Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Sitting, Standing and Sharing

After my post on improved commuter route productivity – due to fewer buses (and seats) to Seattle and more efficient routing – we received a question about crowded buses at Lynnwood Transit Center around 7 in the morning. Some 40-foot buses are packed, while some larger buses leaving at different times seem only partly full.

Articulated buses are assigned to the trips that have the most passengers most often. That may be hard to judge from the curb – and can be a close call for transit planners as well. A Community Transit planner – who helps identify what size of bus gets assigned to what trip – explains how a similar number of passengers can look very different:

“The seating capacity of a 40-foot bus is roughly 39 people and the seating capacity of a 60-foot articulated bus is 65 people. That means a standing room only load on a 40-footer would only be 60 percent full on an articulated bus. To some observers, a 60 percent full bus could look like a bus that is only half full.”

Community Transit staff did analyze seating capacity and ridership prior to our June service changes, and our goal is for all passengers to have a seat, especially on longer trips (Lynnwood is a comparatively shorter run). As one of the commenters noted, many people take different trips on different days, so ridership has peaks and valleys. That can result in crowded trips at times.

On paper we now have 40 percent more seats than riders at Lynnwood Transit Center, on average. We constantly monitor ridership and can adjust bus assignments. But usually, assigning an artic to a new trip means taking it off another run, so we don’t do that lightly.

This is a tight economy and we don’t have money for excess. That means commuters used to spreading out may need to share a seat – and even stand on rare occasions. If your bus is regularly overcrowded, please let us know.


  1. Thanks for the explanation.

  2. Adding: I'm not at all concerned about sharing and not spreading out. Anyone who is needs to accept the reality of the economy. I've just been frustrated that the routes I want to take in the morning (4th Ave in Seattle) are already so full by the time they arrive in Lynnwood that it's nearly a guaranteed standing ride every time. And more and more people are lining up for those routes in Lynnwood every day.

    I sent an email to the link you posted here about three months ago, and received no response. So there's that. But I was encouraged to see an artic on the 421 route this morning, and I even got a seat!

    But again, thanks for the explanation here. Good stuff.

  3. I used to take 401/402 to go to work. Our office moved from Belltown to Pioneer Square in December, so I switched to 421/425 which is a much quicker trip to south downtown. Those routes are crowded, but I've only seen standing-room-only on a few occasions. And they are all on 40-foot coaches. Looks like they use more and more artics on 421/425. I sure like that.