Ten years ago today, some 45,000 riders boarded Link light rail for the first time and celebrated a new era in Seattle’s transit history: the long-awaited start to a real rail transit system.
STB was there to cover every angle of the opening weekend (and the first days in revenue service), which are chronicled in loving detail with posts every few hours. There was number counting, a short postmortem, and plenty of photos and comments. There were also dozens of tweets on opening day, with thoughts ranging from porta-potty cleanliness to the fact that three-car trains were there to take passengers that day.
Voters in District 4 are spoiled for choice. Almost all of these candidates might win our sole endorsement if in certain other districts. In this race, it’s almost a given to support more transit, bike lanes, and upzoning single family neighborhoods. To be excellent in this race, candidates have to show both relevant political experience and a commitment to transit and land use in particular.
Cathy Tuttlehas decades of experience managing the planning and successful construction of public works projects. After her city career, she founded and directed Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, who we can thank for the 20 mph speed limit on most streets.
She proposes to institute “climate notes”, similar to fiscal notes, analyzing the climate impact of every proposed city project. She is a housing construction hawk, including her call to re-legalize micro-housing. She wants more dedicated bus lanes and 24-hour bus service, and is as unsympathetic to a “windshield perspective” as can be.
Shaun Scott is a socialist with a streak of transit geekdom — see his 4-part series on Forward Thrust last year. We think he could help bring the social justice coalition in this city to prioritize things like upzones and bus lanes.
Joshua Newman is a former president of Seattle Subway. As one might expect, his platform emphasizes the bus priority and upzones at the core of our agenda for the city. We trust him more than any other candidate to resist neighborhood interests that oppose these measures. His favored revenue source is a higher downtown parking tax, which is about as good as it gets. Furthermore, Seattle Subway (unlike STB) does real retail politics, a useful training ground for the act of building support in the real world.
Emily Myers is a scientist who is emphasizing climate change in her campaign. She was one of the architects of the City’s “Green New Deal” and has built an impressive array of endorsements, so she’ll hit the ground running.
She wants progressively-structured congestion pricing to fund transit. She wants to expedite ST3 and ST4. She also wants to complete the Bicycle Master Plan, using data to prioritize which arterials need protected bike lanes most urgently.
Last week we discussed Limebike raising its prices to 30 cents per minute. Numerous people have, using their apps, since reported a 25-cent rate. A spokesperson for Lime explains that “As we enter the busy summer travel months, we’ve adjusted our pricing in some markets to ensure that our service is reliable and that we can continue to offer excellent operational support where riders demand it most.” Lime did not explain if our commenter’s experience may have been a poorly timed encounter with congestion pricing or some other sort of trial.
Although company statements and materials are cagey about rates, anecdotal evidence from the app suggests that the typical rate is now 25 cents per minute. Though now a 67% increase over earlier in the year instead of 100%, I believe the rest of the analysis in that post stands.
After a series of community meetings the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) and its “Ferry Advisory Committee – Tarriff” (FAC-T) hold every two years, the WSTC is proposing a schedule of fare changes. Various options were presented to the WSTC at its June meeting, before the Commission settled on its proposal to go to the final round of public input.
The main fare policy changes include:
2.5% fare increases for vehicles on October 1, 2019 and May 1, 2020
2% fare increases for passengers on those same dates
a separate 25-cent increase to the “capital surcharge” (which is already 25 cents) on May 1, 2020, dedicated to building a new hybrid diesel/electric ferry. That surcharge increase will be roughly 12 cents for senior, disability, and youth fares.
increased penalties for reservation no-shows starting October 1, 2019
a 3-year pilot project for accepting payment using WSDOT’s Good-to-Go Pass
a 3-year pilot project for a low-income fare category.
In 2017, WSDOT published a feasibility study of high-speed rail (HSR) in the Vancouver-Seattle-Portland corridor. It estimated a $25-42 billion capital cost for a rail line that would carry about 5,000 riders a day in 2035 and would just cover operation costs by sometime in the 2040s. This hardly appeared promising, but was enough to prompt a trickle of funds from the Legislature and regional partners for a “business case” study.
We have obtained a copy of the business case study which WSDOT will send to the Legislature this month. How does it advance our knowledge beyond what we learned in 2017?
In broad terms, the financial outlook for high-speed rail in
this study looks a lot like the numbers presented two years ago. The business
case doesn’t attempt to revisit the capital cost estimates of the earlier study.
Ridership is somewhat better, but break-even on operating costs remains
somewhere in the 2040s.
King County Council will vote on a Park and Ride permit program next week.
by HESTER SEREBRIN, VICKY CLARKE, ALEX BRENNAN, and TIM GOULD
In Seattle, many of us are privileged with easy access to great bus service at any time of day. But the regional reality is pretty different for most folks. Until we are able to fund and build out King County Metro’s long-range plan, which will connect many more neighborhoods to frequent, high-capacity transit via a short walk or bike ride, lots of residents have to rely on driving to a Park and Ride as part of their daily trip.
With increased growth and demand in our region, many of these lots are filling up fast, creating crowding on earlier transit trips, and leaving little to no parking for workers without the flexibility in their schedules to race for one of the limited spaces early each morning. Rather than building more parking lots, parking permits can help manage available space at Park and Rides, encourage carpooling, and create reliability for those who need it.
Next Tuesday, July 16, the King County Council Mobility and Environment committee will vote on a parking permit resolution to offer reserved solo driver parking permits for King County Park and Ride facilities. Join TCC and partners on July 16 at 1:30 pm to testify and show your support for smarter parking management.
This Park and Ride resolution is similar to the policy the Sound Transit Board of Directors approved last year; applications for solo driver permits, including discounted permits for ORCA LIFT riders, are now available for Sound Transit Park and Ride facilities in Northgate, Auburn, Puyallup, Edmonds, and Mukilteo.
Why Park and Ride Permits?
Park and Ride lots are convenient transfer areas that make transit more accessible for people who do not live near a bus or light rail route. Until we have a more robust transit network, Park and Rides are one tool to relieve congestion and promote the use of public transportation. All riders and taxpayers pay hidden costs for expensive parking infrastructure, and building more parking will only occupy land that can be used to build housing near high-frequency transit. Parking permits can help manage parking demand and curb the need to build endless parking lots. Without parking fees, parking costs impact all users, including those arriving by foot, bike, or bus, while only benefiting those who drive.
Link service to Everett remains 17 years away from its estimated completion date, but the narrowing of station options is already progressing at the county level. Snohomish County is soliciting another round of public comments for its light rail station subarea plans, which cover the two stations in unincorporated area between Lynnwood and Everett: Ash Way (164th Street Southwest) and Mariner (128th Street Southwest). These two stations mark the end of the “easy” section of Everett Link, with an opportunity to open early if the stars align.
The second open house, which we reported on in November, drew 3,000 online visitors and narrowed down the set of options per station from three to two. Respondents to surveys about both stations also ranked their priorities in choosing station options, placing Swift and bus connections above the likes of sidewalk/trail access, TOD opportunities, and bike access. The responses from this third open house will be used to shape the subarea plan that will be presented by the county to Sound Transit for further consideration, which will likely involve a good deal being lost to the Seattle process.
Regional leaders are nearing agreement on Vision 2050, a growth plan for the Puget Sound area through 2050. On Thursday, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is likely to approve the release of a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS). The new plan significantly shifts the distribution of regional growth to concentrate around high-capacity transit centers.
Once adopted by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the plan’s requirements will cascade down through county and city plans to growth targets and zoning changes for every city in the region.
The Vision 2050 plan will ramp up expectations for future housing and employment needs, reflecting how the rapid growth of recent years has blown through the targets set in the Vision 2040 plan in 2008. The Vision 2040 FEIS foresaw a population just shy of 5 million by 2040. More current forecasts anticipate the region will hit 5.33 million by then, and 5.82 million by 2050. There’s a lot of growth to be accommodated just to catch up with the deficit in the last plan. The pessimistic regional view in 2008 perhaps contributed to today’s housing shortage by setting growth targets too low to accommodate the boom of the 2010s.
Earlier this summer, a draft SEIS laid out three options. All options raise the overall targets to keep up with the higher forecast, but each lays out a different path for reaching those targets.
The middle option, “Stay the Course”, would continue the policies in the current Vision 2040 plan. That generally has the highest growth rates in the largest ‘metropolitan’ cities, with progressively lower growth rates in larger suburbs, smaller suburbs, and rural areas. A less concentrated growth alternative “Reset Urban Growth” would alter targets to more closely fit actual growth patterns. As we’ll see, some parts of the region have experienced a growth profile very different from the plan, and the “Reset Urban Growth” would arguably recognize those trends.
The more concentrated growth alternative offered was “Transit Focused Growth”. This alternative recognizes the massive investments in regional transit since the last plan was adopted in 2008, and pushes more growth into the vicinity of light rail and BRT stations.
[CLARIFICATION 7/15/19: anecdotal evidence suggests that most people are quoted a rate of 25 cents a minute.]
Last week, frequent commenter asdf2 made an important observation:
On another note, the per-minute price to ride a Lime bike has now gone up again to $0.30/min., exactly double what it was just 6 weeks ago. Assuming 6-8 minutes per mile (which is about as good as you expect for a route with stoplights), this translates into a marginal cost of $1.50-$2.10 for each additional mile traveled – a figure that is now *higher* than the marginal cost per mile riding in a Lyft or Uber car with a paid driver.
(I don’t know if Jump has matched this price increase or not, as neither their website nor their app discloses their prices).
SDOT is planning two more bus lane additions under their “spot improvements” program.
This winter, SDOT plans to add a half block or so of westbound bus lane along N 45th St west of Stone Way. Only the 44 uses that stretch of road, around six buses per hour, just before it slips over to 46th.
Community Transit has long discussed its plans to radically restructure its commuter and local bus networks in anticipation of Lynnwood Link, and its first concepts were presented to the Snohomish County Council this week. First noticed last month by The Urbanist, the agency briefed the County Council on its preliminary plans for its 600,000 annual service hours, including a portion saved from avoiding the long slog on Interstate 5 south of the county line.
By and large, the commuter network would be truncated to Lynnwood City Center and Mountlake Terrace stations, which will both include large bus transfer areas. At Lynnwood City Center (today’s Lynnwood TC), Community Transit anticipates that commuter and local buses will arrive and depart from one of its bays every 35 seconds during peak periods, traveling out to Interstate 5 via its direct HOV ramp or onto nearby streets. The station will have 20 layover spaces for double-decker buses that will be held to meet Link trains as they arrive at the station.
Danny Westneat, in a very good Seattle Timescolumn last week, tears into the hypocrisy of parking being built at downtown and SLU corporate campuses, particularly Expedia:
This two-step between quietly nodding to our car-focused reality while espousing the greenest dreams perfectly captures what passes for transportation planning in the Emerald City.
We wish you wouldn’t drive, the government announces. But we know you’re gonna, the private market whispers in echo.
In fact the market is so certain you’ll drive that it’s building more space for your cars at this new high-tech campus than will fit in the garage at the Mariners’ stadium.
1000% agree. Developers are building a ton of new garages but no new road capacity. It’s worse than pointless. Seattle does have regulations that attempt to curb the amount of parking constructed in high-transit neighborhoods, but they’re not aggressive enough.
Later in the column, though, Westneat laments the lack of transit options to Expedia:
My view is that Seattle desperately needs more mass transit faster, to give better alternatives to all this driving. I’m a longtime fan of forcing this change sooner by turning some car lanes over to true mass transit, such as buses or light rail (not piddly stuff like the streetcar).
Yes, it’s true the train to Expedia is 16 years away. But it’s important to note that Expedia does have a very frequent bus: the D line. There’s also the 19/24/33 on Elliott. Unfortunately, both corridors have only intermittent transit priority. The D Line needs exclusive lanes through Uptown, and/or an Express variant, and the others need full-time bi-directional bus lanes all the way from Interbay to Denny Way.
The column prompted me to reach out to SDOT, where I learned that D Line and Elliott Avenue improvements are being studied this year as part of the ST3-funded “quick wins” (remember those? Still coming!) for Ballard and West Seattle. When Expedia first announced their move in 2015, SDOT also told us that they would consider off-peak bus priority on Elliott. As far as I can tell from Google Street View, nothing has changed since 2015: it’s still peak-only BAT lanes that end well short of Denny. If we want to make a dent in driving, we have to do more, and it’s disappointing that so little progress has been made in the four years since the Expedia announcement.
(In fairness, I’ll take a mulligan on this one as well: when I listed places to add bus lanes last fall, Elliott didn’t make the cut. I mistakenly assumed it was already a done deal.)
If SDOT does come back next year with a proposal for improving bus service on Elliott and in Uptown, there will no doubt be opposition from local businesses in those corridors. When that happens, it will be helpful to have Seattle Times opinion columnists, and not just us lowly bloggers, pushing back.
Community Transit and Everett Transit are rolling out new low-income fares today, expanding the reach of the ORCA LIFT program that debuted in 2015, and expanded upon Kitsap Transit’s low-income fare program in place since 1985.
If your household income is 200% or less of the federal poverty level, you qualify for this low-income discount program. Both Snohomish County transit agencies are partnering with the Department of Social and Health Services at various locations to do the qualification process (which also started today). You may qualify for and get access to additional benefits while there. There are also lots of locations around King County that process qualification.
The ORCA LIFT card is free the first time for those who qualify, and then $3 for a replacement. Youth ORCA cards (for riders 6-18 years old) are usually $3, but the fee is waived if you get a youth card for someone in your household while getting the ORCA LIFT card.
The ORCA LIFT discount is good for two years before you have to requalify. The expiration date will be stamped on the card. After that, the card reverts to being a regular ORCA card.
Once you qualify, obtain your card, and load cash value or a monthly pass onto the card, your card account will be charged the following amounts when using the ORCA LIFT card.
$5.00 on eastbound Kitsap Transit foot ferries from Seattle to Bremerton and Kingston
$1.00 on westbound Kitsap Transit foot ferries
$1.00 on intra-county Kitsap Transit foot ferries
$1.00 on Kitsap Transit buses
Monthly passes cost $9 per 25 cents of single-ride fare. So, for example, a $54 monthly pass covers the first $1.50 in fare for each ride. For services charging a higher fare than what is covered by your monthly pass, only the difference between the higher fare and the fare the pass covers will be charged. ORCA transfers are good for 2 hours, among all ORCA agencies except Washington State Ferries.
However, you have to use loaded ORCA product on the card in order to get the ORCA LIFT discount.
Pierce Transit and Washington State Ferries are the remaining members of the ORCA pod that do not have a low-income fare. Pierce Transit charges $2 regular fare, which is also what gets charged to ORCA LIFT cards. Washington State Ferries not only charges much more for any of their services in one direction (and free in the other), but also does not accept inter-agency transfers or passes.
See the table at this previous post for the current fares for all payer categories throughout the ORCA pod, except for Washington State Ferries.