Tuesday, August 13, 2013


PO Box 2276, Lynnwood, Washington  98036-2276
Telephone 425-771-1110, Fax 425-776-8081

October 4, 2014

There is continuing debate in the Seattle Times over what we could do to alleviate traffic congestion. Writers suggest that we preserve what we already have, build bicycle highways, and stop waging war on cars.

Another suggests that we improve our mass transit system, however, no matter how much we spend upgrading mass transit, it will attract more riders only if we make it easier for passengers to get to and from mass transit.

Lynnwood Transit Center, for example, has 1,368 parking spaces but is maxed out by 8 a.m. From most places in Lynnwood it is not easy to get to the Lynnwood Transit Center by bus. Some passengers do get there by bus, some by bicycle, some on foot, and some by being dropped off (at the “kiss and ride”), but most drive to the Transit Center. If they find no parking, most will drive on to their destinations. And so the number of passengers who can be served out of Lynnwood is limited.

How do we get more riders to and from Park-and-Ride and light rail stations and thereby reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles from roads and freeways? I suggest we implement a flexible and spontaneous van program which would carry commuters from their homes in the morning to the transit centers. At the end of the day the vans would carry them back home. I call these “flex vans”. Flex vans would not drive fixed routes but would pick people up where they are and deliver them to where they are going. Flex vans would solve what I call “the last mile problem”.

The Lynnwood area would be divided into a dozen or so zones, with vans “orbiting” each neighborhood zone. A van would probably pick you up within ten minutes. Is that too long to wait for a chauffeured (but shared) ride in an energy efficient van?

Transit agencies would sell a pass which would include flex van door-to-door service. Through smart phones or pagers, flex van pass holders could summon a ride to grocery, doctor, work, or transit center. We now have the computing power to make a flex van program work.

For those too poor to own a car and who are completely dependent on public transit, a flex van program would be life changing.

Some will say that a flex van program would be expensive. I respond: More expensive than what? More expensive than widening the freeways? More expensive than converting every transit center into a multi-story parking garage? More expensive than the wasted hours we spend stuck in traffic? More expensive than most of the buses here in Lynnwood driving around mostly empty most of the time? More expensive than our current transit system, which is subsidized around 80% by our sales taxes? More expensive than driving a single occupancy vehicle, which costs on average around $745 per month to finance, operate, maintain, and insure?

People would buy a flex van pass if it would cost them less than what their cars cost them. They might go back to being – shock – one car families and save a lot of money. They might rent a car from the transit system when they need to go on a trip, and become – shock – no-car families and save even more money. People might be willing to pay enough for a flex van pass, that the system could cover its own operating costs.

We read in the Seattle Times that bus rapid transit is having problems in Ballard. BRT cannot work if the streets are too crowded with cars for BRT buses to be – rapid. The solution is to make it so easy to use public transit that riders will gladly leave their cars at home, which we can accomplish only by giving commuters what they now get by driving their own cars – door-to-door service.

A flex van system might solve our ferry problems. Vans would carry commuters to the ferries. Buses, vans, and rental cars would be waiting on the other side to carry them on to their destinations. There would be fewer vehicles on the ferries. Long ferry lines could be a thing of the past.

A flex van program would add more cars to the road, but it would take more cars off the road than it would add. Are we serious about reducing carbon emissions? What would do more to reduce carbon emissions than to get half of our commuters to leave their SOVs at home? Congestion taxes might not be necessary.

We have thousands of school buses which sit around mostly idle most of the time. Flex vans could be used instead of school buses. Currently our children must walk several blocks and wait in the dark and the rain for buses. Instead, vans would pick them up at home in the morning and deliver them home after school. School districts would save money; children would travel more safely; parents would worry less.

In outlying areas and at night, all those mostly empty buses would be parked. Flex vans would use “fuzzy logic” to pick up and deliver people. Such a system would attract more ridership than do the buses – because it would deliver a more complete service.

Our current transit system delivers you from Point A to Point B, but it does not get you to Point A nor take you on from Point B to your destination. Our current system offers commuters a fragmented transit service, and that is why most people decline to use it.

Our long-term goal should be to develop a train, bus, van, and rental car system that would provide fast, safe, non-stressful, affordable, and environmentally responsible transportation to most parts of the city, county, and eventually the entire state.

For further discussion of these possibilities please visit http://comprehensive-transportation.blogspot.com.  


James Robert Deal, Lawyer
Washington Bar Number 8103
Elon Musk proposes a high-speed evacuated tube transport transit system.

See: http://jamesrobertdeal.org/wp-content/uploads/hyperloop_alpha-20130812.pdf.