Snohomish County Transit

This is a semi-open thread on transit in Snohomish County. I’m trying this as a new idea to group topics by broad areas. The next one will be on Pierce County in a week or so. If you have any Pierce-related links, or ideas for other semi-open threads, you can email them to contact at seattletransitblog com.

Everett Transit has a restructure planned for next March and is asking for public feedback. Thanks to Jordan for bringing this to our attention. One potential flaw is a loop in the middle of Route 2, which would add coverage but make trips between the outer thirds of the route longer. Does this make the route overall better or worse compared to the existing 2? The alternative may be no service northwest of 112th and 4th.

This gets into many other issues regarding how well the overall transit network works for passengers in Everett and Snohomish County. How well does Everett Transit’s proposed network meet Everett’s residents needs and trip patterns? What about the surrounding Community Transit and Sound Transit networks?

Everett opted out of Community Transit to avoid a higher sales tax and loss of local control over its routes. So Community Transit’s routes bypass the county’s largest city in the middle of the network. CT routes 201 and 202 run local north and south of Everett but express through Everett, with only three stops in the city. The Swift Blue line is a joint endeavor, so Everett Transit pays Community Transit for the Everett segment. The City of Everett was adamant from the 1970s through the 2000s that Everett Transit should not merge with Community Transit. With the 2008 recession and 2020 pandemic it has started to reconsider, although there’s nothing definitive at this point. Would a merger improve Everett’s service and Everett’s connectivity with the surrounding area and region? Would it lose important Everett-specific corridors that would be low priority for Community Transit’s countywide focus?

What would an ideal network for Everett look like? And for Snohomish County in general? What is the current multi-agency network doing well for passengers? Which trip patterns (origin-destination pairs) is it still missing?

On-topic comments for this article are all of the above and other issues regarding transit in Snohomish County or to/from Snohomish County. Other comments belong in an open thread.

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Open Thread: Slow News Day

The Urbanist has a news roundup on Sound Transit and Community Transit activities. Stride 3 (Shoreline-Bothell) is at 60% design. Community Transit is starting to write a new long-range plan. Sound Transit is asking the public about access alternatives at the South Tacoma Sounder station.

Other than that there’s been little news, so it’s up to the comments to launch discussions.

Update: A very interesting discussion of Link stations’ walk scores is in the comments.

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Election Open Thread

Initial election results will be posted at 8:15 pm, then on subsequent days by 4 pm. I assume there will be one or two comments about it.

Link will be closed between SODO and Capitol Hill November 11-13. Replacement buses will fill the gap. Trains will continue running north of Capitol Hill and south of SODO. The alert says replacement buses will run every 15 minutes, while a sign at Stadium says they’ll run every 10-15 minutes. In my experience they’re often more frequent than that. So the buses will be either less frequent, the same, or more frequent than Link.

This is an open thread.

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Station Codes will Replace Link Pictograms

Sound Transit slide comparing navigation by pictogram and by station codes.

Title is Station codes could assist with wayfinding.

Take the 1 line to Beacon Hill. Line diagram with stations represented by pictograms. People standing at International District Station, represented by a dragon, asking questions: Which direction? How many stops?

Take the 1 line to station 47. People standing at International District Station (number 40) count 3 stops in the down direction.

In the next Link expansion, riders will have another shorthand way of identifying stations and navigating the system. The rarely used station pictograms will be retired in favor of a system of station codes based on international best practice. Similar to bus stops, airport gates, and freeway exits, stations will have a 3-digit code consisting of the line number and a sequential station number. Sound Transit staff presented the new approach to the ST Board’s Rider Experience & Operations Committee last Thursday.

For background, please read my 2020 post where I wrote about the pictograms’ shortcomings and proposed station numbering/coding as an alternative. Although not reported at the time, ST staff took note and was in the exploratory stages of considering such a system. After extensive outreach and user testing of concepts earlier this year, staff arrived at a preferred option that will be incorporated into wayfinding for the East Link and Lynnwood Link expansions.

The Stop Codes numbering system

Here is my breakdown of the system based on materials ST has publicly released. Each stop on a line will have a three-digit code. That means stations served by more than one line will have multiple codes corresponding to each line. The first digit represents the line name. The next two digits represent the position of the station along the spine with higher numbers in the north and lower numbers in the south. You count up when traveling toward Everett and count down when traveling toward Tacoma. The numbering continues along branches from the spine.

Continue reading “Station Codes will Replace Link Pictograms” | 75 comments

Beacon Hill Bike Lanes and Trails

SDOT is planning a north-south cycletrack on Beacon Hill as part of Safe Streets. Separately, a set of recreational trails recently opened in Cheasty Park on the eastern side of the hill.

The cycletrack will run along 15th Avenue South and Beacon Avenue South from the José Rizal Bridge to South Spokane Street. This will connect Little Saigon, the apartment-filled northern part of Beacon Hill, the Link station, the retail village, the library, and Jefferson Park.

This is just phase 1 of the project (or “Segment 1” as SDOT calls it). This phase is funded by Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District. Phases 2 and 3 are not yet funded. Phase 2 would extend the cycletrack south along Beacon Avenue to South Myrtle Street. Phase 3 would continue south to where Beacon Avenue ends at South 39th Street. If all these phases are completed, the cycletrack would run the entire length of Beacon Hill, from the 12th Avenue Bridge to where the 107 makes a U shape to get to Rainier Beach.

At this point SDOT is just introducing the project and collecting email addresses to send announcements to. You can email feedback now or wait for a survey later this month. One question the city is asking about is whether it should be a two-way cycletrack on one side of the street, or two one-way cycletracks on either side.

The Cheasty Park trail opened in October. I walked it last week. From Columbia City Link station, I went out the northern exit to the north side of Alaska Street, and turned left and walked a half mile to the entrance. Alaska Street merges into Columbian Way, and the entrance is a little further on the right, with a sign for “Strawberry Trail”, and a request for user feedback. Cheasty Park is an old-growth woods stretching north and south. The dirt trail runs across it, and is entirely switchbacks up the side of the hill to Cheasty Boulevard. I encountered five mountain bikers going the other way downhill, one or two at a time. At Cheasty Boulevard you can turn right and walk along the 2-lane parkway street to Mt Baker Station. I turned left instead, and walked along the south end of Jefferson Park Golf Course to Beacon Avenue. I turned north and walked along Beacon Avenue past the VA hospital, Jefferson Park (the non-golf park), and the village to Beacon Hill Station. Walking time was around thirty minutes from Columbia City Station to Cheasty Boulevard, and forty minutes from Cheasty Boulevard to Beacon Hill Station.

Partway along the trail there’s a connection to a mountain-bike-only loop that’s not open yet. Another multi-use trail and a mountain bike loop are proposed in the northern part of the park, closer to Mt Baker Station. A third mountain-bike-only [Correction: 2-way hiking only] loop is on the south side of Columbian Way. I’m not sure if it’s open; I saw a park sign but no obvious entrance.

I also walked the Westlake path from Fremont to Denny Way, for the first time since the cycletrack was installed. It is a full cycletrack next the sidewalk, between the continuous parking lot and the business entrances. The cycletrack was well marked, and I saw people walking across it with no conflicts.

On-topic comments for this article are on bike lanes (potential or current), transit lanes, pedestrian infrastructure (including pedestrian bridges), walking tours, and bike tours in the region. Other topics belong in an Open Thread.

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News Roundup: Pedestrianizing Pike Street

A proposed pedestrian superblock on East Pike Street, bounded by Broadway, 12th Avenue, East Pine Street, and East Union Street. This looks intriguing. 10th and 11th Avenues already feel almost pedestrian between Pine and Pike Streets, which is pleasant when shopping or attending a nightclub. Having a 3 x 2 block fully pedestrianized area would give Seattle something it doesn’t have, and pedestrians would flock to it. I’m not 100% sure about closing the street, but the arterial ends two blocks east at Madison Street anyway. Buses use adjacent Pine and Union Streets, and cars coming from east Madison can easily choose them instead of Pike.

Animated map of the Chicago L’s evolution from 1892 to 2029. 1900-1910 had a huge wave of expansions. 1948-1958 had a wave of contractions.

This is an open thread.

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Chinatown-International District open house tonight

Sound Transit is collecting feedback on the Chinatown-ID station for ST3 starting with an open house tonight. Much has been written about the various options, but it seems clear that the only option even remotely acceptable to the neighborhood is “4th Avenue Shallow.” Even that may be a bridge too far, per Naomi Isaka’s reporting in the Times:

The slightly less destructive path would be on Fourth Avenue, but even that option would create havoc for about 10 years by redirecting traffic through the neighborhood and constructing a massive staging area there. Advocates fear displacement of businesses and residents would inevitably follow.  

Shallow 4th is also $500M more expensive than Shallow 5th. If the extra money and construction impacts resulted in a better rider experience, it might be worth it. But making people walk a block and 80 feet below ground to transfer isn’t a very rider-centric outcome either (although it’s better than some of the other options!).

Still, since the Sound Transit board has made it clear that they are open to studying more options and everything on the table has a serious downside, I’ll make one more plug for putting the station at Rainier & I-90 on the edge of the CID. This opens up a possible First Hill station for Midtown and preserves the primary benefit of a second transfer location.

When I last presented this concept there was some legit concern about a Beacon Hill shuttle. Based on some suggestions from readers, I’ve thought about how it might work as a branch line instead.

If this sounds appealing to you, now would be the time to let Sound Transit know.

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News Roundup

This is an open thread.

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To make Eastside-only East Link work, excellent transfers are needed

Potential transfer point at the 77th Ave SE drop-off lane (photo by author)

Now that it’s much more certain that the entirety of the 2-Line will not open in 2023, Sound Transit has an excellent opportunity to consider still starting Eastside-only service on time: a proposal first publicly voiced by King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci and endorsed by transit geeks across the region.

It’s easy enough to demand that Sound Transit only run trains between Mercer Island and Redmond, but putting it into practice is another thing entirely. I don’t know if ST staff have backup maintenance and operating plans for this exact scenario, but there are very crucial operational considerations that need to be made, particularly for transfers.

Continue reading “To make Eastside-only East Link work, excellent transfers are needed” | 104 comments

Marketplace features Seattle’s transit recovery

Marketplace, an NPR program, ran an exposé on our local transit recovery, featuring yours truly. Although I wouldn’t necessarily dichotomize myself into the choice rider camp (per Jarrett Walker’s analysis on the subject), the segment does a reasonably balanced job highlighting different aspects of transit ridership. I especially appreciated the renewed focus on all-day travel, in particular Link’s recovery:

Local bus systems are adjusting to shifting commuter patterns. Express commuter routes from richer suburbs have been trimmed, and transit managers are trying not to touch routes in lower-income areas.

Ridership on Link is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels… That’s mostly thanks to riders like Cantero hitting up sporting events or restaurants or running errands throughout the day. There are fewer commuters, but more all-day travel.

It’s what gives local transit enthusiasts hope that the region can still be a model for transportation success. There are plans to triple the mileage Link covers in the coming years.

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Balducci wants intra-Eastside Link to open on time

Map of East Link / SounderBruce (Flickr)

King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci recently penned an op-ed to the Seattle Times arguing for East Link to meet its commitment of a 2023 opening, but only on the Eastside.

But what if we opened an Eastside-only light rail line connecting Redmond to Bellevue, or even to Mercer Island, in 2023? Could we provide high-quality transit service to thousands of riders while repairs are completed on the rest of the line? In short, we can and should. 

On-time opening of an Eastside-only starter light rail line would honor the preparations that Eastside cities have been making for years, with complementary investments in transportation, trails and transit-oriented land use planning. Bellevue alone is investing more than $230 million to fast-track 12 transportation projects to match the 2023 deadline.

King County has worked tirelessly alongside several cities and communities to make progress on Eastrail, a 42-mile trail that will connect Eastside light rail and businesses like never before. And Bellevue has also partnered with Sound Transit to build up to 500 units of affordable housing with direct access to light rail in the Spring District. Both Redmond and Bellevue have been busy planning for additional transit-oriented development, including affordable housing, at most light rail stations along the East Link Corridor.  

As was previously reported, Link expansions are delayed across the board but the Eastside extension has been pummeled by construction mishaps, pushing service start to 2024 at the earliest. The construction rework is primarily taking place between Seattle and Mercer Island, raising the prospect that the rest of what will be the 2-Line may finish on time.

We’ve always been supportive of early openings when projects are completed ahead of time, and it makes sense that a massive project like East Link stands to benefit from incremental openings. That said, Sound Transit would likely need to draft a thorough maintenance and operations plan, which should consider things like maintenance capabilities at the Bellevue OMF (Operations & Maintenance Facility) and service operations based on intra-Eastside ridership patterns.

Whether the Sound Transit Board will take this up remains to be seen. At minimum, the high-level calls to mitigate frustrating delays is an encouraging sign.

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Sunday News Roundup

This is an open thread.

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More Link delays

Sound Transit:

However, on both the east and west sides of the bridge, the contractor’s work to fix problems with cast-in-place concrete plinths supporting the tracks has led to the identification of further challenges. These include issues with mortar pads, rebar placements and track fasteners, which the contractor has agreed to fix by re-casting the plinths to ensure the long-term reliability and safety of the extension. Details of the East Link issues can be found in the below-linked memo.

Continuing work is required to identify new project opening timelines for the four projects, which must include time for activation work once construction is complete. While the East Link extension was planned to open in mid-2023, construction challenges are currently projected to delay the completion by at least a year. An upcoming programmatic review will assess rail activation sequencing and time requirements to support the identification of new opening timeframes.

This confirms what we heard back in May, but without any new update on the actual opening schedule. You can see some images of the cracking in the agency’s presentation to the board. Landslide issues have cropped up in Federal Way as well. The Times has more.

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Youth fares almost gone

myorca.com

The youth fare is abolished effective Sept. 1st. This year’s transportation package in Olympia sends transit agencies a bunch of money in return for getting rid of the fare, neatly solving the dilemma of encouraging ridership by either cutting fares or using the money to improve service. Agencies across the state quickly fell into line.

Personally, I say good riddance. Youth ORCA is a pain to get, and if you have a few kids (as I do) round trips get expensive fast. There are also benefits to creating a broadly shared generational experience with transit, and in avoiding interactions with fare enforcement. With a state subsidy, there is no downside, unless it causes transit facilities to become (more of?) a place to hang out and behave anti-socially.

The main news is overwhelmingly positive. However, explanations of the formal policy are a confusing muddle.

Continue reading “Youth fares almost gone” | 100 comments