ST 2.1

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Well, this is certainly disappointing. I sure wish we’d voted for Prop 1 last fall, but I’m willing to let bygones be bygones. If I can get over not having a monorail up and running by now, I can get over the fact that Sound Transit will have to significantly scale back its ambitions.

So we’re looking at either something like this (pdf) or this (also pdf).

Obviously getting to Overlake is critical. But we also have our own transit needs here inside the city of Seattle. Maybe it would be better focus attention on a system within the city, especially on the Ballard-West Seattle side. You know, like a streetcar. Except one that ran on its own right-of-way, not in the street.

Sound Transit Workshop

I went to the Sound Transit workshop today, and it was interesting to see the various proposals. Here’s a pdf of the presentation.

  • I was disappointed that more Sounder service to Tacoma wasn’t included (the biggest increase was to just 15 daily round-trips), though that route is at or near capacity already. I guess this is because BNSF won’t give much more potential service on that route?
  • It was interesting to see that none of the plans proposed light rail south of Des Moines, which is really only one station south of Sea-Tac, or north of Northgate which is only three stations north of UW station. This is probably okay, I don’t know the ridership numbers exactly, but I doubt you’d get a lot of riders. The largest plan still had light-rail to Overlake (though not Redmond).
  • Nearly everybody there I spoke with seemed to think 2010 was the time to go back to ballot, which was what I have been leaning toward as well, with the recession and all. The one thing that could change my mind, is would be if Obama gets the nomination, he would drive young voters to the polls and vastly increase the likelihood of it passing in 2008.
  • I was suprised to see things I had never heard of before, like a Everett Streetcar (Everett Link?), Tacoma Link extensions to TCC, and a Northgate Freeway BRT station (where that would get built, I have no idea).
  • There was one Eastside Rail proposal, though I still think this is a bad idea, since most of the path is single-way and tops speeds are about 15 mph.

This map shows what the districts could look like if Mary Margaret Haugen’s bill passes.

Here’s a TNT article about it from the Pierce County perspective. Is it just me, or is TNT much better than at least the Times and probably the PI as well?
Did anyone else go?

Possible Metro Strike

Erica C Barnett mentions a possible Metro strike, because the union did not accept the county’s last contract. That’s a scary thought. I hope it doesn’t happen or I might be working from home for a considerable time. However, I don’t agree with the “refusing to pay fare” comment though. The FTA provisions that if you accept FTA money, you have to excuse people who make reasonable attempts to pay but can’t afford it. It’s a public service after all.

What would you do if Metro striked?

I-90, Hwy 2, I-84 all Closed…. Blewett Next?

All of the major Highways are closed and if you want to go East, there is no easy way of doing that.

I-90 is closed at Snoqualmie Pass due to very heavy snow and avalanche dangers
Hwy 2 is closed at Stevens Pass/Scenic/Berne due to very heavy snow and avalanche dangers
I-84 is closed near the Umatila Indian Reservation.

Is Blewett next?

M/V Christine Anderson Sea Trails starts Monday

I call the ferry it’s proper name… News calls it the Steilacoom II… but Sea Trails will begin between Port Townsend and Keystone. The tests will last a few weeks to see how the ferry handles the waterway and most importantly docking at Keystone. This will also go with training for the boats.

I wonder how long until we see pictures of a 20 foot swell going over the bow of this thing

New Bus Schedules

One period in the bus rider’s life that is pregnant with anticipation is the days before the new schedule comes out. As someone who has two non-ideal transfers to get to work, I’m always hopeful that the schedule will be tweaked in such a way so as to make my life a lot easier.

As someone who also works in a very poorly-served area, I’m also eternally hopeful that the service will get better. The comment period in 2005 about major Eastside service revisions got my hopes up, but as usual Metro planning is opaque when they’re not specifically asking for your opinion.

I’m usually disappointed.

Today the new schedules came out. Check here to see what lines are affected beginning Feb. 9. Sound Transit’s new schedule booklet is available here.


  • Tacoma LINK runs later on weekdays, and with more frequency (and fewer hours) on Sundays.
  • Rte 248 replaces the part of Rte 540 east of Kirkland, and extends to Avondale Rd.
  • Rte 221 is a new Route from Eastgate to Education Hill (Redmond) via 148th Ave.
  • Routes 8 and 70 have more frequent service to SLU, thanks to some of the employers in the area.

A mini-RTID?

According to the Everett Herald, Snohomish County is mulling over a local transportation improvement district using the authority they have under the bill that created RTID.

It’s unclear how the various bills that would revoke RTID’s authority come into play here.

Good thing we voted down light rail to get rid of RTID! At least it’s early, so no reason to panic.

via Sound Politics.


This has already been linked in the comments, but I highly recommend this UW website about some pros and cons involving ORCA.

As this is likely to affect a large number of us, and there some privacy issues, it’s worth paying attention to.

I’m one of those people who are willing to trade a little bit of privacy for a few bucks and a lot of convenience, so I’m not unduly alarmed. However, it is nice to know exactly what I’m giving up.

More HB 3311

It looks like Judy Clibborn won’t let the bill hit the floor, because I guess she wants her constituents to have to pay for the state’s roads I guess.

Original Post

From the DJC, they have specific information about the taxing abilities brought up in HB 3311.

House Bill 3311 would allow a regional transit authority to levy an 0.8 percent motor vehicle excise tax and an 0.4 percent sales tax if both were approved by voters. The transit authority could also tax retail car rentals at a rate of 2.172 percent and impose annual car tab fees of up to $100.

Sound Transit currently levies an 0.3 percent MVET tax, an 0.4 percent sales tax, and an 0.8 percent car rental tax.

HB 3311 now goes to the House Transportation Committee

I think the article is wrong on the point that they can only get a .4% sales tax with voter approval, because they were asking for .5% in Prop. 1 for RTA.

King Street Station update

For those curious on the track construction going on at King Street Station in Seattle. The new tracks, which will be used for freight trains and Sounder Commuter trains will start it’s “cutover” in June of 2008. This date however has changed a few times since it was originally announced but tentatively speaking, it “should” be around the Summer time.

Once the track work is finished, work will start on extending the Sounder platform to allow for longer train sets or multiple train sets.

The current arrangement in the long term doesn’t support the expected growth slated for King Street Station, which also includes Amtrak. The furthest stud track – King Street 7, will get a passenger platform that could be used for Sounder trains for the Seahawks or Mariners. That is still up in the air though and still would be a few years out but it would prevent the walking up and over the Weller Street overpass to either stadium.

Looking at the second photo above, the 3 tracks (L-R, Main 2, Main 1, King Street 1) will continue straight to the new connection. The platform will extend about 80-160 feet. King Street 2 will be extended and connected to the stub switch (middle of photo) This will allow direct access to King Street for the commuter trains.

Speeds will increase from 20mph to 30 or 40mph but that is pending on the Lander Street Overpass project

More information on the project can be found here
and here…

The Enemy of My Enemy is my Friend

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The Seattle Times editorial board is generally opposed to taxes. People who use Zipcar/Flexcar are specifically opposed to the extra-high taxes they pay to use that service. So, naturally, the two agree that taxes on car sharing services are bad.

(Mike from CIS reports on the bill after spending the day in Olympia)

I’m generally supportive of the view that the state should incentivize car sharing. But I gotta say, I find the exorbinant taxes we levy on people who don’t vote — 9.7% on car rentals, a staggering 15.6% on hotels, etc. — kinda annoying. I can’t say I blame the legislature too much. It’s hard to raise revenue, and apparently Tim Eyman neverrents a car or stays in a hotel in Seattle, so that’s what gets taxed. And the revenues do fund worthy local institutions, after all.

The Park-and-Ride Dilemma

At the meet-up, we had a short discussion of suburban park-and-rides that got me thinking. Giant parking garages are really a double-edged sword.

First, I’d like to dismiss the utopian-environmental argument that potential train riders will take the bus to the park-and-ride if there is inadequate parking. This is nuts. The whole idea of using transit for strictly local travel doesn’t really take off until non-car-ownership is a reasonably convenient option, which it most definitely is not in the suburbs. People spurned at the garage will drive to work. So you’re losing ridership, short term.

On the other hand, as Ben pointed out to me this weekend, put too many parking spaces around a station, and you suppress transit-oriented development (TOD). I grew up not far from the Shady Grove terminus of the DC Metro, which has 5,467 parking spaces (!) that totally surround the station Dodger Stadium-style. Now, the rules are a bit different for the end of the line, because you want to capture all those people driving from points north, but it’s been over 20 years now and I can’t help but notice the lack of TOD around that station.

So there’s a definite short-term vs. long-term tension there: put in too little parking, and no one rides your system; put it too much, and you end up suppressing the TOD that’s one of the big benefits of rail in the first place.

There are a couple of courses of action this points to:

(1) Build vertically. If you must have lots of parking, build that garage high so as to not take away vital real estate from long term development options.

(2) Manage demand. As I’ve mentioned previously, a nominal parking fee may allow to utilize resources more effectively. For a buck or two, someone who actually would consider taking a bus, bicycle, or walking, might choose the alternate mode instead of going for the most convenient option. A dollar or two also won’t discourage too many people from riding.

As a fringe benefit, this kind of demand management could fund electronic signs to let drivers know when the lot is full, reducing commuter frustration. As commenters from a previous post suggested, this is a major bummer when you have a train to catch.

Answer to the ORCA question

Last year, I asked, “what happened to Orca?”, central Puget Sound’s “One Regional Card for All”. The card was supposed to be usable on all public transportation in the region, but was already a year late when I asked that question, almost a year ago.

Well, thanks to anonymous in the comments, we find via Kiro that ORCA is in serious jeopardy thanks to the troubles the vendor, Australia-based ERG Group, is having with the Sydney regional government.

Every city has one of these card systems, I’m amazed that our area just can’t move to another vendor. What do you guys think?

How Smart is Your Card?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

A press release on KC Metro’s website says:

By 2006, passengers will be able to easily transfer from one system to another without digging in their pockets for extra fares and tickets. It will just take a wave of a “smart card” embedded with a microchip that automatically calculates any fare due. The cards can be reloaded and used indefinitely, and will eliminate the current system of more than 300 types of tickets, passes and tokens.

Well, as you can see, it’s 2008 and the fabled ORCA card is not here yet (and is probably a year or more away). What happened?

Well, KIRO says that the problem could be the contractor, ERG. ERG was recently fired by the city of Sydney, Australia, for completely failing to deliver a smart card for that city, after 5 years of delays.

ERG has pushed back hard, countersuing the city and arguing that it was bureaucratic disinterest and incompetence that doomed the project. The company also designed Hong Kong’s Octopus Card, which by all accounts is incredible successful, so I wouldn’t be so quick to put all the blame on them.

Metro Route 17

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Larry Lange reports on some proposed changes to Route 17 in Ballard. Some residents are opposed:

They’ve sent out notices of the meeting, arguing that the change will mean fewer buses on 32nd during the day and evenings, and seeking Metro statistics to justify the proposal. The notices question how making service less usable in their neighborhood is compatible with combating global warming.

They question why Metro is scaling back service on 32nd when voters in 2006 approved a major Metro expansion. Dublin says Ballard is growing, as shown in its burgeoning number of apartments and condominiums, and Metro just reported a record-setting growth in ridership overall.

“To me it is kind of a red flag when you’re getting ridership like this, to be cutting back in this neighborhood,” he said.

Obviously locals will fight any proposed change, whether it’s for increased density or decreased bus service. That’s not in and of itself a bad thing, and it’s something public servants have to weigh with every decision. This is why we have these public comment periods.

But the group’s thinking here is not very logical. With respect to global warming, one has to ask the inverse question: how effective is it to have a bus that gets 3.5mpg rolling up and down 32nd Ave with one or two passengers? I’m definitely in favor of using effects on global warming as a metric for land-use planning, but there has to be some sense to it.

Finally, I’ll just add a note to anti-bus people who complain every time they see nearly-empty bus trolling down the street, that this is an example of how difficult it is to reduce service on some of these routes.

Another Transit Bill in Olympia?

Update, see below.
Bill 3311 will be brought today. Sponsors are Representatives Simpson (who wrote we should raise the gas tax to pay for roads), Pedersen, Sullivan, Kirby, Kenney, Williams, Conway, Eddy, Hasegawa, Cody, Nelson, Hudgins, Sells, Ericks, Wallace, Appleton, Rolfes and Chase.

I don’t have any details about the bill, but its title is “Concerning regional transportation governing authorities”. Should be interesting!

Here’s the bill, House Bill 3311. Its main effects are to strike-out the RTID language, effectively destroying RTID, and possible bringing back Sound Transit’s MVET authority. This is definitely a good, pro-transit bill.

The language in the bill is pretty dramatic. My favorite line is right in the beginning:

The legislature acknowledges that it has historically been, and should continue to be, the responsibility of the state to prioritize and fund the costs of repairs, replacement, and construction of state transportation facilities.

I love it! Don’t let the state off the hook for paying for its own roads.

Here’s some goodness related to Sound Transit in general:

The legislature recognizes that the regional transit authority (STB: Sound Transit) serving the central Puget Sound area has been effective in implementing regional transportation projects that have significantly improved mobility in the region.

And some specific love for light rail:

The legislature further finds that a fully completed light rail line running through the state’s largest city would serve substantially more commuters from the northern and southern parts of the central Puget Sound area and would reduce congestion along the most heavily congested streets and highways in the state. Current funding will not permit completion of the light rail system in the central Puget Sound area as planned to help meet the transportation demands forecasted for the region. Additional funding would afford voters the opportunity to fund completion of the light rail system in areas with high ridership and where light rail is the most efficient and environmentally sound transportation alternative.