Simms Takes the Fifth

After watching the news last night and reading the PI, Ron Simms neither supports nor rejects the Roads and Transit Package. Last night on the news Simms said, “This is up to the voters to decide”. Leaving no indication whether he was for or against. Clearly those that want transit don’t want roads and vice versa. Although, I wonder, is this a political game? It was not long ago he was all about Transit Now. He was appearing everywhere and was extremely vocal on his pet project for the County. Is this a pro-bus and anti-rail stance? Who knows?

“I’ve always taken this position,” Sims said Tuesday evening. “I’ve told people in political circles I won’t support or oppose it. It’s a very significant proposal that voters are really going to have to dwell on and think about.”

Sims said his neutral stance on the measure has surprised some, but “people made an assumption” about where he’d stand. “You should never assume things about what I’ll do.”

This sounds like a loose canon statement to me, but I fear this may be a bit of a bump-in-the-road so to speak for the ballot! If people look to their politicians for answers then they will be left in the dark. The ST board is full of politicians that will gladly pose for a wonderful photo-op, but is that their true intentions? Is transit really what their concerned about? Seems not too long ago John Ladenburg was also in the loose canon spot not too long ago if his crossbase highway wasn’t supported.

Papers play up bus safety concerns

This sells papers, so it’s obvious why they write about it:

Welcome back to Seattle’s downtown transit tunnel. Watch your head.

The 1.3-mile tunnel reopens Monday morning after a two-year shutdown for $94 million in upgrades.

There have been some safety questions raised about it, and things are a little different.

When buses start running again in the tunnel, they’ll be on a floor that’s been lowered 8 inches so that doors on light rail trains — scheduled to share the tunnel in two years — will match the boarding platform heights.

This means outside mirrors on buses also will be lower and closer to the height of riders’ heads when the buses pull up to the platform. The bus drivers’ union raised a red flag about the possible hazard, and safety measures were added.

This sounds a lot scarier than it is: anyone with sense knows not to stand within three feet of a ten-ton vehicle approaching at 15 mph. Actually a lot of safety features seemed to have been added to the tunnel:

The retrofit included lowering the roadbed in the stations to accommodate level boarding for passengers using either trains or buses, and installing new electrical, communications, and safety systems. For example, inside the tunnel passengers will benefit from better lighting and signage, more security cameras, and a new public announcement system.

I think the odds of getting “bonked”, as the union officer put it in the p-i article, in the head is not very severe.

About that Poll

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.


That Up Front episode also mentioned a Survey USA poll that King 5 commissioned. At first glance, it showed trouble for the Roads and Transit measure. But look close, and you’ll see that it actually doesn’t cover the same area that will vote on the bill.

The poll asked residents of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. But only a small subset of those counties is in the RTID/ST taxation area (see image at right).

In other words, the survey included a lot of folks who don’t live or work near the proposed projects, and won’t be voting on them anyway.

R&T on Up Front

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

King 5’s Up Front with Robert Mak, our local policy wonk-fest, featured the “Roads and Transit” proposition on Sunday. The “pro” crowd (Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, an R&T spokesman, and a Downtown Business Association representative) were featured along with the usual cast of anti-transit characters (Jim MacIssac, Kemper Freeman, and Emory Bundy). You can watch the show on their website.

There was, in my opinion, a gaping “passion gap” between the “yes” and the “no” sides. The “no” side” is just way more passionate about their arguments than the bureaucrats that are defending the measure. Earl tried gamely in the hard hat tour, but it’s just not her job to be all bubbly about it in the way that the other side is.

This is a problem. The “yes” folks need to get people excited about this measure, not run from the numbers and play defense.

Future of Transit in Seattle

The Seattle Times article today, “Seattle gets a glimpse of its transit future”, is a decent little round-up of the goings-on these few weeks with regard to transit.

• In the South Lake Union area, a red streetcar arrived by truck Monday afternoon, the first of three to begin service in December.

• Two Sounder commuter trains will be added Monday between Seattle and Tacoma, and one will be added to Sounder’s Everett-to-Seattle line.

• Link light-rail trains begin service from downtown to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in the second half of 2009. Train tests inside the tunnel will start in October, on nights and weekends, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said.

• And, high-occupancy vehicle lanes are being added in Everett, Tacoma, on Highway 99 south of the airport and on the Interstate 90 floating bridges.

Also, the bus tunnel reopens next week. Some people are worried the mirrors might start taking people’s heads off now that the tunnel floor has lowered eight inches. It’s funny that the times article spends half the space on unions and danger. Pandering to it’s suburban, anti-transit readership I reckon.

The street car arriving is great news, but I am sure it’s “unfortunate” nickname may actually boost its popularity. It’s a bit stupid anyway, since trolley means any transport with an overhead wire, so the electric buses are actually trolleys too. I guess I shouldn’t be so pedantic.

In other Seattle Transit news, the Elliot Bay Water Taxi has had its service extended through October. I’m not exactly sure why this doesn’t run year ’round. Is it a safety issue? Ridership drop-off?

Bus Tunnel re-opening celebration tomorrow

There are two celebrations marking the bus-tunnels reopening on the 24th. The first is tomorrow at 11:30, and includes a chance to walk through the tunnel. The second is a party at Westlake Park on the 24th itself. From the press release:

What a difference two years makes. After being closed for construction, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel re-opens on-schedule for weekday bus service Monday, Sept. 24, better than ever. In a giant leap forward, the 1.3-mile tunnel has been retrofitted to incorporate Sound Transit’s Link light rail service, which will begin running through the tunnel in 2009. Link will connect downtown Seattle with Sea-Tac Airport, sharing the tunnel with buses. Which means one thing: It’s time to celebrate progress!

Sneak Peek: Press Conference & Public Tours
Tuesday, Sept. 18
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Westlake Station platform & mezzanine, Pine Street & 4th Avenue, Seattle (Enter through Westlake Mall’s Metro Level)

Street Treat: Street Fair & Celebration
Monday, Sept. 24
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Westlake Park, Pine Street & 4th Avenue, Seattle

NW Progressive on Sierra Club’s defeat in Superior Court

At Northwest Progressive, Scott has a thought-provoking post on Sierra Club’s case’s denial by King County Superior court. The Sierra Club, an environmental lobbying/political group, had been trying to add their own “con” argument to the voter’s guide because the con argument that goes with the bill is an anti-rail position. The Sierra Club supports the rail portion of the bill, but opposes the RTID roads portion. The court ruled that the planned con section is within legistlative guidelines, and it is too late to change it.

Scott’s point is very well though out:

The Sierra Club is the only major environmental organization to oppose the measure. The Washington Conservation Voters, the Washington Environmental Council, Futurewise, and other groups dedicated to a sustainable Earth strongly support Roads & Transit.

They believe, as we do, that by investing in fifty miles of new light rail, thirty miles of new high occupancy vehicles lanes, enhancements to Sounder commuter rail, and Park & Ride expansions we can decrease single occupancy vehicle use and improve our transportation choices.

Additionally, by removing dangerous choke points that cause congestion, we can improve the reliability of our bus system and make our roads safer.

The roads section of the bill is mostly freight roads, HOV lanes and is chokepoint improvements. It has very little new roads in it, the major new road, the so-called “cross-base highway”, it does not even full fund. My position is that we will never get a fully baked region rail system if we don’t start it now, and we’ll never get expansions and increased rail systems in the future if we don’t start now. Opposing a bill that creates something we need, light rail, because it has something you don’t really like, roads, is counter-productive because the roads projects are likely to get built anyway by politicians, and they are not likely to build rail on their own accord. I feel like if you’re going to oppose roads being built, you should do it where huge roads projects much worse than this are, and don’t oppose those that are tied to necessary transit improvements.

Should we never build more roads? Should we destroy the ones we have? If you hate roads, than that is the only logical step after the Sierra Club’s argument.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Dogcaught has some interesting notes on the Port of Tacoma and Tacoma Rail, including the Port’s efforts to become the second largest port in the U.S. See here for more on Tacoma’s efforts to dethrone Seattle for the title of busiest port in the Northwest.

Sounder Goes South

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

As we noted in August, Sounder’s first Seattle-to-Tacoma moning run will start Sept. 24th, along with more runs between Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett. Mike Lindblom reports:

Sounder is coming off a strong August, as lane closures on northbound Interstate 5 caused hundreds of new riders to try commuter rail; the south line exceeded 8,000 trips on the busiest days.

The Everett line has been chronically weaker, drawing around 800 weekday trips as of this spring.

With that in mind, I think it might be wise to revisit Erica Barnett’s epic 2001 Seattle Weekly article on Sounder. While 8 trains a say might sound impressive, Barnett notes, “by [2001], nine trains were supposed to be running between Lakewood and Seattle, and six between Seattle and Everett, for 30 one-way runs a day.” For point of reference, the Tac-to-Sea run had only 2500 or so rides back then, compared to over 8,000 today.

I’ll have more on this later, when I can dig into ST’s numbers and see how they’re doing and how they’ve changed over time.

South Viaduct

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

When plans were first announced to rebuild the South end of the Viaduct first and punt on the question of the Northern, and more controversial, half, I was a bit skeptical. The design of the Southern half would certainly influence the decisions that were made up North.

So I’m pleasantly surprised to see the proposed plan, which actually goes out of its way to hug the ground and elevate as little as possible. Money quote:

In the past, the city and state discussed replacing the 1953- vintage viaduct — considered vulnerable in a major earthquake — with a new one, a tunnel or not at all, instead using surface streets to handle the traffic. The new design “can accommodate any of those three features,” as well as connect to the existing structure, [project manager Ron] Paananen said.

And while it’s closed, of course, we’ll all have to figure out new commuting patterns, experimenting with transit options. And maybe some of us will keep using those transit options after the road closure ends.

City of Destiny Train Opens!

Sound Transit opened a the new reverse-commute “City of Destiny” train (a Seattle-to-Tacoma route).
From the press release:

Today Sound Transit announced expanded Sounder commuter rail service starting September 24th that includes two new weekday round trips on the south corridor and one on the north corridor. The new south corridor trains include the introduction of a new “reverse commute” train that will run from Seattle to Tacoma in the morning and return northbound in the evening.

The reverse commute train will for the first time enable commuters to ride Sounder to jobs in South King County and Pierce County. The additional runs expand Sounder service hours in both the north and south corridors, with the first train starting at 5 a.m. and the last train making its final stop at 6:55 p.m.

More trains, more hours, and the new reverse commute train all add up to more choices for commuters who want to ride Sounder commuter rail and leave traffic behind.

Pretty awesome! I have been doing reverse commutes for years, first from San Francisco to San Jose, and now from Seattle to Redmond, and this is going to open possibilities for economic growth through that corridor, and give people more options to work where they want, and live where they please.

So what kind of commutes do you guys have? Anyone else do a reverse commute?

SLU Streetcar On Track

On Harrison, en route to the barn plus my cool shadow!

Harrison and Terry where the last tracks are getting finished
Harrison and Terry view #2

On Westlake between SBRI and Group Health
The Maintenance barn, almost complete

Fairview and Harrison approaching the barn

This may be more of an important issue to me than others here cause I work in South Lake Union, however, the Streetcar is on track to be finished and operating by December. As I was on my bus the other morning my driver was telling me that they were asking for Metro drivers that wanted to drive the streetcar. I guess this is where the seniority rules. My driver has the seniority he says, but he’s holding out for Link. He also said the training for the light rail vehicles is over a week long, where as the training for Streetcars isn’t. I found that interesting. Westlake is literally transforming as we speak, as I write this in fact, they are working to install track beds on certain sections of the line. Westlake Avenue, of which I walk everyday, has been switched to a two way road now, two lanes each direction. This is has been short of a nightmare. I don’t think people quite understand the meaning of the double yellow line? I have seen cars heading southbound slamming on their brakes to avoid accidents, cause people aren’t looking both ways yet. Pedestrians have been dodging cars, meanwhile bikers are huge targets. I have seen near hits. My advice: avoid this area for a few days. I must say though pedestrians on foot have significantly increased and it is completely noticeable. This is different than when I started working in SLU, which was for the most part run down. Group Health is starting to take space in their new building, I imagine others will be on the way shortly. Now it is becoming a transit mecca which if you have ever had to wait for a 17, you are probably as giddy as I am for the streetcar. We were told via email that we could expect testing mid-October-November, and it is on time. I assume this will be after the maintenance barn is completed, which it looks like it is getting there. The streetcar will gain ridership and make the neighborhood much more transit friendly.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Okay, so this is blatant engineering-industry boosterism, but it’s still got some neat stories and engineering geekery on some big transit and other infrastructure projects in and around Seattle. Did you know that the low-level bridge over the Duwamish is the “world’s largest concrete swing bridge”? Now you do!

Tons of gravel! Thousands of cubic yards of dirt! It reads like a Puget Sound version of Modern Marvels.

Time to retire, Van Dyk

I think the expiration date on Van Dyk’s writing has definitely passed:

The local establishment reflexively scorns Eyman. It, too, reflexively endorses proposals opposed by Eyman. Keep Washington Rolling, the front organization backing the Proposition One ballot measure, has drawn big dollars from the contractors, subcontractors and others who eat at Sound Transit’s trough. But it also has gotten $200,000 from Microsoft, $75,000 from the Seattle Mariners, and $50,000 each from PEMCO Insurance Co. and the Washington Association of Realtors, among other donors.

I had to read that five times to make sure I was reading it correctly. Did he just say that Microsoft, Seattle Mariners, Pemco insurance and the Washington Association of Realtors, among others, reflexively donated more than $375,000 to Keep Washington Moving because Tim Eyman opposes it?


That man has become senile. Maybe they donated money because they think it’s a good ballot measure and that it’s passing will mean they will get more than $375,000 worth of benefit out of it. And that just happens to oppose Eyman’s any-progress-is-bad, let’s live like cavemen reality. Eyman just doesn’t want to pay for anything. And we all know a society gets no better than what it’s willing to pay for.

If you can’t see that, Van Dyk, it’s time to get out of the business of writing op-ed pieces.

Sierra Club tries to split up Roads and Transit

Update: Will at horse’s ass sums up the if-we-vote-down-this-we’ll-get-transit-only-next-year argument:

I respect the Sierra Club guys. I don’t disagree with them on most of the facts, it’s their political judgment I question. Most of the people I talked to are convinced that if the Roads and Transit package fails, our elected officials will learn their lesson and give us a transit-only package in ‘08.

In an election year.

With Gov. Gregoire on the ballot.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I find it much more likely that if this package fails, Gov. Gregoire will take care of business. Her business. And that’s SR-520, not Sound Transit. Olympia politicians don’t care about rail, only roads. They’re waiting for an excuse to enact “governance reform,” which will “reform” Sound Transit, alright.

Right out of existence, come next year, if this package goes down

Emphasis theirs.

Original post: I was writing a post about this article when I got a call from my friend at the Sierra club. Basically, she made the same point TroyJMorris made in his comment.

The Sierra Club really doesn’t want it’s name associated with the No on Prop1 campaign, because they agree on essentially nothing other than that neither supports this ballot. And they don’t support it for different reasons, No on Prop1 is a Tim Eyman-style anti-tax agency, especially anti-light rail, while the Sierra Club is actually very pro-light rail and anti-roads.

So the Sierra Club wants to split the ballot up into two proposals, one roads, one transit, so they can endorse the one they actually support, and then there’s a chance that the rail ballot could pass while the roads wouldn’t.

Even if the ballot does get split, I very much doubt that will happen. The roads ballot is almost a sure thing, and splitting them up only weakens rail’s chance.

Other blogs

More on Taxes, Costs

These guys love the line “largest local project in American history” but, it’s pretty easy to see that it isn’t. Someone sent me this link showing what the typical family already pays in transportation taxes.

A Seattle Times review of major transportation taxes estimates that agencies collected an average of $843 per adult in urban areas of King County, including Seattle, last year. The figure for Seattle residents is $881. Roughly half the money went to transit, and half to roads.

Look at the graphic, of the $843 per household, $385 was for transit. Adjust that for transit now (increased property taxes), but eliminate the $30 sound transit car-tab fee has been retired, we stay at $385. So we get about 45% of the average county resident’s transportation tax spent on transit. With Roads and Transit, it would add $250 to each family for transit, and $150 for roads. I kow these are a bit “back-of-the-envelope” because I can’t know the exact number, but that still keeps transit under 50% of transportation spending, not the 90% the gas and concrete crowd crows about.

Things are really bad in terms of transportation here. Commutes just keep getting longer an there’s no reason to waste time will they get worse and our local economy is slowed because of it. That’s what Kemper Freeman doesn’t understand: who’s going to pay for his over-priced downtown Bellevue condos if no one can get anywhere?