U-Link Update

 

Ridership Patterns on Route 27

Via Yesler

Via Yesler

Similar to Route 14, Metro’s Route 27 has deep roots, extending back to the 1888 construction by Seattle Electric Co. of a cable car on Yesler from 2nd Ave to to Leschi Park, where the original rail bridge still stands. In the 1940′s, when Seattle’s streetcar network was dismantled, the cable car was replaced with motorcoach service which (I believe) alternated between Lake Dell Road and Frink Place, serving Lakeside in two different segments; at some point, the route was consolidated into the existing alignment that serves Lakeside from Alder St to Colman Park.

For students of Seattle neighborhood history, and lovers of the city generally, I highly recommend a ride on the 27. The route goes through diverse and historic parts of First Hill and the Central District that are changing fast. Ride out to Lakeside Ave, then enjoy Leschi and Frink parks, which are particularly beautiful in the fall. Walk north on Lakeside to Madrona Park, which has public piers jutting out into Lake Washington, and catch the 2 back downtown from its terminal.

Chart and discussion after the jump.

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Sunday Open Thread: Valdez Tells It Like It Is

Roger’s rant brings STB to stardom.

This is an open thread.

Ridership Patterns on Route 14

Route 14 in Little Saigon

Route 14 in Little Saigon

Route 14, like many of Seattle’s trolleybus routes, can trace its alignment back more than a century, to Seattle’s original streetcar system, connecting the Mount Baker neighborhood to Downtown via Jackson St and 31st Ave. With the opening of Central Link, Route 14 was extended to Mount Baker TC; or, to be more exact, it now detours to Mount Baker TC before continuing to serve the older tail to Hanford St. Ridership chart and discussion, after the jump.

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Water Taxi Now Accepting U-Pass

Water Taxi at Seacrest Dock, photo by VeloBusDriver

For more than a year, University of Washington students, faculty, and staff were unable to use their U-Passes as a fare payment method aboard the West Seattle Water Taxi.  With the Water Taxi no longer under Metro jurisdiction and subsumed by the King County Ferry District, the agreement to accept the U-Pass was not carried over.  Just yesterday, UW Commuter Services announced that KCFD would be restoring the U-Pass as an accepted payment method.

From an e-mail sent out by Commuter Services:

Commuter Services at the University of Washington is excited to announce that U-PASS members now have unlimited access to the King County Water Taxi system that includes both the Vashon Island/Downtown and West Seattle/Downtown routes as part of their U-PASS program benefits. With one-way fares starting at $3.75 for the Vashon taxi and $3.00 for West Seattle, it’s easy to see the savings add up quickly

The move essentially gives U-Pass users nearly the same benefits as those with an ORCA passport monthly pass, but at a fraction of the cost.

Tom Rasmussen’s Commute

by TOM RASMUSSEN

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of City Councilmembers writing about bus trips in advance of the Proposition 1 vote.

Photo by the author

On Wednesday morning, I took the 54 to get to City Hall. I wanted to see how folks were switching to transit and adapting from their normal commute during the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Riding the 54 was also important because I wanted to write about how the route will change both with RapidRide and with the improvements to the route if Seattle’s Prop 1 passes.

The 54 is one of Metro’s workhorse routes. It goes from White Center along Roxbury to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal then along California Ave SW to the Alaska Junction. It then heads down the hill on Avalon and onto the West Seattle Bridge and into downtown via 4th Avenue. Along with the 120 bus that runs on Delridge, the 54 carries most of West Seattle’s daily bus passengers.

Next fall, most of the 54 will be converted into Metro’s RapidRide C line. Today the route runs at about 15 minute intervals during the peak commute hours. RapidRide will bring more frequent bus service throughout the day, but it won’t make a difference if those buses are stuck in traffic. That’s where Prop 1 comes in.

Photo by the author

Prop 1 will build on improvements already funded through Bridging the Gap, including more queue jumps that allow buses to get a head start at busy intersections and bus only lanes through stretches of the route where buses typically get backed up. Bus bulbs will be added to allow buses to more quickly load passengers and get moving again without having to merge in and out of traffic.

If Prop 1 passes, the combined SDOT investments in this corridor will reduce the time it takes to get downtown by 16% and will provide a level of reliability that makes it dramatically easier to plan your commute. More after the jump.

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News Roundup: Smartphone Optimized

Photo by Atomic Taco

This is an open thread.

Op-Ed: TOD’s First Alight on South Sounder at Kent Station

by STEPHEN FESLER

Courtesy the City of Kent and Studio Meng Strazzara

While TOD around Sounder stations has had little coverage around here, one of the first examples may be making its way to Kent Station. Local developer Goodman Real Estate has been chosen by the City of Kent as the preferred bid to spearhead a mixed-use development of the City Center site. Goodman has also brought architecture starlet Studio Meng Strazzara along for the ride to create a modern urban statement.

More below the jump.

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Seattle Waterfront Meeting Tomorrow

by MARK DUBLIN

seattlewaterfront.org

There’s a public meeting about Seattle’s waterfront tomorrow night:

October 27, 2011
5:00pm – 9:00pm
Bell Harbor Conference Center, Pier 66 – Elliott Hall
2211 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA 98121

Enjoy local food trucks and live music at 5:00 pm.

Design update presentation by James Corner at 6:30 pm, followed by interactive stations to share your ideas.

RSVP: rsvp@waterfrontseattle.org

Everyone interested in transit should show up ready to discuss three critical ideas about the Waterfront , both with designers and with our elected representatives who give them their orders:

One, that transit on First Avenue is not close enough to serve the mile and a half of shoreline three steep blocks to its west.

Two, that on the new Waterfront itself, public transit vehicles are not obstructions to public enjoyment, but critical tools to ensure it.

And three, that productive industrial workers hosting interested visitors create great “hospitality.” Vancouver BC’s Denman Island’s industry is its greatest “draw”.

Transit modes? A working Waterfront needs the technology of street rail along with the pedicabs. As Dresden shows: street rail can operate across a lawn!

STB 2011 General Election Endorsements (II)

These are the rest of STB’s general election endorsements. We endorsed in races where one candidate clearly stood out. Part I is here.

We are deeply indebted to the Transit Riders’ Union, who shared their questionnaire results with us. We drew heavily from them.

Aaron Reardon

Aaron Reardon

Snohomish County Executive: Like all County Executives, Aaron Reardon has a lot of sway over staffing the Sound Transit Board. He is also one year into this his two year term as Chair of Sound Transit’s Board of Directors, which obviously makes him a leader on regional high capacity transit. He’s turned in a solid performance to steer Sound Transit through a period of steeply falling revenue and strife with Bellevue.

David Boe

Tacoma City Council #7: David Boe is a retired architect who knocks it out of the park when it comes to land use and transit. His flagship positions view increased residential and mixed-use density as a solution to strengthen the local tax base and support expanded transit.  Boe is also an urban design wonk who has written a column for the local Tacoma blog Exit 133.

 

Ryan Mello

Tacoma City Council #8: Ryan Mello is outstanding on our issues and is the kind of council member we love to endorse. He previously worked for the Cascade Land Conservancy and advocates for all of the transportation and land use beliefs we hold. Mello, along with other like minded council members, are pushing Tacoma forward as a regional leader in building sustainable and livable city.

Bob Sternoff

Kirkland Council #2: Bob Sternoff supports a number of positions that align with ours, including Metro reform, expanded taxing authority and a strong understanding of the importance of land use in transit development.  His involvement on the Regional Transit Committee as well as a few growth management boards indicates a dedicated track record that supports transit and better land use policies.

Jessica Greenway

Kirkland Council #4: Jessica Greenway has basically sound pro-transit views by Eastside standards.  She supported the $20 CRC to save Metro service and opposes I-1125.  Her challenger, Toby Nixon, not only opposed the CRC but also believes Metro should raise fares to a 100% farebox recovery rate.  This view alone is troubling enough to warrant an automatic endorsement for Greenway.

Dave Asher

Kirkland Council #6: Dave Asher’s impressive knowledge of our regional transit system is well indicated by his positions, which include support for Metro’s Strategic Plan, broader promotion of ORCA, an alternative transit funding source to the sales tax, and repealing the 18th Amendment.  On land use and density, he’s a strong advocate of smart growth and incredibly knowledgeable about the market forces associated with parking. Since our endorsement in the primary, Dave Asher’s opponent has withdrawn from the race.

Robin Jones

Renton Council #5 : Robin Jones has some interesting ideas on how to improve transit in Renton. He wants to increase police presence at the Transit Center and put in more curb bulbs, both sensible, small-bore improvements for a city like Renton. His opponent is Ed Prince, who doesn’t seem to have much of a transportation platform. Jones is endorsed by Michael Taylor-Judd and Bobby Forch, both of which are transportation-oriented Seattle Council candidates we have previously endorsed.

Chris Eggen

Chris Eggen

Shoreline Council #2: Incumbent Chris Eggen has sound ideas about transit-oriented development and bus priority. His statements indicate deep understanding of the problems facing transit riders in Shoreline and strong awareness of broader transit issues in the County.

 

Robin McClelland

Robin McClelland

Shoreline Council #6: Robin McClelland has a regional planning background, is a regular transit user, and her positions are what one would expect. She understands the relationship of density to various regional goals and has deep understanding of the region’s long-range plans.

 

Janet Way

Shoreline Council #4: Janet Way supports upzones in major transit corridors, and is a strong proponent of bikeshare programs.

 

Keith Tyler

Federal Way Council #7: We don’t agree with everything Keith Tyler thinks about transit, but in the areas most important for City Council — land use and priority treatments for buses — he is absolutely correct. He’s interested in TOD, less surface parking, and more signal priority and bus lanes for RapidRide. His opponent shows no apparent emphasis on either subject.

Prop 1 Volunteer Final Push

One last post about volunteer opportunities for the Yes on Prop 1 campaign. I’ll be doing thecanvassing this weekend, and I would strongly encourage everyone to mark down one of these events on your calender.

Here are ways for you to spend just three hours of your time in the next 12 days:

1.  Door Canvass
We are days away from our second neighborhood canvass, this Saturday (Oct. 29).  We will meet at 11am at the Sierra Club offices (180 Nickerson St) and hit the streets en masse, blanketing the city with a strong YES on Prop 1 message.  Please click here for more info and to register.

2.  Phone Bank
We keep plugging away on the phones, but we need your help talking directly to voters.  This is how elections are won!  Please click on a date below to RSVP for a phone bank and be part of our team of superstars who come back every week.

This week:

Next week:

3.  Fliers
Lastly, there are still several community events occurring every day throughout the city where we need to go hand out fliers and talk to people about Prop 1.  Please click here to sign up for a farmers market or community forum near you.

Downtown Bellevue Transportation Plan Open House

Here’s a good event for Eastsiders to mark on their calendars.  Next Tuesday, November 1st, from 4:30pm-6:30pm at City Hall, Bellevue will be hosting an open house and scoping meeting for its Downtown Transportation Plan update.  As I covered earlier this month, the Plan is oriented to a multi-modal strategy that takes into account recent developments in regional transportation projects.

The open house will be followed by focus group-style meetings where participants can discuss specific modes with city planners (flyer here – PDF):

On Tuesday, November 1 the City of Bellevue will host an open house and scoping meeting on the Downtown Transportation Plan Update.  There are two main objectives for this meeting:  to provide information to a broad section of the community about the purpose of updating the Downtown Transportation Plan at this time;  and to receive comments and suggestions regarding specific transportation issues that affect Downtown mobility and livability.

Following an overview presentation in the Council Chambers, those in attendance will be invited to the Concourse to join in small group conversations with City staff focused on specific mobility modes such as pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and roadways.  In this format, the City hopes to hear from the community about the transportation system issues that concern them and their ideas for improvements.  People are encouraged to visit more than one of the mobility display tables to help in the challenging task of planning for a multimodal transportation system in a complex and dense urban environment.

Beacon Hill Starts to Lead on Density Around Transit

If you look hard you can see it....

It started off as these things usually do, with a lot of pointing and gesturing at a roll up screen at projected images of various images and sketches. There was talk of “massing” and “features” and “treatments” and other designy language. But what was otherwise a relatively mundane design review meeting might have planted the seeds of a neighborhood revolution. OK, maybe I am a little bit too excited, but when considered in context, the review of a proposed mixed use project on Beacon Hill bodes very well for those of us who want to see more density around transit.

First, a quick report of what happened. The Southeast Design Review Committee was meeting to consider a mixed-use project on the corner of 17th and McClellan, a corner lot which sits, vacant on the same block as the Beacon Hill light rail station. The proponents presented their project and said they are asking for a review of the project at both 40 feet and 65 feet.  There is a proposal on the table now to upzone the corner to 65 feet but it is currently zoned for 40. The project would vary from 30 to 45 units depending on height.

I’m not a big fan of design review, so I’ll spare you my snarky recapitulation of the questions board members had of the proponents. Let’s just say they were the kinds of questions design review board members ask. What has given me some real hope about the shape things might take in Beacon Hill was the public comments after the presentation and questions. More after the jump.

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Beacon Hill Can Still Lead the Way on Density Around Transit

How much is enough?

Upon reflection it seems important to elaborate on my last post on Beacon Hill. First of all, my post was mainly about the proposed 30-unit development on the currently vacant station block. I think the proposal is fine, although I worry that it locks up a key piece of property with less intense development than might be possible if the whole block were developed at the same time. What drew the most comments, however, was the question of whether Beacon Hill, as a neighborhood, supports density. It sounds familiar, especially when we remember the ongoing debate about Roosevelt.

In general my rule of thumb with these things is to “never complain and never explain.” But when I wrote about the “vigorous opposition” in the neighborhood to upzones, I was speaking about the balance of some 16 years since neighborhood planning began there. And while there have been many positive statements on the record by neighborhood planners there has been opposition. One effort was made to appeal the revisions to the neighborhood plan by one group of neighbors. Knowing Beacon Hill as I do, I would guess that those neighbors weren’t completely alone in their views.

That fact is that there has not been, on balance, huge consensus around or for increased density around Beacon Hill’s transit station. That’s why more than two years after the opening of light rail, and 12 years after the completion of neighborhood planning there is still a vacant lot around the transit station and a parking lot across the street at the Red Apple. While I appreciate language like this in the neighborhood’s latest proposal for changes in land use, it isn’t a stretch to have a “believe it when I see it” attitude:

Participants also recognized that the existing town center is generally underdeveloped under current zoning and does not reflect the desired future character of a more vibrant and diverse mix of shops, restaurants and housing.

More after the jump.

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Metro Goes Big for Fall 2012 Service Change

Excerpt from northern all-day network

Excerpt from northern all-day network

Yesterday, King County Metro published the initial proposal for the September 2012 service change, and if you care about improving our bus network to improve ridership, this is a red-letter day. The proposed service changes would deliver almost everything I’d hoped to see in terms of making routes more direct, more frequent, less duplicative, and more focused on moving people between big ridership centers, rather than just a mostly-radial network from downtown.

First, a word about the scope of this restructure. As Metro does not have the resources to rebuild its entire network at once, major rethinking of the bus network is typically confined to certain geographic corridors — in this case, West Seattle-Downtown-Ballard — with the only changes outside the corridor being those required by desired changes inside the corridor. Thus, this restructure does not primarily attempt to improve service in the Rainier Valley or Northeast Seattle, although it has a few knock-on changes in both places

Next, here’s are the links you need:

I’m not going to rehash all the details contained on those pages, as that would be exhausting and duplicative. Rather, you should at least look at the maps and read all the individual specific blurbs about your favorite routes. I’ll provide some very broad highlights and then some commentary, after the jump.

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Proposition 1 and Jobs

Dexter Avenue Repaving (SDOT)

I don’t think “jobs” is a particularly strong argument for any particular infrastructure program and would rather discuss the projects on the merits. And as I’ve said before, approving or disapproving a 10-year or 20-year program based on current economic conditions is pretty shortsighted. Nevertheless, if you’re the kind of person who likes megaprojects in part because of the working-class, well-paid, union-represented jobs they produce, you should love Prop 1.

After all, a tunneling project like the deep-bore tunnel or University Link has a very large chunk of its costs going into capital equipment and world-renowned experts, and relatively small portion to guys (and gals) in hard hats. The vast majority of Proposition 1 expenditures will be micro projects like sidewalks, bike lanes, signal prioritization, and street repaving. I don’t have figures, but these have got to be much more labor intensive, dollar for dollar, than the region’s sexier programs.

And if you’re concerned about whether or not Proposition 1 will be good for the poor,  and neither its impact on the transit-dependent nor endorsements from various social service groups aren’t enough to convince you, consider that these jobs are relevant to some of the more troubled employment sectors in the region. That’s why twelve different labor organizations (as of Saturday) have endorsed the measure.

UW-Downtown: The Dilemma of Recurring Peak Demand

Photo by Oran

As the academic school year progresses, one thing that is a common problem aboard UW-Downtown 70 series express service is what I like to call recurring peak demand– that is, constant spikes in demand that occur regularly throughout the day as riders come and go from the campus.  This happens right around the middle of the hour when many classes are turning over with floods of students and faculty.

Unlike the very typical model of peak demand where the highest ridership loads occur in the morning and afternoon peak, recurring peak demand generates high loads at regularly occurring intervals all day.  Traditional planning strategies like peak trip adds, or overlay service, are inapplicable since the true peak periods are spread throughout the day.

There are three ways I think you can try to attack this dilemma:

  1. Recurring peak overlay service – There are a few examples where Metro currently implements a peak overlay on top of regular service when demand is highest, AM and PM-only 212/218 Eastgate service being one.  A recurring peak overlay is the same idea in principle; additional service when the demand occurs regularly.  This could mean an hourly UW-Downtown only route leaving the U-District on the half-hour.  The downside to this is an additional cost in service hours.
  2. Schedule restructure - The 70 series are currently a scheduling nightmare.  Four different routes with different terminals are combined for roughly even headways of 7-10 minutes during the mid-day.  A cost-neutral strategy could entail lengthening the headways (slightly) for the base (non-peak) periods and redistributing the savings to add trips in the recurring peak periods.  This would be no picnic for schedulers, however; you’d have to adjust schedules and headways accordingly for each individual route without compromising service.
  3. Emphasize alternatives - The last solution is more of a marketing exercise than it is a planning one.  Though veteran transit riders know that there are other ways to get between Downtown and the U-District, the 70 series remains the prevailing choice for most the University community’s transit-riding populace.  There are terrific alternatives with much more capacity, however– the 66 on Roosevelt and frequent services at Montlake (255/545) as well as at I-5/45th (510/511).  While these don’t exactly share the common express corridors with the 70 series, they remain viable options for riders coming from other points in the U-District.

Since riders usually never have to wait for more than two buses anyway, I can’t imagine any of these strategies would be very high up on the priority list.  However, I think it reflects a unique pattern in travel demand for a major urban center like the U-District.  The problem, of course, will eventually be solved with U-Link, but until then, creative ideas to manage the corridor’s dynamic ridership demand are all fair game in this arena.

Can They Take It? New Development on Beacon Hill Up for Review

Beacon Hill Station: Nothing But Flowers

The barren moonscape that surrounds the Beacon Hill Station is the poster child for the institutional and political failures endemic to Seattle’s approach to Transit Oriented Development. A picture of the stubby station box poking out of the ground is the front picture on my land use blog. I’ve gotten endless use from images of the lonely station as a sad commentary on the state of TOD. But maybe that’s changing.

Tomorrow night at 6:30 the Southeast Design Review Board will review a proposal for a four-story, 30 unit commercial and residential building including parking on one piece of the vacant lot surrounding the Beacon Hill station.

It’s a pretty modest proposal. But I have this feeling some people will appear to oppose it. I’m really hoping that isn’t the case, but my sense of land use politics tells me that, like most design review meetings, neighbors will emerge with all kinds of reasons why this project is wrong for Beacon Hill. More after the jump.

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West Seattle to Downtown Race (Open Thread)

From KCDOT news:

One day before the nine-day closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct; King County Councilmember Joe McDermott challenged County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen to a race from West Seattle to Seattle City Hall. Each man used a different form of transit with McDermott riding the King County Water Taxi, Constantine riding a Metro bus, and Rasmussen riding his bike. Watch what ensues!

STB Endorsement Questionnaires

If you’d like to delve further into the details of what some candidates told us they believe about transit. In each of these races, we sent questionnaires to all the participants; what you see is what we got back.

Receiving these responses obviously filled out our understanding of these candidates, but of course we also drew on their voters’ guide statements, press reports, responses to the Transit Riders’ Union, and for incumbents, their record in office.

Beware: the file formats vary based on what they sent back to us.

King County Council

Richard Mitchell

Seattle City Council

Bruce Harrell, Brad Meacham, Tom Rasmussen, Tim Burgess, Sally Clark

Bellevue City Council 

John Stokes, John Chelminiak