Sunday service returns to Community Transit on June 7

This is a guest post.

The newly-opened Smokey Point Transit Center on a recent Sunday, without a single bus or rider in sight. (Photo by author)

Snohomish County residents looking to ditch their car for Sundays and holidays can breathe a sigh of relief for the first time in five years. June 7 marks the restoration of Sunday service for Community Transit after its massive service cuts in June 2010, thanks to sales tax revenue returning to 2008 levels as well as a 25-cent fare increase to take place in July. Sunday and holiday service will be limited to hourly headways on most local routes, with the exception of Swift bus rapid transit (20 minute headways) and rural lifeline routes to outlying communities (2 hour headways). The June changes page on their website has specific, route-by-route details, which includes minor improvements to existing local service and additional trips on commuter routes 413 and 860.

In addition to the service restoration, Community Transit has modified its local service to eastern Snohomish County with the replacement of Route 275 with Route 271 on the Highway 2 corridor and extensions of certain Route 280 trips to serve the Boeing Everett plant.

Full list of changes below the jump.

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Pierce Transit Adding Service on June 7

Atomic Taco (Flickr)

Atomic Taco (Flickr)

While we recently covered the highly-anticipated June 6th Metro service change – the first time we’ll see Prop 1 additions hitting the streets – we’d do well to remember that Metro and ST aren’t the only agencies adding service this weekend.

Beleaguered Pierce Transit will be celebrating much needed good news this weekend, adding a decent amount of service (12,000 annual service hours) for the first time since the dark days of 2011. The 3% service boost will be spread around the system, adding weekend span of service to 20 routes and boosting frequency on 4 routes. Even so, it’s still worth remembering that with these additions PT is still just 70% of the agency it was at its peak in 2007, so there’s a lot more work to do to improve transit in the South Sound.

Some of the ideas that had been floating around for years are finally happening, such as the consolidation of Routes 204 and 410 into a single Route 4 connecting Lakewood, Parkland, and Puyallup. While the ‘Super Route’ branding used to be reserved for frequent service, this new 30-minute route is still a sensible consolidation that will provide a reliable crosstown connection for South Pierce County.

Full service change details from PT’s Website below the jump:
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Real-time Transit in Google Maps

google maps transit

Google Maps keeps getting better for Seattle-area transit users. After last week’s integration of Community Transit route data, we now have real-time information for the major Seattle-area agencies, including King County Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, and Intercity Transit.

Once again, Brian Ferris, who created OneBusAway and works at Google had a major hand in making it happen. Via email, Brian says he’s “excited about the way Google is able to integrate real-time information into its trip planning features.”

Real-time means that Google not only knows the bus schedule but knows if it’s running on time or not. Combine that feature with Google’s already excellent trip planning, and you have a one-stop shop for determining what bus to take. “We are getting better and better about being able to tell you the fastest way between two locations given the state of the world,” Ferris said.

The upgraded Google Maps is coming to Android first and will appear soon on iOS.

New Converts to the Spine

Hewitt Ave, Everett (wikimedia)

Everett Herald reporter Noah Haglund says Everett and Snohomish County officials are adamant that light rail must serve Paine Field, Downtown Everett, and Everett Community College north of downtown:

A letter [Everett Mayor] Stephanson sent to Sound Transit’s board Friday listed three destinations he believes light rail must reach in Everett: the Boeing Co. and other manufacturers clustered around Paine Field; the downtown transit hub at Everett Station; and the expanding higher- education district around Everett Community College at the city’s north end.

There’s overwrought language about “promises” and “priorities,” but ST studies suggest the vision Stephanson articulates would cost as much as $3.72 billion. My (optimistic) assessment is that Snohomish County will generate at most about $2.5 billion for new capital projects in Sound Transit 3. It’s fine to have a vision that exceeds your immediate financial resources, but their reaction is not to complete it in ST4:

Stephanson and other Snohomish County leaders are nervous, in part, because transit authorities have been talking more lately about light-rail segments to places such as West Seattle and Ballard. They’re worried that those destinations could come at the expense of Everett and other cities where people have been paying taxes since the 1990s based on the promise of the original plans.

This is a pretty creative reading of history. It’s fine to prioritize the light rail “spine” to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond, but back when the spine construction was only in North and South King County, Snohomish and Pierce County officials had no interest in contributing to those regional priorities. Instead, they spent their counties’ tax dollars on ST Express service, Tacoma Link, and Sounder. That may have been a vote-maximizing decision that also improved transit outcomes, but it isn’t a single-minded emphasis on “the promise of the original plans.”

It’s mighty convenient, now that the Seattle sections of the spine are fully funded and the East King sections are very close to that, to now say that the region must subordinate all other projects to the spine. The case for more rail in Seattle’s inner neighborhoods is both obvious and strong, in both the electoral and technical senses.

There are non-ridiculous arguments for the core to subsidize the periphery. Seattle isn’t allowing nearly enough new housing to absorb growth, which is going to force a lot of people out into the I-5 corridor. It’s unbecoming for allegedly liberal richer areas to heartily object to a transfer of wealth to the poorer ones. It’s also true that North King residents have gained more than zero benefit* from ST Express while paying nothing for it. But the argument that Seattle spending its own money on its own needs is a violation of existing agreements and norms ignores everything that has happened before.

*though mainly the East King routes.

WSDOT Ferry Reliability

This is a guest post.

by ZACH STEDNICK and MICHAEL LOGSDON

When WSDOT ferries make the news, the press seems to focus on fiscal issues, rather than the logistical aspects of the ferry system. We wanted to remedy that and answer the question – are ferries generally on time?

We filed a Public Records Request with WSDOT and here we present findings for on-time rates for calendar year 2014, with a focus on the difference between actual and scheduled departure times. For simplicity this analysis only considers Puget Sound region ferry routes (i.e. non-San Juan Islands routes). Also, because WSDOT runs a holiday schedule on most Federal holidays, we specifically accounted for those dates.

Overall we find WSDOT Puget Sound region ferries to be very reliable. Over approximately 133,000 sailings throughout 2014, the average departure occurred 2.8 minutes after the scheduled departure.

Figure 1. Click to Enlarge.

Figure 1. Click to Enlarge.

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Meetup: Talking Link Connections

ulink_meetup

We had a full house of STB readers for last Friday’s meetup at the Impact Hub to discuss Metro’s Alternative 3 for restructuring Northeast Seattle and Capitol Hill buses when U-Link opens next year.  Metro planners Jeremy Fichter and Ted Day gave a short presentation and then took your questions for over an hour.  Afterwards, a few of us decamped for Good Bar down the street to continue the discussion.

Thanks to everyone who showed up and to Ted and Jeremy for coming out to answer questions and share their thinking with us.  Were you there? Say hi in the comments and tell us what you thought.

Sunday Open Thread: The Cambridge Guided Busway

The Cambridge Guided Busway is the world’s longest with 16 miles of guided sections. The guidance allows buses to run on a very narrow right of way (typical of many former railroad lines). It’s greener due to the vegetation that grows between the grooved concrete slabs which contain the wheels of the bus.

Running the buses on a narrower footprint leaves more space for a busy bike/walking path alongside.

Does Roderick’s 10,000-Foot Transit Plan Have Wings?

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 3.48.01 PM

City council candidate John Roderick, one of two leading contenders to take on council member Tim Burgess in citywide Position 8 in the November general election (the other is tenants advocate Jon Grant), recently unveiled the centerpiece of his transportation plan.

No, not funiculars or gondolas or any of the other far-fetched (supporters would say far-sighted) ideas you’ll hear him expound about at forums. What Roderick, along with Alon Bassok, a less-viable candidate in the other citywide position, is proposing is something he calls “neighborhood rail.” The idea is to build a system of short-line rail connections between neighborhoods in the north, south, and west sectors of Seattle that operate largely independent of each other, using existing bus and rail lines to connect people over water crossings. The streetcars would not cross the ship canal, saving enough money in bridge and tunnel construction to bring the price down, in Roderick and Bassock’s estimation, to $1 billion for 75 to 100 miles of streetcar rail. After the system is built, ongoing maintenance would be funded by an employee hours tax, known derisively as a head tax.

The idea would be to supplement regional systems like Sound Transit with a city-only rail system that serves “people who live and work in our great city,” according to the text of the proposal—emphasis on and. “This would be a transit network for people who live in the city,” Roderick says, and it would be paid for entirely by city dwellers. The idea is similar in principle to former mayor Mike McGinn’s plan to build a go-it-alone rail system, which would also have been funded by city-only taxes. That shouldn’t be too surprising—Roderick says McGinn, who has endorsed him, was one of his advisors on the plan.

After looking over the three-page, 10,000-foot-level proposal, I had so, so many questions. Among them: Was $1 billion just a nice, round number, or does Roderick think the city can actually build 100 miles of rail for $10 million a mile? Does he consider regionalism a bad thing? Is this proposal, which would require a significant increase in property taxes (Roderick and Bassock estimate around $200 per year for the average household), a whack at Mayor Ed Murray’s $930 million Move Seattle property tax proposal? And how does he expect to afford the kind of right-of-way that would be necessary to give each streetcar “its own lane, priority at traffic signals, and … complete separat[ion] from traffic”?

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Reminder: STB Meetup and Happy Hour Tonight

As a reminder, we invite you to join us for our next STB Meetup TONIGHT from 5:30-7:30pm at the Impact Hub in Pioneer Square.

Metro planners Ted Day and Jeremy Fichter will join us to discuss the U-Link restructure, with a brief presentation beginning at 5:30 and plenty of time for open Q&A thereafter. At roughly 6:30, we will head over to Good Bar down the street for beer, snacks, and continued conversation.

Meetups are a great opportunity to meet your fellow readers, get a little face time with agency staff, and to get more involved with transit advocacy more generally.  We hope to see you there!

When: Friday, May 29, 5:30-7:30pm
Where: Impact HUB, 220 2nd Avenue S. (2nd & Washington)

Please RSVP in the comments to help us get a rough head count.

Redmond Transit Planning Workshop

Transit Network Design Course (Jarrett Walker + Associates)

by CITY OF REDMOND

Are you a resident, employee, or frequent traveler in Redmond? Would you like to help plan the future of transit in the city?

The City of Redmond, with Jarrett Walker + Associates, is hosting an interactive transit planning workshop on Saturday June 13th to explore service planning scenarios and help establish community priorities as Redmond develops its Transit Strategic Plan. The results from this workshop will help define coverage areas and high frequency corridors, which in turn will guide speed and reliability capital planning.

The workshop will take the form of a game in which participants allocate limited amounts of transit service on boards representing cities with realistic but simplified geographies, including Redmond. No transit or transportation planning experience is required. Players must work within real-world constraints to accomplish various transportation goals. The game portion of the event will be followed by a discussion and voting exercise (using handheld clickers) where participants can weigh in the priorities that will guide the Transit Strategic Plan.

Space is limited. If you are interested or have questions please contact Patrick McGrath at pbmcgrath@redmond.gov or 425-556-2870 to reserve your place. The workshop will be held at Redmond City Hall (steps from a 545/542 stop and blocks from the Redmond Transit Center) on Saturday June 13th from 9AM-3PM. Lunch will be provided.

ST Staff Presents Refined Project List, Conceptual Study Results

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Yesterday’s Sound Transit Board meeting included two staff presentations important to the future of Sound Transit 3. Most important was the first revision to the draft list of projects to study for potential inclusion in ST3. Less significantly, the staff also presented the results of a conceptual study that caused much activist angst when it started, but seems to have spawned relatively benign conclusions.

Based on input from the ST Board in previous meetings, there were three changes to the draft project list from May 7th: ST added Madison BRT and a Tacoma Link Extension to TCC. They also clarified an ST Express item to explicitly include capital improvements to the HOV system.

The next step is public outreach, beginning June 4th and continuing through July 8th, using internet resources and public meetings. The staff will present these comments to the board to make final additions and deletions to the project list on August 27th. The project study will improve estimates for everything on the project list, providing better information for the Board to (potentially) form a package in the middle of next year.

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State law requires ST to conduct a conceptual study to gauge the impact of various investment levels. The takeaway that ST executive Ric Ilgenfritz highlighted from the conceptual study is, anticlimactically, that the benefits of ST3 expansion are roughly proportional to the size of the revenue package. In his words, “the more you spend, the more you get.” Best case, the maximum system attracts 566,000 daily boardings, or about 200,000 boardings above the ST2 best case.

There’s really not much more to say about the results, depicted in the figure above, and I’m not sure how productive further digging is. But Mr. Ilgenfritz did clarify a few points in response to my questions. Keep in mind that the more spine/less spine variations at spending level 3 are somewhat haphazard; as a quick reminder,the additional corridors in 3a are Ballard/West Seattle. 3b is Ballard plus Totem Lake/Issaquah, 3c is Ballard/West Seattle with no downtown segment, and 3d is just Ballard/Downtown. Option 4 is Ballard/West Seattle plus I-405 BRT. Full scenarios are here.

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News Roundup: Impacts

The best place for light rail? Federal Way thinks so.

The best place for light rail? Federal Way thinks so.

  • Federal Way didn’t take the advice of yours truly, recommending an I-5 alignment for Link instead of SR 99. Apparently avoiding nebulous ‘impacts’ is worth serving fewer people, with harder to access stations, in halved or nonexistent walksheds, in perpetuity. We need to figure out a way to organize for better outcomes in the suburban subareas. (Federal Way Mirror)
  • Bedroom counties: Only 7% of King County residents commute outside the county, compared to 40% for Snohomish County and 29% for Pierce. (The Urbanist)
  • Our hot housing market: the average Seattle home sells within just 9 days. (Curbed)
  • New ferry: WSDOT’s  M/V Samish is now plying the waters of the San Juans. (Seattle Times, $)
  • Remember LEAP Transit, the new techie bus in San Francisco with $6 fares and $7 cold-pressed juice and luxury seats? It’s been shut down, at least temporarily, for operating without the proper permits. (SFGate)
  • The right tool for the job: Light rail is our best bet, says former state Representative (and Republican) Bill Finkbeiner. (Seattle Times, $)
  • Reclaiming space: 5th Avenue may get a protected bike lane from Mercer to Stewart, in the westernmost lane. Cars would in turn be allowed to park in the unused space underneath the monorail supports. (Seattle Times version ($), and Seattle Bike Blog version.)

REMINDER: please join us for our meetup and happy hour on Friday at the Impact HUB from 5:30-7:30. Talk with Metro planners about the ULink Restructure, meet the STB bloggers, and have a beer or two! The ImpactHUB portion is all ages, and drinks at Good Bar afterward are 21+.

This is an open thread.

Metro to Add Service Starting June 6

Vashon service on Routes 118 and 119, which see minor schedule revisions. Photo by LB Bryce.

 

It’s Metro and Sound Transit service change time again!  But this service change will be more fun than most for Seattle riders, because Metro will be adding the first of two rounds of new service funded by Seattle Prop 1.  The changes will start on Saturday, June 6.

In addition to the new service in Seattle, there are a few other changes of interest at Metro.  Most importantly, there will be long-term disruption in the Central District as SDOT begins its 23rd Ave rebuilding project.  Route 4 will be temporarily truncated at Garfield High School on weekdays, and there will be major reroutes of routes 8 and 48.  Also, there are new contracted “alternative service” routes in Mercer Island and Burien, and revisions to service patterns in Jackson Park, Factoria, and Clyde Hill.  Details below the jump.

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Inside Capitol Hill Station

Photo by the author

Photo by the author

Yesterday Sound Transit gave elected officials and media the most in-depth tour to date of Capitol Hill Station, set to open sometime in Q1 2016. Mayor Murray, Executive Constantine, and others praised ST’s project management, nearly breaking into a repetitive chant of “$150m under budget and 6-9 months ahead of schedule.”  They also renewed their call for Olympia to pass a transportation package with ST3 authority.

Officials announced that “substantial station completion” will occur in August, at which point testing can begin and Broadway can be fully restored with a protected bike lane and parking, where for over a year it has been reduced to just one travel lane in each direction.

Sound Transit brought a four-car train up to Capitol Hill for the tour, providing a glimpse of what service levels could look like in 2021. Spokesman Bruce Gray noted that while two-car trains will still be the norm for U-Link, three-car trains will be mixed in during peak, with flexibility for four-car trains for special events. In 2018, three-car trains will be the norm, and four-car trains will run full-time upon the opening of Northgate Link in 2021.

The station itself is compact, deep, and tall. Relative to the DSTT, the mezzanines are graciously much smaller, and the center platform really narrows the feel of the station box. The overall feel is reminiscent of a cross between an industrial cathedral and the flight pod from Battlestar Galactica.

More photos below the jump. [Read more…]

New Summer Hiking Shuttle

This summer various hiking interests have banded together to respond to congestion at parking lots at popular trailheads. The “Snoqualmie Valley Adventure Shuttle” will run on weekends from June 6th through September 12th. Reservations are recommended.

The shuttle will be an 11-passenger van running from North Bend P&R to Little Si, Mount Teneriffe, and Mount Si trailheads, running every half hour through the heart of the day. On Saturdays, this connects with Route 208, providing 7 round trips to Issaquah Transit Center, which the 554 in turn serves regularly from Downtown Seattle.

MtSiShuttle

This is a sensible response to congested lots, a lifeline to carless hiking enthusiasts, and an encouraging initiative. The idea of special routes with enhanced frequency on weekends to recreational destinations is a good one that I wish Metro would embrace. At the risk of being churlish about this positive step, however, there are several problems with this implementation.

The round trip fare is $5 per person, which includes $25 in “SnoValley Adventure Bucks” good for some credit and local businesses. As a daily park Discover Pass is $10/car*, parties of two will break even if they have no use for the Adventure Bucks. While not gouging passengers by any means, this price point fails to reward most people for the greater inconvenience of taking parking pressure off the trailheads. For most parties of two or more, the optimal strategy is to go straight to the trailhead and use North Bend strictly as an overflow lot, assuming there is space available on the van.

Furthermore, the 208 is a thin line with which to connect, one that doesn’t run at all on Sundays. This is perhaps an inevitable consequence of sponsorship by North Bend and efforts to control costs, but direct service to Issaquah would make an all-transit trip downright convenient. With two-hour-plus headways on the 208, this shuttle is, again, more in service to a North Bend satellite lot than a true transit alternative.

But once again, bravo to the City of North Bend, DNR, Mountains to Sound Greenway, and Washington Trails Association for putting this service together. Hopefully this summer’s pilot will demonstrate that there is demand for these trips.

* $30/year for unlimited access.

Community Transit on Google Maps

Just 6 hours 22 minutes from Olympia to Darrington

Just 6 hours 22 minutes from Olympia to Darrington

Planning a trip to or through Snohomish County?  You’re in luck. Community Transit buses are now integrated with Google Maps.  You can now plan that trip from Olympia to Darrington.

CT data has been available for some time now on OneBusAway.  However, it was only once Sound Transit – which now manages OneBusAway and associated data – opened up their feeds last February that it became possible to integrate the CT data with Google.  Great news for folks who use Google to plan their trips around the region.  Thanks to Brian Ferris, friend of the blog, OneBusAway creator, and current Googler, for pushing it through and for giving us the heads up.

Transit Tunnel Closed Next Two Weekends

The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will be closed for the next two weekends (May 30-31 and June 6-7) to allow further preparatory work for U-Link. Per Bruce Gray at Sound Transit:

Similar to what we did in the Beacon Hill tunnels in March, we’re testing the newly upgraded fire/life/safety and train control systems in the DSTT over the weekend of the 30-31. The following weekend, if all goes well, we will make the final switchover from the old to the new systems in the DSTT and integrate with U-Link ventilation control. Finishing this upgrade is an important step towards connecting all tunnel systems later this summer and being ready for more intense testing scheduled through the fall.

Route 97 will pick up Link riders at Stadium Station, and take them downtown.

Route 97 will pick up Link riders at Stadium Station, and take them downtown.

Link Light Rail will only run between Stadium Station and SeaTac Airport Station, and will serve all stations in between. A free shuttle (route 97), as well as regular routes 101, 106, 124 and 150, will serve the bus stops closest to Stadium Station and SODO Station. All the tunnel buses except route 255 will run on 2nd and 4th Ave through downtown. Route 255 will run on 4th and 5th Ave. Route 97 will run on 3rd Ave. A full list of stop locations for the re-routed tunnel buses is here.

The Mariners will be playing here both of these Saturdays and Sundays. The Sounders will be hosting the New York Red Bulls at 2 pm on May 31. Three-car Link trains will be running all day on the 31st. Sounder will be serving the simultaneous Sounders and Mariners games on May 31, and the Mariners’ game on June 7.

Roosevelt HCT is Underway

This is a guest post.

SDOT_Roosevelt_HCT_OpenHouse_Boards_FINAL-11a

Click to Enlarge

SDOT has started work on its second HCT corridor, “Roosevelt to Downtown”. It’s one of three HCT corridors in Seattle’s Transit Master Plan (TMP) adopted in 2012. The other two HCT corridors are Madison BRT, which is in design, and Ballard to Downtown, which was part of a joint light rail/streetcar study done by Sound Transit. The TMP also has fifteen Priority Bus Corridors, of which 23rd Avenue is about to start construction. The goal of the current Roosevelt study is to identify a “locally preferred alternative” mode and route by November. This summer SDOT will choose two alternatives and analyze them in detail.

SDOT held open houses last week to present their initial work and ask for comments. The initial alternative has a downtown rectangle (5th and Boren Avenues, Stewart and Virginia Streets), then goes north on Fairview Avenue N, Eastlake Avenue E, Roosevelt -11th-12th, NE 80th Street, and 5th Avenue NE to the Northgate transit center. Readers will recognize this as route 70 south of the Ship Canal and route 66 north of it. A “South Alternative” follows the SLU Streetcar’s routing from Valley Street on south. Most of the work done so far focuses on the corridor’s existing conditions and expected growth; i.e., the context for the line.

SDOT is heavily leaning toward BRT rather than rapid streetcar for this corridor; they said most of their results are pointing in that direction. One of the posters showed a chart of the unique advantages of BRT vs streetcars: BRT came out ahead in 8 of 11 metrics.

SDOT_Roosevelt_HCT_OpenHouse_Boards_FINAL-09

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Seattle’s Population Growth in Context

On Thursday, the Seattle Times’ Gene Balk broke the news that Seattle was no longer number one. Our time as fastest growing city in the nation lasted only a year. While it’s sad to no longer have those bragging rights I think a bit more context is in order.

First off, as the data wonks at fivethirtyeight pointed out Seattle is the fastest growing big city that is an actual city:
[T]he new census population data shows that the fastest-growing large cities tend to be more suburban. Among the 10 fastest-growing cities with more than 500,000 people, five — Austin, Fort Worth, Charlotte, San Antonio and Phoenix — are majority suburban, and a sixth, Las Vegas, is only 50 percent urban. Only one of the 10 fastest-growing, Seattle, is at least 90 percent urban.
Wait, when did Seattle become 90% urban? Apparently the bar for ‘urbanity’ is pretty low. Just goes to show how suburban the other cities in the top 10 are. More after the jump.

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