Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station, Courtesy Sound Transit
Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station, Courtesy Sound Transit

In 1963, Seattle Transit received an order of 100 buses, and was finally able to provide bus service to the parts of the city north of 85th st. Dozens of what are now Metro routes serving the north end were born that year. Since these were diesel coaches and not the electric trolley coaches of the older routes, they cost much more to operate and 1963 was the last year that Seattle Transit made a profit.

1963 is also the year the Evergreen Point floating bridge opened.

  • Sound Transit broke ground on a new “freeway station” in I-5 in Mountlake Terrace. Buses couldn’t really serve Mountlake Terrace Park-and-Ride because they would need to merge across several lanes of traffic, and the freeway stop lets buses pick up riders without ever merging a single lane. Cool stuff. Both Community Transit buses and Sound Transit buses will sue use the station.
  • The PSRC wants public input on the list of “contingency” transportation projects (pdf link). Funding for these projects would become available if other Puget Sound area projects don’t start within the necessary time frame, come in under budget, or if money from other regions wind’s up in our area because those regions don’t have enough “shovel ready” projects. You can comment by emailing
  • Cascade Bicycle club has released its bicycle report card for Seattle since May is Bike to Work Month. The grades are better than I would have thought: it’s a lot of B’s and C’s.
  • To those disappointed by the amount of transit-oriented-development in the Rainier Valley (I think there’s actually been a fair amount, but it’s all been public-private partnerships), remember that Brooklyn and the Bronx got all that dense development after the subway opened, not in anticipation of its opening. The line doesn’t open for another 63 days. I do agree with Dan Bertolet’s description of what’s needed to make TOD happen. I think it’s ultimately going to matter whether the city puts in place the zoning that makes responsible TOD possible – four stories isn’t enough potential to make good projects pencil out. And an up-zone is needed not just in the immediate station area, but in an walkable circle around the stations.
  • William Hudnut of the Urban Land Institute says the US needs a “Marshall Plan” for infrastucture. I 100% agree.

27 Replies to “News Round-Up: 63 days”

  1. Damn, “Both Community Transit buses and Sound Transit buses will sue the station”

    If they sue we’re in trouble.

  2. “Since these were diesel coaches and not the electric trolley coaches of the older routes, they cost much more to operate and 1963 was the last year that Seattle Transit made a profit.”

    I’ve heard that Metro’s Trolleys are actually more expensive to operate than diesel buses. Frankly, I don’t believe it, but I have no basis for my opinion other than the far lower cost of electricity vs diesel. Does anybody have any hard facts on this subject?

    Huh… Transit actually made a profit? Wow… I often wonder what a transit system would look like if people spent just 50% of what they spend on cars on transit instead. (Either through very high fares or in higher taxes). It would be an *amazing* system, that’s for sure…

    1. Depends on how you amortize the infrastructure (wires, power transformers, poles). Also, rmember that the older coaches had much less complexity; take a ride on the next MEHVA trip if you want to see.

      Yes Transit made profit. It made some very rich back when it did not have to compete against free government-built roads (while paying property taxes on its own ROW; sometimes ROW it had to share with the car AND maintain for the car!!!).

      Here’s where some of the profits went:

    2. I don’t know which are more costly today. I know back then, however, the electric trolleys were cheaper. It was 46 years ago, after all, a lot of things change in 46 years.

    3. Now, things might be different, depending on who pays what costs.

      The 1962-ish COMET report fought diesels based on demonstrated cost differences between 1940 and 1960. They tried to get the city to buy more electrics, and showed that the diesels were driving up costs.

    4. The failure to profit after 1963 was no doubt contributed to by the diesel extensions north of 85th St. into lower density areas where ridership was less. Or put another way, I doubt the ridership grew in proportion to the additional service hours operated by the extended diesel lines.

      And also remember, the trolleybus fleet dated from 1939-1940 and parts were hard to come by in the 1960s. Electricity may have been cheap but maintenance costs were rising year by year as the original trolleybus system aged. Seattle Transit System found itself in a position where acquiring a fleet of new diesel buses was cheaper than rebuilding and extending the trolleybus system.

      1. COMET claimed that when the operating and maintenance costs of the electrics versus the diesels were broken down, even before the new routes were opened, the diesels cost significantly more to operate on the same lines (between 1940 and 1960). They even had graphs!

        I’m not sure how they addressed the parts problem, but I have their pamphlet, I recall there was mention of it at the time, and they had some sort of solution.

      2. Yes, I’m familiar with COMET’s claims; I was around then and knew the principals. They were an advocacy organization and as such, their numbers and graphs are…shall we say, suspect. I would not be surprised if their operating cost comparisons just happened to omit the rising costs of maintaining the trolleybus overhead wire system.

        The real case to be made for trolleybuses is not economic but rather environmental. That’s what carried the day when Metro was voted into the transit business in 1972. They promised to rebuild and expand the trolleybus system for its environmental benefit.

        And they did exactly as they promised.

  3. When Link finally gets there is the MT Link station going to be attached to the Park & Ride, or is Link going to take over the Freeway Station?

    1. The plan is to have the Link use the station and it will be designed to accommodate trains in the future. Theoretically, the Link would replace the through buses (ST 510, 511, CT ???) that will serve the Mountlake P&R when its done in 20whatever so it wouldn’t need buses anymore. Currently, buses (and commuters) can only go to and from Seattle with the directional ramps. Buses that go farther north of ML P&R don’t stop at ML P&R. I hope I’m making sense. Heres an aerial photo thanks to Google!,-122.315909&spn=0.003525,0.009656&t=h&z=17

      1. The theoretically is just my rantings. The station may have both buses and trains using it. Or the Link may use another station come 201X when North North Link (North^2 Link?) design begins. But the station will be designed to accommodate Link.

      2. If buses that go farther north than ML P&R don’t stop there, there would be no ST buses that would use it because all of the ST buses that go that way continue on to Lynnwood or Everett. I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about that one.

      3. There’s almost no chance that Link trains will be operating in the center of I-5, near or on the HOV lanes, thus it won’t be serving the center-of-the-freeway station platforms. Current planning for that alignment has the trackway on the east side of I-5 serving a station on the east side of the new P&R garage.

      1. Nice article. It’s a shame that the only track in the US rated for 160mph speeds (class 8) is in the Northeast Corridor and even then, only in some small sections. Hopefully we can get our act together with the current administration and make some improvements!

  4. Here’s an interesting one, that massive streetcar/LRV order in Toronto I mentioned before, Ottawa and Queen’s Park(Ontario Provincial Government seat, I believe it is within Toronto though) have not yet put up their portion of the money, but have announced $1 Billion for the new line they will run on in addition to replacing the older cars. They chose to fund the Shepphard-East line, one of a fre LRT lines and extensions under the Toronto Mayor’s TransitCity plan.

    As for the old Trolleybuses, can’t Metro find a way to store Number 798 indoors? It’s part of Seattle’s Transit heritage, and should not be left out in the rain at Atlantic Base, although it’s 1963 retirement, it saw worse.

  5. Whats up with the 17 to downtown? Why does it turn left on market off of 32nd? It had been a couple of years since I had rode it and it doesn’t stop in front of the locks anymore.

    1. Seattle is one of the top ten places in the US for biking and you think it deserves an F. What does that mean the rest of the country gets, an H?

      1. I’d give the metro area a B- because of the great regional trails. I’d give the city of Seattle itself a D. The city hasn’t made any real investment in cycling infrastructure other than some painted lines and sharrow logos. There are too many missing links and dangerous corridors.

  6. Per the Marshall Plan:

    I don’t think we’ll ever get private companies to invest in roads, or any other large scale infrastructure project. I’m not sure why people keep trying. And while a state-run bank for infrastructure is better than a private bank (lower financing charges), why loan the money in the first place? Why not go back to a grant system?

  7. I was wondering where to post an observation I made while riding the Bainbridge Ferry tonight. Does WSF believe in painting their boats anymore, or are they cutting that cost? The Hyak(on the Bremerton route right now), looked pretty rusty and chipped paint all over the place. The Steel-Electrics, which have been retired, and sitting at Eagle Harbor, had a better paint job, including their 50+ year gold band on their funnels.

    By the way, I tested out my ORCA Card on the turnstile(I use the E-purse one), and it worked no problem.

  8. On TOD,

    I recently attended a conference where some land use planner types were discussing TOD. Their point was that 30 housing units per acre was the right density, and at that density you would only need 4-5 stories of height. However, some of their models had only BRT running through the center. Not sure if Light Rail changes the models as to the optimal housing density.

    Whether or not the presence of rail changes the density, having larger buildings typically means an underground parking requirement. That’s what we need to avoid. Digging out for all that parking is costly, and it only adds to the cars on the street. So, I suppose the TOD zone could up-size the buildings (6-7 stories), but also drop the parking requirement.

    On that note, can anyone point me to some numbers that indicate 4-story, no parking projects in Ranier Valley don’t pencil?

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