I wanted to expand a bit on Andrew’s post and the P-I article that inspired it, “Sound Transit’s light rail plan may cut traffic 30%, says study“.

It may be that this article just sort of disperses into the ether, but if not, it’s likely we’ll see a war of projections.  What’s important to remember is the extent to which these projections are dependent on a lot of outside assumptions.

At one extreme, the city and county could decide to let light rail wither on the vine, by not investing in bus, bike, or car access to the stations.  By leaving zoning restrictions steady, they could minimize the number of people that can easily walk to stations.  At the same time, if Sound Transit 2 goes down and legal shenanigans somehow bring down University Link, you’d deny LINK the network effects that will exponentially increase ridership.  Externally, a large fall in gas prices and local economic downturn would also depress ridership.

On the other hand, local jurisdictions could reorient bus service to feed light rail, build streetcars, expand light rail liberally, build adequate parking at P&Rs, and upzone massively around stations to allow population and job growth there.  If drivers experience tolls, congestion, and/or high gas prices, a lot of them will be looking for an alternative.

As it happens, due to Federal Transit Administration rules, the official LINK ridership projections are quite conservative because they don’t allow for upzoning.  That’s one reason I was gratified to see this article in the P-I about the city’s attempt to revise 20-year old neighborhood development plans to accommodate light rail.

34 Replies to “Projections”

  1. Bus-reorientation can have a huge effect. In Manhattan the subway goes North-South for the most part, and because of it, a ton of the buses are cross-town.

    A similar effect could be seen here. You’ll still need buses to run along the Ave and Eastlake, but you won’t need as many 70-series buses going between downtown and the U-dist, freeing those buses to go to other areas. None of that is being counted in ridership numbers.

    1. Already a lot of buses use the U-District to feed into the downtown express buses; I’ve been regularly meeting people on the Ave lately who want to double-check that it’s the right stop to get a bus downtown. They are transferring from all over north Seattle, and often say it’s their first time riding the bus. I don’t know if the 2016 Husky Stadium Station will provide much opportunity for reorienting those people (it’s over a mile from the Ave), but if Prop 1 passes, in 2020 the Brooklyn stop will be a no-brainer.

      The 2016 Husky Statium Station does provide a good commute opportunity for the 30,000 UW employees, especially the thousands that work at the UW Medical Center which is literally across the street from Husky Statium.

      1. I think almost every non- express bus that goes by UW stops near the Husky Stadium station, either at the Med Center stop or on campus. The only exception I can think of is the 30, but it overlaps with the 31 and the 75 pretty well. If the schedules and drivers let people know where to transfer, it should work out well.

      2. Yeah, not too bad. According to the gmap-pedometer it’s about .63 mi from the Pacifc St and Brooklyn 30/31/45 stop to Husky Stadium, so that’s technically under a mile for our Wallingford commmuters. The 49 doesn’t go near, either, but it starts in the U-District. For most people it would be adjusting to a different bus (i.e., 65 instead of 71).

      3. Keep in mind that the 30 and 31 only stop at Pacific and Brooklyn going eastbound; going westbound they stop at Campus Pkwy instead. The 31 goes onto campus though, which puts it a bit closer to the stadium station.

      4. Unfortunately, it’s about a mile from Husky Stadium up to 45th (and currently no buses run that part of Montlake Blvd). Best you could do would be walk up the .4 mi to campus and take a bus for 2-3 stops.

      5. From what I’ve heard UW is working on getting a bus going up and down Montlake to serve U Village, the IMA, and Husky Stadium. Hopefully it will start running soon.

      6. I finally found a link; it’s project #15 on SDOT’s University Area Transportation Action Strategy from earlier this year. It’s just one project of many proposed, but would involve adding a southbound HOV lane to Montlake between U Village and the bridge.

        Unfortunately it looks like the main reason there isn’t bus service there now is the giant traffic backups on Montlake, which the HOV lane would bypass. It’s too bad, since that means we won’t get bus service there for another couple years at least.

      7. It would make sense for (some) 71,72,73 buses to drive that bit down Pacific and terminate at Husky Stadium. You’d have fewer transfers necessary for hospital trips, for instance.

        On the other hand, I would only want to see that when it wouldn’t add time to a commute downtown.

      8. It would be faster whenever the express lanes are going northbound. The schedule only has it 8 minutes slower (22 minutes instead of 14 between 45th and University Street Station), but I’ve seen it take longer than that.

  2. I think the neighborhood plans are 16 years old. But yeah.

    I am oppotimistic that prop 1 will pass. What do the polling numbers look like?

  3. And by involved I mean some rail fantatics admit to texting with the rail operator seconds before the crash. This case still needs to be investigated fully.

    I think ST should rethink having its operator’s compartment fully shielded from passenger view by a door with a pull-down shade. Perhaps this visibility would have the effect of discouraging train operators from talking or texting on their cell phones.

    “But ST trains aren’t going to share the track with freight trains,” you scoff. No, but they will be sharing the tracks with other ST trains, which can break down, and sharing the tracks with roads on which vehicles can break down. And when a train or vehicle eventually does break down on the tracks, we need to ensure the our train operators aren’t preoccupied or distracted by doing things they shouldn’t be doing. It’s a small thing, but I think making them more visible to the passengers would discourage this kind of unsafe behavior.

    1. Sam, ST’s system has automatic train stop. If a train runs a signal, central control stops it. The track Metrolink ran on did not have that feature, and that feature would have prevented the accident.

  4. Brian, one reason you may want to comment on a major commuter train accident is 1) You, and others here, are a rail fanatics, and have often commented on rail systems outside of the Seattle area when the story’s of a positive nature, so your question as to why we should care about a rail accident in LA rings hollow. 2) We will be getting out own ST rail system next year. 3) This is a blog that is focused on rail transit. 4) Talking about any way we can improve rail safety is the responsible thing to do. Others may wish to only cheerlead or gush over rail. I will not do so.

    In light of this accident, I think the operators of our new system should be monitored via video camera to ensure no one is talking or texting on a cell phone, or boeing otherwise distracted. Short of that, there should be a clear view of the operator from the passenger compartment, which there currently is not. The view is blocked by a door with a small window with a pull-down shade. Metro drivers will be staffing the ST trains, and some Metro drivers are known to be in the habit of talking on their cell phones while driving. We don’t want them carrying this dangerous habit over to the trains.

    I will be making my thoughts about this known to ST.

  5. The people on this blog seem very defensive. I’m not sure why. All I am saying is I think ST should look at this accident, and if being distracted by a cell phone call or text was a factor in the crash, then they should take precautions to ensure no ST operator can make the same mistake.

    What’s wrong with me coming here to brain storm and suggest a way I think they could discourage rail operators from using their cell phones while on the job?

    I’m I’m sorry, but “It’s already against the law!” doesn’t cut it, with me.

    1. It’s not that it’s already against the law, it’s that we already do take precautions with Link that would prevent this accident.

    2. It’s not so much defensive for me as it is just trying to explain it to the best of our abilities, we don’t govern or make the rules for Sound Transit nor can we speak on their behalf.

      As far as the rules go….

      1.10 Games, Reading, or Electronic Devices
      Unless permitted by the railroad, employees on duty must not:

      * Play games.
      * Read magazines, newspapers, or other literature not related to their duties.
      or
      * Use electronic devices not related to their duties.

      1. And this is per BNSF’s which is the same as Union Pacific’s

        Rule 1.10 Games, Reading or Electronic Devices, the
        following is added:

        Crew members using cell phones/laptop computers while
        on duty are governed as follows:

        * All crew members are prohibited from using cell phones/
        laptop computers when their train or engine is moving.
        (Electronic work order reporting devices and handheld PDA
        devices are to be considered as laptop computers in the
        application of this rule.

        * Crew members may use a cell phone when their train or
        engine is stopped provided its use does not interfere with
        required duties such as train inpections or switching
        activities.

        * If necessary for conductors to report work using a cell
        phone, this must be done while the train or engine is
        stopped.
        Exception: Crew members of passenger trains may use a
        cell phone or PDA device for business purposes while the
        train is moving provided they are not in the controlling unit or
        the cab room of the controlling cab car.

  6. We aren’t just solely just rail fanatics though yes we do push for it heavily because we are at the point where bus transportation no longer is adequate for this region.

    I understand regarding rail safety but I am unfamiliar with the signal system in that region. My understanding that it is CTC controlled just like it is between Seattle and Vancouver, WA (BNSF Seattle Subdivision)

    The rule with the shade being down is dependent on the Train Crew. Some don’t mind having people look or chit chat with them, others prefer to keep things closed off. BNSF and Sound Transit restricts the first row of seats but I am pretty sure a NTSB review of the Bombardier cars will be made.

    I am not sure if there is a camera that is aimed at the driver/operator of LINK. I will have to review my photos of the cab interior that I took but I doubt that there is.

    As for the Chatsworth incident. I am pretty sure there will be a heavy review of just how safe the Bombardier Coaches and Cab cars really are. If you remember the photo, the passenger locomotive went INSIDE the trailing passenger car. The amount of force to even do that had to be incredible in itself for that to happen but the complete and total structural failure of the car is what is dis-concerning since this seems to be a common problem with these cars.

  7. Sam, this post:

    “Seattle rail buff bloggers remain silent over fellow rail buff texters involved in LA rail crash.”

    Is incredibly offensive. To link us with the tragic accident in California is reprehensible and distasteful.

  8. Sam, we are volunteers for a blog and not paid media. Most of us are focusing on the campaign and not on this blog — so you’ll notice that all posts have been less frequent recently.

    However begin volunteers who do this for fun in our free time, you can imagine that none of us are anxious to post about tragedy regardless of the form.

    Nearly every news story about the accident has covered, in particular, the horrible, horrible sounds of human beings who were stuck in the wreckage. Almost of all of them have remarked on the sheer amount of blood. So it’s an incredible tragedy and a delicate matter, and one that doesn’t necessarily require the coverage of a mass transit advocacy blog.

    Listen, the “yes” campaign has a kick-off this Wednesday. There’s still no post about it here — does that mean we don’t want to cover the “yes” campaign? No, it doesn’t: we’re all busy people, we’re all volunteers. Sam, you could leave this site for a month and no one would hold you accountable. If we leave for a few days, maybe we don’t deserve unfair scrutiny?

  9. I don’t think Sam meant to be offensive, he was just pointing out the fact that this blog focuses on the positive, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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