The Senior Fare is Forever

U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Census Bureau

Now that a low-income fare is coming, it’s a valid question whether having a separate senior fare is defensible on social justice grounds. After all, seniors are the richest segment of society (see chart above) for all income quintiles, and the low income fare should handle any seniors who are truly in need. It’s hard to see why working adults should have to pay $2.25 and up for themselves and $1.25 for children while the senior fare remains locked at 75 cents.

Of course, seniors are a reliable voting block, but that’s an explanation, not a defense. Many businesses practice price discrimination to capture varying willingness to pay, including among seniors, so perhaps there’s business logic to the concept, if not the precise level. A better defense, at least from the perspective of local transit agencies, is Federal Transit Administration guidance:

For fixed route service supported with Section 5307 assistance, fares charged elderly persons, persons with disabilities or an individual presenting a Medicare card during off peak hours will not be more than half the peak hour fare.

So there is some capacity for the County to raise the Senior Fare, but not to bring it in line with what other adults pay. It’s notable that the first fare increase in the low-income fare era also inched up the senior fare, a process that if continued would bring it in line with the statutory maximum. This frees more revenue to either stabilize the low-income fare or buy more service.

Sounder to Remaining Mariners’ Sunday Games; Convergence with Sounders Friday

Author’s Note: The title of the article has been changed. The author apologizes for any unnecessary confusion and alarm caused by the original title.

Sounder MarinersDue to popular demand, and the fact that the Mariners are in contention for the playoffs, Sounder will be serving the remaining Sunday games, September 14th and 28th.

But first, there will be an unfortunate scheduling convergence: The Mariners and Sounders will be playing at home simultaneously, 7 pm Friday evening. The two events combined could eclipse last Thursday’s Seahawks attendance. Thanks to Matt for pointing out the scheduling convergence collision course.

ST Express Minor Service Changes

ST Express 522 at UW Bothell (Photo by Oran)

ST Express 522 at UW Bothell (Photo by Oran)

While the schedules for all of Sound Transit’s trains and streetcars will remain unchanged with the September 27 service change, a few of the ST Express bus routes will have schedule tweaks, with only weekday service impacted. The new schedule books can now be found on Sound Transit vehicles.

Route 522 will have some northbound runs terminate at UW Bothell for the first time, balancing out the morning runs that were already starting at UW Bothell. The impacted runs are every other afternoon peak-direction run starting from 6th and Atlantic from 4:22 pm to 5:55 pm. This will help enable the addition of a morning and afternoon peak-direction run.

Route 555 will have two new mid-morning runs leaving Northgate TC at 8:49 and 9:24, terminating at Bellevue TC. Previously, all 555s continued on to Issaquah Highlands P&R.

Route 590 is losing its first morning southbound run, which is being converted to a 594 run which will go to DuPont Station instead of Commerce St. The first morning run of route 590 will now be departing Eastlake and Stewart at 6:00 am.

Route 592 will have both of its morning counter-peak runs from Seattle to DuPont Station eliminated. Also, morning service from Olympia will be starting a half hour later (4:42), and ending a half hour later (last bus departing Olympia TC at 7:12).

Route 594 will have one of its evening northbound runs start from DuPont Station at 4:44 pm, and its first morning southbound run continue to DuPont Station, leaving Eastlake and Stewart at 5:30 am and arriving at 7:12 am.

Jarrett Walker’s Network Design Course Returns to Portland

Next month, noted transit planning consultant Jarrett Walker is hosting another session of his firm’s Transit Network Design course in Portland:

“Transit Network Design: an Interactive Short Course” is designed to give anyone a grasp of how network design works, so that they can form more confident and resilient opinions about transit proposals.

The course is ideal for people who interact with transit planning in their work but don’t necessarily do it themselves — including land use planners, urban designers, developers, traffic engineers, sustainability advocates, transit employees of all kinds, and people who work on transportation or urban policy generally. Advocates who want to be more realistic and effective will also find the course valuable, especially as a companion to my book Human Transit.

Jarrett’s firm consulted on Seattle’s previous Transit Master Plan, which first outlined the goal of a citywide frequent-service Urban Village Transit Network; on Spokane’s 1998 transit network redesign, which dramatically rethought a failing streetcar-era radial network; and Bellevue’s recently-adopted Transit Master Plan, which promises to do similarly for that city. If you regularly ride transit in Washington, you’ve almost certainly benefited, directly or indirectly, from the clarity of thought Jarrett’s work has injected into contemporary service planning, and if you want to go from reading about this stuff to really understanding it, taking this class is the fastest way.

City to Enact Changes in Paid Street Parking

To improve accessibility of on-street paid parking in the city, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is looking to make minor adjustments to the prices, paid hours, and time limits for Fall 2014.

SDOT published the 2014 version of the annual paid parking occupancy report earlier this month, which showed the occupancy rate and the Fall 2014 changes of on-street paid parking areas in core and peripheral areas of Seattle neighborhoods. The data collection effort is part of the Performance-Based Parking Pricing program that was established by the city in 2010.

Current Parking Rates

“Doing this data collection allows us to know if adjustments are needed,” said SDOT’s senior transportation planner Jonathan Williams.

The report explained that SDOT makes these adjustments in rates, time limits and paid hours as means of helping customers find parking within walking distance of their destinations and to increase access to businesses by ensuring turnover of parked cars.

SDOT bases its assessments of occupancy on whether or not the parking areas were between 70 to 85 percent of capacity. Areas that were five percent over or under the range were included in the watch list, meaning the adjustments will wait for at least another year. Occupancy rates below 65 percent mean SDOT will consider lowering rates, splitting the zone into subareas, and increasing time limits, while rates above 90 percent will lead to decreases in time limits and increases in prices.

“It’s a constantly evolving process,” Williams said. “We’ll adjust in 50 cent increments, which is not a really big change. We’re going to count these [occupancy data] every year, and if it’s above or below target, we’ll make these changes.”

Williams added that in addition to changing the prices, hours, and time limits, SDOT in the past has encouraged drivers to seek parking in the city’s edges or “periphery” areas, rather than the neighborhood’s core areas. He recalled an example from 2010 when the entire Ballard neighborhood was struggling to reach its target zone with 61 percent occupancy rate, despite having extremely full spaces in the area’s busiest blocks.

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Comment of the Week: Multimodal Plans

Whenever Seattle’s various master plans (Transit, Bicycle, Pedestrian, Freight) are the subject, it’s fashionable to decry segmentation of transportation plans into “silos,” because who could be against a holistic, unified plan?

Well, a plan that tries to solve every problem won’t do very well at any of them. In any case, the SDOT staff I talked to about the Freight Master Plan were very eager to tell me how much they were cross-checking all of the other modal needs at every step. But in the comments in that piece Al Dimond offers a very reasonable defense of silos:

It is, of course, important to think about how all modes work in a corridor when that corridor is being designed.

It is also important to think about how all the city’s transportation corridors combine into a network for each particular mode of travel. It can reveal gaps that corridor-based thinking misses. One of the most glaring examples in Seattle is the gap in our cycling network south of downtown. In every specific corridor a combination of weak cycling advocacy and strong trucking opposition has doomed bike facilities. But when we look at the cycling network as a whole it’s clear that a bike route is necessary in the general area, even if none of the individual corridors cry out for it.

Of course the example that comes to mind first for me is a cycling example, since I get involved in that more than other stuff, but it wouldn’t be hard to come up with driving, freight, and transit examples where whole-network mode-specific thinking is needed to identify weaknesses and inform and prioritize improvement projects.

Repurpose This Building

This is a guest post.

Space at a transit center in the heart of a growing downtown should be at a premium. Strangely, The Bellevue Transit Center has a 2,100 square foot building uselessly taking up space. Here’s why I think it should be repurposed, and I’d love to see some ideas on how that could happen. First, a bit about what is there: the Bellevue Transit Center has 12 bays, 23 bus lines, and thousands of passengers every day. It also has the Bellevue Rider Services Building, which Sound Transit described in 2008 as

…adjacent to the Bellevue Transit Center. Several rider amenities are available including transit schedules and other rider information, public phones, community information, bike racks and public restrooms. The building also houses a station for the Bellevue City Police.

The majority of the stations users are workers in the core of Bellevue. They are extremely likely to have access to transit schedules via computer or smartphone. They are also unlikely to need a public phone (wait, there are still public phones?), or access to paper community information. There are no bike racks in the building (though there are *many* in the nearby area), and the police station closed 3 years ago.  A bike shop apparently was in the building several years ago, but it failed. In addition, just a few feet away is a small building attached to the transit center that housed a ticket office at one point. Now, it is a very expensive and big map holder so you can find your bus in the 12 bays of the transit center.

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Density isn’t Dangerous

BeatWalk-outside-1-650x400Over at crosscut, Anthony Robinson has a moving first hand account of the most recent incident of a runaway automobile smashing into Columbia City storefronts. While I agree with his main point, the need to lower speeds, I have to disagree with his conclusion, that the answers are to simply lower the speed limit, increase enforcement, and install bollards. Those steps simply won’t go far enough. Speeders ignore speed limits. Enforcement only works if you have police out every day. While bollards can be useful, a wall of them cluttering up the pedestrian environment because automobile operators can’t be trusted to drive safely is not the answer. There must be physical changes to the roadway itself to alter drivers’ unsafe behavior. 

Which brings me to my main point. I strong disagree with the title. Density is not dangerous. I think it might help to remind ourselves that density is nothing more or less than people. And when you have tons of steel moving at high speeds through a lot of people, the people aren’t the danger, the people are in danger.

If you live, work, or play in the Rainier Valley, or you are just passionate about safe streets for all users, please join the Cross “Walk-in” for Safe Streets at the intersection of Rainier Ave. South and S. Ferdinand tomorrow, Friday the 5th, from 4:30-5:30.

News Roundup: Walk Extender

SODO Link

This is an open thread.

Constantine and Council Members Try Again with February Cuts

Metro Route 31

Metro Route 31, an undeserving victim

 

When we last checked in on the King County Council’s erratic treatment of Metro’s budget crisis, the Council — after a veto by Executive Dow Constantine of a plan that would have postponed nearly all of the cuts without providing any new revenues, acting only on hope — passed a compromise ordinance which implemented this month’s cuts and provided for additional cuts, yet to be specified, in February 2015.  The ordinance established an “ad hoc committee on transit reductions” to make specific recommendations for those cuts, which (the ordinance provided) were to be consistent with King County’s Strategic Plan for Public Transportation and Metro’s Service Guidelines.

The ad hoc committee, consisting of Executive Constantine and Councilmembers Joe McDermott, Jane Hague, and Rod Dembowski, made its recommendation on the February cuts last week.  (UPDATE: Councilmember Rod Dembowski’s office reached out this afternoon to tell me that the ad hoc committee’s recommended cuts were entirely devised by Metro staff.) Yesterday, the Executive transmitted that recommendation to the Council, and Metro published the specific proposed cuts.  The cuts and restructures are generally similar to those proposed for February in Metro’s original plan, but there are some interesting differences which we will look at below, particularly for Wallingford and Fremont residents.

If the “Plan D” Seattle-only measure on the November ballot succeeds, then the Executive would postpone the February cuts to June 2015, in order to give Metro and the City of Seattle time to determine how to proceed.  The Seattle ballot measure includes language saying “the first priority for the funding is to preserve existing routes and prevent King County Metro’s proposed February 2015 service cuts and restructures.”  The cuts proposed yesterday continue to include multiple restructures, and it is not clear whether the City of Seattle would or could allow those restructures to be implemented with increased service levels at a later date than February 2015.

Some specifics of the new cuts below the jump.

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Washington State Fair Transit, Including Saturday Sounder

Sillyville StationThe Washington State Fair is coming September 5-21.

There will be plenty of options for taking transit to the Fair, but none more fun than taking the Sounder train. Sounder will be providing special weekend service to Puyallup Station on Saturday, September 13 and Saturday, September 20. There will be a couple new features for this year’s service:

(1) Two of the fair-bound trains will start in Everett, and go all the way to Puyallup, without passengers having to change trains, and two home-bound trains will return all the way to Everett. This is the first time Sounder trains in revenue service will be through-routed at King St. Station. See the link above for the schedule.

(2) Sound Transit and the Fair will be honoring package-deal tickets, which include the cost of the round-trip train ride and the cost of admission to the Fair.

There are several options for getting those last few blocks between Puyallup Station and the fairgrounds:
(1) Walk to the east end of the station, turn south on Meridian Ave N, and walk south a few blocks.
(2) Catch the Pierce Transit shuttle to the Red Gate. The shuttle is free for anyone with an ORCA card or a Sounder ticket applicable to the correct day.
(3) Take Pierce Transit’s new route 425, the Puyallup Connector. You will recognize the bus by its beautiful, artsy paint job.

Sounder will not be providing service on September 13th and 20th between Puyallup Station and Tacoma Dome, South Tacoma, and Lakewood Stations. Instead, Pierce Transit will be running express shuttles between Lakewood Towne Center, Tacoma Community College, South Hill Mall, and the Fair’s Blue Gate. The PT shuttles will charge regular Pierce Transit fare, and run hourly 9:30 am to 10 pm Monday-Thursday, and half-hourly 9:30 am to 11:15 pm Friday-Sunday.

Pierce Transit regular routes 400, 402, and 425 serve the fairgrounds. Routes 425 and 503 serve Puyallup Station, along with ST Express route 578.

For all public transit services, up to four kids age 5 and under ride free with each responsible adult.

Link Excuse of the Week: Rainier Beach Art Walk

headline2The Rainier Beach Merchant’s Association is hosting its 4th annual art walk this weekend. Unlike last year, there will be events both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, September 6th from 10am to 6pm will feature a free family friendly festival on S. Henderson Street with Art, Music, Dance and other activities. Sunday, September 7th, will feature cultural and heritage events throughout the Rainier Beach neighborhood from 12pm to 4pm. Full details at their webpage and facebook page.  The activities center around Rainier and Henderson, about half a mile east of Rainier Beach Station.  The weather is supposed to be nice and it’s a great opportunity to use a station and see a neighborhood that most people simply pass through.  Along with art and entertainment, food trucks will be on site and I’ll once again recommend the nearby reasonably priced and delicious King Donuts & Terikayi.

Metro routes 7 and 8 will be on event reroutes from approximately 7am to 6pm (click the route number for Service Advisory).

See past Link Excuses of the Week here.

StopInfo for OneBusAway

This is a guest post.

Earlier this year, my research team at the University of Washington launched StopInfo, a prototype system linked from the OneBusAway iOS application that provides detailed information about bus stops, primarily to help visually-impaired riders to locate them. This information comes from a combination of King County Metro’s internal information about bus stops and information entered directly from transit riders using the OneBusAway application, typically while waiting at the stop. At the outset of the project, we hoped that this community-entered information would supplement and verify what Metro had already provided us, so that we could include additional types of information such as how well-lit a stop is at night and the bus sign’s position relative to the curb, while making sure information is kept accurate and up-to-date.

Since initially launching StopInfo in late February, we have collected over 1,300 submissions for 845 unique stops in King County. We have also studied the use of the system with six visually-impaired transit riders over a five week period, and found that StopInfo is generally helpful for blind and low vision riders and can promote more spontaneous travel as well as trips to less familiar places. Additionally, all six of our participants said that they wanted to keep using the system even after the study ended. Full details on this study can be found in this paper, which will be published and presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing annual conference in October.

We are now in the midst of evaluating the system more fully, and are considering the underlying values associated with the use of the system for a full range of stakeholder groups, including transit officials at King County Metro, visually impaired transit riders, bus drivers, and transit riders who might potentially contribute information. So if you are a Metro driver, a person who is blind or low vision, or are interested in potentially contributing information or have contributed information before, please contact us at stopinfo@onebusaway.org if you would be willing to answer a few questions for our study. If you are a OneBusAway user interested in contributing, you can also take a quick online survey, which offers a chance at winning a $50 Amazon gift card in a drawing.

 

Screenshots of StopInfo in OneBusAway iOS. Left screenshot shows the stop details page with the info button to access StopInfo. Right screenshot shows the StopInfo page for the corresponding stop.

Image:  (left) Where to access StopInfo within the OneBusAway iOS Application. (right) StopInfo’s information screen.

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This is a guest post.

Metro Shuttles and Sounder Sunday Runs Return for Gridiron Season

UW Station (under construction at lower left) opens 50 yards from Husky Stadium in 2016

UW Station (under construction at lower left) opens 50 yards from Husky Stadium in 2016

Gridiron and rainy season are fast approaching. Husky football has returned to Montlake. Until U-Link opens in 2016, your best bet getting to a game is either hope there is room on Metro’s non-expanding fleet of local service, or take a $5 shuttle from one of eight park & ride lots. Once again, cash and the UW Athletics Season Pass are the only fare media accepted on these shuttles.

Three park & ride lots will have shuttle service to Seahawks games. These are also cash only, $4 each way, and happen to come from lots where routes 41, 255, and 554 are just as convenient, and cheaper.

For those going to the Seahawks though, the least-congested rides to the game are special runs of Sounder to and from, and all-day frequent Link service.

For out-of-town visitors, Link is your express from the airport to Century Link Field, and the first leg of your connection to Husky Stadium (until UW Station opens in 2016). From downtown, routes 255 and 545 get you to Montlake Freeway Bus Station, from which you have a picturesque half-mile walk north to Husky Stadium across the Montlake Bridge.

If going to Century Link Field, an all-day ticket on Link is your cheapest option ($5.50). Choose Airport Station to Westlake Station, so you have all-day access to the full line.

If you are going to Husky Stadium, I would suggest getting an ORCA card at Airport Station ($5 – Yes, we know it is by far the most expensive bus smart card in the country.). ORCA allows for free transfers within two hours. Load it up with at least $5.50 in e-purse to get to and from Husky Stadium. The regional day pass option is also available for a limited time, at $9, plus the cost of the ORCA card. Sound Transit has a snazzy video to help you out.

Don’t even try driving to the game. You will be stuck in gridlock, and you will not find parking.

Carmageddon, Again

wikimedia

Another week, another congestion debacle during this Thursday’s rushhour:

With both gameday crowds (5:30 kickoff) and those coming for the free Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden concert (3:10-4:45), expect large crowds downtown…

Regular Riders: If possible, try to flex your schedule to avoid traveling during the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 4.

When cities go through the long process of watering down their own BRT investments, there’s always a process of measuring “typical” congestion and weighing the time savings against parking and SOV interests.

However, this framework breaks down during bursts of “atypical” construction and event congestion. Agencies have to play a peculiar confidence game: if people heed their warnings and defer trips or switch to transit, then congestion won’t be as bad as advertised; if this experience causes people to ignore warnings, than the jam will be epic.

This makes it all the more shameful that the only alternative to making traffic worse or staying at home is transit — and except for Link, Sounder, and a few busways, that transit fares even worse than the cars that create the problem.

With only a few exceptions among regional trips, all levels of government have placed such a high priority on fast car access that transit is almost always slower. As a result, transit ridership is a mix of people unable to drive, the price-sensitive, and people for whom time spent on transit is more valuable than a shorter time behind the wheel. To increase ridership, as government must do to avoid gridlock during foreseeable congestion events, policy must reduce the time penalty of transit.

This argument isn’t about the general case for dedicated transit right-of-way; although that case is correct, it’s obvious that the leadership values the interests of other stakeholders more than transit riders. In the specific case of construction and special events, the only way to give citizens any alternative to total gridlock is dedicated transit lanes.  If that means closing off certain streets except for local access and transit and posting some cops, so be it; the great thing about cars is that they’re not limited to scheduled routes or reroutes, and can adjust to change quite easily. And it seems like the new SDOT director is at least open to the idea:
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Freight Master Plan Launches

wikimedia

In June SDOT launched the City’s first freight master plan. Even a strong advocate of moving travelers to transit like me recognizes that short-haul cargo isn’t going to ride transit, and the free flow of freight is to Seattle’s long term advantage.

However, freight is often an excuse for too many general-purpose highway lane-miles. The Port of Seattle injected itself into the Deep Bore Tunnel project for the ostensible benefits to freight. Whenever state leaders advocate for their giant transportation package of new highways, the economic impact of businesses moving their goods is a main justification.

Anyone familiar with induced demand knows that this is a fool’s game. Cars will fill up any new capacity and leave freight just as stuck as before. Tolling or dedicated freight lanes might actually allow lucrative time savings for freight, but there is little momentum for that.

Fortunately, although we are in the early going Seattle’s FMP is not looking at new general-purpose capacity to help freight. According to Kevin O’Neill of SDOT,  “We’re not, as a city, generally talking about widening arterials or expanding curb lines because that goes against a lot of other city objectives.”

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News Roundup: Faces of the Plaza

Sound Transit and KCM Buses

This is an open thread.

Managing Demand at Park-and-Rides

Sound Transit

Sightline’s Jerrell Whitehead has a thorough and well-researched post up about Sound Transit’s pilot program to maximize parking spots at park-and-rides via user fees, real-time space information, and ride-sharing.  If you’re at all interested in the subject you should read the whole thing, as they say.

There’s an undeniable economist’s appeal to using price as a way to rationalize demand for a scarce resource like parking, and charging money for spots is absolutely the right thing to do.  Until there’s a culture of paid parking in the suburbs, however, Sound Transit’s going to face an uphill political fight with one of its core constituencies.

That said, the way this pilot was done seems to strike the right balance: charge for some spots, but not all, and give preferential treatment to carpoolers.  Oh, and if ST really wants to boost ridership, it should find ways to develop more housing and offices near existing park-and-ride facilities.