Changing Priorities

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

As per usual, Joe Turner at the TNT has a wonderfully comprehensive breakdown on the state of play of various road projects around the sound, and how they’re faring in this legislative session. The stuff on 520 isn’t new, we basically knew that the state had $2B or so of the $4.4B price tag allocated, and that’s indeed what the project is going to get.

But Turner also quotes some legislators who think that many of the Prop. 1 highway projects — the Cross-Base Highway, SR 509 extension, SR 167 extension — may be DOA altogether:

That’s bad news for a lot of other projects across the state, said Rep. Doug Ericksen, the Republican deputy minority leader from Ferndale.

“If those projects are delayed after 2013, I would not take that to the bank and I wouldn’t promise your constituents (the projects will be built),” Ericksen said during Friday’s debate on the House floor.

Ericksen could be posturing, but it’s clear that priorities have shifted post-Prop. 1. Only the most essential projects are getting the green light.

More interestingly, the Governor says we’ll know more about the Viaduct in December 2008. Not too long ago it was supposed to be early this year.

I sure hope she’s not just stalling until after the election. Democrats nationally and locally have gotten it into their deluded heads that after November, when the Governor’s re-elected, and The Chosen One is in the White House, there will be much rejoicing throught the land and all the liberal pony plans will sail through the legislature and all the Repulbicans will crawl back into their caves or move to Canada.

Sorry folks, it ain’t gonna happen.

Is It Settled?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

This P-I article starts off by giving the impression that the 520 bridge issue is settled, that all groups have come to consensus. But as you read further down, you start to realize that lots of key groups — the Laurelhurst community, fish and wildlife, UW — are opposed to some or all of the proposed solution.

While the Governor seems to approve, I’ll reserve judgement until I see a price tag on this thing, which seems to have all manner of lids and tunnels and other expensive gee-gaws.

And, of course, I fully expect Ron Sims to forcefully oppose this plan, since it contains even more of “landscaped lids” in high-income neighborhoods that led him to withdraw his support of Proposition 1.

Finally, it just occured to me that I’m probably going to lose one of my favorite Seattle driving shortcuts, which is to jump on 520 Eastbound for one exit and get off at Montlake, when I’m headed to either University Village or Drinking Liberally at the Montlake Ale House. See? I’m sacrificing something, too, here!


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I’m pretty keen on the idea of Metro partnering with companies to improve service and connections. Part of me is is bothered by the fact that private corporations are helping to dictate transit routes (taken to its logical conclusion, its the end of public transit), but the realist in me knows that these companies are smart, and they know that effective public transit is key to having productive employees and a productive city.

Second Tunnel Hole Through Next Week!

There is less than 300 feet remaining for the Emerald Mole! This will complete the second tunnel through Beacon Hill.

Here is the e-mail I received from Jennifer at Sound Transit.

Yes, you are correct…we approaching exciting times! According to the latest projections, hole-thru could be as early as Friday, February 29, 2008! Of course, this is only an estimate, and we won’t know until possibly the day before.

Keep an eye out on our website, as I’m sure there will be an announcement. Also, I have attached a link to a graphic that shows approximately where the tunnel boring machine is…about 300 feet to go!

Click on ‘Tunnel Boring Machine “Emerald Mole” Progress’.

Excellent! Congrats to Sound Transit for this!

More Transit Now Service

We’re getting more Metro service as part of Transit Now, if the King County Council agrees.

In Seattle, the service changes include expanding 19 individual routes, several of them near South Lake Union, and a Rapid Ride route serving West Seattle with hybrid buses.

The West Seattle corridor has not been determined. The service is one of five Rapid Ride routes planned as part of the Transit Now expansion package approved by King County voters in 2006.

As part of the proposal, Seattle would receive more-frequent trips on Routes 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 14-S, 26, 28 and 44 in 2008.

Service frequency also would increase in 2009 on routes 2, 13 and 48 and in 2010 on city routes 5, 7, 8, 70, 74 and 75, with costs to be shared by Metro, the city and the South Lake Union Mobility Partnership for Routes 8 and 70. Some trips on Route 60 would be extended in 2010.

The county also has proposed a new route linking the Colman Ferry Dock and King Street Station, the International District and First Hill, financed partly by Harborview, Swedish and Virginia Mason medical centers. The route could be displaced by a streetcar if one is built in that area.

Details of the plan, part of a 10-year bus expansion financed with a sales tax increase, must be approved by County Council members, although they have generally approved sharing costs of route improvements with others, council spokesman Frank Abe said Wednesday.


Other projects are proposed for parts of Auburn, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton, Issaquah and Federal Way and include a new Route 913 connecting areas in the western part of Kent.

Another “Rapid Ride” corridor would be established by 2013 between Bellevue and Redmond, though the exact route hasn’t been determined, officials said.

Sea-Tac Station

In the on-going drama over Sea-Tac station for Link, the next station is going to cost $74 million, according to the DJC.

Sound Transit has put a new price tag on the light rail station at Sea-Tac Airport after months of value engineering and negotiations with the contractor, Mowat Construction. It will cost $74 million — $22 million more than the engineer’s estimate, even with a scaled-down design.

The airport station was supposed to cost $52 million, but Sound Transit only received one bid for the project and it was $95.3 million. So the agency split the contract in two parts and retooled the design.

Sound Transit may transfer $12 million from an administrative fund — which would be an unusual move — to help pay for the airport station. Its finance committee is scheduled to discuss the matter today.

Last week the Sound Transit board directed staff to finish negotiating the second airport contract with Mowat rather than put it out for bid. Rebidding would delay light-rail service to the airport past the December 2009 deadline, staff said.

Well at least it’s going forward, but it’s unfortunate that it has come in so much more expensive.

The DJC also covers the drama surrounding the Totem Lake bus on-ramps:

It will also take an additional $3.8 million for Sound Transit to finish the beleaguered Totem Lake freeway station project.

An HOV ramp at the station, which connects Interstate 405 and Kirkland’s Totem Lake area, had to be partially rebuilt last year after contractor Max J. Kuney Construction discovered long cracks in it. The cracks showed up after the contractor removed temporary supports holding up the ramp.

Engineers with the Washington State Department of Transportation designed the station for Sound Transit. They admitted the cracking was their fault because they didn’t put enough steel reinforcement in the concrete.

WSDOT did not say it would pay for the error. Former Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald suggested at the time that Sound Transit share responsibility for the cost overrun since it costs Sound Transit less to use WSDOT design and construction services than those of the private sector.

Sound Transit approved $2.2 million to fix the ramp last March in order to keep the project going. Now, the agency needs to put in an additional $3.8 million, and may transfer the money out of a reserve budget.

The additional costs — which Sound Transit said it expects will be reimbursed — brings the total project budget to $80 million.

“Sound Transit would not be moving forward with this budget amendment request if we were not confident that the costs to pay for the repairs will be reimbursed by WSDOT,” said agency spokesperson Bruce Gray.

Looks like the Board has a full plate for today’s meeting.

How the Other Half Lives…

Here’s a pretty enlightening op-ed piece from Karen Steinberg, a Snohomish resident, about taking the bus downtown. The summary: parking downtown sucks (big surprise), the bus to downtown is convenient (another big surprise) and park-and-rides facility easy bus rides from the suburbs. Some highlights (and nothing I am saying is meant to be facetious):

My 11-year-old son had never been on a bus, so he was excited. We easily found a spot in the Park & Ride lot, walked over to the clearly labeled bay, and waited to board.

As we zoomed down Aurora Avenue North, stopping occasionally to drop off and pick up passengers and chatting with seatmates, I realized that although I’d grown up using buses and trains in Chicago, my son had never interacted with his communities in this way and was having a great time.

You know, I grew up on Capitol Hill and in Wallingford, so my experiences with the bus are clearly different than an eleven-year-old who grew up in Orange County and Snohomish. But it’s great to see that modern-day kids love the bus, even from Snohomish. It’s a different experience, and you never really get to see your neighborhood if you’re in a car the whole way.

Our day cruise was splendid, with crystal-clear views of the Olympics, Mount Rainier and the Cascades, and after doing some shopping, we found the northbound bus stop for our return trip. Within five minutes, the 358 pulled up, and we hopped on. On our trip back, a fellow rider offered us a newspaper he’d finished, and we had an interesting conversation about the paper.

Yup, you can enjoy your environs from the bus in a way you can’t when you are staring at the breaklights in front of you.

But, the gorgeous weather on Martin Luther King Jr. Day tempted me, especially when I contemplated a day cruise out on Elliott Bay. I logged onto Metro’s online Trip Planner, spent half an hour figuring out my options, and decided to go by car to the Park & Ride at the Aurora Village Transit Center and take the No. 358 downtown. (Had there been more time, I could have caught Community Transit’s 131 just a block from my home to the transit center — or, during regular weekday rush hour, taken CT’s 416 all the way downtown, no transfer or car required.)

Now, I hope Ms. Steinberg takes the bus when she commutes as well. But the point is great: the bus can be convenient, and even, dare I say, more convenient than driving. And, I think, the article gives more credence to the mayor’s center-city strategy: put more people and jobs downtown, and it becomes easier to plan infrastructure.

Request for Feedback

I want to know, do you want us to talk about ferries more? There has been a lot of drama surrounding ferries, we have not covered it because I think none of us here know much about it. If you want to learn more about ferries, let us know in the comments. If you would like to write for STB on ferries, we would be interested.

I think we cover Light Rail and the politics surrounding rail and transit in general fairly well. I also think Martin does a great job covering rapid ride and metro service. Nick covers streetcars well, and I think we are well-rounded on transit outside of ferries. If there’s anything you’d like to hear more (or less) about, let us know.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Ed Friedrich, at the Kitsap Sun‘s new Commute blog, notes a shift:

When David Moseley was introduced as the new ferries director, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond talked about bringing Washington State Ferries more under the Department of Transportation instead of lettling it hang out like it’s own agency. I’ve noticed a subtle change in the press releases they send me. They no longer call it Washington State Ferries. It’s now the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division. And Moseley isn’t Washington State Ferries director or CEO. he’s the deputy of the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division.

Changes like this in big organizations are significant. I think it’s a good thing.

Social Engineering

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The next time someone tells you that zoning for density is some kind of “social engineering,” you could do a lot worse then to repeat this Ezra Klein post word for word:

There’s often a tendency to assume that the status quo is the most “natural” way for things to be, and that rejiggering the relevant subsidies is somehow more artificial and presumptuous. But the current system was built atop a massive structure of subsidies and tax breaks. The mortgage tax deduction advantaged bigger homes; funding schools through inequitable property taxes encouraged families to move out of cities where the property taxes were low and into richer suburbs where the schools would be wealthy; putting billions into costly and little-used roads made far-flung developments appear cheap to those who only saw the finished product; underfunding public transportation heavily influenced development patterns, and so on and so forth. And that doesn’t even get into the racial unrest, social dysfunction, and crime levels that helped drive white flight — and thus sprawl — in the 60s and 70s. Indeed, there’s nothing natural about our current settlement patterns, and no reason preserving them should be seen as a nod to expressed preference rather than, as it actually is, a status quo bias in favor of the current subsidies and their associated winners. Nobody’s saying we should make suburbs illegal. But we don’t have to abide by public policy that makes them look far cheaper and more economical than they are.

It really is that simple.

Streetcar Vandalized!

This saddens me. The fact that 2 men would do such an awful thing to our transit systems here is ignorant. I hope these people are caught and have to pay for the cleanup bill. Although, I didn’t notice anything and I was on the orange car today. So I guess the company that removed the graffiti did a really good job.

Expensive Oil?

Jonathan Golob — the most consistently intelligent writer on the Slog — has an exceptional post about why the oil supply will rise to meet demand. Uniquely for the Slog, the comment thread (including our very own Daimajin) is also well-informed and constructive. Daimajin had a similar post here last year.

As transit advocates, we sometimes get into the “peak oil” argument to attack car use — “gas is going to cost $10 a gallon!” For all the reasons Golob states, this is a bad way to go.

There are multiple strong arguments for transit: an environmental one, a national security one, and the simple fact that to add capacity to corridors, a light rail line is massively more cost-effective than triple-decking I-5. Scare stories about expensive gas is the wrong way to go; the only way gas is getting that expensive is if we regulate and tax the stuffing out of it.

And that’s something we want to do. The two ways to discourage car use are to make it less convenient and make it more expensive. Since closing roads isn’t going to happen for the most part, we need to prepare the ground for legislative action to increase the costs of driving. In this context, using expensive gas as some kind of boogeyman sets up exactly the wrong kind of reaction.

Improving the Ferry System

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Brian at WATB (hmm… not sure that’s the best acronym…) has been doing some great analysis of the state ferry system of late, epecially this latest post, which lays out some ambitious ideas for improving each of the individual runs. Given the sorry state of ferry funding, I wouldn’t count on any of these changes happening before light rail gets to Issaquah (which is to say, this century), but they’re still great ideas, worthy of the “nation’s largest passenger ferry system.”

That said, at some point, maybe within the next 50 years, it occurs to me that we’ll have all but built out to the urban growth boundary in the Seattle metro area. At that point, there might be no alternative but to develop the peninsula… and the ferries.

HB 2797

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Josh Feit shares some bad news:

A smart environmental bill sponsored by liberal House Rep. Geoff Simpson (D-47) that would add consideration of a development’s carbon footprint to the list of prerequisites it must meet when trying to pass muster with the Growth Management Act (GMA) is bogging down.

While the bill met last week’s deadline to get out of committee and make it to the final stop before a floor vote, the Rules Committee, environmental advocates are now worried that House leadership is going to let it die there.

The powerful BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington) is reportedly putting pressure on House members in swing districts to put the kibosh on the bill or water it down so that local GMA counsels don’t have the actual authority to make global warming an issue.

I’ve been blogging mostly about the Senate version, but this is the same bill. It deserves our support.

New Streetcar Ticket Vending Machines

Based off the cool unique design of the electronic parking meters around Seattle, the new Streetcar TVM’s make life much, much, MUCH easier for the commuter. With 6 installed along the line, the new Ticket Vending Machines make getting tickets for the Streetcar much easier. It accepts Visa, Mastercard and coins.

The TVM’s on-board the Streetcars are still there and still trouble-prone to $1 dollar bills but when they do work, except Paper Cash and Coins but not Credit Cards.

The Dream Ticket?

While I don’t post too much political stuff on here, I couldn’t pass this up

Too beautiful:

Sound Transit 2 + Obama = a kind of progressive perfect storm.

Yes, the Little Engine that Could and the Obama campaign.

The train whose slogan is I-Think-I- Can and the campaign whose slogan is Yes We Can