What to Watch For in 2014

  • RapidRide E and F, which were supposed to launch in 2013, slipped to 2014.  We can now expect RR E in February and RR F in June.
  • The First Hill Streetcar will open in the Spring
  • 2014 is also the year in which the 6-year Metro budget drama is scheduled to come to a head via drastic service cuts, although it appears that there will be a King County ballot initiative (the so-called “Plan B”) to go it alone, perhaps in the Spring.
  • As it gears up for major construction and expansion in 2015-16, Sound Transit service is largely unchanged in 2014.  This might be the quietest year ST’s had since its inception in terms of introducing new service.
  • The Center City Connector, connecting the First Hill and South Lake Union Streetcars, will likely get funding.
  • On a related note, 2014 will be the inaugural year for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. We’ll be watching closely to see what, if any, changes occur on his watch.
  • Down South in Pierce County, two new routes to Olympia will begin paid service in January.
  • Even further South, expect better Cascades service to Eugene.
  • Finally, with any luck we’ll find out what’s blocking Bertha
About Frank Chiachiere

Frank Chiachiere is the General Manager of Seattle Transit Blog. He has lived in Seattle for over a decade, and designs digital products by day. Commute: 2, 3, or 4.




Comments

  1. The First Hill Streetcar is arguably an ST project, so there’s some new service for you. They provided the money, even if they aren’t building and operating it.

    • I believe the FHSC, being an all-day passenger train route, will put either the City or ST on the hook to pay for a share of paratransit service around the new line (which means some savings for Metro). I haven’t seen mention of it, but I assume the City is on the hook for a share of the paratransit service costs around the SLUS.

      In that regard, it becomes more and more in the City’s interest to encourage the portion of Access riders who can choose to ride fix routes sometimes to do so. Metro is already in the vanguard of such encouragement, by making fixed route service free for everyone who pays for a monthly Access pass, and through rider training designed to train prospective and current paratransit riders on how to ride the fixed routes safely.

      Where Metro is less in the vanguard is charging less for an Access ride ($1.25) than for a regular fixed-route ride. This is still more than the cost of a reduced-fare fixed-route ride ($0.75), but many other transit agencies charge twice the non-reduced fare for a fixed-route ride for a paratransit ride. It is an argument among lawyers whether certain past court decisions within the State of Washington proscribe the County from charging more for a paratrainsit ride than for a regular peak fixed-route ride. But it is unambiguously clear that the County could charge the regular fixed-route fare for a paratransit ride, and also offer a low-income paratransit fare, since SunTran in Tucson (AZ) and StarTran in Lincoln (NE) have been offering a low-income paratransit fare for several years.

      Metro has avoided this because they cannot require paratransit applicants to reveal their income (and also because income verification is a time-consuming process). But a low-income paratransit fare program involves *voluntary* income disclosure, and does not impact one’s right to ride paratransit.

      At any rate, as the City’s streetcar network grows, it is likely in the City’s interest to weigh in on the side of fare modernization — to ensure access to transporation for those least able to afford it, to speed up bus service, and to incentive its use over paratransit.

    • Given that the entirety of the First Hill Streetcar project is already served by buses (albeit different buses for different parts of the line), I would think Metro would have been obligated to provide paratransit along the line anyway, whether the streetcar was built or not. Unless the streetcar is scheduled to operate longer hours than bus routes like the 2, 4, or 60, I would not expect the paratransit obligation to change.

      • The existence of the streetcar lines won’t create new Access service area, but they may create an obligation for whichever agency is funding the operations of the line to share the cost of providing that Access service. That’s why ST is sharing the cost of Access service around Link.

      • Gordon Werner says:

        The First Hill Streetcar will operate later than the 60 (and the 9 which is a non holiday weekday only route)

        Furthermore, if the 9. 60, & 27 get axed in cuts it will be the only N-S transit from Pine St to Jackson St on Capitol/Firt Hills & Yesler Terrace

      • Except on Sunday after 7, when your $135 million investment still can’t get you from here to there. Whoops.

        Doesn’t matter anyway. Watching the line-up of cars filling the streetcar lane from Pine to Madison last night, I was reminded again that this thing will be significantly slower than walking.

      • Lack Thereof says:

        But far more comfortable.

      • I don’t know about you, but pretty much everyone I’ve ever met in my life prefers walking a predictable distance at a predictable pace in the cold/wind/drizzle to standing motionless and exposed on a street corner for long periods of time.

        Building transit this slow and then running it infrequently, because you envision everyone stopping off for a leisurely drink between each leg of their journey, is exactly the kind of presumptuous nincompoopery that keeps transit a fringe mode in this city, and that reinforces one-seat bias in fighting for future transit scraps.

        I’m aghast that you think defending this 9-figure piece of infrastructure as a 3 mph rolling La-Z-Boy is any kind of worthwhile argument.

      • Jim Cusick says:

        Then the logical argument would be to ban auto traffic from Broadway.

      • That’s not logical in the slightest, inasmuch as it isn’t an available option, was never an available option, and is never going to be an available option.

        And it wouldn’t be a good (or “logical”) argument even if it were an option, as even on its busiest days Broadway doesn’t have nearly the level of activity needed to activate its 75-foot width with nothing but pedestrians, cyclists, and half-empty trolleys dinging four times an hour. Mall-inspired ultra-segregation of uses — the triumph of an easel-sketcher’s orderliness over messy urban bustle — is the death-knell of a city.

        Don’t mistake segregated mega-streets for segregated transit infrastructure, which is, of course, necessary if you don’t want your core transit to be awful. But segregated lanes for the FHSC were never on the table either. Combined with the god-awful platform placement that will ensure no streetcar ever goes a block in less than two light cycles, and it becomes obvious that the designers of this boondoggle were never serious about fulfilling a transit purpose.

        As usual, Jim, you have no idea how good civic spaces function, and your fetish for anything that rides on parallel rails and goes “ding” in the night is leading you to put the trolley before the horse. Transit exists to serve places, to allow those places to be built to human (rather than auto) scale, to make them function better. But transit alone does not make a place. Even “cute” transit.

      • Jim Cusick says:

        Isn’t the Internet a wonderful place!?

        Okay, got it, you don’t want a ban on auto traffic on Broadway.

      • How about this: You stop expressing abject ignorance every time you post, and I’ll stop having to waste my time correcting you.

      • Jim Cusick says:

        “…, and I’ll stop having to waste my time correcting you”

        Now that’s funny!

  2. What’s blocking Bertha? A big-ass rock named Cosmic Justice!

    • Is it wrong that even with waterfront planning as far along as it is, there’s still a part of me that hopes whatever’s blocking Bertha forces the cancellation of the whole project or causes such massive delays and cost overruns that it forces WSDOMA to reconsider it?

      • +1 for wishful thinking but given that Seattle is already on the hook for cost overruns, I wouldn’t bet on that outcome.

      • No more wrong than my wanting to edit my post above to somehow turn that rock into a meteor so the justice is literally cosmic.

        Alternately, you know, if something deep in the earth is halting our poorly-conceived highway project then maybe I should become a Gaia Hypothesis literalist. I don’t know. So many ways to troll, so little time.

      • I still think there’s a decent chance the project is going to get cancelled at some point anyway; the sooner the better.

      • @djw: The boring machine is boring away. There hasn’t even been much in the way of popular protest the way there was against the Arboretum Tree Killer Freeway or the Let’s Fix The Mercer Mess By Blowing Up Half The Places People Are Traveling To Freeway. What makes you think the project will get canceled? And what do you think will happen instead (the viaduct does have to come down)?

      • There’s a small chance the project might be cancelled.

        If so, attention will return to the Alaskan Way boulevard. We can say, “It’s already six lanes in places so it’s already a highway and you don’t have to widen it or build another viaduct, especially since traffic estimates show the same volume with or without the tunnel.” However, there would undoubtedlty be some pressure to widen it or build another viaduct. That woud jepordize the waterfront renovation plans, which I think are cool even if some others don’t.

  3. It will be interesting to watch FHSC numbers come in. The Naysayers have long argued that spending ~150 mil to go a short distance for provide ‘different service’ for about 3,000 riders per day (2030 est) could have been translated into superior trolley bus service on Madison and Yesler. I doubt there will be much in the way of ‘net new’ transit riders to the overall network. Many of those trips will be up and down Jackson, unless a more frequent Metro bus comes along first.

    • Note: The Jackson segment will see about 14-22 buses per hour (time of day), whereas the streetcars will generally be 4 per hour, maybe 6 in the peak. I’m not sure what Metro will do in response to duplicate service – but, more cuts to the 7,14,36 would certainly help there bottom line and the 5th to 12th ride up and down the hill is a major source of those routes ridership.

      • Loop the 36 at PAC Med.
        No reason for that bus to trundle downtown.

      • Bruce Nourish says:

        Sure, if you don’t care about the data, which shows the stops north of Lander are some of the heaviest used on Beacon Hill. Those people will be ill-served by an out-of-direction transfer.

    • Madison and Yesler would not have addressed the two main advantages of the streetcar, which is going to/from lower Broadway, and going from Broadway to Little Saigon. The 9-express has limited hours, the 60 turns down to 9th Avenue, and the 9-local has been gone for years. Finally lower Broadway will have a frequent route to both upper Broadway and Chinatown. I lived near Harborview for a while, and while I woudn’t say it’s a hardship to walk from there to Chinatown, the combination of having to walk around the freeway and the steep hill in places, make them farther apart than it appears.

      • None of that changes the fact that nearly $150 million was spent to serve a tiny minority of area trips (by their own numbers) at useless intervals and stuck in traffic the whole way.

        The real difference is that high-quality Madison service would actually make First Hill a non-excruciating transit destination, thereby creating network-effects demand for the very north-south connecting service you espouse, which has no rational reason to zig-zag around on rails in mid-lane concrete.

        There’s a reason the long-term numbers for slow-as-shit transit always look lousy.

      • You missed my part about ‘redeployed’ resources to accomplish what you were asking for, as in:
        “Finally lower Broadway will have a frequent route to both upper Broadway and Chinatown”
        Yesler is only a couple of blocks from IDS station on its way to Colman Dock.

      • So you would replace the streetcar with BRT on Madison and Yesler, and put the remaining money into a trolleybus on the streetcar route?

        I would just reorder it. Start with BRT along the streetcar route (minus the 14th Avenue deviation), and put the remainder into Madison BRT. I’m not sure if that would be enough to fully fund Madison BRT. At that point I don’t think Yesler BRT is necessary, and instead I would extend Jackson BRT to MLK (To be used by the Broadway line, 7, 14, and 36.)

        Why not start with Madison BRT first? That would be better for a general First Hill project, and is being done. But it would not address the specific issue that led to the First Hill Streetcar in the first place: getting to First Hill from Link. 3rd & Madison is 2-3 blocks away from both University Street Station and Pioneer Square Station, so it would not be a good transfer.

        (DP will no doubt complain that the distance from Pine Street to Capitol Hill Station is similar, but it doesn’t have intersections and traffic lights in between, it has a more pedestrian atmosphere, and I don’t think the distance is as long anyway.)

        So if First Hill had said, “Give us Madison BRT if you won’t give us a Link station,” then maybe it could have happened, but (1) they didn’t, and (2) ST might have said it’s outside the scope of north-south Link. But if they had said yes, they probably wouldn’t have agreed to spending the entire cost of the streetcar, but instead just built one BRT line and subtracted the difference from ST2.

      • @Mike: The streetcar route is a political route, serving little purpose in the transit network but as a political football thrown to a neighborhood that couldn’t get a light rail stop. No such route has ever been proposed in Seattle’s TMP or any transit agency planning work I’ve heard of.

        A route running essentially the whole length of Jackson is a necessary part of our transit network with or without the streetcar. That’s today’s 14, which also tails off to a major transfer node at the eastern end, which is a fine idea as well; at its west end it should probably continue on Jackson to the ferry terminal instead of going up 3rd, but that’s something to look at when waterfront construction is finished. Speed/reliability improvements on the congested, destination-heavy part of Jackson it shares with the 7 and 36 are desperately needed and a BRT along the streetcar route would probably help with that, so I’ll give you that (of course, left-side-door streetcar infrastructure will probably make it harder to speed up these right-side-door buses).

        Routes connecting Cap Hill and First Hill to their northern and southern neighbors (U District, Beacon Hill, RV) are necessary with or without the streetcar. There’s a corridor from the UD to Beacon Hill in Seattle’s TMP, though nothing quite like that on the ground today, and today north-south through First Hill really is a gap in our network… but if the gap is filled by the streetcar route as far as Jackson it’s less likely we’ll fill it again in a way that strengthens the Beacon Hill and U District connections, as the TMP suggests. We’ll have to keep running the streetcar, and the 60, and the 49. BRT infrastructure on Broadway capable of helping the 60 and 9 would, again, be a win for those routes. The streetcar route map is a fine map of places that could use transit infrastructure improvements regardless of the wisdom of the route itself.

        Improvements on Madison, including some consolidation of downtown-First Hill routes into a corridor made faster and more reliable through concentrated investment, are a great idea with or without the streetcar. If Madison isn’t close enough to a Link stop, if that’s the only reason for running a Jackson-Broadway route that detracts from our best network plans, then run the Madison route with some kind of loop downtown to provide front-door service to either U Street or Pioneer Square.

        But the streetcar is happening, and it was an excuse to fix up a bunch of bike facilities on Broadway and Yesler, so this is (with any luck) the last I’ll complain about it.

    • Another Note: If cuts go into effect, Metro will lose some trips along Jackson on the 7 &36, the 27 will go away, and the 106 will operate as LINK shadow service down MLK to Little Saigon, then zip down the hill on Yesler.

  4. Question about the FHSC. With the SLUSC (which I have never seen a fare enforcement officer on, btw), passengers are allowed to remain on the streetcar during the 5+ minute layover at the southern terminal, but must disembark at the northern terminal. Will this also be true of the FHSC? Will passengers be allowed to sit on the streetcar at one or both of the terminals? If so, which one? I hope they aren’t allowed to remain on at both ends, otherwise it will become a moving homeless shelter.

    Also, the SCCC is a regional ground zero for protesters to gather before their march. I want to be on the record as saying I believe there will be at least one incident where a FHSC is blocked, and possibly vandalized, by protesters. And I WILL be back here saying I told you so, when this happens.

    And finally, I’m unclear about something. While I realize there will be a 5th Ave turnback to avoid Pioneer Square area game traffic, often on those days, heavy traffic is backed up east of 5th Ave to 6th and 7th. My question is, when it is backed up to 7th or beyond, will the streetcar be stuck in that traffic, or will it be free to run down the middle of the road and avoid the stuck cars?

    • Gordon Werner says:

      I have ridden the SLUT thousands of times. Never been asked to get off at either end of the line

      • You’ve ridden the SLUT thousands of time, and you don’t get off when it reaches its terminal? Why not? Do you do that when you take buses, too? I don’t understand.

      • I’ve also stayed on slut at terminals.

    • Gordon Werner says:

      The protestors haven’t ever vandalized a 9/60/49 bus … You know the ones that act all stop in front of SCCC. so why would they attack the streetcar which doesn’t stop in front of SCCC?

      also, unlike the SLUT, I believe the First Hill Streetcar will with have orca scanners on board or at the stops (maybe both) and will have fare enforcement ala rapidride

      • Gordon, or anybody who uses Flickr, I’m thinking about taking some transit-related pics and posting them to Flickr for the first time. Can you give a newbie a few tips or advice? Any tips on taking good transit photos? Also, any tips on using Flickr for the first time?

        Also, I didn’t notice any of your photos were taken from the inside of a bus or train. Is there a reason for that?

      • Oh, and I forgot to say, I like your pics. You are a good photographer.

      • Sam I use Flickr – here’s some advice:

        *Be nice and smile when you take pictures of a crowded bus or rail
        *No need to stress over simple transit photos but if you can postprocess/Photoshop them that’s a good idea
        *Make sure to put in tags in your photos so folks find ‘em

    • Thank you for the tips, Joe. Any other tips about Flickr or taking transit pics you can think of, feel free to share.

      • Sure.

        Don’t hesitate to use your camera’s color modes like Black & White/B&W, HDR and the like.

      • How do you determine which photos go into which sets? If you take photos of trains, let’s say, one day in Jan, then take some more photos of trains another day in Feb, do they both go into one set called trains, or do you make two different sets for them?

      • @Sam — It’s always a tough call in terms of organizing pictures on Flickr. There are sets and collections. But one of the key elements is tagging. So, for example, a simple way to organize is to just put all the pictures from one day or one area into a set, but tag individual train pictures with “train”. I take a lot of hiking pictures and do something similar. Each set of pictures is for a particular hike, and if it is for a particular vacation trip (e. g. Sierras) then a bunch of the sets go into a collection. But individual pictures will get a tag of “flowers” or “wildlife”, etc.

  5. Dan Carey says:

    It is nice to see Amtrak Cascades adding new trains to Eugene. Now if we can only get the Point Defiance Bypass done to further increase service.

  6. I hope Plan B works out for everybody… the Legishiture really crapped a big turd this year on transit. It’s not like they were warned… time and again of the timeframe & the consequences.

    • Some of them may have secretly actually wanted the consequences. Others might have been unable to actually grasp the consequences, no matter how much they were “told” about them, unless they actually represented Seattle, and our state representatives are pretty universally impotent.

    • So hopefully Plan B will really come together, and will allow Metro to expand rather than just treading water.

      King County was really forced to to Plan B anyway even if the transportation bill had passed, because the Metro cuts start in September but we wouldn’t be able to vote on the roads & transit package until November, and then it would have taken another six months or a year to vote on the transit taxes authorized by the roads & transit package, and by that time we’d be over a year into the Metro cuts.

      So it may just end up that we’ll have Metro running fine and the state will never again be able to pass a big bunch of exurban freeways. Except that they’ll probably try to make Sound Transit the next hostage. On the other hand, that failed for them before.

      • Don’t forget the June 2014 cuts due to the end of $15 million in annual mitigation funds from the state to increase bus service on south Highway 99, as mitigation for the south portion construction. Those are going to *hurt* in West Seattle and South Park.

  7. Has Metro made any plans for when the FHSC opens? I.e., will the 9 be rerouted to Boren or (more likely) 12th in February or June? I know Metro can’t do too much until Cap Hill station opens, but…

  8. I have a question about something that may be coming later than 2014. On the RR E map there are a couple designated “Future Stops”, where a stop will be built some time after the line starts running. The reason for the first is obvious: Harrison is the future version of the currently-closed Mercer/Broad stop, serving SLU and LQA, but it won’t make sense to stop there until Harrison is connected across Aurora. The second, at N 198th St, is a little more mysterious. The 358 stops at 198th today (or at least it did last I was up there over the summer). Why would that stop be closed for RR E’s launch and then brought back later?

    • My guess is it was probably added late in the process.

    • Perhaps it’s related to 185th Station now that the stations have been chosen. I think I saw that Swift will terminate at the station and skip Aurora Village. RR E should also go to the station, although it’s less clear how. (Either extending the currrent route, or on 185th.) Perhaps Metro intends to move all the bus layovers to the station and delete the Aurora Village stop, and is putting in a 198th station in compensation. But it would be so un-Metro to delete a stop.

      Note: it would be better to extend the current route rather than turning on 185th. That way if somebody is transferring from the E to Swift or vice-versa, they can get off and back on at the same stop rather than crossing the street.

    • I’m guessing it’s due to construction work between N 192nd and N 205th that’s schedule to begin either later this month or early next month.

  9. To the editors– On the list of things to look for in 2014, there is this minor matter of ST updating its Long Range Plan. First, will they actually accomplish that in 2014, and second, will the new ST Board with Ed Murray and a few other new members tip their hand on the major themes of the ST3 package? Now that’s something major to look for in 2014.

  10. Does anyone know why the Washington State Ferry system doesn’t start selling Orca cards at their windows instead of their Wave2go. It seems like a fairly easy transition since the cards can be made readily available.

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