Help rename University Street Station

University Street Station

Sound Transit has seen the light:

 With three new stations coming to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate in 2021, renaming University Street Station will reduce confusion and provide a better customer experience. 

Options under consideration:

  • Benaroya Hall
  • Symphony
  • Arts District
  • Midtown
  • Downtown Arts District
  • Seneca Street

I’m not sure where Seattle’s true arts district is, but if you asked me to guess I’d probably name at least five other neigbhorhoods before I got to 3rd and University. Plus DAD station is a terrible acronym.

“Midtown” is the provisional name for the 5th & Madison station that’s part of ST3, which could lead to issues down the line. That leaves Benaroya, Symphony, or Seneca. Either one seems fine. Rich Smith at The Stranger makes a case for Symphony. But In most cities the station name comes to define the neighborhood anyway.

On a related note, I present one of my favorite recent twitter threads (click through and read all the replies).

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Expanding Sounder South

Sounder Train at Kent Station (image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is seeking public comment on a program of possible expansions to Sounder South. These are likely to include additional daily runs on Sounder and station platform improvements to allow 10-car trains to operate (up from 7 cars today). Sound Transit envisions a series of improvements rolling out through 2036, with planning on the first projects beginning in 2020.

The ST3 program included $934 million (2014 $) in Sounder South capital improvements to improve access and capacity. There is an additional $325 million to fund an extension from the current terminus at Lakewood to serve two new stations at Tillikum and Dupont in 2036.

Sound Transit owns the tracks south of Tacoma, but the tracks between Seattle and Tacoma are owned by BNSF. That means improvements and slots for added trains must be negotiated with BNSF. The 2016 plan was vague on what improvements would be made because it involved both a negotiation with BNSF and a lengthy examination of trade-offs in selecting options for expanded service.

Some of those trade-offs have come into view. Adding trips at peak hours would serve more riders than adding trains at other times during the day even though those other times are sparsely served. It’s also less disruptive to BNSF freight operations which are mostly outside the peak Sounder window.

Continue reading “Expanding Sounder South” | 63 comments

ST adds new light rail options to the mix

West Seattle Junction from above (SounderBruce)

At the direction of the Sound Transit board, staff studied several new ST3 alignment options to the same level of design as existing options. They looked at new variants at Delridge, Sodo, and in the core of Ballard. They presented the result to the system expansion committee yesterday.

Delridge

Continue reading “ST adds new light rail options to the mix” | 90 comments

News roundup: problematic

South Bellevue Station (SounderBruce/Wikimedia)

This is an open thread.

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Regional plan to shift employment from King County

King County has far outpaced neighboring counties and the current regional plan in employment growth since 2010 (data: PSRC & Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The region’s economy has logged strong growth since the end of the Great Recession with 26% more jobs than in 2010. That growth has been led by King County, which has contributed 74% of the increase in employment in the four-county Puget Sound area in 2008-2019. Regional leaders are planning to force a redistribution of employment growth with less job growth in King County, and more jobs closer to communities in Pierce and Snohomish County that have seen fast housing growth.

The concentration of employment growth in Seattle and Bellevue has been a mostly positive feature of the recent boom. With more jobs have come more housing in the heart of the region, and growth in Seattle’s urban housing stock has outpaced the growth in suburban subdivisions. The more sustainable urban development has many obvious advantages. But housing growth hasn’t quite kept pace with jobs growth, bidding up rents and home prices. The frontier of affordable housing has been pushed into burgeoning bedroom communities in Pierce and south Snohomish counties. Politicians in those counties have blamed Seattle for not building enough housing, though more of the fault rests with King County suburban cities which have restricted new housing and grown more slowly.

The increased centralization of employment has been good for transit ridership. People who work in densely developed places are more likely to use transit to get there even if their homes are in the suburbs. 48% of downtown Seattle employees arrive by transit and downtown drive-alone counts have fallen even as employment has grown. Transit ridership has grown consistently even as it has fallen in every other major US city in recent years.

Politicians on the PSRC board, particularly those from Pierce and Snohomish counties, perceive this as a jobs/housing imbalance. Their residents face long commutes to distant Seattle and Bellevue. If they could shift more employment to their own county, their residents would find jobs and a shorter commute in their own geographic area. For this reason, the draft preferred alternative includes “a policy-driven shift of 5% of the region’s forecasted employment growth from King County to the other three counties”. Over the life of the plan, 60,000 fewer jobs would be created in King County, and would instead be shared among the other three counties.

Continue reading “Regional plan to shift employment from King County” | 58 comments

Seven considerations for a TBD that’s still TBD

Rainy Third Avenue with lots of buses
Third Avenue in 2018-appropriate weather. Photo by Wings777.

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District (TBD) expires in 2021.   It’s an open question as to whether Seattle will go it alone or try to partner with the county on a joint measure (previous county measure failed in 2014, which led to the TBD’s creation).

To date, no decision has been made. Regardless, another ballot measure is a given at this point. Here are a few ways to think about the state of play for our next ballot measure, whenever it arrives.

Area

The most obvious question for a future TBD is what area it will cover: Seattle or all of King County.  A county-wide TBD makes logical sense, since it mirrors Metro’s operational area. As of February, the County council was still considering it.

For Seattle, though, the bus service provided by the current TBD is more critical than ever, while county voters have been less willing to fund buses lately (we’ll get to that in a minute). So while having one bus system with two different fundings levels is problematic, it’s better than not having the additional service in Seattle at all.

Continue reading “Seven considerations for a TBD that’s still TBD” | 24 comments

Link Transit expanding

Link Transit’s electric bus in Wenatchee (SounderBruce/Wikimedia Commons)

In a ballot measure that escaped our notice, on August 6 voters in Chelan and Douglas Counties approved a two-phase sales tax increase (by 12 points) to fund a service expansion. The first 0.1% will come into effect in January 2020, and the second in 2022. The current rate is 0.4% out of a possible 0.9%.

Link Transit

Next July, the agency promises increases in Saturday service. If they are able to fill open positions, Link will also start running service on Sundays. For urbanite tourists, Sunday service opens up a wealth of possibilities to get around the area after traveling to Wenatchee without a car, which is not difficult.

You can find more details about Link Transit’s plan for the next few years here.

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Link is Getting Colorful

Sound Transit’s Service Line colors

Get ready to hear more colors attached to the word Link more regularly. Sound Transit is expanding use of color designations for Link light rail lines beginning in this month’s service change. As seen in its September 2019 schedule book and system map, Central Link (UW-Angle Lake) becomes the Red Line, East Link becomes the Blue Line, and Tacoma Link becomes the Orange Line.

ST has been gradually rolling out the color names in its ST2/ST3 project communications since their introduction in 2015. Up to now, the public did not know which color Tacoma Link would receive, if at all, given its differences to Central Link. However, ST left a hint in its September 2016 system map by changing Tacoma Link’s line color from purple to orange at the same time Central Link got its current shade of red. The Orange Line moniker appeared publicly as early as this past July. Eagle-eyed reader Al S. noticed the change in ST’s System Expansion Communications style guide and Tacoma Link expansion project materials.

What colors can we look forward to in ST3? Green and purple have been designated as line colors in ST’s style guide. Based on current project maps and service plan, we can infer that the Ballard Link extension is the Green Line and South Kirkland-Issaquah Link is the Purple Line. Stride, ST’s BRT brand, is represented by gold. How each Stride line will be identified has not yet been revealed.

Sound Transit’s Link light rail won’t be the only system in the region to use line colors. Community Transit’s Swift BRT already has its own rainbow of colors in use and in the works. In a statement previously made to STB, the two agencies “felt that the two modes were distinct enough to not be easily confused.” How passengers will react to that remains to be seen.

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News Roundup: a new name

This is an open thread.

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Lynnwood Link officially breaks ground

Sound Transit officials and local elected leaders breaking ground at Lynnwood City Center Station (photo by author)

On Tuesday, Sound Transit and local elected officials broke ground on the first inter-county light rail project to be built in Washington state: Lynnwood Link. Although visible construction on Lynnwood Link has been underway for months, the final contracts and funding agreements were only recently approved by Sound Transit and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Lynnwood Link will extend light rail service on the Red and Blue lines by 8.5 miles along Interstate 5, passing through Shoreline and Mountlake Terrace before terminating at Lynnwood Transit Center, the main bus hub in South Snohomish County. Community Transit is planning a massive truncation of its commuter routes to feed into light rail trains, taking advantage of the more reliable travel times to reinvest service hours into expanded local routes. Several bus rapid transit routes, including the Stride network and the Swift Blue and Orange lines, will intersect with Link at stations built along the Lynnwood corridor.

The project was approved as part of ST2 in 2008 and is the final light rail project from the program, discounting projects that were absorbed into ST3 like the extensions to Federal Way and Downtown Redmond. It was originally anticipated to begin service in 2023, but was pushed back by six months into 2024 because of design changes and cost overruns brought on by the local construction boom. The current project budget is $2.9 billion, of which 40 percent will be paid through a $1.17 billion full funding grant agreement with the FTA that was signed late last year.

Continue reading “Lynnwood Link officially breaks ground” | 45 comments

Downtown Kirkland to be an urban center

Short video from City of Kirkland explaining the Urban Center designation to citizens. (source: City of Kirkland)

Downtown Kirkland is likely to be designated as an Urban Center early next year. On Tuesday evening, the City Council is expected to approve applications to King County and the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). If approved, it will be the region’s 30th regional growth center. 

The proposed “Greater Downtown Kirkland Urban Center” encompasses the central business district, the I-405 BRT station at NE 85th and the Rose Hill Business District just beyond, the Sixth Street corridor including Google, and the northern half of the Houghton-Everest neighborhood center. Also included to form a contiguous and regularly shaped center are some more residential areas around downtown with mostly higher density residential uses.

Land use within the proposed Urban Center in Kirkland (image: City of Kirkland, click to enlarge map)

The proposed center is home to over 6,700 residents and more than 17,000 jobs. Those include three of the top five employers in Kirkland. The center is expected to add another 9,000 jobs and to double in population by 2035.

Continue reading “Downtown Kirkland to be an urban center” | 43 comments

ShareNow corner cases

Earlier this month, ShareNow announced a tiered pricing model where drives that left a car outside an inner “Zone A” would incur a $4.95 surcharge, and drives that brought cars back into Zone A would receive a credit of “up to” $4.95.

A spokesperson from ShareNow confirmed that the latter phrasing simply meant that the credit cannot exceed the actual cost of the trip. That is, a $3.00 ride from Zone B to Zone A would receive a credit of $3.

For many regular commuters between Zones A and B, then, this should turn out to be a wash. But the coarseness of this price signal has created some odd boundary conditions. A person that is a $3 ride away from a Link station in the boundary will continually incur $4.95 charges out and only $3 credits in.

These second-order details will get swamped by larger arguments about equity and economic sustainability, but I suspect they may also result in some unintended consequences. A simple tweak to the policy — limiting the surcharge to 100% of the cost of the trip — would remove this problem.

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Monorail proposal raises fares to offset ORCA transfers, passes

Monorail ticket booth at Seattle Center Station Photo by Joe Mabel / wikicommons

As Martin pointed out Thursday, the Seattle Center will be holding a hearing on Wednesday, September 11, and taking email comments through September 18, on a proposal to raise monorail fares as part of the rollout of accepting the ORCA card, along with interagency transfers and passes.

The published proposal focuses on the fare increases. But, as part of joining the ORCA pod, transfer credit from other ORCA trips will be good on the monorail, and vice versa, according to Seattle Center Director of Communications Deborah Daoust. Likewise PugetPass, Business Passport, U-Pass, and the Regional Day Pass will also be good for covering part or all of monorail fare.

The regular fare is going from $2.50 to $3.00, while the youth, senior, and disability fares are going from $1.25 to $1.50.

At the same time, a new low-income fare category will be introduced, at $1.50, available only by using loaded fare product on the ORCA LIFT card.

The eligibility age for the youth fare will expand from ages 5-12 to ages 6-18. Five-year-olds, accompanied by an adult, will now get to ride for free.

US military personnel with ID can get the half fare, but not by using ORCA.

Monorail non-ORCA monthly passes will go up from $50 to $60, and the reduced fare non-ORCA passes will continue to be half the cost.

Daoust offered an explanation for the increase to $3.00:

The proposed adult fare considers many factors including the cost to Seattle Monorail Services of implementing changes in its ticket structure and the fact that it relies on ticket revenues to cover operating costs and some major maintenance. The increase also factors in increases in consumer price index (CPI). Other considerations include fare alignment with other ORCA providers and the acceptance of transfers when ORCA users combine a Monorail trip with other transit use.

The increase to $3 helps the Monorail to offset losses it will incur by participating in One Regional Card for All, since only =/-$2 will come back to the Monorail under the ORCA program.

Everett Transit and Community Transit have also rolled out low-income fares this year. The last holdouts in the ORCA pod from having such a fare are Washington State Ferries — for which the Washington State Transportation Commission recently approved a pilot project to have a low-income fare, once funding is found — and Pierce Transit.

As at happens, the monorail would be the second entity for which ORCA LIFT would actually be a discount of 50% or more from the regular fare, joining Kitsap Transit.

ORCA acceptance on the monorail and the accompanying fare increases are set to commence October 7, assuming there is no public backlash in the comment period.

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Metro reverts West Seattle buses to 4th Avenue

Buses waiting to turn onto South Dearborn Street (SounderBruce)

Mike Lindblom, The Seattle Times:

Twelve Metro bus routes from downtown to West Seattle, White Center and Burien will move from their temporary path on gridlocked First Avenue South to Fourth Avenue South beginning Sept. 9.

This route change follows rider complaints that public transit crawls so slowly along First Avenue that it can sometimes take an hour to travel a few blocks.

The 1st Avenue alignment has been a disaster, we’re happy to see Metro cut bait. Big props to Lindblom for calling the city out specifically here for failing to create transit lanes:

Transportation leaders didn’t grasp beforehand how badly First would clog, as [Metro’s Bill] Bryant speculated this spring about 15-minute delays. The city is unwilling to deter private vehicles from Pioneer Square by creating bus-only lanes.

Yep.

Update: more details from Metro’s blog:

There are few alternatives, but the best option is a shift to Fourth Avenue South. Making the alternative pathway work meant analyzing travel times and consistency, weighing the impact to other routes that travel through the central business district, and determining where buses slowed down and required attention. That took time but was necessary to ensure the revision would work.

Our evaluations determined that a pathway that took Second Avenue (via Columbia Street) to Second Avenue Extension South to Fourth Avenue South was viable. Speed times were slightly slower under normal conditions, but the consistency improved dramatically. This new pathway appeared to have little effect on the travel time of other nearby routes, and we were able to identify areas that could be addressed directly by our partners at SDOT.

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News roundup: worthwhile Canadian initiative

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

This is an open thread.

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Transit Tracker Updates: Now called “Pantograph,” debuting the iOS app, new features

A few months ago, I shared with Seattle Transit Blog readers a side project of mine—the Puget Sound Transit Operations Tracker. This quickly became much bigger than I ever expected it to, with several local news outlets picking up the story, including the Seattle Times.

It became very clear to me that we all need better transit data, and that I’m well-equipped to help with that. Today, I want to share with you what I’ve been up to since then, and where I’m going next.

Continue reading “Transit Tracker Updates: Now called “Pantograph,” debuting the iOS app, new features” | 42 comments