week. As part of the conversion, new bus-stop shelters will also be installed that have real-time bus-arrival information. Riders will be able to pay prior to boarding and enter and exit through any door.
Q: I take the RapidRide E line and have noticed a significant reduction in the number of functioning ORCA-card readers at various bus stops. Two readers on Third Avenue between Seneca Street and Columbia Street have been broken and never fixed. One on Third Avenue and Spring Street was removed. And one at the Shoreline Park & Ride is also broken and hasn’t been fixed. It’s so pervasive that I can’t help but wonder: Has Metro changed its policy to encourage all riders to enter and pay through the front of its buses, essentially phasing out the card readers by not fixing them as they break down?
— Scott McGeath
A: ORCA-card readers are placed at some bus stops to allow riders to tap in advance so they don’t have to wait in line to pay upon entering. This is designed to speed up the boarding process so that when a bus arrives passengers can go in through any bus door; only those paying with cash would need to go through the front door.
Metro is in the process of replacing equipment that operates ORCA readers, Gutierrez said. Installation of the new equipment began in September, he said:
• The reader at Third Avenue and Columbia was fixed Sept. 10 when Metro restored the electrical connection.
• The reader at Third Avenue and Seneca was reinstalled Sept. 17.
• The reader at the Shoreline Park & Ride should be repaired by next week.
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