Kummant Resigns

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant has resigned:

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black declined to comment on the specific reasons for Kummant’s departure, but said the executive and Amtrak’s board ”had differences in strategic direction and management philosophy.”

Our past Kummant coverage here. It’s hard to see why the CEO would want to go out after Amtrak had two of its best years ever, and is about to see the inauguration of one of the most transit-friendly administrations since… well, ever. These are heady times for Amtrak.

If I had to make a totally uneducated guess, I would say that Kummant was more of an incrementalist, focused on small-bore, yet vital upgrades. He’s pooh-poohed the idea of building HSR in the Northeast Corridor in the past, saying it would be more cost-effective to beef up medium-speed rail corridors nationwide instead. It may be that the Amtrak board wants to use this opportunity to think big, and Kummant wasn’t down with that.

(Via the NY Observer)

Metro’s Fare Hike Not Quite Enough

If the 50¢ Metro fare increase John mentioned yesterday does generate $30 million for Metro through 2010, it would fall short of the amount Metro very needs to cover its $70 million budget shortfall. In my last post on the subject, I noted a County Council plan that could save $30 million for Metro by combining redundant departments within Metro with those within the rest of the County. The County Council claimed they needed a proposal that would save $20 million per year, along with another $40 million capital project cuts.

We’ll keep you informed on this subject. Metro’s still short $5 million a year even with the fare hike, capital project cuts, and the possible staffing reductions.

Canada Delaying Amtrak Improvements

According to this Op-Ed in the Province, the work to improve the track between the border in Vancouver by creating a passing track in Delta, BC was completed six months ago. However, the Canada Border Services Agency has imposed new costs on the service, and that has delayed progress the service improvements. Let’s hope they can get their act in shape, the last time I took Amtrak to Vancouver it took hours and hours; any improvement would make the trip much more pleasent.

Metro Fare Hike Approved

The King County Council has approved a 50-cent fare hike to be phased in over the next 14 months.  On February 1, 2009 fares will be boosted by 25 cents — which will bring one-zone peak fares up to $2.00 and two-zone peaks to $2.50. Fares will be boosted again in January 2010 by another quarter. The fare increases will generate over $30 million of additional revenue through 2010.

News Round-Up

Alaskan Way Viaduct

  • Apparently its not just transit around that costs more around here than in other parts of the country. The third runway at Sea-Tac will have cost more than $1 billion when it opens for air traffic next week, and debt service will continue until 2035. The article mentions a future debate about where to put the next airport, since Sea-Tac will likely be overcrowded again by 2024. If debating airports is anything like debating bridges or rail lines, I guess we’ll see a new airport in, oh, about 2060.
  • Parking rates are going up around the city, mostly as way to raise new funds. Surprisingly (to me) the business community is for the changes, since it will mean more spaces for shoppers.
  • This P-I piece on the Viaduct replacement options has two really interesting facts: 1) at least 766 parking spaces will be eliminated, regardless of which option is choosen, and 2) if option B is chose, daily transit trips to the city center will increase 196,000 to as many as 305,000 by 2015.
  • A better bailout for Detroit, have the federal government order a fleet of “green” cars.

Capitol Hill Business Mitigation

jack in the box
Details on the Capitol Hill station construction mitigation. Sound Transit spends a lot of money, in this case $610,000, on construction mitigation for businesses around projects, and the Capitol Hill station is smack in the center of a major business district. Sound Transit will even have a full-time staff working in the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce office.

The article details a lot of the potential problems that might surface, especially the part around hauling truck-fulls of dirt down Olive Way.

BRT in Eugene

Here’s a video of the EMX BRT in Eugene, where they use the same sort of coaches that Rapid Ride will use. Here’s a news story on the system. The BRT system, entitled the “Emerald Express”, has 60% of its route in a dedicated lane, which is always the sign of a good transit system. Currently there is no fare for rides on the route.

I’ve seen this from a car, but I don’t know anything else about this system, have any of you been on it?

Link Maps

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Oran’s strip maps of the current and future light rail lines are great.

What I really want to hang on my wail is one of Campell Scott’s SUPERTRAIN posters from the movie “Singles.” If anyone knows where to find one, drop me a line.

About that $813 Million…

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

There is much rejoicing in the transit blogosphere about the $813M federal grant to fund University Link. Just to put that in context, it’s worth noting that we’ve known about the grant for years. The first $100M installment came in July.

It was originally $700M, then became $750M, and I guess they’ve managed to wrangle an additional $63M on top of that, perhaps due to increased project costs, inflation, or simply increased need. It also received the FTA’s highest rating, and of course there’s the whole Patty Murray thing.

Anyway, U-link is a solid project, and it’s great that the numbers have been finalized, but the basic financial contours of the project remain about the same: $1.9B in total costs, about half of which will come from the Feds.

ST Express Service Changes

The latest issue of ST’s Regional Transit News includes a proposal to speed up the 554, and do a major re-route of the 555 and 556 between DT Bellevue and the Eastgate P&R.

The 554 would stop only on the HOV access ramp and continue on to Issaquah or Seattle, rather than circle around to the bays in front of the garage.  This would save five minutes each way, allowing more service along the corridor, while adding a 900 ft. walk for those that have to transfer.

As someone who will have to do that walk, but is also reasonably young and fit, I’m comfortable with a short walk to prevent torturous routing.  I don’t know where they’d get the money to do this, but it would be especially nice to duplicate or move the elevator in the SW corner of the garage to the Southeast corner, to allow easy access from the 142nd Ave bridge.

As for the 555 and 556, they’d travel via Bellevue Way and the South Bellevue Park and Ride.  This would  speed up the total trip time by about 5 minutes, in addition to improving connections between S. Bellevue P&R (a future light rail site?) and numerous other places.   I’m certainly excited that in 2020 there would be reasonably direct route from Eastgate and Issaquah to the station.

Between the two routes, the only stop that would go away is the Factoria stop on the 555, to be replaced by the one at S. Bellevue.  Keep in mind that each of these routes only goes in one direction during peak times.

The changes are expected to occur in June.

FTA: $813 Million for Univesity Link

The Federal Transit Administration announced to Congress today it’s plan to fund University Link to the tune of $813 million. The notification is the second to last step to ensuring the full funding grant agreement between the FTA and Sound Transit. After today, Congress as 60 days to discuss the agreement, and if nothing unsurprising happens, the FTA will be able to execute the agreement. So by the middle of January, the FTA can start giving Sound Transit money to for University Link.

The press release, I can’t find a link, includes this quote:

University Link will provide a reliable option for drivers and transit users who are stuck on I-5, a facility that operates over capacity for up to eight hours a day, with vehicle speeds running between 15 and 35 mph. Already, buses can run up to 30 minutes behind schedule due to congestion. Compared to bus service, University Link travel times will be almost three times faster. From the University District, it will take 9 minutes instead of 25 minutes to get downtown and 3 minutes instead of 22 minutes to get to Capitol Hill.

Three minutes from the UD to Capitol Hill. Amazing.

Viaduct Replacement Options

WSDOT has this site detailing eight options for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. The plans differ pretty remarkably, from a “low capital” surface-option with little built to deep-bored tunnel, and even a covered four lane elevated structure, with a sky-bridge and development underneath the roadway. Definitely view the plans, and check out the interactive flash map.

Each option seems to include either the Alaskan Way Viaduct or the “Central Streetcar” line on First Avenue, with the exception of option ‘d’, the new elevated highway. I don’t actually know if any of these options include funding for these transit improvements. Option ‘e’ is doubling down on the viaduct, with a truly massive, super-structure on the waterfront. I’m partial to ‘b’, the surface-transit option.

Which do you prefer? What is the worst? Let us know in the comments.

H/T to the estimable Gordon Werner.

Viaduct Proposal Visualizations

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

WSDOT just uploaded images that show how each of the 8 alternatives will look in real life. First off I want to say how amazing these images are. WSDOT is trying very hard to make sure that the public understands how these alternatives will look.

Second look at alternatives A through C. Just imagine it! These alternatives will completely change downtown seattle. This street will be lined by cafes and restaurants that spill out into the sidewalk. It will be filled with Seattlites strolling and just enjoying themselves. We will wonder why we even contemplated keeping the viaduct. And look at this disaster. I would not want to be one of those people. They make alternative E look okay but I think the ends of the “integrated” structure will look awkward not to mention cutting off the rest of the city from the water. Lets not forget this is a freeway.

From a vehicle movement perspective alternative C is probably the best acceptable solution. I could do a calculation using the HCM to figure out the difference in vehicle throughput but I can’t find my copy of the HCM right now.

From an urban planning perspective A and B are the best alternatives. A is a low capital option of B which is good to consider, but alternative B is a knock out! Read the description.

“Scenario B is similar to Scenario A, but it has more capital investments and more aggressive transit improvements.

Alaskan Way would be two-lanes in each direction north of Yesler Way, with bike lanes and parking. There would be signalized intersections along the waterfront. The east/west streets north of the Battery Street Tunnel would be reconnected with new signalized intersections on Aurora Avenue.

In this scenario the streetcar system would be extended, with lines to Fremont/Ballard, University District, central downtown, and Capitol Hill/First Hill. The bus rapid transit system would be extended with lines for Delridge and Lake City Way and from Ballard to the University District. This service would be in addition to planned new lines serving Ballard, West Seattle and Aurora Avenue.

There would also be more extensive I-5 improvements than with Scenario A. An additional northbound lane on I-5 would start near Cherry Street and go north to SR 520.

This scenario would offer open space of 76-86 feet along the waterfront.”

The one down side of this alternative is that the pedestrian promenade along the water will be narrower and in alternative C. Maybe a hybrid of B and C could be used to increase the size of the promenade while maintaing the same vehicle throughput.

Daily transit trips to, from and within the city center will dramatically increase, from 196,000 to as many as 305,000 by 2015 if one surface option replaces the viaduct.


Third Runway

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The long awaited third runway at Sea-Tac will finally open this month. Meanwhile, the PSRC’s Prosperity Blog also notes that Delta (new owner of Northwest) is bagging it’s nonstop to London. The result will probably be British Airways raising prices and monopolizing the route for a while.

Fewer flights at Sea-Tac, plus increased capacity, may slow the need for a second major airport, but Sea-Tac will still hit capacity in 20 years or so. Then what? Boeing Field? Paine Field?

ST Link Update

Here are some updates for you hungry light-railers.

Central Link:

The overhead wiring is progressing in the northbound Beacon Hill tunnel and connecting the system to the MLK and initial test segment. These items should be completed by the end of the year. As usual, once the wiring is finished, dead wire testing will follow before live testing through the tunnel will be allowed. Wiring has been completed in the southbound tunnel and crews are working to finish up connecting East Portal to Walden Street.

All LRV’s have arrived on the property but not all accepted. Once the equipment finishes burn-in and performance testing, they will be accepted by Sound Transit.

All MLK Stations are completed.

Full line testing will start next Spring (DTSS to South 154th Street)

Beacon Hill is still scheduled to open on time.

Airport Link:

Rail is completed up to the station. I originally thought it went into and through the station but it’s just outside of the station.

Ballast has been laid out along the Airport Expressway and has been tamped to spec.

OCS System will start installation sometime early next year.


Construction starts in November/December

“Terminal” vs “Not in Service”

Something I learned at the meet-up yesterday: you can board a bus whose board says “Terminal”, “East Base” or “Atlantic Base” bus if you wave the bus down. It is still up to the driver, but the drive can accept passengers. However, a bus marked “Not in Service” will not stop.

Interesting. I guess next time I’m on my way to Tukwila, I’ll look for “Atlantic Base” buses.