Buses over Streetcars

Erica Barnett points out that the FTA seems to be implementing rules that push for buses over streetcars because the “densification” element would be removed from the cost-effectiveness criteria. This would likely remove some of the funding that we used here to build our streetcar line.

Erica is incorrect that this could remove funding for light-rail or heavy rail rapid transit lines. This would be a HUGE worry for University Link that has not yet been approved for federal funding. The good news is that the “densification” factor is not necessary for that project, since the cost-benefit for that project is time of commute and number of commuters.

We have little to worry for the moment about federal funding for light rail.

Making Rail Transit Effective – Parking

I noticed one thing that tends to keep ridership down in Rail applications. Lack of parking seems to be the killer of applications. To get people to use the service, they need a place to park their vehicles. I’m not saying every station needs a huge garage but it helps quite a bit though.

In the Pacific Northwest, Sounder could continue growing it’s ridership at all of it’s stations if it had additional parking structures. Auburn, Kent are both very much at capacity while Puyallup, Sumner, and Tukwila does not have parking garages available. King Street Station in Seattle also does not have a parking option.

There is no “easy” solution but would charging for parking be an option for most commuters? Maybe, but in order to increase ridership, we can not have cars fill up neighborhoods and communities.

Do any of you have suggestions on what could be done to improve ridership?

Seattle Can Learn From Other Cities on the Viaduct

This isn’t really transit related, but when thinking of a replacement to the viaduct, it’s important to think back the the Embarcadero Waterfront Freeway in San Francisco that was destroyed and not replaced, and also to think about the Big Dig in Boston that replaced the elevated I-93 with a tunnel with an astounding final cost of $14.8 billion.

The contrasts are pretty big. Both had the side effect of freeing their waterfronts from separation with the city and from shadows and noise. But San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway carried up to 110,000 cars daily the same high-end as the viaduct and without it, supply shortage shifted demand to alternate routes and means of transportation along their waterfront.

Boston, on the other hand, has wasted $14.8 billion digging a tremendous tunnel. Granted, I-93 is more important to Boston than the Viaduct is to Seattle or the Embarcadero Freeway ever was to San Francisco, but it’s worth noting how huge projects like this can balloon out of control and cost a fortune, when they may not even be necessary in the first place, as the Embarcadero Freeway shows.

These things always get me thinking, how much transit can you buy with $14.8 billion? About 36% more than all that was in Prop. 1.

Bus Tunnel Back Open

…as of this morning. It had been closed sense last week due to computer failures.

Also, the streetcar still has bugs to work out.

Hopefully with two years of testing under it’s belt, Link will open without a hitch, though it doesn’t seem likely.

Bellevue – Snohomish Commuter Rail

As many of us think of the possibilities, the downfalls, the errors, the facts, the costs, the myths, of having some sort of commuter rail on the East Side, most tend to look at the walking distance from it’s biggest stop, NE 8th in Bellevue.

What most of these people who are out against the commuter rail option doesn’t like that it won’t be “new” and it wouldn’t be “their” idea. Along comes a private investor, Thomas Payne, widely known for his ups in Canada and his downs in Tacoma with Golden Pacific Railroad and the Reading 2100 4-8-4 Steam Locomotive.

What needs to be mentioned are the people who take Sounder and arrive at King Street Station typically use another method of transportation to get to their office such as buses, taxi, or employee shuttles. The distance from King Street Station to Mid-Downtown is equal to that of NE 8th to Downtown Bellevue, it is easily fixable with transit but the major difference is walking over I-405. A solution would be to instate two feeder buses that would run to various locations within Bellevue. The buses would return to the load/unload zone along NE 8th to await the next train.

While the projected ridership numbers are low, the realistic number could be far greater. This has happened to just about every commuter rail system that has been launched to date. As the system expands to more destinations, more trains are added, more people will come. The possibility of a train or two that originates from Everett Station to Bellevue would take off not only cars off the road but also free up crowded buses. If the service is branched outward to Monroe or even Sultan/Goldbar would greatly improve ridership relieving congestion off SR 522 and Hwy 2.

Ultimately though, this private commuter service will face one thing that people in this region don’t like and don’t want to see or hear about – another transportation entity. Unless the fare structure is some how integrated with the region system, it will have a very rough time gaining it’s ridership on the point of a new carrier but if ST did come in and take over, that would open it’s options to have trains depart Tacoma to Tukwila then over to the Eastside Line but that enters a new problem entirely….

Renton does not want a commuter train running up and down and has been fighting All Aboard Washington tooth and nail to make sure it doesn’t happen. While the the City of Renton did pay for the new bridges between the Seattle/Tacoma Mainline and Renton Boeing for the Next Generation 737′s it still does not want to see an alternative transportation mode simply because it’s “loud”. To Date, the City of Renton is the only City that wishes not to have the system. The City of Snohomish, Woodinville, Maltby, Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond all are in strong support of having commuter rail to help relieve congestion. Maybe it could stop at The Landing in Renton so they don’t have to worry about the train.

There won’t be a return of the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train since the Columbia Winery is moving to Sunnyside, Washington. The Dinner train was the only thing readily supporting the winery at it’s location as the vineyards and such are in Sunnyside.

Could Freight Service be restore as well? It’s really hard to say what exactly will happen but I can see a court battle sooner than later….

Central Link Light Rail Update – 12-26-2007

Construction is coming nicely along with the OCS (Overhead Contact System) in place from Tukwila International Blvd Station to I-5/SR 599 and Mlk Way/Boeing Access Rd to Raymond Street. The bridge linking Tukwila Station over SR 518 to the Airport is complete and ribbon rail is along side of the new Airport Expressway that is currently being welded.

First Up, Mt. Baker Station

Looking the other way at Mlk Way

Redevelopment along Mlk Way and the Route 42

Columbia City Station @ Alaska Street

Othello Station

Henderson Street Station

The recently completed elevated section of Boeing Access Road.

Tukwila International Blvd Station

I’ll have to take some time out this weekend and explore the Airport Segment more in-depth. Not any places I would recommend stopping at near the Airport where you can get photos of the construction though it may be a thought to take the bus to the terminal and walk up to the top of the parking garage and shoot down towards the alignment. I’m sure you can get a good vantage point of the Expressway and might be able to see the Tukwila Station as well.

Everett Streetcar Pros and Cons

A finally, something we can compare systems too!

While the Seattle Streetcar is running and the Everett Streetcar is under consideration, there are already many advantages the Everett Streetcar will have over it’s Seattle Counterpart.

Everett Pros -

The selected routing will go through the heart of Downtown Everett which is undergoing major redevelopment.

The Waterfront, Downtown, and Riverfront redevelopments with a Streetcar would enhance the idea of not needing a car to do your shopping or simple commuting. This would not only help local businesses but also encourage people to walk or bike more thus fighting obesity that our region is known for.

The Streetcar routing would stop at 2 community campuses, Everett Community College and Everett Station Community College and would also stop at Everett High School.

Streetcar would stop within walking distance of the Everett Events Center, home of the Everett Silvertips (Hockey) and Everett Memorial Stadium, home of the Everett Aquasox (Baseball)

The ability to expand to outlaying neighbors with minimal disruption if using the 3 blocks, 3 weeks method.

Businesses and Residences WANT THE STREETCAR

Everett Cons

Cost – But not really as much as you would think after it is broken down. It is really the initial cost for the maintenance facility, hiring technicians/maintenance personal, 3-5 Streetcars, construction, right-of-way, training, stations that all come with the initial 1.3 mile segment. You get all of that for $54 Million dollars. Another 3-5 miles of line, stations, construction, right-of-way, etc is only an additional $77 million.

Effectiveness. Does Everett really need a Streetcar?

Moving onward -

Everett couldn’t be in a better position than it is in right now with this information. Not only can it connect it’s largest transit hub to commuter rail (Sounder), intercity rail and long distance rail (Amtrak), this would encourage more developers who look for Cities doing rail projects to come in and have their buildings in a prime location.

Everett is doing something that Seattle and Tacoma needs to look at and hopefully it will be built to show that the Streetcar does indeed prove it’s worth in redevelopment, just like Portland. More on this later

Everett Streetcar – $131 Million

A recent study of the proposed Everett Streetcar reached a new point with cost estimates released but already touted a high caliber system, if the University of Washington Everett Campus is built. The Streetcar would connect the new Riverfront development, including a possible UW Everett Campus at Everett Station.

Everett Station is home to the Everett Transit Customer Service Center as well as WorkSource, WorkForce, The University Center and Espresso Americano. Amtrak to Seattle, Chicago, and Vancouver, BC, Greyhound, Northwest Trailways, Skagit Transit, Island Transit, Sound Transit bus and Commuter Rail to Seattle and Community Transit also provide service from Everett Station.

The system is broken down into 4 segments, Segment A – Riverfront to Everett Station which would be the initial segment came in at $54 million dollars, $2 million more than the South Lake Union Streetcar. Everett Station is also the recommended site for the future UW Everett Campus. Riverfront is also undergoing a huge transformation of new housing, retail, and commercial use. BNSF Railway played a huge roll in this transformation by relocation a rail line used to get into Delta yard was recently finished.

Segment B would continue from Everett Station to Downtown via Smith Avenue, Wall Street, and Hewitt Avenue. Downtown Everett is slowly becoming a mini-Bellevue with smaller tech businesses moving in to get away from the crowded Bellevue, Kirkland, Seattle, Tukwila region. A lot of new retail, restaurants, cafes and commericial businesses have gone in in recent years and would benefit greatly from the Streetcars presence.

Segment C would continue from Downtown/Hewitt Avenue to the Marina on 10th, a location where new housing, retail and commercial is to be developed. This would also serve the Everett Naval Base and ferry service to Hat Island.

Segment D would depart from Downtown to Everett Community College via Colby Avenue.

The problem now is funding; including Inekon-Trio Streetcars (same as Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Washington, DC, and Toronto), maintenance facility, add about 3 miles of north and south spurs, right-of-way, vehicle and maintenance costs and the price tag swells to more than $131 million. That isn’t including the $6 million to $9 million a year to operate the Streetcar.

Streetcars are better than buses because they attract up to 60 percent more riders, seem to encourage quality urban development and open door for creative funding strategies, Brennan said.

Portland, for example, has seen more than $3 billion in development along its streetcar line since it opened in 2001, including about 6,000 residential units and 4 million square feet of commercial space, according to the Nelson-Nygaard study.

The city also paid for 30 percent of its capital costs with bonds that will be paid back from revenue collected in a special taxing district, which charges a variable fee to property owners in a three block radius of the route.

When Tacoma replaced an existing bus line with streetcars, it saw a 500 percent spike in ridership, Everett’s consultant said.

While some stakeholders and city officials are gung-ho about the prospect, it’s not yet clear to what extent property owners along the proposed routes are willing to chip in for the steep initial cost of a streetcar system.

We shall see.

More can be read at the Everett Herald Online

Horizon Air vs Amtrak Cascades! Read on…

I received an interesting message on just how long it took 2 of my friends to get to Portland. Cindy took Amtrak since she hates traveling by plane and Jeff took Horizon Air from Seattle to Portland cause he thinks the all of the problems with the trainset will eventually just fall apart. They both agreed to meet at the Starbucks on Broadway and Morrison. Walking distance from Portland Max or the Portland Streetcar. Neither one had checked baggage this time.

Let’s start off with Jeff’s story. His flight was scheduled to depart at 7:30am. He took Shuttle Express from Kirkland around 4:00am after I gave him a heads up to Airport Construction for the light-rail and new expressway. He ended up waiting only 5 minutes for traffic at the unloading zone. The problem was the line for security which was 2 1/2 hours for the puddle jumper 50 minute flight to PDX. His plane left 43 minutes late due to terminal congestion and excessive planes on taxiway according to the pilot he had a bottle of water and you guessed it… peanuts. On approach to PDX, thanks to strong crosswinds forced them to go around which added another 10-15 minutes. When they finally landed, a hard one at that, they were stuck another 10 minutes for their gate to clear up for another late plane that was supposed to be long, long gone. He walked to the Portland MAX to Downtown Portland for a 40 minute ride to meet the misses.

Cost: $107.74 after taxes round trip

4am Departure
Shuttle Express 30 minutes 4:30
Unload delay 4:35
Security 2 1/2 hours 7:05
Onboard the plane at 7:25
Flight Delay 43 minutes – 8:18
Flight Delay 10 minutes – 8:28
Flight Delay 10 minutes – 8:38
Max to Downtown 40 minutes – 9:18

Total time: 5 hours, 18 minutes…for a 50 minute flight….

Onward to Cindy – She opted to sleep in after Jeff took off, her daughter was going to drive her to King Street Station. They left their house at 7:00am arrived at the station at around 7:15am and the train was just pulling into the station. Normally they would load Business Class passengers first but because of the time constraint, they loaded all at once and departed at 7:36am, nearly sold out as she described it. The bistro car opened up just before Tacoma where she got coffee, sausage egg and cheese sandwich, they played A Christmas Story on the monitors. The only delay was 5 minutes while waiting for the Vancouver Rail bridge to close. They arrived into Portland at 11:09am, 9 minutes late. She walked 3 blocks from Union Station to the Portland Streetcar. She got lucky as the car was just a few blocks down dealing with a truck that was trying to pull out of a tight space or something otherwise it would have been a 20 minute wait for the next one and could have walked it in that time. She got off the streetcar and walked 3 blocks to meet Jeff and continue the shopping.

$66 after tax

Delayed Departure: 6 minutes
Delay Bridge – 5 minutes – 11 minutes total delay
Schedule padding – Unknown – Arrived 9 minutes late

Total time 3 hours 39 minutes…scheduled 3 hours 30 minutes

While this isn’t one of those great “Trains are better than Planes, blah blah” postings, I do find it incredible that it took damn near 6 hours for a 50 minute flight once you add everything in. Even the drive time added to Cindy’s trip would have only bumped it up another 15 minutes.

Myself, I look forward to the day that we get semi high speed rail here and bump the scheduled time to less than 2 hours and 30 minutes between Seattle and Portland. Sure it might not be a while but it is coming, when the government gets off it’s rear here and get serious about it like California. The question is, would us in the corridor (Eugene to Vancouver, BC) take the train more… WSDOT says it could do less than 5 hours between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC in it’s high speed rail draft….2016-2020 should be interesting.

Streetcars, Ferries, and Light-Rail


Ridership on the Streetcar still seems to be very strong. I can see the Streetcar improving once the new Lake Union Park is finished and easy transportation to the Summer Concert Series

I’ve been keeping an eye out for possible locations for the King County Passenger Ferry system along the South Lake Union area and noted a couple of good locations in easy walking distance to the Streetcar. Remember, there is a small Lake Union Water Taxi service already though it is currently not running this time of year.

I also took a look at the current ballasted trail that runs from South Lake Union Park to Fremont and believe it could be a great route for a Streetcar, grade separated on top of that, to serve the Fremont community. This would need 4 additional Streetcars and serve could allow every 10-15 minutes. The problem would be the lack of space at the current Seattle Streetcar maintenance facility which would allow 6 cars at the facility (4 outside, 2 indoor)

Also, looking at how Portland did some of their design towards South Waterfront, a line out to the University of Washington could be built easily but then comes the issue of parking. A bicycle lane can easily be installed but the displaced vehicles which most are residential would need to find a new location to park. I don’t see a simple or easy decision to this but it’s comforting to know that the idea would work. A fun fact – the Inkeon-Trio Streetcars can do 55mph but are all governed at 35mph, the maximum speed limit. The biggest question would be where to terminate the line? For example from Eastlake Ave to NE Campus Pkwy. Turn South onto University Way Ne to NE Pacific and terminate at Montlake Blvd. The other alternative to turn North onto Brooklyn Ave to Cowen Park @ Ne Ravenna Blvd. Either route will require 3 additional Streetcars but if both routes were selected, the system would need 2-3 more. More on this later

Also in the news is to keep an eye out on the testing segment between the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and the Operations and Maintenance Facility. Sound Transit is in the process of testing 4 car trainsets, a very cool site to see! The tunnel boring machine is stopped for a week for the Holidays and should pop out the first or second week in January.

And finally, wire is strung from Tukwila International BLVD station to SR 599 and MLK Way/Boeing Access Road to Alaska Street. Crews were welding rail at the Airport segment this afternoon when I drove by.

That’s all on this front. I won’t be posting until after the Holidays. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years. Please, please be safe out on the roads on New Years.

Seattle Streetcar skyrockets

Quite remarkable considering the odds against the new Streetcar.


3 minutes

Yesterday the US Congress approved $88.6 million for ULink and Central link. This is slightly less than the $94 million mentioned before for 2008, though the difference is all coming out of ULink, which means that we probably will still get all the money in total, it might just take longer.

In the press release I received it had this quote:

The project connects the three largest urban centers in the region: downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University District. It will offer much faster travel times for transit passengers than buses. Light rail will carry passengers from downtown to the University in 9 minutes instead of 25 and to Capitol Hill in 6 minutes instead of 14. Trips between Capitol Hill and the University District will take 3 minutes instead of 22. Riders will also enjoy reliable service no matter how bad the weather or traffic congestion.

Three minutes!

Update: Added the press release.

There a few things to read into this, since the Feds have already given Sound Transit $20mn before the finally grant decision on University Link. First, it looks like University Link is going forward regardless of the death of Prop. 1. This shows that Ted Van Dyk and his “Battle of Stalingrad” quote were wrong, that ST will be able to complete that segment regardless of whatelse happens. 3.15 miles more subway for Seattle!

Also, it shows just how badly we need real, rapid transit here. This got the highest possible rating, and just two stations adds 70,000 riders to the line. This is basically the cheapest transportation project attempted in recent memory in this area. At fully one-tenth the cost of widening I-405, this will add more than more than 25% as much people-moving capacity..

Here comes governance reform

At one of the News Tribune blogs, David Seago reports on Gov. Gregoire’s visit to the editorial board. There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news:

The governor said she was prepared to introduce her own RTG [Regional Transportation Governance] legislation for the 2008 session, but she agreed to let state Sens. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, take the lead in crafting a proposal…

RTG means no more Sound Transit, no more Regional Transportation Improvement District – bodies comprised of elected city and county officials from Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.

Daimajin has discussed at length why this is a bad idea. Briefly, I oppose it strongly because (1) new agencies tend to be paralyzed by indecision and incompetence for several years, while Sound Transit is now operating smoothly; (2) Any new entity is likely to both dilute the vote of pro-transit Seattle and lose most of its rail transit focus; and (3) an elected board is unlikely to approve the taxes necessary to build a good rail system.

By the way, Ed Murray is the one you can thank for the ST2/RTID marriage in the last election, in spite of representing one of the most liberal districts in the state.

I was led to this blog entry via David Brewster on Crosscut, who adds:

The first political showdown will be Sound Transit’s decision next February whether to go back to the ballot in 2008, this time with no roads component. House Speaker Frank Chopp opposes the 2008 submission, fearing that some of his Democratic candidates in the suburbs will be forced to take a stand on a tax increase. Olympia has threatened Sound Transit that if they go ahead with the 2008 vote, they can expect to be punished by enactment of a regional governance entity that will weaken Sound Transit’s autonomy and its dedicated taxes. Waiting to 2010 for the Sound Transit II vote may also give enough time for the regional governance entity to be enacted.

How far back has the Prop. 1 failure set us? A generation?

A wee bit of good news via Seago:

And the notion of “sub-area equity,” Gregoire said emphatically, has got to go. That gave us a little shudder, because the principle that the money raised in each county should be spent each county is pretty much Holy Writ in Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Sub-area equity prevents us from building a system that serves the most riders. If key leaders are starting to recognize that, it’s a good thing.

Still, in state races I’m pretty much a single-issue voter on transit, and the Governor has yet to give me a reason she’d be better than Dino Rossi, which is pathetic.

UPDATE: Sen. Murray has a fair response in the comments, that you should read. It is certainly true that he renounced his support for the ST2/RTID marriage quite some time ago, which is something I should have pointed out in the original post.

As for his claims about opposing RTID from the start, he sponsored this bill about RTID, and Section 8 (an amendment added by the Senate) is where the linkage is established. Judge for yourself (I’m no journalist), but to me that’s ancient history. I’m glad to see our Seattle delegation standing up for a 2008 ST2.1 vote, and that’s what matters.

This Governence Reform is a Terrible Idea

I want to add to the great post Frank at OR wrote in response to Ted Van Dyk’s latest Crosscut piece calling for a transportation “mega-agency” with a directly elected board that would have control over both transit planning and roads planning. Frank takes the similar position to the one I made last time, but Frank goes into more detail. Trust me, as with everything he writes, the whole thing is worth the read.

I’ve got something to add to the argument. There are some huge advantages to a federated board relative to a directly elected one. First, a federate board can plan transportation and transit around other major regional agendas. When Bellevue approved this development, they had light rail in mind, and it helped having the Bellevue City councilwoman who approved the development be on the Sound Transit board. There is definitely a synergy between the council members and mayors approving development and planning their cities and the transportation agencies.

Secondly, elected officials working on the same board are going to have an easier time coordinating efforts amongst each other vis-à-vis elected officials in different agencies. Compare efforts like Rainer Valley zoning and the Bellevue Plan to the trouble that larger, directly-elected agencies like King County and the Port of Seattle have had dealing with something as straight-forward as a rail purchase. Months of negotiation and a final solution still hasn’t been reached.

Finally, a directly elected regional officer/board would look just like the port, with little accountability, no oversight, and terrible corruption. Want your city/county council members to have bargain with an agency like the Port?

Sure, an elected office with taxing authority would be able to get work done faster, but it would also be able to do damage much faster. The agency Rice-Stanton envision would have the power to dictate route planning for local agencies, literally franchising routes downward from on high. Imagine if a Ted Van Dyk, Tim Eyman or John Niles became chair of this regional transportation agency? It’d either be roads all roads with Van Dyk, complete tax shutdown with Eyman, or all buses all the time with John Niles. Transit haters could run routes that no one would ride and point to it as proof that transit is a waste. That doesn’t sound like an effective agency.

What we have currently is a group of local, elected officials who know their constituents and know their areas’ long term plans working together to create transportation packages to bring to voters who ultimately have the say on it all. That seems reasonable to me. What Eyman, Ted Van Dyk, and John Niles want is a regional agency subject to politicization and direct-election propaganda. In their vision, every four years a new group could come in and do away with the progress made in the last go. How is that to our region’s advantage?

How to Name Urban Rail Ways

The Overhead Wire has a post about how rail lines should have numbers not colors. For example, in Chicago and Los Angeles all the rail lines names are colors, ie, “blue line”, “red line”, while in New York the “services” are numbered “A”, “7″, etc. I agree that numbers allow for more lines/services, but maps like colors. Almost every city in America (also, Washington, Boston, etc.) with a rail system uses colors.

I prefer names over numbers, because they allow for more information. The London Underground has names, and there’s little question where some of the lines go. The “Waterloo and City” line goes between, well, Waterloo and the City of London. In Tokyo the lines are named, too. The Toyoko line goes between Tokyo and Yokohama, and it’s obvious from the name (if you speak Japanese).

It seems like we are going toward naming our lines, but giving them terrible names: “Central Link”, “Tacoma Link”, “First Hill Streetcar”, “South Lake Union Streetcar”, and “Sounder”. I may be jumping the gun, since we only have really one line and it’s not opened yet, but I propose this if we ever get an integrated system, either light rail or streetcars: we both letter our lines and give them names. San Francisco does it this way, with the “N Judah”, “9 Potrero”, “T Third Street”, “38 Geary” etc. This way it could be the “T Tacoma”, “S South Lake Union”, “F First Hill”, “D Denny”, etc.

What do you guys think? Are letters better than colors? Names better than letters?

UW Station

If you look at the UW station plans, you’ll see that the station will have one exit facing North with a ramp toward main campus and another facing toward the hospital. It’s deep underground because it has to cross the cut, which means it needs to go under the water. I love the design, especially how the ramp faces the mountain as you walk to the station, but the one bad part of the design is it’s distance from Montlake bridge where the buses crossing 520 ride. Small problem.

Bicycles, South Lake Union, plus others

A lot of noise has been made about how the Streetcar tracks in South Lake Union are bad for bikes. So I went down there yesterday on my bike and I have to say, I didn’t have that problem. I guess if you are riding along the same area where the streetcar is, it could be dangerous to be in the tracks, but why not go one block down? I only crossed the tracks at a 90-degree angle.

Oddly, there are a ton of other, old tracks in the street down there, and they don’t have this problem, I wonder why only the Streetcar tracks get the complaints.

On a completely unrelated note, I went to a Thunderbirds hockey game yesterday and learned that the team is moving to Kent and will play in a venue across the street from Kent Station. They play at Key Arena now, but it seems that next year you’ll be able to take sounder down to Kent for T-Birds games. Oddly, the T-Birds play in a division that has Everett in it, and Everett and Kent are both about the same distance from Seattle, so if the T-Birds move down to Kent, they ought to be called the Kent Thunderbirds, not the Seattle Thunderbirds. At least that’s my opinion.

UW Station Plans, 520, Eastside Rail

There’s an article here about the UW station plans which were on display yesterday. Look forward to a post from me with more on the station design.

Seattle Times ran this op-ed from Theodore Lane and Bill Mundy about how 520 is the right corridor for light rail rather than I-90. I agree a line on there makes sense, but it doesn’t make more sense than one on 520. First, it doesn’t go through Downtown Bellevue, which has nearly as many workers (about 100,000) by itself as the “SLU/University/Redmond” area which has 113,000. Plus, you still hit Redmond and you hit more residents along I-90. Plus, the ST2 plan goes through this, though I guess the 520 proposal could too if it were built right.

Lastly, Ron Sims has let the Port buy the BNSF line. He wanted the tracks torn up, mostly because the thinks they would need to be replaced, and also because it makes it worse for bicyclists. The value of the route for transit has been questioned because it goes pretty far from the major employment centers there.

Train to the Mountain

I’m finally getting around to posting information regarding this project. I was unable to attend the meeting but I did get some notes from it. It has hit some curve balls and there is concern on the train departing Tacoma after the demise of the Spirit of Washington Dinner train and the Golden Pacific Railroad both which suffered with lack of destination.

Upgrading the Rail from Tacoma to Elbe would cost around $11 million dollars and from Tacoma to Ashford would be around $24 million dollars. This would use the existing Tacoma Rail locomotives and 3 passenger cars they have.

Here are some key notes;

• The train is feasible as long as the one-way travel time to Paradise is three hours or less.

• In order to be successful, the train would need to capture just 1 percent of the roughly 1.5 million visitors the national park receives each year. Assuming this is around 15,000 passengers a year.

• Upgrading the track to Elbe would cost just $11 million, while extending it to Ashford would cost approximately $24 million. In either case, visitors would ride a shuttle bus to Paradise.

• Tacoma Rail should start looking for a third-party operator interested in running the train, and Tacoma officials should continue to seek federal funding to pay for track improvements.

• A tourist train would provide park visitors with an environmentally sensitive alternative to the automobile.

By upgrading the rail from Tacoma to Elbe/Park Jct. and the rail recently upgraded from Mineral to Morton would improve the timeliness of freight rail to Morton.

It was also made public that the Mountain Division has $4.55 million in outstanding loans from the city’s general fund, and is asking for an additional $1.7 million. In addition, it has $2 million of outside debt. This is not including the cost for repairing and/or rebuilding the Nisqually River Bridge which would restore freight service into Morton and the 3 lumber mills looking for rail service.

There is also talk of having Boeing getting rail service into Fredrickson for the Next Generation 737′s coming around in 2012.

On top of all of this, there is study out for a $72.5 million dollar trail from Freighthouse Square to Elbe. Who and why would somebody be crazy enough to ride this is beyond me but it would follow the rail corridor into Elbe.

Train to the Mountain Article

Trail to the Mountain Article

City of Tacoma backs Elevated Sounder routing


The City of Tacoma has voted 8-0 on their support on the elevated railway crossing over Pacific Avenue in Downtown Tacoma. This will allow Amtrak and Sounder serve to use the Sound Transit corridor between Freighthouse Square and Nisqually (Lakewood for Sounder)

This link was supposed to open in 2001 but political and businesses have delayed the design along with seeking additional funding for the bridge.

Funding brings up a good question considering Sound Transit does not have the additional money for the rail link and over pass at least according to the Open House at Freighthouse Square.

The City of Tacoma also wants “air rights” by which would allow the City to build a “lid” similar to the Convention Center over I-5.

Check out the article for more information.