I’ve decided, provisionally, to stop whining about the perceived editorial slant of the Times. Every editorial desk has its own biases, including STB’s, and there’s no reason to get particularly worked up about the fact that theirs is substantially different from mine.

However, there are two really major facts missing in Sonia Krishnan’s really weak piece about the lack of park-and-rides around light rail, facts that could have been included with a little more research, or, just reading this blog:

First, for all the poor souls who have no choice but to drive to light rail, there are scattered pay lots in the Valley.  In my part-time effort I’ve identified two: one near Beacon Hill (with very restricted hours), and one 3 or 4 blocks from Columbia City.  At $3/day, along with fares it would cost you 7 bucks a day to go downtown, which beats driving there.  Through the magic of the market, this is provided at no cost to the taxpayer.  Of course, light rail opponents aren’t interested in the system’s cost when they’re bashing it for not including their pet feature or routing.

Secondly, this has to be about the weakest unchallenged complaint of the year:

With her Metro bus stop in flux, she said, she’ll probably end up driving to work.

Hunter said she’d be happy to take the Metro bus to the station, but it’s still unclear how her route might change because of light rail.

Her Metro bus stop is in flux! Why, every morning, it randomly moves about as if by magic!

It is factually incorrect to state that the route change is “unclear”; King County has decided on the change and publicized it.  If Ms. Hunter is “unclear” how her route might change, she might have paid a little bit of attention to the three mailers that Metro sent to everyone in the Valley, or come to an open house, or seen any of the local ads, or occasionally checked the Metro website, or even now gone here.   And it isn’t as if the September 19 service change won’t get more publicity in the Southeast than usual.

I’m being a little harsh on Ms. Hunter here: people are remarkably ignorant of developments that affect them greatly, and should have the right to be.  But for a local reporter who ostensibly “covers” transportation to not be aware of this — or not bother to point it out — is pretty contemptible.  It would be trivial to check if bus changes would affect Ms. Hunter’s commute, but Ms. Krishnan declined to do so.

39 Replies to “Seattle Times Gets Lazy”

  1. Shouldn’t I be MORE upset were my bus routings NOT to be changed/optimized in response to a corridor creation like Link? You can relearn a route in a day, and Metro seems to have gone out of their way to publicize the changes. I realize that some people’s commutes will be longer or indirect under Link, but in the grand schemes of costs and benefits, Link is most definitely a net benefit. Not that there are no legitimate complaints to be made about Link, but the ST piece is weakly anecdotal and just plain uncreative.

  2. And I just moved here from Denver, where a fantastic and growing rail system is (in my opinion) largely blighted by the massive park-n-rides at each major suburban station. If you’re in Denver ride the train to Lincoln, Nine Mile, I-25/Broadway, University of Denver, etc… and see how pedestrian unfriendly they are.

    Denver and RTD have opted for ridership now and redevelopment later. Ridership is indeed high and the trains are great, but the stations are pretty soulless places. I’m thankful Seattle is biting the bullet now by restricting parking. Ridership will come, albeit more slowly.

  3. Good points all, Martin. I’ve given up on expecting much of anything from the Times (of Seattle), but found this morning’s piece shocking even by their standards.

    I especially love how the headline (Would-be light-rail riders bemoan lack of parking) makes it sound like there’s some movement involving massive petitions or community meetings, but then the article supports the headline with quotes from just two (two!) residents. And isn’t it funny how those two residents just happen to either live _exactly_ a mile from every possible station or suffer from multiple health issues that prevent them from making a 10-minute walk? This is why we need two newspapers.

  4. Agreed, I had the exact same thoughts about Ms. Hunter in reading that article. Sonia Krishnan is embarassing herself by not demonstrating her awareness of the bus connections and changes (she MUST be aware, right??). It’s articles like this that remind me to be frightened about people making judgements from only a single media source.

    And I will continue to pride myself on the fact that my city is forward thinking enough to not want/include park and ride lots at the stations…

  5. Thanks, Martin, for fighting the good fight on this topic. I have a hard time comprehending the critics on this one and can’t believe they continue to tear on this so rabidly. The comments on that Seattle Times post is perhaps the worst I’ve seen yet.

    I really, really, really don’t want a publicly installed parking lot near the Columbia City Station. Private ones like the one you mentioned at the Columbia Plaza are fine, because I trust that the land will eventually be developed. I’m sure similar lots will be made on vacant lots in Othello and Rainier Beach. At least they’ll be potentially temporary lots while economic conditions aren’t favourable to development.

    But to install public lots in the Rainier Valley… is to give permanence to a social and aesthetic blight.

    1. I agree (well somewhat) that there shouldn’t be public lots in the downtown area. But there definitely should be public lots at the line’s terminuses (termini?).

      OTOH I believe every station on the south Sounder leg has an adjacent parking lot, and free at that (except King Street which empties out directly into the Qwest Field pay lot). And they get full by the last train, too. And Sounder is usually pretty busy, despite missing the dense side of SKC entirely.

      1. Auburn’s free Sounder parking is full enough that the city has paid public parking, too. I’m cheap, when I drive I park two blocks away for $20/month.

        But Sounder is quite different in other ways — widely-spaced stations in smaller urban cores, drawing commuter traffic from a much larger radius. The Auburn station draws riders from Federal Way, the Kent station has riders from Covington, etc.

        And while there are some local bus runs that do connect with Sounder stations, many Sounder riders have essentially no public transit option for getting to the station. Getting to the station from my house takes five minutes by car, twelve minutes by bike, 60 minutes on foot, or about 80 minutes by bus, including a half mile of walking.

      2. That kind of thing will change with train frequency. Right now it’s hard to use Sounder for anything but regular commuting, but as trips are added, users start looking at the train for more purposes than just getting to work.

        It’ll be a long time, of course. The four round trips in ST2 will help, but we’ll need more like 20 new round trips to change travel patterns enough that all-day, regular transit to the stations starts being feasible.

      3. Speaking of Sounder, I was at the Tacoma transit planning open house a few weeks ago, and I pressed several officials from various authorities (with the best info coming from ST and PT reps) about Sounder. Here’s a short rundown:

        1. Don’t expect high-frequency non-peak hour trips anytime soon. The ST person gave a simple if prohibitive response: ST doesn’t own the track, and the real owners, BNSF, aren’t exactly the friendliest people at the table. Full commuter rail service (a la NY’s MNRR/LIRR or Chicago’s Metra) will essentially require purchase and construction of ST’s own right-of-way should BNSF’s current position remain. He added that it was hard enough already to run the weekend event trains.

        2. BNSF is dragging their heels on track upgrades in south Seattle, but they’re almost finished (if not already). It’ll speed things up through that crawl.

        3. More good news: once the D-to-M St track is complete and service to Lakewood begins, Amtrak will switch from its current location to Freighthouse Sq to bypass the Pt. Defiance tunnel. Obviously, this is great on a number of levels: more foot traffic for businesses in the Dome district and (especially important) Amtrak passengers will have direct access to/from downtown Tacoma via T-Link.

  6. Na, I look at the poor reporting in this article and the lack of anything substantive to say as an indication that the Times is finally running out of things to complain about. This is a good thing.

    However, I expect the Times will be all over the first operational glitch or ticket vending problem. Ditto for the first accident while in operation. But this too will pass.

    What I do look forward to though is the first ridership report for the first full month of operation. You just know some critic is going to take the total cost of LINK and divide it by one month’s ridership and then claim that LINK costs something like $150,000 per rider.

    I always get a kick out of that sort of math….

    1. That math is what the opposition used to do when Sounder opened. They get over it eventually.

      1. Yep, I remember it well, and I remember one particular individual doing it over and over again. I guess “that dog didn’t hunt” because we haven’t heard much from him in awhile….

      2. Now you only hear people complain about North Sounder. Of course I’ve heard pro-transit people complain about North Sounder as most of the users on that line would be more cost-effectively and better served with express buses from the station locations.

        I understand the political reasons for the North Sounder runs but I don’t think it will ever see much ridership unless it is extended to at least Marysville.

        The other thing is the ridership picture might change when Mulkelto and Edmonds have multi-modal terminals with direct access to/from the ferries and if a Ballard station is ever added. Though to loop back to the parking topic I don’t think a Ballard Sounder station makes much sense without a park & ride lot.

      3. It’s not extension to Marysville that would get Sounder North more riders – it’s development and better connections. When Mukilteo and Edmonds have ferry terminals connecting to the stations, you’ll see ridership go up quite a bit. When downtown Everett starts to rebound in the next real estate cycle, you’ll see ridership there go up as well.

        But yeah, Sound Move just couldn’t pass without Sounder North. It’s effectively part of the cost of building Link. ;)

  7. It’s still not at all clear to me exactly which buses will stop at the Tukwila station. And will they actually stop AT the station or will they stop on a street corner three blocks away? Connectivity is a major issue with ST’s projects. I long for the day they extend outside the airport corridor and stop at TCs and P&Rs. For some reason when transit is developed in these parts the planners lock on to one isolated purpose of transit and act as if that’s the only way it will ever be used, and plan (or don’t plan) accordingly. In this case, it’s travelers going between the airport and downtown Seattle — not commuters or shoppers or people visiting friends.

    1. Romulus,

      For now, the 174 is the only bus that stops at Tukwila station. Click on the Metro link above to see the plan for Southwest King County, which has tons of buses going to Tukwila.

    2. If you have friends in the RV then this most certainly you can use LINK to go visit them.

      But this is just the first phase. You can’t serve everyone in every way in every capacity after just phase I — it will take time to build this out.

      But I do love how on one hand Seattleites will complain that it doesn’t go to enough places soon enough, but if you ask them to vote on a bigger system they will complain about the cost and then vote it down and end up with nothing.

      Link Phase I breaks that cycle!

      1. I’m one of the two editors.

        There are more posts now. We have worked our way north to the Columbia City Station.

        But there is no way we are going to get much further before tomorrow. If we are very, very lucky we will have an article about Mount Baker and one about Beacon Hill. I wanted to cover every station in the system, but we ran out of time. Oops.

    3. “It’s still not at all clear to me exactly which buses will stop at the Tukwila station.”

      I realize this is way more “old school” that gaining all of your life information through blogs, tweets and telepathic waves, but did you bother to pick up a phone and call the transit system and ask?

  8. I’ve never been particularly bothered by the anti-rail slant of the Seattle Times articles until the past week or so. I’ve been amazed by daily stories highlighting how the horrible train makes noise, do not have parking lots, and forced a change bus routes! Oh the humanity!

    Nevertheless, I’m confident that this will all blow over when folks start using the train. If light rail in Phoenix is a hit, I could only imagine how popular it will be in Seattle.

  9. As many here know both Sound Transit and Metro are currently prohibited by city ordinance from building any new park & ride lots. The current ones are grandfathered and in the case of the P&R lots near Northgate the city actually doesn’t mind if parking capacity is expanded for the most part (though the recent additions have been shared with retail users who don’t need the lots at the same time as commuters).

    For what it is worth the park & ride lots in Portland along MAX don’t start until well away from the city core. The closest P&R to the North is Delta Park, to the East is Gateway, and to the West is Sunset, each of these is around 5 to 5.5 miles from the Portland Downtown core.

    The equivalent distance on Link is about the Othello or Rainier Beach stations. For North Link the Roosevelt or Northgate stations (Roosevelt has a P&R nearby at Ravenna/NE 65th & I-5).

  10. She describes a mile as “little more than walking distance?” No. A mile is walking distance.

    1. According to the Neighborhood Walk Score folks, anything a mile or more away is car-only. Even half a mile is considered pretty far away. (My home gets a walk score of 23, “car dependent,” even though we have three groceries, two gas stations, three restaurants, community center, gym, city hall, police, fire, five parks, two coffee shops, etc. within a half-mile radius.)

      I’m afraid the Walk Score folks are right on this one — even young, healthy, fit Americans don’t generally consider a mile to be walking distance. Throw in arthritis, obesity, or diseases of a sedentary lifestyle, and many people have great difficulty walking more than a few blocks.

      That may change with time, but for now, you can’t simply tell people that a mile is walking distance and expect them to take you seriously.

      1. Your neighborhood is rated “car dependent” with all those amenities and services located within a 1/2 mile radius of your residence? That doesn’t sound right.

        How would the WalkScore folks rank a mcmansion on cul-de-sac in an eastside gated community? “really, really car dependent”?

        And of what value is the proximity of a gas station in a neighborhood walkability ranking?

      2. The Shell on Beacon Hill sells really really good fried catfish. Well worth walking over to pick some up occasionally. So in at least that case, the gas station is of value in a walkability ranking. ;)

  11. You can’t simply tell me that I can’t say a mile is walking distance and expect me to take you seriously.

    Many people do consider a mile to be walking distance. It’s a 20-minute walk for a healthy person. And yes, we need a change in those who do not view it that way. Such attitudes contribute to urban and transit planning problems as well as the obesity epidemic.

    1. I agree, absolutely. And I have been one of those folks who complained about a one mile walk, in the past. But I had a bit of an epiphany about it last year when I visited London. They talk about an obesity epidemic in Britain — but in London, the only obese people I noticed were Americans. Everyone walks. Of course, the neighborhoods there have lots of neighborhood services that people need and are about as walkable as you can get, and they have the Tube as well as buses to get around too. But it was normal to walk all over the place. And you didn’t see a lot of fat people, though certainly they do exist there as here.

      And then I think about when I was a kid, in Seattle, and I walked 2 miles each way to my school. (I didn’t go to my neighborhood school, which was a block away from home, and didn’t qualify for a school bus. Because my house was on a hill and the school was on a hill too, with a valley in the middle, I got to walk to school uphill both ways, too.) ;) I was 10. This was not considered all that abnormal for a 10-year-old. But kids now, because of parental fears, don’t get to walk like that. And as adults, so many people just immediately jump in the car — and as the kids raised by overprotective parents grow up, they won’t have the habit of walking anywhere. I had the habit already, and I still lost it when I got a car. I admit I jump in the car more than I should. But since returning from London, I have tried to walk more, and have felt good about the amount I’ve done so far — still nowhere near enough — and for me, the train is an excuse to walk even more. There are actually a lot of places I regularly go to by car now that are near the light rail line.

      The only thing that concerns me is not the walking distance to places I need to go, it’s safety. When I leave work at 10pm or so, I would have to get from the north waterfront to Westlake to catch the train. The distance isn’t so much the concern for me as being a small female walking alone through Belltown after dark. Oh, how I wish the Waterfront streetcar was running, and would run as late as the trains… because it’s a direct connection for folks working in the Waterfront area, to the light rail at the International District. (Another reason to bring it back.)

      1. My dream has always been for a pedestrian tunnel that runs from the waterfront to westlake station. Maybe with mini trolley cars that people could hop on. If I was the dictator of Seattle this is what I would install.

  12. All I know is that Sound transit is trying to herd me onto link to bloat there numbers. Getting rid of the 194 makes no sence.

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