Not on our Bus, Take 2

Today Pierce Transit resumes its “not on our bus” program, involving uniformed personnel increasing their presence on buses and around bus stops. It is designed to cut down on “unlawful and disruptive conduct on bus routes, at transit centers, and at bus stops near certain high schools.”

This is the second time they’ve done this. Last year’s effort yielded 750 “contacts” with 68 riders receiving 90 day bans from Pierce Transit. Banned riders are posted in the operator’s lobby and the historical recidivism rate is only 3%.

Full press release after the jump.

[Read more...]

Tacoma Council About to Discuss New Link Stop

Tacoma has been kicking around the idea of adding a Link stop at Commerce & 11th, which would cut the stop spacing in that stretch from about 1/2 mile to about 1/4 mile. The Tacoma Daily Index has lots of detail on this project, which would cost about $135,000.

You can watch the Council Study Session on this subject right now (scroll all the way down to “Tacoma City Council Study Session”).

(Via The Transport Politic Twitter Feed).

Metro Proposes Trolleybus Study Methodology

After a Metro audit recommended doing away with the trolleybus system to save money, there’s been a lot of anxiety about its future and questions about the conclusion that the system is, in fact, more expensive. In response to these concerns, the King County Council commissioned a detailed study on the cost/benefit tradeoffs associated with trolleys. Last week Dow Constantine’s office transmitted a plan to conduct this study.

In this kind of thing assumptions and ground rules are all-important. After considering a wide array of technologies, Metro has narrowed down the comparison to diesel-electric hybrids vs. trolleys. Conventional diesels, battery electrics, compressed natural gas (CNG), and fuel cell systems were dismissed for various reasons.

The evaluation criteria fall into five categories: environmental impacts, likely to favor the trolleys; scheduling impacts, likely to favor the hybrids; cost advantage, which the audit gave to hybrids but is disputed by trolley proponents; and both the impact on both state/federal grants and existing legal agreements, which I can’t even begin to assess.

Importantly, the cost study will include a sensitivity analysis of energy costs, which will capture the benefits of relatively stable-cost electricity. The study is expected to begin this fall and release a draft report early next year. Some other thoughts about the trolley argument here.

SR520 BRT not Looking so Good

If you last checked this blog Friday around lunchtime, you should go and read the substantially revised SR520 post from Friday afternoon. It’s of great interest to anyone interested in effective transit over the new bridge.

Mercer Island Considers a Shuttle

"Metro banishes Mercer Island to the bottom of Lake Washington", by Oran

Mercer Island is going to experiment with a shuttle van up Island Crest Way to feed the Park & Ride, which on average is 100% full:

City Administrator Rich Conrad said Metro has agreed to supply a van and assist the city with the task of searching for a securing parking. So far, the city has agreed to provide volunteer drivers…

The need for a north-south shuttle stemmed from lack of parking at the two-story Park and Ride, which was expanded more than two years ago in an effort to add more parking. Parking spots increased from 250 in 2006 to 447 in 2008 after a two-year, $19.1 million expansion project.

What’s curious about the article, an earlier article on the subject, and a related editorial in the Mercer Island Reporter, is the failure to even mention existing Metro bus service. The 204 provides mid-day and weekend service in that corridor, while  the 202 covers both directions in the peak and goes on to Downtown Seattle. In either case, headways are roughly a half-hour. Both are middling routes by Eastside performance standards, a little below average but by no means dogs.

I suspect that making the shuttle distinct from Metro may save money by not having to pay into Metro’s relatively high cost structure. It’s elsewhere referred to as a “vanpool experiment” and there’s talk of volunteer drivers, so it’s clear they’re looking to do it on the cheap. On the other hand, not integrating with the network is only going to make it harder for people to find out about it and make it less reliable.

Attempts to contact Mercer Island leaders and staff on the shuttle proposal did not produce a response. More on the parking shortage after the jump. [Read more...]

Sunday Open Thread: Why Rail Service Isn’t Very Good

From Grist, measuring governments at all levels:

New Group for Neighborhood Bike Improvements

Photo by VeloBusDriver

Josh Cohen reports on Beacon BIKES:

According to Beacon BIKES! representative Dylan Ahearn, the group thinks the bike master plan is too focused on creating a neighborhood-to-neighborhood bike network that caters primarily to the commuter crowd. His group wants to create an intra-neighborhood network that helps people (especially children) ride safely between Beacon Hill destinations.

“When I’m biking around the neighborhood, I try and imagine whether it’d be safe my five-year-old daughter to ride on the road,” said Ahearn. “If we can [create facilities that] accomplish that, we’ll have succeeded.”

As mascot of the casual cyclists, I have to say “Bravo”. I don’t begrudge the regional trails and other improvements that serious bicyclists have won for themselves, but improvements to one- and two-mile trips can open up a whole new population to bikes. That builds the political coalition, but more importantly makes bicycling safer for everyone by building the presumption of drivers that there are bicycles around.

In my feeble experience cycling, I’ve found that it’s that one-to-two mile threshold under which it’s faster than taking transit, give or take the specific circumstances of the trip. That kind of mobility is important for people looking to go without a car, or a family going to one car. Long trips and long commutes are about recreation and exercise; the shorter ones are about practical mobility. There’s nothing wrong with the former, but it’s the latter where the masses are.

REVISED: Changes to Montlake Blvd.

[Note: This post is a substantial revision of two posts that were accidentally written based on outdated materials and taken down. If you did read those, you'll find that the situation for SR520 buses has gotten substantially worse.]

Proposed Montake Dual Bascule Bridge Cross-Section (WSDOT)

Last week’s SR520 meeting had lots of pictures of how Montlake Blvd is to be configured when the project is done. The plan includes a transit lane in each direction to improve connectivity between the interchange and the Husky Stadium light rail stop, absolutely critical if the Montlake Flyer Stops are removed to save money and reduce the overall width of the interchange. The bad news is that some compromises in the project, made with good intentions, will make this connection not quite as smooth as it might otherwise be. You can find the meeting materials here, especially the key presentation.

Proposed Cross-Section at Hamlin St. (WSDOT)

Note that there is no Southbound HOV lane in the picture above. More after the jump.

[Read more...]

New Montlake Post Coming Soon

It’s come to my attention that I somehow managed to pull the materials from the July 22nd SR520 working group meeting, instead of the August 19th one. I’ll be doing a complete rewrite and getting something correct up shortly.

Sorry for the confusion.

Transit & Amenities E-Kiosk Unveiled in South Lake Union

Yesterday, Vulcan Real Estate unveiled an electronic transportation and amenities kiosk in the lobby of Amazon’s Phase 2 building.  The first of its kind, the touch-screen kiosk features both static and real-time information for neighborhood transit services and amenities.  If you want to get a preview on how it works, you can view the kiosk’s testing in the Youtube video above.  The project is the result of a public-private partnership between Vulcan, Metro, and the City of Seattle, which requires a Transportation Management Plan for Vulcan’s properties.  At the bare end of the plan, the City requires racks for paper brochures and schedules.  The kiosk, however, takes it up a few notches.

From the official press release (PDF):

Traditional transportation management plans include racks of brochures in downtown office buildings that display local transit agencies’ schedule information. These materials require regular updating, printing and distribution.  Because the kiosks are automatically updated, they provide a more user-friendly, eco-friendly, and accurate solution for riders. With the touch of a button, users can view real-time arrival times for Metro bus routes, find streetcar stops and arrival times, as well as pinpoint nearby restaurants, shops and services on an interactive neighborhood amenities map.

More below the jump.

[Read more...]

RapidRide Begins Shelter Installation on A Line

Prototype shelter.

This week will feature the installation of new RapidRide shelters along the new Pacific Hwy South A Line.  Like Swift, the shelters will be branded differently than normal shelters.  You can check out pictures from the RapidRide blog, which also has other miscellaneous info for the new line.

From the blog:

Metro is installing the first RapidRide shelter frames this week on the A Line corridor, which is also sporting RapidRide banners from light poles to let people know about the new service. Still to come as the launch date draws near: more shelter frames, ORCA fare card readers, real-time arrival signs–and glass in the shelter frames!

The A Line is scheduled to commence service on October 2, 2010 during the fall service change.

Downtown Parking & Driver Costs

Matt over at Orphan Road poses some questions about Seattle’s plans to show the available number of parking spots outside of downtown parking garages:

  1. Would knowing the number of stalls available in a parking lot get you off the street any faster?
  2. If E-Park does work, would you expect the number of cars in Seattle to increase due to experiencing less congestion (i.e. induced demand)?
  3. If the answer to #2 is “yes”, is encouraging driving ok in this circumstance? Why?

I’ll attempt some non-authoritative guesses to advance a conversation.

Continued beyond the jump…

[Read more...]

News Roundup: Lazy Days of August

Photo by Zargoman

This is an open thread.

Road Diet Disconnect

View 125th in a larger map

Over the last few weeks the bicycle community has been frustrated by the “road diet” discussion. The thought is, road diets are implicitly good, so why aren’t more people supportive of them? Why aren’t opponents of plans swayed by the fact that streets that undergo road diets have been shown to have enough capacity? And why don’t opponents seem to care about the safety of pedestrians, cyclist and motorist alike?

Seattle Likes Bikes, Publicola, Seattle Bike Blog, and the SDOT blog have all weighed in, mostly in response to the now infamous article by Nicole Brodeur of the Seattle Times, although the discussion certainly applies to every project that aims to improve safety. The consensus is that discussion about these projects must not become car vs. bike, both because these projects are not about that and because this construct does not allow for a productive discussion on how to improve the road for all users. Road diets or whatever you want to call them are about making our roads work better and more safely for everyone. It would probably be better to call them “safety and operational enhancement projects” because that really is what they are.

They make left turns easier and safer, make through travel smother, allow pedestrians to safely cross previously dangerous intersections, and allocate space for bicyclist to safely ride out of the way of motorist. As someone who lived close to Stone Way before and after the road diet I can tell you it did wonders regardless of whether I was driving, biking or walking.

Today at 9am KUOW will have a piece on road diets, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be very balanced. Tune in and if you feel so compelled call or e-mail KUOW your comments.

Mayor, Council at Odds Over Seawall

We haven’t posted much about the minor Council/Mayor scrum over the Commercial Parking Tax (CPT) and the seawall. However, this Streets for all Seattle letter of August 5th clarifies the transportation angle:

We are writing today concerning the proposal to fund seawall-related work by raising the existing 10% commercial parking tax (CPT) to 12.5%. While Streets For All Seattle coalition members recognize the City’s obligations on the seawall replacement, we believe that allocation of our limited, flexible transportation funds to a single, capital-intensive project would unnecessarily curtail the opportunity before us to engage in a holistic transportation discussion during the budget process.

As I understand it, the CPT can only be used for transportation improvements and is capped at 20%, 10 points above its current level of 10%. The Mayor would like to have a property tax measure this year to pay for the seawall and dedicate the CPT revenue (according to PubliCola a 5-10 point increase) “toward road maintenance, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure,” in the words of McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus. More after the jump.

[Read more...]

Meeting on Beacon Hill Bike Lanes Complete Streets Tonight

Seattle, using Bridging the Gap funds, will be implementing “Complete Streets” on 15th Ave S and S Columbian Way on Beacon Hill. The latter will improve connections with the Columbia City Link station. Beacon Hill Blog reports:

You are invited to stop by the Open House and view project plans, provide feedback and chat with the project team. The event is Tuesday, August 24 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm at the Jefferson Community Center Meeting Room, 3801 Beacon Avenue South. You may also email your comments to or call 206-684-7583.

Rail News Roundup: Jackson Plaza

  • Work continues on King Street Station.  The remnants of the baggage area and the Jackson St. Plaza have been demolished.  (Slideshow above, picture of the ‘empty hole’ here.)
  • Body found inside the Great Northern Tunnel.
  • Amtrak Cascades ridership between Seattle and Vancouver BC set a record in July, with nearly 25,000 total passengers for the four daily trains.  Ridership is also up 21% on the original trains (510/517).  CBSA has apparently reached a decision whether or not to continue free inspection services, and will be notifying WSDOT shortly.
  • To celebrate the popularity of the service (and to put timely pressure on CBSA?), Tourism Vancouver has partnered with Amtrak to offer 25% off Cascades travel between Seattle and Vancouver BC  for all of September, along with discounts on hotels and city attractions.
  • Leveling and grading work has begun on the new 3.2 mile bypass track in Vancouver, WA.
  • WSDOT and BSNF have received approval to begin work on the Stanwood siding.  On August 17 the Army Corps of Engineers issued the necessary wetland permit, the last major environmental hurdle.
  • WSDOT has applied for $80m in additional high-speed rail grants available under the $2.3b USDOT Appropriations Act. A 20% local matching commitment was required in order to apply.
  • The new Edmonds Sounder Station groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 18.

This is an open thread.

Weekend Closure of SR-520

This weekend citizens, elected officials, WSDOT staff and media had the opportunity to tour the midspan section of the bridge.

The event began with short speeches by Secretry Hammond, Rep. White, and Rep. Eddy. They all emphasized that WSDOT is now “counting down to construction” for the floating and Eastside segments of the project. They also emphasized that transit is important in the project and that pre-construction tolling is starting this spring.

Connie Niva then gave a bit of background on Aubrey Davis, who was then honored by WSDOT for his years of work on trans-lake transportation issues, especially in relation to his work with the Washington State Transportation Commission. He was intimately involved in the creation of Metro in the 70′s. WSDOT is a highway building agency, but it certainly is one of the most progressive DOT’s out there, and Aubrey Davis had a large hand in that.

The rest of the tour was pretty casual, with lots of jokes about how it’s not every day you get to walk and relax on the bridge, despite the fact that everyone has crossed it many, many times. I personally was surprised how quiet it was and it was just a surreal experience.

The bridge maintenance crews opened the draw span and able bodied persons had the chance to climb down into the pontoons. The bridge is four compartments wide, with watertight bulkheads on the outer compartments. A man I spoke to said they were probably added after the first I-90 bridge sunk, although he wasn’t completely sure.

Sunday Open Thread: Turning Out the Lights

British town does away with traffic lights, with good results:

Via Tyler Cowen. (H/T: SeattleBrad)

Meeting with the Union


Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 587, somewhat miffed at perceived attempts by King County to bargain through the media, relaunched their media relations with an informal press briefing yesterday, featuring the usual transportation reporter suspects and me. Erica C. Barnett was also there, and STB doesn’t pay nearly enough to do a writeup of the main points when there’s a perfectly fine one already available elsewhere.

I don’t think anyone who rides one of Metro’s more troublesome routes can dispute that driving a bus can be a difficult job with a fair amount of responsibility. Neither union solidarity nor union busting is part of this blog’s agenda, but it’s clear that the best personnel equilibrium from a rider’s perspective is one that pays the absolute minimum amount that still attracts quality personnel. That’s pretty vague, but I have to do some more deep thinking before saying more.

One simple yardstick is what peer agencies pay. I was gratified to learn that the ATU is not, by state law, allowed to strike, but instead go to binding arbitration that tends to compare proposals to what peer operators pay.

I also asked why neither Metro nor the ATU had brought up incentive pay for some of the more violent and undesirable routes in the system, in order to attract some more experienced drivers. The surprising response was that routes like the 7 are actually driven by fairly experienced staff, because there’s some pleasure in driving a trolley and serving a transit-dependent neighborhood.