News Roundup: Scrambling to Save the Train

"Thermite weld 1 Lakewood, WA", by DW Honan

This is an open thread.

Misleading Transit Nomenclature

Kenmore P&R, by Oran

After recently working on a transit mapping project, a lot of which was inspired by transit maps worldwide, I realized that much of the nomenclature we use for transit in North American cities tends to be either misleading or downright inappropriate.  Though most of the implications are pretty subtle, the terminology we use can reveal a lot about the sadder limitations of our transit system.  Jarrett Walker, author of Human Transit, often rails against a lot of the transit vocabulary we use in North America and even has an entire category dedicated to unhelpful words.

One term I’m not crazy about is ‘transfer station’.  I know Jarrett has a bone to pick with this kind of nomenclature as well, mostly because of its grammatical connotations.  I won’t get into the nitty-gritty like he does, but I will highlight some of the basic implications that our transit literature has on rider behavior.  Instead of using “transfer stations,” many transit agencies outside of the US, like Transport for London (PDF), refer to these kinds of stations as “interchange stations.”  More below the jump.

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The Amtrak Border Fee

Pacific Central Station (wikimedia)

[UPDATE: In one of my more egregious posting errors, I failed to properly read the blockquote, which includes the feds, therefore defeating the whole thesis of the post. I suppose it didn't really matter, because you all just wanted an excuse to argue more about this issue anyway.]

It’s odd to be arguing on behalf of the Canadian Federal Government, and I suppose I’m editorializing about the use of taxes I don’t pay, but I don’t think this factoid makes the point the writer thinks it makes:

The economic benefit to British Columbia in its first year of operation is estimated at $11.8 million…

Is Ottawa so short-sighted that it cannot see the idiocy of putting this service in jeopardy in order to collect $550,000 a year? A recent study by the Border Policy Research Institute of Western Washington University in Bellingham determined that Canada’s federal, provincial and municipal governments collect an extra $1.9 million in sales taxes and hotel room taxes from the additional tourists the second train delivers.

If the study is correct, then funding the border inspection is absolutely a positive-sum enterprise for the public sector. The issue, though, is that the governments that benefit are not the ones that are laying out the cash.

[update: the editorial is right.]

To me, it seems straightforward enough that “provincial and municipal governments” should turn a 300% profit by coughing up the money themselves. That’s not to say the federal government shouldn’t be subsidizing passenger rail more than it is, but in the absence of that subsidy replacing it with a local one should be a no-brainer.

Breaking: Link Out of Service between Mt. Baker and Othello

Update: All clear.

According to Sound Transit:

Due to an accident south of Mount Baker station, passengers sholud board Metro bus Route 97, which will operate between Mount Baker Station and Othello Station. Regular service between Westlake Station & Mount Baker Station & between Othello Station & SeaTac Station.

Bellevue City Council In Chaos

While there were no official items regarding East Link on the Bellevue City Council’s study session, an astounding quarrel broke out Monday night when political accusations began flying one after another.  It started when one citizen, a member of the pro-B7 Build a Better Bellevue, gave public testimony accusing councilmember Grant Degginger of a conflict of interest with respect to East Link.  The accusation mainly rested on Degginger’s employment by Lane Powell, a law firm which has represented ST in the past.

In response, councilmember Degginger replied that he had actually already consulted the city attorney on the matter, who informed him that there was no such conflict of interest since Lane Powell has not had anything to do with Sound Transit on the matter of East Link.  Bellevue’s Code of Ethics states that conflicts of interests arise when participants use their capacity as city employees to gain a “private pecuniary interest.”  Degginger’s case would only fit the bill if his salary with Lane Powell were to increase if there were to be a case between Sound Transit and Bellevue specifically regarding East Link.  More below the jump.

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First Hill Streetcar Update: Preliminary Platform Design

Preliminary concept of a typical streetcar platform.

The transit nerds at CHS Capitol Hill Seattle have an update on the latest information on the First Hill Streetcar. At a presentation (embedded after the jump) to the city council’s transportation committee yesterday, the Seattle Department of Transportation gave an early look at preliminary station designs.

The First Hill Streetcar will connect Capitol Hill’s light rail station to the International District, through First Hill. The project was funded funded through the Sound Transit 2 vote (2008) and will open in late 2013, three years ahead of the original schedule.

During the presentation, the department also announced its intent to move the Capitol Hill station terminus just south of Denny, to preserve the ability for Denny between Broadway and 10th to serve as a permanent location for a farmer’s market. And it looks more and more like SDOT is leaning toward a Broadway cycle track. SDOT says that bike path would pay for itself, reports Seattle Bike Blog.

CHS reports that Councilmember Rasmussen indicated that a northern extension to Aloha, which would allow the streetcar to serve the busy Broadway shopping district, is a top priority. The council has asked the Sound Transit Broadway to fund early preliminary design on that section, but officials at Sound Transit tell us that the extension wasn’t part of the Sound Transit 2 plan and the agency has tight budget constraints. The city, for its part, is estimated to deliver streetcar project millions under budget, even if early engineering for the extension is funded.

SDOT’s presentation is below the jump.

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RapidRide A Line Opening Day Ride

RapidRide Schedule - Inside via VeloBusDriver

Metro isn’t hosting any opening day festivities for RapidRide service so we want to organize a group ride as a fun way of celebrating the first day of RapidRide service.

We’ll target for a departure time of 10:00 am from Tukwila International Blvd Station. Meet at the bus layover area directly below the Link platform. If you take Link there either catch the 9:08 or the 9:18 train leaving from Westlake Station. The first train will give you some mingling/photo taking time before the bus leaves. We’ll take RapidRide down to the Federal Way Transit Center bum around for a bit, and then you can either take RapidRide/Link back downtown or ST 577.

We’ll be tweeting the whole time so check out our twitter account on Saturday. Also make sure to bring your camera to document the event and add your photos to the new RapidRide flickr pool. All rides on RapidRide this weekend will be free.

The 5th & Jackson Stop

Subject Stop circled in red (Google Maps)

There are several high-volume bus stops in the County that don’t seem to be well placed considering the likely destinations of travelers. One such stop is the northbound at 5th and Jackson, which is the first stop for the 554 after getting off the freeway. Google Maps tells me it also serves the 111, 114, 210, 214, 215, 250, 252, 257, 260, 261, 265, 266, 268, and 311.

The obvious destination here, of course, is the International District/Chinatown tunnel station, for both light rail and some of the most important bus routes in the County. Since there is no easy bus access to the I-90 corridor from South King County, this is the natural transfer point for people trying to make this trip.

With that in mind, the ideal place to site this stop is right at King St, across a relatively narrow street from the station. Instead, riders must sit through the light across Jackson St. and get dropped off at Main St. This is not only a block and two pedestrian crossings away from the tunnel, but also surrounded by parking lots on three sides.

Sometimes businesses oppose a bus stop right in front of their entrance, and perhaps that’s what’s happening here. Although this isn’t the system’s greatest atrocity, it does sometimes make the difference between catching a transfer and not.

Sound Transit Hosting North Corridor Planning Sessions

Photo by Oran

After Thursday’s eye-opening board meeting regarding Sound Transit’s 25% budget shortfall, the agency has moved forward on seeking public for high-capacity transit in the North Corridor, specifically the extension from Northgate to Lynnwood.  As we reported, the plans in the corridor are very prone to change from what was proposed in ST2:

Additionally Earl told the board that the extension from Northgate to Lynnwood has been identified as risky. It may need to be changed if the recession is even worse than the July forecast, and much of the project’s details are unknown since little  has been done on the extension so far.

More below the jump.

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A Weekend of Accidents

A Water Taxi a Few Hours After the Collision (by the author)

Saturday night a light rail train struck and seriously injured a 17 year old girl trying to beat it across the tracks. She was unluckiest of 3 that attempted the feat.

Sunday the West Seattle Water Taxi Rachel Marie struck Pier 50, throwing one passenger overboard (immediately recovered), and injuring 7. KCDOT says early signs point to a mechanical malfunction, though the Coast Guard is still investigating.

Water taxi service between West Seattle and downtown Seattle will operate on a normal schedule Monday, Sept. 27 between Seacrest Dock and Pier 55

While regular service will resume Monday morning with the 6:50 a.m. sailing using an Argosy Cruises vessel, passengers should visit the King County Marine Division’s website at http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/WaterTaxi/WestSeattleRoute.aspx for updates and potential schedule adjustments.

In by far the worst story, a 2-year old is killed in traffic, her aunt critically injured.

Sunday Open Thread: Urban Biking Tips

MIND THE GAP – URBAN BIKING: Overcoming Your Fears from Laura J. Lukitsch on Vimeo.

Via Seattle Bike Blog.

Transit Report Card: Montreal

[Editor's Note: STB Founder Andrew Smith visits to resurrect our "Transit Report Card" series, in which writers generalize wildly based on short and limited experience with another city's transit system.]

Wikimedia

Segments ridden: (over seven days)

Green Line: from Lionel-Groulx to Viau
Orange Line: Snowdown-> Bonaventure, Lucien-L’Allier->Montmorency
Blue Line: Snowdown -> Jean-Talon
Yellow Line: Jean-Drapeau -> Berri-UQAM

Scope: B+

The 68-station Metro – Montreal’s rubber-tired subway system – has great scope for the denser areas of the city itself, and there are good commuter rail connections to the suburbs. As with most systems, buses fill in the gap for the areas not served by rail. Within the city, there are neighborhoods fairly far from the Metro and a bus transfer is required.

More after the jump.

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McGinn’s Deep Bore Tunnel Press Conference

For your viewing pleasure. Publicola has a quick summary of the press conference, with more details coming soon. In brief the Mayor said Councilmember Conlin violated the city charter when he signed the SDEIS which will be released for public comment sometime in the next month. More details should be emerging over the next few hours.

Correction on ST Bus Schedules

Jim Moore of Sound Transit tells me there’s a typo in the ST schedule book from which I lifted the summary of route changes. The 578 is not losing trips; the 590 is. See the revised information here.

More TVMs Coming in 2011

"IDS TVM", by Oran

One of the happier things to be revealed in the 2011 draft Sound Transit budget was that more Ticket Vending Machines are on the way. From Page 75:

The Proposed 2011 Budget includes funding for the installation of TVMs and ORCA readers for the Federal Way Transit Center, Bellevue Transit Center, and Tacoma Link.

And there was much rejoicing.

Earl: Recession Means ST Can’t Deliver in 15 Years

Revenue is expected to be 25% lower than planned because of the recession.

A 25% percent drop in expected tax revenue will force Sound Transit to re-develop some of its 15 year plan that voters approved in 2008, agency CEO Joni Earl told the board today. She said that procedures that voters also approved meant the agency must identify contingency plans if revenue is 5% or more less than expected.

“All elements of ST2 program no longer affordable within the original 15-year timeframe,” read a slideshow given to the board. The detailed budget proposal is available online.

Northgate Slips to 2021

University Link is on schedule and isn’t affected by the recent news, but the CEO’s budget pushes back the start of Northgate service a year, to 2021, “due to design and construction challenges.”

Additionally Earl told the board that the extension from Northgate to Lynnwood has been identified as risky. It may need to be changed if the recession is even worse than the July forecast, and much of the project’s details are unknown since little  has been done on the extension so far.

North King County (mostly Seattle) had the most mild drop in revenue forecasts. It is “only” facing a 16% shortfall, with the rest of the system facing a 28% shortfall.

South Link to Federal Way Reconsidered

South King County will be particularly hard hit, she said, because of a near 31% revenue shortfall. Link light rail’s extension from S. 200th St to S. 272nd in North Federal Way cannot be completed on schedule because of the drain, according to agency officials.

The agency will not recommend any options for that corridor to the board but instead will recommend a $2.5 million study to evaluate the various options to provide high-capacity transit to South King along the corridor.

All options are on the table, officials said. It seems likely that South Link will be terminated further north than expected, similar to Central Link terminating at SeaTac Airport instead of the originally planned S. 200th St station. The line could also be phased later than planned, like the University Link project currently under construction and expected to open 10 years behind the 1996 schedule. Under any option, South Link will undergo significant changes from what voters approved in 2008.

More after the jump…

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11 Neighborhood Street Projects Funded

Yesterday 11 neighborhood projects were selected and funded by Bridging the Gap (BTG) through the Neighborhood Street Fund Large Project program. These projects will be designed and built over the next 3 years. The Lander Festival street project was on of the projects built during the last three year funding cycle.

The 11 projects are:

The press release after the jump: [Read more...]

Editorial: The Waterfront Selection

WikiMedia

For the record, although I wouldn’t endorse every statement in it, I broadly agree with Fnarf’s prescription for the waterfront. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the winning presentation, which seemed to acknowledge that Seattle is a city and that we’re unlikely to transition to wilderness over two blocks.

Perhaps I merely heard what I wanted to hear. All of the presentations were vague enough that it could happen. However, Bertolet is right that there should be some private purposes on the waterfront, and that it’s not the architects but the City’s guidance that might cause problems.

What’s frustrating is that the anti-density rhetoric is frustratingly vague about what the real problems would be, instead relying on ambiguous analogy. First, City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw:

“I’ve heard many people ask, ‘Are you going to allow giant condominiums and hotels along the waterfront?’ The answer is, no, and that is something I’ve been working to prevent, frankly, for years,” Bagshaw said. “We believe the [existing buildings that now face the viaduct] will turn toward the waterfront. … We do not want this to become Miami Beach. This is Seattle: We want to see the water and touch the water.”

Also, People’s Waterfront Coalition leader Cary Moon, who did a lot of good work on behalf of the surface/transit/I-5 option:

If we don’t give this opportunity the attention it deserves, staying focused on the public interest, our worst tendencies for laissez-faire development will likely prevail. The result could come out feeling like downtown Bellevue or a new subdivision in Dallas.

Leaving aside the “Dallas subdivision” example, which strikes me as silly, I don’t see any problem with hotels and condos. Having people live on the waterfront is better than alternative places for them to live, and guarantees that people are there year-round. Hotels, of course, generate jobs and tax revenue. And of course, the City profits from the sale of land in the first place.

As for Downtown Bellevue, for all its faults it’s much better for the region than another Enumclaw, and here in Seattle we know how to do better. And of course the most obvious urbanist critique of Bellevue — that the blocks are too large — is the single thing most easily controlled by the city.

It is true that this is not a terribly large piece of land. A bad decision here will not fatally wound the city. But we are spending $700m to build this space, in effect, and it makes sense to make the most out of this investment that we can.

New Metro Schedules Oct. 2

Photo by Erubisu SEA

The RapidRide A line is coming. There’s also a new route 910, some 520 money mandated through the State’s transit property tax legislation, more Transit Now service partnerships, and continued “efficiency” service cuts.

[Update: Specific route details are available on Metro's website.]

For the record, trip planner shows the current trip from Federal Way to TC to TIB station on the 174 as taking 47 minutes in the middle of the day. RapidRide A will be 45 minutes at the same time of day.

From the press release:

• New routes – RapidRide A Line will connect Federal Way to Tukwila. Route 910, in partnership with the city of Auburn, will provide service between north and southwest Auburn.

• Added service – Trips will be added on Seattle-area routes 5, 7, 30, 60 and 75 through Transit Now partnerships. There is additional SR 520 service this fall on Metro routes 265 and 271 and with new ST 542. And, in other areas of the county, there is increased frequency of service on routes 164, 168 and 245.

• Discontinued – Route 174 is being replaced by RapidRide A Line.

• Closed – Parking at the Burien Transit Center will close Oct. 2. Interim parking will be available at 1st Avenue South and South 148th Street. That lot will be served by routes 121, 122, 123, 131 and 132. There is no change in bus service at the transit center.

• Routing and schedule changes, including some deleted trips – Routes 14, 16, 17, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 43, 45, 46, 53, 57, 65, 66, 68, 101, 105, 110, 113, 121, 123, 125, 129, 134, 139, 148, 149, 152, 164, 168, 177, 179, 182, 190, 196, 202, 209, 210, 212, 214, 232, 242, 245, 251, 255, 265, 266, 271, 304, 331, 342, 345, 346, 372, 600, 903, 919 and 925.

See also Pierce Transit.

New ST Schedule for Oct. 2

Route 542 Map

[UPDATE: ST tells me there's a typo in the booklet. Info on Routes 578 and 590 revised below.]

The new ST schedule book, effective October 2nd, is out. Changes:

Route 510: Minor schedule adjustments
Route 542: New service operating between Redmond and the University District
Route 550: Minor Saturday schedule adjustments and trips added
Route 556: Trip added to relieve overcrowding
Route 574: Trips eliminated and schedule adjustments to better match ridership
Route 578: New bay assignment at Federal Way Transit Center;
Route 590: Trips eliminated and schedule adjustments to better match ridership
Route 592: Significant schedule adjustments serving DuPont Station.
South Sounder: Minor schedule adjustments

The 542 is peak-only, but it’s a 7-hour peak with 15 minute headways.