Copenhagen architects say all Viaduct options suck

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Well, maybe not “suck”, but the Seattle Times story we had already figured this out. Their other major point was that we need fewer cars on the road.

So what’s the solution to this “too wide” problem? Dan Bertolet suggests a new line of buildings on the east side of the plaza, which I think is a good idea. Does anyone have access to this report? Maybe they have recommendations.

Sound Move MVET Charged Outside of ST District

The 0.3% MVET that Sound Transit collects when registering vehicle tabs was accidentally collected for those living just outside of the Sound Transit district, the P-I reports:

More than $3 million in Sound Transit motor-vehicle excise taxes was wrongly collected from about 95,000 vehicle owners who lived outside the agency’s taxing district due to shortcomings of a computer program at a state agency, court testimony shows.

The taxes, which will be returned in the form of refunds, were collected between June 30, 2005, and July 1 of this year, according to court testimony by Sound Transit’s Chief Financial Officer Brian McCartan.

This is truly an embarrassing and unfortunate situation for Sound Transit to find itself in. To be clear, though, state agencies like the Department of Revenue and Department of Licensing are the ones who collect these taxes and presumably determine who should pay them — not ST. Sound Transit’s mission is to build transit and not collect taxes, after-all. All agencies at this point, however, should be working together to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. I’m glad everyone seems to be moving forward quickly with a refund to those who were wrongly charged the MVET.

Silver lining? Not to be flippant, but thank goodness this didn’t break before the election!

Jan Gehl

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

To start does anyone know where I can get a copy of Jan Gehl’s report on the viaduct? Here is a quote of his from an interview that I just watched.

“The amount of traffic in any city in the world is arbitrary, it is a matter of how much asphalt you gave them in the first place.” Jan Gehl, (via streetsfilms)

Yeah he is good. They had lots of his work at the architecture center in copenhagen when I visited this summer.

On a similar but unrelated note take a look at this bike lane on the upper west side! Have they gone mad?!? We don’t build bike lanes that that is the US. It makes our bicycle master plan and sharrows look a bit mickey mouse doesn’t it.
(via streetsblogs)

If you haven’t started reading streetsblog get with it. It is tad NYC centric but there is lots of great information, especially bike related.

Pay to Park in Fremont

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

No more free parking in the center of the universe.

Hey, if resources are priced at $0.00, sub-optimal consumption patterns will ensue. Personally, I’d much rather put a buck into the meter when I’m out running errands than circle for 15 minutes looking for a “free” space. But that’s just me. My time is actually worth money!

Seriously, though — if you have to pay to park in practically every other commercial district south of Green Lake, why not Fremont? It only seems fair.

Infrastructure as Job Engine

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I see that Sound Transit is touting the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station as a job creation engine:

The new station will enable ST Express buses to provide service to Mountlake Terrace, where Community Transit’s new park-and-ride garage is set to open Feb. 8. This project will give commuters more choices and make our highways and bus access routes more efficient and safer. This project will also create dozens of new jobs to benefit our economy.

To my knowledge, they haven’t done that before. I guess they’ve realized that infrastructure is the hot new bandwagon if you want to get on the federal gravy train (wow, that’s a mangled metaphor!).

In related infrastructure news, Atrios writes:

A bunch of other infrastructure projects are probably good ideas on the merits, could use some federal money, but are unlikely to really be able to get off the ground fast enough to really be a quality short run stimulus. But there’s another category of stuff, low level things like street and sidewalk repair, demolition of abandoned buildings, etc… that there’s pretty much an infinite demand for.

Indeed. We can’t start handing out hammers next month and get to work on East Link (or 520, for that matter), but we can certainly get to work on Seattle’s embarrassing lack of sidewalks, for example. The quickest way to make this a “walkable” city is to ensure there’s a proper sidewalk to walk on.

Ads in the Transit Tunnel

Apparently someone in Metro has heard the cry for more advertising, because they have announced the introduction of paid advertising in the Downtown Tunnel. The ads have been up all week, but I haven’t had a chance to snap a photo. If you look at the amount of money they will be getting, it’s obvious that it’s worth it: $30,000 for a single station for a single month.

What do you think of the ads? Pics and a correction below the fold.

Continue reading “Ads in the Transit Tunnel”

Washington Ferry System – Part 1

Photo by Brian Bundridge – M/V Walla Walla departing Edmonds

With many projects coming up, such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the 6-month closure of the Hood Canal Bridge, and replacement of SR-520 floating bridge – not to mention the rest of the 277 state-wide projects on the list of things to do, it comes as no surprise that there is still a huge hole in our transportation system even with our excellent bus, heavy and upcoming light-rail. Some may be pondering what exactly I am talking about – we have buses, we have rail, we have decent roads and an improving ferry system. This is all true but more can be done and needs to be done, starting with the ferry system.

Continue reading “Washington Ferry System – Part 1”

SF’s Streetcar Lessons

Monorail and Streetcar: Past, Present, and Future
Streetcar and Monoral, by Oranviri

SLU Streetcar and Monorail, by Oranviri, via the STB flickr pool
A lot of people say that streetcars are really most useful if they are traffic-separated, unlike the SLUT which generally runs in lanes shared with traffic. I’d say they are still useful even in shared lanes, but I want to show an example of how, over time, streetcar systems can develop into traffic separated and even grade-separated transit. San Francisco’s Muni Metro has developed from a streetcar network to a hybrid system that has a mix of shared-lanes, at-grade but traffic-separated lanes, and even fully grade-separated routing.
Continue reading “SF’s Streetcar Lessons”

Sound Transit Error In Your Favor…

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

…collect $3.5 million:

McCartan’s testimony in King County Superior Court came as a result of a lawsuit filed in August by Rachel Ogle of Snohomish, who sued complaining she’d been wrongly billed $86 in Sound Transit vehicle charges, even though she lives outside the agency’s district. The excise tax is 0.3 percent, or $30 per $10,000 of vehicle value.

The incorrect billings verified by Sound Transit went to addresses around the periphery of the agency’s district, which includes the urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, in areas where residential ZIP codes straddled the boundary.

Officials attributed the incorrect readings to incorrect or insufficient computer information that guides an instrument used to help the state determine which homes are inside the district.

Dudes, this is not the way to try and accelerate light rail construction!

Kidding aside, obviously this is a serious error, and it’s good Sound Transit is bending over backwards to fix it. I don’t quite understand why the woman in question filed a lawsuit, but that’s our litigious society for you.

On a policy note, this is one more reason why overlapping jurisdictions and small, single-purpose agencies are complicated.


This column from Donald Padelford of the CETA is the sort of thing I had hoped we wouldn’t have to ready anymore after Prop. 1 passed. He’s pushing BRT and HOT, which is not the problem with the piece. The problem is that he criticises light rail for being light rail and its supporters for being vain. And something about world class that seems really trite.

My advice for those pushing for BRT over light rail in our region: We’re getting light rail, so stop complaining about it. It’s over, you lost. If you want to get BRT and HOT built, first come up with a plan, get some supporters and make friends who those inclined to agree with you. Don’t call us vain and tell us our efforts are a waste of time, or else you’ll ensure your efforts are.

The Ranks are Closing

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The city council is going to endorse the Surface/Transit option for the Viaduct, says the P-I. Theoretically this is one reason why they had to approve the streetcars this week, as the streetcars are important to downtown mobility during and after construction.

Here’s something that just occurred to me today, but which is kind of obvious in retrospect. Traffic improvements are relative to what existed before. Which means that traffic will suck down on the waterfront for 5 years, while they take the viaduct down, rebuild the seawall, and build new surface boulevards (including, possibly the mini-tunnel under Pike Market).

During that time, people will adjust their commuting patterns. Then, construction will end and the situation will improve. And since we’ll have had 5 years to adjust, the result will be a net gain in mobility.

Streetcars Approved

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

So the council’s transportation subcommittee has approved 4 more streetcar lines, pretty much the same ones we heard about in May. I’m actually rather surprised that these things still have support in the midst of an economic downturn. Not that I don’t think it’s wise to invest in infrastructure in a downturn — I just (a) didn’t think that many council members agreed with me, and (b) wasn’t sure where the money would come from, since the city presumably can’t run a budget deficit.

But streetcars we shall have, it appears! I’m still skeptical about running them on streets as crowded as 1st Ave downtown and Broadway on Capitol Hill. One double-parked car or fender bender and you’ve effectively taken down the network for hours.

Nick Licata’s not impressed:

Councilmen Richard McIver and Nick Licata voted against the streetcar resolution Tuesday. Licata said too much is still unknown, including the impact on bus service, how construction and streetcars will be paid for and how the operations will be funded long term.

“They have no idea where they are going to get this money,” Licata said. “It’s what I refer to as misguided good intentions.”

The Ballard and University District lines don’t pencil out, he said. Ballard doesn’t have the density for a streetcar, and the University District is better served by buses.

I don’t agree with that last bit — I think Ballard and the U-District absolutely can support a streetcar — but his concerns about money are well-founded. Will Metro be asked to take over operations once the lines are built? Presumably you’d get some efficiencies of scale by building up the network a bit, especially on maintenance and driver training. But the day-to-day operating subsidies will have to be paid for by someone, and I’m not sure a LID is your answer here, absent one large, Vulcan-like property owner to push for it.

City Council Panel Approves Streetcar Plan


Seattle’s City Council’s Transportation committee approved a streetcar expansion plan in a 4 to 2 vote today. A full council vote is expected for next week. Four lines in total were approved, the First Hill Line, the Central Line, a Ballard line and a University District Line. The two streetcar lines fast-tracked are the First Hill Line, which has had $120 million in funding approved as part of ST2 that passed last month, and the Central Line, which is meant to be a part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct construction mitigation. The Central Line will replace the defunct Waterfront Streetcar line, which will finally be removed during viaduct construction.

The First Hill line would run from the Pioneer Square or ID tunnel station up Jackson to around Broadway, turn north and follow Broadway up to either John or Aloha. The Central Line would follow First Ave from the Pioneer Square station to about Mercer street. Neither alignment is fixed, and there are groups pushing to change both plans. Some in First Hill want that line moved further west, since it was meant as a replacement for a First Hill subway station, and some along First Avenue don’t like that alignment for the Central Line, believing it would worsen traffic and remove parking along the street.

The vote also approved an extension of the SLU line on Eastlake to the University District, and a line to Ballard either on 15th Avenue or along Westlake through Fremont. Those two lines are not fast tracked. It’s worth noting that there is no funding for either of these lines, and that funding for the Central Line as part of the viaduct replacement is not definite, though the rumor is that WSDOT will fund it.

Since these routes can be built pretty quickly, both the Central Line and the First Hill line could open by 2012 or possibly sooner. Many in the city want the First Hill line to open much sooner than the funding is scheduled to come on line from ST2 – which allocates funding for the line around 2016 -since construction on the Capitol Hill station is going to disrupt life on Broadway, and bringing the streetcar there could make life a little easier. Final engineering for the First Hill line should be done by February 2009.

The two dissenters on this vote were Nick Licata and Richard McIver. Tom Rassmussen, who is not on the transportation panel, is likely to vote ‘no’ as well, and has a competing plan that he will bring to the full council along with Licata. One of the other two members not on the committee would need to vote yes in order to approve the streetcars in a full council vote.
Image from caseysail, via the STB flickr pool

More Election Data

We’ve discussed the King County results before, but now precinct data is out for both Snohomish and Pierce Counties.  (For Pierce, scroll all the way down to page 50.)

STB benefactor Oranviri may put together some maps for of us over the weekend, but in the meantime here are some raw numbers by Legislative District.  The Snohomish aggregates are courtesy of commenter Cascadian.

27th:    57.24%     Central Tacoma
28th:    52.94%     University Place, W. Lakewood, Steilacoom
29th:    50.08%     Parkland, Lakewood
25th:    44.80%     Fife, Puyallup
31st:    44.29%     Sumner, Bonney Lake
2nd:     41.34%     Orting, Roy

32nd    58.16%     Edmonds
21st     57.12%     Edmonds/Lynnwood/Mukilteo
1st       53.86%     Bothell/Brier/Mountlake Terrace
38th     52.17%     Everett
44th     50.15%     Mill Creek/E. Everett

Lastest Stimulus News

Based on the $250~$500 million number the State Transportation Department spokesman Lloyd Brown said the state would likely get for transportation funding from the stimulus package, I estimated that about $50~$100 billion would be spent on transportation nationwide. My sums were off: the state population is about 6.6 million, and thus 2.2% of the nation’s population. I used the numbers from our region, which is a little more than half the population of the state. Assuming the money is awarded on a proportional basis, which of course there is no gaurantee, that would mean about $12~$25 billion for transportation nationwide.

States want $176 billion from the stimulus package, $40 billion for medicare, and $136 billion for infrastructure projects. I understand that a lot of infrastructure is not transportation. Levees, water systems, flood-plain drainage systems, seawalls, and emergency systems are all “infrastructure” as well. But if $136 billion is spent, I have to guess that more than $12 or even $25 billion would go to transportation, which means I hope that something more like $1 billion could get spent here.

I’ve contacted several people in state and local governments, and I’ll work to keep you posted on this as it develops.

Bus Violence

Thursday’s P-I had an interesting article about rider-on-driver violence and Metro’s efforts to combat it.  Basically, they’ve shifted from off-duty police officers to a dedicated transit police force, and seems to have some positive effects.

It should surprise no one that the No. 7 is by far the worst route, with ten times the usual number of assaults.  That’s partly because the 7 has the heaviest ridership in the system, but it’s also because of socioeconomic problems in the Rainier Valley.

Since the 7 and Central Link will serve more or less the same population, there’s both a danger and an opportunity here for Sound Transit.  Because there’s a limited number of stations and many more riders per vehicle, it’s much more cost-effective to provide comprehensive security at stations at ground zero of a low-intensity gang war.  On the other hand, if ST lets these kinds of problems develop on the train, just a few incidents will gain Link a reputation for being dangerous and other neighborhoods will become hesitant to give “that element” easy access to their neighborhoods, opening the door for Tim Eyman or the legislature to come in and mess everything up.

We have a situation where the cost of prevention is small and the consequences of failure could be fairly severe.  I suggest they invest in the prevention.

What’s your mode split?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Per my travel demand forecasting post a week or two back (which I will be blogging about in the next few days) I decided to start tracking my mode split. In the process I ended up creating a nice little excel spread sheet to track myself, and I thought that it would be awesome to see what orphanroad’s readership’s mode split is. After all the more information we have the better choices we can make.

So if you want to track your mode split download this excel file. After you’re done e-mail it to me at . I want to do a little data manipulation and see if I can draw any conclusions.

Barely Transit Related: Convention Center

The Seattle Times today had an article discussing two alternate uses for the 7 cent hotel/motel tax: expanding the Washington State Convention Center or refitting Key Arena. I don’t really care which gets built, but the first plan raises an interesting transit question. That Convention Center station is part of downtown Transit Tunnel, but is not a Link station. What will happen to it in the event that Link trains become so frequent buses need to be taken out of the tunnel?

The on/off ramp from the I-5 express lanes is useful at very least, and expanding the convention center – as some in the state want to do – may not be a bad use of the airspace above the convention center. Another crazy idea I once thought about was putting a streetcar barn there, assuming more streetcars are built in the city. The current SLU barn, really only holds about three or four cars. What are other good uses of that space?

A last, little thing from the article:

Ceis said redirecting a portion of the 7 percent hotel tax could prove more palatable because it is collected only in the city of Seattle and primarily from out-of-town guests. (King County hotel rooms outside of Seattle are charged a 2.8 percent tax for the convention center.)

Although the convention center’s hotel-tax money is not part of the state’s general-fund budget, lawmakers have raided it before.

Two years ago, the Legislature grabbed $65 million from the convention-center account for the general fund — redirecting surplus hotel-tax funds to pay for other state services.

If Seattlites want to get riled up about being ripped off from a tax standpoint, look to this tax, especially if it’s being spent on the state’s general fund.