Transit Reading List Bleg*

A Rainbow Of Books

A Rainbow of Books by flickr user Dawn Endico

At the end of February I’ll be heading to Japan for a couple of months – introducing the baby to her Japanese family – and I am likely to spend most of that time in a suburban town outside of Tokyo. I’ll have the usual stuff to keep me busy, jogging, a little baby, trips into the city and the rest, but travelling around the country out because of the baby, plus I’ve seen a lot of it already. So I reckon I’m going to have to kick my reading up a notch or two to keep from getting too bored. I can speak Japanese, but trying to read book in Japanese would be a futile exercise and my past experience - I lived in Tokyo for a year and a half during college - has been that English books tend to be expensive there, so I’ve got to get them before I leave.

Here’s the list of non-fiction books I’ve acquired and will bring with me:

This list is pretty short. I’ve ramped up to  a book or two a week these days, and I imagine I can do twenty to twenty-five in the eight weeks I’ll be over there, plus two for the flights there and back. My rule is that I alternate reading fiction and non-fiction, so I really ought to have at least eight or nine more non-fiction books to bring over. Any recommendations? I’m particularly interested in books on transportation, transit or urban planning. I’m less interested in the sort of Geography of Nowhere books that are only condemnations of cars – I already know that story, and it’s kind of depressing - but if someone has a recommendation for a book that has convincing ideas about how to improve and promote sustainability and walkability in suburban neighborhoods that would especially welcome.

* blog + beg = bleg.

More RapidRide Details

The P-I sang the praises of RapidRide today, and we at STB are in agreement that more bus service is a great thing:

The service will feature much more frequent buses, new stations and higher-tech pay systems on five corridors with high-capacity, low-emission hybrid vehicles by 2013.

But what about those “higher-tech pay systems?”

On the RapidRide maps for A (Pacific Highway South), B (Bellevue-Overlake), C (West Seattle), and D (Ballard), there are symbols for both “RapidRide station stops” and “other RapidRide stops.”  It turns out that the “other” category contains two types of stop: “standard” and “enhanced”.  The features of each stop type are as follows:

  • Standard stops will have a lighted bus pole, bench, and RapidRide marker.
  • Enhanced stops will add pedestrian lighting, a bike rack, trash can, and a small lighted shelter.
  • The “station stops” will have larger shelters, newspaper boxes, a real-time arrival information board, and possibly a “fare transaction processor.”

Stop type is assigned by projected ridership.  Please note that off-board payment machines are a pilot project on the A line, opening in 2009, and further deployment depends on the results of that project and available funding. These machines will accept a “tap in” from ORCA cards but are not currently intended to accept cash.

Equally interesting is what the relatively sparse distribution of off-board payment machines implies about how payment will work.  I spoke with a Metro representative who explained it all to me.  Basically, RapidRide is going to use fare inspectors to check for ORCA cards or paper Metro transfers.

As the transit agencies are getting rid of all fare media except cash, paper transfers, and ORCA cards, there are four relevant fare scenarios:

  1. If you have a valid paper transfer, you may board at any door; the transfer serves as proof of payment.  Note that these paper transfers will not be honored on LINK light rail, where you’ll need an ORCA card to get credit for your previous fare.
  2. If you have only cash, you must board at the front and pay the driver, who will always give you a paper transfer that serves as proof of payment.
  3. If you have an ORCA card at a stop that does not have off-board payment, you must board at the front and “tap in” just as you would on any other Metro bus.
  4. ORCA card holders at a station with off-board payment can tap in at the stop and then board any door.

Metro has not yet developed their ride-free-zone policy for RapidRide, which in any case won’t come into play until the C line comes online in 2011.

Those are the (provisional) facts; discussion below the jump.
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News Round-Up

rainier station

Schematic for the Rainier Station on I-90, from CH2MHill

So much news, so little time.

  • The Central District News went to a Rainier Station open house and has some new  information about the station. It’s great to see that the station will have entrances on 23rd Ave as well as Rainier. Here’s an aerial shot of the place the station will occupy. It doesn’t look like a particularly pedestrian friendly place from either direction, but it is built in the middle of an interstate, so can be expected?
  • California Governor Arnorld Swarznegger is calling on President Obama to allow states to regulate automobile emmisions. Former President Bush wouldn’t let California regulate fuel economy standards for new cars above and beyond the fuel standards impossed by the Federal Enivornmental Protection Agency. President Obama has said he will look into overturning the Bush administration’s decision.
  • Obama’s pick for Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, has passed Senate Committee hearings and appears a lock to get confirmed for the post this week, with a full Senate vote likely Friday.
  • Matt Ygkesias points out that much of money the highways in the stimulus bill won’t be spent in the next two years. That’s not as big a deal for as the lack of transit funding.
  • There’s an open house for Tukwila Sounder Station on January 29, 2009 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m at the Embassy Suites in Tukwila.
  • The state has sold two passenger-only ferries to the Golden Gate Transportation District for $4 million. The proceeds will likely go to fund the King County Ferry District, which will take over the State’s passenger Ferry service from Seattle to Vashon, and will eventually operate passenger-only ferries to other locations. The Ferry District gets most its funding from a property tax imposed by the County Council near the end of 2007.

Quick Stimulus Update

Update: Josh Feit has the scoop from Rep Rick Larsen (D-WA) on what Washington would be getting in the House Stimulus plan:

The House legislation includes the following funding for Washington state:

  • $847,078,890 in total funding to modernize Washington state infrastructure
  • $529,547,455 for highways, roads and bridges
  • $216,584,501 to construct and maintain public transit
  • $100,946,934 for wastewater treatment to provide clean water

29% of our state’s transportation cash going to transit is a bit better than the national break down, and the total number is a bit more than we had been hearing Washington would get.  I wonder how much of the transit cash will be “construct” and how much will be “maintain”.

Orignial post from here:

Streetblog (via Slog) wonders why the Obama Administration pulled the plug on transit funding in the stimulus package, and TPM’s Elana Schor got the answer from Rep. James Oberstar (via Yglesias):

The reason for the reduction in overall funding — we took money out of Amtrak and out of aviation; we took money out of the Corps of Engineers, reduced the water infrastructure program, the drinking water and the wastewater treatment facilities and sewer lines, reduced that from $14 billion to roughly $9 billion — was the tax cut initiative that had to be paid for in some way by keeping the entire package in the range of $850 billion.

Oh well. At least Obama’s closing Gitmo.

Boeing Access Road (deferred)

Boeing Access Road

Boeing Access Road, by Oran in the STB flickr pool

The awesome photo on the right by Oran shows where Link crosses over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) tracks that Sounder and Amtrak run on. At that spot was planned a transfer station between northbound Sounder riders to Link on their way to Sea-Tac, the Boeing Access Road station. Apparently, BNSF needs the space for freight operations there, and there wasn’t a spot for a passenger platform. Without a Sounder Transfer, ridership wouldn’t have been been high enough to make the station worth the cost of construction and so it was deferred.

A while back the Port of Seattle and King County were coming close to an agreement in which the Port would have bought the BNSF Eastside rail line, and traded it to the County with some cash for Boeing Field. There has been talk of operating commercial flights out of Boeing Field. Although the County-Port deal has been shelved, if  commercial flights ever make their way to Boeing Field, we’d probably see a BAR station. This is speculation, but Sound Transit is probably keeping its powder dry for just such a possibility.

Even without another airport or basketball arena, the site has allure for arm-chair transit planners. Not only does it provide access to a fairly large employer and the Museum of Flight, but it also provides an access point for Tukwila Metro buses in a stretch where those are scarce. Furthermore, with a higher level of investment, and a change of heart by BNSF, you could construct a tri-modal terminal where express buses, LINK, and commuter rail all converge to allow easy transfers between them, and possibly eliminate the need for buses to head into Downtown Seattle. And it would put a Link station within walking distance of my favorite diner in our region, and a man can dream, right?

If you live in South County, would you transfer from Sounder at a Boeing Access Road station on your way to Seatac? If you live in South Seattle, Renton or Tukwila how miserable would you be if jetliner takeoffs and landings at Boeing Field increased four or five fold?

DJC on East Link Alignments

A fully built-out Eastlink

A fully built-out Eastlink

The Daily Journal of Commerce brings up most of the interesting questions floating around the Eastlink project:

Will the trains share the HOV ramps on the Seattle side of I-90 with buses? Should there be a footbridge at the Mercer Island station? How much will the Washington State Department of Transportation charge Sound Transit to lease the center roadway of the I-90 bridge? … Once the trains get to downtown Bellevue, will they go into a tunnel as the city of Bellevue prefers? “It’s a very attractive option,” said Sound Transit board member Julia Patterson. … But Sound Transit does not have the money to build a tunnel, only an elevated structure or an at-grade alignment. A tunnel that is partly cut-and-cover and partly mined under Bellevue Way and Northeast Sixth Street, with three stations, would bust Sound Transit’s budget by almost $1 billion. “The city of Bellevue knows that,” (Sound Transit CEO Joni) Earl told the board last week.

Should be interesting to see how this all works out. I hadn’t ever even thought of the I-90 lease question, and the tunnel question is going to be one to watch.

Public Hearing dates below the fold.

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UW Station Artist Meet-and-Greet, East Link Open House

Tonight, 7pm-9pm at the Museum of History and Industry‘s McCurdy Gallery there’s a meet-and-greet with Leo Saul Berk, who will be designing art for the UW station. As a UW alum, I am very glad that Sound Transit picked a UW graduate for the project. Sorry I couldn’t find a legal picture to use for the post.

I think I’m going to go for a few minutes to look at the designs, anyone else?

Also right now (4-7pm), at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center, in Redmond, there’s an East Link Open House.

First Details on Ballard RapidRide

[UPDATE: What I should have pointed out is that it's actually the city -- through Bridging the Gap funds -- that's deciding where to put these BAT lanes and other road improvements.  In classic Puget Sound disconnected decision-making, that may not be where Metro ends up deciding to put the bus line.]

Metro just released the first detailed information on the RapidRide D Line, running from Downtown Seattle to Ballard and scheduled to open in 2012.

They’re looking at both 15th and  24th Avenue routings in Ballard, and are open to suggestions on what to do north of 85th Street.  The comment deadline is February 25.

The corridor not chosen will get more 15/15X or 18/18X service, whichever is applicable.

Key Features:

  • 10 minute headways before 7 pm, 15 minutes till 10pm, less afterwards.
  • Off-board payment to speed stops.
  • Road improvements, such as bus bulbs, transit signal priority, and business access and transit (BAT) lanes.

Given that 15th Avenue is slated to have road improvements and 24th isn’t, the former seems like a no-brainer to me.

We’ve covered the A, B, and C lines extensively in the past, which cover Pacific Highway South, NE 8th St in Bellevue, and West Seattle.   The E line, which we don’t know much about, will go up Aurora.

The other big BRT project is Community Transit’s Swift, which I discussed here.  More recently, Brian checked up on Swift.

News Roundup

Pierce Transit #409

Pierce Transit #409

Some news today besides the inauguration:

  • Sumner gets a new bus route (409) serving its Sounder station on February 9.  There will be no stops; riders can board the bus at the point of their choosing.  It’s nice to see that the budget crisis hasn’t put every transit agency in a defensive crouch.
  • More tolling is being considered on both SR 167 and the SR 99 tunnel.
  • The infrastructure lobby is disappointed in the composition of the stimulus proposals.
  • Congress may bribe you to get rid of your gas guzzler and replace it with an efficient car or transit pass.
  • New Yorkers dream of a transit-heavy stimulus.

(H/Ts: Andrew, Monica)

Mercer Mess Fix Part of Stimulus?

mercer mess (aka "my commute")

The Mercer Mess, by flickr user ChrisB in Sea

I missed this over the weekend, but the Times reported Saturday that Mayor Nickels says that the fix for the Mercer mess may be partially paid for by the Federal Stimulus Package. Apparently, the Feds would chip in $50 million of the $200 million Mercer Street project would come from the stimulus, in addition to $25 million for the $167 million Spokane Street viaduct project. You can read more about the Mercer Project here at the Seattle Department of Transportation’s website, and the Spokane Street Project here at the same place. Assuming this all works as the Mayor says it will, this is excellent news for transit.

First, a warning: this is all very preliminary. The total final dollar amount for the stimulus has not been finalized, at last look the House draft bill had $825 or $850 billion - the number depends on whom you ask – in tax cuts, infrastructure spending, education money and state aid, among other things. Also, the apportionment of the funds to these areas has not been finalized, though the Housedraft had $30 billion for roads. For one,  House Transportation Committee Chair James Oberstar (D-Minn) would like a bigger portion of the stimulus to go to transportation infrastructure. According to the Times, our state expects to get about $515 million for transportation, which is a guess based on the state’s population. Even then, the draft bill doesn’t say which projects would get funds, and if the money goes through the Washington Department of Transportation before making its way to individual projects, these two could conceivably not make the cut.

Background and more thoughts below the fold.

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Hello, Goodbye!

the 44th President of the United States...Barack Obama

Photo by jmtimages


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The Real Take Away from the Stimulus Plan

Via Orphan Road, I read this post from Matthew Yglesias about having realistic expectations for what a stimulus package do. My response below the fold. [Read more...]

Week In Review

alaskan way viaduct & seattle skyline

Alaskan Way Viaduct, by flickr user faeryboots.

Here are some highlights from last week:

Westside Express Service (WES) Grand Opening!

The Wilsonville – Beaverton Westside Express Service (Oregon’s first modern commuter service) Grand Opening is January 30, 2009 with free rides for the public. The following week, February 2-8 will be what TriMet is calling WES Week with trains running on the regular commuter schedule and celebrations at many of the stations. The Pacific Northwest Chapter, NRHS will have a history booth at the Tigard station on January 30 and on February 3 (Tigard Day – Past, Current, Future).

For more information, check out the Westside Express Service website for more information. I’ll be down there the entire weekend for the celebration and to try out the service.

Community Transit’s Swift…Really?

I had a lot of free time on my hands today and made my rounds clear up to Everett to see the construction of Swift. From all the hype, I honestly believed this system would be rather promising but after driving the route, I have to ask…why here?
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South Tacoma Station Update

Just took a swing by the new upcoming South Tacoma Sounder station and progress is going very well. From the visual appearance, the station itself is completed with the installation of art throughout the station area. Fencing is still up but you can still see the entire station from the side roads. The bus stop looks good and located mid-way on the platform which gives people a central point to walk to should they decide to take Pierce Transit to their final destination.

Now it does seem that the platform was made for a 10 car train. I’m not sure and only ST can verify that (unless I get a hold of a contractor first) but it at least appears much, much longer than King Street Station, which can already accommodate a 9 car train.

Since I am currently using the WIFI from a hotel and it is pretty darn slow, pictures will have to wait until tomorrow.

The Huskies Should Play at Qwest Field

Image from Wikimedia Commons

This is transit-related, stick with me.

Good for UW President Mark Emmert that he isn’t making renovation of Husky Stadium a priority.  He certainly has bigger fish to fry.  It seems pretty clear that UW should play their football games at Qwest Field, and I say this as a UW alumnus who goes to a couple of games a year.

  1. Qwest Field is an ultra-modern facility, state-of-the-art even for the NFL.  In the article, it’s dismissed as “too small” for the UW fan base.  The NFL seating capacity of Qwest is 67,000, compared to Husky Stadium’s 72,000.  Wikipedia claims Qwest is expandable to 72,000 for “special events”, though; even if it’s not, I bet we can add 5,000 seats for less than the $450m$300m in funds required to redo Husky Stadium.  Furthermore, modern NFL stadiums have tons of luxury boxes that can generate big money for the program.
  2. Qwest Field is easier to get to. Its location in SODO is the hub of every transportation system in the region except the monorail: Link, buses, ferries, Sounder,   Amtrak, and two interstates.  Even students (a small fraction of attendance, though an important one) will be about 15 minutes away when U-Link opens in 2016.  Compared to the series of bottlenecks in the Montlake area, there’s no comparison.  Not only will traffic be less of a problem, traffic will be irrelevant due to the huge number of transportation choices.
  3. The land under Husky Stadium is too valuable, in every sense. Sitting literally on top of an underground rail station, there are far too many productive uses for this land to have it house a stadium used at most 6 or 7 times a year and a giant surface parking lot.  If the UW didn’t want to build anything there to make the lives of their students and employees easier, simply selling the whole thing to a developer would probably patch that hole in the endowment pretty well.

Obviously, the third point also applies to Qwest Field.  However, that merely emphasizes the importance of consolidating all of our rectangular-field sports into one venue.  It seems obvious that if we are to do so, it should be into the facility that doesn’t currently require $450m $300m in renovations.

UW pays a lot of lip service to environmental sustainability.  Intelligent land use here would help them make that commitment a reality, even if it contradicts people’s sentimental attachment to the Montlake site.

Want to become a Link Operator?

Tacoma Link is looking for a new operator. This position does not require you to be a bus driver (though I am sure it is preferred) Apply and good luck!

House Transpo Committee Dissenters on Stimulus

Some members of the House Transportation Committee are not happy with Obama’s stimulus proposal, and may work to change the transportation portion. Here’s the Wall Street Journal:

“Some members of the House transportation committee objected to the proposed level of investment during a Democratic caucus session Thursday, and several members later spoke out during a committee meeting. Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.) suggested the committee draft a letter or resolution to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objecting to the transport section of the stimulus bill.

“Rep. Oberstar suggested the committee “mobilize those practitioners of infrastructure” at a hearing next week to demonstrate the need to increase spending levels on shovel-ready projects. “Then I think we make the move on the House leadership and the incoming Obama administration,” he said.“

So we may not have seen the final version of the stimulus yet.
Via Transport Politic.

Holiday Service: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

If you’re going to work Monday, remember that your route may not be operating, or specific trips may be canceled (signified by an “H” next to Metro schedules), due to the holiday.  Figure out your alternate plan now.

Online, there’s information for Metro, Community Transit, and Sounder.  Pierce Transit and Tacoma Link have no changes, while ST Express is unchanged except for the 599, which is linked to the Sounder schedule.