(December photo courtesy Austin)
Finally finished watching video of the entire Metro snowstorm debrief at Monday’s King County Council meeting (which happened concurrent to the City Council snowstorm debrief that we watched in real time). Since we covered what Metro boss Kevin Desmond told Seattle councilmembers last week, our summary here will just focus on additional information revealed at this briefing.
It came with a hefty PowerPoint, presented by Metro exec Jim Jacobson. He noted it wasn’t really a “storm” but rather “a weather pattern,” with “four separate snowfalls over two weeks (and) prolonged subfreezing temperatures.” In addition to the previously cited stat of 200 buses stuck on the worst day of the snow, Jacobson revealed that at least 100 buses got stuck every day for several days afterward.
And he clarified the timetable for when the decision was made to extend a “partial holiday” reduced schedule into the week after Christmas: December 23rd. News of that decision didn’t make it to many bus riders; Metro’s Linda Thielke sent us a reminder to share with you the next day, and answered our questions about the timeline when WSB’ers started asking the following week. Desmond said that if they hadn’t decided on that schedule reduction, maintenance on the bus system wouldn’t have been done in time for a return to full service on the Monday after New Year’s.
One other interesting bit: It takes up to six hours to chain all Metro’s buses, so they have to make a decision by 11 pm or so “to send all the buses out chained in the morning.” Chaining them reduces speed to 35 mph, which means they’re continuously behind, even before taking other factors into account. The Metro bosses recapped the reasons they couldn’t provide real-time info on buses’ whereabouts, and said the expanded radio capacity and GPS technology will be in place by “late 2010.” The current 4 radio channels will expand to 12, and four data-only channels will be available to transmit certain information (say, a bus gets stuck, its operator can push a button that automatically sends out an “I’m stuck” message).
Desmond also promised to overhaul the Metro website; he said it had been under discussion a while but county budget problems put it on hold — now, he promises, they’ll “hire designers” and “make it happen.” What about text messages to cell phones? he was asked. They’ll look into that. And when all else fails, Metro was encouraged to do more analog notification — drive around and tack up signs at bus stops. Apparently this happened on a couple hundred far-flung routes at one point, routes, Desmond said, with no alternatives. As the meeting wrapped up, County Council Chair Dow Constantine (of West Seattle) suggested a public forum would be in order before too long so that county leaders could hear directly from the public. Desmond noted that Metro reps have been asked to attend the storm-response open houses in Seattle this week (including the one this Thursday, 6:30 pm, at Southwest Community Center).