Ever wondered what it takes to operate one of largest transit facilities in the United States? On October 25th afternoon, King County Metro and Young Professionals in Transportation jointly hosted a bus tour of Seattle’s Atlantic-Central Base for all those who were curious and eager to learn the inner workings of their cities’ primary mode of public transportation. We had wonderful turnout of forty attendees from diverse backgrounds, interests, and professions
At the beginning of the tour, we all congregated in the lobby of the Atlantic – Central Base where we were welcomed by Rob Gannon, King County Metro’s General Manager. Rob gave us a brief history of the Atlantic-Central Base and King County Metro’s visions and goals for the future of Seattle’s rapidly developing public transit system. Rob followed his speech with an introduction of King County Metro’s staff that made this bus tour possible.
As the operations directors of the Atlantic Base, Tim Flanagan, Michael Thornton, and Bruce Lillquist led us to the central stage of operations where King County Metro’s bus drivers prepare, organize, and determine their schedules and routes for their shift. Using both digital and analog methods, time schedules and routes are displayed on both monitors and paper timecards for bus drivers to manage their shifts.
To prepare us for the tour of maintenance aspect of the facility, Tim and Michael provided fluorescent vests all attendees and informed us on the importance of safety and its practice where hundreds of both King County Metro and Sound Transit busses come through and from the facility every day for intensive inspection and maintenance.
Once that we have explored the hardware the Atlantic-Central Base, it was onto the software side of the facility just across the street. Our attendees split into two groups for the tour of the Sound Transit Link Control Center and the King County phone dispatch center.
Every so often when you ride the King County bus, you might have heard someone talk on the bus driver’s radio or phone. Whenever there is an emergency, a change in schedule or route, or a highly congested traffic event, Mark Freitag and his highly trained dispatchers relay protocol and guidance instructions for all bus drivers operating in the streets and highways. All the data from each bus driver’s GIS system is transmitted and displayed on each dispatcher’s monitor. Since the bus tour was at noon, we arrived in the control center outside of the morning and evening peak hours.
Just right next door of the dispatching center is the prime control center Sound Transit’s Light Rail. CCTVs, block signaling, track switches, light rail locomotives, catenary circuits, station platforms, and more are all managed simultaneously in a room full monitors and televisions and a team of vigilant and experienced traffic control dispatchers led by Keith Sherry. Though the underground tunnels and above the viaducts, Keith and his team insures that all trains arrive on schedule for two million boardings that occur every month and at the same moment prepare and respond to any disturbances and emergencies arise in any moment along the light rail corridor.
Amongst all the remarkable aspects of the tour, the truly remarkable aspect of tour was the diversity and deep interest of those that attended the bus tour. Not only did we have burgeoning planners, architects, and engineers, but we also had bloggers, photo journalists, bus driver retirees, transit fans, and even
Special thanks to the hosts of the tour for making this possible
Jonathan Winslow (for all the photos)