While one needn’t design a transit system to deal with weather conditions that occur once or twice a decade, it’s important to note the failure of our region’s bus system to operate anywhere near full capacity during our week of snow and sub-zero temperatures. Light rail and street cars, on the other hand, they can handle nearly anything our Puget Sound climate can throw at them, as long as trains are run frequently enough to prevent the overhead power lines from icing over.
I don’t point this out as some sort of I told you so, or as a bit of advocacy for even more rail, but rather as an observation about differing attitudes toward transit in cities with rail versus those without. Those of us who grew up in cities with extensive rail systems expect transit to be reliable, because… well… it generally is. In cities like Seattle however, we merely expect transit to be somewhat reliable, conditions permitting. Snow, floods, traffic jams and accidents… that sorta shit happens, and bus commuters learn to deal with it. (Whether your employer is willing to deal with you missing a week or more of work because your bus route was canceled, well, that’s another story.)
I think over time, as more rail comes online, and more commuters grow accustomed to its comfort and reliability, attitudes toward transit in this region will gradually change. No longer looked down upon as mostly an alternative for folks who can’t afford to drive, we will eventually become both more appreciative of our transit system, and more demanding. And that’s a good thing.