3rd Ave to Remain Tranist Only

As Andrew mentioned in an earlier post, Mayor Greg Nickels made an official announcement on Friday that 3rd Avenue will in fact remain a transit only corridor according to the Seattle PI.

Eighteen Metro bus routes, now above ground, will reroute to the tunnel
when it reopens, but 22 others will move to Third Avenue from First, Second and
Fourth avenues, theoretically freeing up space on those streets. That means
overall bus traffic will increase on Third once the tunnel reopens.

“By shifting … buses onto Third, the buses will move more quickly and
there’ll be less disruption to traffic,”

This is good that the city is making transit priority. Especially since the people have become accustomed to having that restriction on 3rd Ave, the September shakeup should be really noticeable for downtown traffic.

Queen Anne Getting on the Bus

I found these cool advertising posters all over Lower Queen Anne (Uptown) recently, and thought at first that it was SDOT getting people to consider riding the bus. However, I did a little research and apparently there is a contest/pledge involved with this. Upon signing up for this you will receive 10 Metro tickets and some other goodies. This is put on by In Motion who has teamed up with SDOT, King County Metro, Uptown Alliance, The Greater Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce and Uptown merchants. Apparently there are prizes that you can win during your pledge of riding the bus, carpooling, walking, or biking. Plus as an added bonus if you are caught wearing your In Motion pin, you could win instantly. Sounds like a good deal to me, although I typically am not lucky in these types of situations. There are a few kickers however, you must live or work in Queen Anne specifically in the 98109 or 98119 zip codes (Sad times for me), own a car (you got to have something to reduce), and you must be 16. I think this is a cool way to get people to try making a commitment and potentially making it fun and enjoyable. It also helps get people that typically would be single occupants in one vehicle off the road. Of course, getting them on is one thing, keeping them on is another. Perhaps they will see the benefits outweigh the negatives. Also, if you like me, are kinda bummed out that it isn’t in your neighborhood, apparently it will make its rounds, next up is South Lake Union in the fall. It will be difficult when light rail gets here as it is hard to rhyme, although Get on the Train Jane, sounds cool? Perhaps this is why I don’t come up with these slogans! Is anyone participating in the In Motion contest? I’d be interested to see how much it increases ridership. Sorry for sub par pic, it was foggy, I didn’t want people to think I was too nerdy so I snapped and walked away.

Walkable Neighborhoods

Walking around Pike Place Market (by Greekafella- Wikipedia)

I found an interesting site the other night that rates your neighborhood in terms of walkability. The website Walkscore will search a specific address or whole zip code and based on their algorithm will calculate how walkable your area is. Things that influence scores are being in an area with a center or main street, being close to parks, restaurants, grocery stores, and many other things people go to. In my curiosity I then plugged in my address here in Seattle and it scored a 63 out of 100. I then plugged in every address I could think of. My hometown of Boise sadly was 0. I would have suspected as much though, Boise being extremely car-centric and very spread out. I read their website which basically describes the importance of walkability and they mention transit being important for walkable neighborhoods, however, they don’t use transit in their algorithm which they state is a flaw. Perhaps I would receive a 75-80 I am close to 4 bus lines. They show the importance of transit friendly, dense neighborhoods that help create happy neighborhoods and thriving businesses with plenty of foot traffic to keep them busy. Walking promotes social interaction, reduces C02, and helps promote good health in general. I realize this may be a utopia, but I think it is definitely able to be done. Interestingly, where I work in South Lake Union scored in the high 80′s if I remember correctly (I plugged a lot of addresses) I wonder if the streetcar shoots that up higher to 100 perhaps with a new algorithm? How does your neighborhood score? What might make it higher?

Tukwila Station Resembling Jet City

We are approaching July 2009 (I know we have a while yet), for me personally it couldn’t come fast enough. Certainly you don’t want to wish your life away, but I am really excited for Link. The Seattle Times had a nice article today describing the design of the Tukwila light rail station, which I thought was really cool. The V shape apparently is supposed to represent where the two wings meet the fuselage of a real jet. I have a hard time seeing this, but hey, what a unique way to represent Jet City! I admit, some art I just don’t see! In my fascination with the work of Sound Transit, I didn’t realize this station was the only one with a park and ride facility. I thought at first that it was in a weird spot, but after seeing the graphics on this article, I am convinced otherwise, it actually will be in a good spot for commuters. One reason to check the link is there are lots of pictures of the station, which is nice, because everytime I pass by I am always preoccupied on the bus getting my stuff/luggage ready to enter/leave SeaTac. Being on the freeway makes it hard to stop and look as well! I hear there are some awesome views off the platforms of the Tukwila station too. Pretty cool bonus for the commuter! However the real tingly feeling will come when you wisk by the traffic on I-5 as you cross over the freeway!

Sounder carries 7 Million!

Before its seventh anniversary Sound Transit’s Sounder has carried more than 7 million people to Seattle from Tacoma and Everett hassle free and best of all congestion free! My guess is that the ridership is about to skyrocket, especially in August when the I-5 nightmare begins. Sound Transit and King County Metro will be re-routing all routes that travel through the construction zones. This will be an excellent time to use Sounder. In fact, Sound Transit is allowing standing room to be used during this project. Again this is one of many reasons that show the importance of having rail separated from traffic. Sounder thrived in the snowstorms of 06-07, cruises right along when there are multiple accidents backing up I-5, and hey heavy rain…no problem for Sounder! I know one thing with backups from Seattle to Tacoma expected, I would hate to be that single occupant driver inching along I-5 in August. I think it is really unfortunate that they can’t add additional trains for the construction, but those that ride the Sounder and convert to using this awesome form of transportation they will be in luck because Sound Transit will be adding additional routes including a reverse route in the September shake up. I do wish I could ride the Sounder daily, perhaps someday it will be running all day and night? Anything you would change about Sounder? Anyone planning on starting to use it during construction woes?

Light Rail $7 billion less than Original Estimate

ST2 hasn’t even been approved and the cost has already come down by more than $7 billion:

It will cost an estimated $30.8 billion to build an expanded Sound Transit light rail system, operate it for 20 years and repay financing costs over 50 years, according to a revised calculation made by Sound Transit.

This is more than $7 billion less than the agency reported earlier.

Urban-area Puget Sound voters will be asked to approve the new amount as part of a November ballot and would continue to pay for it until bonds are repaid in 2057, the agency said.

Sound Transit said when it reviewed the initial calculations before the larger number was published that it didn’t catch the fact that it double-counted $7 billion in costs, inflating the total. The amount double-counted was the portion of construction costs to be financed through bond sales. Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said someone outside his agency, whom he wouldn’t identify, pointed out the error.

Wow. I guess that should make it easier for voters to swallow!

Tunnel Boring Shot

This shot is awesome.

Passenger Ferries

I guess I’m not the only one fantasizing about them.

When it comes to mass transit, Puget Sound’s new selling point is that open water requires no expensive workers to design, build, pave, stripe or repeatedly patch its surface.

“The route is free,” said King County Councilman Dow Constantine at a “mosquito fleet” forum last week at Salty’s on Alki.

What’s the expression about free lunches? I have to say that ferries are vastly preferrable to buses or shuttles, and if they ever bring back the UW-Kirkland Ferry, I will take it every day.

Pat Murray shows Sound Transit the Money!

I know that’s a lame title for this post, but I’m in Sweden (that’s a Stockholm metro station on the left), where things are a little behind the times in the American pop culture department, but way ahead in terms of congestion pricing (the photo in that article is hella not from Stockholm, btw), and transit (exactly 100 metro stations in a city of 760,000 and a region of 1.9 million, who says transit can’t work in low density?).

Anyway, it seems that Patty Murray has come through for Light Rail in the region.

Sound Transit today lauded Washington Sen. Patty Murray for her efforts to include $30 million for Sound Transit’s University Link light rail project in a key Senate funding bill.

“Our Senator comes through again,” said Sound Transit Board Chairman and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “When commuters jump on the quick, quiet and efficient U-Link, they should thank Patty Murray.”

The funding bill also includes a $70 million installment of Sound Transit’s $500 million full funding grant agreement for the initial Link light rail segment from downtown Seattle to Tukwila that is more than 70 percent complete. The line from downtown to Tukwila is scheduled to open for service in July, 2009, with the final leg from Tukwila into Sea-Tac International Airport to open by December, 2009.

I-5 Closures

I-5 will have intense construction from August 10th to August 19th through Lynnwood, Shoreline and Seattle. Be prepared! Metro has plans to keep people moving through the construction, and I hope those people who take the bus decide to keep taking it.

Gas usage in Washington is lowest since 1968

An article today in the Seattle PI shows that gas use in Washington State is the lowest it has been in more than three decades. This is great! However there is still work to be done. Our neighbors to the north are using 2.8 gallons of gas per week per capita less than Washingtonians. Looking at the largest cities in these perspective regions (Seattle and Vancouver), this is possible because the densities of the two cities are very different. Vancouver is a little more than double the density of Seattle at 13,602.6/sq. mi. which would require less gasoline usage to get to and from the city. Seattle having a much larger metropolitan population means we are more spread out creating demand for more gasoline. However I think this article compliments Andrew’s nice blogs on Density and the string of density related articles coming from the PI lately.

While mass transit is becoming more widely available and building restrictions have forced more dense development, the gradual decrease — starting in 1999 — seems to also be tied to the increase in gas prices, said Clark Williams-Derry, the Sightline research director of the Cascadia Scorecard 2007 report released in June”.
This is key to building a well-oiled transportation system. Density places more people at the doorstep of transit. If available, people will forget they ever depended on cars.
The lower rate of consumption is partly because of decade-old development rules focused on creating “compact, complete communities,” said Peter Ladner… “.
I think our development is starting to head in this direction as well, take for instance Kent. The development of Kent Station has made living in Kent and the commuting much easier. If we can start making the cities we have more dense, and develop them around a reasonable transportation system, this will make for a better environment overall.

Transit Wrap-up

I’m in Sweden on Holiday at the moment, so here’s a brief transit news round-up:

On Saturday the P-I talked about free transit service. Apparently, Island Transit is free, and the P-I wondered if it would work here. I doubt it. The demand would go up, mostly from kids and the homeless, which would make the bus worse for commuters and actually make transit less popular.

SFist asked a bus driver what they hated most. I know that’s San Francisco, but the list is still relevant here. Except:

-Money. Please, people, please: If you’re paying cash, get it out of your purse/backpack/pocket/shoe before you climb the stairs. It’s beyond annoying to see someone talking on a cellphone, carrying a purse or backpack that could easily hold the Grand Canyon, spending five minutes leaning on the fare box, blocking everyone else’s efforts to get on the bus, counting out pennies from the nether reaches of their bag.

Orphan Road noticed they’ve already started building University Station.

Neighborhoods and Transit in the PI

The PI has a bunch of articles today about Density, Transit and Neighborhoods all over the city. The series is in response to the Mayor asking Neighborhood groups to update their plans to accommodate more growth. The last plans were written ten years ago.

I always think of the “neighborhoods” movement being a gigantic NIMBYism front that fights all growth, but the articles show that it isn’t that that way everywhere, and that some neighborhoods are working to preserve their character whilst growing.

There’s one about the South End, Rainier Valley in particular, where residents mistrust the city government and are unhappy with the way development has been going. A lot of this has been the traffic nightmare brought by light rail construction, which is almost over. There’s this quote from Jim Diers, former director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods

“During the neighborhood planning process, there was not one neighborhood, including those in Southeast Seattle, that fought growth targets.”

But people get their backs up when they are told how to grow and have no say in neighborhood planning, Diers said, noting that many residents were caught off-guard by the proposal.

There’s an entire article about Diers, who was the first Department of Neighborhoods head, served under Royer, Rice and Schell but was fired when Nickels came into office. He claims that the neighborhood movement has been weakened by Nickels, and that Seattle is getting away from a model that is being copied around the world. He takes the classic NIMBY stance.

There’s an article about Beacon Hill, where the growth plan adopted 10 years ago worked well, but people there are scrambling to ensure the development around Beacon Hill Station is in tune with neighborhood goals. Then there’s Roosevelt, where the Neighborhood Council tries to place nice with the city in order to get their vision for their neighborhood straightened out. With the Roosevelt Station planned, it will certainly become and even more dense neighborhood, and by playing nice instead of obstinate, they were able to convince Sound Transit that they needed a tunnel instead of overground. Finally, there’s this piece about Madison Park, where the rich residents feel that a neighborhood plan might be the only protection against rampant development.

It’s a great series that gives a good idea about what the neighborhood movement can and can’t do, and even gives clues on how to get involved. I get involved in my neighborhood meetings (I went to the Capitol Hill station meeting), and I encourage everyone else to do so if they are interested and have the time.

Revenue from Ads Should at Least Equal Advertising Expenditures

Sorry to go back to the issue of ads on the bus, since we’ve just about beat that one to death, but when asking Sound Transit how much they spend on advertising I go this response:

The American Public Transit Association recommends transit agencies devote between one and four percent of their operating costs to marketing. Sound Transit is well within that guideline.

Overall ridership on Sound Transit services rose 8 percent between 1st quarter 2006 and 1st quarter 2007. An annual public opinion poll conducted by Sound Transit in fall of 2006 also showed approval rating for the agency had risen significantly from 45 percent in 2003 to 65 percent in 2006. Brand recognition is up to 85 percent. We believe much of this is attributable to effective advertising.

Well if they’re going to spend 1~4% of their budget on ads, I think they should try to recoup 1~4% of their budget from advertising.

Waterfront Streetcar coming back?

So I was in the grocery store yesterday and I somehow always get stuck in the magazine section reading various magazines of interest. One I tend to pick up a lot is Seattle Metropolitan, it has some good stuff on Seattle, although, this month there was an article on the beloved Waterfront Streetcar. The article talked about the history of streetcars in Seattle, which I might add was quite rich, I never knew Seattle was such a streetcar oriented city. Like anything though, if you saturate it with enough politics things can be taken away in an instant. Which several times over again has happened to Seattle. Some might say it was another tourist oriented development by Seattle, although I know many businesses along Pioneer Square would surely love to have the streetcar back in a heartbeat. One part I found particularly interesting in this article, there are a couple shops in Pioneer Square that are closing (11 to be exact) and it was implied that they are closing because the loss of the streetcar means a loss in revenue (30-40% to be exact). Whereas on the flip side, the new South Lake Union Streetcar is causing a stir as well. Christine Lea who is the Vice President of the Cascade Neighborhood Association notes that businesses are starting to flee the SLU area due to the development of the Streetcar. Hmm… I do know since I have worked in SLU for a couple years now, I have seen a lot more going in than going out. I think the streetcar is going to do a lot more than people think! I am betting businesses will thrive much like they did in the Pearl District in Portland. Finally, Seattle got some promising news the City Council approved Greg Smith’s proposal for three extra floors on his Occidental Park Project and the trolley barn was a go again! This is great news! Let’s make it happen Seattle, with some extensions it can be a great opportunity!

Second November Ballot for Transit Could Be Coming

For foot ferries?

Could be the case it seems. I love the ferries. I wish they’d run one from Kirkland to Seattle like they did back in the 1930s. I’d take it every day.

Seattle’s "Green Cred" without Proper Rapid Transit

Today the PI has an opinion piece about Seattle’s green cred is a mirage without better public transportation:

Seattleites tout a good green game, but fall a little short.

Aside from Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and pizza by the slice, what I miss most about New York City is the efficient and reliable subway system, capable of transporting millions of people to work every day. At night, it would take me less than 15 minutes to travel north from 14th Street to my apartment in the low 80s with a subway transfer in between. In fact, subways were such a pervasive part of my life that in nine-plus years I never drove, not even once.

My pharmacist husband, meanwhile, has relied on subways his entire life. Raised in Queens, he attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn and owned a pharmacy in Greenwich Village. A devotee of the N Train, at 43 years old, he just got his driver’s license in anticipation of our big move west.

Well, 20% of Seattlites do bus to work, but the point remains that we need better public transportation to coax more people out of their cars.


This photo excited me.

More Money Through Advertising

Nick’s post here yesterday (nice first post, btw!) got me thinking about advertising dollars. Only 2% of Metro’s buses are wrapped, yet that generates $1 mn per year. It stands to figure if 100% were wrapped, $50 million could be raised. That would be about 12% of Metro’s $400 million or so budget. I know we’re not the only ones who are for more ads in transit here, that this for example.

We need to generate more money through advertising. Ride the London Underground and you see a ton of advertising. Metro and Sound Transit buses have very little advertising, or space for it. Much of the advertising is of the non-profit type, and targets the very demographic Thatcher believes rides buses: the down and out, drug addicted, unemployed. Surely someone would like to try to sell me something through paid advertising. Even those that can barely afford such things stand in line to buy iPods and iPhones.

Here’s some ideas about ads that could be in train stations. Outside of bus shelters, bus wrappings and trains stations, what are other advertising possibilities?

Bus Wraps: All Wrapped Up?

It appears the wrapped buses are going to be going through some changes in the future according to a news release from King County. Full bus wraps have been responsible for generating much needed revenue for Metro. This has come at a price to the riders of these buses. People who ride can’t see street signs or buildings, and if dark outside it is impossible to see anything causing people much frustration. The wraps are currently on 25 buses which is less than 2% of Metro’s fleet. If Metro completely phased out the wraps that would result in a loss of $743,000 in 2008. So Metro came up with a new partial wrap that will allow wrapping to only a portion of the window plus the rest of the bus.
From Ron Simms:
Metro would be the first transit agency in the country to offer this type of partial-wrap to advertisers. Metro believes the new partial wrap advertising option can generate interest from national and local clients to advertise on Metro’s fleet and become a model for other transit agencies to follow“.
They will allow these partial wraps on 50 buses and may generate $450,000-$900,000 in revenue.
This is good for Metro and it seems it will be good for the passengers as well. Although I am not a fan of the green/purple and gold color schemes, it is eye catching to see the wrapped buses from the outside. I truly dislike being in them, especially on a sunny day. One difference that was pointed out to me was that in places like San Francisco and Vancouver B.C. (which I visited recently) they have advertisements at bus shelters. There are many bus stops in downtown Seattle where many passengers get on/off buses. It seems that they could gain additional revenue by adding panels to these stops. Metro could even charge premium rates for higher volume stops.