End of the Line For Greyhound?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Seattlest says the Greyhound bus station in downtown Seattle is going away, replaced by a shiny hotel tower.

Every time I heard about a new high-end development going in around the Stewart Ave area, I thought to myself “who’s going to spend $1M to live next door to the Greyhound station?”

Well, that takes care of that!

What would be a good location for a new Bus station? Obviously I-5 access is essential, as is proximity to downtown. Assuming that there’ll be no room in the Stewart triangle area they’re getting booted from, SoDo/Pioneer Square is an obvious alternative.

Tips for Snow Busing

In case in snows again tomorrow, here’s some advice:

  • Wait for buses at the bottom of hills, never at the top. The bus is less likely to get there.
  • Buses might be on altered patterns for severe weather, check here for updates and information.
  • Be patient, your bus will likely be late.
  • Telecommute if that’s an option.

What am I missing?

Housekeeping – Comments

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I just made a few changes to the way comments are displayed on the site, to make it work like other blogs.

1. Oldest comments are now on top, newest on the bottom.

2. You no longer need to give your comment a “subject.”

I’m contemplating ways to remove the registration requirement (and not get inundated with spam). I’m also wondering about “threaded” comments. Feedback is welcome, as always in the comments or via the contact form.

Interesting Bus Day

I waited 25 minutes for 545, and when it finally came, it got so packed that every seat was taken (not unusual) at least 25 people were standing, and people had to be turned away.

Other than that it was a nice commute. How about you, did the snow screw your commute up?


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I’m disappointed to learn that it’s not illegal to keep your headlights off in the rain. Several other states have laws on the books like this, wherein you have to keep your headlights on any time your windshield wipers are on.

It’s genuinely unsafe — I’ve had several near-misses in rainy conditions with cars who don’t have their headlights on.

Snow + buses = stuck or crashes, trains are fine

Those of you whom managed to get to work and didn’t have much in the way of hills today are lucky. My bus this morning jack knifed heading up Kent – Des Moines hill between Meeker and Military Road. A 20 minute walk back home and slipping twice was enough for me just to stay home.

Sounder was on time today though….Portland MAX, Seattle Streetcar, Portland Streetcar, Tacoma Link are also running just fine…rail is superior when it comes to weather like this. O.o

Accountability … and Stuff

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

State Sen. Cheryl Pflug has a rather incoherent and semi-unhinged rant the the Seattle Times arguing for … well, it’s not exactly clear. She’s mad at the Governor for a bunch of stuff, the Democratic majority, too.

While I grant that the Ferry system has a lot to answer for, her argument really runs off the rails when it turns to a new 520 bridge:

Now the governor wants to take money from the viaduct and give it to 520. She wants to build a smaller version of the bridge — six lanes rather than the eight we really need. Her hurry-up plan will not relieve congestion or provide for future transit options.

Worse, in 2008, the governor and majority will propose to fund the 520 floating bridge through tolls — penalizing people for driving cars. They point to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge as an example that has worked well. The public knows better.

With the Narrows Bridge, drivers do not have alternative routes. There are many alternatives to driving over 520. Some say regional tolling is a way to avoid the congestion caused by drivers trying to avoid toll roads. But regional tolling brings other problems.

Sure, there are alternatives to 520. Like I-90. Which is exactly why the Gov proposed tolling that, too. And I’m sorry, but the line “penalizing people for driving cars” has to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read. What, does Sen. Pflug really think that the State should be rewarding people for driving? “Sweet ride, here’s a check!” Sorry Senator, but even eight lanes across 520 won’t be enough to handle the demand caused by that policy.

Infrastructure Costs

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Nice article by Seattle NYT correspondent William Yardley on the increase in construction costs and how it’s affecting public projects around the country:

Costs have jumped for projects as varied as levee construction in New Orleans, Everglades restoration in Florida and huge sewer system upgrades in Atlanta. The reconstruction of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, a $234 million project, has been fast-tracked for completion by December, and state officials say it is too soon to know whether it will come in on budget.

The impact has been felt in different regions at different times, and not every project has been high-profile. In Oregon, high costs have forced the State Department of Transportation to slow the rate at which it upgrades roads and bridges. In Seattle, school building projects were put on a fast track this fall because of fears of cost overruns.

The article focuses on the increase in costs of bulding materials and labor, due to a global construction boom. I have to wonder how much the falling dollar also plays into the equation.

Transit Meet-Up #2, Success!

I learned a lot yesterday at our Seattle Transit meet-up. Highlights of the night:

  • Bill LaBorde (who is really cool, btw) giving an awesome briefing of Sound Transit happenings.
  • Frank from Orphan Road getting cornered by Ben in the January out-doors at the 47th Parallel.
  • The Fish Tacos at CC Ale house.
  • Learning that having a kid might be a lot of work.
  • We decided that the Blue Scholar’s “Joe Metro” is Seattle Transit’s official theme song.

Next one will be in a month, hope to see you there!

Update here’s the video for “Joe Metro”

Vesely on Governance

Here’s Jim Vesely again on governance. He’s sure that an elected board is better:

Opponents, some of them already on the current board, warn that directly elected transportation commissioners would only bring out the aficionados and the nuts. Rice and Stanton make a good case why that wouldn’t happen and why a new system would bring about the most valued coin of all: a return of voter trust.

Where’s the case that nuts wouldn’t get on the elected board? Of course Vesely doesn’t say the case is, just that it probably exists.

A Regional Transportation Authority would behave quite differently if created by the state. (STB weren’t RTID and RTA created by the state already?)

Seven people would report directly to voters, six elected within King, Pierce and Snohomish counties and one elected at large from the three counties; three would be appointed by the three county executives; the state transportation secretary and the director of the Puget Sound Regional Council are automatic members. Members directly elected by voters would be seven, combined with five appointed/designated members for a 12-member board. They would be part-time government, without full-time salaries.

Rice-Stanton may have said it would be part-time government, but the Haugen bill, which is based off of Rice-Stanton called for full-time salaries. But part timers sounds more scary. As I’ve said repeated, which agency in this region has part-time, directly elected board members? The Port, the biggest disaster of them all. Why would we want to model our transporation agency on that?

Lazy Bus

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

While we await true real-time bus information at all our Seattle bus stops, consider the lazy option, instead of getting frustrated because the 48 or the 7 is taking forever.

Seattle Transit Meet-Up

Sound Transit is having a workshop next week to discuss any new transit plan. The workshop will be next Thursday, Jan. 31, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St.

Also, Saturday at 7pm the Seattle Transit Community is meeting at Columbia City Ale House for transit talk and fish tacos.

ST2.1 in 2008? Maybe not

ST might wait until 2010 according to PI this article.
Here’s the pros and cons of 2008 vs 2010 in my mind:

2008 Pros

  • Sooner is better.
  • Projects are cheaper if they get started earlier.
  • A large progressive turn out for the general election would help likelyhood of passing.
  • The state would not have yet had a chance to mess around with Sound Transit.

2008 Cons

  • Voters unlikely to approve spending increase in a recession year.
  • If Hillary or Obama self-destruct, we could get another defeat, which could ruin ST’s chances of ever coming back

2010 Pros

  • Global Warming will play more into the debate
  • Congestion will be even worse, which might lead people to approve transit
  • Central Link will be open, which should excite people into building more rail.
  • More time to investigate proposals that could pass.

2010 Cons

  • If congestion gets much worse, people may not want to approve long-timeframe transit projects and would prefer short-time frame projects.
  • If migration slows, taxation models could be off, and projects could cost more money with rising materials costs.
  • Will Sound Transit still exist then?

So I don’t know. Which is better? Obviously, I would prefer getting it built as soon as possible, but I’m not sure getting it on the ballot as soon as possible is the right idea. What do you guys think?

The Case for Private Roads

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I’m generally opposed to the idea of privately-run infrastructure, for a myriad of reasons, but this New York Times story on Pennsylvania’s tolling of I-80 suggests that there may be one benefit to such an approach that I’d thusfar overlooked:

The push to charge tolls along I-80 followed legislators’ rejection of Mr. Rendell’s proposal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors, an approach taken in Illinois, Indiana and Virginia. Lawmakers were wary that the investors might raise tolls too quickly.

The governor continues to support that idea, though, because the proceeds could be used for more than highway repairs alone. Under the bill passed last July, as well as federal rules, revenue from tolls on I-80 can be spent only on that Interstate.

There’s been a lot of talk around here, most recently between Josh Feit and Will @ HA as to how much of a regional toll could be used for transit. I think they were talking past each other a bit, but the central question is relevant: how much will people tolerate their tolls being used for other purposes?

Gov. Rendell’s strategy seems like an interesting end-around. You lease the highway to a private company, and the revenues go into some general fund — or some general transportation fund, better — and so you’ve got some insulation. The challenge, of course, is to make sure that it gets spent wisely, and that the private company doesn’t pull a Halliburton and rip us all off. But it does have the advantage of getting around whatever State laws might restrict the funds.

SB 6772 Comments (II)

The bill has picked up two more sponsors: Sen. Marr (D-Spokane Outskirts) and Sen. Pridemore (D-Vancouver). Sen. Marr is the Assistant Majority Floor Leader.

So far, Rodney Tom is the only sponsor that actually represents part of the Sound Transit district.


I’ve gone through the 80 pages of legalese. Here’s the bill so that you can read for yourself, as I’m not any kind of lawyer. There are good and bad things about this bill, plus some things that could go either way.

The good things:
– The RTA would be authorized to collect sales taxes, vehicle excise taxes, and employee taxes solely for the purposes of high-capacity transit. (Section 516-518) I believe this expands their taxing authority. Of course, ST is currently limited by voter approval, not state legislation.

– The employee tax would be waived for any employee that has at least half the cost of a transit pass subsidized, or if the company has implemented an appropriate commuter-reduction plan (Section 307).

– Local municipalities can add their own stuff to the plan, effectively allowing for uneven levels of taxation if the benefits will be distributed unevenly. (Section 204)

– The Sound Transit staff essentially lives on in the new RTA (Section 210). I’m not sure Josh Feit’s fears about losing the $750 million FFGA for University Link is well-founded. Also, we’re not flushing over 10 years of hard-earned experience.

The bad things:
– The agency loses its focus on transit to also build roads.

– It’s also probably destined for a period of administrative chaos as they absorb road planners from RTID, which could have very negative impacts on Central Link startup and University Link groundbreaking.

– I think it’s unlikely you’d see a transit-only package go before the voters under this construct. That means that the Sierra Club et al. will be de facto opponents of rail for the foreseeable future.

– It’s certainly not explicitly in the bill, but I believe Daimajin is right when he suggests that this is an attempt by the rest of the state to stop funding their obligations on state highways in the region. It gives people clamoring for road projects somewhere to go besides the state legislature

The uncertain things:
– There are 10 voting commissioners: 3 appointed by the county executives, one elected at-large, and 6 elected from equally sized districts (Section 201). I’m skeptical this will work out in favor of the pro-transit forces, but I’m naturally pessimistic about such things. By my count, these districts work out to about one each for Snohomish, East King, and South King, and one-and-a-half for Seattle and Pierce County. If the most promising Link segments are to Northgate and Bellevue, you’re talking maybe 2 1/2 districts in favor. With the King Co. appointee and the at-large (?), you get 4 1/2 out of 10. The district lines will be important.

– Sub-area equity is gone. This is good in terms of producing an objectively better plan, but not necessarily good in producing one acceptable to the voters. It’ll be much easier to characterize it as “sending all our money to Seattle,” even if that’s not the case.

– Section 503 goes on and on about monorails. (!) Huh?

– If I read Section 313 correctly, only 10% of the employee tax and MVET can go to HOV projects. The rest has to go to commuter rail. The text is clear as mud, so I’m particularly unsure of this conclusion, as it seems to conflict with Sections 516-518.

I can imagine both good and bad outcomes from this bill, but I think the downside is a lot bigger than the upside.

The good outcome is that the pro-transit forces gain a narrow majority on the board, the staff handles the ST transition with grace, and ST 2.1 takes advantage of the uneven taxing options to make a rail-heavy and yet politically palatable plan, perhaps with a little more track laid than we’ve dared hope. The state continues its historical level of funding of highway projects, calling on the RTA to only fund the gold-plated aspects of projects like SR 520.

The bad outcome is that the reorganization causes ST to take its eye off the ball and jeopardize University Link. Ron Sims nominates some anti-rail, pro-BRT guy, the highway lobby bankrolls an anti-rail majority on the board, and we see pavement, pavement, pavement. Anytime the Puget Sound region asks for state money for roads, the legislature tells us to go see the RTA — while continuing to send our gas tax dollars anywhere else in the state that wants them.

Quite frankly, I’m pleased with ST’s performance over the last few years and pessimistic about the mood of the electorate. I’m reluctant to jeopardize that performance, and doubtful that this bill will produce something better.

So it’s not the end of the world, but puts a lot of hard-won gains at risk. It could actually make us better off, but it’s far more likely to do the reverse.

Or perhaps I don’t speak lawyer and I don’t know what I’m talking about.

SB 6772 Comments

So I’ve gone through the bill once. I’m gathering my thoughts and will share them later.

I contacted Senators Kohl-Welles and Murray today, which I thought was only fair given the mentions I’ve given them recently. They both stated unequivocally that they do not support this bill. Senator Murray’s statement:

I do not support the bill and as I have said before I will support Sound Transit should they decide to go to the ballot this year.

and Sen. Kohl-Welles:

I do not support nor am I a sponsor of this legislation. I have always been and continue to be a strong supporter of Sound Transit.

So there you go.