Publicola’s Dan Bertolet, with the quote of the year so far:

Why has been such a struggle to make these things happen? For example, how can it be that in a state that has committed to a goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled by 50 percent by 2050, leaders are strong-arming no fewer than three multi-billion dollar car infrastructure mega-projects, when at the same time transit funding [is] perenially on the chopping block, and ped/bike plans can’t be implemented due to lack of funds?

83 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Viaduct Inspection”

  1. I used the Mount Baker Transit Center last night for the first time. I was going home to Capitol Hill. Does anyone know why the schedules and signs at the transit center read “14 Downtown Seattle” rather than “14 Summit”?

    1. That particular bay is for the 14s headed downtown. I believe there is another bay for the 14 headed eastward.

      1. Nope… They both share the same bay and it is confusing. I drove the 14 last shakeup and despite me telling customers where I was going I had about a 50% chance of having a passenger get on going the wrong direction. It’s particularly confusing because when I’m headed to “Mount Baker” that’s actually in both directions – Mount Baker, the end of the line, and Mount Baker, the small commercial district right over the top of I-90 on the way downtown.

    2. Oh, and to answer your original question, they probably say “Downtown Seattle” since all 14’s head to Downtown but not all head to Summit. There are some 14’s that terminate at 5th & Jackson on their way back to the base. That said, those buses have a sign that reads “Atlantic Base, Jackson St” but no “14” on it. Another confusing thing since the 14 schedule shows a bus headed to 5th & Jackson but my sign never read “14” when I was headed back to the base.

    3. If the 14 from that bay doesn’t go downtown, it’s likely a mistake by whoever placed the sign. Maybe you should call and alert Metro..?

      On the subject of the quote in the OP, we don’t have to build the tunnel if you can guarantee separated-grade light rail service between West Seattle and Ballard.

      Not before.

  2. Martin

    Those three so called car megaprojects have been green lighted for years now and they bring in a lot of construction-related employment that we desperately need. Both the 520 and the Viaduct have been in the pipeline for years – some would say decades now – and the Columbia River Crossing is an important bridge to somewhere and from somewhere (Portland and Vancouver) as well as being a regional corridor of note.

    I think we need to prioritorize some of the angst here and separate transit-oriented regional projects from those that spur inter-regional development. The Columbia River I-5 crossing would seem to fit into the inter-regional concept I have described here and before and – though we can argue it ad-nauseam – so too does the SR99 viaduct deep-bore tunnel project. the 520 is more of a regional project but as of now, all of the planning has been for a six lane highway with two HOV lanes. This is what is shovel ready as of 2010. Anything else belongs to the armchair at this point. This is the reality of construction projects in 2010.

    Last year, we just completed most of our Light Rail dream and in 2008, we approved some 35 miles more of the same. I think that instead of criticising the road lobby for having its projects ready, we should be targeting instead what promises to be a tedious procedural battle over Light Rail in Bellevue and encouraging Sound Transit to forge ahead with its ST2 projects. Extending Link south of SeaTac, for example, is eminently dooable within a limited time frame.
    Pushing SDOT to move quickly into the construction phase of the First Hill Streetcar and out of the talking phase is also important.

    What we have a hard time dealing with in Seattle is knowing when to shut up and do things. It is fine for those who have jobs to talk about how great we can make things but it doesn’t help those of us without who need a vibrant economy to generate a rebound that will bring in the tax dollars that we can shunt towards Metro.

    As you can tell, I take a more integrated approach than perhaps you do – that melds road and transit into a cooperative rather than confrontational arrangement. If I am going to Portland or Vancouver, WA, I welcome the choice of tons of trains to get me there, but if I do need a car because I want to divert off to Mount St Helens or explore the Columbia Gorge, I also want an inspiring Highway with inspiring bridges, nicely landscaped medians and shoulders to get me there as well as a road surface that is not pitted and full of holes.

    On a Saturday night just before the miserable Sounders game (the result at least) last night, I decided to amuse myself by watching a video of the last link of the construction of the I-90. You guessed it, but of a 3,000 mile freeway, the most troublesome, the most debated and the slowest section had of course to be in Washington State – namely the 7 miles between Bellevue and Seattle. It was fascinating watching it, although clearly not family viewing sitting through 22 scratchy and grainy minutes of guys in the 1970s planning the final stretches of the I-90. My conclusion – sure, they could have probably come up with a better solution, but equally importantly, they could have come up with one a whole lot worse and taken just as long a time in doing so. At the end of the day, they came up with something that looks fairly elegant, is not horrible, works as intended and which inspired hundreds to work up designs and drawings and then to construct the thing. That it took close to 20 years is so very Seattle and a lesson to avoid for all future projects!

    1. Tim,

      Life on earth, as we know it, is shovel ready.

      Some of us aren’t into transit just because we feel a communal transportation system is more aesthetically pleasing. We’re into this because we realize our planet is dying, and the greenhouse gas emissions generated by freeway capacity is helping to kill it.

      You do not have an entitlement to a government-provided job, in your career of choice, turning a shovel on humanity’s grave.

      This isn’t angst. This is listening to the scientists, and taking action for our children.

      Take your shovel. Wad up those freeway plans. Pour dirt over them. Future generations will thank you for not placing your personal welfare above that of life itself.

      1. For heavens sake, what kind of drivel is that!

        It is clogged up freeways that are killing the planet not unclogged ones. Also, in the future we’ll be driving hybrids and electric cars which will be more beneficial for the environment.

        Do you want us to become like the Amish then and stay close to our farms?

        Have a little compassion for those of us who have been out of work for well over a year and counting. How is building a tunnel or a bridge ruining the environment?

      2. Tim,

        I have also been out of work for well over a year myself before. I didn’t wait for the government to hand me a job in my first choice of field. I went out and did temp work, until I got lucky and got a permanent job in a field I never would have expected. If a rock blocks your path, choose another path. Maybe that rock is there for a good reason.

        And, really, now: unclogged freeways? On what planet? WSDOT designs the freeways to always have choke points, in order to push their next construction project. If you are trying to sell the possibility of unclogged freeways, I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona I’d like to sell you.

      3. I don’t believe you on WSDOT is my first thought because that is just crazy and worthy of the tea baggers.

        Secondly, government can and should unclog the economy because capitalism can only protect itself and its principles by free falling to ever decreasing cycles of activity until it gets itself into balance. Governments can and must intervene to bring that self correction to a much higher plane that it would otherwise naturally do.

        I expect the government to provide a social and economic environment in which all who want to can live and thrive. Capitalism by itself cannot do this nor does it want to. This is part of the social and political contract we make with government, Anything else is just tea bagging rubbish.

      4. “I take a more integrated approach than perhaps you do – that melds road and transit into a cooperative rather than confrontational arrangement.”

        Tim that is my favorite quote of the month. Transportation infrastructure should complement one another, and we should never rely on one mode or focus only on one mode. I’m glad someone shares my view.

        I support Link, but I also support an efficient highway system. The “megaprojects” that Martin mentioned aren’t capacity expansions. They’re replacements of existing structures. As far as I know, the SR99 tunnel has less capacity (although its limited access will improve traffic flow). The SR520 adds an HOV lane that benefits transit too.

        I’m completely against favoring only cars, but I’m also against favoring only transit. With that said though, I oppose large interchanges and I think most of our highways have a large enough footprint and should not be expanded. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invest in basic maintenance and infrastructural replacements.

      5. Hybrids and electric cars are not a solution. All they do is kill us a little bit more slowly.

      6. Ben

        You just hate cars and don’t even have one!

        How do you get to see the natural glories of our state without one? Rely on going with someone else who has one then? I don’t have that option I’m afraid so if I want to go to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, I take my car. I could take the train to Mt Vernon but there are only two trains a day.

      7. Do you go on trips to see the natural glories of our state every day? No! Stop using a straw man. Yes, electric cars have a place as rentals for trips. They don’t have a place parked downtown.

      8. I haven’t had a car for 5 years and I see plenty of Washington’s natural glories without “having” (do you mean “own”?) a car. There are plenty of options in between ownership and complete abstention. When I need to get to out-of-the-way Washington trailheads I can either rent one or bum a ride.

        But most of the time I don’t need to. You’d be VERY surprised how much you can access by transit. Off the top of my head…

        (1. SKAT #19 to Marblemount (Fridays only) to the Cascade River Road.

        (2. CT #230 to Darrington, the Sauk River Valley, and the Boulder River Wilderness.

        (3. KC Metro #209 or #215 to North Bend for a Mt. Si daytrip.

        (4. How about Stehekin, the most remote “town” in the state? Easy! Amtrak to Wenatchee, Link #20 to Chelan, and the Lady of the Lake to Stehekin. I’ve done it twice.

        (5. Clallam Transit #14 and/or Jefferson Transit’s “Olympic Connector” to the Hoh Rain Forest, Lake Crescent, and Lake Quinault.

        (6. The San Juans from Seattle? Either take Amtrak to Mt. Vernon and switch to Island 411 to Anacortes. If Amtrak doesn’t work try Sounder or ST 510 to Everett and then SKAT 90X to Mount Vernon. WSF ferries from there.

        And so much more…

      9. Electric cars don’t need gas, but they do need power, and a huge amount of power at that. If we all switched to electric cars it would totally overwhelm the power grid, we’d need a lot more power, and alternative energy only goes so far. Also, crucial components of electric cars require rare earth metals which are fast disappearing, so they won’t be able to be built forever.
        Not to mention the fact that cars breed sprawl and destroy walkable, mixed use neighborhoods.

      10. Zach,
        A couple of corrections to your list:

        4) Taking Trailways allows you to get to Chelan without an overnight stay in Wenatchee. Amtrak arrives at about 8:30 PM, after the last buses to Chelan. Trailways gets you to Wenatchee just after noon.

        6) Make sure you get on the 411W instead of the 411C. Route 411C goes to Camano Island. You will need to transfer to Route 410 at the March Point P&R.

        Trailways will also take you to Okanogan County with a lot of recreational opportunities there.

      11. “How do you get to see the natural glories of our state without one?”

        In Switzerland you can take a train from the airport to the ski slopes. In Vancouver you can take a bus to Grouse Mountain, which has skiing in winter and some tourist/picnic activities in summer. Washington has some skeletal transit to the Olympic Penninsula and rural parts of western and eastern Washington — and it’s certainly better than it was ten or twenty years ago — but it’s got a long way to go to make tourist destinations transit-accessible. Is there a way to get to Grand Coulee Dam or the Gorge Amphitheater or Stevenson/White Salmon by transit, for instance?

      12. Brent
        You will never be able to market mass transit to the public at large if your only argument is that future generations will thank you for returning the land they inherit to the earth and green fields! We can and should be pushing our country and region to more green-based alternatives to wandering around in gas guzzling cars which I dislike as much as the next person here on this Blog, but we should be realistic too. Cars won’t just suddenly disappear but will be phased out and away through transferring most of us to electric cars etc. However, for this to happen, the government needs to provide way more incentives in terms of the price of these things. I’d buy a hybrid tomorrow if I had a job AND they were reasonably priced. At present I don’t have the former and don’t see either the government or the car companies promoting the latter. So I am stuck with a car with poor gas mileage and a willingness to take buses and trains as often as I am able. Yet even then, I have to balance using my car when I know my ORCA is going to be reloaded and I don’t have the funds in my bank account to reload it. Pathetic isn’t it, when you have to fret over where $40 is coming from, but this is transit reality and sometimes the car has to be used and when it has to be used, then it makes sense to have the best possible functioning road system. In the future, our children will thank us for giving them the Seattle waterfront back for them to develop and who cares at that point what they do with the tunnel. Their generation can work on converting it to rail and other uses. Our duty to them is to get their future started by making sensible present choices that will allow them the space to make the choices they will need to make for their children.

      13. More bus service is shovel-ready, and will do more good for road capacity than giving car drivers the promise and illusion of rapid mobility.

        More security on the buses and at stations is shovel-ready.

        The Bike Master Plan is shovel-ready.

        South Link would have been shovel ready, if the Mercer beautification project hadn’t beaten it out.

        North Link is shovel ready, and waiting for ST to save up the down payment to start tunneling northward.

        The South Park Bridge replacement is shovel ready, if only Mercer hadn’t beaten it out.

        All the RapidRide lines are shovel-ready, and just waiting for funds to be saved up.

        There is a long list of shovel-ready transit projects waiting to happen, if only the legislature and governor wouldn’t be so averse to funding it. These are good green jobs that don’t require us to revert to all farming, change to all plain black clothing, or worship the One who will chase away the many.

        Doesn’t the cost of gas you spend on those end-of-month trips come up to more than the fare on those trips? You do realize that you can add small chunks of value from your debit card to your ORCA card at any of the transit shops, right?

        Living without a car completely, and not having to pay any monthly car-related bills, is the way I save up money for retirement, and the eventual move down to Antarctica when the rest of the atmosphere methanizes.

      14. What is your problem with the Mercer Street ‘beautification’ project? Oh, because it is a road I guess?

      15. Tim you know the point he is making.

        When has the State gone to bat for transit like they have for (SR-99, SR-520 and CRC)? Never! That is the point. You are getting lost in the nuance and aren’t able to see the big picture. Yes we need to invest in both road and transit but the state has a long way to go before these two issues are considered on nearly the same level.

      16. Tim
        The public at large is already on the mass transit bandwagon.

      17. As indeed I am, but I have been in Seattle long enough to know that the road ahead lies alongside that of continual disappointment because of people like Tim Eyman and Kemper Freeman who come along and clog it up with law suits and attempts to thwart the public will. As a result I try and train myself to only expect what can be delivered, not what could. Run Eyman and his ilk out of town and maybe we will get some agreement and funds behind these projects.

      18. We’ll also have to run people like Gregoire, Clibborn, and Jacobsen out of office, or we still won’t get much transit funding.

        What is their problem with funding shovel-ready transit projects?

    2. You neglect to note that that 7 miles involved:

      1)Two floating bridges on top of the existing one. Oh and the one that sank.
      2)Upgrading a tunnel.
      3)A cut through an island.
      4)Federal wetlands protection acts being changed, twice, in the four years that the final I-90 stretch was being planned…
      5)…because we got the Federal money last out of all the states I-90 went through.
      6)Oh yes and many of those lawsuits were plotted and planned by out-of-state interests like the Sierra Club, not locally. There may have been local support, but it wasn’t hatched in a smoke-filled room in Mount Baker.

      By the way, the “final stretches of I-90” are in Boston, not Seattle, and involved a project called the “Big Dig” which so happened to be an overpriced albatross of a tunnel. Okay, the Big Pig itself was mostly I-93, but the extension of 90 was part of the deal. You still get mired in traffic trying to go almost anywhere in Boston, much like Portland.

      I favor an integrated approach, too, but “integrated” doesn’t mean that car-only venues get megaprojects on the taxpayer dime and local transit gets the shaft. Community Transit, Pierce Transit and Metro all face service cuts that make the systems harder to ride and less friendly to us poor people who need transit. I live in eternal fear that there, sooner or later, will be no simple way from the dwindling affordable housing stock in the city to school, which is of course nowhere near the affordable housing. Why do we need a megatunnel to get people to bypass downtown but Metro can’t have a reasonable tab fee? (Oh, by the way, I own a car. $30 is a much harder hit to me than most. Bring it on.) That’s not “integrated.”

      1. The focucs on my piece was not on those 7 miles as a topic but as a teachable moment from the past of watching all that went on 30 years ago. They made this video before the project even got completed! I don’t know anything about the funding history of the Federal government and the I-90 corridor and of course I am not underestimating the tunneling and lidding that went on over here.

        I also mentioned it to show how WSDOT and others don’t dream up these ideas in a bar and then act on them when drunk but that there was some serious thought put behind it!

        The video is in the KCLS library system – just search for I-90.

      2. I know it well, Tim. I don’t have to watch a video; if you look carefully for a pasty Irish dude who worked in explosives engineering, that’s my dad.

        Things can only move so fast given that we have three things at work: Washington gets very little money from the Federal government per dollar we pay in in income taxes. (This is bad.) We have a balanced budget amendment. (IMHO, this is good.) We have a regressive taxation system which is constantly meddled with by initiatives. (The first half is debatable. I don’t mind the sales tax. The latter, well, um, bad.) There are other factors: a taking of land is harder in WA than most other states, that frequently the soil and rock below the ground presents engineering challenges, and, oh yeah, that there’s a huge population of people who move into situations that they should have been aware of before renting or buying an abode and then promptly complain about them.

        Unless you’re going to figure out some way to magically stabilize the land, fix the tax system, and get people to quit moving here (all of which i’d love you for), you’re going to have to deal with these problems.

      3. (Or, alternately, rather than telling people to quit moving here, make what people who *do* move here understand that if you buy a house next to a collapsing bridge, light rail extension, massive arsenic-spouting smelter, etc. that this is what you’re getting into and that only under extraordinary circumstances will relief via court or legislative body be available. There is no suing the state, there is no demanding a settlement fund for *known* risks. Unknown risks, same as ever. This would likely simplify things greatly, but good luck selling it. You can buy a house 40 feet from the old ASARCO smelter and the seller doesn’t have to disclose anything besides that there were heavy metals there at some point. Great if you’re from here, because you know ASARCO, but if you’re coming from Kentucky, where that word means nothing…insufficient.)

      4. Gwen has neglected to list the biggest single reason the I-90 stalled on Mercer Island- fraud by the highway department. The land had been taken, houses bulldozed down, when the Mercer Islanders won their lawsuits by proving that the highway department had misrepresented the project and hidden testimony against it.

        The highway department had to go back and start the whole process over again, and by that time Mercer Island was acutely aware of what could happen if they didn’t stick up for themselves. The highway department didn’t want to pay for building a highway that wouldn’t ruin the community, and the Mercer Islanders were even more determined that a highway ruining their community wouldn’t be built.

        I happen to have lived close to the project and known personally some of the people who filed lawsuits against it. They were not “from out of state”, they lived 500 feet from the edge of the proposed highway.

    3. Tim–while it’s true that SR-520, the viaduct, and the CRC have been in discussion for years that doesn’t mean there’s been much agreement about what the projects should cost or look like. For example, the Seattle population is split at least three ways about the viaduct (rebuild, tunnel, surface) without even considering the many routing alternatives, portal locations, etc. And this is the best-case scenario since the state already assigned funds (though who knows, gas tax revenue depends on the economy).

  3. I take link to the airport regularly, and it’s a big improvement over the 194. It’s overall run time is quite reasonable, but when you’re aboard, it does feel like it should be going much faster.

    MLK is actually not a problem. Instead, throughout the line, trains accelerate from stops much more slowly than most subways I’ve been on. And the top speed is quite low in long stretches without stations, through SODO and in Tukwilla. The cars still hunt back and forth instead of cruising along smoothly.

    So what limits top speed? Are the curves too tight, or is Sound Transit keeping more conservative safety margins than other operators? And does light rail have less power than, or are the drivers holding back accelerating out of the station? Is there any chance of shaving some minutes off the schedules in the future?

    1. The top speed of these vehicles are 55mph, the turns of the system don’t seem to be to tight, we could probably replace the vehicles a ways down the road.

      Also, trains seems to accelerate much more slowly because they themselves are short, so the entire Link train leaves the platform long before a subway train would, and makes it seem like it accelerates less quickly. This could have an influence on what you are seeing.

      1. I agree that the acceleration and speeds seem slower than they need to be. In general, light rail vehicles don’t accelerate as quickly as heavy rail metro-style vehicles. That said, ST should really focus on finding ways to speed things up a bit, as the speed of the line is definitely a selling point for new riders.

      2. I think it depends a lot on the operator too. I had an operator yesterday who was blazing in and out of the stations like Mario Andretti, we made it to the airport in a little over 30 minutes from University Street. Other operators seem to drive like my grandpa, off and on the brakes the entire way and barely making it through the signals along MLK. Maybe it has something to do with the operators being former bus drivers? There have also been a lot of slow orders along the tracks where workers are installing new equipment and doing maintenance, especially near the maintenance base and Mt. Baker.

      3. Aside from having automated trains, I feel like there should be more standardized methods for leaving stations, or even something automated. Like say all the tunnel stations use a certain button for leaving the station and the acceleration is automated to be some optimum amount. And maybe the sodo and MLK stations would have a different button for some different accels optimal for those stations. All of which could be overriden by the drivers in unique situations. Do any other rail systems have something like that?

      4. Archie, that can’t be done. The LRVs have what’s called a “Street running mode” that allows the operator full control over speed and braking. Since there are potential interactions with other non-LRVs in both the tunnel and on MLK, you can’t have the train driving itself.

        Say a bus ran a signal in the DSTT. The bus is not on the SCADA (the thing that tracks all LRVs) so as far as the LRV is concerned, there’s nothing there and the LRV is clear to proceed. A train operator would be able to see that there’s a bus there and won’t accelerate.

      5. When buses are out of the Tunnel will they be able to automate that segment?

      6. I see what you mean. I meant something more like an “optimal acceleration” function that gets the train up to speed at a pre-determined rate, but can always be overridden. Overall control is still the responsibility of the driver. I think i’m doing a poor job of describing this…
        A somewhat different idea, what about automated braking at stations? It would assure the train stopped consistently and optimally (speed, location, brake longevity) at every station. I feel like there’s too much wasted creeping when trains pull into stations, depending on the driver.

      7. There are some drivers that seem to be notably slow. And others that are speedy-fast. The ones that are fast, at least in my experience, tend to be fast throughout the line, and the slow ones tend to be consistently slow too.

        I had to be in a car under the S. Forest overpass a week or two ago, and I saw Link going by overhead, and it was just inching along… it kind of made me cringe because anyone seeing it would think Link is terribly slow. Of course, there might have been a good solid safety reason for the slowness that time. But wow, it was slow.

        There may be reasons for some drivers’ slowness that are legit and not apparent to us passengers. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get a little antsy about it sometimes. ;-)

      8. They could easily fence off the area south of Rainer Beach Station, allowing trains to go a 55 mph there. That length of the line does not go through industrial or commercial areas, and vary few people would car if you fenced it off.

      9. I do not think you could safely exceed 35 MPH with the two at grade crossings at Merton Way and Norfolk Street and the curves near I-5 / BNSF and East Marginal Way were engineered at 40MPH.

      10. I believe part of the reason they couldn’t have it go over 35 on MLK was that that would encourage cars to go that fast, which we don’t want, so I don’t think they would go for that.

      11. I don’t know if it encourages it, but it’s a lot more predictable when everyone is traveling at the same speed.

    2. there are pedestrian crosswalks at both ends of most at grade stations … it makes sense that they don’t just power out of the station.

      Of course what they really need to do is lease a track geometry vehicle to figure out how to correctly fix the problems in the tukwila elevated section

    3. Central/Airport Link is built – done deal! Crazytransitmatt is asking the right questions. How does Seattle make light rail a better, faster, cleaner, safer, smoother, seemless experience for the average person deciding how to get from A to B? That’s what gets people to change their travel habits(plus $10 gal gas, but we don’t control the oil spigots.)
      Certain realities must be acknowledged. Link was the most expensive light rail system built last decade (
      Central Link cost about $2,400 per rider per mile to construct, while the next most was NJ at $1,222, PHX at $829, and most others well below $500 per rider/mile.
      Central Link is only returning 11% at the farebox, compared to the Metro Transit lines it replaced at 25%, and operating costs are running about twice that of Metro comparible bus service.
      It is imperitive for ST, STB, and transit supporters to find ways to make Link more successful. Waiting for U-Link, or TOD to come to the rescue may be too late to keep the faith with voters. Look at how fast public support vanished for the once popular monorail.
      Keep asking questions, and maybe solutions will surface.

      1. “Keep asking questions, and maybe solutions will surface.”

        1. Why is ST running both 577 and 594 routes on weekends, when they are rarely more than half full, instead of combining the two? Why not just throw them all together with the 574 to minimize headway to Airport Station and downtown Seattle simultaneously?
        2. Why isn’t WSDOT considering a transit-only bascule bridge across the Montlake cut instead of a second general-purpose bridge with HOV lanes stuck in general traffic?
        3. Why does the 101 duplicate-head downtown, instead of pulling in at Rainier Beach Station, since the 101 comes within about two minutes of the station? Wouldn’t doing that enable more frequent bus service in the neighborhood, while giving people on MLK Way much, much faster access to Skyway, Rainier Beach High, Rainier Valley, some grocery stores, and the airport?
        4. Does the reduced travel time from heavily-populated Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill to the airport mean nothing to Norman?
        5. Does the 132 really have to swing over to Burien TC, instead of continuing straight down Military Rd S to TIBS? Wouldn’t it be cool if the southern portion of the 132/122 stopped at Airport Station, giving western Des Moines and Normandy Park a one-seat ride to the airport and Link, as well as a much faster commute time downtown? Wouldn’t it be cool if the thusly saved bus hours could enable more frequency on that corridor?
        6. What happened to the night owl route that was going to shadow Link? Don’t we want airport employees to be able to get both to and from work without having to drive?
        7. Why does the 560 not stop at Airport Station?

        In spite of the questions and repeated requests, I wish to offer A HUGE AND HEARTY THANKS TO SOUND TRANSIT AND METRO for the way they have revolutionized access around the region in just the past year.

      2. the route 101 issue shows some problems with Link’s alignment. Terminating the 101 at Renier Beach Station would add about 10 minutes to the ride. Metro could poll people on weather or not they would support that if it meant more frequency on the route, and better connection with the Ranier Valley.

      3. The 101 combines two constituencies: Riders who start in downtown Renton, and riders who catch the bus at local stops along MLK. So, a neighborhood poll might overlook the preferences of Renton P&R riders who perceive the 101 as their fastest commute.

        I’m not sure what your point about Link alignment is. Even if there were a station where Link crosses I-5, the transfer and travel time would still make the 101 theoretically 10 minutes faster than transfering to Link.

        I wouldn’t advocate cutting off the 101 at Rainier Beach during morning rush hour, unless the headway made the whole trip shorter on average, which doesn’t appear to be doable. But on evenings and weekends, when headway drops to 30 minutes, the travel time differential is nearly negligible, and wrapping the bus hours onto the neighborhood portion of the route would improve access to more destinations at no cost to downtown commute time. On Sundays, truncation and wrapping saved hours into the neighborhood might enable weekend workers to head to work before 8:22 a.m. (!!) and will provide a noticeable improvement in wait+travel time.

        Keep the 101 as a rush-hour route, and create a re-numbered route between Renton and Rainier Beach along MLK. I believe there is savings to be found there, even while significantly improving non-rush-hour accessibility.

      4. Both the #106 and #107 already provide local service between Renton TC and Rainier Beach via Lakeridge and Skyway. I think the #101 express is a useful route and should be kept for the reasons mentioned by Brent…simply because it’s the fastest way from Renton to Seattle. Adding a Link stop on the 101 would make re-accessing I-5 difficult and time consuming.

        To address the needs of riders south of Rainier Beach on MLK who wish to access light rail, I’d suggest extending #105 to Rainier Beach along the #101 alignment.

      5. I rode both the 574 and 594 to/from Tacoma last Sunday afternoon (2PM). The 574 SB from the airport had two seats left after leaving the Airport Station stop on International BLVD even after Federal Way it was still full after half of the passengers from the airport got off and an equal number boarded there (interesting what will happen when the Pierce Transit cuts take effect). Not much room to accommodate riders if 594 trips were curtailed.

        Returning later on the 594 maybe 1/3 of the seats were vacant at 630PM. There were more seats vacant on the 101 I transferred to to get home than there were on the 594, a typically low ridership time of the week.

        Perhaps the 577 needs some help getting the word out. Federal Way Transit Center is not the most pedestrian friendly destination either. The 594 ridership has matured over a long time while the 577 has only been operating on weekends a few months.

      6. I’m not asking to curtail headway between any destinations. I’m trying to decrease headway between all the destinations served by the 574, 577, and 594 using Link to wrap bus hours into the Tacoma-to-SeaTac portion of the lines. The math doesn’t work during rush hour, of course, but on weekends when, for example, I had to wait 55 minutes for my bus from Tacoma to SeaTac last Saturday, the math enables a revenue-positive approach to shortening trips and increasing accessibility.

        Savings in the Seattle-to-Tacoma trips means faster construction of South Link.

      7. Brent said…
        Why is ST running both 577 and 594 routes on weekends, when they are rarely more than half full, instead of combining the two? Why not just throw them all together with the 574 to minimize headway to Airport Station and downtown Seattle simultaneously?

        Because the 577 is an express to Downtown from Federal Way. It’s in the HOV lane the entire way (well, until the HOV lane becomes the express lanes lane, but you get the idea). If you make it dump off at the airport, it takes a hellava long time to get back on to I-5. I actually did a speed comparison in a comment somewhere, just Google it and you’ll find it.

      8. I do like the idea of combining the 594 and the 577 though, but I agree, leave the 574 alone.

      9. “Central Link cost about $2,400 per rider per mile to construct, while the next most was NJ at $1,222, PHX at $829, and most others well below $500 per rider/mile.”

        We’ve been through this before. Link is expensive because of the tunnels and elevated sections… the same things that make it more effective than those other systems. If we seriously want to turn the region fundamentally toward transit, we need a “transit freeway”, not just a duplication of a trolleybus. Link is time-competitive with express buses, but with far more frequency and destinations than an express bus can have.

        “It is imperitive for ST, STB, and transit supporters to find ways to make Link more successful. Waiting for U-Link, or TOD to come to the rescue may be too late to keep the faith with voters.”

        U-Link and North Link are already approved. Are you worried about a repeal campaign?

        The main ridership problem is that many Rainier Valley residents are anti-train and refuse to ride it. And (possibly) some low-income or non-English speaking residents are too intimidated by its differences or can’t afford the ORCA fee so they prefer free Metro transfers. There’s not we can do about that if our existing efforts have failed. Most of the opposition is irrational. (It’s there, it’s going your way, so why not use it?) In time they might warm up to the train, and new residents without that bias will use it.

        Ideally we would have built the highest-ridership segment first (clearly downtown to Northgate), but ST was afraid the Ship Canal crossing might sink the entire project. How many times does ST have to repeat that it never expected stellar ridership on the south line? In any case, use from Tukwila has been hopping, and they didn’t lose a bus route like SeaTac did. It was a case of pent-up demand.

        “Look at how fast public support vanished for the once popular monorail.”

        Support vanished because people thought its budget was unrealistic, its capacity was too limited (single-track sections), and because businesses on 2nd Avenue campaigned against it.

    4. This is a question I ask myself a lot too. The LINK trains are painfully slow on curves. I am excited that ULINK since underground will have higher speeds it seems, but why can’t we run them faster. The I-5 to MLK section through Tukwila and at the western portal of the Beacon Hill tunnel are two spots that really hurt.

  4. I don’t understand this:

    Due to limited zone capacity at the route #55 terminal (no more than one artic at zone)–lay for time in bus zone on northbound California Ave SW farside Palm AVE SW—shut engine off—leave :02 minutes before terminal leave time-continue on California Ave SW-left on SW Seattle St-right on 44 Ave SW-right on SW Atlantic St—continue on route #55 schedule

    Is the layover on California Ave SW between Palm and Ferry Aves SW?

    1. It’s just north of Palm Ave. Check out Bing Maps and click on Birds Eye view. You can normally spot the layovers with either a bus or oil spot on the road.

    2. No, the layover is on SW Atlantic St(eastbound), between 44th Ave SW & Californa Ave. This paragraph is listed on the run cards, so the coach getting to the end of the line, doesn’t go to the terminal until the other coach leaves. Only one bus fits at a time. The zone farside of Palm St is two zone before the terminal, but the last one that you are able to park in. Usually we don’t wait the whole layover at Palm St and leave 2 minutes before the leave time, but instead, as soon as we see the other coach leave, we will move the bus to the terminal (44th & Atlantc) and wait until the next trip there.

  5. If only we could have this simple law:

    “For any given fiscal year, transit expenditure must exceed general-purpose road expenditure by a minimum of 1%”

    1. Zach,

      No new law is needed to make transit expenditures as big as you wish they would be, at least around the Puget Sound region. They are much, much bigger that what you advocate already. Regional transit expenditures nowroughly equal non-transit transportation expenditures, thanks to Sound Transit’s tax victories in 1996 and 2008.

      Here’s proof:

      Open up from Puget Sound Regional Council, the government-funded transportation planning agency for the four counties of central Puget Sound Region, ( This document is titled “TRANSPORTATION 2040 APPENDIX A: DRAFT 2010 Action Strategy.”

      Go to PDF page 20, “Figure 3: Transportation Revenues in the Central Puget Sound Region.” It’s a bar graph showing various categories of revenue. All of the revenue is expended, trust me on that.

      You’ll see that over the past decade, funding of Sound Transit and local transit around here has come up to around 50% of all transportation funding. This graph doesn’t even show the effect of the 2008 Sound Transit tax hike.

      Now go to the same PDF page 21, “Figure 4: Current Law Revenues 2010-2040” for the forecast of the future under current law which does show the effect of ST’s Prop 1 victory.

      You’ll see that local transit and Sound Transit is projected to be well over 50% of regional transportation revenue/spending through 2040 under current law.

      PSRC on May 20 is going to approve the Transportation 2040 Plan with the spending shown on pdf page 27, “Figure 8: Financial Summary 2010-2040” which shows that with new revenue the 50%+ level of transit spending will be maintained.

      What’s shocking to me about this much spending, and I believe surprising to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn as well — who is in the minority of elected officials who voted against this Plan at the PSRC Executive Board meeting on March 25 — is why PSRC is not able to write a 2040 transportation plan that shows a better transit market share in 2040 than 5%.

      1. While transit share as a percentage of “all trips everywhere” is a stupid metric for success, I do agree with you that we’re not likely to get above 5-10%. Until we flat refuse to expand general-purpose infrastructure (no 520, no AWV, no CRC), the inertia of existing land-use will remain too great. Transit shouldn’t hope to change modal choices for everyone all the time –– cars are the most efficient choice for alot of cross-suburban travel –– but it should be reasonable to expect plans that deliver 40-50% transit share for commuting, destination travel (universities, stadiums, airports, etc…), and along major arterials.

      2. John, for all your wall of text, you’ve totally missed the money the state will be spending on roads through all of that.

        We need to stop that.

      3. I have no problem with the idea of Road Mega-Projects.

        Just give the public the opportunity to decide which ones, and how much they are willing to pay in various fees, tolls, taxes.

        Let’s see it on the ballot!

  6. Here’s my question for the open forum- It seems like recently that when riding Link into Westlake Station, the train shakes as it is coming around the curve. Have the trains been operating slower than normal prior to this and therefore the curve couldn’t be felt? Thanks in advance!

  7. Okay, yesterday I saw diesel and hybrid articulateds running route 70 (and on other dieselized Saturdays). If my logic is correct, would Metro put some Breda articulated trolleys on the 70 if the route WAS not dieselized? If not, why?

    1. The 70 doesn’t need artics. It’s a pretty low ridership route, which is probably why the 71/72/73 have to fill in for it at night (which pisses me off to no end, I hate the Eastlake routing-get back on I-5!). I can only assume on this, but I think the hybrids are cheaper to operate than the Gilligs on in-city routes.

      1. It is extremely annoying, they need to extend express service at least to 9pm weekdays and Saturdays and to, say 9-6 on Sundays, if not to all the time.

      2. I suspect it’s the other way around, that the 70 doesn’t run nights because somebody thought it wouldn’t be cost-effective to run the 71-72-73 as shuttles. Although I don’t see why not. Maybe it was the one-seat ride argument, that people don’t want to transfer.

        Until a few years ago, there was no route 70, and 71-72-73 ran both express and local during the daytime. Creating the 70 was done to electrify the route and to consolidate the daytime local schedule.

        Eastlake has by far the best bus service in the city, with buses at least every 15 minutes from 5am to 2am plus owl. It’s not even the densest or most transit-dependent part of the city, it just has a lucky location.

    2. The artics on the 70 on the weekends, are so Atlantic Base doesn’t have to borrow as many 40 footers from Ryerson Base.

      Atlantic base has all the trolleys, plus enough 2300’s for the 36, half of the weekday 5/54/55’s, and a few of the weekday runs on the 15/18/21/22/56/57’s. 5/54/55, 15/18/21/22/56/57 routes are now shared by Central/Atlantic bases on weekdays, because Central took some extra routes from Ryerson during the WSDOT contruction. So I count about 30-35 2300’s(2400’s,2500’s) belong to AB. Also Atlantic base is assign about 72 hybrids(2600’s, 2700’s and up to 2812). These hybrids are maintained by and parked in the Atantic Base yard, but are operated by Central operators on weekday 71/72/73/74/76/77, 106’s and a few runs of the 15/18/21/22/56/57. (Most 15’s are Central Hybrids, but a few are on Atlantic hybrids)

      On weekends 71/72/73, 106’s still use Altantic Hybrids, but AB can use the rest on whatever routes needing diesel buses. So you will see 2300’s or Hybrids on 7/49 & 43/44 which are AB’s buses. But the Gillig’s or 3600’s (LF 40’s) on the rest of the trolley routes are borrowed from Ryerson Base.

      So my point is, after all this info, you can’t put artic’s on the most of the trolley routes, but the 70 you can, and they will, if it means Ryerson Base hasn’t given AB enough 40footers to cover all the weekend runs.

  8. Update on closures of stops on #28

    After considering input from transit riders, some of the proposed stop closures will not be implemented. These include:

    Dexter Ave N at Crockett St
    8th Ave NW at NW 73rd St
    8th Ave NW at NW 97th St / NW 100th Pl
    NW 100th Pl at 7th Ave NW westbound
    3rd Ave NW at NW 117th St
    3rd Ave NW at NW 140th St
    Greenwood Ave N at N 145th St southbound

    Buses will continue to make stops at these locations. If you use a different stop that is posted for closure, which will occur on April 4, 2010, please reference the rider alert that is posted at the stop for alternative boarding locations.

    Thank you for your input on this project.

    Mike Cechvala PE
    King County Department of Transportation
    Transit Route Facilities

  9. Word is out that Bellevue Safeway at 300 Bellevue Way NE starting last Monday can now add funds to your ORCA Cards. YEA!!

  10. Still making up my mind about the Waterfront Tunnel. Most convincing argument for the project: shortage of transportation corridors of any kind through or past Downtown Seattle.

    Most convincing argument against: complete absence from the project of any serious plan for transit, rail or otherwise.

    What I’m telling my elected representatives, and tunnel supporters: since this is 2010 and not 1950, show me a project that incorporates electric rail as at least part of the solution to the problem in the first paragraph.

    Three billion dollars for that would be worth it. And the work would provide at least an equal number of jobs.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Doesn’t Link fit the description, Mark? There are ways to speed up Link construction, and thereby create more jobs building it. The construction of the tunnel north from Husky Stadium Station could start much sooner. The construction of South Link is waiting for enough southern King County money to pile up for a down payment. They are essentially shovel-ready. And unlike the freeway mega-projects, they have the blessing of the electorate.

      How about dedicating 3rd Ave to transit at all hours? The buses could then bypass gridlock and make that street a corridor with good mobility.

      I like the idea of light rail to West Seattle/Burien and to Ballard, but given the investment the county has already made in RapidRide, at voters’ request, it needs to justify its added cost vs. added benefits.

    1. I don’t know if this means the council will back the plan. But it sure looks like Seattle is building something in just a few years from conception to completion. Yes, we can get things done if we want it done. If we’re against it, of course we’re going to cause it to take longer to get done.

      Here’s to another shovel-ready transit project, and another corridor for getting people past downtown without forcing them to drive!

  11. Bertolet is right on. The state’s transportation budget is out of line with its priorities. But that doesn’t mean that the three road replacements are necessarily evil, because they are replacements that wouldn’t be done if the original structures weren’t at end-of-life. And 520 was stupidly built without a sidewalk or HOV lanes.

  12. Washington State would greatly benefit from an expanded roads project.

    This state is ripe for expansion and population should definitely head East to better land.

    If it were me, I’d make Tri-Cities the new population center, build a giant airport in the desert, build a Maglev from Tacoma to Spokane and let Seattle shrink down a couple of hills populated by the super wealthy.

    Real people need real houses, roads, land, good schools, malls and healthy sprawl.

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