Most fully-suspended routes to come back in October

King County Metro has some stickers to peel

The last time Metro has ran a “normal” level of service was March 22, 2020. Beginning March 23rd, King County Metro started operating reduced levels of service (not to be confused with reduced capacity, which Metro recently ended). These initial reductions, made with little process and planning, were adjusted over the next several months to match ridership and service needs. While the presence of financial trouble for Metro was foreseeable from the beginning, it was the service change of September 2020 (which we called Metro’s darkest day) when the focus of the reductions really shifted from lower ridership to lower revenues, and that is what drives the level of service to this day.

At the middle of 2020, Metro was pessimistic about the future, and was convinced that yet more service reductions would need to happen in 2021 and 2022, making an already bleak future for transit in the region even worse. Fortunately however, revenues have picked back up faster than expected, with additional resources provided by the American Rescue Plan. As a result, Metro has been slowly increasing service levels in 2021, and will provide a larger increase in service levels starting with the October 2nd, 2021 service change. These were covered in a recent King County Council Regional Transit Committee meeting, in which there was a presentation with an overview of the restored service (with a follow-up meeting planned for July 21st, to discuss further restorations in 2022). And in good news for those who have been patiently waiting for fully suspended service to return, this includes bringing back 22 of the 40 fully suspend routes (not including custom and school routes).

Continue reading “Most fully-suspended routes to come back in October” | 48 comments

Seattle Subway August 2021 Primary Endorsements

Our August 2021 Primary endorsements are finally ready! Just in time, with ballots dropping today. We tried to gather as much information as we could by hosting forums (Position 9 & Mayoral), sending out questionnaires (City & County), and keeping in mind track records and our prior meetings with candidates during our constant advocacy work. We endorsed the following candidates who will appear on your August 3rd Primary ballot because we felt they rose above the rest when we simplified things and asked ourselves: who are the one or two very best candidates for transit in each race? Endorsements here don’t necessarily mean other candidates aren’t strong in their own right, but we felt they had further to go to become our best transit champions. Don’t forget to mail your ballot before August 3rd or drop your ballot in a dropbox before 8:00pm on August 3rd. We will also update these endorsements for the General Election in November.

Continue reading “Seattle Subway August 2021 Primary Endorsements” | 108 comments

Next Generation ORCA Begins Next Year

Customer-facing launch phases for next generation ORCA
Current ORCA, today
New website and mobile app, early 2022, new app and website
More payment options, Late 2022, new card, tap to pay with phone, new vending machines, readers, and retailers
Retire current card, 2023 or later
Sound Transit Rider Experience & Operations Committee, 5/9/21

Sound Transit announced that the long awaited upgrade to ORCA, the Puget Sound’s regional fare collection system, will launch in phases beginning in early 2022.

The next generation system will introduce many new conveniences. Card reloads will be instantaneous. There will be more than double the retail locations to buy and reload cards, a much improved website with better account management, and a new mobile app that will allow tap-to-pay using a phone.

The first phase is the launch of a new website, myORCA.com, and a new myORCA mobile app for managing accounts in early 2022. Existing cards and equipment will continue to function as normal.

Accounts on the old site will not transfer over to the new site so registered cardholders will have to create a new account. The launch of the new website marks the switchover to the next generation backend system, which means new or replacement adult cards will drop in price from $5 to $3.

By late 2022, the next generation ORCA card will be available through the usual channel, including an expanded retail network, and mobile app users can skip the physical card and tap their smartphone to pay.

Next generation ORCA card being tapped on a reader with new logo
Dennis Budell/Sound Transit

Next generation ORCA also introduces a fresh new look for the brand, designed in house at Sound Transit by Dennis Budell. The colors selected “represent the natural colors of an orca as well as the vibe of Puget Sound”. The new card design is orca black with splashes of seafoam green, misty blue, yellow, and orange, replacing the blue with rainbow ribbons of the old card. The ORCA logo itself is streamlined with rounder text and a more stylized fin that looks like a curved arrow tracing the path of a leaping orca.

Installation of new card readers is underway, with mounts for the new readers appearing on buses, some even at the back door of RapidRide coaches. New ticket machines are also being delivered. Old cards and equipment will be retired after 2023 as they reach the end of their life.

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Weekend open thread: Welcome Northgate, Roosevelt and U District

Sound Transit launched a colorful and playful new website introducing the Northgate Link extension in advance of its October 2 opening. Featured are “local gems” or unique activities that each of the three new stations offer.

No details of the festivities on Opening Day are available, yet, but there’s no doubt that transit fans from all around the region and maybe even the country will join in.

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YOUTUBE LIVE FEED 7pm: Seattle Subway / STB Citywide City Council Position 9 Forum

YouTube Live available above. Also streaming on Seattle Subway’s profiles on:
Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/SeattleSubway/
Facebook at: https://facebook.com/SeattleSubway/

REGISTER TO ATTEND via Zoom TONIGHT: bit.ly/SeaSubCouncil

Starts between 7pm and 7:15pm due to the candidates having an earlier commitment.

With ST3 realignment looming, BRT and Center City Connector projects at stake, and an entire post-pandemic transit recovery to manage, NEW Seattle leadership from upcoming 2021 Mayoral and City Council elections MUST deliver on critical transit investments for us to reach our 2030 climate change benchmarks, escape traffic misery, and equitably serve all people.

In response, Seattle Subway is co-hosting two virtual rapid transit forums with Seattle Transit Blog. Our second forum will be for the Position 9 City Council race, to understand the stances of candidates for citywide council position 9 on a wide range of mass transit-related issues:

Seattle Subway Position 9 Forum, moderated by Michelle Baruchman

TONIGHT, Wednesday, July 7, 2021
The forum begins at 7:00pm and as late as 7:15pm due to the candidates having an earlier commitment
The forum ends by 8:15pm

REGISTER to attend via Zoom: bit.ly/SeaSubCouncil

See you TONIGHT at the (virtual) forum!

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Position 9 City Council Forum Tonight

Candidates (left to right): Brianna Thomas, Nikkita Oliver, and Sara Nelson.

FORUM TONIGHT! REGISTER NOW TO ATTEND VIA ZOOM

With ST3 realignment looming, BRT and Center City Connector projects at stake, and an entire post-pandemic transit recovery to manage, NEW Seattle leadership from upcoming 2021 Mayoral and City Council elections MUST deliver on critical transit investments for us to reach our 2030 climate change benchmarks, escape traffic misery, and equitably serve all people.

In response, Seattle Subway is co-hosting two virtual rapid transit forums with Seattle Transit Blog. Our second forum will be for the Position 9 City Council race, to understand the stances of candidates for citywide council position 9 on a wide range of mass transit-related issues:

🚃 Seattle Subway Position 9 Forum, moderated by Michelle Baruchman

TONIGHT, Wednesday, July 7, 2021
The forum begins at 7:00pm and as late as 7:15pm due to the candidates having an earlier commitment
The forum ends by 8:15pm

REGISTER for Zoom information: bit.ly/SeaSubCouncil

See you at the (virtual) forum!

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Transit agencies restore full vehicle capacity

Closed seats on King County Metro (Wikimedia)

On King County Metro, starting today, transit capacity is restored to 100%. Pierce Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Washington State Ferries have restored capacity a few days earlier on July 1. For Sound Transit Link Light Rail and ST Express routes operated by Metro, capacity is restored today, and other ST service (including Tacoma Link and Sounder) restored full capacity on July 1st. This change came quickly after governor Jay Inslee formally reopened the state on June 30th as planned, lifting most state-wide restrictions (though not affecting public transportation). Though a welcome change, this does not affect the mask mandate. Masks are still required to be worn on all public transportation services.

Continue reading “Transit agencies restore full vehicle capacity” | 79 comments

Sound Transit seeks to understand cost failures

Light rail tracks running toward Northgate Transit Center (Lizz Giordano)

Sound Transit 3 is not going to match the stellar project delivery record of Sound Transit 2 barring a bailout from another government or the economy. In attempt to understand the cost estimation failures that got us to this point, on June 24th ST accepted the report of consultants asked to investigate why (report, slides, video).

The report points out parts of ST’s own cost estimation methodology that it did not follow during initial project estimation in 2015 and 2016. In particular, ST did not seek a second opinion on costs and did not sufficiently invovle its own Real Estate division in determining acquisition costs.

It’s a long report and hard to summarize. It identified eight key drivers of the increases between “phase 1” and “phase 2” estimates, and was able to assign a subjective importance to five of them:

Continue reading “Sound Transit seeks to understand cost failures” | 118 comments

Realignment grinds towards a conclusion

On June 24th, ST Board Chair Kent Keel presented a proposed “realignment” plan that pushes back projects to account for dramatically inflated cost estimates (video, materials). This is a “starting point”, in his words, but we are past the point of staff-driven alternatives and indecisive argument about principles and priorities.

Virtually all projects have suffered roughly 2 years of Covid-related planning delay. Tier 1 projects are full-speed ahead except for that. Tier 2 projects will execute planning and right-of-way acquisition on schedule, getting them to “shovel-ready” as quickly as possible in case more money comes in. But the plan assumes up to 4 years of delay waiting for money to accumulate (for a total of 6). Tier 3 doesn’t pause until after purchase of “strategic ROW”, with up to 9 total years of delay. ST would pause Tier 4 immediately, leading to at least 10 years of total delay. The end of ST3 moves from 2041 to 2046 — a 30 year program.

If realignment skeptics like Dow Constantine are right, and revenue increases more than models currently say, we could expect all of the light rail and Stride to see no more than the current 2-year delay.

Continue reading “Realignment grinds towards a conclusion” | 137 comments

Light rail cascades into Snohomish County

Light rail tracks running toward Northgate Transit Center (Lizz Giordano)
Lynnwood Link Extension (Sound Transit)

Light rail tracks now snake north along I-5, more than a year and a half after Sound Transit broke ground on the Lynnwood Link Extension. Stations take shape as crews place girders for light rail’s long-awaited descent into Snohomish County.

In late May, crews installed the last of the 188 columns that line the 8.5-mile Lynnwood Link Extension. Girder spans are 75% complete, with 94 of 126 in place. Sound Transit projects daily ridership along the four-station extension could reach 55,000 just a few years after opening in 2024.

The track towers over I-5 as it rollercoasters its way from Northgate to the first of two stations in Shoreline. A provisional station at NE 130th, part of ST3, will eventually bridge that gap.

Continue reading “Light rail cascades into Snohomish County” | 162 comments

Few issues separate candidates in forum

Last night’s Seattle Subway/STB mayoral forum was narrowly focused on transit and land use issues. The moderator, Publicola‘s Erica C. Barnett, did a tremendous job keeping things on time and on track. As with most forums of this nature, the fundamental tension was between questions trying to elicit an interesting response and candidates trying not to say anything too interesting.

Watching the one-hour video is probably worth your time. If not, here are some impressions.

Continue reading “Few issues separate candidates in forum” | 46 comments

YouTube LIVE FEED: STB’s & Seattle Subway’s Mayoral Forum

By SEATTLE SUBWAY

YouTube Live available above. Also streaming on Seattle Subway’s profiles on:
Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/SeattleSubway/
Facebook at: https://facebook.com/SeattleSubway/

REGISTER TO ATTEND via Zoom at 7pm TONIGHT on Zoom: bit.ly/SeaSubMayoral

With ST3 realignment looming, BRT and Center City Connector projects at stake, and an entire post-pandemic transit recovery to manage, NEW Seattle leadership from upcoming 2021 Mayoral election MUST deliver on critical transit investments for us to reach our 2030 climate change benchmarks, escape traffic misery, and equitably serve all people with public transit.

Continue reading “YouTube LIVE FEED: STB’s & Seattle Subway’s Mayoral Forum” | 13 comments

Watch the Seattle Subway/STB mayoral forum tonight

We’re proud to co-sponsor a mayoral forum with a focus on transit and land use issues with Seattle Subway, tonight at 7pm. The seven candidates are Andrew Grant Houston, Jessyn Farrell, Lorena González, Lance Randall, Colleen Echohawk, Casey Sixkiller, and Bruce Harrell.

It will stream online on Facebook (Seattle Subway page), Twitter (@SeattleSubway), and here at the blog. You can also register in order to view it on Zoom and potentially get a question in.

You can join as early as 6pm.

Many thanks to Erica Barnett of Publicola for moderating.

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Tacoma Link to be closed for 9 days starting June 21

Tacoma Link construction in the Stadium district (image: Sound Transit)

Tacoma Link light rail is expanding to the Stadium district and Hilltop. While the new stations don’t open until next year, work is well underway expanding what is now a 1.5-mile line connecting the Tacoma Dome to downtown. To support this expanded future service, Tacoma Link will be closed from June 21 to 29 to connect the existing line to the new, larger operation and maintenance facility.

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Link frequencies will increase on June 12

Sound Transit:

Good news, Link riders: light rail frequency will increase starting June 12. 

Link will run every eight minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes during midday and weekends to help passengers get where they want to go – and return to their normal routines. 

During late evenings, Link will run every 15 minutes.

Currently, Link runs every 12 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours, with frequency every 30 minutes in late evenings.

One more step towards normal.

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Improving Metro bus schedules with Link connections

One feature of some of King County Metro’s paper schedules is the inclusion of connections to downtown Seattle as part of the timetable. It is also available on the PDF versions of the schedules, which is the same as the paper ones. This is done on certain routes where a transfer to downtown Seattle is common. Here is an example:

The timetable for route 187 includes connections to routes 577 and 578 (image: King County Metro)

While this example makes it painfully obvious that some connections just don’t work very well (such as the 29 minute wait coming from Seattle on the last trip), the fact that this is included does make it easier to use for someone who wants to get to Seattle. They don’t need to open up two different schedules to find how their trip will go; they just need this one. What if King County Metro did something similar for connections to Link?

Continue reading “Improving Metro bus schedules with Link connections” | 44 comments