KCM RapidRide, CT Swift DE60LFA, by wings777
"KCM RapidRide, CT Swift DE60LFA", by wings777

Things that fell through the cracks while we obsessed over the McGinn light rail speech:

This is an open thread.

142 Replies to “News Roundup”

    1. That’s about 4-8 minutes off the scheduled journey – and maybe even more off of trips during the most congested parts of the day. Sounds good to me!

      1. I do hope they consider removing some stops. By my consideration they could cut the number of stops nearly in half without much trouble. There’s no good reason to have stops every two blocks on a bus line that already suffers from serious delays. Stick with the stops at timepoints and keep in-between stops only if the timepoints are more than about 1,500 feet apart.

      1. Perhaps there is some truth to those statements because of some drivers. The tardiness is a combination of many factors including the way coaches are driven (a minor factor). There’s a variation in driving styles and they do make a difference in customer perception and comfort. Even the way people drive on the freeway affects or creates congestion (the so-called phantom traffic jam).

      2. I’m talking about folks who routinely blame the driver when a bus runs late. The end result is about like blaming the weather man (or woman) when it rains. Yes, driver styles vary, but routinely running late is not in my experience a driver’s fault (a driver on a route that they’re unfamiliar with is an exception). The issue of the 44 has come up on the Times comments sections and drivers usually get the blame – which is silly. There are several choke points on the 44 – Ballard, 46th and Aurora, Stone Way, Wallingford, 45th and I-5, the U-District, Pacific Street and Montlake at the turnaround. All of those locations cause often unpredictable slowdowns. Other times the slowdownds are predictable but not accounted for in the schedule – like Husky games.

        I get people all the time asking why I’m late, particular on a route like the 12 on game day (first avenue becomes a slow crawl, causing a delay of a half an hour to 45 minutes). Passengers not aware of the staggered scheduling of the 12 (one leaves from 15th and Madison, the other comes from 19th and Galer) may see one #12 running on time, and the one right behind it be a half hour late. When game day really messes things up, buses may catch up to each other at Interlaken Park, causing folks to see 2 or three buses running together on the same route – or if drivers blank their signs and pass up passegengers to catch up because there’s an empty bus right behind them, people complain about that, too.

        In extreme cases – like the snowstorm – don’t even get me started. Rational or not, there is a significant bunch of crankmeister riders out there who seem to think that buses fly.

  1. Portland loves to talk up their light rail system (and malign ours), but MAX is four crappy lines that few people ride. They have 84 stations and 107,000 daily riders, which is pretty sorry. It’s slow, shares lanes downtown and has short cars. With just U-Link, Link will have more riders than the entire system in Portland has. Think about that. 15 stations vs 84.

    DC’s Metro has 86 stations but gets 1,000,000 daily riders. Transit built to a higher level goes faster has fewer delays and gets more riders. The only useful lesson that should be drawn from Portland’s MAX is that even crappy little cities like Portland can build a ton of lines with the right motivation.

    1. “crappy little cities” — whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s a little crass.

      Let’s take this apart, piece by piece:
      1) DC Metro v. Portland MAX: The DC Metro serves a metropolitan area with a density about 2.75x that of Portland and a daytime population of slightly over a million in the core.
      2) Speed, lane-sharing: This is part of Portland’s decision early on to focus their transit priority on creating a pedestrian downtown rather than a commuter core.
      3) “Malign ours”: In what regard? I saw nothing of the sort in the Oregonian piece, just that they were wondering why it took Seattle so long and the average P vs. S barbs you ALWAYS get in jest.

      So instead of taking a tack where you basically blast the residents of a city like Portland and their transit system, why don’t you study the facts and make a consideration that perhaps folks are happy with their “crappy little city” and their awful transit system? And maybe present systems like WMATA’s truthfully.

      1. 1) Exactly my point! DC metro has 2.75x the number of people but the number of stations are the same. A lot of Arlington and nearby Maryland have a lot of TOD driven by DC Metro, because it’s a high quality system. Portland’s built a cost system and has lower ridership and TOD to show for it.

        2) So what? We need both of those things (since we already have a massive commuter core there).

        3) I get this all the time, and even the headline of the post is “Seattle’s light rail light years behind Portland”. The difference between “barbs” and “malignment” is purely semantic. My point is we may have fewer stations and fewer lines planned but we’re building a much better system.

        I have studied the facts of Portland and the DC Metro, thank you very much. I’m not “blasting residents of a city like Portland”, I’m saying we don’t have a lot to learn from there other than “even tiny cities can build a lot of lines”. Whether they are happy with their “crappy little city” or not is irrelevant to a discussion of Seattle. The transit system of a city like Portland should not be a model for a city like Seattle’s transit system.

      2. 1) $
        2) $
        3) Their point is that instead of planning it for 70+ years, Portland went ahead and built it with the resources they had and is planning more. By the time we’re done with ST2, they’ll have a MAX line to Milwaukie, a line to Vancouver, a line on Powell and probably a line on Barbur. They will also have many more miles of Streetcars up and running. They will also be preparing for the second phase of their 2040 plan, which includes a second line on the Westside, expansion in Clark County, and further access in far SE Multnomah. There will be nearly 100 more miles of bike tracks, a new bridge over the Willamette, a completely redone sidewalk plan for SE Portland and quite a bit more besides that.

        And keep saying “crappy little city”, it really helps your point.

      3. 1) It’s trading $ now for construction dollars in the future for service and ridership
        2) same as above.

        3) Streetcars are unrelated to the link discussion, as are sidewalks and bike lanes, and commuter rail DMU (love them all). Again, there will be tons of lines and all of that will still have fewer riders than the link form ST2. Which is a better deal?

        The lesson is that Portland is great a building lines. We should be inspired by how good a job they have been at doing that. We should not, however, be inspired by their system which was built on the cheap and has really low ridership.

        I love how hung-up you are on “crappy little city”.

      4. You’re cherry-picking statistics for the sake of your own insecurities. Portland has built lots of lines, regardless of currently flaccid population density. They’re working on that, and they’re working on patching as many people as possible into the MAX hub. Meanwhile, Seattle has to wait 7 years for its next extension, and almost 4 years after that, then, what, 3 years after that? Saying ST2 will have higher ridership than all of Portland’s system is counting your chickens before they hatch, and it conveniently ignores the current changes Portland is making that are unaccounted for in ridership projections.

        And you know funding models are different depending on state– you’d be stupid not to. So I don’t get the whole “well, they should spend the money now” — what money? Where are they going to get that money from?

        And jesus, stop and think that maybe I’ve lived in Portland and have lots of friends there. You “love how hung-up” I am because you’re a fucking prick.

      5. Wow, I see I’ve wound you up pretty well. I’ve never thought for a second whether you lived in Portland before (I couldn’t care any less) and I, too, have lots of friends and family there (or maybe you don’t?), doesn’t matter, nothing to do with this. Take things personal, much, there matey?

        Look, you haven’t read a word I’ve written here other than “crappy little cities”. I say “Portland can teach us that even little cities can build a ton of rail” and You say “Meanwhile, Seattle has to wait 7 years for its next extension, and almost 4 years after that, then, what, 3 years after that? ” Uh, maybe we’re agreeing?

        The problem are having with what I’ve written is that you are misinterpreting what I wrote about Portland as advice for Portland. Sorry, that may have been badly written on my part. I have no advice to offer Portlanders and I assume their little city is probably doing the right thing for themselves. However, as you say, the funding models are different, the city is obviously smaller and less dense, and you need to build something different in Seattle. I shouldn’t have said “crappy little cities”, as you pointed out.

        And yes, I admit I counted chickens that haven’t hatched yet, but many of Max’s chickens hatched and there ain’t that many of them.

      6. Jeez this discussion is pretty heated. I agree with Andrew, though; Portland has done a great job in terms of amount of light rail built, but that doesn’t mean we should follow their example and build our light rail just like theirs. Yes, it will take seven years to open University Link. However, University Link will get like 20,000 daily riders per mile. And I acknowledge that it hasn’t opened yet so we don’t really know how many riders it will get, but the people who come up with these numbers are professionals and are generally very good at their jobs. If anything, ridership will be higher than that because of increasing gas prices and increasing enthusiasm in transit.
        I think the best thing to do here would just be to remove Portland from the discussion and look at possible Link lines here on their own merits. Seattle is a pretty dense city, and has many hills and a lot of water throughout the city. Because of this the flat ROWs on the surface are very congested. Therefore, light rail on them would take a long time to get from one point to the next, so people wouldn’t ride it. What’s the point of spending lots of money on a system that would get low ridership? If we do decide to upgrade the corridor later, it will cost a lot more money that it would have it we had built it right in the first place. So lets building it right in the first place, and get lots of cars off the road and get people where they need to go as quickly as possible.

    2. Portland’s little, but not crappy. I think that’s the operative word: little. So they ought to have little cars and little ridership. MAX has always seemed to me to be appropriately scaled to the city it’s in. I think ST is doing a good job scaling Link to our town.

      1. @AS: Come on, you have to be a little jealous of MAX, theyre pretty lucky to have started that process so long before us.

        But I will agree that the Oregonian article is a bit passive agressive. While we think we have Portland envy for all the bikes and transit, keep in mind Portland has had Seattle envy ever since the Klondike Gold Rush, which officially defined us as the premiere city in the NW (although we were still nicknamed the Queen City until the 80’s).

        I think of the Seattle/Portland rivarly as a Rome vs. Florence type deal. Florence (Portland) is smaller, but quaint and beautiful in its architecture, layout, etc. It feels more elegant. Rome (Seattle) on the other hand is big and chaotic, but charming in its randomness and with a stronger pulse of energy. They are nice compliments to each other and each has something to learn from the other.

      2. I am jealous of MAX and always have been, I just don’t think we should make that the inspiration for Seattle’s LRT.

      3. I also want to say, Seattle started the process a really long time ago, they just didn’t get from process to implementation until a less than a decade ago.

        (yes, I know we’re using different definitions of “process”)

      4. “Crappy” was a poor choice of words. Vancouver and Portland are the same size in terms of metro-area population. I would say Portland is worse in some ways, namely around cosmopolitaness, density and quality of life metrics. A lazy way to say that is “crappy”.

        MAX has always seemed to me to be appropriately scaled to the city it’s in.
        Exactly my point. We should not try to emulate that by building a bunch of low-cost, at-grade light rail all over the city like they have. Seattle’s too big for that.

      5. Is our city too big, or our metropolitan area? I wonder if there’s room in a region this big to have a variety of things on a variety of scales. And that, to me, is one of the beauties of Link’s technology: it can work like a humongous streetcar if you find a place that’s good for that, and it can be a commuter rail train, and everything in between. It seems that it could be applied super flexibly in that regard.

      6. The city’s too dense and the metro’s too big. Think about it this way. Portland built 84 stations and 50 miles of track and got just 100,000 riders. Would we want to go through all that work, build all those lines and build a system for just 100,000 riders?

        We have 3.5 million people in our metro. 100,000 riders is 50,000 people (most trips are two-ways), so that’s not even 10% of the population of the city of Seattle (600K), a place where 17% of commutes are by bus.

        If you say, oh “if we built that system here we’d and get 200,000 riders”, then the immediate response has to be: then we need a higher capacity system, their’s won’t fit 200,000 (and definitely not 300,000).

      7. I guess what I’m getting at, then, is McGinn’s proposal: it sounds like he wants to save money by proposing a Ballard-Downtown-West Seattle line that’s a little less Link and a little more MAX. My question is where on that continuum it can reasonably be – and can it have Linky sections and MAXey sections? I don’t know if I’m thinking what type of alignment would be best so much as read between McGinn’s lines to see the system in his mind’s eye.

      8. According to a TriMet report

        Every project, Eastside, Westside, Airport and Interstate, was completed on or ahead of schedule and within budget.
        Light rail program cost summary
        Light Rail Project Cost Year Opened Federal share
        Eastside $ 214 million 1986 83%
        Westside $ 963 million 1998 73%
        Airport $ 125 million 2001 0%
        Interstate $ 350 million 2004 74%
        Total $ 1.652 billion

        ST burned through 30% more just building 13 miles and was years behind schedule. Portland has 100,000 riders today. Seattle has 20,000 riders today. I think it’s King County that’s getting the crappy deal here. As for slow, Central Link replaces bus service that’s about the same speed. Longer travel times for most people because they’ll still have to ride a bus to catch the train. Seattle’s bigger,sure, and it will catch up to Portland in ridership eventually but it will never be the value meal deal that public transportation should be. ST’s motto should be “Too little for too much for too few”.

      9. Waitwut? Bus service that takes the same time? Um… maybe from like the airport, but not along most of Link’s southeast Seattle route. And maybe according to schedule times, but not in real life.

      10. Yes, in real life the route does go from downtown to the airport. Granted during rush hour Link has a reliability advantage but to really compare times you have to add in connector service. Certainly the folks that end up getting shuffled off to the train from Federal Way to make ridership numbers in an attempt to recoup costs aren’t going to see any speed benefit; more like a 5-10 minute increase. Waitwut indeed!

      11. Most of the ROW for MAX was provided free of charge when the freeways in the Portland area were built. That cost isn’t included in the construction cost that TriMet cites for the various MAX lines. ST hasn’t been the benefactor of that kind of free lunch. In the end, whatever the cost, Link is a far better system with the capacity to serve the city for the next century, MAX isn’t.

      12. The problem, Bernie, is that you’re comparing an express bus to a non-express rail line. Surely Link would blow the 194 out of the water if it made no stops after SoDo. But of course Link, unlike the 194, is far more than an airport shuttle. And it’s disingenuous to suggest Link is slower than the 194 because people “have to take the bus to the train.” Most people have to take the bus to the bus, too.

      13. No, I think the problem is that a $2 billion dollar rail line should be moving 100 or 200 thousand people a day quickly (passenger miles per dollar) and Central Link is comparable to a few express bus routes. Look, the thing is already half a million more than all of Portland’s rail lines that are moving 100,000 people a day right now. Maybe MAX is lacking in ultimate capacity but it’s moving 5X the people at 75% of the cost of Central Link. Seems like being “over subscribed” is a good thing in this case if we’re talking value.

      14. So what is the issue? Link makes too many stops between the airport and downtown? An increased number of transfers is certainly a topic of debate. I’m not opposed to transfers but they need to be cost efficient because they’re certainly not convenient. So on a cost/benefit analysis shouldn’t one of the metrics be light rail vs bus service?

      15. The issue is people making meaningless comparisons between Link speed and 194 speed. You could run a nonstop bus down the expressway from the downtown core to the airport in any major city and say that, given perfect traffic (ahem), it is comparable to or faster than a train making local stops in neighborhoods along the way to the airport. So what?

        And as I said before, the issue is that it’s disingenuous at best to say that Link has longer travel times than the bus because “most people have to take the bus to the train.” As if most people don’t have to take a bus to catch the 194 as well.

        This is, of course, not to mention Link’s significantly shorter headways.

      16. If you calculate inflation as part of that, Central Link would end up costing less. And anyways, sometimes you just have to pay more for higher quality service.

      17. As someone who grew up in Portland, I think you’re right. It’s a really nice city but I never really thought it was world class. In many ways it actually tries to hide its size and seem like a small place. After riding real metro in various cities around the world, MAX seemed painfully slow.

      18. Yeah, Central Link isn’t actually all that fast (better than bus stops every 2 blocks though). It’s U-Link that will really be impressively faster than the 43. :)

      19. Yes, U-Link actually starts to make sense. It’s mega expensive yes but it also has the high ridership and time savings to make it worth it. That’s in contrast with the tunnel under Beacon Hill which was entirely unnecessary and it’s art museum adds what, 3k riders a day… someday. Following Rainer to the proposed East Link alignment not only would have cut the cost of Central Link in half but saved a couple hundred million from the East Link alignment. The cost from downtown to Rainer Station is going to be born by the North Sub Area anyway and Rainer Station would more than make up for any lost ridership from Beacon Hill (BeHi folks would bus down to Link the way RV residents are going to have to bus up to Link now).

        If you’re still not convinced Central Link was a gold plated rip off consider what it would have cost if ST had had to dig the DSTT instead of paying Seattle a pittance of it’s present day value.

      20. “gold plated rip off”

        Funny coming from a guy who rides around on a $5000 bike when a $100 bike does the same thing.

      21. $5k bike? Maybe you’re talking about my decade old Orbea TT bike. I’ve got less that $1k into that bike including the rear disk buying used on ebay and Craigslist. Still, a big indulgence but that’s play money, not public funds. And funny, I haven’t seen anyone in races, even at the lowly Master D and Cat4/5 level I ride at on a $100 bike so no, it doesn’t do the same thing… not by a long shot. And no, I don’t “ride around on it”. In fact it’s been over a year since I’ve used it. Should probably sell it and would get back just about every penny I spent on it.

        My commute bike is an aluminum Schwinn Super Sport which cost me $750 brand new. I just sunk well over $100 into replacing the worn out chain, chainrings and cassette to get it ready for the winter’s commute. Great commute bike but compared to the Orbea it’s like a Honda vs a Farrari.

      22. “That’s in contrast with the tunnel under Beacon Hill which was entirely unnecessary and it’s art museum adds what, 3k riders a day… someday.”

        The time to argue this was when the alignment was being decided. I remember people complaining at the time about the surface section on MLK, but not about the Beacon Hill tunnel. In fact, Sound Transit orignally cut costs by defering the Beacon Hill Station, but enough people clamored that it got added. If ST had gone with a Dearborn/Rainier alignment, a Beacon Hill station would not have been possible. You would rather replace a station with tons of residents within walking distance, and that serves an entire hill, with a station that has only warehouses around it?

        Whenever I’ve ridden Link, Beacon Hill seems to be the second-highest used station after Tukwila I.B. (Not counting downtown stations.) In Rainier some people are complaining about losing their one-seat ride, whereas on Beacon people are transfering from the 36 to Link because it’s faster. This all sounds to me like a major success story on Beacon Hill.

        The art was due to the 1% for art law as far as I know. If you don’t like the law, get it repealed, but don’t diss ST for complying with it. And the art will make people’s trips more pleasant for the lifetime of the line, so it seems like a small investment to me.

      23. Beacon Hill is great for the folks on Beacon Hill. Second highest ridership except for Tukwilla and DSTT means it’s sixth out of 12 in ridership but far and away the most expensive station on the line to add. Slightly less convenient for BH residents would have been a connection to Mount Baker. Especially since there’s not much development potential on BH compared to the rest of the line.

        Why would it be incumbent on me to comment on this when the alignment was decided. Don’t we expect the experts we higher after the concept is voted on to follow through with the most effective route? I guess not since it took years of people protesting in Tacoma to get ST to bridge the gulch on the Sounder extension and tell us that cost savings on things like utility relocation make it no more expensive than the berm. On East Link the vast majority of public comment was in favor of the BNSF ROW, Bellevue City Council put forth a preferred route; yet both are ignored when the ST preferred alignment is chosen.

        There’s two reasons I can see for the Beacon Hill tunnel. One it allowed the current maintenance base location. Two it puts two stations to serve the sports stadiums right on the line. Those stations are important and I don’t know what else would have worked.

        The “station that has only warehouses around it” is on the books for ST2 so if it’s not needed then drop it. But again it’s in a area with a lot of potential development (although the Goodwill site I guess didn’t work out) and it’s another low cost platform(less than the mandated artwork at BH). 1% for Arts is fine. It’s the rather exorbitant cost per rider for BH that’s out of line.

      24. Being able to use the East Link alignment between Rainier and the DSTT wasn’t going to happen without building East Link across the lake.

        An alignment along Dearborn and Rainier was studied at one point but a cost effective connection between Dearborn and the DSTT couldn’t be made. Once you have the Beacon Hill tunnel you might as well build the stationl

      25. East Link seems predicated on the notion that Rainer to the DSTT is viable. Even if East Link doesn’t get built out I’d have to believe the route would have been much cheaper (albeit slower) especially if there was no station. You may be quite right about once you have the tunnel the incremental cost of the station isn’t that great. The hole had to be dug for construction if I remember correctly. I think the original plan was to “frame in” the station but not complete it. At that point it really doesn’t make sense to not just finish the damn thing. It’s the getting to that point which is a bit murky. The process is reminiscent of going to the airport/stopping short of the airport/ah shucks, lets just finish it.

      26. Rainier to DSTT is viable as part of a larger line across the Lake. As a way to get to Rainier Valley it doesn’t work because of all of the Eastside buses it possibly displaces and for eliminating the HOV lanes/ramps West of Rainier.

        An alternate alignment using Rainier and Dearborn didn’t work because it would have been difficult to connect a surface alignment on Dearborn to the DSTT.

        As for the Beacon Hill station I think the decision was one where the incremental cost of completing the station vs. just building the shell was small enough that for the ridership they might as well complete it. I believe at least some of the money for completing the Beacon Hill station came from deferring the Boeing Access Road station.

        As for the segment to the Airport, that was a bit complex due to all of the various airport projects the Port has/had planned and changing Federal regulations post-9/11. The delays weren’t so much a problem of ST not having the money. In any case the Airport station will be opening only 6 months after the initial segment which is pretty good as such things go.

      27. As I see it, the Beacon Hill station is remarkably successful. That means both that we can cross Beacon Hill off the TODO list, and it’s a working example of what’s needed across the whole city.

        (Actually, I see two small TODO items. The bus reroutes severed the connection between north Beacon and south Beacon; I expect there will eventually be a clamor for an all-Beacon bus to reunify the neighborhood. Second, the 60 needs more hours because it’s quite a walk from the lower part of 15th to Beacon Avenue.)

        “Second highest ridership except for Tukwilla and DSTT means it’s sixth out of 12 in ridership”

        It’s unfair to compare downtown with elsewhere. Downtown is a bigger destination than the rest of the city combined.

        “Why would it be incumbent on me to comment on this when the alignment was decided.”

        In a court, the judge decides the case based on the evidence heard. If one lawyer fails to bring up a point in his party’s favor, too bad for him. It’s fine to point out the disadvantages of the selection, but I have a problem with johnny-come-latelys dissing the decision-makers after the fact. It’s like the people who are shocked, shocked that Link doesn’t go to Southcenter. One, I think Tukwila prefered it that way, and two, a Burien-Southcenter-Renton line is highly likely in ST3. The planners aren’t stupid; they know it’s very important to serve all regional shopping malls.

        “The ‘station that has only warehouses around it’ is on the books for ST2 so if it’s not needed then drop it.”

        I’m a bit cautious of the “build for future development” argument. Especially if it involves bypassing an established transit-ready neighborhood. It’s great if the right development comes, but what if it doesn’t? What if it’s more auto-oriented development, or $200K+ condos that only the rich can afford? And what about the ten years in the meantime while people are walking through no-man’s-land to get to the station, or having their trip slowed for the stop? Or the people who are suffering on the bus in the denser neighborhood that was bypassed? So I’m cautious about Rainier/Dearborn, Bel-Red, Othello, the BNSF Eastside corridor, and the Boeing Access Road station

        The Rainier/Dearborn station makes some sense on East Link so that Valleyites can get to jobs on the Eastside.

      28. Seattle and Portland have more in common with each other than Seattle or Portland do with their respective suburbs. This Seattle vs. Portland rivalry is BS and outdated, except with sports competitions.

      29. Unfortunately with the leaving of the Sonics that’s become outdated, too. But they’ll have an MLS team soon enough…

    3. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Portland did things with their system out of political or financial necessity that it wouldn’t behoove Seattle to emulate. It won’t be too long before Seattle’s system is much better than Portland’s. And we have already had better transit ridership with just buses than Portland has had with a full light-rail system. However, Portland did manage to get their system built in a much less transit-friendly environment than we have today, while Seattle famously failed to get it done. So they have the benefit of their system for 20-some years before we got started, but the upside for us is that we get to learn from their mistakes.

    4. portland has a light rail system, seattle has a metro rail system using LRVs so they arent really apples to apples. i’m with you on the slow downtown trackage, but the rest of the system is not “crappy”. znd there is no way you can compare the DC Metro a true heavy rail metro with Portland MAX.

      1. And the reason Portland has a “lighter” system is perhaps due to timing. When it was built, there were not many rail systems anywhere in the country, and it was very hard to get the public to agree to spend for even that kind of system. Since then we’ve seen the success of DC and Vancouver so it’s easier to argue for more. Even Portland has built all its extensions more metro-like. Only the oldest line is trickle-slow.

      2. But the high-density TOD around the stations took time to build, and then it took time for people to recognize how much a difference it made to the DC area.

      3. You say

        “there is no way you can compare the DC Metro a true heavy rail metro with Portland MAX.”

        Exactly! One is so much worse than the other there’s no comparison. So why would we want to build something on the Westside of the city that barely compares to what’s on the eastside of town (ULink, etc.)?

      4. Because building to U-Link standards costs $500-$600 million per mile? Because few corridors in the region have the density or ridership to justify that level of expense.

        One of the nice things about light rail is is can be scaled to fit both the projected ridership and the available capital. Why is it bad to build something that is better than either a streetcar or Rapid Ride would have been even if it isn’t quite as fast as the light metro between downtown and Northgate?

      5. What? It may be true that “few” corridors have the density, but this west side one is one of them!

        Look here:

        That route is going through several of the most dense, including the 2nd most dense area within 800 miles.

        Sure, Bothell doesn’t require U-Link construction, but if Capitol Hill and the U District necessitate U-Link construction, I think it’s hard to argue that Belltown, LQA and Ballard do not.

    1. i’ve been wondering about the weekend trolley bustitution for awhile. Good to hear other raise the issue and see it in an article.

      they even run diesels on lines that dont have any construction work/detour. youll see all lines on that KC website have some sort of reason for not using ETBs

    2. “Motorization”… In Animal Farm it doesn’t take a lot of white wash to turn this into “Moderniaztion”. If you’re a “passionate defender” of the ETB (I don’t really think I am) then I’d be very concerned about recent developments that have pointed a finger at trolley buses being part of the solution to Metro’s budget woes. Just seems to me that someone is more concerned about the additional capital expenditure looming in a couple of years than they are about balancing quality of service and lifecycle return.

    1. I’m sure they’re available, and I agree that they would help, particularly with the new bus bulbs! I also think that optimizing stop spacing and adding off-board payment at the busiest stops might help a bit.

      1. Will they leave the wires up and powered so I could buy an old Metro ETB and drive around parts of the city for free? Better yet, are there any dual-mode Bredas anywhere anymore that would work for me to drive all by myself using the taxpayers’ electricity?

      2. Depress the pedal on the right. To stop moving, depress the pedal on the left.

        If bus fails to move, get out, push pole up, pull it back down, then let it back up.

  2. This is not the first murder at Federal Way TC. What is with this particular transit center? Is it because it’s the only large transit center close to a downtown area? Similarly large Tacoma Dome Station and Eastgate P&R don’t appear to be immediately adjacent to areas where idle youth hang out. I don’t know about Kent Station.

    Interestingly enough, a low-income senior housing project is under construction on the same plot of land. When I first saw it going up, I was surprised that senior citizens would want to live near this locus of anti-social activity, although it likely looks good on paper to have easy access to transit.

    1. It is a Transit Center, not a locus of anti-social activity. The more people around at all hours, the less anti-social activity.

    2. 1) It’s near some cheap apartments
      2) It’s isolated from “downtown”. It’s a few blocks walk away from the major streets (320th, Pac Hwy). Especially the huge fence along the south side of the property. This definitely was not the best place to put it, but it was the only place they could get a sizeable chunk of land.
      3) There aren’t a ton of good places in Federal Way. Actually, along the Pac Hwy corridor anything north of 312th is a bit sketchy through 272nd.
      4) There’s already a chunk of those old people houses (HAGS, the Housing Assistance Group for Seniors) just northeast of FWTC (behind the old Target). There’s never a shortage of old people, but I doubt these will make a huge dent in bus ridership. Access is a different story though.

      Kent station is a bit different:
      1) It’s not just buses that serve it. The Sounder brings in a lot of commuters–different types of people than those on the bus.
      2) It’s actually connected to a shopping megacenter. It’s no Bellevue Square, but think of Southcenter without the mall. Lots of middle class people there. Still a lot of teens hang out there too. The shopping center is also newer too.
      3) Something about the ShoWare center. I can’t really make a point here–I don’t know a ton about Kent and I know nothing about the ShoWare.

      1. I lived in Kent for two years and in Auburn for about five so I’m very familiar with Kent Station and somewhat familiar with Federal Way TC. I’d say one big difference I’ve noticed in Kent vs Federal Way is police presence. I see the occasional cop drive through FWTC but there ALWAYS seems to be cops at Kent Station. There are plenty of gangster-wannabe kids that hang around downtown Kent, but the police presence seems to have done a better job of driving them out and/or keeping them somewhat subdued. I think having that new shopping center just over the tracks is another motivator for the city to keep the area clean.

      2. There’s already a chunk of those old people houses (HAGS, the Housing Assistance Group for Seniors

        I assume this was a bit of humor, SHAG (Senior Housing Assistance Group, Stuart sent ya). As an old hag myself I find it a bit offensive but also a bit amusing. But anytime you’re politically looking for votes; don’t piss off us old hags.

    3. I don’t know that much about Federal Way, but hopefully the area will become a lot nicer if this ever gets built. Right now it’s stalled. Maybe it will be that way until Link is extended there… I wonder if we might be able to get a federal grant for that one-station extension, it would have a lot of ridership and would be relatively cheap.

      1. No it won’t. There’s already tons of senior housing in FW. It won’t change with another 200 beds. The only thing that’d make it better is a huge stimulus check to each house. Except the ones by the aquatic center. I think some of those are the biggest in the city. Oh and also the ones near the Pierce County line, mostly the Dash Point/Dumas Bay area. Those houses are huge too.

      2. That’s not senior housing, it’s an apartment and condo project for four 20+ story buildings and a park in the middle right near the transit center. There’s also another proposal for skyscrapers a couple blocks away from this that’s not as far along as the Symphony project.

      3. I suspect Link might get to the Federal Way TC in the ST2 time frame if ST gets the grant it applied for to extend from the airport to S. 200th.

        Even without the grant it might happen anyway. From what I understand the per-mile construction costs South of the airport are fairly low and the benefit of getting to downtown Federal Way fairly high.

      4. ST2 is going to 272nd. There just wasn’t enough in the budget to get it to 320th; the same reason Lynnwood isn’t getting a park n ride. But if Federal Way can come up with the marginal cost, I’m sure they could convince ST to extend it to 320th before ST3.

      5. My thoughts were if the grant for S. 200th comes through it would leave more in the pot for possibly getting to S. 320th. Similarly if the costs of the various South King sub-area projects come in enough below estimates there is a chance there might be enough money to get to Federal Way TC before ST3.

        On the other hand it looks like with tax revenues being way down, any savings from one-time grants or projects coming in below estimates are going to have to fill that hole rather than be used to extend link a little further.

      6. What do you mean by grant for 200th? There was an earlier proposal to end Link at 200th but I thought it was superceded when ST2 decided to go all the way to 272nd? If there is a separate grant for the airport-to-200th segment, then yes, that could free up some money for a further extention, if ST is allowed to build beyond what the voters approved.

      7. I believe Sound Transit intends to apply for some pot of stimulus money for extending to S. 200th relatively soon rather than waiting for the project to S. 272nd to start.

        I don’t remember which fund it was but it was mentioned again fairly recently.

      8. Sound Transit applied for a DOT TIGER Grant to accelerate construction of the extension to S. 200th. I can’t find the link anymore, but I think it was mentioned on the Transportation Choices Coalition blog.

      9. What hurdles would ST have to go through to build beyond the ST2 area if it had extra money? Specifically a Federal Way station. Could it just do it on its own?

  3. KING 5 Morning News has a new commercial out that is very eye-catching (because our rail system makes the city look very hustle/bustle) – featuring, in order, Link, SC Monorail (in the distace), and the SLUT. Enjoy!

    1. Link shot at Rainier Beach Station. Freeway shot from Yesler overpass. Running track at Roosevelt High School. SLUT at Westlake & 7th.

      I recognize that location with the recumbent cyclists! It’s Wilmot Gateway Park on the Sammamish River Trail in downtown Woodinville.

      1. The shot of (Ron) Walther’s Garage is way up in the Snohomish boonies, by my parent’s house. They’ve used it in a few TV shows as well.

    1. I went to Central Link Oversight Committee’s meeting and they still have no official date for opening. They’re confident it will open by the end of the month, and have about 10-14 days of float to help mitigate and risks of delay.

  4. First off, this is very sad that young people are committing such extreme violence towards one another. An innocent bystander died here not too long ago, a terribly tragedy. I am occaisionally on the ST 574 that stops here. I even handed out Mass Transit Now flyers here back during the campaign. The majority of people I see here are normal law abiding citizens just like everywhere else.

    Currently, there are several large empty commercial zoned lots directly behind the TC, and adjacent to the empty lots, several large strip malls. Then Highway 99 and I-5 are both nearby as well. I don’t beleive that these problems can’t be fixed, but the acres of weed filled asphalt will have to be replaced with buildings full of people that care about their neighborhood.

    1. How can you tell if they’re law-abiding in general, or that certain people are criminals? (Aside from witnessing a crime.) Maybe the Federal Way TC is full of business commuters engaged in all manner of embezzlement at their office.

      Probably not, but it’s hard to know much about people by looking at them,

  5. Since this an open thread, forgive my indulgence…

    I earlier asked on this blog why there is no Tacoma-Eastside bus…well today my father called me from Lakewood needing to get to Renton. His ride fell through. He is your typical 3-car garage Eastside suburbanite who has NEVER ridden transit except to sporting events.

    He finally needed transit today, and had a disastrous experienc. It’s so frustrating…

    He didn’t want to transfer, so I told him to take the 574 from I-5/512 P&R to SeaTac, where I would pick him up. He accidentally was dropped off at Lakewood Station, so I told him to skip the 594 and instead take the 599 Sounder shuttle and take the 5:00p Sounder to Tukwila. The 599 arrived late in Lakewood, left late, and arrived after the last Sounder had departed. So I told him to again wait for the 574, which was 25 minutes late and got him to SeaTac at 6:45p tonight.

    2.5 hours to go from Lakewood to SeaTac. I’m left wondering how to rehabilitate the image of transit for my father? Telling him it was his fault for going to the wrong P&R didn’t help the situation… =)

    1. Everyone in my household of six is a frequent transit rider except my father. He has always been the driver of the house although he supports transit expansion and ST2. The only time he took the bus was to the airport. I once joked about him driving a 1/4 mile to the post office in Renton Highlands. Transit/vanpool doesn’t work for him as he has to get between our home in Bothell and two stores in Capitol Hill and the Renton Highlands. He often carries lots of fresh food, too.

    2. The 599 shuttle should not have been late, but your father needs to understand that transit riders must always be prepared to transfer. Especially a trip as long as Lakewood-Renton.

    3. Your father’s experience is shared by everybody who has to travel suburb to suburb.

      Your suggestions sound right. I don’t know the route numbers offhand, but I would choose something from 512 to the Tacoma Dome, then either Sounder or the SeaTac bus, whichever came first. Then the SeaTac-Renton bus (ST to Bellevue, or Metro 140). However, I don’t know if either of those buses goes near the Sounder Tukwila station, so I would make sure of that first.

      The important thing when traveling long distances that don’t have a direct route, is to take the highest-frequency trunk routes even if it means more transfers. That way if a bus doesn’t show up or is late, the next one will be coming soon. This was mainly caused by the Sounder shuttle being late, which there’s nothing we can do about except assume it might happen, and choose a route with the largest number of transfer choices at the other end.

  6. Ok Matt, I made an educated guess. They didn’t have ankle bracelets or prison tattoo’s, and weren’t actively selling crack on the corner. Most people use the FW TC just to get on the bus and go to work or to get home, pretty basic stuff.

  7. Zach,
    To get from Lakewood to Renton is pretty tough until the Sounder D to M extension is done and the Lakewood station opens up. Then it will be a piece of cake. Board in Lakewood, get off at Tukwila Station, transfer onto Metro’s 140 the rest of the way to Renton. I work in Renton, and occaisionally get stuck myself.

    1. If only they had midday, evening, and weekend service. That would make it super easy. Looking at the list of commuter rail systems in the US, Sounder is by far the largest ridership system that runs only during peak hours (with the exception of gameday service).

      1. Same railway (for the most part) but a whole different approach. Both ST and BNSF could profit from a closer look at RR. That said, there is far less freight traffic on RR’s route than on BNSF between Everett and Tacoma.
        We need and deserve mid-day, evening and weekend service – would mostly require only one trainset and crew.

      2. The Rail Runner runs on its own track which allows it to have an all day running schedule. Same with the frontrunner in Salt Lake City. Both of these operations either bought out or built new track so you can’t compare these systems to Seattle.

      3. My bad – did not realize the transit authority there had purchased the ROW from Belen to the NM/CO border from BNSF. So, the few freights that BNSF operates north of Albuquerque run at the convenience of the passenger trains – cool!

      4. Hopefully a better agreement with BNSF for slots between Seattle and Tacoma for Sounder and Cascades can be negotiated.

        Of course one aspect of that would be for Amtrak, WSDOT, and ST to continue to invest in ROW and signaling improvements in the corridor. Hopefully the Federal HSR programs will provide some of the money needed for this.

  8. The Beacon Hill Blog just did a reader survey and posted the first in a series of results today.


    Note the answer to the question “What do you think is the best change on Beacon Hill in 2008-2009?” 90% of people said “Link light rail”! (This was, by the way, an open-ended question, not multiple choice — we did not steer people to this answer!)

    3% of people said light rail was the worst change, though.

    There will be a few more of the survey questions that are relevant to the interests of folks here at the Transit Blog, so if you’re curious, check the BHB over the next week as more results get posted.

      1. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the power line folks. Or, possibly, the folks on the east slope of the Hill who actually do get to hear wheels screeching on rails all day long — the trains coming out of or approaching Mt Baker Station.

    1. A few of them also thought the car wash was the worst change. What I love is their analysis of how pretty much a huge majority of residents agree that BeHi is lame, and so they embedded a video of the “Lame List” from “Almost Live.” Classic.

      1. I should give some context about the car wash.

        The main “downtown” business area near 15th and Beacon (close to the station) is mostly zoned NC2-40 — with a pedestrian overlay. So, there are supposed to be neighborhood businesses that are not auto-oriented. No drive-in businesses or other auto-focused businesses can be there unless the use is already grandfathered in as a non-conforming use. Also, things like warehouses and such are not allowed.

        Two buildings in that area have been a bit of a thorn in people’s sides for a while. Both were being used as illegal warehouses when the buildings’ official use was supposed to be retail. They weren’t open retail at all — just warehouses, and the operators were doing things like driving forklifts on the sidewalk, etc. As you can imagine, this was not pedestrian-friendly, both for the danger of the forklift and because no one really wants to walk around a neighborhood of warehouses. And we had TWO of them in our main intersection.

        One of them was the subject of complaints, and when DPD came out to check on him, it appears that he put up a sign that said “RETAIL FOOD STORE” with some open hours and got away with it! He only got in trouble for having his front door locked during business hours! (Further complaints from the neighbors pointing out that the warehouse was actually not a retail store and in fact had NEVER had open retail hours eventually got it shut down. But… it’s still vacant.

        So that brings us to the car wash. The other warehouse went vacant and a sign went up offering it for retail lease. And soon a business moved in… a car wash/auto detailing/stereo install place. Which is not a legal use in a pedestrian overlay, and also, would have required a change of use for the building too. In addition to that little problem, they put up multiple sandwich boards (as many as 3 on one corner, and frequently one in the actual crosswalk). Cars driving in and out had to drive over the actual crosswalk, and frequently made illegal turns out of the business as well.

        Apparently there were several complaints to DPD, and just recently the business closed.

        The only problem is… now that’s a second big space in our main downtown intersection that is sitting vacant. The car wash was not a good thing there but neither is a big vacant space. (Culinary Communion’s restaurant/cooking school space is now vacant too.) So if anyone here has the urge to open something interesting on Beacon Hill… please do. We don’t have any pizza restaurants up here, no hamburgers, no American breakfast food like pancakes, nothing like the Columbia City Alehouse… etc. We have the light rail now, so, please, will the retail show up soon?

      2. No one knows if there are any plans. The families that own the properties have not made any plans public, and the folks from DPD who are apparently supposed to be working with them have been unable to make contact with them so far, according to a representative at the neighborhood council meeting last week.

      3. Oh, and I must say I was really hoping that people would say that the nickname “BeHi” is lame, because I had that Almost Live clip all ready to go. I would have been disappointed if I couldn’t use it. ;)

    2. Well, when you look at the survey the first stat is how long people reading this blog have actually lived there. Not surprising the overwhelming percentage is 0-5 years. Average home ownership is if I recall correctly ~7 years so the polls are skewed heavily toward new residents. Like the song says, “don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone”. Put up Link and take me to the parking lot.

    1. That was one of the greatest train rides ever for a Seattleite. Down overnight in heritage sleeper stock, a day in Salt Lake City (2nd prize- two days in SLC), and back overnight.

      All of it through some of the most scenic and least populated parts of the country- along the Columbia, through the Blue Mountains, up the Snake, and out across some mighty dry territory. The engineer would open her up and be blowing for a county road crossing about every three minutes. That was railroading!

      Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any reason in the world to run a passenger train there. Sic transit gloria.

  9. I will be posting about electric trolley buses at Orphan Road over the next few days- the first post is here. Naturally, if skeptics would expand on their skepticism in comments it would be most welcome.

  10. Wow I just rode Link today after the Sounders game and man, those were crush loads. Also, does anyone know when new Link ridership numbers (preferably including ridership by station) will be available?

    1. A couple of months after the end of the month, ST will publish the 3rd quarter ridership report here — http://www.soundtransit.org/News-and-Events/Service-News/Quarterly-Ridership.xml

      The second quarter report says:

      “This is the last quarterly report prior to the start-up of Central Link
      light rail, which began passenger service on July 18, 2009. The
      Third Quarter report format will be revised to accommodate
      Central Link data. Also, the SIP projections will be updated to
      reflect recent trends and the service improvements included in the
      voter-approved ST2 program.”

    2. I should have also said that the per-station numbers will probably not be in the ridership report, but it might be in the 2010 Service Implementation Plan. In previous years they have included more detailed data about ridership.

  11. I just finally got a chance to check out the Thorton Place project this weekend. It is pretty nice especially compared to many of the other recent large projects built in Seattle. I have to agree the large building with big blank walls for the theater compromises the project a bit, but it is difficult to accommodate a multiplex well in anything other than a Pacific Place type development. The daylighted creek is nice, but I wish they’d actually made it usable for salmon and made it possible to connect it to the open creekbed across 5th Ave and to any further daylighting upstream.

    The new construction along the West side of the mall is pretty decent. While it is still very much a mall, the West edge is much more pedestrian friendly than what was here before. Hopefully this is the start of a slow transition to a more U-Village like future than the current Northgate mall. Speaking of which I can’t help but think we need a lot more Thorton Place type developments on all of the empty parking lots and crappy run-down strip malls in the Northgate area. The SW corner of 5th Ave and Northgate Way, the NW corner of 103rd and 5th Ave, and the crappy run-down strip mall and parking lot at Northgate Way and Roosevelt especially cry out for some good mixed-use development.

    Hopefully the mall ownership will be open to redeveloping the edges of their property as well as reconnecting the mall superblock with the surrounding street grid a bit.

    BTW I really don’t see any real case for height or density limits in the core of the Northgate area. 40 story office, hotel, or residential towers would only improve the mess that is the built environment in this neighborhood.

    I’ve also been down to Rainier Beach in the past couple of weeks. I have to say the Link station is really quite far from the commercial heart of the neighborhood. I was pleased to see some newer development along Henderson, even though most of it was crappy townhouses.

    I was rather shocked to see a new 2 story apartment building going in. I didn’t think anyone built low-rise multifamily anymore. The project was wrapped around a parking court and looked like a motel. Still it was a bit of a shock seeing low-rise residential zoning being used for something other than townhomes.

    I think Henderson really needs to be re-zoned to allow 6 story mixed-use or residential developments though. Building some density along here will help connect the rail station to the neighborhood better. Ideally there should be a streetcar between the Link station and Rainier Beach Park, passing near the library and through the commercial heart of the neighborhood.

    1. “I have to agree the large building with big blank walls for the theater compromises the project a bit”

      I haven’t seen the development yet, but a large blank wall sounds like a good opportunity for a nice mural.

  12. In the PSRC project list, the Burke Gilman expansion through Ballard is listed. In the description it says “Once completed, it will be possible to bicycle from Golden Gardens to Redmond.”

    I guess in all those years bicycling to Golden Gardens or to Redmond from my house, I’ve never tried cycling all the way from GG to Redmond! who would have thought it was impossible?

  13. Kitsap Transit can’t wait to dump paper transfers, so will end the practice onOctober 31. At least it’s giving passengers a bit of advance notice, which is most unlike the agency. All pass programs administered directly by Kitsap Transit, including reduced fare passes, will convert to ORCA on January 1. I’ve overheard a number of pass holders vehemently expressing their unhappiness with this, as Kitsap Transit has given a grace period of five days with paper passes, and that’ll go away. However, the agency won’t charge for ORCA cards until February 1.

    The rest of the ORCA pod will end paper transfers on December 31. (Although, the King County news release states, without further elaboration, that “King County Metro and Pierce Transit will still have paper transfers that are good within their own systems.”)

    From what I’m overhearing on Kitsap Transit buses (and Metro, for that matter), there is still enormous resistance in general to the program (the fear of the new, I presume), but I haven’t seen a serious effort to market ORCA, or beat the PR drums, in Kitsap County newspapers. There are many “ORCA is here” banners and billboards, but that’s about it. (And I haven’t heard anything about Steve the ORCA venturing into Kitsap County.) Of course, Kitsap Transit is dealing with a major financial crisis unanticipated during the endless years of ORCA planning and testing, but it still should be doing a better job of getting the word out, as ORCA will still be around long after the current situation is forgotten.

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