King County Ridership – Spring 2009

Highest Weekday Ridership Routes, Spring 2009 (click for more routes)

This data (click the image to see more routes) is a tad dated but I think everyone will enjoy taking a look and seeing how their favorite routes stack up.

Back when I wrote at I did a series with some similar ridership data (Part 1, Part 2). I didn’t directly compare the ridership figures because they aren’t directly comparable, so cross your eyes a bit if you want to compare them. I have only included routes with more than 1,000 daily riders. Also note that these figures are not direct measures and created using sampling and some fancy statistics.

The next shakeup should complete the most significant change Seattle’s transit system has seen in many years and it will be interesting to see how it impacts ridership on specific routes. At first blush I would expect the 8 to gain a good amount of ridership. It is becoming a center city version of the 44 and 48. And can’t the the 48 get any love… or Rapidride branding, TSP, off-board fare payment and maybe some real-time information?

I-90 Term Sheet is a Good Step Forward

We held off on writing about yesterday’s East Link news to get some more information and more fully understand the process – and I’m glad we did, because there’s more to it.

The term sheet (.doc) referred to in pieces published yesterday is positive, but it’s not the final agreement – it’s more of a mutually agreed upon starting place for building an agreement. WSDOT and Sound Transit are agreeing that these terms are good enough to use when crafting a more lengthy, complex “umbrella agreement” later in the year. This umbrella agreement will be much more detailed, potentially covering exact dates for project delivery, particular responsibilities assigned to each agency, and more.

The term sheet, though, lets us in the public know that WSDOT has pretty much accepted that they’re not going to get actual cash from Sound Transit for the reversible express lanes, despite Speaker Chopp’s earlier demands. This is in line with what we predicted before – the R8A work Sound Transit is doing to add HOV lanes to I-90 constitutes a benefit to the state, a benefit, it turns out, that outweighs the reversible lanes’ value!

Aside from that, there are two things I find really interesting about this term sheet.

First, it’s temporary. It will last 40 years after the start of East Link revenue service, but the umbrella agreement will provide for a renewal contract extending that for an additional 35 years. This ensures the agreement won’t have to be renegotiated until 2095. Hopefully light rail will have its own bridge by then, otherwise I’m going to have to live to 114 so I can write about it.

Second, this removes all responsibility from WSDOT for additional R8A funding past their already spent or programmed money. That bodes well for East Link’s schedule, as Sound Transit is pretty good about funding things when they say they will. Sound Transit just moved forward with the next step of R8A, as well.

This should be representative of the final agreement, but don’t throw a party yet. There are a lot of costs here, from the airspace lease to bridge maintenance, and they could go up before the umbrella agreement is complete and signed – that said, this is good news.

News Roundup: Sounder’s Back

'Which direction?' by Oran

Editorial: The Olympia tax fight matters for transit


[UPDATE 2:28pm: If you’d like to put together your own package of  sales tax exemptions, this Dept. of Revenue pdf lists them all.  The list of special-interest giveaways is mind-boggling (livestock semen?  gun safes?).  Of particular interest, gasoline (p.291) would yield about $28m for Metro.  Taxing all personal and professional services (p.285) would net over $100m a year.]

One could be forgiven that the coming legislative struggles over plugging the State’s general fund deficit are orthogonal to the transit funding crisis.  And indeed, the profound decisions to be made are likely to drown out calls to rescue struggling local transit agencies with more tax revenue.

However, of all the new revenue options being covered, one stands out as being useful for transit, and that is the option of reducing exemptions in the Sales Tax.  Unlike other options, such an expansion would also increase the revenue of all other state entities that use the sales tax — including all county transit agencies and Sound Transit.

I’ve spoken to a number of veteran Olympia watchers and no one has definitively verified or challenged my layman’s interpretation.  Perhaps that’ll happen in the comments.

Here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations, using the 2011 revenue estimates reported in the Schmudget blog and the estimate that Metro sales tax collections in FY 2011 will be 5.5% the size of the State take*:

  • Extending the tax to candy and gum would raise $1.5m;
  • bakery products, $0.9m;
  • a variety of consumer services, $6.5m;
  • financial services, $10.5m (mentioned in the Seattle Times) ; and
  • removing the non-resident exemption, $2m.

More after the jump.

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Comments on Comments

Sony Pictures

Over the last couple of months we’ve made some additions to the comments policy.  Check it out.

While we’re on the subject, there have been some guerrilla efforts to moderate threads through chastising of trolls and/or complaining about the comment policy.  There are currently three people (John, Ben, and me) who have moderating authority and I’d appreciate it if you left it to us.  If you think someone is trolling the best response is to not feed them. This is well-established internet practice and makes it easier for us to clean up the thread if it’s needed.  More below the jump.

Continue reading “Comments on Comments”


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Vintage Seattle has a great postcard of 1970s Bellevue. Bellevue’s growth over the last few years is a good reminder of how much the region’s changed, and how much the center of gravity has shifted away from Seattle over the years.* In the 1960s, you could build a Seattle-centric transportation system. No more.

Ironically, despite greatly increasing its stature and urbanity vis-a-vis Seattle, Bellevue still seems interested in pushing transit out to the hinterlands, rather than have it run where people live.

* Obviously Seattle’s still the big dog, but in relative terms its unipolarity has declined as the rest of King County has grown in population.

Bellevue City Council Considers Study of B7 Modified

[UPDATE 7:30pm: We were just contacted by John Chelminiak, a city councilmember who let us know that no formal votes were cast regarding a preferred B segment.  Instead, the council was merely unanimous in agreeing to further study of a B7 modified segment.  A vote, however, will be taken on January 25th to authorize Mayor Davidson to draft a letter to Sound Transit requesting the study and for the segment to be included in the Supplemental EIS.

So no, the council did not choose or favor a particular segment.  I’ve changed the title and the story in accordance with that.  Publicola has more reporting.]

Last night, the Bellevue City Council had a regular study session discussing the B segment of East Link.  As we’ve hinted before, the council was apt to change their preferred alternative from B3 modified, and as was expected, it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.  Commenter Mike Skehan posted a short update following the session last night in our notification thread:

Update: Bellevue council 7-0in favor of B7 modified (S. Bellevue P/R, then cross Mercer Slough to BNSF ROW). Letter being drafted to ST to that effect.

A B7 modified route appears to be a compromise alignment between the original B3 and B7 routes.  As Mike said, the route would serve South Bellevue, but would have to cross Mercer Slough to meet up with the BNSF tracks, leaving a big question about the potential environmental impacts.

While none of the blog staff were able to show up at last night’s meeting, we’re asking any commenters who attended to report on the session.  For my part, I was able to catch a few public comments off the live stream near the end. Most B7 supporters largely constituted a Surrey Downs neighborhood committee, which has been attempting to push light rail far away, even more so than the compromise alternative the council picked last year (which would curve around the neighborhood).  However, there were also a few comments speaking out against B7 from residents living near the BNSF right-of-way and from Enatai commuters.

These next few months will bring a barrage of East Link relevant meetings, some more important than others.  We will be reporting on the dates soon and a potential meet-up in Bellevue.

Chuck Wolfe Weighs In On ‘Nodes’ And ‘Places’

'Inbound to Othello' by Mike Bjork

For those who have never read contributions by Chuck Wolfe at the Seattle P-I’s City Brights blog, you’re missing out.  Chuck co-authored the Barriers Report (PDF) on TOD (transit-oriented development) and is a land-use attorney who knows his stuff about transit’s role in planning the urban environment.  Last week, we had a few big stories about the City of Seattle’s initial cease-and-desist order of a private parking lot in the Rainier Valley and then McGinn’s subsequent moratorium on that policy.  Chuck has a piece out weighing in on the issue’s relevance to distinguishing between ‘nodes‘ and ‘places‘ in planning a transit-oriented community.

More below the jump.

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New ST Schedule is out

The new Sound Transit schedule, effective February 6th, is out.  Highlights:

  • Routes 564 and 565 replaced by the 566, Auburn-Overlake.
  • Route 582 replaced by more service on the 578, which will now provide extensive “Sounder shadow” service and replace trips to Federal Way by the 194.
  • More trips on 554, 574, 577, 592.
  • Route changes on the 560.

Replacing the Seawall

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Last Thursday, the Mayor proposed a property tax levy, to be approved by referendum, to fund the replacement of the seawall. His reason:

“The current plan leaves the existing seawall in place for far too long,” said McGinn. “Replacing our deteriorating seawall, before it fails, is one of the basic needs for our city. One of the first briefings I had during the transition was on the seawall. It was alarming. The current plan will not see the completion of a new seawall for at least another six years. Based on what I know now, that’s not good enough.

The city council has concerns. At the very least, they want to be consulted:

“We want to make certain that the City’s Central Waterfront Partnership Committee has full opportunity to participate on this issue,” councilmembers said. “Legitimate questions have been raised about how to best restore some ecological function to the central waterfront shoreline as part of the seawall replacement…the Committee members’ input is vital to the success of the project.”

Why wouldn’t McGinn get the council’s support before announcing this? What is he thinking? If the seawall is in as bad shape as McGinn claims, surely it would be easy to win the council’s support, no?

Finally, there’s a sense that this is disconnected from the overall viaduct debate. Is that intentional? To be sure, the replacement of the seawall has always been a separate, city-funded project, but it’s still referred to by WSDOT as the “Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement” project. The two have been considered, heretofore, as interdependent projects. McGinn would seem to be attempting to disentangle them.

But again, why blindside the council here?

Important Bills this Session

Washington State Capitol Panorama (wikimedia)

There are two important bills we’ve identified for transit funding this session:

HB 2855 would restore the $20 vehicle license fee for transit that Governor Gregoire vetoed last session.  Since this already passed the legislature last year, you have to like its chances if it’s given the time in what should be a busy session.

Section 9 has a provision to form a panel of stakeholders to create a “blueprint for public transportation services”:

The blueprint should, at a minimum, serve to guide investments in public transportation and establish a plan to significantly improve connectivity between transportation providers and across jurisdictional boundaries.

There’s a little concern that this could be an effort at the hated “governance reform,” which we bash here and here, but a source in Olympia tells me that that isn’t a threat in this case.  Rep. Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), one of the sponsors, did not reply to a request for comment on this provision.

HB 1591 would change the law governing Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs).  Currently, they are limited to 10 years of tax collection on a single ballot measure.  The bill would extend the period to allow standard 30-year bonding, meaning that the overall size of the package could more than double.  A TBD could be a big part of whatever plan Mike McGinn puts together to build light rail, so this bill would dramatically improve the chances of doing something worthwhile.

There’s also an amendment by STB favorite Geoff Simpson that would loosen limits on having overlapping TBDs, and specify that at least 50% of any amount over $20 per year must be used for transit.

My Olympia source says this bill “has momentum” in the House; prospects in the Senate are not as bright, but Senate Transportation Chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) is for it.

In other news, Publicola has a good writeup on various bike bills to which I don’t have anything to add.

SDOT Trolley Survey

"Trolley wire 'Trailer', by VeloBusDriver

As just about everyone has emailed us, SDOT is running a survey on the Electric Trolley Buses.  There’s also a fact sheet here.

A lot of people here are very passionate about the trolleys.  I like them, for various reasons, but I don’t talk about them much because I don’t feel competent to win a hardheaded, bean-counting argument about them.*  It’s certainly a more marginal case than the slam dunk that high-quality light rail is.

My previous lukewarm support for trolleys is here.

*Alert readers may note that I’ve been similarly silent about the streetcars.

Ferry News Roundup!

M/V Walla Walla departing from Edmonds on a sunny evening - By Brian Bundridge
M/V Walla Walla departing from Edmonds on a sunny evening - By Brian Bundridge

Here is ferry roundup!

M/V Sealth still out of service after damage to the vessel’s engine output shaft.

WSDOT is offering ride vouchers for those disrupted during the Port Townsend/Keystone closure.

Gov. Gregoire congratulates Port Townsend students for new vessel name class for the 64-car ferries: the Kwa-di Tabil Class, which means “little boat”

M/V Chetzemoka is progressing swiftly. Todd Shipyards are installing windows, doors, lighting and other accessories on-board the vessel currently. The Chetzomoka is scheduled to start service this Summer once six weeks of crew training and sea trials are completed.

Speaking of new ferries, the first 144-car ferry is scheduled to start construction next year.

WSF is featured in The Coast Guard Compass

Trouble deciding if you want to move to ORCA or stick with Wave2Go? Check out this handy guide by WSF

WSF is proposing to expand the reservation system to other routes

King County Water Taxi propose a 50-cent fare hike

Ever wondered what boat you are going to get? Or perhaps you have one of interest? Check out the WSF Vessel Watch

Have you pondered just what happened to your ferry and why it isn’t in service? You can see when your vessel is scheduled for maintenance by checking out this page

The state wants ferry rider opinions on the services.

Fun Facts!

Did you know that WSF also has ferry service in Eastern Washington? The little known Martha S has been making trips across the Columbia River since 1948. The free service runs from 6am to midnight, every day and takes about 10 minutes to make the crossing

Did you know that there are several other ferry systems around Washington State? Exploring some of these operations could make for a fantastic vacation this summer!

Did you know that all ferries shares something similar to diesel locomotives? The Super Jumbo Mark II vessels for example use the same high powered engines that EMD uses in their SD70 series locomotives. The Super Jumbo Mark II however has 4 engines, producing 4000HP each.

Want Light Rail To South Bellevue? Come Out Tomorrow.

[UPDATE from Martin: Councilmember Claudia Balducci clarifies what’s going on  in this comment.  Showing up in person is more effective, but written comments can be submitted to]

As a few folks have pointed out in comments in the last few days, the new Bellevue City Council plans to revisit the old City Council’s East Link alignment recommendations.

Tomorrow, the Council plans to look at the “B” portion, from I-90 up to the south edge of downtown Bellevue. The Council previously recommended a modified B3 (PDF), going up Bellevue Way to serve the existing South Bellevue Park and Ride, then heading a bit east on 112th – and giving a wide berth to the angry Surrey Downs neighborhood.

Sound Transit’s preferred alternative doesn’t swing out around Surrey Downs, but is substantially the same.

The new City Council is under pressure to change their recommendation to B7 – which would skip the South Bellevue Park and Ride. I haven’t yet heard an argument for B7 from any interest except the “keep those trains away from my house” interest, so I don’t really have any sympathy.

I do, however, have sympathy for the people who use South Bellevue P&R and might lose their service – Sound Transit intends East Link to replace bus 550, so it’s rather important that Link stop at South Bellevue.

Originally, this Bellevue City Council meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night, but it’s been moved up to Tuesday, with 6:00pm 8:00pm public comments (Note from Sherwin: comments start at 8pm, but coming out at 6pm and staying for the whole session will establish a stronger presence). Do you use that Park and Ride? Do you know someone who does? If you want Link to to go there, being at Bellevue City Hall Tuesday evening to say a few words in support will let City Council know that this isn’t just a NIMBY issue.

Please do show up! I know there are several regular commenters who prefer B3 – we need you tomorrow!

This Week’s Big Posts

In case you missed it:

News Roundup: Trains, Trains, Trains

Free ORCA to last another month

Photo from Sound Transit

The ORCA governing board (comprised of various transit agency CEOs) decided today to extend the free ORCA period until February 28, 2010.  This is meant to speed up transactions for the rush of people trying to get ORCA cards now.  Starting March 1st, it’ll be $5.

Metro has also set up a hotline for Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP) holders who have questions about ORCA: (206) 205-9185.  They’re also opening the service centers at 201 Jackson St. and in Westlake Station on Saturdays on January 31st and all February.  And of course, online and at TVMs are a less painful option, unless you need an reduced-fare ORCA.

Three interesting factoids: 330,000 ORCA cards have been issued.  There are about 400,000 Metro boardings a day, so with all the other agencies that’s probably something like one per rider.  There were 86,000 ORCA boardings in December and already 154,000 this month, so the stick of ending transfers appears to have worked.

Senator Kastama vs. Traffic Safety Cameras

Weekly Citation Per Camera, Averaged by Month
Weekly Citation Per Camera, Averaged by Month

Earlier this week Senator Kastama (D-Puyallup) proposed a new bill (SB 6410) which if passed would slash the maximum allowable fine a city can level with automated traffic safety cameras.

The cameras have reduced red light running by 59.4% at 4 test intersections in Seattle and have proven to be modestly effective in a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study. It is important to note that while the FHWA study shows that automated traffic safety cameras increase the occurrence of rear-end accidents, this has not occurred in Seattle.  Therefore, the safety benefits in Seattle’s context are most likely greater than the report indicates (because improved safety from a reduction of right-angle collisions are often partially offset by an increase in rear-end collisions). Seattle’s low arterial speed limit probably contributes to this anomaly.

Senator Kastama
Senator Kastama

The bill would change the following sentence from:

…the amount of the fine issued for an infraction generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera shall not exceed the amount of a fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction.


…the amount of the fine issued for an infraction generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera shall not exceed the average amount of ((a)) fines issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction.

…more after the jump

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