News Roundup: The Obvious Answer

Sound Transit

Sound Transit

This is an open thread.


  1. Nathan From Tacoma says

    hmmmm… I could buy one of those surplus New Flyers and make an RV out of it… i mean, how hard can it be?

    • mic says

      They’re much more stable if you put them up on blocks in your front yard, then remove the tires so it’s not an eyesore.

  2. Mark in Kenmore says

    The recent news about Google expanding their Kirkland campus has got me thinking about the Cross Kirkland Corridor. I know part of the plan is to create a trail, which I’m excited about (particularly if it connects to the Sammamish River Trail), but there’s also talk about using it for transit.

    Do we know any details about this, or are those details only to be included in Kirkland’s master plan for the corridor? As far as I’m aware, that has not yet been released.

    Right now I have a hard time believing that this corridor would be very useful for transit unless a great deal of development takes place around it.

    • says

      There was a big update at the Kirkland City Council meeting last week, and basically yes, they plan to push really hard to get transit along that route, specifically they want light rail. They’re coordinating with Sound Transit already and both parties are apparently quite enthusiastic. There are no details at this point, although they have hired a firm to create the master plan for that corridor.

      The corridor has a lot going for it in terms of development potential. It passes within half a mile of the Kirkland public library, putting it within the walk-shed of ‘downtown’ proper, an area which hasn’t been too afraid to increase density. But, perhaps even better, it goes directly to Totem Lake, Kirkland’s largest employment center and exactly where Kirkland intends new development to go. They have big plans for redeveloping Totem Lake, and some form of HCT directly there would be brilliant.

      The biggest upshot of the corridor is that carves through regions of Kirkland that would have very large walk sheds, because it doesn’t bump up against freeways or water or other barriers.

      • says

        Thank you, I agree. I am tired of hearing that the eastside BNSF corridor doesn’t go anywhere near any destinations or density. It is reasonably well placed to serve downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake, and will serve those areas better than any other feasible new light rail alignment, bar a bored subway tunnel, which isn’t typically necessary in the suburbs.

      • David L says

        Chad, whether or not you’re tired of hearing it, it’s still true.

        Why would anyone walk over half a mile along a narrow, unprotected sidewalk on a major arterial from the corridor to downtown Kirkland? And, even if people would, where would you get the volume of people to justify rail between Kirkland and Totem Lake, when there are now four bus lines that serve that corridor in various ways, and all of them run more or less empty most of the time?

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        @Jeffrey What is your read on LRT vs BRT.

        It’s obvious why LRT is more desired but the problem I see is the Kirkland-Bellevue ridership market isn’t nearly as strong as the Kirkland-Seattle market, and since rail on SR-520 is far off at this point BRT is the only way to served Kirkland-Seattle.

      • aw says

        Adam, you could interline East Link and a new Kirkland line from Hospital Station to its terminus.

      • Jim Cusick says

        @Adam Bejan Parast

        “@Jeffrey What is your read on LRT vs BRT.”

        You need to specify which BRT plan is going in the corridor,
        WSDOT’s or Sound Transit’s?

        WSDOT’s stays on the freeway, Sound Transit was planning on using the BNSF ROW through Kirkland to Totem lake.

      • says

        @Adam — the official line seems to be “HCT”, pending the results of the studies, but council members have clearly stated a preference towards LRT. That is also apparently the consensus from public feedback.

        But yeah, just armchair quarterbacking it here, you’re totally right that the demand is into Seattle, not Bellevue—and I have to imagine that’s what everybody is picturing, but I haven’t heard or read anything stated explicitly either way.

      • Bernie says

        Every response to the TRails advocacy group to leave the rails in place and sight the trail along side the existing ROW has been rebuffed by Kurt Triplett, Kirkland’s City Manager. Houghton residents were Surry Downs fuming mad about any plans from GNP or Eastside RailNOW to maintain any sort of freight or DMU service. And don’t get them started about overhead catenary blocking views. Kirkland is also dead set against this corridor ever being withdrawn from the 1st National Rail Bank because it cuts through their natural area park between DT and Totem Lake. Light Rail on this ROW ain’t never going to happen. And yes, never is a long time.

      • aw says

        DavidL: “Why would anyone walk over half a mile along a narrow, unprotected sidewalk on a major arterial from the corridor to downtown Kirkland? And, even if people would, where would you get the volume of people to justify rail between Kirkland and Totem Lake, when there are now four bus lines that serve that corridor in various ways, and all of them run more or less empty most of the time?”

        It looks to me like a station near Kirkland Ave. and 8th Street has decent sidewalks most of the way to the transit center. I’m not sure what the topography is here; I think there is some elevation difference, but not too steep. And for lazy folks, you could alway have a bus that went that direction on the way between the TC and NE 85th or the freeway.

        Any light rail to Totem Lake needs to connect also with Bellevue for two reasons. Firstly, as I pointed out above, using the corridor it’s straightforward to hook into East Link and enable a connection or a direct link to Seattle. Secondly, there needs to be a maintenance facility for the vehicles. Under the assumption that the Bellevue site near the BNSF corridor is selected, it could also serve a Kirkland extension.

        Since it will be at least 15 years before this gets built, I don’t think that worrying overmuch about the built state between Park Place, NE 85th and the rail corridor. It will change between now and then.

      • aw says

        Edit: Since it will be at least 15 years before this gets built, I wouldn’t worry overmuch about the built environment between Park Place, NE 85th and the rail corridor.

        If this site is selected for the OMSF, it has a tail track that points toward Kirkland. And it has a handy wye heading toward Redmond. Of course, Kirkalnd -> Redmond would be faster via NE 85th, but not necessarily S. Kirland to OTC or Houghton to Redmond.

      • says

        @Bernie and @Jim Cusick — please checkout the study session packets and watched the archived meeting here. Rail is definitely the plan and what council members envision.

        The advocacy groups that keep trying to keep the rails there seem to be unaware that the long term is actually to put rail there—though different than its current form. There’s definitely been some serious misunderstandings about the existing rails. Yes, they will rip them out, but that doesn’t preclude putting light rail in its place—and that is in fact an openly stated goal (Kurt Triplett is very much aware of this as he gave part of the presentation I linked to). It’s also worth noting that repairing the existing rails would cost the same as adding new ones, so ripping them out in the interim is no loss.

      • says

        Has anyone that thinks light rail is a great idea in this corridor actually gone and walked down the tracks? They’re open to the public, go do it.

        There are a number of stretches where there’s no level place for a second set of tracks, let alone two tracks and a bike path, even if the corridor is wide enough. It’s on a steep hillside. I’m not an engineer, but I have eyes. They’d need to either move a lot of dirt or build some kind of elevated-ish structure. If they’re doing that, why not save themselves the lawsuits and build elevated over one of the roads to the seriously walkable part of Kirkland? The part of Kirkland with an actual glimmer of density and tight use mixture, that might plausibly embrace modest expansion? Not to somewhere within 1/2 mile of the core; not to places that “would have very large walk sheds” but have existing disconnected street networks oriented away from the tracks and existing residents that want to keep them residential-only, not to places built around 405 and whose pedestrian environment is permanently limited by that fact.

        Walk the tracks.

      • Bernie says

        @Jeffery, You’re delusional. If they fed you a line at the meeting it was just kibbles to keep a rail activist satiated so they would go home fat and happy. Al is right. The corridor would be virtually impossible within any reasonable design parameters to double track and ST has a strict aversion to any light rail, even a stub from Overlake to a Marymoor MF being anything but double tracked. Triplett has pointed out, and rightly so, that building a parallel trail to the existing ROW would be ungodly expensive because of the terrain. Trail + double track is would be pretty much impossible. Add to this it serves a very limited market. Take away the freight, which Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond have effectively done with their zoning and it’s game over. The only reason you’ll see the wink and nod to “rail ready” is because federal law requires that you have “a plan” to allow rail back in. It doesn’t have to be a workable plan just a nod to regulation. I tried to fight it but none of the politically connected in Redmond, Kirkland or Bellevue want trains. Ironically, it seems Kevin Wallace was about the only one who thought rail might have a future on the BNSF corridor and he’s universally hated by transit advocates. They even tried to burn him at the stake for looking at an investment in GNP.

      • Jim Cusick says

        @Al Dimondwuq

        I’m not an engineer, but I have eyes.”

        And that’s the basis for Kirkland’s decision?

        Please, read the studies that Sound Transit did, and even the Cascadia rebuttal.
        Read the WSDOT BRT White Paper, and Sound Transit’s Eastside BRT study.
        Read the I-405 Corridor Program FEIS.
        Talk to some railroaders, they know what works.

      • says

        I’m “delusional”? I haven’t “lived here long enough”?

        I am simply reporting what’s openly stated by the Kirkland City Council—that this draws such strong emotional responses towards me seems a bit misdirected. Please, email David Godfrey or Kurt Tripplet and tell them how delusional and misguided their plan is…not me. If you are trying to say that they’re pulling the wool over our (the public’s eyes), then I’d really love to hear their response, so please share.

      • Jim Cusick says

        I’m not picking on you, Jeffrey, but some of us have been involved longer, and more intimately.

        There are too many things that don’t add up.

  3. David L says

    Well-written and readable opinion by Judge Coughenour that strikes the perfect balance of fairness and politely disguised contempt. Every community group should read it and think a bit before filing a whiny complaint over an EIS.

    • Justin Elder says

      I agree that the opinion was well-written and well-reasoned. However, there was nothing in it to indicate that it was actually deemed a “nuisance” lawsuit like it was branded in the post. Nuisance lawsuits are thrown out and legal costs awarded to defendants. It seems like this was resolved on the merits, such as they were. Summary judgment can only be used when both sides agree as to the facts, but disagree as to the application of the law to those facts.

      Does anyone know if Judge Coughenour, in a separate motion, awarded fees to the defendants? That would be a wonderful victory.

      • David L says

        Summary judgment doesn’t require both sides to agree to the facts; it requires the judge to look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the party not moving for summary judgment. Here, the judge looked at the NIMBYs’ evidence in the most favorable light to them and still determined that ST was entitled to summary judgment.

      • Justin Elder says

        Yes, you’re right about summary judgment. I wanted to know more about the nuisance. It would be wonderful if the suit was deemed an actual nuisance lawsuit.

    • Advokat says

      Might as well point out the obvious — the unbroken streak against anti-transit whiners continues! At least the agency is treated fairly in the courts. In the press, well, not so much.

  4. Michael Ragsdale says

    Yes, charge parking fees. Cheaper the further away from the station you are (for example: Lakewood would be one price, 512 would be cheaper, DuPont would be cheaper, etc). Free, of course, for bikes, walkers, and bus riders.

    Other lots, not just Sounder stations, need pricing too :::ducks and hides from the “I don’t want to pay for Nothing” crowd:::

    • aw says

      A thought I had while reading the article from Puyallup Patch was to introduce paid parking gradually by making a portion of a Sounder parking structure paid.

      The idea is that the area is controlled by entry and exit gates that can maintain a count of free spots with a distplay. Add an ORCA validator for payment from the e-purse; you can sweeten the deal by making a portion of the parking charge available as transfer value. I’m not sure how that works with passes, but presumably you’d need a higher valued pass to pay for the parking+train fare.

      This can do away with the gripes about charging for parking; until the free spots fill up, folks will preferentially use them. But when they’re full or nearly full, people will weigh the advantage of paying for a guaranteed spot vs. cruising for a free spot or going to an off-site lot and potentially missing their train. As the usage of the paid parking increases, the paid area can be expanded.

      • Michael Ragsdale says

        That’s an interesting thought, and I like the idea of pay with Purse = partial Transfer Credit.

        Advertise connecting bus service “and don’t have to pay for parking” or something like that.

        DC has what they call Kiss and Rides, where someone can drop you off at the station without having to pay the parking fee.

      • aw says

        We have Kiss & Rides too. There’s one planned for Roosevelt Station (no parking though).

      • Martin H. Duke says


        That’s a great idea to ease into it, addressing the concerns of those who are skittish. The drawback is you’ll get less revenue for the same cost, and if it means it doesn’t turn a profit it will erode support.

      • aw says

        The reason for charging is not to make a profit, but to manage demand. Of course, covering the costs of collection would be nice.

        In case it wasn’t obvious, the point of the partial transfer credit was to cover shared parking situations like at Kent Station so that commuters get an added benefit compared to folks who park in the garage to go shopping.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        I understand, but I don’t think the public has caught up with the idea that charges can be about managing demand, not generating revenue. I can imagine the wailing at the “stupidity” of a charging scheme that doesn’t even cover its own costs, although freeing capacity is the true purpose.

        Anyway, it’s a good idea.

  5. RapidRider says

    I wanted to go to the Ballard transit study open house to complain how Ballard has been cut off from south downtown and the stadiums (the 40 is not a substitute), but I was at the stadium that night, where spent a good 20 minutes just getting to the RapidRide from the stadium, so I was unable to complain.

    • Justin Elder says

      I wanted to go, as well, but by the time I finished work and the bus got me there, it was over. Of course, that says something about the need for grade-separated transit, but it also says something about trying to rely on public transit in this town.

    • Brent says

      Rather than insist on a ridiculously expensive 1-seat ride from the stadium (and taking away a lot of other riders’ 1-seat rides), why don’t you press to make transit from the stadium to the north side of downtown faster?

      Just add a surcharge on cash fare payments, and your entire trip will be shorter, with more revenue for Metro that they desperately need. The resulting operational savings could improve frequency on the 40.

      • RapidRider says

        But we did have a 1 seat ride from Sodo/stadiums, that was was taken away, and for what purpose, I’ll never know. Your claim about it being ridiculously expensive, is beyond me, since the old 15 and 18s always had riders on them going through Sodo in either direction.

        And as for pushing for better connections from Sodo to north downtown, the old 15 and 18 fit that description perfectly. Frequent at all times of the day and somewhat reliable. They then stripped that for the “much improved” RapidRide, with a route between West Seattle and downtown that nobody asked for.

        The problem with 4th and Jackson is that, once you walk there and catch a bus, which are always delayed due to post game traffic, then ride it all the way up to Seneca, you’ve missed your transfer to the RapidRide, plus you’ve wasted 30 minutes of your life. At least walking to Seneca, you know it’s going to be 20 minutes (15 if you jaywalk heavily and run the last few blocks), but it’s sad that’s become the accepted norm for Ballard riders coming from Pioneer Square/International District/Stadiums.

      • David L says

        Not everyone can have that one-seat ride, because not every southbound part of a through-route goes that way. You lost it; people on the 5, who didn’t have it before, gained it.

      • asdf says

        The old 15 and 18 had riders going through SODO because they were thru-routed with buses going to West Seattle. In other words, they were carrying people from downtown to West Seattle, not people from Ballard to SODO. There never was and still isn’t much of anything in SODO worth going to.

        The stadiums are legitimate draws of demand when there’s a game going on, but the walk from Columbia is not that long. And besides, with all the game traffic, your bus that gives you a one-seat ride wouldn’t be all that much faster than walking from Columbia anyway. It might even be slower. And if you think the tunnel is effective at avoiding game traffic, think again. Travel time from ID station to Convention Place station right after a Mariner’s game is around 30 minutes. I have experienced this first-hand.

      • Charles says

        what’s so difficult about going to stadium station or ID station and catching a train uptown? bypasses all thst traffic and you are delivered 1/2 block from a RapidRide stop or the preferred 40.

    • Brent says

      Oh, and I take it this was after 6 pm, when the 15x, 17x, and 18x stop running. Is 4th and Jackson too out-of-the way for your trip needs?

      • Possibly ignorant says

        Have you ever tried catching a bus to Ballard after a stadium event? Based on your responses, it doesn’t sound like it.

      • Brent says

        Since I don’t live in Ballard I haven’t had to do that. But I’ve never gotten a quick ride home after a stadium event. The rest of the town has to put up with a long ride home after such events. Why should RapidRider get special treatment?

        And why should the commutes of thousands of daily riders be ruined to suit RapidRider’s desire for a quick ride home after an occasional entertainment event?

        I’ve offered other solutions. He insists on the most expensive one.

      • RapidRider says

        Again, the other options are: a 20 minutes walk to Seneca. Wait for a few, 30 minute headway routes at 4th and Jackson, a bit of a walk to the tunnels, where the few buses that come are U-District buses that are so packed you can’t get on. We used to have two direct routes that were pretty full, game day or not. On game days all 15 and 18s were jam packed. I’m curious how many of those people have now given up on mass transit on game day.

        But the stadium is just one of the destinations Ballard lost. We also have no direct access to downtown, south of Columbia, Pioneer Square and the International District. A few people, mostly on this blog, just shrug this off as c’est la vie, and clearly aren’t from Ballard. If you talk to actual transit riders from Ballard, it’s seen more as a head scratcher move by Metro. You have Ballard, arguably one of the bigger and fastest growing neighborhoods and it no longer has access half of downtown! Meanwhile, Ballard is becoming very dense and people living there want to be car free and reliant on good and efficient transit. I understand that eventually the RapidRide will use Washington St, but that is still years in the future.

      • Charles says

        No see my comment above. Your best option is to catch a train or bus in the tunnel & connect with the Ballard bound busses.

      • RapidRider says


        So your solution is to go out of the way, to catch a bus in an extremely crowded tunnel, were buses are slammed and take forever to load/unload, then transfer and go up a series of staircases to catch a RapidRide you hope will be coming soon? If that’s the accepted solution, why is everyone so surprised when Ballardites complain every chance they get about the current state of transit to/from Ballard?

        It’s like they are punishing the fast growing, dense, transit friendly neighborhoods, like Ballard and rewarding the static, single family, transit black holes like Magnolia.

    • AndrewN says

      I for one appreciate RapidRide being more on-time after stadium events than buses that run along 4th. The 15 and 18 would get stuck in post-game traffic.

      • asdf says

        Very much. Not having to stand at the bus stop for half an hour in Belltown, waiting for your bus to Ballard to crawl through stadium traffic is a huge improvement.

  6. Brent says

    I’ve updated my guestimate on pricepoints for eliminating Metro zones. If Metro starts from $3 for 2-zone all-the-time fares, and $2.50 for 1-zone all-the-time fares, with the existing ORCA reader pre-set procedures (and allowing for some amount of operator errors, which I’ve determined do exist, but mostly cancel each other out), then Metro will lose revenue in shifting to a local and inter-city express fare system. However, if the express fare is introduced at a $3.25 rate, Metro will gain revenue.

    Of course, the biggest opportunity for positively impacting Metro’s operating budget remains setting the fare higher for cash. But the county council has been heretofore overly focused on the single measurement of fare recovery as a percent of operating costs. Keep contacting your county councilmembers to insist that a cash surcharge be part of the fare restructure package later this year, and that a cash surcharge be applied from the beginning to the low-income ORCA card, assuming the money ends up being available to roll out the low-income card.

      • Brent says

        Yes, including Kitsap Transit.

        You can find out a lot about these programs at Metro’s Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee’s website here. Check out the Committee Notebook in particular.

      • Schuyler says

        Cool. I’ll look at that. Thanks Brent.

        I ask because I haven’t heard about anything like this in NYC/Philly/Cleveland.

      • Michael Ragsdalel says

        RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) has a Senior/Disabled + Low Income “No Fare” ID.

    • mic says

      Eliminating the arbitrary 2-zone system in favor of simplicity should make riding transit easier – thereby attracting more riders. Did you throw something into your calc for that, even an educated guess?
      The distinction between local and intercity can be blurred by routes trying to do a little of this and a little of that. Clearly a one seat ride from far away to Seattle with no stops, is an express and should be charged a premium.
      As for needs based fares, transit should not exceed the federally mandated requirements in these cash strapped times. If access can charge double the regular fare, they should do so. If the maximum for disabled is 50% then so be it.
      Caring for the less fortunate among us is important, but not at the expense of the basic health of the bus network, which is where we are headed in the near term.

      • Brent says

        I don’t have expertise on how prices affect ridership demand, so I didn’t try to make that part of the calculations.

        As for the seniors/disabilities fare, isn’t instituting a cash surcharge the most effective thing Metro can do to RRFP fares? Raise the RRFP fare to an even $1, and implement an “electronic payment discount” of 25 cents, leaving the real fare right where it is, but raising the cash fare to match Community Transit’s. Metro can clearly do this under the RRFP MoA. See Section 10.

      • Brent says

        Though you didn’t mention paratransit, I should point out that there is a lot more room to raise those fares than there is to raise the RRFP fares. In particular, two bus agencies that provide large-scale low income programs — StarTrans in Lincoln, NE and SunTrans in Tucson, AZ — have rebates for low-income paratransit riders.

        StarTrans charges $3.50 for a Handi-Van ride, and a 31-day pass for $34. However, the low-income 31-day pass is only $16.

        For Tucson’s Sun Van, a standard trip fare is $3, but the “economy” (low-income) fare is $1.

  7. Gordon Werner says

    I like this part of the judges ruling

    Plaintiffs argue the declaration should be admitted because it ―addresses technical, complex subject matter that the agency ̳swept under the rug.‘‖ (Dkt. No. 30 at 6.) Not so. Early on in the scoping process, Sound Transit eliminated a tunnel alternative for Segment B because it determined that Segment B did not meet its (easy-to-understand) criteria for tunneling and would be riskier and more expensive. After that, no one resuscitated the tunnel idea, so there was no further analysis to be done—let alone to be ―swept under the rug.

  8. James says

    Why did the Ballard News-Tribune summary not focus at all on the Light Rail vs. Streetcar aspect of this? And why did they only quote contradictory obstructionists who say things like, “We cannot route through 15th Ave W because it will hurt industrial jobs but we need a transportation option that is faster and not slowed down by traffic.” Well, given that 15th Ave W is the only option on the table for grade-separated light rail, she clearly has no idea what she is talking about.

    • RossB says

      I think this is why it is crazy that these two meetings were combined. The high speed (grade separated) option is the important one. Once that is decided, the other one should be considered.

      For example, let’s assume that they decide to build a tunnel from Ballard to the U-District. Let’s also assume that it has a station at Fremont (and that is only station between Ballard and the U-District). What then? Well, a streetcar (or rapid bus) along Leary starts making sense. A faster way to get to Fremont from Queen Anne makes sense. Maybe it makes sense to build a connection from Aurora to Fremont (maybe an elevator along with a bus stop at the north end of the bridge). These things all start making sense when you know that Fremont has a stop.

      On the other hand, lets assume they build the same line, but skip Fremont. The only stop in between Ballard and the U-District is 46th and Aurora. Suddenly the Fremont elevator/additional stop on Aurora become a lot less important. You just need some way to get from Fremont up the hill. Maybe add a streetcar (or rapid bus) up the street. Aurora becomes an even bigger deal and maybe you need a fast way for folks at Westlake to get up the hill (so they can then get on the rapid bus that will take them to the station on the other side).

      This is just the same idea for a (high speed) rail line, with a minor tweak. But the surface options change considerably because of it. Even using the term “surface” is misnomer, since other options (like an elevator to Aurora) come into play. You can imagine that lots of other options make sense (or don’t make sense) depending on where the high speed rail goes.

      To be fair, it would be great if people considered all of these things together, but I doubt this will happen. As I said before, the streetcar is just a distraction. The Leary Way streetcar won’t make that much of a difference to the people who spend time in Ballard or Fremont. What will make a much bigger difference is a high speed (grade separated) system that serves those areas (or doesn’t).

  9. John Bailo says

    Alternative to “obvious” parking solution…build more stations. Spread the load. Add some in between park and ride type stations where there is cheap land. All they need is a simple platform for those.

    • Chris I says

      Building new stations that will slow down service to subsidize riders at $10+ a pop doesn’t seem like a good use of public resources.

      • John Bailo says

        But building low cost or free access to an already existing public resource for which people already pay a fare and for which society already subsidizes and which could easily add more capacity…does.

  10. John Bailo says


    I was thinking about driving into Seattle tonight, just prior to attending the symphony at Benaroya. However, I’m so confused by parking regulations and the risk of getting ticketed and towed, I think I’ll park at Kent Station for free and take Sounder in at 5pm and then the 150 back at night. (Maybe that’s the scheme anyway.)

    • David L says

      Step 1: Look at sign. Sign will tell you if you can park; whether you have to pay to park; and if so, what the hours are when payment is required (8 a.m.-8 p.m. in most but not all of downtown).
      Step 2: If payment is required, feed meter.

      I don’t understand complaints of street parking “complexity” when there is no need to memorize the rules for every spot in the city, just a need to read relatively simple signage.

    • AndrewN says

      Park. Look at the nearest sign or two. If you think you can park there, you probably can. Pay the meter, which tells you the paid hours and the rate.

      Still confused? Park at private garage in Benaroya. Get the event rate, and no fear of being towed.

    • aw says

      Drive to TIBS and park there. There’s a handy light rail line that will take you right to the concert hall. Late in the day when there are no BIG events downtown, there should be parking available.

    • John Bailo says

      I dunno…despite all my griping, I actually think the 150 ride back to Kent Station is okay even if it isn’t an express. Even if it does the whole Southcenter loop at the same time the complete absense of traffic let’s it go faster. A quiet bus ride, at night in the rain…cathartic.

    • d.p. says

      Amtrak has captured a whopping 77% of the air-rail market between NY and DC. It’s not surprising that it hasn’t conquered the Boston-NY route quite as fully; given the many twists and turns the track takes along the Connecticut coastline, it neither is nor feels as speedy or reliable.

      That said, the Seattle-Portland number strikes me as suspect, given that the train runs only four times per day, while flights run hourly or better. And wasn’t it recently revealed that an entire, sold-out Talgo trainset holds only a couple hundred people?

      The citation is for a 1st Quarter report; I’m betting Cascades lacks the capacity to achieve as high a percentage during the busier travel months.

      • Chris Stefan says

        Alaska flies mostly 76 seat turboprops between SEA and PDX. United uses 30 seat turboprops. While there are a lot of flights it doesn’t add up to all that many seats.

        As best as I can tell it doesn’t look like there is a lot of variation in capacity throughout the year.

      • Eric says

        The flights from Seattle to Portland are significantly more expensive than Amtrak. Right now, a one-way train ticket for a month from now goes for $24-42, depending on which train you take. Alaska Airlines is selling tickets for the same day for $83-102, depending on which flight you take. There’s an even bigger difference in cost for spontaneous travel. Flights to Portland tomorrow are selling for $182, while train tickets are $33-59.

        The plane can make some sense if you need to go at a specific time that the train doesn’t run, or if you live in a place where you can get to the airport a lot faster than you can get to Amtrak. If you live near the Seattle city center and your destination is near the Portland city center, the overall travel time on the train is comparable to flying when you consider the amount of time to get to SeaTac, deal with the TSA, and the amount of time to get from PDX airport into town. I would guess that a minority of people on the SEA-PDX flights are actually traveling between those two cities rather than connecting through to a farther destination.

      • d.p. says

        …actually traveling between those two cities rather than connecting through to a farther destination.

        If connecting to another destination by the same mode removes people from these statistics — i.e. if these statistics only count apply to those whose final destination is Seattle or Portland, rather than all people traveling a Seattle-Portland route for whatever reason — then that could sorta-kinda explain the capacity discrepancy.

        The one time I’ve ever flown to Portland, when flooding in Centralia took out both the highway and the train, it might have been one of those 76-seaters or it might have been a larger plane they pulled out to service their temporary monopoly.

        But let’s do the math using only Alaska’s normal 76-seat planes and their 30 flights each way per day: that 2280 available seats per day.

        I was shocked to read recently that the configuration of Talgo trains allows our current sets to carry only 300 or so passengers when fully sold (less, it was pointed out, than two Sounder railcars). So even if all four daily runs are full, the capacity is only 1200. (Use of the Coast Starlight for Seattle-Portland is negligible.)

        Now, admittedly, more Cascades trains than ever have been selling out in advance, and Alaska has some incentive to have a surplus of seats available so that they can be sold at a premium to last-minute business travelers. But a 69% mode-share on the train implies that hundreds or thousands of Alaska’s seats must be sitting empty on a regular basis. If that were the case, Alaska would certainly be reducing its own capacity.

        Frankly, I don’t buy the figure.

  11. Sam says

    Speaking of Sounder, why isn’t there any TOD around Auburn and Kent Stations? A bunch of development occurred along MKL Way due to Link, and that’s just a glorified airport shuttle. At the stations in Auburn and Kent, you have both large bus transit stations and rail stations together. It seems like it would be even more ripe for development than the transit-sparce MKL Way.

    • Ryan on Summit says

      Um, because there are parking lots and people don’t buy homes because of 10 trains a day?

      • Sam says

        So you are saying is Sounder’s purpose is to get suburban commuters from Seattle safely to their cars and SUV’s parked in the parking garages next to no-TOD Auburn and Kent stations so they drive the rest of the way to their homes?

        I visit this blog to learn. Will you please explain the logic of that to me.

        BTW, if development can occur along MLK Way for an airport shuttle train that has stops over a mile apart, with almost no but service, development should certain occur for transit stations that serve as a hub for rail, express bus service, local bus service, dart vans, and access vans.

      • asdf says

        Big difference – Link runs all day, every day, and frequently, so you can actually rely on it to get around for more than just peak period commutes to downtown.

        Sounder, on the other hand, due to its limited schedule, serves peak-period commutes to downtown and nothing else. Which means everyone who rides it still has to have a car to get everywhere they could possibly need to go besides work and back.

        Yes, the Sounder stations do each have some degree of bus service outside the peak. But it takes 2-3 times as long to get downtown by bus than by Sounder or driving. And if you need to go anywhere other than downtown, forget it – you are going to drive and that’s all there is to it.

        Also, with respect to Link’s stop spacing, one mile is not an insurmountable distance. You can walk it in 15 minutes, jog it in 8-10, or bike it in 5 (MLK is very flat). And for trips to the airport with luggage, well, virtually the entire Ranier Valley is within a $10 taxi ride of the nearest Link station. Soon, most of the Ranier Valley will be within a $3-5 Car2Go ride of the nearest Link station.

        There is a world of difference between being able to walk home from a station in 20 minutes if your bus isn’t coming soon than to be stuck waiting for the bus, no matter how long it takes.

      • John Bailo says

        Yes, it is called “doing what people want”, not forcing them to some socially engineered lifestyle that arose from the minds of a few autocrats.

    • John Bailo says

      First of all there is a lot of commercial development…the shops of Kent Station.

      Second we here in the suburbs define “near” differently than city slickers. There are scads of apartment townhomes and condos (and houses, yes we have those) that are a 5 to 15 minute bus or car ride away.

      Having development sprawl is more efficient and cost effective and we keep ugly density from ruing the environment.

    • Mike Orr says

      It’s because Auburn and Kent haven’t built it. Comparisons to Link are irrelevant. There should be medium-density housing there so that people who want to live within walking distance of Sounder, the 150, the other buses, and the Kent Station lifestyle center can do so. They will be different people than those near Link stations, both because they choose to live in Kent or Auburn, and because Link’s frequency is not so all-important urgent to them that they’re willing to live where it isn’t. But there are nonetheless people who want to live in a suburb and want to live within walking distance of the transit center and downtown. They should have that option. And no, JB, walking distance does not change in the suburbs. People don’t love greater distances, they put up with them. If the distance doesn’t bother them, it means they drive most of the time. The suburban dream is part of the reason why so few walkable neighborhoods exist, but most of the reason is rigid zoning laws that force automobile-scale and separation of uses.

  12. Anon says

    In his blog today, Krugman refers to a study of the impact of public investment in rail transit (that led to increased frequency of service)in reducing externalities. Would like to see the actual paper, but the topline looks promising. Here’s the key snippets…there’s a nice, cisp bar chart on the flip:

    “If we exploit the large increase in service frequency on competitively procured lines to identify the effects on road-traffic externalities, a very different picture emerges: an increase in service frequency by 10% reduces accidents by 4.6%, and nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide concentrations by 3.8% and 1.7%, respectively (see Figure 1). Do these improvements in air quality entail beneficial health effects? Our results suggest this to be the case. We find that an increase in service frequency by 10% reduces infant mortality rates by 4.6%.”


    “In sum, recent empirical evidence on public-transport improvements confirms expectations of beneficial effects on road safety and environmental quality. Moreover, conservative back-of-the-envelope calculations that do not take reductions in congestion, noise and greenhouse gases into account suggest that public-transport improvements offer good value for money. Improvements in rail service frequency reduce external traffic costs worth as much as the costs associated with their implementation.”

  13. Nathanael says

    Guh. I just mentally connected the “Ballard Subway” ideas with the route of the deep bore tunnel.

    So, y’all, run a light rail line along the east side of Aurora from the north side of the bridge to the entrance to the tunnel; cut it back from six to four lanes to make room. Then, south of there, REMOVE THE DAMN ROADWAY from the Deep Bore tunnel, and put the light rail line in the mind-bogglingly expensive tunnel. There will be room for station platforms, and with the ventilation shafts there will be room for elevator and stair access!

    Looks to me like all the civil construction necessary for a mostly-grade-separated route from Ballard to Downtown is either done or being done already, it’s just being wasted on asphalt and tires.

You may want to read our comment policy.