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[UPDATE below.]

According to Scott Gutierrez of the P-I, Sen. Patty Murray has included a provision in the transportation bill that reverses the Bush-era decision to effectively eliminate special event bus service to the Mariners and Seahawks.  It still has to get through a few votes and be signed by the President, but it sounds like more or less a done deal.  Press release here.

According to Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok, a lot depends on when the bill actually becomes law.  Since the event organizers (ie, sports teams) must pay the cost of the service beyond farebox recovery, it’s ultimately up to them when such service returns. Nevertheless, she assures me that “the actual process of negotiating a contract for special service can typically be concluded within weeks, once discussions get underway between Metro and the requesting organization.”  So it would appear that Seahawks fans are out of luck this year, but there’s reason to be optimistic about the Mariners’ Opening Day.

The bill also includes money for local transit agencies:

Murray also secured $110 million for Sound Transit’s next light rail link to the University of Washington, as well as $3.1 million for the Central Link project. The bill also will include $600,000 to [help] purchase 15 hybrid buses for Metro’s planned RapidRide bus line in West Seattle, as well as $600,000 $360,000* to study the possibility of commuter rail along existing BNSF rail lines from the Auburn Sounder Commuter Rail Station to Maple Valley, Covington and Black Diamond.

The press release also mentions money for the RapidRide A and B lines, not just C.

The News Tribune says there’s also money in there for the Tacoma Intermodal Transit Center, 6 new buses for Pierce Transit, and money to move along Puyallup’s EZRA BRT project.  I haven’t run down each of these funding items, but I believe that in general this is not “new” money but the fulfillment of previous FTA commitments that don’t revise the budgets of the respective programs.

Note also that the commuter rail study covers an area outside the Sound Transit district and is not a Sound Transit project.  I have a call in to Murray’s office to see who actually gets the money. According to the Senator’s office, the cities of Maple Valley, Covington, and Black Diamond are conducting the study with Maple Valley taking the lead.

* See correction.

36 Replies to “Senator Murray Comes Through Again”

  1. Even if it isn’t new money, would the region be getting it sooner, which could both save money and speed up construction times?

    1. I assume this is the main transit center near the Tacoma Dome. From here you can catch: PT, ST, Tacoma Link, Sounder and Amtrak. I don’t know about Greyhound…

      1. The Greyhound Station is part of the Tacoma Dome transit center complex. It is just to the West of the PT and ST bus bays.

    2. i remember reading something about ST wanting to construct a Phase III addition to TDS to the west where bullseye is. I think it was part of ST Phase II I think it was in the neighborhood of 500 or so cars, prehaps this is what they are talking about.

  2. Like the bit for the Auburn to Black Diamond railway study, especially. But the other stuff is good too. Maybe there’s future hope for a study of the disused railway line from Enumclaw to Renton, but that would solely depend upon resurrecting the Eastside Rail project and certainly far off in the horizon.

    1. An Equivelent to the Auburn to Black Diamond rail way would be Everett to Monroe, the distances between Auburn and the Maplevalley/Black Diamond area along the RR ROW are almost identicle to the distances between Everett and monroe on the RR ROW. The Covington, Maple Valley, Black Diamond population is only slightly larger than the Monroe Snohomish population.
      The monroe Everett route would have one possiable benefit that teh Black Diamond / Auburn route would not, the ESR (if ever built) would dead end into the Everett monroe line at it’s midpoint

      So what does one have to do to get politions looking at a new option?

      I would want to wait for the report for Auburn Black Diamond to come in good, and then leerage lessons learned from that report on the Monroe Everett corridor

      Lor Scara

      1. The biggest difference is that the City’s want the service. If Gold Bar, Sultan, Monroe and Snohomish wanted to extend Sounder, they would all have to join in and paying not only for the study but if they move forward with the proposal, paying for train service, rail upgrades, etc.

        The same would apply for Sounder going to Stanwood for example.

        I’m not going to read much into the proposal until I see the study in about a year or so.

      2. Lets hope in a year the Obama FRA gets more lax of using imported DMUs such as the Stadtler cars now in texas (and commonly used throughout europe), and the same consultancy involved in the Pioneer and N. Coast Hiawatha studies dosent get the contract. It would be intresting to see though if they propose running service through to seattle (i would hope) or force a transfer in Auburn (one would probally have to totally level the station and reconstruct it for cross platform capabilities, or to even add anoter platform!)

      3. Lor Scara,

        NEVER gonna happen. Your wished-for Sounder train would take space on the single-track BNSF intermodal main line.

        The only way BNSF would agree was if the state paid to double track all 20 miles. Ouch!

      4. Fourtunatly its a fairly easy 20 miles to double track IIRC. Of course stanwood also wants sounder service as well i think.

      5. Yeah, I was thinking that was the case but I’m glad you pointed that out since you actually know what you’re talking about. I’m curious, if Stevens Pass is truly a bottleneck. Why has BNSF mothballed Stampede? I know they can’t run double stack freight through that tunnel but is freight traffic really off so much that Stevens is currently more than enough capacity?

      6. Bernie,

        That is correct. Freight traffic is dramatically down but even with peak traffic, Stevens could only handle about 26 trains, with the restriction being solely on waiting for the tunnel to “flush” the exhaust out, which takes anywhere between 15 to 40 minutes to do.

        The increased use of distributed power has some but for now, there is no realistic way to handle more trains. If BNSF moves with the plan to make Westbound traffic over Stevens and Eastbound traffic over Stampede if and when the tunnel is completed, I would not at all be surprised if see traffic jump up dramatically.

        The only “bottleneck” would be if the North Coast Hiawatha was restored since it would travel in both directions but the same would apply with the Empire Builder.

        They haven’t actually “mothballed” the line but rather just not using it for the interim as they conduct testing for their ETMS system between Ellensburg and Lester.

        A couple railfans (and friends of mine) went up and checked out the testing of the train.

        http://www.railroadforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=30621

        With the sale of the Woodinville Subdivision, it is expected that BNSF will have funding for the tunnel work next Summer.

      7. It will be interesting to see how Berkshire Hathaway’s purchase of BNSF changes their capital investment/upgrade strategy and if it does at all.

        One of the articles I read on the purchase said that BNSF was seriously considering electrifying their mainlines a while back but decided not to pursue it because the shareholders balked.

      8. Some speculation i heard is they mothballed it to avoid costs of plowing it out every year. Of course last year they had a bad slide right near the east portal which has since been cleaned up.

    2. On Auburn to Black Diamond: This reminds me of the North Sound DMU study that the Discovery Institute took on a few years back, but in a lower-ridership corridor. Is there any reason to think this corridor would be more suited to commuter rail?

      (I don’t mean to be negative — being able to get more places on a train would be nice — I’m just skeptical)

  3. O.K. any who knows me knows that I am against federal funding for state and local transit. I oppose any funding for any state. Now I find that senator Murray is stealing money from the 49 other states to fund special transit services for Seahawks and Mariners games. This is just stupid. If we cannot fund these on the local levey we should not have them.

    1. The federal government is not paying for the shuttles. Previously, the feds banned these kind of shuttles, but Sen. Murray just re-allowed them in Washington State. Metro charges $3 for everyone to ride these buses, and the teams themselves pick up all costs beyond that.

    2. I don’t think that’s a fair characterization. Operating costs to run special transit for Seahawks and Mariners games is paid for entirely by contributions from the sports teams and rider fares. It’s true that the cost of capital isn’t factored in but hey, we the public own that capital so why shouldn’t it get used to serve the public? Sure the sports franchise are for profit business but so are grocery stores, bars and restaurants, etc. The special event shuttles cover 100% of their operating costs; can’t say that about any other Sunday service ;-)

  4. I have no objection to shuttles to the games. I am against federal funding for them. No federal dollars for local transit.

    1. Even Ron Paul is not so dogmatic as to not get earmarks for his district.

      It’s one thing to be against federal funding for transit and propose bills to that effect, it’s idiotic to reject money that is going to be spent either by you or someone else. Rejecting it does nothing to reduce debt, only your State’s infrastructure vis a vis other states.

      Also it is laughable to call it ‘stealing’ when Washington (ST) only gets about .80 back for every $1 sent to Washington (DC).

    2. Okay. So you must have no problem with this, because it is not giving any federal funding for the transit, it’s just allowing it.

  5. The solution is everyone gets back what they put in. The federal goverment should only spend money on what the Constitution mandtes. Nothing else. If the Constitution is silent then it is the problem for the states or the people. That is called the 10th Amendment. I call it stealing on principal. What is happening is money is being taken from one state to fund other states projects. I believe that it is wrong to do that. We in Washington are requiered to pay taxes into this system and only see an 80% return. If we as a state were to keep those taxes we would see a 100% return. If I lived in a state where it recieved $1.10 for every dollar collected in taxes I would be even more outraged.

    Also I am not really a fen of Ron Paul. The famous Conservative I most agree with is Mark Levine. His book Liberty vs. tyranny is one of the best political books I’ve ever read.

    1. Wow, it’s just like I was riding on a bus and listening to this.

      For the record, the Constitution mandates that Congress govern “for the common good”. Washington is not stealing money from other states, we’re giving it. The rule about charter buses that the Bush people made prohibited transit agencies from engaging in fair and honest competition for contracts carrying event passengers. Letting the agencies compete for that business and provide a better value doesn’t cost the Federal government a dime.

      I do apologize, Mr. Renner, for the fact that you are forced to live in the 21st century. Better luck next time!

      1. I think you actually have that backwards… The rule was supposed to allow private charter companies to compete on an even level against government-subsidized transit agencies.

        Now that sounds all well and good, but if the result is service that is too expensive to be profitable and no one wants to ride then you just end up with NO SERVICE.

        There’s also the sticky legal issues around letting private charters have access to Park & Rides and other “government resources.”

        It just created a mess and led to increased traffic and hassle here for everyone.

      2. The rule didn’t just eliminate the special Mariners, Seahawks, and Huskies service, but it meant no special buses to the Puyallup or Evergreen State fair and no special service for the Hydro races.

    2. And if Washington State turned away more Federal Funds and only got a 60% return how would anything be any different?

      Until you have the legislature actually reduce the budget, giving your share away will not accomplish anything.

  6. I think the shuttle service will be great in conjunction with the redevelopment of the north parking lot… the stadium district will be perhaps the most transit-friendly part of the city.

    1. Yeah, it is served by lots of buses, Link, Sounder, Amtrak, and soon a couple streetcar lines. Now we just gotta get it cleaned up a little bit!

    2. What ever happend to the devlopement plans for the “North Parking Lot”? At one point they were going to extend airport way across and possibly even build in the air space over the KSS platforms. Its a substanal area that needs redevlopement. .

      1. I believe that someone is in the permitting process for a mixed retail/office/residential complex for that area. One of the sight lines they have to sort out is making sure that King Street Station is still visible. No idea when they might start any construction but the developer is keen to go ASAP.

        I am glad that the Mariners and Seahawks will be getting extra buses, but what about the Sounders – they averaged a higher attendance than the Mariners last season, albeit they play fewer games. They play more than the Hawks though.

      2. I’ve never heard anything about an Airport Way extension, but there is a large mixed-use development planned for there. The city just gave the permits a couple months ago. It “ultimately could include four towers up to 240 feet tall with nearly 700 apartments and condos, 420,000 square feet of office space and 33,000 square feet of retail.” http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sundaybuzz/2009538801_sundaybuzz26.html
        That’s going to be great for the area.

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