Link Yearly Ridership Trends

2010 Average Daily Link Ridership by Month

Sound Transit has released updated ridership numbers for Link.

Since the SeaTac Station opened in mid December 2009 this is the first month that we can compare ridership numbers for a full year. The figure above shows average ridership and the figure below shows total ridership aggregated by month over the last year. To me the thing that jumps out most is the large variation of Saturday ridership. I’m not a sports person so someone please tell me how this relates to events at Safeco and Quest.

Total ridership graph after the jump. Continue reading “Link Yearly Ridership Trends”

Open House for Bel-Red’s New Arterial

177 feet - this is not TOD

For anyone interested in the Bel-Red redevelopment, there’s an open house coming up that will primarily address the new NE 15/16th street arterial that will be built along the corridor.  Some of the right-of-way design options that have already been reviewed by the city council range up to 177 feet, widths that tend to be horrendously bad for successful and walkable transit-oriented development.

From the City’s press release (PDF):

The new street is being designed for a variety of transportation users, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, light-rail passengers and bus and vanpool riders. Attendees can learn about, and comment upon, roadway options intended to accommodate future growth in the area and integrate with the planned East Link light rail route. Two light rail stations are proposed along the new thoroughfare – at 120th Avenue Northeast and at 130th Avenue Northeast, with a park-and-ride proposed at the 130th Avenue station.

The open house is from 5 to 7pm on the first-floor concourse at Bellevue City Hall this Wednesday, February 2nd.

Bellevue College and Eastgate

Map by Oran (dotted black is existing routing)

One really interesting component of Metro’s proposed Eastside service revision is the huge amount of service between Bellevue College and the Eastgate Park and Ride. Like many colleges, BC is a big all-day traffic generator, and Eastgate is of course the main access point to I-90 buses for a wide swath of Bellevue. There is a much better way to serve these nodes, but to date none of the involved parties has stepped up with the leadership and capital funding to make it happen.

Currently, four routes of varying quality shuttle between these nodes, and revised service would also have four routes, three with 30 minute headways and one with 15.

These two major transit hubs are less than a half mile apart as the crow flies. Unfortunately, terrain and the road network make this a very bad connection. Coaches go all the way out to 148th Ave and turn onto Eastgate Way; this amounts to three signalized left turns in the northbound direction, in addition to a lot of added distance. Google pegs this as a 5-minute drive; add time for a bus taking this route. More after the jump.

Continue reading “Bellevue College and Eastgate”

The Decline of Carpools

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Fascinating article in the NYT on the decline of carpooling, as Americans get wealthier and more spread out.  I hadn’t heard this statistic before:

Car ownership has outstripped even population growth, as the number of cars parked in American driveways has risen by nearly 60 percent since 1980, while the number of Americans has grown by a third.

It makes sense.  We’re getting wealthier as a country, and more spread out, so more people are going to own cars.   Plus, the cost of a 30-mile commute has gone down by half since 1980.  And cars themselves seem to have gotten less expensive.

But what I find remarkable is how much pain people are willing to put up with in order to drive themselves to work:

“Books on tape, music, it doesn’t help,” she said about the daily trip (most of the commuters interviewed here asked that their names not be used). “All I’m thinking is, ‘Oh, God, this is going to hurt.’ ”

The grind of the drive provokes such frustration that commuters do odd things to stay calm. One commuter waiting for a ride at a meeting point here said that one driver had become notorious among the regulars — “the puppet guy,” who apparently used hand puppets to act out arguments to manage his anger over being stuck in traffic.

Puppets. I’ve seen some crazy things on Metro buses.  I’ve seen plenty of people talking to themselves.  But never have I seen someone so angry as to use puppets as an anger management tool.

Transportation Barriers Survey

Photo by eastcolfax

An Afternoon Jolt this week mentioned a TCC/Onebusaway survey, recently briefed to the Seattle City Council, of Southeast Seattle residents. It contained this very discouraging tidbit:

Just seven percent of respondents said that if they need to go downtown they would use the light rail.

This may very well be an accurate report of how it was briefed, but I obtained a copy of the survey results (.doc), and this is the actual question:

25.       And now please finish this sentence; I would use light rail more often if…
(multiple responses; n=187)
It were closer to me/convenient  21%
It went more places I wanted to go 14%
I needed it/Had someplace to go 9%
Better parking situation 9%
I needed to go downtown 7%
Offered more routes 6%
Had more stations 6%
It were cheaper 5%
I didn’t have a car 3%
There were a bus/service to take me directly to the station 3%
I were more familiar with it 2%
I felt safer on it 1%
It were faster 0%
Other 6%

The syntax of the blurb suggests, at least to me, that only 7% of people in SE Seattle use light rail when they go downtown. That may or may not be the case, but that’s not what the question is asking.

Wordplay aside, there’s a lot of information in this December 2009 survey on what the true barriers to higher ridership are, aside from the empty pits around most stations, for both bus and rail. Details after the jump.

Continue reading “Transportation Barriers Survey”

SLU Employers Chip In for More Streetcar Trips

Photo by Mike Bjork

A number of South Lake Union employers have offered to contribute $65,000 to Seattle to fund additional peak service for one year.

Ethan Melone of SDOT says that this will fund a third streetcar operating between 4-6 pm on weekdays, reducing headways from 15 to 10 minutes. “With several thousand additional employees moving into SLU this year, the employers are concerned that the cars are already pretty full during this timeframe and they want to be able to encourage as many employees as possible to take transit,” Melone said.

According to Vulcan spokesman David Postman, the funding comes from Amazon, Fred Hutch, UW Medicine, and Group Health. “For us, it’s really great news that companies whose employees are using the streetcar are helping to pay for additional service in the neighborhood.”

Melone also explained that enacting the change requires a resolution by the City Council, which he hopes to have in place by March.

Brooklyn Station Open House Report


Photo by the Author

Sound Transit held an open house for Brooklyn Station last night. This station is the southernmost station of North Link, and one of three that is planned to open in 2021 (Roosevelt and Northgate are the others). The main purpose for this open house was to gather public feedback about two options for the station. Both options are underground center-platform underground stations in the 4300 block of Brooklyn Avenue NE, immediately east of the UW Tower (formerly Safeco Tower). These two options are the final choices of the many locations Sound Transit has evaluated throughout the University District, including some north of NE 45th. This location was selected by the Sound Transit board due to its proximity and (lack of) risks.

Option 1
Option 1 is an in-street station that would be located directly underneath the current Brooklyn Ave NE. The station would have two entrances—one on NE 45th and one on NE 43rd, and will be accessed via elevators and escalators. The station will have a mezzanine and separate elevators will take riders between the mezzanine and the surface/platform. The station box—the area excavated and later partially filled in to construct the station—is only a few feet narrower than the space available between the UW Tower and the Neptune Theater. This narrow buffer equates to a higher cost and higher risk than Option 2.

Option 2
Option 2 is similar to Option 1 but is shifted slightly east. The station would be located half under Brooklyn and half under the Chase Bank and parking lots located on the east side of Brooklyn. It would extend to the south end of NE 43rd, coming close to the University Manor Apartments, which may have historic significance. Sound Transit would acquire Chase and both parking lots, which would later be ripe for TOD. This station would also be underground, accessed by elevators and escalators, but would have only one entrance. The elevators would go directly to the platform, whereas the escalators would switchback at the mezzanine level. This option would require about half as much special shoring due to the extended buffer on all sides. During construction, NE 43rd would be closed between Brooklyn Ave and University Way (“The Ave”) but the sidewalk on the south side would remain open.

More after the jump… Continue reading “Brooklyn Station Open House Report”

News Roundup: Deeply Flawed

First U-Link Car Arrives (Sound Transit)

This is an open thread.

New Metro Schedules Feb. 5th

And a fancy new website to explain them!

As the highlights indicate, stops are being rearranged downtown and, when the Kirkland TC reopens on Feb. 26th, there too.  Route 255 will go to 15 minute headways all day from Downtown Seattle to Totem Lake. Route 309 is a new peak express between Kenmore, SLU, and First Hill. The 309 map seems to indicate no stops at all below the ship canal but I suspect that’s some sort of mistake.

Licata Dismisses Chances of Surface/Transit

Nick Licata

Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata has a thoughtful and informative suck-it-up piece directed at surface/transit/I-5 advocates. Athough I wouldn’t agree with every statement in it, it’s notable for not insulting the intelligence of its audience:

This is where the state legislators come in. None that we talked to indicated a willingness to transfer that money to a surface road project which would run through downtown and be augmented by expanding I-5 and adding more bus service. As recently as last month, in a December 2010 forum,  State Senator Ed Murray, the sponsor of the bored tunnel legislation, spoke strongly against expanding I-5-a key element of a surface option.

Further, in a February 2007 Seattle Times article, State Senator Haugen, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, was quoted as saying the state might contribute only $1 billion for a surface replacement, and that the money left over from what was allocated for an AWV replacement could be used for 520 or other unfunded projects across the state. State House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn was quoted expressing similar sentiments…

The funding needs for a surface solution bring us back to the State Legislature. Given their need to vacuum up every available cent from capital projects, the probability of the State taking away a good portion of the current allocated $2 billion for a deep bore tunnel is fairly certain if the City opts for a street surface replacement for the AWV.  We could end up with an even greater financial hit to Seattle property owners than possible cost overruns on the deep bore tunnel.

I have a few thoughts on this, below the jump:

Continue reading “Licata Dismisses Chances of Surface/Transit”

B7-Revised Open House Recap

A-2 Station, image from KPFF

Last night, Bellevue hosted an open house for its B7-Revised alignment.  There wasn’t a whole lot of new information on the plate so those absent didn’t miss much.  Other than what is already mostly known about the alignment, many of the answers to questions about design elements were more often than not something to the effect of “we haven’t decided yet” or “we’re still working on that part.”  There were three large plots of the alignment and attendees were invited to post sticky-note comments upon concerned areas.

I had an opportunity to speak briefly with pro-B2 councilmember John Chelminiak who was very concerned about B7’s slough crossing.  According to Chelminiak, WSDOT has significant concerns about pile-supported structures in the slough because of unstable peat movement in the bog.  A strong earthquake could easily fracture or take down an elevated light rail guideway along with the I-90 bridges.

Some more of the meeting below the jump.

Continue reading “B7-Revised Open House Recap”

Feb. 2011 ST Schedule Book

Sound Transit rolls out new schedules on February 5th. The schedule book is already online. There are no changes to rail service, but ST Express is changing as follows:

Route 522: New trips added; stop changes in downtown Seattle and minor schedule changes
Route 540: Service returns to Kirkland Transit Center; minor stop changes in Kirkland
Route 554, 577, 578, 590-595: Stop changes in downtown Seattle
Route 511, 513 and 532: Please note that when the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station opens in spring 2011, schedules will change for ST Express Routes 511 and 513, which will begin serving that station. You’ll also have more travel options with new trips added on routes 511 and 532. For the most up-to-date schedule information, sign up for e-mail alerts at

New connectivity is always exciting.

Pierce County Councilmember Muri Wants Council to Oppose Prop. 1

The News Tribune reports that Councilmember Muri (R-Steilacoom) wants the council to take a position in opposition of Pierce Transit’s (PT) Proposition 1 which will avert a roughly 35% reduction in service. As pointed out it is unusual for elected officials to officially oppose propositions from other government agencies.

In a move not often seen in local politics, Muri said he’s authoring a resolution that the council oppose the measure on the Feb. 8 ballot. He brought the issue up twice today, first during the County Council’s weekly Rules and Operations Committee and again during a mid-morning study session.


The Tacoma City Council, meanwhile, will consider a resolution in support of the transit tax hike during its meeting at 5 p.m. tonight.  Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland is a member of the Pierce Transit board and co-chair of the Proposition 1 campaign.

Since Muri brought the issue  up only this morning, it was too early to tell which way his colleagues were leaning – except for Farrell – and whether he can gain majority support.

Farrell is the County Council’s delegate to the Pierce Transit board and a man who knows the county’s bus system well; he’s a regular rider.

He made it clear this  morning – as he has in public meetings over the last several months – he believes the increased tax is vital. Without it, he says, bus service will be cut severely – and some people who need it will be cut off completely.

Muri said he’s “never seen so much angst” from constituents as he has regarding the Pierce Transit proposal, which would increase the sales tax it collects by 50 percent – from .06 cents to .09 cents on a dollar. That’s the difference between 6 cents on a $10 purchase and 9 cents on a $10 purchase.

Tacoma Tomorrow has some good background on the “Save Our Buses” campaign and precedence of transit measures in Pierce County.

Liias Introduces Temporary Transit Funding Bill

Rep. Marko Liias

Marko Liias, a strong transit ally in the Washington State House of Representatives, has put forward a bill that would allow counties to collect a “congestion reduction charge” of up to $30 per vehicle to help fund transit. PubliCola reports that Judy Clibborn, the powerful chair of the House Transportation Committee, is one of many co-sponsors. So is Joe Fitzgibbon, the new pro-transit representative from West Seattle.

The governor vetoed a similar provision in May, 2009, but Metro’s deep budget problems may have changed the political landscape.

If passed, Liias’ bill would enter into effect August 1 of this year. The King County Council will then have to approve the vehicle license fee to the annual vehicle license fee, and actual collections could begin no earlier than six months after that. The bill terminates itself on June 30, 2014. So, optimistically, this bill represents an additional funding source for Metro between February, 2012 and July, 2014. Is this the sort of long-term fix Metro needs? No, but it may buy some time and it’s unlikely that any revenue source decided upon in the current political climate will be able to address Metro’s future budget concerns.

The $30 fee would raise roughly $37 million per year, if one extrapolates from an early Transit Task Force report on revenue options. Metro is facing a $50 million shortfall by 2012, and it only gets worse over time.

The bill would face stiff odds in the State Senate, where some members there — backed by Senator Transportation Chair Mary Margaret Haugen — are proposing to only allow communities to increase revenue for transit as part of a larger package that would also help fill the state’s highway coffers.

B7 Revised Open House Tomorrow

The City of Bellevue is hosting an open house tomorrow for its B7-Revised route.  I can spot a chance for some role reversal here as most of the previous Bellevue light-rail-related meetings have pitted B7 supporters vs. Sound Transit.  This time, there will be an opportunity for B2/B3 supporters to ask the City the tough questions, but hopefully without the rhetoric.

The open house is from 5 to 7pm in Room IE-108 of City Hall, just across from the Bellevue Transit Center.

Republicans Propose Transit Cuts

The Future Capitol Hill Station – Partly Funded by an $813M New Starts Grant – Photo by the Author

The Republican Study Committee recently released details for $2.5 Trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years.   Drawn up in order to flesh out their campaign pledge to cut $100B by the end of this fiscal year, the proposed cuts would hit non-highway transportation spending particularly hard.  The cuts would:

  • Rescind all remaining stimulus funds:  $45 Billion
  • Eliminate all Amtrak funding:  $1.56 Billion Annually
  • Eliminate the New Starts program:  $2.5 Billion Annually
  • Rescind HSR Grants:  $2.5B Annually
  • Eliminate the Essential Air Service Program:  $150 Million Annually
  • Eliminate federal subsidies for the DC Metro: $150 Million Annually

This proposal is undoubtedly just the GOP’s opening bid.  Tomorrow’s State of the Union address will likely represent the President’s opening bid, after which the haggling begins.  I do not intend this to be a partisan post,  for neither political party has forwarded a serious proposal to manage our long-term fiscal crisis.  But Republicans are acutely aware that the symbolism of many of these proposed cuts (Amtrak, HSR etc..) far exceeds their budgetary impact, and that the sum of all transportation funding (including highways) amounts to crumbs at the budgetary table.  With luck our political parties will someday choose substance over symbolism.

Vote for Transit Feb. 8th

It will surprise no one, but STB endorses YES votes on the two transit funding measures on the ballot:

  • Pierce Transit Proposition 1: YES. Pierce Transit is fortunate to have additional authorized taxing authority under existing state law. Prop 1 would increase the sales tax rate from 0.6% to 0.9%, the maximum allowed, in order to bring revenues more or less in line with pre-recession levels. Pierce Transit has had a pretty good crisis, streamlining operations, but now it’s time to pass a measure and avoid deep service cuts. For more see the campaign website.
  • Jefferson Transit Authority Proposition 1: YES. A similar increase in the tax rate in Jefferson County will avoid a 22% cut in service hours and deferred increases in service. More information here.