photo by Stephen De Vight

This is an open thread.

49 Replies to “News Roundup: Suburban Development”

  1. I wanted to revisit the issue I’ve presented many times here — express service (train or bus) from Seattle to Southcenter to Kent.

    This seems like a heavily used transit route, and an obvious one for express service, because it is crowded day and night. Per a suggestion here, I ran my idea by a Metro rep with regard to RapidRide and Metro contacted its counterpart in Sound Transit. Both answers were the same…no plans, no budget. While I can accept both, it seems extraordinary that in both instances the organizations seemed entirely unaware of the transit situation at this very major Southeastern King hub.

    In discussions with co-workers, I also realized there are no fewer than 4 express buses who mainly pick up passengers in Kent and Covington and then head on down to I-5 to make the journey to Seattle.

    Why aren’t each of those dropping off passengers at Kent Station, to change to a single express line into Seattle? Ideally this express should be more Sounder trains. So, I would eliminate the I-5 part of the 158,159,161 and 163 and add all all day RapidRide, ST Express Bus or Sounder service.

    This is the situation now from Federal Way and Auburn with the new 577/8 ST Bus service.

    1. It’s not that simple. The eliminating the I-5 part of those 4 routes all depends on where the riders on there got on and how much out of direction travel they would have if the route were truncated. The one-seat commute ride on relatively infrequent routes is hard to replace effectively.

      That being said, the looming financial crisis for KCM will likely force decisions like this.

    2. The responses are similar to what I’ve gotten from Metro regarding my neighborhood’s bus routes. This is even with my neighborhood association’s backing. (Yes, you can get your neighborhood association to not be anti-transit if you go to the meetings. Democracy is about who shows up.)

      Ultimately, it is up to the politicians to change routes.

      I read discussions regarding the 578 routing on other blogs. They had a good point: If the 578 is supposed to be a Sounder shadow route, why not have it continue north from Auburn to Kent Station, then Tukwila Sounder Station (if that is easily accessible) and then on to downtown?

      Or, just to throw out another option: Once Des Moines light rail station is open, have the 578 diagonal up to that station on Kent-Des-Moines Rd? It doesn’t seem to me that heading due west to South Federal Way is a particularly fast option. But time the 150 to head to downtown right after the 578 northbound deboards at Kent Station.

      I’ve been wondering why midday 594 service can’t just make the extra stop at Federal Way, and essentially roll the 577 service into the 594 to create better frequency for both Federal Way and Tacoma to Seattle riders. Throw in the stop at 200th St Station once it opens, and the route would still have good speed to Seattle (and faster than now because of the frequency increase), while connecting to the south terminus of Link.

      Once Des Moines Station opens, the Link connection stop would be even faster.

      Still, none of these options competes well with just getting one or two mid-day Sounder runs.

      1. The 594 doesn’t stop in Federal Way for a couple of reasons and the primary one is subarea equity. In addition, there would be some very real capacity concerns during some parts of the day, as 594 already carries very good loads and there would be times where it could not accomodate additional passengers.

        Last, but not least, why would you slow down a very successful Tacoma – Seattle market? It’s big enough to stand on it’s own.

        A careful look at this will likely find that you will lose a good proportion of Pierce County riders due to the perception of longer travel times to attract those South King riders.

    3. John, I would start by looking at bus and Sounder costs, as each is subsidized by a different agency, and any change in the mix results in a win/lose situation for one or the other.
      The challenge is to get it to win/win for both.
      Kent has always been joined at the hip with Tukwila for service, unlike Federal Way, Burien, Seatac, Tacoma that have traditionally stood on there own.
      Shoehorning Kent riders through South Center has been the reason service (off-peak and reverse commute) has never penciled out. It’s slower than molasses, so only the transit dependent use it.

    4. Unfortunately adding more Sounder service is complex. Not only does this require additional operating funds from Sound Transit, but it depends on how many trips can be negotiated with BNSF who owns the tracks. Furthermore running more trips may require additional equipment and most likely will require rather expensive capital improvements to the rail corridor between Seattle and Tacoma. Note that capacity in this corridor also affects how many Amtrak Cascades trips can be run between Seattle and Portland.

      That said, all of the major transit centers and destinations should be connected to each other with all-day express service. In particular the lack of a direct all-day express option between Kent and Downtown Seattle seems like a particularly glaring omission, especially considering ridership on the 150.

      The best bet is to get as many people as possible to keep complaining to Metro and Sound Transit. If they get enough comments about the service there is a chance either some service hours could be shifted from other routes or that it will be a priority as soon as additional funds are available.

      1. I’d be surprised if there is a shortage of Sounder equipment for mid-day, evening and weekend services. Freight and Amtrak trains certainly are a hindrance, but weekday Sounder trains at 10:00, noon, 2:00 and 4:00 ought to be be able to be easily squeezed in. Plus there IS the UP track as well which could (with a trackage agreement) take some of the pressure off the NP, now BNSF mains.

  2. UW’s idea sounds intriguing. To wit, keep the money in the U-Pass program to support transit, instead of paying it to the city in parking taxes, which will then be used to fund the automobile tunnel (which few students, faculty, or staff would use).

    Wouldn’t it be cool if all the businesses had a choice to use their parking tax money first to pay for employee transit passes before paying the leftover to their choice of the City, Metro, or Sound Transit?

    1. Well, sounds like if they call part of the fee a “surcharge” they could do that, assuming the proposal passes legal revue.

  3. I’ll float this one out here for fun. I’m in San Diego over the summer working on the HSR project down here. There are no painted crosswalks ANYWHERE in the city so cars never stop even when you’re in the middle of the road. Why? The city planner thinks that crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security and refuses to paint crosswalks. Of course, now pedestrians (me) have to wait even longer to cross roads than what should be normal or just jaywalk everywhere.

    1. Uncontrolled crosswalks terrify me. Because I’m afraid I’ll become acclimated to having the right of way, and then one day someone’s not going to be paying attention and I’ll end up a smear.

      It’s even worse here in yieldtastic Seattle. Because now I’m also worried I’m going to be responsible for a rear-end collision.

    2. Urban Myth? Not so. Someone did a accident survey years ago that ‘proved’ painted crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security, and higher accident rates at painted intersections.
      The study circulated well among traffic engineers, and was the mantra for not painting. City of Auburn used this argument effectively to let existing crosswalks fade into non-existence.
      I don’t know if it’s been disproved or called into serious question, but it’s awfully convenient for the road gangers.

      1. The Federal Highway Administration did an extensive review of the effectivity and safety of crosswalks in various types of implementations:
        Their findings are very convincing, and I commend local transportation departments, including SDOT, for taking its findings to heart. Basically, you’re right, Mike, providing marked crosswalks at unsafe locations give a false sense of security. In Seattle, this applies to places like 4-lane roads, but definitely does not apply to most of Seattle’s remaining crosswalks with better traffic controls and shorter crossing distances.

      2. And in SDOT’s defense, this has certainly seemed to spur their support for safety islands in some crosswalks, curb bulbs, road diets, etc. Unfortunately, these solutions are all much more costly than simply putting some paint down on pavement, which means fewer improved crossings and more need to justify a crossing for safety needs.

      3. Mike, that study you reference was done in 1972. Guess where? San Diego!

        Herms, B., “Pedestrian Crosswalk Study: Crashes in Painted and Unpainted Crosswalks,” Record No. 406, Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, 1972.

        It is out of date.


        There is a long and influential history of research on the safety impacts of marked and unmarked
        crosswalks. Herms’ famous 1972 study in San Diego found that marked crosswalks were the
        sites of twice as many crashes as unmarked crosswalks, controlling for pedestrian volume (3).
        Several other studies found similar results (Gibby, 1994), but their methodologies have been
        criticized (Campbell, 1997) (4, 5).


  4. The SeaTac master plan article yields this gem:

    “Council members and city staffers traveled to entertainment districts throughout the country to gather ideas for a city center that would attract airport travelers and city residents.”

    I’m sure funding those trips was an essential use of tax revenues.

    1. I’m always torn when I read sentences like that.

      On one hand, I’m tired of parochial public figures making urban-planning and transit decisions based on their own uninformed opinions without travelling to gain insight into how things work differently/better in other parts of the world.

      On the other, I think most “research trips” taken by these officials in the real world involve tightly controlled tours of one or two archetypal spaces, chosen either to either highlight some ideal upon which a planner is fixated or to reinforce the existing biases of the officials. I doubt they learn a thing about the usage patterns of any real inhabitants of the places they visit.

  5. I think Redmond’s plans for the BNSF Redmond spur are nonsensical. There is no need for a regional trail that parallels the Sammamish River trail at one end and is duplicated by the trail network near Bear Creek at the other end. It would be nice to have a detailed understanding of how East Link will fit into the corridor before spending time and money on work that may have to be ripped out later.

    1. The part of the Redmond Spur they are talking about in the article is the section that runs east west through town, not the section that runs north south to Woodinville after crossing the slew. Having a good bike path connection from the East Lake Samammish Trail to the Samamish River Trail (without having to go through the park) will be nice. It’ll be much easier to get from the SRT over to Avondale and Union/Novelty Hill.

      The part that sounds nuts is turning Redmond Way and Cleveland back into two way streets.

      demolition of the old Redmond Shopping Square at 161st Avenue Northeast and Redmond Way is “imminent, within the next few weeks” …

      “All the tenants from that center have relocated and by mid-September, we’ll determine where sewer and water will go,” to proceed with the downtown revitalization,

      Is this the old Post Office or the mini strip mall that had B&B Auot Parts and the appliance store? “revitalization”, it sounds like Redmond is the NW equivalent of a rust belt city.

      Attractive features along the old downtown railroad tracks, which fell into disrepair in the 1990s and haven’t been used since 2000,

      WTF? Are they talking about T&D Feeds and the old grain mill? Most of the “attractive features” of old Redmond have been bulldozed and morphed into Redmond Town Center or high rent condos.

      1. What do you think of the new Marymoor Connector Trail? I think it makes a good connection from the East Lake Sammamish Trail to the Sammamish River Trail, though it does wind around a bit. You can also use the Bear Creek trail on the north side of 520, though connecting to it is a real pain. A connection along the old ROW under 520 would be great.

        The building being demolished for 161st is the mini strip mall that had Kanishka and the appliance store.

        A concern I have about the rendering is that it doesn’t include Link at all. ST’s preferred alternative has Link running in that ROW (assuming it eventually gets funded). They mention light rail once in the article at least.

      2. The Marymoor Connector Trail is a sidewalk. I continue to use the road when riding through the park. They should have just widened it a tad and called it a day. If traffic is backed up and I can’t get by on the shoulder I hop up on the grass. The Bear Creek trail fizzels out before connecting to anything. Getting across the shopping center (Bear Creek Village?) is a pain in the ass. I really don’t see the need for extending the 520 bike path along the freeway to 202. I do wish they do something to improve safety though at the intersection at the bottom of the hill and a decent connection to Old Redmond Road would be nice.

        The article gave a small reference to Link using the ROW. It’s likely twenty years out (if ever) so it’s not surprising it doesn’t get much mention.

  6. Privatize the state ferry system? We had that once and bought them out. The old Blackball line never put a lot of money into the system and got most of its ferries from other places and fixed them up to save costs. Any private operator would have the same capital costs to contend with in the long run.

    1. Would they be required to buy (more expensive) locally built copies of other ferries, or be able to buy the exact same (but cheaper) boats directly from the producer?

      1. The ferries require significant ongoing maintenance and Coast Guard-mandated inspections over their lifespans. This requires shipyards with drydocks and a skilled labor force. The state does not own any such facilities (Eagle Harbor does only routine maintenance and inspections) and so contracts out for these services with Todd Pacific, Dakota Creek, etc. If any of these shipyards were to go out of business, it would drive our ferry maintenance costs up significantly because we would then have to send the ferries elsewhere for maintenance. This would also increase our capital costs, because instead of taking a day or whatever to move a ferry to the drydock, it would take a week and require an extra replacement ferry to maintain service. As it is the ferry system is short of boats thanks to the Steel-Electric debacle, short-sighted uninformed management, lack of funding from the Legislature, etc. Supporting our local shipyards with ship-building work, even at a somewhat higher cost, ensures that we retain the facilities and skilled labor force locally to maintain our ferry system.

        Also keep in mind that WSF is run by WSDOT, who as we all know is very good at building roads, but not so good at running a ferry system that is essentially mass transit.

      2. I’m sorry, that just doesn’t wash. Just b/c WSDOT starts buying competitively doesn’t mean that suddenly the entire Marine Industry is going to pack up and leave. If you haven’t noticed there are a couple of fishing boats that operate out of the Sound, and a wee bit of shipping. Until that ends, there will always be repair facilities and dry docks.

    2. Restructure it so that it behaves like a toll-road (which it is) and allow its operations to be turned over to a private contractor, just like Community Transit is run under contract by First Transit.

      That takes the ferry workers off of the state payroll. Not popular, sure, but the current situation with wages and benefits is not sustainable, unless of course WSF wants to adopt per-nautical-mile fares in line with BC Ferries.

      TSAWWASSEN to SWARTZ BAY is 24 Nautical Miles and costs US$44.12 (CDN$46.75) for a car and driver

      (US$1.83 per nautical mile)

      SEATTLE to BREMERTON is just under 14 Nautical Miles and costs US$14.85 for a car and driver

      (US$0.94 per nautical mile)

      The privatization of BC Ferries can be used as a model for turning WSF into less of a burden on the state coffers.

      1. The fare to Bremerton is set the same as the other major commuter runs, which are much shorter. Don’t want all the extra traffic being routed on to state highways from Bainbridge Island to Bremerton. Then we would have to spend money on building new highways that can handle the traffic.

        Yep, instead of taking the ferry, I could drive around in about the same time; once you include waiting for a ferry. A 100 miles on state highways to Port Ludlow. Cheaper for me but not so for the state.


        Has a list of all the major accidents since BC Ferries went private.

      3. Seattle-Bremerton isn’t the most representative route in the system. Edmonds-Kingston or even Seattle-Bainbridge would be better. But for the sake of argument:

        (All prices are for one car with a single driver, and are in US dollars)
        Pt. Defiance-Tahlequah: 1.5 nautical miles, $19.00, $12.67/nautical mile
        Fauntleroy-Vashon Isl: 3 nautical miles, $19.00, $6.33/nautical mile
        Fauntleroy-Southworth: 4 nautical miles, $11.45, $2.86/nautical mile
        Seattle-Bremerton: 14 nautical miles, $14.85, $1.06/nautical mile
        Seattle-Bainbridge Isl: 7.5 nautical miles, $14.85, $1.98/nautical mile
        Edmonds-Kingston: 5 nautical miles, $14.85, $2.97/nautical mile
        Mukilteo-Clinton: 2.5 nautical miles, $8.75, $3.50/nautical mile
        Pt. Townsend-Keystone: 5 nautical miles, $11.45, $2.29/nautical mile
        Anacortes-Lopez Isl: 10 nautical miles, $36.80, $3.68/nautical mile
        Anacortes-Shaw Isl: 12.5 nautical miles, $44.15, $3.53/nautical mile
        Anacortes-Orcas Isl: 13 nautical miles, $44.15, $3.40/nautical mile
        Anacortes-Friday Harbor: 16.5 nautical miles, $52.55, $3.18/nautical mile
        Anacortes-Sidney, BC: 34 nautical miles, $55.10, $1.62/nautical mile

        As you can see, the fare for the vast majority of WSF’s routes is more per nautical mile than the representative BC Ferries route. Only Seattle-Bremerton and Anacortes-Sidney routes cost less by this metric. Adjusting per-nautical-mile fares to match BC Ferries would generally result in substantial fare decreases, which would reduce revenue and make the system require even more subsidy from the state.

        The privatization of BC Ferries doesn’t seem like a model we should seek to emulate here with WSF.

      4. The BC Ferries isn’t really a private corporation. It is a “Crown Corp” in that the ownership is by the Province of British Columbia. This is about as private as the US Postal Service or FANNIEMAE or FREDIMAC.

      5. So, you want to take the money that the state pays in living wages and put them in the hands of faux entrepreneurs for a profit motive?

        I say, if Private industry wants to compete, then let them build in toto their own facilities, e.g. access roads, parking lots, docks, marine navigation, ships, repair facilities, and hire and pay professional wages for crew and compete with the existing service.

        Maybe there might be some innovative way that a private enterprise can provide a public good without compromising safety or the public interest but what is more likely is that something gets compromised with safety often being the first casualty. When the profitability of a service considered essential to the public becomes ephemeral, then the public has to pick up the pieces. We see this time and time again where private interests socialize risk and privatize profit.

        Just recently the Minority Leader of the US Congress actually suggested a government bailout of “BP”. Instead of holding them accountable for their grotesque negligence (legally alleged) in compromising safety in their operations resulting in the catastrophe in the gulf. Investigative reports show a culture of gross disregard for the necessary safeguards for drilling safety and that safety inspectors were routinely intimidated and often fired for doing their jobs. Platform supervisors were pressured into cutting corners to get the job done quickly.

        You can b*tch about alleged inefficiencies in an entity like the WSF but it has an exemplary safety record and the alternative is not pretty. Fortunately Washington State is a leader in the relative accountability of the government to it’s people. The open government ethic which goes back generations along with the strange libertarian bent which breeds a suspicion of government as well as the boom/bust unstable tax system work to keep the government relatively efficient compared to other states.

        Governments in their haste to plug budget deficits are choosing to sell off public assets in return for a lump of cash and a steel collar around the public’s neck. Service suffers, safety suffers, assets become run down, wages suffer and the profit these people require to repay their “investment” requires higher and higher tolls, fares and fees.

        I’ve observed this first hand in the City of Chicago first selling the “Skyway” bridge for a chunk of change only to have the tolls go up and up and the bridge become shoddier and shoddier. Now the parking meters have be sold off with the city leaving an estimated $1 billion in value on the table and the fees already having doubled are now set to double again in the next few years. They are eying selling Midway airport the city’s “value” airport. You can only bet what Southwest Airlines is going to do when the landing fees go up and up. Suddenly, Gary Indiana or Peatone look attractive to them and the city looses again.

      6. WSF hasn’t exactly been without incident. Let’s all hum a few bars of “Elwha On the Rocks”.

        * 1981: The Klahowya collided with a Liberian freighter in heavy fog in Elliot Bay causing minor damage.
        * 1986: The Hyak ran into a reef near the Anacortes ferry terminal, forcing the evacuation of 250 passengers.

        * 1991: The ferries Sealth and Kitsap collided in heavy fog just north of Bremerton, injuring one woman.
        * 1994: The ferry Nisqually went aground on Elwha Rock off of Orcas Island.
        * 1994: The ferry Kitsap collided with a pleasure craft as it was proceeding to a Bremerton dock.
        * 1994: The ferry Elwha crashed into the Anacortes dock causing $500,000 in damages.
        * 1995: The ferry Nisqually lost power and rammed into the Lopez Island dock. Several passengers suffered minor injuries and the dock was seriously damaged.
        * 1996: The ferry Elwha nearly runs aground in the San Juan Islands when the skipper goes for an unauthorized, 15-mile detour.
        * 1999: The ferry Elwha crashed into the Orcas Island dock when the engines failed to reverse, causing $2.5 million in damages and disrupting vehicle traffic for days.

        A partial list since then, Sealth 2004, Quinault 2005, Cathlamet 2007, Wenatchee 2009
        Then you’ve got Injuries to Washington State Ferry Workers. And of course the whole fiasco with the steel-electrics.

  7. More money for high speed rail, I wonder how much money our state will get? If we do, how long will it take to actually get the $? The FRA is making the WSDOT do an additional environmental study before work can procede on the Point Defiance Bypass, delaying the start of that project a year.

    1. Clearly they need more fare enforcement so the scoflaw’s insurance rates go up. Or higher fines.

    2. But, but, but, but….

      Paris has Fare-gates!

      How is it possible to cheat? And who catches them since RATP surely has no fare-checkers since they have always had turnstiles/fare-gates for ever and ever.

  8. In Chicago, the Mayor has been on a privatization kick having sold off the “Skyway” bridge connector with plans to sell Midway airport and having recently sold off the parking meters in the city. I think the Mayor is in for a comeuppance at the next election. People have been hopping made about the parking meter situation. With no parking holidays, fees ranging from $1.00 to $6.00/hr to park and times going as late as 9pm in many areas, people are disgusted at the siege on their city by private corporations. These fees are set to go up substantially in coming years.

    The only silver lining is that it is causing people to elect public transportation more often which is a good thing for the environment but can’t be good for the government coffers being that it supposedly costs an average of $9 per ride versus $2 collected at fare box.

    1. For better or worse, Daley will be fine. He seems to have a controversial decision or two every election (Meigs Field, the cost overruns and delays at Millennium Park), but the issue is always the same: who else?

    2. Surely the private operator of the parking meters sets the rates to match those charged by parking lots/parking structures in Chicago?

      Why should on street parking be cheaper than off-street parking?

      Isn’t that a form of Automobile-Bolshevism?

      1. It’s the idea that the streets belong to the people and that to sell them off to private interests who then hold us hostage in order to use what we freely could before.

        When I first moved to Chicago, I never had to worry about using a parking space on a Sunday or in the evening or on a holiday.

        I think you underestimate the sense of rage the people of Chicago feel about this. I think it is the last straw for him.

  9. If there isn’t going to be any TOD there, could we remove the silly slash and just call it “Sea-Tac Airport Station?” I’m sure the distinction is lost on most people.

  10. More places to load your ORCA Card:

    King County –
    3020 45th Street Northeast
    Seattle, WA 98105

    6911 Coal Creek Parkway Southeast
    Newcastle, WA 98059-3136

    Kitsap County –
    2890 Bucklin Hill Road Northwest
    Silverdale, WA 98383

    1401 McWilliams Road Northeast
    Bremerton, WA 98311

    900 N. Callow Avenue
    Bremerton, WA 98312

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