Dan Corson's Oscillating Field. Photo by The Stranger.
Dan Corson's Oscillating Field. Photo by The Stranger.
  • Grace Crunican, the director Seattle’s transportation department, is looking for a job in Oregon since she might be forced out by the McGinn over last winter’s snowstorm. Many smart people argue the Mayor-elect should keep her on. We agree: McGinn should consider keeping her.
  • The First Hill Streetcar will break ground in 2011 and open by 2013. The City has three public meetings this month about it to discuss the possible alignments. And a minimalist web page.
  • The feds announce some more funding for streetcars and trolley buses.
  • SDOT begins work this week on Aurora bus platforms. RapidRide buses will eventually run along the corridor.
  • Seattle Metro area transit usage up 13.4% between 2006 and 2008, well behind several sun belt cities — and Detroit. Traffic congestion down, mostly due to the economy.
  • King County Council backs SR520 A+ option.  That pits them against Richard Conlin, Frank Chopp, and others, but with the legislative working group.
  • The Stranger art critic looks at the public art piece — above — temporarily occupying the future home of Link’s Capitol Hill stop.

More after the jump…


  • Columbia River Crossing hits a major snag. Decision delayed till January.

56 Replies to “News Roundup: Keep Grace Crunican”

      1. Interestingly, I never really noticed anyone pushing the intercom button on Link prior to the TriMet operator being fired, but since then I’ve had Link operators answer the intercom three times, as people push the red button on the triple seat in the disabled spot, hoping it’s the release to make the chair go down.

  1. Interesting set of articles. The assault story on the Link (station, near the platform, 5 blocks away, w/e it is) bugs me a little. Reading some of the comments on their forum is disturbing as well. A lot of people associating the train with higher crime only after one incident. Hell, I’ve had more trouble walking along 2nd walking to the Sounder in a day than the number of incidents I’ve ever had on the Link.

    I hope this doesn’t start some disturbing trends and comparisons b/c the light rail is so new and the fears of something new.

    1. Crime often occurs on many inner-city Metro routes. Does that mean we should eliminate those routes? Funny logic, the way people think, eh?

    2. A lot of people already had their minds made up about thugs targeting people on light rail.

      The opportunity, and the longer term solution is for increasing dense developments near the stations that put eyes and boots on the street and activity around that makes it harder for predators to target solitary individuals or vulnerable couples making their way home from the stations.

      Beat cops would be helpful, too, but so much of SE Seattle is of low density that its just not practical for policing on foot like downtown, Belltown, Capitol Hill and U-District are. Hopefully that will change in the future and police can be more proactive in keeping an eye on large groups of young males who appear to be up to no good.

      1. There is a lot of security on link itself and at the stations. Some of the surface stations feel a bit lonely late at night but that is due to the lack of surrounding activity. Metro buses and stops are far more of an issue as far as far as crime goes. Metro would be far safer if they had the same level of security.

      2. I agree. I think ST has done a great job so far with security. I feel much more secure waiting for a train or bus in the transit tunnel at night than I do on 3rd. They have established a tone that anti-social behavior and sexual harassment will not be tolerated on Link.

  2. McGinn shouldn’t consider keeping Grace Crunican. He should disavow his previously stated intent to let her go and keep her here in Seattle. I crossed paths with Grace in my work back when she worked for ODOT before she got to Seattle. In my little area of public policy work, I found her to be not only well informed as an executive, but facile with our subject matter, super-smart, AND openminded. She brought what I perceived to be a fairly progressive mix to a position in a moderately conservative agency and was a refreshing problem solver. That people still go sideways think heads should roll over that freaking snow response is petty to me, and in this case would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.

      1. No I meant “shouldn’t” but I should have written “shouldn’t *JUST CONSIDER* keeping her….” I meant that as an enthusiastic endorsement because Mike announced during the campaign his intent to replace the head of SDOT. And based on what the usual despicable commenters are saying in a similar thread over on Publicola right now, I’m doubling down on my endorsement. We might have a couple of trolls and johnny-one-notes here on STB, but some of the regulars there are just plain repugnant.

    1. Yeah I think so.

      I think McGinn should keep Grace as well. SDOT over the last few years has made radical changes and is really starting to push hard for the things that all of us want. She is a known quantity with an understand of how to get things done. I foresee McGinn pushing fast and hard on bike/ped issues and he needs someone that can keep pace.

    2. Grace Crunican is a deceitful vindictive malicious opponent of progressive transportation planning. Do not be fooled. She is a menace.

      1. As director of ODOT, Ms Crunican denied pedestrian advocates their plea for a wider sidewalk, wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass each other, on the Ross Island Bridge rebuild project. To add insult with injury, she refused to install the new steel barrier between the sidewalk and the curb lane. There’s no room for a bike lane on this 3/4 mile bridge over the Willamette River, and so the high traffic which averages 45+mph is mere inches from pedestrians. That can be called vindictive.

        In Seattle, the AWV replacement project has been characterized by obstructionism from the start. By 2007, WSDOT was still planning to build their 6-lane elevated replacement, which shows Ms Crunican was not seriously considering alternatives. She allowed clueless environmentalist-types to believe the streetcar line could be installed in the Wide Plaza for years. When finally called out on the hazardous route, she dropped the Waterfront Streetcar line entirely. The current design for Alaskan Way boulevard will not handle traffic well, with or without the Deep-bore tunnel. The Deep-bore does not handle traffic anywhere near as well as the 4-lane cut-n-cover tunnel. The Mercer West project will do harm to Lower Queen Anne community, and SDOT plans are kept secret til it’s too late. She’s a rat luring progressive urban planners and clueless environmentalists into accepting inferior plans.

  3. The Planetizen article is interesting, but I’m not surprised by any of the results except for Portland’s lack of showing. Naturally, larger cities with more adequate transit systems will find it harder to match the proportion increase in cities where there are more opportunities for service expansion. I don’t know what accounts for Detroit’s large jump, though.

    1. Aye. IIRC correctly Seattle already had the 8th most utilized transit system. And I’m a little less sure of this but I don’t remember seeing any of the cities ahead of Seattle on the most improved list, which means that we’re moving up against those in our weight class.

    2. Well obviously growth is going to happen more dramatically where there’s more room for growth to be made. Could you imagine a spike of 46% in transit use somewhere like NYC? That would be impossible. That article is ridiculous.

      I’m sure public transit use just SURGED in Skagit County about a decade ago. But why all that growth in transit use in such a small area?!?!?!?! Because it was about a decade ago when they implemented public transit.

      1. The results are even more dramatic when you consider hypothetical transit systems. If one person rode the bus in my town regularly, and I invited three more riders, then imagine… a 300% increase in transit usage!

  4. Metro should go all out to get the trolley funds and SDOT should go after the streetcar funds. Seattle is uniquely posed to get those funds and I wouldn’t be shocked if we won a double digit portion of those funds.

    Maybe metro should take a look at the “rapid” trolley study again. I would rather a term like High LOS Trolley, or Trolley with High Quality, or Frequent Local Trolley. Just not rapid.

    I’m going to read the report again. It has been a while.

  5. Crunican should move on. I have had a couple surprisingly negative interactions with her about our supposed Fremont N Bike Boulevard (yeah, the one most of you have never heard of). I’m a bike commuter and I don’t take that negative interaction lightly. She isn’t open minded about the way Seattle builds bike boulevards.

    I do believe she is intelligent. I do believe she has talent. I DON’T believe she is willing to do as good a job integrating bike routes with car traffic and transit as the Portland Bureau of Transportation has done.

    The bike issues plus the snow issue plus the negative reputation overall leads me to believe it is time for her to move on.

  6. Hearing about money for trolley bus/streetcar projects is encouraging. I remember hearing Seattle discussing the possibility of discontinuing trolleys starting 2013.

    1. It was Metro, not the City. Metro constantly obsesses over the expensive trolley lines and service workers required; Seattle will have to fight to keep the trolley routes electric. I’m sure, having said that, that having Dow as County Exec will help a lot.

  7. TRANSIT SECURITY is something that Sound Transit does extreemely well. They are setting the bar quite high for fare evaders and troublemakers with uniformed officers and checkers. (note: the other day my car was full, and when the checker anounced we should have our proof of payment ready, it’s like being a deer caught in the headlights. They were very professional, and removed a non payer at the next station to issue a citation)
    NOW, would be a great time for METRO to jump on the ‘no-nonsense’ approach to fare evasion and violations of the code of conduct. That way the message is consistent across transit agencies, and MAY reverse the common belief that METRO is soft on crime.
    It was a bit intimidating to ride link, knowing the inspector was working her way towards me, and did my ORCA card really register when I boarded, but being a retired trolley driver, I wish just once a uniformed officer walked my isles, checking for passes and valid transfers, and maybe pulling someone from the bus to explain the code of conduct.
    That sends a huge message to the riding public.

    Do the right thing, pay your fare, and ride safely.

    Don’t, and there are consequenses.

    1. Do you have any idea how much it costs for the sort of security ST is providing so far on LINK trains? ST has about 105 security personnel and only 17 LINK trains. There is no way Metro could afford to do anything close to that on their 1,500 or so buses.

      For the city of Seattle, it costs about $100,000 per year for each police officer. This includes cost of patrol cars they operate, et. al. Most ST security people don’t have patrol cars, although I have seen some of them along MLK Way driving brand new Priuses with ST Security on the sides of the cars.

      At any rate, with about 105 security personnel for 17 trains, plus how ever many LINK drivers there are, plus the LINK maintneance personnel, the operating cost of LINK trains must be through the roof. Has anyone seen any figures from ST on how much the operating (including security) and maintenance costs per boarding are on LINK trains? It must be very high.

      And even with this extraordinary expense for security, I have seen ST security/fare checkers on only about one of every five LINK cars I have ridden, and I usually ride all the way between Westlake and Rainier Beach, so if any security boards one of the trains I am on, I would see them.

      As for providing security on board LINK trains — I always feel like its “every man for himself” when I am riding those trains. If anyone wanted to cause problems, and was worried about security catching them, all they would have to do is wait until fare checkers boarded their car and left, and they would know there would not be any more security officers on that car the rest of the trip — they never board the same car twice, so once they have checked fares and left, they will not be coming back to that car.

      1. Sound Transit security and police are not only for Link trains. I’ve seen them at transit centers and even at HOV direct access ramps.

        Fare inspection and security checks should be separate functions. Just because a fare inspection occurred shouldn’t mean there won’t be anyone coming on board later to keep an eye on safety. The goal of fare inspection is not to catch all the cheaters (costs too much) but to deter would be fare evaders. Inspection rates around 15-30% are typical for North American light rail operations.

        The following figures are from Sound Transit’s proposed 2010 budget. $11.2 million to Security and Safety for the entire system in 2010. About $6.2 million of that is for Central Link. They expect to spend $3 million for Link security and safety in 2009. The proposed 2010 cost per revenue vehicle hour is $329.52. Compare that to $138 for ST Express, $419 for Tacoma Link and $932 for Sounder. That’s the cost of just providing the service without regard for ridership and is not a measure of performance. Metro’s cost per boarding for 2009 is $3.70. Tri-Met’s MAX cost per boarding for 2009 is $2.38.

      2. Assuming your figures are correct: If LINK averages around 20,000 boardings per day in 2010, including weekends, times 365 days, that comes to about 7.3 million boardings in 2010. If LINK spends $6.2 million on security in 2010, that comes to about 85 cents per boarding just on security.

        Comparing the cost per boarding of all of Metro’s bus routes to Tri-Met’s MAX cost per boarding is meaningless. As you should know, Metro is forced to operate a lot of routes which are very low ridership, partly due to the 40-40-20 rule, which skews the average towards a high cost per boarding. The legitimate comparison of bus to light rail would be to compare Metro’s best routes’ cost per boarding to a light rail line’s cost per boarding. They would not build light rail on many of the routes Metro is forced to operate by politicians.

        What is Metro’s cost per boarding on their best routes?

        What is the cost per boarding of ST Express buses? For the best ST Express bus route?

        That would be interesting information.

      3. Unfortunately, Metro doesn’t provide that detailed information directly. It only has performance metrics and not cost figures.

        Tri-Met’s overall (bus & rail) operating cost per boarding is $2.85 which is still much lower than Metro’s. This accounts for an integrated regional bus and rail system versus Metro’s all-bus system (until recently).

        From the draft 2010 Service Implementation Plan, ST Express systemwide has a $5.88/boarding, on the top two hisghest ridership, high service routes 545 $4.82 and the 550 $3.41.

      4. ST lists “Purchased cost per boarding” or some such wording. I couldn’t find anywhere in the document just exactly what that means. I’m guessing that it is the contract amount paid to the operator (KC Metro, CT or Pierce Transit) and doesn’t count the ST administrative costs or capital depreciation. For Metro the total budget (~$600M) divided by total ridership (~$110M) yields $5.45 Rough guesses on the budget and ridership numbers but it ball parks around what ST is paying Metro. Obviously some routes are doing much better on fare recovery than others.

      5. Well, since Metro does not provide that information, we can use the ST Express as an example. You wrote that the average operating cost per boarding of all ST Express routes is $5.88, but for the best ST Express route the cost per boarding is $3.41, which is about 58% of the average.

        I would imagine that Metro has routes that cost only 58% of Metro’s average cost per boarding. If Metro’s average operating cost per boarding is $3.70, then if they have routes that are only 58% of the average, those routes would cost only about $2.15 per boarding, or less than MAX light rail. I would bet that Metro has some routes which cost well under $2.00 per boarding to operate.

        What does ST predict their LINK operating cost per boarding in 2010 is going to be?

      6. From the 2010 budget, page 35: “Cost/boarding for 2009 $9.94 and 2010 $5.63”

        The cost/boarding is expected to decrease as ridership increases. The ST2 plan lists 2030 costs as follows:
        Link light rail 88.5M annual riders (same as boardings?), $127M annual operating costs, $52 annual operating revenue, 41% farebox recovery. That’ll be $1.44/rider.

        Metro has fare/operating cost ratios for each route by time of day in their Route Performance Report so you can see the breakdown. The recovery ratio can be as high as 71% (1 Kinnear during peak) or as low as 2% for rural routes.

        ST Express consists only of limited stop, long-distance routes while Metro has a mix of services from inner-city to rural routes.

        You can cherry-pick routes but the fact remains that system wide, Tri-Met’s costs per boarding are lower than Metro’s.

      7. I’m not interested in Tri-Met’s cost per boarding. I am interested in LINK cost per boarding.

        So the LINK operating cost per boarding in 2010 is projected to be higher than Metro’s average operating cost per boarding by a significant margin. Metro is $3.70 and LINK is projected to be $5.63. That is quite a difference. As of now, it costs a lot less to move people by Metro bus than by LINK, without even considering capital costs of each. Is that correct?

      8. As of now, yes. As the system is built out and ridership increases, it’ll be the reverse as the projected 2030 (20 years from now) figures suggest.

        The reason I cite Tri-Met because it is an example of a system that has had rail for over 20 years and it shows what the overall operational cost savings could be when we build our system out.

        The page at http://www.publictransit.us/ptlibrary/specialreports/sr6.PortlandvsSeattle.htm compares operating costs of Seattle’s “all-bus” system vs Portland’s light rail trunk system.

      9. Your proposed cost “per revenue vehicle hour” for Central LINK in 2010 is $329.52. By “vehicle” do you mean one light rail CAR, or one light rail TRAIN (2 cars)?

      10. I looked at the ST budget you linked to. It is obvious that that is the cost per each light rail car, not each train. So, “vehicle” = one light rail car.

        For Sounder, I did not do any calculations, since I am not familiar with Sounder trains, but I expect it is the same: per car, not per train.

      11. Anything other that a per train cost would not make sense. There is only one operator per train.

      12. First, remember that ST security provides security for much more than just Link. They also patrol the ST offices, transit centers, park & rides, Sounder, and ST Express buses.

        Second the ST security can be divided into three groups:
        1. Security guards contracted through Securitas. These are the people with the Priuses and in the yellow vests in the stations (all Link stations except for the surface ones IIRC).
        2. Uniformed fare inspectors. I’m not sure if they are contracted as well or if they work directly for Sound Transit. As far as I know they aren’t sworn law enforcement but can issue citations for fare evasion. I’ve also seen Securitas officers doing fare enforcement checks.
        3. Sound Transit police contracted through King County. They are fully sworn King County Sheriff’s deputies and have full police and arrest powers. They drive Crown Victoria patrol cars with “Sound Transit Police” on the side and a smaller “King County Sheriff” along the rocker panel.

        The security guards and fare inspectors likely aren’t costing Sound Transit $100,000 a year each.

        While the Link operating cost per boarding might be a bit high right now, remember that 16,000 riders per day is more than almost any Metro transit route. While Sound Transit will have to add trains and staff as Link expands the ridership will go up by a larger proportion. With U Link system ridership should be around 80,000 riders per day. Sound Transit isn’t going to need 5 times the staff to support that.

        Even though Sound Transit doesn’t have someone in each car they do have much more in the way of visible security than Metro. In addition every station has good lighting and cameras which is more than you can say about most Metro bus stops.

        I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting Metro provide the level of security Sound Transit does on Link. I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask for a bit more visible security presence and to do a bit more fare enforcement.

      13. Sorry you missed my point. I didn’t even hint that Metro could do anything close to ST Security levels. It’s all about perception in the publics mind.
        ST = Lots of security and fare checking.
        Metro = Nearly None.
        Metro could add some level of fare enforcement on problem routes for a while to piggyback onto ST’s massive effort to train the Link riding public that: If you ride, you will be checked at some time. No ticket gets you ejected from the car, and issued a ticket.
        ST will surely ramp down the effort per car as the public education reaches an acceptable level of fare evasion for ST.

      14. +1, Mike. I think even a skeletal Metro security team would help with both fare evasion and (perhaps more importantly) violations of the passenger code of conduct.

      15. Well there are the Metro Transit Police and supposedly they have a team of undercover officers who ride various routes with a history of problems. However just a hair more visible security combined with some fare enforcement would be great.

      16. According to articles I have read, in some cities, such as at least on L.A. light rail line, even after years of operation, fare evasion never reached an “acceptable” level. And some of these light rail lines were comtemplating putting in turnstiles at stations to combat this.

        I see people on LINK trains evading fares all the time. It’s very obvious. They watch out the windows as the train approaches each station, and when they see fare collectors coming to board their car, they leave the train. Then they hop on the next train to arrive at that station, and continue their trip. Haven’t you noticed this?

        I noticed one particularly attractive woman do this the other day. I saw her exit my train after fare checkers came on board, then she arrived at the Westlake station on the next train, as I was waiting for a bus. She caught my eye on the train, and I noticed what she was doing. Usually, it is young people, such as teenagers, who do this, and it seems like a game to them. I have seen them jump off a car after fare checkers boarded it, and just jump on the other car of the same train!

      17. You will never completely eliminate fare evasion. Fare evasion occurs even with barriers like turnstiles. It happens on buses and drivers can’t do much to stop them. Very few light rail lines install turnstiles because it isn’t worth the high cost of installing and maintaining them relative to the revenue lost. However, it may be justified if the ridership is high enough. The only way to know is to conduct an analysis.

      18. A 1/5 chance of getting caught is very high, considering a ticket costs an average of probably $2, and a citation will cost you around $120. Assuming a rational actor, a 1/50 chance of being caught should deter fare evaders, so 1/5 is great.

      19. Where do you get a 1/5 chance of getting caught? There are a lot of people who ride LINK trains only between stations inside the downtown tunnel. Fares are almost never checked inside the tunnel.

        In general, the shorter of trip you take, the less chance of being checked for a fare. I estimate that fare checkers board a train about 1 of 5 times on a full trip between Westlake and Tuwkila. If you ride only between downtown and Beacon Hill, for example — as many people do — your chances of having your fare checked are much less, maybe one in ten.

        And, for anyone intentionally trying to ride for free, all they have to do is stay alert, and leave the train whenever a fare checker boards. That is easy to do.

      20. You’re not going to have much success catching people dedicated to riding free and unconcerned with where they get off or when they get to their destination. And that’s fine. The question is whether the vast majority of you peak-hour commuters are paying customers, and from everything I’ve seen the answer is yes.

      21. If they leave the train to avoid a fare then they’ll have to wait another 7.5-15 minutes for the next train, which may be inspected again down the line. They already paid the time penalty. Let them waste their time to save $2.

  8. Grace Crunican talks the talk to avoid walking to talk. She is utterly untrustworthy, incompetent or more likely utterly corrupt. The mess-up with last year’s snowplow-gate is the tip of the iceberg. She’s leaving because there is no defense for her incompetence. Those who praise her have been made the biggest fools by her devious nature. Her work is gawd-awful! Don’t allow her to infect a new planning department. She made fools of Seattle’s environmentalists who though her sincere. She works for General Motors.

  9. Seattle Metro area transit usage up 13.4% between 2006 and 2008, well behind several sun belt cities — and Detroit.

    Detroit? I thought that city was rapidly turning into a ghost town.

  10. Central Link solves time travel!


    Central Link Light Rail – Central Link Light Rail Service Delays

    Posted Date:12 / 08 / 09 – 12:00 a.m.

    Due to switch problem encountered early Monday, December 7, 2009 please anticipate delays with train service.

    Note the posted date! It’s tomorrow! I assume they meant that service will be delayed today? Or is it tonight while they work on the switch? Either way, I think I’ll chose an alternate mode of travel.

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