Why governance reform?

The stated rationale for governance reform is that Sound Transit is an unaccountable agency, out there mismanaging our funds with no oversight.

Well, the latest state audit of ST came out, and for the 6th time out of 7, the audit has been completely free of negative “findings”. Moreover, the agency was commended for its “culture of continuous improvement”.

Governance reform advocates demand a directly elected board, like we the Port of Seattle. You may recall that the Port’s last audit, uh, didn’t go so well.

Of course, what this is really about is murdering light rail in its crib, before rolling trains boost its popularity. Attacks on Sound Transit’s management are merely a fig leaf that plays on the public’s memory of the agency’s initial failures. While those failures matter, it’s unclear why one would reform an agency that is now a model of probity.

Riding with the 12th Man – Seahawks Train to Seattle

On Saturday, January 5th, 2008, I went out with my good friend, Jason Hill to check out just how popular the Seahawks trains are. They say seeing is believing and the crowds were at first, very little but we did arrive a little after 10:00am. When security came through and announced there was 380 passengers that loaded in Tacoma alone, that was surprising, but when we arrived Puyallup, the only other stop for the train before it is non-stop to Seattle, our jaws slacked open… this was going to be a packed train.

People were lined up well into the parking lot, some were even tailgating in the parking lot! This is a much different, much more upbeat passengers than your normal early morning commuting crowd…well, duh, Football Fans are gonna be more alive! To give you an idea of each station patronage…

Passing Sumner Station at 79mph

Passing Auburn Station at 79mph

Passing Kent Station at 75mph

Passing Tukwila Station at 70mph

And the crowd getting off the train and mind you, this only the first train, the second was behind us by 15 minutes followed by the arrival of the Everett Sounder Train a few minutes after our train left to back into a different track.

Both Everett trains had 5 cars each had a full STANDING only train along with the other 2 Sumner and Tacoma trains which had 6 cars.

The thing most people want now – more cars or more trains or both, this service is incredible and makes it more of a steal since the fare on this run was normal commuter fares. In 47 minutes with a 5 minute delay waiting for a freight train and Southbound Amtrak to clear in Georgetown, we arrived in Seattle.

For more information on these trains, check out Sound Transit’s website

Now back in the day, Amtrak ran a train from Portland to Seattle and back and a lot would love to see this train return. Would you be somebody that would ride the train and pay the normal Amtrak fare for it if it resumed for the 2008/2009 Season? Have you been on the Sounder Seahawks service? If so, what was your thoughts and opinion about it.

The rest of the photos can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/brian_macster/

Thanks for viewing!

State Auditor’s independent audit of Sound Transit’s accountability gives agency high marks

Once again, Sound Transit has gotten a clean bill of health from the State Auditors office.

The accountability audit, which included no findings of violations by Sound Transit, covered a broad range of agency activities including but not limited to appropriately handling financial transactions; complying with requirements for maintaining open public meetings and records; meeting requirements for agency contracting and competitive bidding; and abiding by laws on ethics and conflicts of interest.

From Sound Transit News Release


More Governance Scheming

Jim Vesely has a silly editorial in the Times today about the future of transportation in the area. Of course he is for the Rice-Stanton Governence machine, seemily for the sole reason that the current system is a “flop” and we don’t know who’s in charge.

We know the current system is a flop. It grows from county councils and executives and local mayors and city councils named to a federated board. Maybe it works in theory, but it leads to the most damning of conclusions about government: Who is in charge?

Maybe it works in theory? Who’s in charge? Is that anymore than we know about the Rice-Stanton plan? Does it work in theory? I’m not even sure. The most similar agency to what Rice-Stanton perscribes is the Port of Seattle: an unaccountable agency that is the most corrupt in the region. It wastes money like no other. But I guess at least we know who’s in charge. Right?

Vesely devolves from vague concerns about creating unaccountability into smearing Sound Transit: “Certainly, the current politically inbred structure of Sound Transit will oppose the most radical changes in its governing body.” Yikes.

This quote is the one that bothers me the most:

Meanwhile, there are ideas about deep tunnels under downtown Seattle; questions of a five-year boring-and-tunneling task right next to UW’s Husky Stadium and the havoc it would bring; the now-uncertain funding of the most distant Sound Transit rail lines; and the near-collapse of the Washington ferry system.

What havoc is that? He doesn’t describe it at all, or give any indication of what it would be. Vesely just brings up the fear, uncertainty and doubt that is destroying the public discourse today. The havoc? It’s tunnel boring. A few buildings will be razed, some dirt will be taken out of the staging area on Broadway, and part of the parking lot at the UW is going to be destroyed, but that’s hardly havoc. The construction of new condos all over town is a similar “havoc” but on a much larger scale.

It’s not obvious that voters want any governance scheme, and it’s not obvious that implementing Rice-Stanton is going to lead to faster improvements in infrastructure. What we’d get is more bureaucracy, more elected political positions without any accountability but to the voters, and yet another agency in the region, this one seemingly modelled after our region’s worst example.

This governance scheme is a terrible idea and hugely premature. Voters should get the chance to approve or reject rail by itself before a new agency is crated to build roads. If Olympia wants us to build more roads, they have the power to tax us and build them, using the gas tax or the nickel tax we approved in 2005. Creating a brand new agency in charge of transportation is not the answer to any question but “how can we add more politics and prostering to our transportation debate?”

Consensus on Surface-Transit

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Mike Seely cautions that the Gregoire speech I linked to earlier is evidence that we’re not “close to coming to consensus” on the Viaduct.

I think Seely might be reading too much into the Governor’s statement. If you look at the previously-announced timeline from May, you’ll see that the plan was to close the Battery Street Tunnel intermittently between 2008 and 2010, and then replace the South section of the Viaduct (Holgate to King) between 2009 and 2012.

In other words, 2012 is the perfect time to start ripping out the Northern (remaining) section Viaduct, because that’s when the beefed-up connections between SODO and I-5 will appear.

Gregoire used some attention-grabbing words, but everything in the article — including her other quotes — seems to indicate that discussions between her, Sims, and Nickels have been productive. It seems more likely that she simply wants people to know that she has a plan, that she’s on top of the situation, as we enter an election year.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Daniel Jack Chasan notes the explains:

Finally, a pedestrian-friendly city would be full of jaywalkers. Yes, jaywalkers. I believe in jaywalking. Getting around town on your own two feet isn’t practical if you have to stop at every red light. You can do it, but you can’t do it very fast. Of course, jaywalking can be dangerous. Many Seattle jaywalkers seem to lack that feral alertness that one associates with pedestrians back East; in fact, many of the pedestrians one sees ambling across Seattle streets have a clueless quality – run them down, and they’d never know the difference — that raises reasonable fears for their safety. Ideally, they’d be more aware of their surroundings.

I think that’s absolutely right. There’s a devil’s bargain implied in jaywalking. If you’re going to jaywalk (as I often do) the implicit understanding has to be that you don’t have the right of way, the car does. As a driver, it’s incredibly annoying to have to stop for people just ambling across the street.

When I lived in the Central District, I recall being unable to drive across town on either Union, Cherry, or Yesler without at least once having someone waltz lazily across the street right in front of me.

One imagines that these people would all have been killed off by now in a less forgiving city, thus preventing their genes from being passed down to future clueless generations.

Friday Transit Round Up

Gregoire promises to remove the viaduct whether Seattle likes it or not:

With or without Seattle’s approval, the state will tear down the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2012, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday.

“It’s coming down in 2012. I’m taking it down — the middle,” she said, referring to the elevated portion of the span that runs roughly from Battery Street Tunnel to Pioneer Square, which has been the most vexing and controversial piece of the transportation puzzle.

“That’s the timeline. I’m not going to fudge on it. And if we don’t have some alternative by then, boy are we going to have a mess on our hands because it’s coming down.”

Great. Bring it down no one will miss it, that’s been my position for ever.

The Daily Journal of Commerce ran a great piece by Claire Enlow about how we are reaching “peak pavement” (best quote so far of 2008).

You’ve heard of peak oil. That’s the point when oil production is at its maximum and begins to decline. We don’t know when it’s coming, or if it has already passed. Some would argue that oil is a kind of renewable resource. The earth makes it and we use it, like teenagers on an allowance.

But by the time we know how much oil is left it may be too late. The impacts of oil and the cost of our dependence on it may overwhelm anything we can do to reverse the damage. That would include global warming, massive pollution and distorted international relations.

She talks about how great the streetcar is. The streetcar is okay, real rail is awesome.

Apparently, the 306 and 312 have terrible service and sometimes they are so crowded that they stop picking up passengers at some of the last few stops. Yikes. I’ve seen the same problem on the 545 where the bus doesn’t even stop at Montlake sometimes when it’s really crowded. The scary thing: sadly, trunk route service will degrade as traffic gets worse.

Finally, Tim Eyman has a rediculous transportation initiative for next year.

Viaduct Watch

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Interesting comments from the Guv:

“We really are fundamentally not efficient and effective now. Our offramps from I-5 are not efficient to the flow of traffic. What international city do we know of that would have two-way traffic in downtown? What international city do we know of that would have street parking in the middle of downtown?

“We have not stepped back, collectively … and said, ‘How can we make this a user-friendly, international city?’

“That’s why a ‘surface option’ is on the table now,” Gregoire said. “If we simply say replace the viaduct, and if that’s all we do, the surface option won’t work. I still stand by that. I’ve looked at it, the ramifications to the waterfront are terrible. We won’t have any legitimate freight mobility. … The surface option works only (and I don’t know if it does) but only if you look at the totality.”

More RapidRide

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

West Seattle and Bellevue-Redmond are the subjects of Metro’s latest RapidRide announcements. Service will begin in 2011.

As with all BRT, the devil will be in the details. If they can provide good right-of-way, fast boardings, and the like, it will be a good interim solution until we get light rail built.

(via STB)

More Transit "NOW"

Metro has followed up its details on South King County BRT with info on the line between Bellevue and Redmond, and the one to West Seattle. No big surprises about the design of the lines, and I refer you to my earlier comments here and here.

For a program called “Transit NOW”, it’s sure taking a long time. These two lines won’t be complete till 2011.

Metro is soliciting comments, and the maps are interesting. It would have been nice if they’d bothered to include a legend explaining the difference between the blue station dots and the red station dots.

Anyway, comments are due by February 1st. They’re considering a couple of routing options. I don’t plan to ride either line very much, but I’m usually in favor of picking the route with the fewest detours.

The only RapidRide proposals we haven’t seen are to Ballard and along Aurora.

Metro Raising Fares

As announced previously, Metro is raising its fares by a quarter for most of its ridership beginning March 1. This isn’t surprising given that the last fare increase was in 2001. What’s mildly annoying is that in each case the increased fare means we have to carry more quarters around, and wait longer for people to root through their pockets. I’d almost prefer if they went straight to $2.00/$2.50.

I suppose I could just buy a more valuable pass, but for obscure reasons related to my commute patterns, the structure of my employer’s subsidy, and the fact that each increment of value must be used 36 times in a month to pay for itself, I find it cheaper to buy the $1.50 PugetPass and top it off with the odd dollar for the $2.50 Sound Transit fare. Now it’ll be three quarters — grrr.

2008 Thoughts and Predictions

Happy New Years everyone!

Here are some of my thoughts for 2008…


Everett Streetcar – System will get Green Light for full 4 mile long build out and will be operational in 2009. Streetcar will spark faster redevelopment in Riverfront, Waterfront, and Downtown. Everett will be taken serious once again.

Sound Transit will step up the construction process for Mukilteo Southbound platform (Only the Northbound Platform will be built first, yes you can get on both directions) by feeding BNSF more money.

Construction on the “ramp” to Pacific Avenue in Tacoma for the M Street to D Street connection will meet several lawsuits delaying the project further.

Seattle Streetcar will get funding for 10 year study to Fremont using the existing old Streetcar right of way that went to Fremont… Meanwhile, lawsuits will pop up on the idea of the idea of the Streetcar to the University of Washington and Montlake Station.

Another Grassroots idea for the Monorail from Ballard to West Seattle will surface, bubble up from $3.2 billion $19 billion dollars, get rejected by voters, again, then blame Greg Nickels and Sound Transit.

Sound Transit will come back in November for getting Link to Northgate Transit Center ASAP and will purchase a 4th TBM to finish University Link ahead of schedule.

Portland MAX will enter Vancouver, Washington by new I-5 bridge or separate light-rail bridge over the Columbia River in the next 2 to 5 years.

Ron Sims will continue to fight tooth and nail to get the Eastside Rail Corridor into a trail while Tom Payne gets his equipment ready to run from Snohomish to Bellevue @ NE 8th.


Gregoire will push for 520 and Viaduct replacement with Dino Rossi coming up. She will also put the fear of god into Sound Transit to prevent more rail.

Oil will reach $150 a barrel by the end of the year.

I-5 between I-90 and Mercer Street will undergo another study to study if fixing that section of roadway is feasible.

Amtrak will start stopping in Stanwood and Leavenworth in November but passengers will be stuck without bus service to the stations. (Leavenworth’s transit starts 1 hour after the train to Seattle arrives and service ends 1 hour before the train arrives enroute to Chicago…)


BRT will not be successful in King County but will flourish in Snohomish County. People in King County will be spoiled since Light-Rail will be running first.

Transit Now will shift towards more Streetcar and Light-Rail and change order from more Hybrids to more 60 foot electric trolleys for the 7/9 routes. Breda and MAN buses will be retired, 2 of each will enter the Metro Transit historical society.

I’m sure I could come up with more but Carless in Seattle covers the rest pretty well

Transit Projects in ’08

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Mike Lindblom has put together a great summary of what transit projects are in the works for 2008 and beyond. It’s a fairly comprehensive list: King County ferries, new HOV lanes opening in Everett, Bellevue, and Mercer Island, a Sounder stop in Mukilteo, and much, much more.

While construction continues on these projects, we’ll also be debating the future of Sound Transit in the aftermath of Prop. 1. It should be quite an interesting year, and we’re excited to keep the conversation going here on this blog and elsewhere.

And thanks for reading in 2007!

P.S: the Wilburton Trestle is coming down in August, so I don’t have to worry about ever riding my bike across it.