Photo by lachance

This is an open thread.

64 Replies to “News Roundup: The Grown-Up Road”

  1. Sorry, Bellevue. The rest of the region, including your neighbor city to the northeast, really doesn’t feel like waiting for you to give a multimillion dollar handout to Kemper Freeman and a few wealthy donors at the expense of slough wetlands and countless residents.

    I say to Sound Transit: full speed ahead on East Link.

    1. That’s the problem with democracy, one group or one person can bring the entire process to a grinding halt. This of course costs the tax payers large sums of money for each delay on something the public VOTED on and approved.

      Why can’t the elected officials in Bellevue just respect and represent the views of the majority of its citizens? For that matter, why don’t they all?

  2. An America 2050 study was released Tuesday that has some good news about the Seattle-Portland HSR corridor:

    PDFs for the whole study and the Pacific Northwest portion only.

    There’s lots here but the bottom line is that Seattle to Portland HSR (and a full line that goes to Vancouver BC) is among the most promising corridors in the nation. California and the Northeast corridor have more promise but our route is rated second highest outside of those two regions, behind Chicago-Milwaukee and far ahead of Florida, Texas, and other connections to Chicago that often rate better.

    It has some interesting info I hadn’t seen before including that Seattle has the 5th-highest number of jobs within 2 miles of its main train station of any city in the country (440,000), which is higher than LA, Philadelphia, and DC and just short of Boston. That’s one of the highest-weighted factors and accounts for the high rating of the route overall.

    1. Wow. Look at how employment-dense we are compared to Vancouver. 1.4M jobs vs 0.6M in the 10 mile circle. In fact, they have far more people than jobs in that 10 mile circle (1.1M, versus our 1M). I always thought of Vancouver as larger than us, but they’re actually very close in population.

      1. One of Vancouver’s problems now is that there is a big reverse-commute out of downtown that their transit system has a hard time dealing with. One of the pitfalls of favoring residential over commerical development. Stephen Rees talks about it occasionally on his excellent Vancouver transit blog.

      2. Vancouver has more people within 10 miles, but less within 25. Its core is more dense, which is why it feels like a bigger city, but its periphery is more sprawling.

        The reported employment density is so high here that is almost seems like an error. We have more jobs within 25 miles of downtown than Portland and Vancouver combined. I suppose that having both major Boeing employment centers and Microsoft within 25 miles explains a big part of the larger employment picture, but that 2 mile statistic is surprising all by itself and is not explained by the region’s two biggest employers.

      3. I believe the 2 mile number. That comes from our geography – downtown is constrained in all directions by hills or water (or a big freeway), keeping our city from sprawling outward. This actually helps business because although in increases the cost of floorspace it greatly increases communication – meetings are frequent and easy between businesses when they can be accomplished with a 5 minute walk.

        A 2 mile ring covers all the way to Lake Union and Lake Washington.

      4. Our employment to population ratio is highest in the country at 2, 10, and 25 miles. We’re the only city in the country to have more jobs than people within 25 miles of our central train station. That’s just astonishing.

        We are either blessed with an abundance of jobs or a dearth of people. I’d guess a bit of both: we’ve gotten lucky with some big industries and employers, but we also pursued suburban sprawl more vigorously than just about anyone, so that we have far too many people proportionally in the exurbs driving either to closer-in exurbs, suburbs, or cities.

        From a transit point of view, this is a huge opportunity to change lives not only with HSR but with all transit modes, although it also presents some difficulties because of overall low population density.

      5. [Cascadian] Check out my chart here regarding sprawl. I haven’t compared other states’ sprawl problems, but ours is pretty bad.

      6. MtE, your chart doesn’t give much information. Seattle was one of the densest areas in the state decades ago. Other areas are catching up. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more sprawl.

  3. The ferry funding fiasco is only beginning. State Senator Haugen came out against the Gov’s plan, and she unequivocally stated that no way in hell would she vote for the proposal.

    Its only a matter of time before this same scenario plays itself out on the rail side of the equation. As bad as WSF can be at times, the level of mismanagement and continued fiasco’s on ST Link and associates like KC Metro vs. the cost to taxpayers is going come back and haunt the public for years.

    1. Can we also have regional snow removal districts because, on average, the climate and terrain* in Seattle don’t demand much in the way of snow removal needs than say, the passes.
      I mean, why should a taxpayer in Seattle have to pay for state forest management or forest fire-protection, as there are no forests all that near the city of Seattle.
      Why are so many of the bridges over the Columbia free? Shouldn’t those bridge users pay their own way?

      Why is Gregoire such a [ad hom]?

      1. *Wanted to note that it is TERRAIN that demands the use ferries (or floating bridges that have about the same lifespan of a ferry, i.e less than half of a conventional bridge) in Western Washington State as a part of the roadway system.

      2. “Why are so many of the bridges over the Columbia free? Shouldn’t those bridge users pay their own way?”

        I think tolls are being discussed for the Columbia River Crossing project.

      3. AW, That is an INTER-State project. I know of no INTRA-State bidge over a river that charges a toll.

        Tacoma Narrows is not crossing a river.

        Some private Inter-state bridges over the Columbia where it forms the border between Oregon and Washington State already charge a toll.

    2. I’m just waiting for the detailed analysis of the road projects, as if they were going to be put before the public in a referendum.

      Having the same detail for costs in each ‘sub area’, and how revenues will be collected and distributed, be they gas tax, sales tax, Real Estate Excise tax, and tolls.

      Then a realistic decision can be made.

  4. Updates on the Tukwila Sounder Backwater Outpost Station, anyone? I keep hearing that the money came through from the feds, but I’ve heard nothing about a ground-breaking or anything.

  5. Roach coaches might offer tasty fare, but they do not pay property taxes, are difficult for the government to inspect for sanitation.cleanliness, and will not be so “neat” when The Ave is full of boarded-up store fronts.

    1. The trucks mentioned in the linked article have regular hours and locations and are all staffed by UW employees. I don’t see how the Health Dept would have a harder time inspecting them than any other UW food outfit. Similarly, most of the food trucks around town stay in the same location 24/7, and those that move around have advertised regular rotations. The Health Dept can find and inspect them no problem.

      And your worries about the Ave seem a bit extreme. These trucks were brought in to serve students while the HUB is closed for renovations. While the Crosscut article says the food trucks might stay after the HUB reopens if demand remains, for now they’re not likely siphoning off any business from the Ave, rather they’re just keeping UW from losing all its customers to the Ave. Moreover, some restaurants like Kaosamai Thai run both a brick-and-mortar location (in Fremont) and a food truck (which doubles as a catering truck). Rancho Bravo started out as a taco truck (45th in Wallingford), and now also has a sit-down restaurant on Capitol Hill, in what was a shuttered KFC. If these UW-operated trucks drive an Ave restaurant out of business, there’s no reason to think another restaurant wouldn’t take its place, or even why the UW might not put a restaurant of its own into the space.

    2. One of my favorite things about Portland are the numerous “food courts” full of food trucks selling a huge variety of foods on the cheap. These courts are often in neighborhoods that seem pretty vibrant — full of people and brick and mortar restaurants.

      If it seems to work so well down there, why can’t it work up here?

  6. Nice scare tactic by KOMO to run a photo of a 150mph Acela train in their piece on the 71-miles-per-hour-slower Cascades trains that will be re-routed over Point Defiance Bypass.

    If people are concerned about burying kids that might get hit by the trains, don’t push to kill a project that will benefit hundreds of thousands of annual riders — push for a little bit more to be spent on safety education courses to be presented in schools through the corridor. Operation Lifesaver, anyone?

    And, oh by the way, yes, the proposed improvements will indeed make — and, in some cases, have already made — the affected grade crossings and adjacent intersections safer than the preconstruction conditions.

    I guess what confuses me the most is why people are kicking and screaming about 79mph Amtrak trains, but they aren’t saying anything about the 60mph Sounder trains that will begin running in about two years. Do they realize that it will actually take more time for the Sounder trains to pass through those congested “intersections” than the shorter, faster Cascades trains?

    1. To pile on a bit, how many people are going to be killed by being induced to drive to Portland instead of ride?

    2. For the crossings which are being disputed by Lakewood and Dupont, I don’t think most of them will see Sounder trains. Also, if they’re really concerned for safety and traffic flow, they should be pushing for grade separations.

      1. Lakewood only has three crossings affected by Sounder: Steilacoom Blvd., 100th St. and 108th St. Point Defiance Bypass extends southward through Bridgeport Way*, Clover Creek Dr. and North Thorne Dr. in Lakewood, Berkley St. in Tillicum, and Barksdale Ave. (Depont-Steilacoom Rd.) in Dupont.

        The big questions regarding potential grade separations are:
        1) Who pays for them?
        2) How long do associated construction delays push back start-up of Cascades service?
        3) How the heck do you cost-effectively grade-sep the three crossings that are directly adjacent to I-5 interchanges, not to mention the two that abut Pacific Highway?

        Really, these cities had the opportunity to bring up their concerns years ago, they dropped the ball then and are whining about it now that the reality of what’s coming down the line is clearly evident. The only reason WSDOT is going an EIS now, instead of actually turning dirt (or mud, this time of the year), is because they accepted federal funds for construction of the project and, instead of being able to take advantage of an STB decision that the project was merely reconstruction of an existing line and didn’t require an EIS, had to go through the federal approval process which requires a full study be performed.

        (* – This crossing was slated for upgrading in the original ST plans because the original operating plan included laying over trains south of the station, but that changed after WSDOT funded PDB design and the two agencies coordinated operating plans. However, since Bridgeport was part of the original ST construction limits, rebuilding the crossing and adding the second track occurred under ST’s M Street to Lakewood contract.)

    3. Not that the Acelas ever get up to 150 anyway. The tracks they use are both too congested (covering the service areas of 5 regional commuter systems I can think of: MARC, SEPTA, NJ Transit, Metro-North, MBTA Rail) and not straight enough to build and maintain high-speeds.

      1. There are two segments in MA and RI where the trains can, and regularly do, run at 150mph. Otherwise, it’s primarily geometric or infrastructure constraints, not conflicting traffic, which prohibit the sets from operating at their maximum capabilities.

      2. If I remember correctly, the lack of constant-tension catenary imposes a blanket speed restriction of, I think, 125 mph south of New York; there are several sections where Acela hits that and could run faster if that long-overdue project was ever completed.

  7. The big red crane has arrived at Cap Hill Station and is being assembled as I type. Check out the webcam to watch the progress.

    Can’t wait for real transit to Cap Hill. I rarely go there now, but will go there a lot more when it becomes easier.

  8. If we continue to expand the use of streetcars in Seattle … I think we need to invest in one of these:

  9. From the linked article … “Sound Transit is nearly finished with the new Kirkland Transit Center” My question is why would Sound Transit be the primary agency involved in in funding the remodeling this transit center when I think it only has one route that services it?

    1. Because it was in ST2? I don’t know if it was but that’s my most likely guess. ST is gradually taking over more and more of the “regional” transit even if many legacy routes remain. The silly idea of having both ST routes and Metro routes going the same distance (550 vs 255) and sometimes to the same place (Eastgate) is probably temporary.

      1. A few words from a regular Route 255 user:

        550 ≠ 255

        As much as I’d love for Sound Transit to take over the 255 (love their nice buses), they are not comparable at all. Route 255 is 66% longer than Route 550 while having 3.5 times the number of stops. 255 also serves as a local trunk route for the Kirkland/Totem Lake area while 550 is a regional express. It is interesting that the average scheduled speed for both routes are the same.

      2. I’ll admit I forget about the part of the 255 north of downtown Kirkland. But I would split that to a separate route. The 255 is a legacy of local routes that went from Seattle to a suburban downtown and then to a suburban residential area or second city. Almost all Eastside routes used to be like that. The 550 and 230 were built out of the 226 and 235 that went Redmond-Northup-Crossroads-Bellevue-MI-Seattle and Totem Lake-Kirkland-Bellevue-Beaux Arts-MI-Seattle. The 255 should likewise be split into a Seattle-Kirkland express and a Kirkland-Kingsgate local.

      3. I’m not convinced how splitting the 255 like that would make service better, under existing and proposed service levels. There must be an underlying reason to splitting routes, not forcing a transfer just because.

      4. The express route could go on 405 and skip the 108th segment. Or if it must serve the P&R, it could make one or two stops on 108th rather than all of them. Although 108th will always be a limitation due to its speed limit.

        It doesn’t make sense to give one street of single-family houses direct service to Seattle and force the entire rest of Kirkland to go through that area. There should be an express bus to the Kirkland city center, like the 550 to Bellevue (which runs on a 35-40 mph road, not 30, and has limited stops), with local buses from there to the single-family neighborhoods.

      5. Oh no, I-405 is terrible during rush hour, especially during the PM peak. The EB 520 to NB 405 ramp backs up all the way from 70th St exit to 520. Buses often have to detour to Bellevue NE 8th to get around it. There are no direct HOV connections from 405 to 520 or at NE 85th St. Buses already get stuck in traffic.

        Google Maps suggests 520 to Lk Wash Blvd as the fastest way to get to DT Kirkland from Seattle (19m/35m in traffic). 22/40 for 108th/State St. Add 2-5 minutes for stops. 20/45 for 520/405/Central Way. Taking 405 would decrease reliability for a minimal time savings, not including added transfer time. Now if you ran express to Totem Lake, that’d be different.

        The 550 doesn’t take I-405 from I-90 to get to Bellevue, it goes on Bellevue Way and passes by a park & ride, high school, multi-unit and single family homes, and a few businesses, just like in Houghton. Those properties are served because they are on the way. Why make them backtrack up north to go southeast?

    2. Because Downtown Kirkland is an important regional transit hub? Lot’s of people transfer there today. In the future there will be BRT service serving the TC. Sound Transit funded half of Bellevue Transit Center, even though most of the service there is Metro’s.

  10. Since this is an open thread I thought I’d take a minute to comment on todays operations, rail-wise.

    All northbound trains were annulled late in the afternoon, or ST didn’t notify riders until later if the slide happened in the AM.

    Was somewhat chaotic at King, but in all the staff was seriously trying their best to group everyone together for the proper bus to either Everett, Edmonds, or Mukilteo.

    One problem was that they pulled a very small Starline coach out for the Mukilteo gang, and it was packed to the gills. So much that I had to take the CT 417 instead. The level of ridership from/to Mukilteo is growing.

    Another point was their signage. The small real estate style of street level info. worked okay, if they actually had signs on poles at 4th & Jackson that would’ve helped more. People are easily confused, and understandably the four or five staff member there were overworked.

    In all, ST can(and should) do a better job at handling these slide occurrences, but this latest round is an improvement over their other botched attempts.

    Now if we only could get a couple of the top ST brass to forgo their bonus for the year and we’d have the money for a forty-foot container to be placed in Mukilteo for paying customers who deserve shelter from the elements.

    1. Anthony,

      What a joy to hear from a sane someone who lives in Mukilteo. Between Timmy and a couple of lunatics that dominate the Seattle Times website, it appears to us non-Mukiltonians that you live in a wall-less lunatic asylum.

      You have saved the city’s reputation, singlehandedly.

    2. The slide occured at about 3:30 PM just south (rr west) of Everett. It was a challenge to get ahold of the buses that quickly. The Westbound Empire Builder, which was running late, was held up for over an hour while the slide area was inspected, and was ‘walked by’ with passengers on board.

    3. Actually, it occurred more like around noon, judging from the time stated for lifting the 48 hr moratorium, and it was getting cleared up at 3:30 PM.

      1. New mudslide @ 3:00 AM Thursday, extended the moratorium.

        Passenger trains to be running again on Sunday…
        barring any more mudslides, of course.

  11. We have a pedestrian map, a bicycle map, a transit map and now a stairs map. Love it! This is great, I’m going to have to use this and investigate some of them. A few are right close to my house in Mount Baker.

    1. The stair map would be more complete in downtown if it included the tunnels, skybridges and elevators/escalators that take one from one street’s entrance up or down to another.

  12. So I completed my (nearly) all mass transit trip from Kent to New York City just a few hours ago.

    It started when I took the 168 from East Hill to Kent Station. Then, the 180 to the Airport LINK station. I walked up the platform and took the skybridge to the airport.

    When I arrived in Newark I still had to get to Queens. That meant the very cool “SkyTrain” at Newark Airport that travels to all the terminals and then connects to the NJ Transit terminal. Although a mere shuttle train, it had “compartments with 4 seats on one side and then some standing room, like a European train.

    From there I took an old school NJ Transit train (it was 12:05 am then) that traveled at maximum what seemed like 40 mph and then crawled into Penn Station at 5mph (while on the station I did get to see some really impressive Amtrak Metroliners whizzing buy at 110mph…and there was a beautiful double decker Sounder type train only the windows were as large as the whole seating area. The NY Transit train had big heavy brown upholstered seats. Ugh!

    Next, the LIRR to Jamaica Station, leaving at 12:39am (although this was all post midnight, there were plenty of travelers on all legs of the journey). A nice clean modern LIRR train, with 3+2 seating, and each seat had padding and high back. Very brightly lit with luggage racks. There was even a guy who walk on with long hair, a hooded parka and a skateboard on his back (Holy moly, did I ever leave Seattle?).

    The last leg of the journey from Jamaica Station to S. Ozone Park, I cheated and called my brother to pick me up.

    1. Nice! I love doing things like that. I don’t like the Newark Skytrain though, those compartments are tiny and get really crammed and you can’t see where there’s room in the train from most of the platform.

      1. The EWR Skytrain was/is a VonRoll Monorail that was originally just an inter-terminal shuttle which got first extended to a common rental car facility and then extended to the newly built station on the NEC.

        It is not really the right candidate for the job, but EWR is stuck with it. Bombardier inherited the patents and so parts are still available for the trains.

        Old timers will recall the Von Roll monorail at Expo 86 in Vancouver.

        http://www.monorails.org/tmspages/tpvon.html

    2. But do airplanes count as mass transit or not? Hmmm.

      The last leg of the journey from Jamaica Station to S. Ozone Park, I cheated and called my brother to pick me up.

      South Ozone Park seems to be a bit of a dead spot for New York City Transit, but there are bus routes on Rockaway Blvd and a few others….

  13. Monorails: Is it accurate to say that if you’re willing to spend the money to elevate a rail line, you get a simpler and more efficient design if you add the second rail?

    Mark Dublin

    1. If I understand your question, then it’s kind of mixed. Elevated light rail guideways are wayyy wider than monorail tracks and therefore are worse for the street underneath them, in my experience. However, monorails can be more expensive. Seems like in general if you’re building an all-elevated system, monorail is a great way to go, but otherwise not so much.

      1. Well, the thing is that modern safety standards generally require escape walkways on the side of the monorail, so if you build ’em today in the US or most European countries, the monorail elevateds are pretty much as wide as the two-rail elevateds. Not true for old, grandfathered pre-safety-regulation monorails.

  14. I have a question about rapid ride line b, will it be another crappy eastside bus line that doesn’t go anywhere after 11:30 or will it be more similar to line a? I work in Redmond I get off at 11:30 at night. This means I also have to live inredmond because of the poor bus service. I can’t stand Redmond the dining options are fast food, teriyaki and over priced Thai food. Everything closes at 9 with the exception of a couple of bars that I hate. The walkability is deplorable too. If line b has good service hours I will move to crossroads without hesitating.

    1. You have better Indian food than pretty much all of Seattle proper.

      My guess is you’ll see later service, but with abominable frequency.

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