What the Planners say What the Planners mean What the Developer hears / understands
“I like it.” I like it. They like it.
“Well done!” Well done! We’re done!
“I wish more projects had this feel.” “I wish more projects had this feel.” They like it so much maybe they’ll give us more.
“Lets review this” I don’t like it. It’s taken their breath away!
“Does this meet the regulations?” Can we kill it through technicalities? We’re OK, it meets the regulations…I think
“Well…?” We don’t like it, do we? They have some minor questions.

The rest here, via.

51 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: What Developers Hear”

  1. Planners & BRT

    I’m in NYC where the MTA has been promoting their brand new BRT service, called Select Bus Service. It features branded buses, off-vehicle fare payment, and is supposed to have dedicated lanes on First & Second Avenues. The lanes were painted red, and are supposed to be bus-only. They are next to a lane of parked cars. I’m not sure when it was launched, but I think it’s only about a year ago.

    When I visited First Ave, the red paint was faded, and the bus lane is routinely used by delivery vehicles, people dropping off and picking up, and just waiting. In the photo, the black mini-van and white van are stopped in the bus lane and were stopped at least 5 mins, and the BRT buses had to deviate. The far bus in the photo is pulling out of a stop and having to go around stopped vehicles. While the street isn’t congested, it shows that so often the reality of BRT in USA isn’t much more than a slightly improved bus.

    Here’s the photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/cstork/5441856430/ which I am also going to try to embed – I don’t know if this is supported on STB


      1. Not really. New York has plenty of rail transit. And if this were a streetcar, it would only be worse. At least these buses can deviate.

        Bus lanes only work if the police bother to enforce the law, which in this case they obviously aren’t. If the lanes were separated by a small ‘median’ it would help. Many other cities manage to keep their bus-only lanes ‘bus only’ just fine. And it works great.

      2. At least buses can go around parked delivery trucks. I’ve witnessed dozens of times the SLUT impotently blocked by delivery trucks, pathetically sounding its little bell, I guess in an attempt to alert the truck’s driver, who is somewhere up in a nearby building.

      3. It is because, as an example the Portland Streetcar or SLUT, cannot deviate that the laws about parking and standing are enforced vigorously in those cities along their respective routes.

        Please show me a US City that has maintained and enforced its bus-only lanes without physical separation.

      4. Seriously, Seattle Streetcar needs to get keep a parking enforcement agent and tow truck on fast-response standby.

        Maybe we can get a special, $300 parking ticket for blocking the streetcar tracks?

      5. In New York, not only don’t the police enforce the bus lanes, they routinely stop their own vehicles in the bus lanes. Check out 34th St and 42nd St and you’ll see multiple police vehicles parked in the bus lanes.

        To really have a dedicated lane, you either need really strong enforcement or physical barriers – the more you have physical barriers, the more the infrastructure starts to cost money and the less cost savings vs. rail. The BRT slogan “just like light rail but cheaper” is a lie. As in many things in life, you get what you pay for. You can pay for dedicated lanes or you can do it on the cheap, but when you do it on the cheap, it is not just like light rail.

        I’m all for bus improvements, and in many areas in Seattle buses are the right technology and all we’ll have in my lifetime. But generally the argument that BRT is an alternative to light rail has a false premise, and the real argument is for a lower level of infrastructure investment which will yield a lower capacity and lower quality service.

        In NY, a BRT system on First & Second Avenues makes some sense (though they should do a better job of enforcing it) since the Lexington Ave subway is above capacity and 3 long blocks away – but they are also (finally) building the Second Avenue subway.

      6. The SLUT is a poor example of how streetcars can function, or rather, an example of how streetcars can be poorly planned. It was railroaded through with little listening to transit advocates. Besides the tracks that are life-threatening to bikes crossing them, the design of having the streetcar in the outer lane was a recipe for gridlock. But the council wasn’t interested in getting it right. They were just interested in showing a certain billionaire how fast they would jump when he asked them to jump… hence the appropo name “SLUT”.

      7. The poor condition is primarily on the Bx12. The M15 is given more priority and taken better care of. MTA is actually trying with the latter.

  2. Any comments whether this would work with a LINK train? Or am I better off trying it with a Sounder?

    1. I thought they were actually calling that a “Roadable plane” rather than a flying car.

      The idea is to save money on airport hangar rentals in your home city, and taxicab/rental car bills in your destination city. I know a couple of people who own small personal planes. Their big complaint about using them to travel is the inconvenience of being at some little municipal airfield away from home with no ground transportation.

      The other big bonus is that you can drive it off the airport and fill up at a gas station with $3/gallon 87 octane, rather than being stuck paying $5/gallon for 100 octane at the airport pumps.

    1. Well, you can get a good number of those bottled teas and coffee drinks (at the left) or the Calpico (up top) at Uwajimaya.

      And I suppose you can use your ORCA to get there!

    2. When I was in Japan, I got a chance to use this in person (Here’s my card from that trip). It’s really nice and it also works in the shops that are within or directly connected to the transit stations. For example, you can buy donuts in Shinjuku just by tapping the card.

      I have to wonder about the economics behind this and whether or not it could work in Seattle as a competitor with VISA and Mastercard. For the rider, it could be very convenient. For the stores, the fees could be set lower than the standard credit processing fees as an incentive to take it up. For the city, it could be a new stream of revenue and gives them a bigger pool of held money (presuming more people were willing to put more money on the card). Credit card processors would lose, but it seems like everyone else could come out ahead.

      Thoughts on this? Good? Bad?

      1. That seems like a great idea to me. I was just thinking the other day that outfits like the United Way or the Red Cross could benefit if they had an orca reader set up where you’d just tap your card to donate. Maybe if they had a machine with their logo on it on the platforms in the tunnel, that’d take a dollar or so out of your account if you tapped your card.

        What would the drawbacks be? I imagine you’d need to hire some more customer service people for one. People would tend to be carrying a higher balance on their cards too you’d imagine, so losing a card would be a bigger deal than it is now. All in all though it seems like it’d be worth giving a program like that a try.

      2. Maybe they can do that with the readers on the platforms when the buses are no longer in the tunnel. It would save having to remove the card readers. But how do you set a donation amount?

      3. Well I was figuring they’d just set it to pull $1 out of your account with each tap, some fixed amount anyway.

      4. Um… most people use a credit card to fill their ORCA.

        So you’re suggestion puts the transit-agency consortium that pays for ORCA in the position of swallowing the credit card fees on behalf of the non-profits and other vendors.

      5. d.p.: Um… most people use a credit card to fill their ORCA.

        Actually, I hadn’t thought of that. Pretty obvious when you put it like that, but I’m not willing to give up the idea quite yet.

        I wonder if they have the systems set up to do bank to bank transfers? One option would be to structure it so that loading via ACH (like direct deposit) and fund transfers were given a preference over credit cards. It could be either a “bonus” for using the non-card options, or a straight fee to help recoup the cost of credit card processing. That would give people the option of the convenience of a credit card or a fee free option that takes a little more to set up. The real problem then becomes that the fee might be regressive, in that people who don’t have direct deposit or internet access would be more likely to get hit by it.

      6. It’s not a bad idea to get government revenue collections (ORCA, City Light, the DMV) out of the business of subsidizing the credit industry. In my ideal world, those companies would simply be required to provide their services free to public agencies — god knows they can afford to. I’m just not sure the offices of ORCA are where that revolution’s going to start.

  3. Slightly off-topic, but did anyone see this story on KCPQ?

    The reason I ask is because we have had one of Mr. Minetti’s “heifers” parked across the street from where I work since last summer. We report it abandoned several times a month, it gets chalked and stickered, Minetti moves it just far enough to rub the chalk off the tires and then we start the process again. Very frustrating.

      1. Pay as you leave, I guess.

        Apparently Mr. Minetti’s drivers license is also suspended due to unpaid citations, which means: how could he legally move the cars if he wanted to?

  4. On original suggested topic- respective outlooks of developers and planners:

    Look at the feature article on page E-1, real estate section, today’s Seattle Times. Nobody who would willingly be responsible for that development should be allowed in either profession.

    Mark Dublin

  5. Two programmers are having lunch.

    The first programmer says “My app is web enabled, has Facebook links, can use GPS location services, uses artificial intelligence and is portable across Android, iOS and Windows mobile.”

    The second programmer says “Yeah, but mine works.”

  6. Does anyone have any info on the proposed route revisions on the 65? Some rider alert signs showed up last week on stops between 55th street and u village. I haven’t been able to read them from the bus and so far haven’t found a driver that knows anything about them. From what I can tell, it says something about changing the route to go near Children’s Hospital? Nothing online either that I can find.

    1. I can’t find anything about it online.

      The idea of moving the 65 over to 40th is intriguing, as it would enable the line to better serve Children’s Hospital, as well as the PCC. The idea of running the 65 through Children’s, however, would be much less intriguing. As a survivor of the 60’s loop through the VA parking lot, I have to fervently warn against such a specialty loop at Children’s.

      If you look at the map, having the 65 run up 40th would give better line spacing in Ravenna, with the 65 closer to midway between the 72 and the 75, thereby increasing the walkshed of the three combined routes.

      Still, it means longer travel time on the line. I don’t know if the majority of commenters will find it to be a worthwhile tradeoff. But if opinion is being solicited on 35th Ave NE, and not along 40th, expect the comments to be heavily No.

      If the 65 ends up serving Children’s, imagine it being coupled with an all-day 46, creating an axis among Children’s, UW Medical Center (which would require an additional re-routing), and Ballard Swedish.

      My analysis of the 65 route would not be complete without a completely predictable plea for the 65 to serve UW Station, for the sake of the riders on that route trying to get to and from downtown and Capitol Hill.

      1. Well, 40th north of 55th has only one business that I can think of, the PCC. Makes a lot more sense for it to take 35th at least from 55th north, as there are businesses all along there. However, I do like the idea of it serving Children’s.
        Why make the 46 all-day to serve Swedish Ballard? 44 goes there too.

      2. The fact that there is no way to get from DT Fremont to DT Ballard directly is reason alone to run the 46 more.

      3. Seems better to reroute the 17 through Fremont from Nickerson. Nickerson has more direct downtown service through the 13, and (admittedly crappy) service to Interbay (with frequent connections to Ballard) and Fremont from the 31. This revised 17 would be almost the same alignment as the proposed SLU-Fremont-Ballard streetcar, and I suspect it would get better ridership on that new route.

        I’ll admit I have it in for the 46, for a variety of reasons: terrible performance stats, fits neither a hub-and-spoke nor grid model, duplicates too many other more frequent routes for much of its length, and much of its unique length is probably quite unproductive (the long tail up to Golden Gardens).

        But then my experience with Fremont is limited to getting drunk there, so maybe I have this all wrong.

      4. Re: changing any straight-ish routes into crooked ones:

        No, no, no, no, and no. It’s 5 blocks; there are no major geographical obstructions. Put a frequent east-west route in on 45th (one that doesn’t detour through the campus or on 15th, or just f-ing walk the 5 blocks).

        Yeesh, Metro makes it hard not to pull out the recently-verboten accusation of “stupid.”

        And Bruce, I’m not sure of the answer to that particular conundrum. But I do know, having once lived near the junction of the 13 and the 17, that the 13 is not a “direct route” to anywhere!

      5. Also, the 46 would definitely fit the grid model if it:
        – ran regularly at all times of day
        – ran the entire Leary route (rather than duplicating the 44/28 and requiring the driver to stop at all stops to explain to waiting passengers that he is neither the 44 or the 28)
        – ran at all times through the major transfer destination/transfer point that is downtown Fremont (rather than having an essentially unrelated and less useful rush-hour through route)
        – ran along the 35th/Pacific corridor (so as not to duplicate the 30/31 on 40th, and so as to allow the 26 to be deleted/consolidated with the 16)

      6. What’s so bad about the 13? It doesn’t seem any worse than all the other Queen Anne busses. Which I admit means they’re slow through Belltown. Are there lots of bus riders on Nickerson?

        I could certainly be persuaded of the utility of the 46 if it stuck to Leary.

      7. I think for the 46 to have true utility, it would need to be the unbroken east-west corridor I described: a true complement to the 44.

        The 13’s problems are cumulative:
        – Having to both climb and descend Queen Anne Hill in both directions
        Many all-way-stop intersections (3rd & McGraw, McGraw & Queen Anne, Queen Anne & Boston, Queen Anne & Galer), each of which gets overloaded at rush hour and on weekends
        – Plus the Roy and the Broad zig-zags

        The 13 was about 5 blocks closer to me than the 17, and it ran more frequently a few times of day, but it was a snail every time I ever used and I often regretted the choice. Nothing that slow can be called “direct” with a straight face. :-)

        (p.s. The weird Christian college with the archconservative administration and the generally leftist student body provides the 17 the bulk of its demand on Nickerson. But that does lend it a healthy number of riders.)

      8. Is DP actually favoring an express bypass (Westlake) over a route with more stops in residential blocks (and thus more ridership) because the latter is too “slow”?

        This is what I’ve been saying all along. Local service is important, but limited-stop service (like Link or Swift) is also important. Fremont is a large enough center and transfer point to justify limited-stop service to downtown and UW (and Ballard/Wallingford/Aurora), using bypass roads where available (Westlake). Some riders won’t use it because their stop is in between, but other riders will be grateful to avoid all the intermediate stops, and that includes the significant number of people going from one neighborhood center to another either as a destination or to transfer.

      9. Indeed… I think Fremont is pretty much perfect for a limited-stop streetcar via Westlake, and there’s just about enough ROW there on Westlake to be able to do it — if the political will exists.

      10. Mike, the 13 will always be a problem because a topography. It’s biggest problem is Seattle’s overcrowded system of “arterials” and lots of stop signs (buses don’t exactly stop and start quickness).

        The 13’s stop spacing isn’t so much of a problem. Stops are 800-900 feet apart for much of the route. The 17’s Nickerson segment (~600 feet) could frankly use a stop diet.

        But all I complain about on here is how slow and poor Metro’s service is. How are you possibly shocked that I want it to be faster?

        Still, it’s absurd of you to keep pulling out this ultra-local/ultra-express dichotomy to excuse multi-mile stop spacing on Link. Nothing is slower than walking 2 miles or waiting 15 minutes for the ultra-local because the express proved utterly useless to you.

        Imagine the most ideal, albeit expensive, routing for a future Ballard rail service: it would tunnel beneath Queen Anne Hill and include a single stop on its crest. This stop would serve much of the 13/2 walkshed, which could reach it in ~15 minutes without traversing any excessive grades.

        It’s just a single station, but it’s pretty ideal, right?

        Well, guess what? The above suggested alignment would still have closer stop spacing than Rainier Valley Link or U-Link!!

      11. In New York people take the express subway to the nearest stop and walk across the platform to a local which often has its doors already open. Those people could take the local all the way but they don’t. Just like people get on the 71/72/73 express instead of the 43/49/70. It’s not just rich suburbanites going to another suburb on the opposite side of the city. Forget about stop spacing. I’m talking about stopping at neighborhood centers and significant transfer points, however close or far they are. Queen Anne & Boston is a neighborhood center, therefore it should have a stop.

        A bus that stops like 45th Link would, does not have to detract from local service. The community just needs to decide we need both and fund both. Make the local service 10 minutes or 5 minutes rather than 15, with whatever stop spacing you prefer. The 44 is not 15 minutes because there’s insufficient ridership for 10 minutes; it’s 15 minutes because that’s all Metro will budget for it. Add frequency and you’ll increase ridership, especially on these ridiculous 30-minute routes.

        The core Link line (SeaTac to Northgate) is special because it plays both a regional role and a neighborhood role. It’s not local like RapidRide but it’s not commuter like Sounder either — it’s in between. Which is good enough to get from Columbia City to UW, as many people will. Everyone who goes through that part of the line is impacted the more stops you add, even if they never use those stops. Outside that segment, or on a 45th line or a Ballard-West Seattle line, it’s not as critical and we can have more stops. Because people aren’t going through that area, they’re just going to that area.

        I think in terms of where I can go in 30 or 60 minutes from any location. If it takes 30 minutes to get from Beacon Hill to Ballard including a train-to-train transfer, that’s reasonable. If it takes 30 minutes to get from downtown to Ballard (like on the 15/18 local) and there’s no express option, that’s a problem.

  7. “Mike, the 13 will always be a problem because of topography. Its biggest problem is Seattle’s overcrowded system of ‘arterials’ and lots of stop signs (buses don’t exactly stop and start quickly).”

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