Last Week’s Link Maintenance, This Week

Sound Transit wasn’t able to perform scheduled track work last week because they had to run trains all night to keep the tracks thawed. So this Wednesday and Thursday take the hit instead. Best to be done with your rail travel by 8pm those nights.

Central Link Light Rail – Central Link light rail — delays

Central Link light rail will operate about every 30-45 minutes due to maintenance work at the following times:
* Wednesday, Dec. 1 from 8 p.m. – 1 a.m.
* Thursday, Dec. 2 from 8 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Maintenance will also temporarily close the southbound platform at the following stations:
* Beacon Hill Station
* Mt. Baker Station

October 2010 Swift Ridership

Photo by DWHonan

Community Transit reports that October 2010’s Swift ridership is up to about 3,500 boardings per weekday, out of a total corridor ridership of about 8,200 (Swift, CT 101, and Everett Transit 9). The corridor boarding figure counts each transfer as a new boarding, so a trip involving a transfer 101 to Swift is counted twice.

A 2004 CT study predicted 2,500 Swift boardings at this time and 4,000 in four years, so they’re ahead of their expectations. CT routes average about 20 riders per revenue hour, while Swift is at 25, compared to Metro‘s 48.2 in 2009. That’s in the ballpark of Metro’s East Subarea 2009 productivity of 29/hour.


Where do people board Swift? While every station has seen good activity, solidly a quarter of all boardings in either direction originate at the terminals of Everett Station and Aurora Village in Shoreline. Northbound, 216th Street by Stevens Hospital, 200th Street near Edmonds Community College and 148th Street are the next most popular boarding stations. Southbound, Casino Road, Pacific Avenue near the county campus and Airport Road are the next highest boarding stations.

According to CT data analyst Davis Hyslop, CT does not use automated passenger counter sampling like Metro or Sound Transit. For Swift, CT takes data from ORCA readers and ticket vending machines, and adds an estimate of flash pass boardings based off of manual surveys on random days. For other CT routes not based on fare inspectors, they use ORCA/farebox data plus manual operator record of flash passes.

Human Transit’s Snowstorm Review

"All the #2s", by Blinking Charlie

From the other side of the world Jarrett Walker shares his thoughts on his home region immobilized by snow. Briefly, Seattle is doomed by rare snowfall, high temperatures, lack of rail, and lots of people living and working on hills:

So I would suggest folks go easy on the Seattle Department of Transportation, which is responsible for snow clearing, salting, etc.  (Full disclosure: SDOT is a former client of mine, and I do have friends there, but I haven’t spoken with them since the storm.)  First of all, not even Minneapolis can deliver an incident-free evening rush hour when a winter storm hits at 4:00 PM, as it did in Seattle this year.  But more important, Seattle needs to relax into the futility of even attempting normal daily life in such a situation.

It’s the typical accessible, comprehensive Human Transit treatment. I don’t wholly buy into the “sit back and enjoy the snow” attitude of some commenters — some people really must be able to get around — but it’s true that there must be acceptance that the city will not work as if it were a clear day.

Editorial: Viaduct or Tunnel


[UPDATE 2: Numbers corrected on DBT transit funding.]

[UPDATE: It may very well be that nothing can stop the tunnel at this point. However, tunnel opponents are told that trying to stop it could lead to a worse outcome. The point of this post is that it isn’t the case.]

We’ve made it abundantly clear that the Surface/Transit/I-5 option is the best one, on the policy merits, to replace the viaduct. Spending billions to maintain highway capacity, including $2.4 billion in unrestricted non-gas-tax funds, when so many other transportation priorities go unfunded is fundamentally unsound. Both portals will create huge, dozen-lane-width concrete plazas hostile into any human-scale activity near some of our most delicate neighborhoods. Many tunnel proponents tacitly admit this when they explain that this is the best deal we can get out of Olympia, rather than defend the tunnel on the underlying merits.

Although it is far less important than the overall policy critique, the debate has paid a lot of attention to the troublesome details. No one has committed to fund the overruns; there are large technical and financial risks; and the required tolling rate will divert most of the traffic the tunnel is intended to absorb.

But is it the best deal we can get? I haven’t done a whip count in the legislature, but let’s assume that Governor, House, and Senate can’t be brought around to the best solution. My perception is that, left to their own devices, the State would have rebuilt the viaduct long ago, and that the DBT is viewed as a concession to Seattle. Is fighting for that concession worthwhile? In other words, given the choice between tunnel and new viaduct, which is a better option for advocates of alternative transportation? Consider:

Continue reading “Editorial: Viaduct or Tunnel”

East Link SDEIS Open House and Public Hearing

East Link

Tomorrow evening, Sound Transit will host an open house and public hearing on the East Link Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) at Bellevue City Hall. The SDEIS was released earlier this month with the inclusion of a few new alternative alignments along with some revisions of old alignments. Overall, there wasn’t a great deal of new or shocking information yielded from the study.

As usual, there will likely be a good deal of comments lambasting Sound Transit and if nothing else, more questioning of the credibility of information in the SDEIS. Information for the open house/public hearing and general SDEIS comments are available below:

Invitation to Comment
Comments must be received or postmarked by Jan. 10, 2011. Please provide your name and include a return mailing address with all comments. Comments may be submitted by e-mail, mail or in person at the public hearing.

Public Hearing and Open House
Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
4 to 7 p.m., hearing begins at 5 p.m.
Bellevue City Hall : 450 110th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, WA 98009

Earning Transit Karma

Letter at Montlake Flyer Stop

Sound Transit’s 542 was one of the most substantial changes to service in the last service revision. It’s essentially the same as the 545 — Downtown Seattle to Microsoft in Redmond — but serves the U-District rather than Downtown. The problem is that it seems some 545 riders who transfer from local routes at the Montlake flyer stop still don’t know that the route exists. An anonymous Microsoft employee took it upon his- or herself to help out fellow riders. This via the City of Redmond’s R-Trip Blog.

Here for the 545 from Montlake to Overlake Transit Center/Microsoft?

Tired of a standing-room only 545?

Did you know that the new 542 express bus goes directly from here to Overlake every 15 minutes during weekday commute hours — and the majority of seats are empty?

The new 542 bus follows the exact same route from Montlake to Overlake as the 545 — except it stops right above you (Montlake Blvd E & E Lk Washington Blvd). It’s the same place that the 271/540 stop before turning onto 520.

The times that it stops here are:


6:43 :58
7:15 :31 :45
8:01 :16 :31 :46
9:01 :16 :30 :45
10:00 :15

Using OneBusAway on your iPhone or Android? You can check the 542 Montlake arrival times by entering stop #25243


A fellow Microsoft commuter who feels guilty watching you guys crammed on the 545 when we have lots of extra seats waiting for you

In the reverse direction, this doesn’t work as well but everyone that uses the 545 to get to Montlake should know these routes complement each other.

H/T Courtlandt Stanton

Route 75 Stop Consolidation

Graphic by Oran

Metro is giving Route 75 the stop consolidation treatment. The targeted stops are along 24th Ave NW (therefore also affecting the 18) and between Lake City and UW. The number of stops will drop from 168 to 132, increasing the average spacing to 1,250 feet. About 7% of riders will have to use a different stop.

Consolidation is done with a minimum of fuss, with a short comment period and in between service changes. Metro has recently sped up the 3 & 4, 7, 8, 14, 16, 28, 49, and 70 in this fashion.

Metro will enact the cut on December 18th, so if you have comments get them in soon. Remember that positive comments are as useful as negative ones.


Photo by Oran

Rail advocates can be forgiven for a little bit of triumphalism. The region would indisputably have been better off this week if we’d had more light rail, and that’s not true of buses or highway capacity.

That said, no one who thinks rail is a bad investment is going to change their mind because it helps out a lot on a few days a year, any more than rail advocates throw in the towel because of an accident on MLK. I think the better point to be made is that the best transportation systems have redundancy.

Sometimes a big accident or storm renders highways impassable and the buses on them unusable. Other times, Link has a mechanical problem or Sounder is stopped by a mudslide. A robust system doesn’t force people to spend 10 hours in a car, because each mode is slowed by independent phenomena. As a region, we have dramatically underinvested in modes not dependent on highways, which is how you get this week. We’re working to rectify that but it will take time.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

More Snow, Snow Routes Tomorrow

We might get another inch tomorrow morning, adding to a far from normal weekend for transit:

So, Metro Transit will continue to have buses on snow routes on Thanksgiving and reminds bus riders that it will operate with a Sunday schedule for the holiday. As snow and ice melt and roadways return to normal, Metro will begin to ease back into regular operations.

The long holiday weekend includes already-scheduled changes for Metro service:

• Thursday, Nov. 25, Metro Transit buses operate on Sunday schedule;

• Friday, Nov. 26 there is a reduced weekday schedule which features more service than weekends but less than a regular weekday. This is done during holiday periods when Metro traditionally sees 20-40 percent lower ridership;

• There are many holiday events in Seattle this weekend that will cause temporary reroutes and delays for bus service including the Ballard Turkey Trot on Thursday, the downtown Macy’s Holiday Parade on Friday morning, the Friday evening Westlake Tree Lighting ceremony, and the Seattle Marathon on Sunday and related events on Saturday.

News Roundup: Life Goes On

Photo by litlnemo

Apparently something happened this week besides Seattle being hit with a snowstorm. We postponed a couple of pretty decent policy posts to give wall-to-wall coverage of the storm, and you’ll probably see those next week:

  • Yonah Freemark reports that the transit federal tax subsidy, set to fall below the subsidy for parking, is on the agenda to be restored to the same level during the lame duck session.
  • Lessons of the snowstorm from an operator; video of buses on snowy hills.
  • Young punk blogger has an op-ed in the Seattle Times. From the comment thread you wouldn’t be able to figure out the actual subject.
  • Metro has to use some articulated buses, even in the snow. Not mentioned: they have to be hybrids in the DSTT, and almost all of those are artics.
  • Complaints about Metro’s information in the storm.
  • Building up Pioneer Square. Bertolet tackles Sodo’s zoning; I could stand about a dozen more posts from him on tradeoffs between upzones and incentive zoning.
  • Person killed by Amtrak train in Tukwila.
  • Congestion metrics are broken.
  • Convertible parking.
  • The urbanist generation gap.

This is an open thread.

Headsigns on Snow Routes

Photo by Oran

I think most people (myself included) would applaud Metro’s handling of our most recent snow/icestorm.  Communication has been frequent and detailed, operators have been helpful and upbeat, and there has been an overall sense that Metro has been competently performing a public service under difficult operating conditions.  Our other agencies have done pretty well, too.

Yet given the extensive contingency planning for just these types of events over the past 2 years, I have been disappointed that one aspect of snow routing has gone overlooked:  headsigns. Despite ubiquitous reroutes, all headsigns that I have seen retained their usual designations.  Two examples from yesterday:  Route 2 read its usual “Madrona Park – via E Union”, despite the fact that it traveled to neither Madrona Park nor along E Union.  Rather, eastbound it was traveling to 34th/Union via Jefferson and Cherry (the same as Route 3), while westbound it traveled its regular snow route.  Secondly, every other Route 3 read its usual “First Hill” despite the fact that Metro’s website prominently warned “Route 3 is not serving First Hill.”

I don’t know how labor intensive it is to program new headsign choices, but I do think it would be helpful to have accurate displays on snow days.  A brief and incomplete(!) brainstormed list:

  • 1 – West Queen Anne via Kinnear
  • 2 – Madrona via Int’l Dist // Lower Queen Anne via Downtown
  • 3 – Madrona via Int’l Dist // Queen Anne via Int’l Dist
  • 4 – Judkins Park via Int’l Dist // E Queen Anne via Int’l Dist
  • 8 – Seattle Center via Downtown // Rainier Beach via Downtown/Cap Hill
  • 14 – Capitol Hill via Broadway
  • 16– Northgate via E Green Lake
  • 24 – W Magnolia via 15th Ave W
  • 27 – Central District via Yesler
  • 30 – Sand Point via Montlake
  • 33 – Discovery Park via 15th Ave W

What do you think?  Would this be helpful, or add unnecessary complexity?

Snow Routing Again Wednesday

"Chain Gang," by DWHonan

[UPDATE 5:10am: Pierce Transit announced that they are NOT operating snow routes anymore.]

Metro sent out pretty much the same message tonight as last night. The forecast is for weather similar to today’s, although slightly warmer. Metro will make the call on routes canceled by 4am tomorrow.

A Glimpse of a More Sustainable Seattle

Seattle Snowpocalypse 2010 by Dave Lichterman (CC: Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivs 2.0 Generic)

This is a repost of mine from the Snowpocalypse 2008. Although the particulars are different I think snow storms like this help us experience first hand what a more local, non-motorized and sustainable transportation system looks like, and how our choices do or do not support that.

Here is a question posed by Diane Sugimura (Director of Seattle DPD) a few years ago at the Urban Sustainability Forum. What do you think a sustainable Seattle will look like? Answer, a snow covered one. It might sound odd but think about your experience over the past few days.

More after the jump. Continue reading “A Glimpse of a More Sustainable Seattle”

Reminder: Metro Snow Routes Continue Tuesday

[UPDATE 5:51am: Martin reads the canceled routes as: 38, 44, 45, 51, 53, 76, 77, 79, 110, 210, 219, 266, 513, 532, 981, 982, 983, 984, 986.

Pierce Transit remains on snow routes.]

All Metro buses are on snow reroutes this morning. Metro says that some routes may be canceled due to the weather, and to check their site for updates.

Some Sound Transit Express buses are planning on skipping some stops, but the planning here doesn’t seem to be as rigorous as Metro’s.

Link light rail was unaffected by the snow Monday and that will probably remain unchanged today. The trains were ran overnight to prevent ice from building on the overhead wires that deliver power to the cars.

Monday’s Snow Day Montage

My impressions are that Metro did a good job today of communicating snow routes and various changes as the day went on. The agency came off as organized, prepared, and all on the same page. Moving every route to a snow route set the appropriate expectations for riders and helped minimize confusion. Drivers were jovial and professional.

Improved communication will not wipe away severely inclement weather and our collective inability to commute through it. While Monday gave us a chance to all sigh about how our bus came at a random time in the morning or how the afternoon was a complete mess, the only response to those complaints we love to share is that there is no fix. Snow will hurt transportation in Seattle. More rail would help, but rail has also its own problems. The way to avoid getting snared in gridlock when it snows: don’t commute.


@myballard: Wow, Seattle Police just told @KIRO7Seattle that 200 Metro buses are stuck in the snow.


Seattle Weekly: Light Rail Kicks Metro’s Butt in the Snow.

In short, the trains have been running absolutely normally — seven to 15 minutes apart, with no added travel time.

That doesn’t necessarily mean light-rail riders never have to worry about inclement weather. Patrick says freezing rain presents a particular danger due to the overhead electrical system used by the trains. If ice forms on the wires, that could cause a breakdown.

But Patrick says there is a solution: Sound Transit can run the trains all night long, rather than stopping them between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as usual. That should keep the ice from building up.


@mckoss: bus jack knife across the 520 bridge


@SoundTransit: Link light rail trains will run all night to keep the tracks clear. Passenger srvc ends @ 1.



@westseattleblog: Metro says full service even on snow routes will be impossible tomorrow so their advice is STAY HOME STAY HOME STAY HOME


Seattle Times, The long, long bus ride home to West Seattle:

Four hours after he boarded the No. 22 downtown, he was reading through a circular and wondering if the Mariners were in fact seriously interested in trading for the Diamondbacks’ outfielder Justin Upton. We all just hoped we’d reach West Seattle by the time any deal might be consummated.


University of Washington: The UW Seattle and Tacoma campuses have suspended operations and canceled classes for Tuesday.


@seattletimes: I-5: Seattle’s newest parking lot


CHS Capitol Hill Seattle, 11:06PM – Olive Way: Bus graveyard – From Darcy:


@seatransitblog: The degree to which you can continue to live normally with weather like this is a rough measure of your transportation sustainability.