Metro, Sound Transit: a vision of data access, customer information

By Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond and Sound Transit Acting CEO Mike Harbour

Bus riders don’t just want to know when the bus is scheduled to arrive, they expect to know when it is really going to reach their stop. They want timely and clear transit information readily available at their fingertips – either through apps or mobile-friendly websites.

When King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine launched the regional transit integration initiative last year, ramping up our collaboration on customer-facing tools was one of his top priorities. We are pleased to report on our progress providing tens of thousands of bus riders the benefits of real time bus arrival information, through apps such as OneBusAway, the Puget Sound Trip Planner, and via Real Time Information Signs on selected corridors.

These tools are part of a continuing transit tech evolution and part of our ongoing effort to make it easy and convenient to take transit.

Open Transit Data
We started years ago by providing data to the University of Washington in our collaboration on OneBusAway.

Metro and Sound Transit are now expanding access to data through the recently-launched Open Transit Data (OTD) initiative. One of the ultimate goals of the initiative is to combine schedule and real-time data feeds for all transit services in the region and make them available from a single source – the OTD portal. That includes real-time Link light rail data as the system expands to the north east and south.

Under this initiative, Sound Transit will serve as the centralized regional hub of publicly available transit schedules and real-time data, allowing third party developers to receive the OneBusAway real time data stream, which includes transit vehicle locations and predicted stop arrival information. This will allow creative developers to find new ways to combine transit data with other publicly available data sources in ways that will benefit transit riders.

Having this “one stop shop” for both static and real time data, with supporting developer tools and information, will provide developers with more convenient access than if they had to connect with multiple agencies via different servers and processes.

As part of the OTD initiative, we recently made available the “General Transit Feed Specification – Real Time (GTFS-RT)” that contains real-time updates on the location of every bus in service operated by King County Metro and all Sound Transit routes except the 510, 511, 512, and 513. These vehicle location updates can be displayed on a map, or used to calculate bus arrival times at future locations along the route, as they are in OneBusAway.

Next steps
Metro has worked for decades installing and upgrading the internal systems, data management processes and the communication networks needed to track and report bus locations. Working with the University of Washington and now Sound Transit on OneBusAway has proven how this data can help tens of thousands of riders better navigate the transit system.

Moving forward with the OTD initiative shows our joint commitment to the vision of sharing data with the public.

That doesn’t mean we stop and call it good. The public is right to expect continuous improvement and refinement, and we agree and take this responsibility seriously. More fine-tuning and new data sources are on the way, and a team of technical and customer service experts at both agencies continue to make improvements.

We are committed to a path of providing transit data support to the development community that will rival any system in the country. The results will not happen overnight, but we will get there.

Link Connections – Where people go (or would like to go) using transit

Link Connections

Link is coming to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium in early 2016. Metro and Sound Transit are working with the public to plan how bus service will connect with new light rail.

We heard from nearly 6,000 people last November on how to best connect Metro bus service with the new light rail stops coming to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium in 2016. Thank you to those of you who took the time to tell us how you’re currently using transit and how you’d like to use it in the future. View a full summary of what we heard.

What did we learn? Here are the highlights:

  • As it becomes less affordable for students and staff at UW to live close by, many people are commuting from Pierce, Snohomish, and the far-reaches of King County to work and go to school.
  • People want better East-West service from the University District to Sand Point, Green Lake, Fremont, Ballard and Queen Anne and from Capitol Hill to Ballard, Fremont and West Seattle.
  • Many people are excited about Link connecting them to Capitol Hill, downtown Seattle, Rainier Valley, and Sea-Tac Airport.

Where do you go, or where would you like to go, using transit? People’s answers to this open-ended question are recorded in this Google map. Out of hundreds of locations, the top destinations so far are:

  • SeaTac
  • Bellevue
  • West Seattle
  • Seattle Center
  • South Lake Union
  • Downtown Seattle
  • First Hill
  • Capitol Hill
  • University of Washington Medical Center and main campus
  • Fremont
  • University District
  • Ballard
  • Green Lake
  • Northgate Mall and Transit Center

Metro and Sound Transit planners are working with a Sounding Board (a community advisory group) to use this input to plan better connections in areas that will be served by light rail. We will be sharing bus change concepts in early March, and look forward to hearing more from you as we look at how to make the best of the investment of light rail service. Stay up to date on all things Link Connections by visiting our website here.

 

Reminder: Metro Transit bus fares going up March 1

Despite increase, some rides will cost less for those qualifying for new reduced fare

ORCA LIFT blog postKing County Metro Transit riders will pay a bit more to ride the bus beginning March 1. The fare change will apply to adults, youth, seniors and people with disabilities who use regularly scheduled transit services. Details about the fare increase can be found on Metro’s website.

Transit fares will increase 25 cents for riders and businesses offering “Business Choice” accounts to their employees. Customers who have a Passport or U-Pass through their business or school will notice the change as contracts are renewed after March 1.

Fares for Access paratransit service will increase 50 cents to $1.75 per trip. This adjustment will more closely align Access fares with regular off-peak fares. The increase reflects the much higher expense of operating Access service compared to regular bus service.

The fare increases will place Metro on more stable financial footing and will help keep service on the road.

New reduced fare will help those with limited incomes

Also making its debut March 1 is Metro’s newly created ORCA LIFT reduced fare program, the outcome of an intensive two-year push by King County Executive Dow Constantine and the County Council to make riding the bus more affordable for people struggling to make ends meet.

The reduced ORCA LIFT fare will be $1.50 per trip regardless of time of day or number of zones traveled. It will be available to riders earning at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, about $23,340 annually for an individual.

An ORCA LIFT card is required for the reduced fare. Metro, Public Health–Seattle/King County, along with eight other human service providers from all across the county, have teamed up and are standing by to work with riders to determine eligibility and provide them with ORCA LIFT cards.

Metro and its partners are making it as convenient as possible to sign up and determine eligibility. Just visit ORCALIFT.com to learn more about the program and to locate your nearest enrollment office.  A trained customer service representative will help you determine if you are eligible.

The Seattle Streetcar, King County Water Taxi, Sound Transit Link light rail and Kitsap Transit will offer similar reduced fares for riders who have an ORCA LIFT card.

The Regional Reduced Fare Permit continues to offer seniors and people with disabilities a lower fare than the ORCA LIFT program. In addition, the human service ticket program will continue to assist people who rely on Metro as a safety net.

More buses in Seattle: County Council approves contract for city to purchase additional transit

BusImage223,000 hours of service supported through voter-approved measure

The Metropolitan King County Council yesterday gave its unanimous approval to a contract agreement with the City of Seattle that will allow the city to purchase additional transit service hours from Metro Transit. The approved legislation will implement an increase of 223,000 additional hours of transit service starting in June.

Seattle is the first city in the county to take advantage of Metro’s Community Mobility Contract program allowing cities to purchase additional bus service. Last November, Seattle voters approved a ballot measure generating revenue that would go toward the purchase of increased transit service. The proceeds received from an increase in license tabs and Seattle’s sales tax will go towards bus routes with 80 percent or more of their stops in Seattle.

Metro will add Seattle-funded service hours to routes this June and September.  The investment in service will focus on:

  • Overcrowding. Added bus trips on crowded routes listed in the Metro 2014 Service Guidelines Report – the top priority in the Metro Service Guidelines for adding service. All identified Seattle route needs are included.
  • On-time Performance. Added service hours to improve schedule reliability on bus routes identified as having poor on-time performance in the 2014 Service Guidelines Report – the second highest priority in the Metro Service Guidelines for adding service hours. All identified Seattle route needs are included.
  • Transit Corridors that don’t meet their target service level. Added service hours for some transit corridors that need more service as determined in the 2014 Service Guidelines Report.

Some transit service reductions that had been part of the September 2014 transit service change will be reversed in this agreement: Route 19 peak service will be restored, with five morning and six afternoon peak direction trips; the Route 47 will be partially restored; and Route 27 off-peak and night service will return.

The contract also provides for more service on Metro routes that are identified as priorities in the Seattle Transit Master Plan, a City-generated plan. These investments include peak period, midday, evening, and weekend service. Download a list of all routes that will receive an investment organized by when the service will be added.

The County Council and Seattle City Council included statements identifying crowding and service reliability of Metro routes as ongoing priorities for Seattle investments during the course of the agreement. The Seattle City Council joined the County Council yesterday in approving legislation agreeing to the transit contract.

Seattle is paying for each hour of bus service provided, with the hourly rate reflecting Metro Transit operating costs for each type of bus used. Metro agrees to maintain current bus trips on any route that Seattle invests in. The agreement also defines Metro’s commitment to maintaining the overall service level in areas where bus service is restructured.

The agreement goes until December 31, 2017 and can be extended for another three years, until December 31, 2020. Read full details of the agreement by visiting the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system and type in “2015-0039” and “2015-0040”.

Aurora Village construction project will reroute buses

Starting Tuesday, Feb. 17, six Metro bus routes will be rerouted for two months because of a construction project near the Aurora Village Transit Center. The City of Shoreline is closing the westbound lane of N 200th Street between the transit center and Aurora Avenue N for construction to install a joint utility trench. Learn more »

The routes listed below will continue to serve the transit center, but what they do after they leave the transit center will change as follows:

  • Route 301 to downtown Seattle will take Ashworth Avenue N, N 185th Street, and northbound Aurora Avenue N to the Shoreline Park-and-Ride, where it will resume its regular routing.
  • Route 303X to Richmond Beach will take Meridian Avenue N to N 205th Street, resuming its regular routing weStreet of Aurora Avenue N.
  • Route 331 to Shoreline College will take Meridian Avenue N, N 205th Street, and southbound Aurora Avenue N to westbound N 200th Street, where it will resume its regular routing.
  • Route 342 to the Shoreline Park-and-Ride will take Meridian Avenue N, N 185th Street, and northbound Aurora Avenue N to the park-and-ride.
  • Route 373 to the University District will take Meridian Avenue N, N 185th Street, and northbound Aurora Avenue N to the Shoreline Park-and-Ride, where it will resume its regular routing.
  • RapidRide E Line to downtown Seattle will take Meridian Avenue N and N 185th Street to southbound Aurora Avenue N, where it will resume its regular routing.

There will be no routing changes for Route 303 to First Hill, Route 342 to Renton, or Route 346 to Haller Lake.

Riders, please note that these reroutes and the construction itself are likely to delay buses arriving at the Aurora Village Transit Center and the Shoreline Park-and-Ride. It’s probably a good idea to allow extra travel time when going to and from these places during the project.

After the westbound lane of N 200th Street is reopened, Shoreline will still be working in the area for another four months, and Metro will revise the reroutes as needed. Here are some ways to stay up-to-date:

If you have questions or comments about the construction project, email the City of Shoreline at aurora@shorelinewa.gov or call their 24-hour hotline: 206-801-2485.

New shuttle set to begin serving Snoqualmie Valley

Starting Feb. 16, new Route 628 will provide commuters with shuttle service between North Bend and the Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride. This service, part of Metro’s expanded alternative services program, was developed through a partnership with the cities of Snoqualmie, North Bend, and Issaquah and with Snoqualmie Valley Transportation.

A map and schedule for the new route are available now on Metro’s website, and riders can sign up for service alerts – just submit your email address or phone number, then check the box for Route 628.

Route 628 will…

  • Run during commute periods only: 5-8 a.m. and 5-9 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • Run westbound in the morning, from North Bend, Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Ridge, and Issaquah Highlands (including the flexible service area in Issaquah Highlands); then become an express route on Interstate 90 from Issaquah Highlands to North Bend.
  • Run eastbound in the afternoon, from the Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride and flexible service area to Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie, and North Bend; then become an express route on Interstate 90 from North Bend to Issaquah Highlands.
  • Cost the same as regular Metro bus service (weekday peak/off-peak fares, according to the time of boarding).
  • Come every 30 minutes during peak periods.
  • Serve riders in the Issaquah Highlands flexible service area who call ahead (855-233-6043) to schedule off-route pickups.

Maybe we’ll see you on board!

Link Connections Sounding Board begins work—plan along with us

Link Connections

Link is coming to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium in early 2016. Metro and Sound Transit are working with the public to plan how bus service will connect with new light rail.

Thanks to all who provided feedback during our first phase of outreach.

We heard from nearly 6,000 people last November. You told us how you’re currently using transit and how you’d like to use it in the future. View a summary of what you told us. 

More than 150 of you applied to serve on our Sounding Board (a community advisory group). We had the difficult choice of selecting 25 members from an amazing pool of applicants. The Sounding Board began meeting in January. You can find a list of Sounding Board members and a schedule of meetings on the project website. The Sounding Board meetings are open for the public to observe, but there is no public comment period.

We’ve just added some background information to the website, and we invite you to use it to plan along with us. You’ll find a background report and info sheets for Metro routes that are mentioned in the background report. Along with Metro’s service guidelines and the public engagement summary from our first round of outreach, these documents form the basis for our planning of the bus change concepts we intend to share with the public in March.

This month, we’ll reflect back to you some of the things you shared last November in a series of blog posts. In early March, we’ll be back in touch to share bus change concepts and opportunities to provide feedback throughout the month.