North End Modifications to the Lynnwood Link Connections Plan

This is another in a series of posts about the Lynnwood Link bus restructure. This covers the area north of Seattle. I have two maps, but neither should be considered a full-fledged proposal. They are a set of ideas, and I doubt either would be adopted in its entirety. The first one is austere — a bare-bones system that is intended to provide coverage where it is needed most. The second covers more of the region, while providing an important corridor with very good frequency. It is unlikely we can afford the latter, or have to settle for the former. We would likely get something in between.

Common Themes

Despite the differences, there are some common themes:

  1. Straighter routes. Turning takes extra time, especially at major intersections. Traffic signals favor cars going straight, which means a turn may take several light cycles.
  2. Avoids roads that are congested, but have few riders. 145th and 175th, for example, don’t have many apartments, but lots of traffic.
  3. Infrequent routes should exist for coverage, not connectivity. An infrequent bus that runs along the same pathway as a frequent bus will not get many riders, even if it saves some people a transfer.
  4. Coverage routes should save riders a considerable amount of walking. The routes should be spread out whenever possible.

Austere Proposal

It is easier to read the map if you expand it to full size (it will open in its own window), providing a legend on the left side, listing each route. Selecting a route brings it to the foreground. The 333, 334 and 336 on this map would be infrequent (30 minute headways in the middle of the day). This proposal saves service hours by following the general guidelines mentioned above as well as cutting back coverage, frequency and direct connections, such as:

  1. No service along the county line between Aurora Village and Mountlake Terrace. Very few riders use those stops.
  2. No service along 145th, west of the Link Station. This is more than made up for with service along all of Meridian. The service hole that the proposed 46 creates along Meridian between 130th and 145th has a fair number of riders.
  3. No service along 175th. There won’t be many riders either way, but at least going north-south is very fast.
  4. No coverage for parts of the proposed 336 (NE 150th, 30th Avenue NE). These areas are close enough to more frequent buses.
  5. The 334 (replacing the 331) is extended east to Bothell, to cover a service hole mentioned in this post. If Sound Transit added a bus stop for the S3 at 83rd Place NE (where there is a crossing and existing bus stops) you wouldn’t need this extension. That would save Metro a considerable amount of money, while giving riders in the area better bus service.
  6. No 324, which means no direct connection between Lake City and Kenmore/Bothell. I don’t believe this is necessary, nor do I think the 324 would perform well. Relatively few people are taking this trip. Those that are going this way will likely take a more frequent bus simply because it will arrive first.
  7. No direct connection between Aurora Village and Mountlake Terrace. Riders can take the 130 or a Link/Swift Blue combination. Some of the riders who make this trip right now are transferring to Swift, in which case it would be the same number of transfers, while also saving them wait and travel time (Link is fast and frequent).
  8. No direct connection from Aurora Village or the northern part of Aurora to Shoreline Community College. The RapidRide E is very frequent, running every 7.5 minutes in the middle of the day. Riders can easily hop on the E, then take the bus directly across 160th, instead of waiting for a bus that winds back and forth to get to the college.
  9. No direct connection between parts of Aurora and Link. The proposed 46 and 334 run along a corridor served by the very fast and frequent E. Very few riders will bother waiting for their direct connection, and instead just take the E and transfer. In both cases the buses are going the opposite direction most people want to go, further hurting ridership. People generally don’t like going the wrong direction, especially if it would take a while (e. g. north up to 175th, east along 175th, then north up to 185th to the station before heading south).

Overall, with the exception of the first item, coverage is largely a wash. Some people have a longer walk to a bus stop, others are closer. Frequency is reduced, but in areas with relatively few riders. A few direct connections go away, but the extension of the 72 makes up for it. Not only does this give a lot more people a direct connection to the college, but it gives those same riders a connection to the RapidRide E. While there are drawbacks to this proposal, they are largely worth the cost savings, and it would mean better service elsewhere.

Robust Proposal

This proposal provides additional coverage, direct connections and frequency. Specifically, it:

  1. Covers the greater Hamlin Park/Briarcrest area (east of 15th NE) with the 335.
  2. Restores coverage for the Hillwood neighborhood (west of Aurora Village) with the 336.
  3. Covers 205th (south of Lake Ballinger) after all. The 333 could be timed with the 130 to provide good combined headway between Aurora Village and Mountlake Terrace.
  4. Extends the 334 (from Ballinger/North City) to Aurora and Shoreline Community College. This adds a direct connection to an important destination, while also giving lots of people a good connection to the RapidRide E.
  5. Individual routes are as infrequent as with the austere proposal, but the combined headways along 185th would be excellent. If timed properly, you would have 7.5 frequency connecting Aurora with North City (and the station). Some of the trips would still involve two transfers, but with fast and very frequent service along 185th and Aurora, this would make up for it.

There are a range of options here, and I would like to know what people think in the comments.


All of Lake City Way Should Have Frequent Bus Service

As we covered a while back, Metro is gathering input on bus routes following the implementation of Lynnwood Link. They have initially proposed a sizable service gap along Lake City Way, as well as limited connectivity in the area. This should be fixed.

Current Service and Future Plans

There are three buses that run on Lake City Way south of Northgate Way: The 322, 372 and 522. The replacement for the 522, the S3, will no longer go on Lake City Way. Metro is planning on eliminating the peak-only 322. The 372 (or its replacement, the 72) does not go south of Ravenna Avenue. This would leave a considerable stretch of Lake City Way with no bus service at all.

Ridership and Coverage

The 522 currently serves a bus stop at 20th and 85th, along Lake City Way. Before the pandemic, more 522 riders used that stop than any outside Seattle. Close to 400 people used the bus stop every evening on that bus alone. This was for an infrequent 522 that did not connect to Link. Prior to Northgate Link, the stop was served by other express buses (like the 312 and 309) which had another 150 riders. This was happening before the current boom in development around the bus stop.

But it isn’t just the ridership from that one stop. Without service along that corridor, the coverage gap from eliminating the 73 grows larger. It is easy to argue that riders of the old 73 should walk to Lake City Way or Roosevelt to catch a bus, but if there isn’t service on Lake City Way, a lot of riders would have a very long walk to the nearest bus stop. The 372 does not serve 95th (as it has to move over into the left lane to get on Ravenna Avenue) and there is no crossing Lake City between 20th (85th) and 95th. This makes the trip to the nearest bus stop much longer than it appears. To get from these apartments on Lake City Way to the nearest 372 bus stop is quite the trek, no matter which way you go.

There is also the fact that the 522 and 372 go to different locations. The 522 connects to Roosevelt, a growing and increasingly important neighborhood. Directly connecting the Lake City and Roosevelt neighborhoods (as well as the places along the way) is a worthy endeavor, and will increase ridership along that corridor. It is also a much faster way to get to Link. According to Google, it takes about 20 minutes to get from that neighborhood to Link via the 372 while it takes only 5 minutes via the 522. This time savings applies to anyone along Lake City Way south of Northgate Way.

Route Options

There are a number of different ways to cover this area, but I assume it will require a new route. For sake of argument, I will call this new route the 76.

Option 1: Lake City to Roosevelt Station

The cheapest option for the 76 is to go from Lake City to Roosevelt Station. It is short and fast enough that a bus could make a live loop using 65th, as shown above. While short, it is likely this would be one of the most useful, cost-effective buses in the area.

Option 2: 145th to Green Lake Park and Ride

The second option is to basically do the reverse. Instead of starting in Lake City, it would start at the Green Lake Park and Ride. It could then do a live loop in Lake City, using 30th, 145th and Lake City Way. This would connect to Stride S3 (522) as well as more of Lake City. With bus service this far north, we could truncate the 72 at the Fred Meyer location, or double the service (and halve the headway) between 145th and Lake City.

Option 3: Lake City to U-District

The third option is to run from Lake City to the U-District, providing one-seat rides to the second biggest destination in the city. I show the bus laying over at Campus Parkway, but there are other options, such as through-routing with a bus going through campus or going further to the UW Station. A bus serving the U-District could potentially live-loop on either end, although it might be too long of a route.

With any of these options, the bus should be synchronized with the 72, providing very good headways along much of Lake City Way for relatively little cost.

No matter how it is done, the area should have frequent bus service along this corridor. Please let Metro know by commenting on the Metro Restructure for Lynnwood Link by March 10th.


News Roundup: Lots of Things

Sound Transit releases

WSBLE study results and new options (for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension). Public input until February 17.

ST2 Link openings scheduling. Staff are exploring the possibility of opening the East Link starter line without delaying Lynnwood Link’s opening, a partial ST Express restructure with the starter line (no specific routes yet), and a “Federal Way starter line” (opening Kent-Des Moines before Federal Way).

ST is seeking volunteers for its North King Community Oversight Panel. Seattle is seeking volunteers for its Move Seattle Levy Oversight panel.


Why it’s hard to build good and inexpensive transit in the US. Two people asked me to post this RMTransit video about what drives quality down and costs up in projects that are built. Link is the first example at 1:47. “Seattle’s experience with Link Light Rail that has the costs of a subway system but the capacity and service quality of a light rail system should be instructive here.” He says an automated system with smaller trains and higher frequency could have cost less, had higher reliability and better service, and attracted more riders. He goes on to list other US transit systems and issues. I hear a lot of diagnosing problems but not many concrete solutions, so that leaves me at a loss with what to do. Maybe I’m not understanding the video.

American cities with a combination of higher walkability and lower rents. (CityNerd)

Urban gondolas around the world. (RMTransit) The recent wave started with Mendellín’s metrocable in 2004. Reece discusses which situations gondolas work well in.

Other News

Metro’s Lynnwood Link restructure open house registration. Scroll down to “Community Engagement”. Dates are February 4 and 27.

Seattle Comprehensive Plan virtual open house January 30.

Free transit passes are now available for Seattle low-income housing residents ($) and Climate Pledge Arena events ($).

Bus Doggy Doggs in Alaska ($).

The Federal Transportation Administration has a new grant fund for equity transit projects ($).

Amtrak Cascades has a survey for its long-range plan update. (Urbanist)

SDOT pats itself on the back for its best accomplishments in 2022.

RapidRide G (Madison) construction is 40% complete.

This is an open thread.


Rethinking ST3 in the Covid Era

Like many people in the Puget Sound region, Covid has changed my commute patterns and my use of transit. As a result – and perhaps not surprisingly – my posting here has gone down dramatically as well. But one thing I have been thinking quite a bit about is how the ST3 package could pivot for the post-Covid era. While the world has changed permanently, Sound Transit still seems to be planning for an era that is unlikely to ever arrive. 

Outside the US, transit ridership is rebounding. Maybe not all the way back to pre-Covid levels, but in many places where transit has always been integrated into daily life, ridership is approaching a sustainable “new normal.” Domestically, transit ridership has rebounded to varying degrees, with commuter-focused services seeing the smallest return of riders. So how does this relate to ST3?

Cast your mind back to the Summer of 2021.  Vaccines were finally available en masse (for adults, at least).  There was optimism that some kind of normal might be around the corner. This is the time when companies were still putting out “return to office” dates.  Against this backdrop, Sound Transit engaged in realignment planning.  While Covid may have been the initial impetus for hitting pause on the projects, the main problem was surging construction costs that put many ST3 projects over budget.

Continue reading “Rethinking ST3 in the Covid Era” | 252 comments

Does the Stride S3 (522) Need a Shadow?

The buses in the north end of the county will be restructured with the arrival of Lynnwood Link. A big part of this is the new Stride S3 route (also known as Stride 522). Some have called for a “shadow” of this new frequent and fast, limited-stop route.

What is a bus shadow, anyway?

The term “shadow” is a bus that makes all the stops, while the other bus does not. A good local example is how the 101 “shadows” Swift Blue. Swift sometimes has very long distances between stops — well over a mile in some cases — while the 101 makes a lot more stops.

The 372 and 522

Currently, the 372 and 522 follow much the same pathway from Lake City to Bothell. The 372 makes more stops, but not a lot more. The Stride S3 will make even less, and it won’t go to Lake City. Metro is proposing to do away with the 372, and replace it with two buses — the 72 and 324. While the 324 does other things, it also operates as a shadow for the S3. In the following I break down the S3 bus stops into sections to see what stops might be missed without the 324.

148th Station to Lake City Way

The proposed 72 covers this section. Even if Metro alters their plans, it is highly likely some bus will run here.

145th to Ballinger Way

There are only two bus stops that the 372 covers that Stride will not. The first is a southbound-only stop at Bothell Way & 39th Avenue NE. This bus only carries 3 riders a day (on average). The other is very close to the Ballinger Way stop (about 200 meters) and is not covered by the existing 522.

Ballinger Way to Kenmore Park and Ride

The S3 will continue to use every bus stop in this stretch. Even if it didn’t, the 331 (or its replacement) will cover this section.

Kenmore Park and Ride to 96th Ave NE (Waynita Way)

This is where things get interesting. There are no planned S3 bus stops along this section, while there are four existing 372 stops, and one 522 stop. Prior to the pandemic, these stops served about 150 riders a day. I think it is fair to say that most of these riders would walk quite a bit farther to a bus stop if there was no bus along that stretch.

96th Ave NE to Bothell

There are no S3 stops between Kenmore and 98th Avenue NE. Fortunately, the 230 meets Bothell Way at 96th Ave NE (Waynita Way) then heads northeast towards Bothell. The 239 crosses the river and the highway on 102nd Avenue NE, before covering the heart of downtown Bothell. Basically those two routes have it covered.


While seen as a “limited stop” bus, the new S3 will make almost every stop along its route. The one area that lacks service is between Kenmore and Bothell. The 230 and 239 cover some of this, leaving only the section between 68th Avenue NE and 98th Avenue NE needing coverage. That is the only section where a shadow would make sense. This could take the form of a 331 or 225 extended eastward from Kenmore to Bothell.


Open Thread: North American Buses

KUOW’s Week in Review podcast today discusses several relevant topics: Kshama Sawant will leave the Seattle city council this term to form a national movement. The state legislature is considering a wealth tax, a basic income for low-income people, and raising the minimum zoning in single-family areas. Possible zoning alternatives are 2-plex, 4-plex, 6-plex, either within some distance of major transit stops, or everywhere. Tech layoffs. Two of the panelists are Eric C Barnett (former STB author) and David Kroman (a Seattle Times transportation reporter).

Reece Martin has a video on Why buses in the US and Canada are worse than buses in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia. Not the routes and frequency this time, but the vehicles themselves. The answer is that due to North American regulations, the rest of the world has more bus companies and more bus types to choose from. Bonus: He calls articulated buses “bendy boys”.

This is an open thread.


Downtown Retail Inventory

Here’s a list of the retail open in selected parts of the midtown retail district in downtown Seattle. I inventoried Westlake Mall, Pacific Place, Pine Street between 9th and 3rd Avenues, and the emptiest part of 3rd Avenue between Olive Way and Union Street. I also did a less-extensive look at Pike Street, and did Pine Street between 3rd and 1st from memory. I see these retail establishments every day, but others who don’t go downtown as much may be less familiar with what’s currently open. I’m also hoping that this will help people support downtown businesses during this difficult period.

Westlake Center

Asean Streat (1st Floor): A new section with several southeast Asian restaurants. Bani Tea, Cool Coco (coconut ice cream), Mimi (crepes), Crawfish Chef, Burgis Street (Chinese), Phanny Pho, Rolling Wok, Hi Fry, Zaab El. The tables were busy midafternoon. None of the restaurants take cash.

Bite on Pine (2nd Floor): Sushi Burrito, Xi’An Noodles, Zuba, Soupwich, Cali Burger. I’m not sure if Matcha is still open.

3rd Floor: Renovated monorail station. Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th (replacing former food court).

2nd Floor: Zara. One escalator was closed.

1st Floor: Zara, Custom World (custom T-shirts), 1 toy store, 1 jewelry, 1 variety, Pressed Juicery.

Pacific Place

4th Floor: AMC movie theater, Johnny Rockets, Thai Ginger, Pike Place Chowder, Din Tai Fung (Chinese). 4 empty storefronts.

3rd Floor: 2 art galleries (one specializing in women’s culture), The Handmade Showroom, 2 clothing stores, Hai Dilao Hot Pot. 4 empty.

2nd Floor: Tiffany & Co, 1 women’s accessories store, 1 perfume & stuff. 9 empty.

1st Floor: 5 clothing stores, 1 perfume, 1 variety. 7 empty storefronts.

Basement: AT&T, Midnight Cookie Co, 1 clothing store. 2 empty storefronts (one being the large Barnes & Noble space). The empty storefronts on all floors tend to be concentrated on the east and south sides.

Pine Street

9th Avenue: Convention Center expansion (under construction), Paramount Theater, The Carlisle Room, Dough Zone (Chinese).

8th Avenue: Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Paramount Hotel with cafe, Caffe Ladro, Chan Seattle (Korean).

7th Avenue: Club Monaco (clothes), Hotel Theodore (Roosevelt) with Rider restaurant, Cafe Yumm. 1 empty storefront (Timbuk2).

6th Avenue: Nordstrom with E-Bar, Pandora (jewelry), Seattle Eye (optometrist), Seattle Sun Co (sunglasses), Eileen Fisher, Pho Saigon (on 6th). 1 empty storefront (Forever 21).

5th Avenue: All Saints (clothing).

Westlake Park: Food trucks, Sephora, Arc’teryx, Bof A. 5 empty storefronts.

Century Square: Yard House, Van’s, Dr Martens. 2 empty storefronts (Abercrombie & Fitch).

Ex-Macy’s: Uniqlo (clothing), Victrola (coffee & tea).

2nd and 1st Avenues: Pike Place Market is full of open shops and thick with shoppers and tourists. BECU, H-Mart (Korean supermarket). The other shops around 1st and 2nd are mostly tourist-oriented.

Third Avenue

Pine Street: Victrola (in Macy’s building), McDonald’s, Money Tree, 2 tobacconists, Metro (cell phones). 5 empty storefronts.

Pike Street: Piroshky Piroshky (just reopened), Pho 25 (has good pho broth), Myano (spa), Chipotle), Walgreen’s, Ross. 6 empty storefronts.

Union Street: Subway, Gelatiamo, Post Office, Benaroya Hall. 8 empty storefronts (Wild Ginger).

Pike Street

The emptiness continues east on Pike Street from around 3rd to 6th. I didn’t inventory the open businesses on Pike.

Happy shopping!

This is a semi-open thread on downtown Seattle. Other topics belong in the open thread article after this one. [Ed: Changed comment scope.]


Ballard Station Workshop

On January 11th, Sound Transit held the second Interbay-Ballard workshop to prepare for a route selection by the Board in March. The workshop summarized the findings from the first workshop and online responses, and then presented a few new options for tunnel stations along 14th and 15th Ave NW. These options were to address some of the Board’s concerns and to reduce cost with the goal to deliver the Ballard extension closer to 2037 rather than 2039. The presentation also provided more details on construction impact.

For Ballard, Sound Transit is trying to refine the options by limiting property acquisition costs and improving station access, in particular from both sides of Market St.

1. Sound Transit could save $100 million by locating the station on the East side of 15th Ave NW. The main entrance would be in the middle of the station on the Southeast corner of Market St. A pedestrian tunnel would also connect to a Southwest entrance and could potentially be extended to another entrance on the Northwest corner for an additional $30 million. There would also be small emergency exits on the South and North ends of the platform.
2. Similarly, they could locate the line right under 15th Ave for similar savings. Lanes on 15th Ave would need to be reduced for up to 4 years. By pushing it further North straddling Market St, they might be able to add an entrance North of 56th Ave.
3. By locating the station on the East side of 14th Ave straddling Market St, they could avoid acquisition of Safeway and save $140 million. They pointed out it would reduce the opportunity for TOD and make the entrances less visible.

One of the concerns with the 14th Ave station is that riders would need to cross 15th Ave. They presented various ways to improve the crossing using bulbs, a pedestrian bridge or a pedestrian tunnel. They also envisioned an underground retail concourse combined with TOD which would connect the 14th Ave station underground and extend under 15th Ave for an additional cost of up to $100 million.

Even though during the DEIS public input many residents had requested better access to downtown / historic Ballard, they did not look at alternative stations along Tallman Ave, Russel Ave, Market St, or 56th St. When I asked why not, they responded that they had not looked at those but that a station requires a large enough staging area, and they try to avoid impacting historical buildings.

During their December 12th workshop Sound Transit had presented a few alternatives for the Interbay section to address earlier concerns. Sound Transit now presented some new findings:

1. A station under Dravus St would require a partial closure of Dravus for 18 months but save $30 million.
2. A Mercer Place tunnel portal turned out to be infeasible though the alternative station locations may also work with the tunnel portals already under consideration.
3. More tunneling with a single consolidated station along 15th Ave may reduce impact and simplify transit connections but reduce neighborhood connectivity and increase cost by $210 million.


Open Thread: 130th in 2026

130th Station in Seattle is estimated to open in mid 2026. (Thanks to eddiew for the link.)

This would fit in with other openings thus:

  • 2023: RapidRide H (Delridge) in March. T Line MLK extension.
  • 2024: Lynnwood Link (Lynnwood – Angle Lake) -OR- East Link starter line (Redmond Tech – South Bellevue) in Spring. RapidRide G (Madison). Swift Orange (Edmonds College – Lynnwood – Mill Creek – McCollum P&R). If ELSL starts in Spring, Lynnwood will be delayed until Fall/Winter.
  • 2025 : Link Line 2 (Lynnwood – Redmond Downtown) in Spring. RapidRide I (Renton-Auburn).
  • 2026: 130th station (Seattle) in midyear. Stride 1 (Burien-Bellevue). Stride 3 (Shoreline-Bothell).
  • 2027: Stride 2 (Lynnwood-Bellevue).
  • ???: Federal Way Link (Lynnwood – Federal Way). Postponed for viaduct redesign.
  • 2032: Tacoma Dome Link (Lynnwood – Tacoma Dome). West Seattle starter line (Alaska Junction – SODO).

I couldn’t find a date for the Swift Green UW Bothell extension.

Sources: ELSL/Lynnwood proposal. ST3 realignment adopted Aug 2021. T line. RapidRide G. RapidRide H. RapidRide I. Community Transit 2024 restructure open house. Swift Orange. Swift Blue expansion.

This is an open thread.


New Metro Restructure Proposal for Lynnwood Link

Metro is seeking input on “Phase 2” of Lynnwood Link Connections. In Phase 1 they gathered input on what the public wanted, and now they have taken those ideas and proposed a restructure. There are several themes common with this proposal, which are listed after the map.

Fewer Routes and Less Coverage

After the Northgate restructure, there were 5 express buses from the north end. Now that is down to just one — the 322. It is the only bus to go over the I-5 ship canal. Buses will instead connect to Link. This reflects a move away from expensive, peak-only express routes, towards a more all-day system.

But that isn’t the only place where service is being simplified. Several corridors will no longer have coverage. The 73 is gone, which means no service on 15th NE between Pinehurst Way and 75th. 5th Avenue NE, between 120th and Northgate Way (served by the 75 and before that the 41) will no longer have service. The 346 is gone, and with it is service on Meridian between 130th and 200th. There are more, but the most controversial change (to me, anyway) is the loss of service along Lake City Way between Ravenna Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue.

More East/West Service

One of the big suggestions to come out of phase one was to improve east-west travel in the area. Several routes help accomplish this goal. The 61 replaces the 20, linking up Greenwood with Northgate and Lake City. The 65 now covers the 125th/130th corridor, connecting Bitter Lake with Lake City and 35th NE (making a trip from Ingraham High School to Nathan Hale High School a one-seat ride). Instead of going north, the (3)72 heads west, to the station at 148th. Riders can continue to Shoreline by taking the 333 further west. There is now coverage along 175th (via the 334) while the 336 and 348 go over 185th. Finally, the 333 runs along the county border, connecting the Mountlake Terrace Station with Aurora Village and Shoreline Community College.

Routes are Split Based on Demand

The 372 is split into two routes: The more frequent 72, and the less frequent 324. The 75 ends at Lake City, which means it is largely a coverage route for Sand Point Way. As a result, it is slated to run less often (30 minutes outside of peak). The 331 is more or less split into two, with the eastern half (the 334) running a lot less often than the western part (the 333).


Overall, I consider this a strong step in the right direction. I have ideas for changes, but I’ll make that another post (along with comments here). Survey ends March 10th.


What to call Sounder-type rail?

We usually call Sounder “regional rail” or “commuter rail”, but both terms are ambiguous. Other possible terms like “metropolitan rail”, “local rail”, “express rail”, or “rapid transit” are also ambiguous. That leaves me at a loss with what to call Sounder or RER that’s not ambiguous. The same problem exists with Cascades.

“Regional rail” implies an area with multiple political entities. Both Sounder and Cascades are called “regional rail” but are at different scales. Sounder goes out 50 miles like Caltrain, connecting suburbs and cities within a multipolar metropolitan area. Cascades is 500 miles long, connecting multiple nearby metropolitan areas. High-speed rail plays a similar role. So we need distinct words for Sounder-type networks and Cascades-type networks.

“Metropolitan rail” implies the city and suburbs within an metropolitan area. This sounds like Sounder, except the term “metropolitan” has been monopolized by subways. Subways are shorter, have closer stop spacing, and higher frequency. Paris has both RER and metro, making this distinction between them.

“Commuter rail” originally meant riding on a “communtation ticket”, or multi-trip discount ticket like a 10-pack. This has led to a bifurcation, with some commuter rails running full time and others peak-only Caltrain and PATH run full time bidirectionally, so they’re as good for a weekend trip to the museum as a weekday trip to the office. They’re intended to capture the bulk of trips in their area to minimize driving, both work trips and other trips. Other commuter rail network are peak only, serving only 9-5 downtown office workers, and there’s resistance to expanding them to other uses.

“Rapid transit” to me means faster than a regular bus, so grade-separated, wider stop spacing, and higher frequency. Others use the term specifically for third-rail or heavy-rail metros.

Some people use “S-Bahn” or “RER” generically to refer to this mid-level service, but most Americans have never heard of those and don’t know what they are.

So is there a unique and unambiguous way to refer to Sounder, RER, S-Bahn type rail? Something that gets at the four-way distinction between Link, Sounder, Cascades, and intercity lines? Because “regional” is too ambiguous.


New Year’s News Roundup: Sounder Faltering

Sounder’s ridership is still just a third of pre-pandemic levels ($), even as Link has surpassed its 2019 level and Metro buses have recovered more than half. The Seattle Times headline says “Sounder’s trains future in limbo”. The article goes on to say, “Julie Timm, Sound Transit’s new CEO, said it’s too early to make decisions concerning Sounder’s future. It may be less critical right now, but with population and density growth, she believes ridership will return, if more slowly than hoped.”

Sounder’s new Puyallup parking garage will open a year late, in January 2023. ($) If Sounder’s ridership is down to a third, who will use the new garage?

Sound Transit gets two grants early for Federal Way and Lynnwood. ($)

Now the lower West Seattle Bridge is closed. When it rains it pours. It was damaged in the ice storm a week ago, and needs two weeks of repairs.

SDOT has answers to your sidewalk closure questions.

Seattle’s zoning got tighter over the 20th century, as residential zones allowing middle housing were downgraded to single-family only. Many of those small apartments and duplexes still exist, but are illegal to build today in those neighborhoods. I especially like the courtyard apartments, with a garden in front, or two rows of sideways apartments surrounding a courtyard.

The PSRC’s 2050 regional transportation plan is not aligned with the PSRC’s own 2030 climate goals, says Ryan Packer of The Urbanist. (Side rant: The Urbanist’s ads are very intrusive and annoying. Please tone them down. And whenever there’s an embedded slideshow visible, the PageDown/PageUp buttons stop scrolling the page.)

What’s wrong with an empty bus? (Human Transit)

Are my articles getting too long for the blog’s layout? I tend to write long sometimes.

This is an open thread.


Third Avenue Renovation

The Downtown Seattle Association released an update to its Third Avenue street reconfiguration vision. The DSA is a private organization of business leaders dedicated to promoting shopping and jobs downtown. Here’s our previous coverage in June, and a comment thread in September.

The vision describes Third Avenue as “a critical north-south transportation route in downtown Seattle.” It goes on to say, “For a variety of reasons, significant sections of the corridor feel unwelcoming and unsafe. Over the past decade, several planning efforts have yielded incremental improvements, but the underlying challenges remain the same.”

It cites a corridor study by Seattle and King County that identifies five problems downtown (including Belltown and Pioneer Square): insufficient open space, deferred maintenance, few middle-class people lingering (in spite of the large volume of people walking or waiting for buses), blank walls, too much concrete and too little color, and underused lobbies in office towers.

Continue reading “Third Avenue Renovation” | 46 comments

Fresh Open Thread

Snow is expected today, although it continues to be unpredictable as it was three weeks ago. Here’s a fresh open thread to discuss it and other topics. Wednesday and Thursday will be unusually cold in the low 20s. Beware of black ice.

Metro’s Snow Guide dashboard has a map of which subareas are on snow routes or the Emergency Snow Network. The page has a map of ESN routes, and links to the route-specific Service Advisories page and to subscribe to Alerts.

In East Seattle I’ve found Pine Street is the easiest way to get around in the snow, as it’s relatively flat from 1st Avenue to 14th Avenue. The worst part is crossing I-5 at Boren, where the bridge sidewalk can be icy.


ST2 Link Progress

Sound Transit is getting more serious about an East Link starter line until the defective plinths delaying the lake crossing can be replaced. We earlier covered Claudia Balducci’s original proposal and Sherwin Lee’s plea for good transfers. The delay of the lake crossing has cascading impacts on the Lynnwood extension, which will finish construction first but won’t have access to the Eastside train base (OMF East). Meanwhile, the Federal Way extension needs more time to design a “long-span bridge structure”. The System Expansion Committee proposed a new opening schedule:

  • Spring 2024: East Link Starter Line (Line 2: South Bellevue to Redmond Technology).
  • Fall/Winter 2024: Lynnwood (Line 1: Lynnwood to Angle Lake).
  • Spring 2025: East Link (Line 2: Lynnwood to Redmond Downtown).
  • TBD: Federal Way (Line 1: Lynnwood to Federal Way).

The ST board will meet in January to consider whether to pursue the starter line. If it doesn’t, Lynnwood would open a quarter earlier (Summer/Fall 2024) and East Link would open as above (Spring 2025).

The starter line’s frequency would be 10 minutes peak, midday, and weekends; and 15 minutes late evening/early morning.

ST Express routes would remain unchanged. The 550 would overlap the starter line between South Bellevue and Bellevue Downtown. The 542 and 545 would meet the line at one station, Redmond Technology. The 554 would continue going from Issaquah to Seattle with no direct access to the line.

A trip from Issaquah to downtown Bellevue would be the same as now: peak-only 556, slow 271, or 554+550 transfer at Mercer Island. Train enthusiasts could do a three-seat 554+550+Link trip transferring at Mercer Island and South Bellevue, or drive from Issaquah to the South Bellevue P&R and take the train from there.

ST’s presentation in the first link says opening Lynnwood before OMF East runs the risk of overcrowding on the 1 Line, and finding overnight storage for 16 trains along the Line 1 track. East Link trains are also arriving more slowly than expected. The testing window for new track, when trains will run without passengers before the opening, is four months.

On-topic comments for this article are the proposed Link changes, and riding transit in the 2023-2029 timeframe. Other restructures will be happening around the same time: the East Link bus restructure (now in 2025), Stride 1 (Burien-Bellevue), Stride 2 (Lynnwood-Bellevue), Stride 3 (Shoreline-Bothell), RapidRide G (Madison), H (Delridge), I (Renton-Kent-Auburn), J (Eastlake), T Line (Tacoma Link MLK extension).


News Roundup

Link public art: history and review ($).

Jarrett Walker is writing a second edition of his book “Human Transit”, and is asking for input on what to include.

Population-weighted density, or, is Los Angeles denser than New York City? (Pedestrian Observations)

Video of San Francisco’s new Central Subway. (Stroll With Me)

The most important rail line in the world, Tokyo’s Yamamote ring line. (RMTransit)

Whistler is a walkable small town. (RMTransit)

Seattle is still seeking input on its comprehensive plan update. I still need to get my comments in. Public hearings are December 12 and January 10.

This is an open thread.


Metro Cancellations

Metro sent an email alert today: “After two Metro operators identified a manufacturing issue in the steering system in some vehicles, Metro proactively removed 126 buses from service out of its 1,500-vehicle fleet. The identified problem did not lead to any accidents or injuries. Metro inspected all its buses to ensure all vehicles in service continue to perform safely and within specifications. The defect does not extend to all New Flyer buses and many remain in service.”

Metro recommends checking whether your trip is affected:

  • Text your bus stop number to 62550.
  • Sign up for text or email Transit Alerts.
  • Follow Twitter @kcmetroalerts.
  • Use Metro’s Trip Planner, One Bus Away, Google Maps, Bing Maps, etc.
  • Call Metro Customer Service at 206-553-3000 weekdays between 6am and 6pm.

We’ve been on a roller coaster of transit expansions and contractions almost every year for a decade:

In 2012 the Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle ended due to cost pressure from the 2008 recession.

In 2014 Metro had major cuts and laid off most of its non-operations staff as a 2-year recession tax surcharge expired.

Sometime around then Rapid Ride C, D and E opened, and Link went from 8-minute to 6-minute peak frequency.

In 2015 the economic recovery allowed the next three rounds of cuts to be canceled.

In 2016 University Link opened, ST3 passed, and the Seattle Transit Benefit District started funding additional Metro service in Seattle, starting with splitting the C and D and extending the C to South Lake Union.

In 2019 buses were kicked out of the downtown tunnel.

In 2020, COVID and lockdowns led to another major round of cuts, capping bus capacity at 25%, limiting transit to “Essential Trips Only”, half-hourly frequency on Link, and a reduced renewal of Seattle’s Transit Benefit District.

In 2021 most of the all-day service recovered but is still lower than 2019 levels, and Northgate Link opened. Metro and ST Express planned increases and has the money for them but new problem arose: a driver shortage prevents them from expanding or running all their intended service. Link and RapidRide expansions were delayed by the concrete strike, and Link by track plinths in the Eastside and other factors.

It feels like we’ve been a transit recession since 2020 with no end in sight. And now defective buses have caused even more cancellations. I just wish we could get closer to 2019 levels and at least remain stable there.

To top it off, Metro bus reliability is lower than in 2021. (Urbanist) The first 24,750 additional service hours Metro gets will have to go to “the 40 routes where 20% or more of trips are running late” before it can add additional frequency or coverage. This also feels like déjà vu since it happened before in the past fifteen years: Metro had to add buses just to maintain reliability amidst worsening traffic congestion before it could add frequency.

On-topic comments for this article are trip cancellations, transit reliability, and the roller coaster of expansions and contractions. Please keep current cancellations in separate threads from longer-term issues so that people can find urgent information quickly.


Open Thread: Snow Time

Snow started to fall this morning in central Seattle. The National Weather Service expects snow and rain/snow and snow through Thursday, although with little ground accumulation. Enter your zip code for a neighborhood-specific forecast, and scroll down to “Additional Forecasts” and click “Forecast Discussion” for a detailed analysis.

Metro’s Snow Guide dashboard has a map of which subareas are on snow routes or the Emergency Snow Network. The page has a map of ESN routes, and links to the route-specific Service Advisories page and to subscribe to Alerts.

A KUOW report says Seattle has readied its snow plows and has a new map of plowed streets. All the bus streets appear to be on it. This year the city will also start clearing pedestrian access to bus stops. It says Link and Sounder will continue to operate normally during snow.

If you get stuck inside, here are some transit videos to watch:

This is an open thread

(The next open thread will be whenever this one approaches 150 comments)