It was an impressive turnout of residents, overwhelmingly in opposition. Hats off to the folks opposed to the changes who organized en masse. Over 50 people crowded into the Madrona field house to give Metro’s planners an earful about why they thought the proposed change was the worst idea since New Coke.
A couple of thoughts, as someone who designs systems for a living and has listened to my share of irate user feedback:
- Change is hard. People come to expect the bus to be there, and they work those assumptions into their daily lives. When someone tells you they’ve been riding the #2 since 1965, it’s hard to just say “well, sorry, it’s going away.”
- Explaining why a change is better than the status quo is surprisingly difficult. Metro’s planners, I think, struggled to articulate the benefits of the proposed change. Telling people that their route will get shortened to benefit the overall system doesn’t really get you very far.
- User feedback is important, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. People make contradictory demands. They want the bus to be more reliable, but they don’t seem willing to make the trade-offs to make it so.
- People don’t understand the difference between SDOT and Metro. This is obvious and long-running, but it’s especially problematic when Metro moves a bus to Madison Street under the assumption that Seattle’s Transit Master Plan calls for improving bus service on Madison, but people don’t make the connection because the changes aren’t made in sync. You have to be paying very close attention.
- The suburban-ness of Seattle exacerbates the issue. Seattleites expect frequent bus service in relatively low-density neighborhoods, and older riders need to get on the bus just to get groceries. The QFC on Broadway seemed to be the go-to. Shockingly, no one in the meeting shops at the nearby Grocery Outlet on MLK and Union. One obvious solution would be to put a grocery store in Madrona proper, maybe with some apartments above it. Apartments would mean more people, and thus justify more transit service. But I’m pretty sure you’d get ridden out of that meeting on a rail (pun intended) if you proposed anything like that.
- The residents of Madrona are quite scared of downtown, despite living just 2 miles from it. The idea of transferring to get to Queen Anne was a terrifying prospect, especially at night. I wonder how much of that is based on downtown today, versus how they might remember it from 10-20 years ago.
- For many riders, speed is not an issue. The slow “milk run” routes are not really a problem for riders who aren’t in a rush to get anywhere. How do you balance the needs of a transit-dependent person who needs to go to the grocery store once or twice a week with a downtown worker who rides 10 times a week?