Don’t Plan With Anecdotes – The Data Says We Need Eastlake.

Between yesterday and today, there have been a couple of posts here and on Publicola that, in my opinion, fail to cover the most important parts of the discussion about high capacity transit planning on Eastlake, have some clear misstatements, and make assumptions that aren’t borne out by the Seattle City Council’s actions.

Let’s step back. Seattle’s Transit Master Plan identified several corridors as the highest near-term priorities for city-built high capacity transit. The highest demand of these corridors are Ballard via Fremont and the University District via Eastlake and South Lake Union. Personally, I wouldn’t really call these high capacity transit – we only called the fast lines to West Seattle to Ballard “intermediate capacity” in 2000. But the transit master plan clearly finds that these corridors, with even a streetcar in semi-exclusive right of way, are very cost effective, and will carry tens of thousands of people with far faster and more reliable commutes than they have today.

Usually, in transit planning discussions, people make what I like to call the “endpoint fallacy”. With Link, many tend to ignore that the majority of ridership comes from the Rainier Valley, calling it a “train to the airport” among other things. But in this discussion of an Eastlake line, it seems like we’re ignoring the ends!

The Transit Master Plan shows that the two lines up the sides of Lake Union would carry very similar numbers of people. This makes sense, if you don’t focus on one of the neighborhoods served, and consider our entire transit network, as the Transit Master Plan did. It sees 25,000 riders on a rail line here, and for good reason – as downtown’s jobs are growing northward, they’re well outside the catchbasin of Link – this is a completely different corridor. People coming from all over the eastern half of the city would transfer from Link to this line to get to tens of thousands of new jobs in South Lake Union. Today, most of us don’t see that – we consider the South Lake Union Streetcar slow and infrequent, and we don’t see South Lake Union as a big urban center. But it’s not just Amazon’s new towers – there’s huge growth coming in SLU and more coming to the U-District shortly thereafter, and the focus on Eastlake ignores that this provides a connection between them – and a two way connection at that, as there are both jobs and residential in both centers.

Don’t be an armchair planner. If there’s real planning work that supports you, use it. But contradicting it with anecdotes just leads to poor decisions.

The other issue here, and the more interesting, is the politics. In Erica’s Publicola piece, she not only acts as if Eastlake/SLU is the same corridor as Link, which is pretty clearly mistaken, but she also attacks funding this line at all. She even claims bicycle advocates agree with her. But bicycle and even greenways advocates have been united – this planning money will lead to bicycle infrastructure along new lines. Even Cascade Bicycle Club sent a letter urging the Eastlake funding be retained. And the Council doesn’t agree with her either – their new green sheet (their proposal to change the budget) doesn’t cancel the funding at all, just splits it in two, pushing part of it out a year.

This causes a perfect political situation for the Council.

They don’t disagree with the project – they’re funding it, just more slowly. But it turns the Council’s argument that ‘we don’t yet know how to fund building these’ into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of spending the next year with planning funded, where the mayor can continue to seek federal funding for design and engineering (as he’s been highly successful at with millions for the downtown connector and the Broadway extension), we’re left to fight next year to ensure that planning money is retained – while we’ll be fighting at the same time to ensure Metro is funded and to get transit included in a statewide transportation package.

The City Council passed the Transit Master Plan’s recommendations for high capacity transit unanimously – they clearly agree with funding the projects, or they would have been cut. But with a new Obama administration (fingers crossed), a state package, and PSRC all likely to offer new options, securing planning funding now leaves them at risk of a big win for the mayor – and for transit – if we’re ready to accept federal funds for more.

With at least two Councilmembers planning to run against McGinn next year, it makes sense for their political aspirations to keep him from having an election year success. Unfortunately, preventing us from winning transit funding does so at the expense of tens of thousands of Seattle commuters who are waiting for better solutions.

Look past the anecdotes. The Council proposal hurts transit for a political win.

Comments

  1. Adam Bejan Parast says

    I think why this is becoming a lightning rod is most people assume that a study of Eastlake HCT will come to the predetermination conclusion that the SLU streetcar should be extended. If that is the case, then support to study the corridor study means that you think a streetcar extension is the correct mode for this corridor *and* that it should be a near term funding priority to the tune of ~$250 million dollars.

    Per the information you linked to above and this more detailed information about the corridor you’ll see that the TMP says that BRT sees the same or better speed improvements as rail, Eastlake only has a *single* stop (BRT and rail), and the streetcar extension has 5,000 more boarding.

    So assuming this study is a rubber stamp for a streetcar extension and the TMP is correct (ridership, travel time, stops, etc.) the question becomes do we think that a streetcar extension that boost ridership by 5,000 is a higher priority than other projects that could be accomplished with the same amount of money and are we ready to spend ~$250 million dollars to make it happen? If not then this study is a waste of money that could be better used for something else.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Nobody, not even the Council, thinks this study is a waste of money. That’s why they’re funding it. Whether or not the study is a good idea is not even a discussion – that was decided with the TMP, as was the preferred mode. This is about planning it.

      By the way, BRT sees the same speed improvements because rail would run less frequently – resulting in 170 riders per operating hour for rail, and only 95 for BRT. As rail frequency came up to BRT frequency, you’d see more travel time savings, where BRT wouldn’t be able to, because it would already be running at 5 minute headways at peak.

      This whole “for the same amount of money” thing is something I want to stop hearing. There is no fungible pot of money. There are people excited about rail – willing to come out and ask for it at council and willing to vote for it. Until you see bus advocates coming out and demanding BRT enough to get THAT funded in budgets like this, it’s a false choice. This money is here for rail.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        Hear, hear. ‘Lets stop something that is already moving forward so we can back and try do something that *I* as a wonk think is slighty better, but has little to no political support’ is nothing but support for the status quo.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        Ben a study is a waste of money if you study something you can’t fund to implement. That is my point. It will just sit on the shelf.

        To my knowledge the TMP never identified a preferred mode per corridor, but your reaction to all of this certainly confirms my rubber stamp assertion.

        Finally Ben if you didn’t noticed we aren’t drowning in money. A subway to Ballard is going to suck up a huge amount of money even if Seattle approves a huge transit package. Ballard should be the top priority, which will mean other areas not already served by rail are going to have to be served in a lower cost way.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Adam, page 3-7, figure 3-5, identifies preferred mode.
        http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/tmp/final/TMPFinalSummaryReportandAppendices.pdf

        I think you’re ignoring federal funding, Sound Transit 3, and local options for transit in the legislative package, not to mention LIDs. If your determination of “can’t fund to implement” is “we don’t have the money right now”, why bothering with study work for ST3 either? Portland gets large federal funding for much less cost effective lines.

        Every year, Seattle voters fund projects. Parks, schools, fire services, housing, transportation – your argument is that of “we can’t afford more”, which is utterly strange when polling and many years (even through a recession) of ballot measures pass handily.

        Please don’t be defeatist about fights that have not even begun.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        Didn’t know the TMP selected preferred mode.

        I’m not being defeatist about funding transit, I’m trying to be realistic about funding capacity. Shooting for the sky every time simply isn’t realistic. That is a fundamental disagreement we’ll always have.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Realistically, the Obama administration is trying to fund as many of these smaller projects as they can, and in a second term, they’ll likely do much more. We have more chances for more projects by moving further lines through planning so they’re ready for design.

        This money isn’t on the table for other transit projects. If we don’t use it for this, it’ll just go away. This creates opportunities we don’t have today, and it’s *hardly* shooting for the sky when 100 years ago Eastlake planning suggested a subway line.

        But if we don’t ask for more, we don’t get more, and we go slow and convince ourselves all we can do is be a snail. This mayor has made it clear he’s willing to go farther than that. Failing to support him just makes things worse for transit.

    • Jon Cracolici says

      I understand where you’re coming from Adam. We all want the most bang for our transit buck. That sort of criticism is a good thing.
      But there is a telling problem with your last sentence. I don’t mean to pick fault with you, it seems that many folks on this blog do it. “if not then this study is a waste of money that could be better used for SOMETHING ELSE.”
      This something else idea is a strange one. Quite likely the council will decide the money is better spent on a stadium. As it stands right now, there is no “something else.” We on the blog have ideas, and on the internet that can seem like having plans. But its not. If you show up for council meetings and send emails lobbying for a specific “something else” Ill help you! But until critism becomes active its just a opportunity for elected officials to ignore us.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        The TMP and Bruce’s whole body of work outlines lots of thing that could be done instead.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        And as you might note, those things largely don’t happen, but rail funding is in the budget.

      • Jon Cracolici says

        The TMP is 411 pages of things that could happen. This blog is people endless discussing things that could happen. Which thing do you want to MAKE happen? Cause in all likelyhood I will donate money to that and volunteer for it.
        My comment wasn’t that there are no other options. It was that there are no other options that people are actually working on.
        Its just a problem I see in this blog. On the internet it is easy to confuse ideas with plans. Ideas allow people to demonstrate their expertise in a field and their rhetorical skills. Plans actually get things done.
        I see this conversation in this community as being similar to the one happening in pot-enthusiast culture regarding 502. They don’t like 502 because of the sin tax, not being allowed to home grow etc. But there is not actually a different legalization initiative for them to vote for. Many of them don’t see this. They view it as a “502 versus better initiative” situation, when really it is a “502 versus status quo” situation.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        What Metro’s doing has nothing to do with what this money could be used for.

        If you really think these things are more winnable and better choices, organize to do them!

      • Jon Cracolici says

        I understand your confusion. Miscommunications happen. I understand that parts of the TMP are being implimented. That is obvious. I am commenting on an aspect of blog culture. I asked you to give me a plan of yours to get behind. You gave me an example of things that other people have already done. Aka the status quo.
        Basically what I mean is this. If youre going to piss on a parade, thats fine. But please organize a different parade for people to march in. Otherwise you’re just a pisser.
        For real. Im involved in seattle subway cause I think it will help transit in my community. If you organize a serious “seattle brt” I’ll help you with that for the same reason.
        One thing I know for sure Adam and everyone else. Future transit in this town is not going to look like what you want too. Its not going to look how I want it too either. But if I organize and lobby and you dont it will look more how I want. Thats how our political system works.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        Ben that isn’t true. A good part of the improvements that made RapidRide possible as well as route 7,44 and route 120 improvements were funded by SDOT and WSDOT.

        Jon this blog isn’t a campaign, I think that is your confusion.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Adam, what exactly isn’t true? It isn’t true that this money could go to those kinds of improvements? It can’t until I see you, and other people advocating for that kind of thing, at city hall. You don’t show up.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        Adam, correct me if I am wrong but was this blog not founded to push for the passage of a transit campaign?

        While you may be here to speculate and play mental SimCity (thanks to whoever came up with that below) many of us are here b/c we want to see better transit in this city. We want real solutions, real progress, and not to just jaw on about how we would do things if we were transit gods.

    • says

      $250 Million would buy a lot of modern trolley buses with better seating and A/C. I wonder how much this debate changes after 2015 when we have our new trolley buses in service?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        As far as I understand, our trolley purchase is funded already. And the federal grants for small rail we’d be going after are different grants than those for buses.

    • seriously says

      A critical point of analysis in determining whether an Eastlake project makes sense is comparing with the Link-SLU linked trip with a connection at Westlake. If that travel time is preferable to a surface alignment via Eastlake, then any such extension deserves lower priority than Ballard.

      We are spending $4 billion to build a subway from downtown the Northgate that will have gobs of capacity. Anyone in the north corridor can use that facility to reach SLU via Westlake. Even if the travel time via Eastlake is better, it’s still highly questionable whether a second line is needed in this corridor when other parts of the city haven’t yet been served. It would be a luxury.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        There are a lot of data points. That’s why the Transit Master Plan considered them.

        Many of these potential riders, with Link plus SLUS, have a *three* transit option trip. A bus to Link, Link to Westlake, and Westlake to their SLU destination. That’s why they don’t ride today.

        With this rail extension, that changes for many to a faster one seat ride. Hence what I linked – the nine minute average travel time savings.

  2. Brent says

    Thank you for this piece, Ben!

    The Mayor’s proposal could stretch that million dollars severalfold, while the proposed amendment essentially throws the money away.

  3. Stephen says

    Yes, you are correct that an Eastlake streetcar would serve trips between SLU and UDistrict very effectively, which I’m sure everyone can agree is a good think (after all we always want to invest in useful infrastructure).

    However, the extensive opposition is not because it’s useless, but because of its relative priority to other needs. Connecting two markets that already have a 1-transfer rail connection Link+SLUT, at the cost of millions of dollars, seems
    fundamentally unfair when the vast majority of the city has NO rail connection.

    Even it would have good ridership, that does not change the fact that at the end of the day, we cannot make all good ridership corridors rail at once. Eventually, maybe, I would love to see 8 different rail lines in the city connecting every urban village in every permutation. But until each portion of the city has some rail, its just mean to do infill to expedite a certain set of trips in an already served market.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Stephen, I don’t see any opposition. The City Council and and mayor both support it.

      The idea that Eastlake residents are somehow less deserving of transit than Ballard residents is silly. They’re a quite different market. We need rail everywhere. The best way to get it is to fund projects rather than splitting them across years so that we have to spend all our organizing energy fighting for the same things again instead of more projects.

      We can, in fact, make all the good ridership rail corridors at once (or within a few years of each other) – all we have to do is actually fund what we can and continue to organize for more. No matter how soon you *think* we can get rail, the choices Council is making will slow us down.

    • Andy says

      I don’t think transit should be viewed like rationing food, “1 for you, 1 for me”. It would be incredibly inefficient and lead us to a cobbled together network that doesn’t work well together. We should be doing the projects that make sense, despite what’s going on elsewhere. It is also a slippery slope, how equal does everything have to be? Rail systems don’t work because they were built in some way that is proportional the city, they work because they serve people/areas in a way they want/need and they connect them to other options. And if we build the options we know are going to be successful first it will just up the city’s appetite for rail and expedite getting it everywhere. Maybe it will be more useful to have a fully developed section where the local rail connects this neighborhoods, connects to LINK, bus service swirling around the two… that could really get people to buy into the greater vision.

      This approach of ‘fairness’ reminds me of 40/20/20… and we all know how good that was for our transit service…

      Maybe, instead of trying to build rail to everyone’s door, people should move their doors to be near rail. That is much easier.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Andy, the places we want to build rail are the densest in the city – they need rail. Badly. That’s why the TMP identified them as the places where we REALLY need rail.

      • Andy says

        Oh I am aware and I agree 100%. My comment about moving to rail was more a reference to the fact that, yes, our rail system won’t be built tomorrow… but some of it can be. The TMP has studied and come to good conclusions about where rail is both needed and where it will be successful. Instead of expecting that they are going to either ignore these studies, or somehow solve all these problems at once, another option is to locate yourself near these projects.

        I live in LQA and I love this neighborhood. It is dense and likes transit. While there are plans to involve us in rail, I am under no illusion that we are the #1 priority, or most likely to get done first. Instead of being negative about these other projects I think there are a couple other options… organize support for the rail I want, move to be near the projects we have in the works…

        I think it’s best to support good projects that are likely to get done, and to get those done as soon as possible. I’d rather throw support behind rail and build the will to spend money on it and let the agencies handle studying and planning what the best options are, accepting that it won’t be tailored towards me. I think the line being discussed through Eastlake is exactly that. And who knows, I may move to be near some of our new rail.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        Well said Andy.

        The extension I most want isn’t even on the table. It was mentioned 5 years back during the initial Seattle Streetcar proposal, but nothing since. It’s a southern extension from the FHS, going down Rainier to the I90/Rainier E. Link Station and on down to Mt. Baker (I’d like to see it come all the way down Rainier actually). But you don’t see me tearing down every other line. B/c I realize the best way to get what I want is to help others get what they want, to demonstrate to my neighbors and the other voters that this is something we want more of.

        That’s how you actually get something done, instead of just talking about it.

    • Mike Orr says

      The reason for Ballard’s priority is that northwest Seattle is the furthest from Link. Eastlake is just a ten minute’s bus transfer from Westlake or U-District stations, while Ballard is half an hour away. That makes it harder for Ballardites to use Link, and makes northwest Seattle unattractive to those who want good transit. We can’t afford to write off a quarter of the city that way, especially one that supports density and walkability so much. (West Seattle is far from Link too, of course, although it’ll take longer for density and low parking minimums to take hold there.) I’m not saying we should hold up Eastlake if it won’t directly accelerate a Ballard subway, but we need to recognize that Ballard and West Seattle are suffering the most in their ability to access Link.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Write off what? Ballard planning is entirely funded. This is *in addition* to Ballard rail funding. There is no way to speed it up with money in this budget. This just gives us more options.

  4. Chickenegger says

    I have a problem with Adam’s argument – there are costs that arise in planning and pots of money that become available that lead me to believe we should have all of our options on the table. Link does not connect to SLU, the 70s barely have standing room for much of the day & are sinking into the pavement on Eastlake, and there is a lot of new residential and jobs coming in the U district and SLU. It’s not unlikely that many of the businesses chipping in for operations of the streetcar now would be willing to help fund an extension, and we realistically have no idea when ST3 will come. I live in Ballard, but claiming you can shift the Eastlake planning money to get across Salmon Bay soon is a red herring.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says

      Accusing me of using this as a red herring is ridiculous. This is about priorities and I see a lot of low hanging fruit over building a streetcar.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        But because there’s no organization to demand that low hanging fruit, they aren’t really there.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        Ben that is why we do master plans, to lay out all the big *and* small things that need to be done. Remember it’s called and transit master plan not the rail master plan.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Adam, I do remember that. It also has highest priorities. These are the highest priorities. As you didn’t even realize it recommended preferred mode, I suggest you read it again!

  5. Matt the Engineer says

    How many buses would Rasmussen’s $1M pay to operate? I’d guess, assuming 2-shift service, maintenance, overhead… maybe 2. For just one year.

    This goes past short-sighted, right into legally blind.

    • Alex Broner says

      I seem to recall a figure of $124 per service hour for Metro in 2010. I also remember calculating that based on that figure $1 million gets you 22 service hours a day for a year.

  6. Andrew Smith says

    This is very well-reasoned. It should be “the data say we need eastlake”, but I’ll let that slide.

  7. Andrew Smith says

    One thing I’ll say, is that fixed-guideway rail is often used to spur development. It’s precisely because some of these corridors are big on the ends and light in the middle that makes them good candidates.

  8. Aleks says

    +1. Armchair planning may be fun, but a lot of real work went into writing the TMP, and we would ignore it at our peril.

    It’s also important to note that the proposed streetcar would extend north to 65th/Roosevelt. This means that not only would the streetcar replace the 70 and 66, but it could also potentially take over some of the local demand on routes like the 49/71/72/73 and other routes that travel via University Way and 15th Ave. So the potential for operating cost savings is even higher than it might seem.

    I will say that, while it’s unquestionably cheaper and faster and more reliable to run on Roosevelt, there would be a certain appeal to running a streetcar along University Way. In many ways, it would be the perfect place to have a transitway. It’s narrow enough, and has enough pedestrian activity, that it could probably be closed to cars without making the street feel dead. If Seattle ever gets dense enough that the 48 needs the capacity of a streetcar, I hope we can build that one along University Way.

    • Andy says

      I’ve never understood the growing trend of people thinking they are smarter and more informed than the people who are experts, and actually have all the information. Not to say we can’t be critical, have insight, etc…. but the speculative stuff kills me.

      • Aleks says

        Honestly, I think a lot of people just have fun speculating. We like playing SimCity with our own city. :)

      • Andy says

        So true Aleks, maybe I didn’t use the right term…. more the overly negative speculation. It seems to build so much that people argue themselves against good projects, that have evidence and work behind them. It’s fun, but when people start convincing themselves they know better it gets dangerous.

      • Charles says

        Experts are human as are arm chair analysts. Entities such as Sound Transit and King County Metro are sovereign agencies that have scope of planning that often diverge. We who have eyes in the street often see the pitfalls that the “experts” either fail to see or don’t give a damn about.

        The lack of interest in Transit Oriented Development as a key success factor in transit adoption happens because our agencies are not mandated to plan for it. That led to an I-5 alignment that either delays or forestalls the potential for massive TOD along the Aurora corridor for LynnwoodLink. Yes, ST is now moving to embrace the concept more in its decision making at the encouragement of a board member. Yes, ST has made some very good decisions in this regard with the Northgate design including the Pedestrian Bridge.

        While some coordination of resources is starting to appear in KCM’s route structure with respect to Link, that didn’t appear to be the case in the previous few years.

        As a citizen and taxpayer, it saddens me to see these agencies working with a limited vision and at cross purposes. What I would like to see is that we remind each and every politician we talk to that mass transit and responsible urban planning are the only viable solutions to handling future growth. I’m sure that many in city hall intrinsically know this, but stunts like delaying funding for HCT solutions reinforces the perception that they don’t get it.

      • jeff says

        As long as the “experts” give us things like the Mount Baker Transit Center then I will think that I am smarter and more informed than they are.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Given the constraints on the project cost and the politics of taking land, I’m not sure any of us could have done much better than Mt. Baker Transit Center. Sure, it looks like there were obvious solutions, but usually there’s a reason that doesn’t get bubbled up to public meetings that things weren’t done that way. Whenever I dig, I find answers that make sense to problems like that.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        Bit of a sidetrack, but there is some stuff that could have been done better, it just would have required more coordination between the City, Metro, and ST. Also more money.

        And while it far from perfect, its a whole lot better than nothing. And with the bowtie idea, it looks like it can be made near perfect in the future.

        Good thing people didn’t stop it while waiting for the perfect design.

      • d.p. says

        On-the-ground consensus is that Mt. Baker Transit Center is, in fact, worse than nothing.

        Had it not been built at all — had every bus to and through the area simply made use of on-street stops and layovers — every bus-rail transfer would have been closer, every bus-bus transfer would have been easier, every through-route would have been faster, and the key terminal-route transfer (the 48->Link southbound) would have been entirely less painful.

        So no, it’s actually a bad thing that people didn’t stop it and insist on something that worked.

      • jeff says

        Ben, Even if MBTC is the best of bad options I think it perfectly explains why people think they can do better than the experts. People see really crappy outcomes and (not surprisingly) think that they can do better. From your response it seems like initially you shared that opinion.

      • Charles says

        The existing land, parking lot, and “kiss and ride” was probably sufficient to make a usable integrated Transit Center at Mount Baker. Further, Sound Transit has eminent domain powers if necessary.

  9. Nels H. Nelson says

    I am all in as long as they have stops in front of the ‘Eastlake Zoo’.

    If not, I am still all in.

    • Mike Orr says

      Lynn Street is the center of the Eastlake neighborhood, so yes it would have a stop. Don’t expect it to be called “Eastlake Zoo” station though. That would confuse tourists. “Where’s the zoo?”

  10. eddiew says

    The objective of ST, Seattle, and Metro, working together, ought to be the maximization of transit ridership through support of pedestrian oriented development. They are constrained by limited rights of way and limited budgets. ST3 may never happen or may decades away; ST already has nine-tenths on the sales tax and four-tenths on the MVET. In 2021, they expect to open Link to Northgate, the most important rail line. The federal government is in political gridlock with high tax aversion and the highway trust fund is on fumes. Will the House let Obama FTA fund new starts? Should Seattle spend a few millions on studies one year before the Metro fiscal cliff? Or, should Seattle spend those millions making transit faster and more reliable today? SDOT has recently implemented good projects: Belltown bus bulbs, speed and reliability on routes 7 and 44, real schedule information. They could do more.

    Eastlake already has electric trolleybus overhead. SDOT and Metro know how to make it faster and more reliable. Just do it. If we are concerned about mitigating global warming by shifting to electric transit, it can hardly make sense to shift to a more costly electric mode when so many Seattle corridors remain diesel.

    Please note some oddities about the TMP corridors. The Madison corridor has to be ETB BRT due to grade. If the Fremont-Ballard and Eastlake-Rooseelt lines were modeled as extending to Northgate, the next logical urban center, then both those lines would have had to be rubbered tired BRT as well. In the first third of the 20th Century, the Loyal Streetcar line turned at NW 67th Street to avoid a steep hill on 24th Avenue NW and went north-south on 28th Avenue NW. Could a streetcar climb the Mapleleaf Hill between Roosevelt and Northgate? also note that the BRT options were modeled at five minute headway; they could be tighter and attract more ridership. Between 1940 and 1963, Eastlake Avenue East had service from two ETB routes, 7 and 8, and each ran every five minutes in the peak periods. That was before the construction of I-5 destroyed a big chunk of the ridership potential (along with the Broadway streetcar line on Harvard Avenue East).

    Note that the streetcar line all end at the south end of downtown. That means they would not have the operational advantage of interlining. SDOT is just now about to study whether there is the transit capacity for streetcars downtown given today’s traffic, suburban surface buses, and even diversion from the deep bore tolling.

    The budget constraint is a real one. SDOT estimates are that streetcar costs are between $30 and $40 million per mile. The marginal advantage of streetcar over ETB stopping in lane is slight; the capacity advantage is only needed when the corridor needs two-car trains.

    There are many transit corridors that could use investment. Funds are scarce. One cannot take a plan across town.

    A Route 70 ETB BRT would serve the Eastlake Zoo stop at East Lynn Street.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      Jack, all I’m hearing you say here is that you’d stop the preferred alternative because it isn’t YOUR preferred alternative.

      The fact of the matter is, the TMP found many reasons to prefer rail here. You sound exactly like the people still saying we should build buses to Bellevue and not East Link.

  11. says

    Looking at the news from NYC, with its subways down and so many people dependent, I think…is this what we want to be? Is this the “great goal” for our future? Isn’t this why people left other places to come to the Seattle region…which is not dependent on single point of failure rail.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      NYC isn’t doing that well with cars and buses right now – they’re working to get their trains back, because even with some downtime, they’re STILL more efficient than any other option.

      And now, NYC will plan measures to keep their trains from getting flooded next time.

      We have some spots that could flood, and it’s a good conversation we need to have in order to ensure they can’t. Why don’t you be part of that discussion and help advocate for measures to keep flooding from taking out the transit tunnel?

      • Nathanael says

        I think the Great Northern Tunnel is more at risk (look at its north portal location). The new Alaskan Way Deep Bore Tunnel for cars is even more at risk (and is an appallingly stupid waste of money)

    • Matt the Engineer says

      Let’s see. One major failure in 143 years. Or maybe a few – I’m no expert on NYC’s subways. Compared to daily traffic problems in just about every city in the world.

    • Mike Orr says

      In the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the Bay Bridge and Nimitz freeway were cracked and unusable, while BART continued singing along underground. It was temporarily increased to 24 hours until these surface connections could be restored.

    • Nathanael says

      The moral of the flood in NYC is: don’t build your critical tunnel infrastructure with portals in a flood zone.

      This applies to a certain Deep Bore Tunnel being constructed right now, but not to any other project I can think of in Seattle.

  12. KC says

    As a daily commuter in this corridor, I am very interested in this proposal. I followed the links provided above (many thanks!) to the TMP to find out more. I’m still digesting the data, but have a question to anyone on here who is familiar with the TMP and the process that created it. My commute uses the express bus routes(72X,73X, and sometimes on the 76X or 77X), which could best be described as U-dist to downtown via I-5 Express Lanes. But I note that the TMP has makes no distinction between using the Express Lanes or using Eastlake for this corridor. I suppose it’s more accurate to say that the numbers in the TMP assume all current Express Lane routes would be counted in the Eastlake Corridor ridership(Number 8 in the appendices to the TMP). I’d like to know why the “via Express Lanes” wasn’t included in the TMP analysis for this corridor. In my seven plus years of commuting from the U-dist to downtown I’ve only been on the Express Lanes, which I appreciate as a fast and direct connection to downtown. Does anyone on here know the reasoning behind this omission in the TMP?
    Many thanks,
    KC

    • David L says

      The corridor being studied in the TMP is a replacement for the local service, not the express service. It’s largely intended to serve the same populations now being served by the 70 and the southern portion of the 66.

      I think the assumption is that most of the express users will end up on Link one way or another once the U-District station is open down the road. There could still be a few express buses as well.

      • says

        What is there about buses that makes them less attractive to commuters than trains? What are the comparative performance assumptions for buses and trains in the 2020s and 2030s?

        Some of us think that ongoing developments in rubber-tire autonomous vehicles using existing streets will influence transit beginning in the 2020s… influence both transit performance and transit ridership.

        https://www.facebook.com/driverlesscarhq

        Suppose in the 2020s that little two passenger urban electric vehicles took off as a preferred consumer item, each having high electronic/computer/wireless content and automated driver assistance built in, say for automated off-street parking?

        America has written off vast street railroad networks before, and I suppose we could do it again!

      • KC says

        Thanks for the response David L. That makes more sense local rail replacing local buses. I am still digging through the numbers, but the ridership numbers (~25k) seem very large for a local route.

        d.p., I knew about the U-dist to Downtown corridor, what I didn’t realize until looking into it was that it was explicitly considered as the U-dist to Downtown via Eastlake.

        Of course I’m not in favor of an investment that offers no improvement. I would expect to see objective and measurable improvements to service, and I’d expect those improvements would be cost effective.

        What would be a poor outcome, and this may be what you are alluding to, is if the current express routes were eliminated or re-routed to be feeders to a new rail line with local service on Eastlake. I certainly do not want a longer commute with two transfers (I work off the bus tunnel south of Westlake so I’d need to transfer there as well). All that at great expense to the city would indeed be undesirable.

        Having said that, I don’t think that’s the intent – at least I hope not!

        I’m still trying to understand the 25k rider number. If its based on current use of the corridor, it would have to include some portion of the routes that don’t use Eastlake now (there just aren’t enough riders on the 70 and 66), but if it’s a projected future number that includes the continuation of express buses utilizing the reversible express lanes, then it would be a legitimate number to prioritize the “via Eastlake” planning. I just can’t seem to find the definitive answer in the TMP.

      • d.p. says

        Though the source of the numerical estimate is conveniently not divulged, it appears to include a very large increase in ridership within the South Lake Union segment (i.e. the part that already exists). It also counts use of the line for intra-U-District trips (as a feeder to the Link subway), even though such very short trips are hardly a priority and the line would be infrequent enough outside of peak that it would not be especially helpful as a feeder.

        The estimate also clearly presumes extensive use of the line for trips between SLU and the U-District. Given that exclusive right-of-way along Eastlake is very, very, very unlikely to happen, any suggestion that sitting in traffic on this trolley would be more appealing than backtracking to the Westlake tunnel station and taking a 7-minute subway trip should be viewed with suspicion.

        As David L says, none of this will effect you as a commuter (only as a taxpayer), as the Link subway itself is designed to eventually expedite the trip you take to work.

        I would further add to my list of questions:

        – Can you see yourself taking more non-commute trips via transit in the future, if non-peak transit significantly improves? And,

        – Can you conceive of any situation in which a streetcar down Eastlake would play a role in your travels?

      • KC says

        d.p.,
        I wouldn’t take any more non-commute trips. Nor do I plan to use Eastlake at all. From the comments on this related thread also from this site, it seems like I might have to if I stayed downtown after work and came home late:
        http://seattletransitblog.com/2012/10/31/what-not-to-do-with-the-eastlake-money/
        Although, to be fair the comments on 71/72/73 service reductions there are conjecture – albeit very alarming considering one post suggests adding 15-25 minutes to the trip! To put this in the context of my commute, the 79 (RIP) got me to work in 24 minutes total.
        Eastlake rail could have an impact on my bike commute (only 3-4 months of the year to this fair-weather rider) if the alignment is at all like it is on Westlake. Thankfully, Westlake is easily avoidable. The same is not true for Eastlake.

      • d.p. says

        The good news, KC, is that the North Link subway is happening. So you will always have an express trip to the U-District and points further north, even at midnight. You’ll never be forced onto local transit through Eastlake — bus or streetcar — ever again.

        The other good news is that the Eastlake Streetcar is not a done deal, and that many people seem to be waking up to its inadequacies and to the opportunity costs that pursuing it might squander.

        I am curious, though, why you can’t see yourself taking any non-commute transit trips at any point in the future. The shared hope of all on this blog is that transit in Seattle can be improved to the point where getting wherever one is going — whenever one is going there — becomes a quick and intuitive thing to do even without one’s car. Is it that local transit in Seattle has long been so substandard that you can’t envision it improving enough to woo you from your car?

      • David L says

        KC, for your express trips, feeder lines to Link (not the Eastlake streetcar) will be a more than adequate replacement. Link will be considerably faster than any current bus along the entire stretch from Northgate to downtown, but especially in the segment between 65th and downtown. You will ride a 72 (or whatever its shuttle replacement is called) to Roosevelt station, which will take less than 10 minutes, and then hop onto a Link train that will go downtown from Roosevelt in about another 10 minutes. This is the genius of tunnels and the wide stop spacing that d.p. often bemoans. :)

      • KC says

        d.c.,
        I didn’t mean to imply i wouldn’t take any – I had meant it’s not likely I’d take any more than I do now! I use the 70s in the U-dist off peak and on weekends, and tonight it just worked out that the 48 got me within a decent walk to home (the frequency of service is great). I don’t solely rely on buses for my leisure travel, but I use them a bit when there’s a direct trip. Hope that clears it up!

      • KC says

        David L.,
        Thanks for pointing that out. It does much to ease my mind and will make me more than a little impatient for the Link to get to Roosevelt!

      • d.p. says

        KC, indeed. It’s good to know how, where, and why people are using their transit, and what are their priorities.

        Yes, frequency is vital — subway, bus, pogo stick, wherever — and inadequate frequency is a deal-breaker for most anyone with other options. This is so much more important than chasing rail in places where it won’t necessarily be either frequent or fast!

        David L, that the genius of tunnels… period. Full stop. Ultra-wide stop spacing has nothing to do with it.

        If station spacing averaged 3/4 mile — if there were 3 extra stops along the way (First Hill, northern Cap Hill somewhere, northern U-District rather than a dumb streetcar feeder) — you would add not even 2 minutes to the Roosevelt trip.

        You’d still achieve colossal savings over the current situation, but you’d exponentially increase your permutations of subway-accessible trip pairs. All without having to build an additional layer of clumsy, slow, infinitely less convenient streetcars right on top.

      • KC says

        hey d.p.
        I wanted to do more thinking and some more research before answering your question of where I am on the streetcar (I’m paraphrasing you here a bit).
        I went back to the data – much like the title of this thread suggests, and while I still cannot find the explanation of the 25k number, I did find more on current use from the TMP briefing book that helped me come to my current opinion.
        Chapter two contains a number of figures containing the top 100 transit origin-destination pairs in the city. Figure 2-21 is the overall ranking, and U-dist to SLU is not among them. U-dist to Eastlake is (lowest category) and Eastlake to downtown is (middle category). There are five categories by ridership, so I don’t know where they are in the rankings. SLU doesn’t make it into any of the top 100 pairs. The same holds true for Figure 2-22 (daily home-based work trips), but with Eastlake to downtown dropping a category to second from the bottom. SLU shows up in Figure 2-24 (all other trips), but with no connection to Eastlake of the U-dist in the top 100 pairs. Link to figures is here:
        http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/tmp/briefingbook/SEATTLE%20TMP%204%20Transit.pdf
        Next I looked at the table of ridership numbers by route in Chapter 4 of the TMP briefing book (called Figure 4-12, but it is a Table). Unfortunately, there is no breakdown between routes that use the express lanes and those that use Eastlake and there is no distinction between the 7n and the 7nX for any of the routes. And somewhat alarmingly, the graphical presentations in Figures 4-15, 4-16, and 4-17 show all U-dist routes to downtown as if they already use Eastlake. But I admit I could just be nitpicking the figures (I am very nitpicky when it comes to accurate graphical presentations of data, though!) Here’s the link: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/tmp/briefingbook/SEATTLE%20TMP%204%20Transit.pdf
        I can’t really address the future demand estimates other than to note they also make no I-5/Eastlake distinction and that the figures in TMP summary show a high dependence of demand on the type of service offered (this is something I’d like to learn more about). Yet another link: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/tmp/final/TMPFinalSummaryReportandAppendices.pdf
        So, finally! and thanks for bearing with me, my reading of the underlying data – especially the current (well, 2008 anyway) use data in Chapter 4 – leads me to not support a streetcar on Eastlake. The data do not directly support the “via Eastlake” option. Although a streetcar could meet that need, it would be in direct competion with Link for the vast majority of riders.
        I wish I had known about the TMP when it was happening. I’m very curious how the Eastlake/Streetcar got melded to the U-dist to downtown corridor in the first place given the low current use. I would have interpreted that data differently.

      • Nathanael says

        “What is there about buses that makes them less attractive to commuters than trains?”

        For commuters prone to motion sickness (>30% of the population), buses are simply worse, because they shake and move in more directions. Period. End of story!

      • Nathanael says

        John, I know you’re a promoter of rubber tires and asphalt, but face facts. They are *inherently less popular* given otherwise same-for-same situations, and it appears to be at its base due to ride quality. If running private automobiles door-to-door on railroad tracks were viable (which it’s not, due to the sheer number of switches which would be required), people would prefer that to automobiles on rubber tires and roads.

        Just remember that as a starting premise. The result of the inherently inferior ride quality is that you have to get performance which is significantly more attractive for some other reason (door-to-door service, perhaps) in order to make them more attractive to the large population prone to motion-sickness.

        —-

        The autonomous vehicles nonsense remains a pipedream. It fails to recognize human psychology. If it were possible to get people to accept large numbers of self-driving vehicles, it would be possible to run Link without drivers *right now* (autonomous trains are an entirely solved problem).

        There’s a very common desire to have a driver to “blame” in the case of a crash. And the drivers don’t want to be blamed for the failure of the autonomous vehicles. Result: either the autonomous vehicles are illegal; or people won’t buy them because they feel like they’re risking prison at the hands of the computer programmers; or the computer programmers are blamed and the companies who produce the autonomous vehicles go spectactularly bankrupt. Take your pick.

      • d.p. says

        Wow, KC! I just saw your last comment! Thanks for wading through all of that and for trying to make sense of the number soup!

        A couple of people close to the political machinations of Seattle transit have explained the “streetcar network” recommendations thusly:

        Streetcars are fashionable, and seem like icons of a forward-thinking city. The TMP’s authors were essentially instructed to go out and find corridors that could be argued as working for streetcars, and to make those arguments. So the corridors followed the choice of mode, rather than the other way around.

        It is therefore not surprising to me at all that Eastlake and the various “connections” it would “enable” do not rank highly in the grand scheme of connections that need to be made. And it is not surprising to me that some liberties would need to be taken in measuring ridership “through” the corridor in order to advance a streetcar agenda.

        If you look at our existing SLU stub line on a map, and you have a strong bias for street-running rail, it’s easy to see how you might desire to continue the line north as far as you can justify. But when your resulting line fails even to break the top 100 demand corridors, you should begin to wonder why you’re fighting so hard for something that makes so little sense.

  13. Stephen says

    Why are we doing street cars in SLU? Shouldn’t this link be put underground like the UW line?

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      This is a smaller corridor that won’t serve as many people. We need more capacity than buses here, but not as much as Link.

  14. Stephen says

    Please stop delaying light rail in Seattle. This is such a joke. You’re never going to catch exactly which neighborhood is the best because it keeps changing. Just build the light rail and the cities “private developments” like amazon will follow the rail stations. Guarantee it.

  15. Stephen says

    City has voter approval to build light rail and would prefer to waste time and money on something completely different. WE DON’T WANT MORE BUSES! WE WANT SUBWAYS! PLEASE STOP ADDING BUSES!

  16. Ulysses says

    I read this statement, “bicycle and even greenways advocates have been united” [in support of a streetcar on Eastlake] above and, well, it isn’t that simple. I ride Eastlake every day to work and back. I have been telling riders I encounter about the streetcar – just telling them with no embroidery. First, none of them have known about it until I told them. Second, none of them, so far, support the idea. Not one. Having a letter from Cascade Bicycle Club does not constitute having unified support from actual bicyclists. I am not sure exactly how to get that fact into the mix, here, in The Stranger or anywhere else. Any suggestions?

    • Chris says

      Ulysses – Good luck getting agreement among all bicyclists on anything, from mandatory helmet laws & licensing, to vehicular cycling versus facilities that accommodate new populations of riders. I’ve learned the hard way that for every cyclist you will get at least one opinion.

      To KC”s and your concerns, the cycletrack + streetcar, if built on Eastlake, would likely follow the model of Broadway and would not carry the hazards in SLU. Separation of modes is not appealing to some commuters, but it is far better for ridership and predictability. I don’t personally have a problem with Eastlake but I believe it should be accessible to people who don’t feel safe riding so close to cars.

      • d.p. says

        “All the planning” instigated with streetcar advocacy as a foregone conclusion.

        Cost-effective? Not when the 10,000 “new boardings” are mostly found on the existing segment anyway.
        Not when zero evidence is give to support the claimed time saving (and exclusive ROW is a long-shot for the ages).

        Not when calling 25,000 one-way “boardings” — mostly very short hops that are already served — a “need” is laughable on its face.

        The TMP is a tautological document. This is a tautological post.

      • Jon Cracolici says

        d.p.
        Show up to council meetings. Or send them an email. Or don’t! You like to qoute statistics and number crunch to build your arguments. Thats fine. Here’s another number.
        Convincing people on a transit blog that you are right and they have bad ideas has a *0%* impact on transit planning for this region.
        If you want to have an impact on what happens on the ground (and I think you do since you seem so frustrated) you need to organise like minded people and advocate strongly for your plan. People with money and power won’t give you either just because you’re smart and can tear down other plans. They commit to these things because it makes political or business sense to do so. Since it almost never makes business sense to build a massive transit/highway project, you will have to convince them it is popular and will increase thier popularity.
        That takes a ton of organizing and legwork. Its also your only chance to ever actually see one of your ideas happen. Complain about folks’ plans if you want to, but until you invite me to volunteer for your campaign, youre just being a negative nancy.

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