Comparison of Link to Other Transit Systems

peer region lrt
Check out this graphic from ST comparing light rail systems around the country with what will get built here if Prop. 1 passes this autumn. A couple of these systems are very old, Philadelphia’s system is the original streetcar system and the Green Line in Boston is a full 110 years old. But comparing the modern systems to what Link will be is pretty interesting I think.

Worldwide Gas Prices

Via Andrew Sullivan, this interactive map reminds us of how inexpensive gasoline is in the United States relative to most other rich countries.

I have my issues with the European economic and social model, but this data is a useful reminder that high gas prices need not lead to a collapse in the standard of living, given reasonably forward-thinking policy on transportation and energy.

On the other hand, note that roads in Europe can be quite congested, so it’s also spurious to suggest that our highways will become overgrown with weeds even if gas were to hit $10 or so. Instead, we’ll see subtle shifts in housing patterns, more fuel-efficient cars, and more reliance on transit. If governments do the right thing and respond to these changes in demand, we’ll have a pretty smooth transition. If not, a large number of us won’t be enabled to make the sensible decision, and will be crushed by high housing and transportation prices. What’s more, these policy choices are made at federal, state, and local levels, so there are all kinds of things individual citizen activists can do to steer things in the right direction, such as fighting highly vocal opponents of transit and high-density development.

Image from

News Stands

All this talk about the City’s last news stand has me thinking what can make news stands work in San Francisco (the image above is from SF), but all but non-existant here? Is is the quality of the newspapers? The lack of foot-traffic? The lack of transit? I think so.

I really think that the Seattle Times and PI’s futures would be brighter with more transit riders: how many people and reading and driving: virtually none. In San Francisco there are even free daily papers, something unimaginable here in Seattle.

‘No’ Campaign Delibrately Misleading on Sierra Club Support

Erica Barnett at the Stranger pointed out that the No on Prop. 1 Campaign’s website says they have Sierra Club support, since the Sierra Club was against the RTID portion of last year’s Prop. 1. This hugely is misleading, because the Sierra Club is in fact fighting for this year’s ballot measure. Barnett notes that the link on the ‘No’ campaign’s site to the Sierra Club was being redirected to the Yes Campaigns awesome site,

Well now the ‘No’ campaign has brought a cache of Sierra’s “” site from last year, put it on there own site – though making it look just like the Sierra Club’s own site – and are linking to that with the Sierra Club link. So dodgy. These people are delibrately misleading voters.

Vanishing Parking Lots

This tongue-in-cheek Stranger Article from Dominic Holden about the city’s vanishing parking lots is hillarious. But this fact is pretty interesting:

All across Seattle, cherished opens spaces offer residents a bucolic respite—places where hearts, minds, and spirits can soar. But Seattle’s parking lots are threatened. Seattle—formerly home to several square miles of pristine asphalt—has been losing its parking lots at an alarming rate. Bryan Stevens, spokesman for the city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD), says that in 2006, Seattle was home to approximately 670 pay parking lots. But in 2007, only 530 were left. At this rate of eradication, every pay lot in Seattle will be gone within four years.

The last line depends on whether the trend is the absolute shrink (140 lots per year) or a percentage shrink (20% per year), because with the later will have parking lots forever, just very few. Anyway enough nerdness.

Seattle Center Plans

The City Council has unaminously approved the Century 21 committee’s 20 year, $567 million Seattle Center Plan. The transit portion of the plan is from the Seattle Times article on the Seattle Center proposal.

Memorial Stadium. The city and Seattle Public Schools are negotiating an agreement for the future of the 1948 stadium. To create more open, usable space, the city wants to tear down the concrete walls and move the sports field to the eastern side of the current stadium. Those changes would expand the International Fountain area by 4 acres. A 1,300-space parking garage would be built underneath the stadium, and delivery trucks, school buses and Metro buses would access the campus through the garage. This would also allow the existing parking garages on Mercer Street to be razed, and their sites could be redeveloped.

I can’t imagine how this transit-enters-garage system will not be a disaster. Can you imagine the scene there during an event? Hundreds of cars pouring in-and-out of the Center’s garage with the buses stuck behind them, and a ton of miserable riders just hoping desperately to get off as soon as possible before the 2020-version of Beck’s show ends. Other than that, the plan is okay, but I hope they can preserve the more charming parts of the Center in the way I can still remember them: the Center House, the Fountain and the Ampitheatre (my first four live performances as a musician were there).

What do you think? Have you ever been on a bus that entered a parking garage?

Sound Transit Promises On-Time Sea-Tac Station

The FTA estimated that Sea-Tac station might not come on line until sometime in 2010, a few months after the 2009 estimated opening Sound Transit has scheduled. The delay would be primarly caused by the late bids and the fact the contractors had not yet written detailed plans and schedules at the time the FTA report was written in June. Sound Transit has now come-out and said they don’t believe the will be late, and it’ll be done by December 2009 as promise. Apparently Mowat, the contractor, filed the schedule in June, so the report missed the data by just a few weeks.

Honestly, I’m a little it sceptical with the reasoning behind the on-time promise. However, I did go to the airport yesterday and it looked like concrete was pouring, which means at least construction is pretty far along. This is one issue to watch in the coming months.

The good news from the article:

Despite cost overruns in spots, there is ample reserve money left after four years of construction. If current trends continue, the Seattle-Tukwila portion will be finished for about $140 million less than its $2.44 billion budget. Any leftover money could be spent for operations or light-rail extensions.


Aubrey Davis in the Times

Former Washington State Transportation Commission chairman Aubrey Davis has an op-ed explaining why Light Rail is the best solution for transportation on the Eastside. Aubrey lives on Mercer Island, which will be losing their special carpool entrance to I-90, so that means he must be really for light rail to support it this way.

The debate over whether we should invest in more highways, buses or trains has gone on long enough and it’s time that we stop talking and start building.

This means we must invest in the transportation mode that makes sense for each corridor and does the best job of moving the most people. In the case of connecting the Eastside and Seattle, the right transportation choice is building light rail across Interstate 90.

He does have something that I disagree with:

The Eastside is growing at an unimaginable rate. New office buildings, condominiums and retail centers are increasing the urban density in downtown Bellevue. In the very near future, the Eastside will be equal to Seattle in the number of jobs and residences.

Residences might be true, but Seattle is building more office space right now than Bellevue has in total. According to the Seattle PI Bellevue currently has 8 million square feet of office space, about 25% of Downtown Seattle’s 40 million, and will have 13.1 million sq ft by 2020. Some 2 million sq ft will open this year and another 2 million next year, with another 13 million sq ft in design review or development right now between the Financial District, Uptown (the Bill and Melinda Gate’s foundation buildings are 1.9 million sq ft), South Lake Union (Amazon’s campus alone is nearly 3 million sq ft), the Denny Triangle and the Selig Properties on Western.

Why is this important? Because the growth of Downtown Seattle means that connecting the Eastside to Seattle will be even more important in the future than it is today. As more people commute from Seattle to the Eastside and vice-versa, connecting the two jobs and residential centers will be critically important, and as Aubrey says, “Only light rail has the capacity and reliability to serve the cross-lake connection at the level that we are going to need”.

News Round-Up

Be Alert

Wilburton Tunnel Comes Down

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

WSDOT crews knocked down the Wilburton Tunnel this weekend. The tunnel is coming down as part of the I-405 South Bellevue Widening Project. With the tunnel gone, the 42-mile Eastside Rail corridor will be officially severed in two. Nevertheless, the PSRC is still moving forward with a second study on using the corridor for commuter rail.

Photo from WSDOT used under a Creative Commons license.

STB Anti-Endorsements

As I mentioned recently, we sought to endorse candidates for Tuesday’s primary that had taken a strong stand for transportation issues. We even asked for recommendations.

In a sad statement about our State, we didn’t find much in the way of candidates to endorse. We refuse to endorse candidates about whom we can’t say anything positive, except that they’re not as bad as their opponent. So instead, we’re going to release anti-endorsements, candidates you should most definitely not vote for because of their retrograde position on transit.

As an officially non-partisan blog, we’ve stripped away our feelings about other issues to focus on their position on transportation and land use. We also aren’t bothering to evaluate races, like Attorney General, that don’t really matter for transit. So bear that in mind. Hope you didn’t mail your ballot in already!

Governor: We’ve broken down before why Dino Rossi‘s transportation plan is probably unconstitutional, hostile to transit, and almost certainly dead on arrival in Olympia. Nevertheless, his plan at least shows that his heart is in the wrong place. Mr. Rossi gains our anti-endorsement.

41st District Senate (Mercer Island, Newcastle, Bellevue , Renton): Bob Baker‘s website has a stream of Kemper Freeman talking points and misleading factoids.

We simply need to apply the free-market principles of choice and find ways to accommodate more lanes of road. Period.

Yes Bob! Roads are a free market paradise, not subsidized like those rotten transit riders! Because buses stuck in traffic and cars stuck in traffic make for an infinite universe of “choices!”

Read it: it’s so bad it’s good. Needless to say, Mr. Baker earns our most emphatic anti-endorsement.

41st District House (Mercer Island):  What is it with Mercer Island?  The threat to their precious express lanes (which will be fully replaced by one HOV lane in each direction before the rail goes in)?

Rep. Judy Clibborn has fought the installation of rail on I-90, which would effectively kill light rail to the Eastside.  You would think a city that would be among the first to get rail service wouldn’t have so many of these kinds of characters.  Anyway, Clibborn gets our anti-endorsement.

10th District Senate (Camano Island): I don’t know if we have any readers out there, but Mary Margaret Haugen was the driving force behind governance reform this year. She gets bonus points for claiming that her constituents “don’t even know who their Sound Transit representative is,” which makes sense because her constituents lie outside the Sound Transit district and therefore don’t have a representative.

Sample Afghan Ballot from Wikimedia Commons. Good candidates all, but I wonder what their positions are on Sound Transit 2?

Seahawks Service: Local Press Ignores Sounder

Today both the Seattle Times and P-I have pieces up about the end (at least for now) of Metro shuttle service to Seahawks games. First, I want to say this is a ridiculous issue. This is the federal government cutting local transit service off at the knees with the pretend “let’s see what happens if we privatize something” attitude that simply ignores everything we’ve learned from the last century of transportation. It’s like selling the only bridge to an island to a private company, then tolling it to “see if it gets any revenue”. It’s a handout to a private company at the expense of the users.

That said, both articles completely ignore the existence of Sounder service to regular season games. An earlier P-I article only mentions Sounder to say that it won’t serve the upcoming pre-season game – that’s great, Sounder has never served pre-season games. The implication that this is a change from the status quo is ridiculous.

Both articles imply that there’s no transit service to Seahawks games anymore, period. Bending over backwards to use the term “transit shuttle service” or “bus trip” seems to me like a pretty dishonest way of avoiding mentioning Sounder – when Sounder will serve every regular season Sunday home game, just as it has for years. Perhaps they don’t mention it because Sounder costs far less than the new Starline service? With free parking at Everett, Tacoma, and many points in between? We can’t have mass transit undercutting private businesses, now, can we?

Here’s contact info for the authors. Perhaps we could mention to them (politely, please) that it’s a little odd that Sounder game service goes almost entirely unmentioned?

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or

Larry Lange can be reached at 206-448-8313 or