Bike To Work Day
Bike to Work day! Photo by flickr user Earthworm

64 Replies to “News Round-Up: Bike to Work Day”

  1. “That’s absolutely incredible,” Ferrell said. “You left us with the impression that times are tough all over. Apparently, they’re only tough for South King County.”

    Has no-one explained subarea equity to these guys, or is this rage and spluttering just an act to appease their constituents?

    1. Their frustration is understandable. At least they want light rail *cough*

      1. Yeah. It is pretty unfortunate. Contrast this to the Eastside, where Bellevue is getting 90% of the light rail for the entire subarea, even though it’s less than 20% of the population of the region. Not just that, they’re turning the whole thing into a giant cock up.

      2. Bellevue is the geographic center of the Eastside, the largest population center, and the most developed city. That’s why it’s getting light rail before Kirkland and Issaquah.

      3. Bellevue is the geographic center of the Eastside, the largest population center, and the most developed city. That’s why it’s getting light rail before Kirkland and Issaquah.

        All well and good, but that has nothing to do with what I was saying. Bellevue’s being given a very handsome, very expensive gift by its neighbors who are footing 80% of the bill. Instead of acting grateful and happy about this fact, they are acting like petulant children.

      4. Bellevue hasn’t been given any “gifts.” We need to stop with this fiefdom crap.

        We’re building a regional transit system. Sub-area equity was part political contrivance, part responsible planning. Everyone in the region benefits from East Link, just like everyone benefits from I-5, even if they don’t take it.

      5. gift was hyperbole. the fact is the city of bellevue is paying a fraction of the cost of their light rail and demanding an ever more expensive system (tunnel, b7 etc etc)

      6. <blockquote Bellevue is getting 90% of the light rail for the entire subarea, even though it’s less than 20% of the population of the region.
        OK, the entire population of Bellevue is roughly 20% of the east subarea (given the median income a larger portion of the tax revenue). But a very small percentage will use East Link. MI has 5,500 boardings or 25% of it’s population (yeah, I know a good number of these are transfers from off the rock). Bellevue gets about 15,000 or 12% of it’s population (many of it’s segment boardings are going to be from outside the City… SB P&R, 130th P&R and the big one, BTC transfers). Redmond gets maybe another 5,000 or about 10% of it’s population (actual ridership is more like 15% of Microsoft’s corporate campus). True, on a miles of track metric Bellevue neighborhoods and traffic impacts on our downtown bear the bulk (90%?) of the burden, pay more than 20% of the cost but benefit the least. Any wonder that arguably the most successful city in Washington is a bit PO’d about outside interests telling us what we must do?

        Why should the mayor of Sumner have exactly the same voting status as the entire City Council of Bellevue? Subarea equity needs to be corrected for votes on the ST board. Currently only the “big dog” in each county gets special privileges. The current system gives extensive favoritism to Seattle even though combined the East subarea is close (600 thousand vs 500 thousand) in population and the eastside is growing faster than Seattle.

        You may notice that the numbers don’t add up to the claimed ridership for East Link of 45,000 to 50,000 daily. That’s because this is just boardings. The other half of the ridership is people boarding in Seattle to come to the east side!

      7. It’s pedant city over here! Don’t dare make a broader point because everyone’s going to get into the weeds (and grubs, and roots, and mineral composition) faster than you can say “East Link”!

        Subarea equity needs to be corrected for votes on the ST board. Currently only the “big dog” in each county gets special privileges.

        That’s a great point, and it’s actually written into the law, oddly.

        The current system gives extensive favoritism to Seattle even though combined the East subarea is close (600 thousand vs 500 thousand) in population and the eastside is growing faster than Seattle.


        Any wonder that arguably the most successful city in Washington is a bit PO’d about outside interests telling us what we must do?

        Seriously? Ton down the dosages, they make you seem crazy.

    2. From the comments *shudder* it appears that people are incapable of reading the very explanation of subarea equity in the article itself.

  2. People really don’t understand subarea equity. They have a narrative in which all their tax money goes to Seattle and when presented with facts to the contrary they just keep on complaining. Federal Way, the reason you don’t have money for LRT is that you haven’t paid for it yet. But for the money you have paid, you’ve got express bus service. I suppose a lot of South King money has gone to commuter rail, and FWay doesn’t see benefit from that. But if that’s the problem they should take it up with Kent and not Seattle.

  3. The low-wake ferry story is interesting. I find it amazingly strange that we shovel thousands of cars on ferries through downtown Seattle. I’m sure it’s because our ferries are part of the highway system, but it has to make more sense to just bring people into the city and move car ferries to less dense areas. Foot ferries could be faster, cheaper, use less fuel, and require less staff.

    1. I think it’s a great idea, and Kitsap voters are idiots for shooting the idea down, although I wonder why their leadership continue to spend capital money on something which voters have repeatedly refused to provide operations money.

      1. A cultural fault that mirrors the national practice of building, but not maintaining, infrastructure? Then there’s simple inertia from having dug oneself into a car-infested hole.

      2. Kitsap Transit already does a good job with the two foot ferry runs that they got, and they are in the middle of lengthening the Admiral Pete, which usually relieves the Carlisle II after the rush-hour runs are over(the Carlisle II is 90+ years old) to carry more passengers. It’s only a 12 minute hop from Bremerton to Port Orchard. Will be interesting to see how the wake trials for the Rich Passage I go, because I would like to see a fleet of them built, but would have to start small. I like the idea of having it handle the midday and other low-use runs of the Auto/Passenger ferry on the Seattle-Bremerton Route. I wonder if the 2007 vote failed partly due to Kitsap Transit reducing the size of it’s taxing district after an earlier POF vote failed?

        The Rich Passage I probably would not work out on the West Seattle Water Taxi and Vashon-Seattle Foot Ferry, too fast for the first route, and too small for the second, and too big for current demand on SoundRunner(Kingston-Seattle), when it runs.

      1. Not necessarily, plenty of people already walk, bike, or take the bus to the Bainbridge terminal. There is a reason it beats every other run for walk-on passengers. To the point that it can be hard to get a seat during peak hours.

    2. Yes all true, but short-sighted I think. Without a whole transportation system in place to get people to their destinations a car is a necessity. I feel fortunate that I can commute to Ballard w/o using my car, but I really am lucky since I live close to a park and ride and only a six mile bike ride to Ballard from downtown.

      1. A car certainly isn’t a necessity in downtown Seattle. Or pretty much anywhere in Seattle, or much of the region for that matter, starting from downtown Seattle. Our hub-and-spoke system was designed to get most everyone into downtown via transit, but it works equally well the other direction.

        For any of the strange situations that doesn’t work for… well, people can still take the car ferry to somewhere outside of Seattle and drive in.

      2. I think the idea is that they could have car ferries dump vehicles in a less dense area north or south of Downtown, then just have passenger ferries go to Colman Dock. That way you wouldn’t have the cars making huge amounts of traffic on streets in the middle of Downtown, but people would still be able to get there by car or by transit.

      3. The islands have very little transit, and it gets worse the further north you go. It works if you go into Seattle on a weekday morning and come back in the afternoon, and live near a highway or P&R. Part of Bremerton is walkable, and Bainbridge has a small commercial area next to the ferry terminal. But other than that you pretty much need a car (or bike) to get around the islands.

  4. From the story about increased SLU streetcar service

    “On average, the streetcar serves more riders per revenue hour than Metro’s entire motor bus fleet.”

    Is thus true? Does that make any sense to anyone? Or is this an unsound metric?

    1. It’s bad phrasing. They mean it performs better than the average of all bus service in King County. That’s the only possible meaning that makes sense.

      1. Yeah… since revenue hours are in the denominator, there’s no difference between the average for all bus service and the number for the “entire” fleet, just the word “entire” suggests a sum total that should rise generally as routes are added. Given that the streetcar runs exclusively through a rather dense area, it would be shocking if it didn’t serve more riders per revenue hour than county-wide bus service. A more apt comparison might involve other transit vehicles within greater downtown Seattle.

    2. Yeah, on a boardings per revenue hour the streetcar comes in a little over 60 compared to a fleet average of 22. Before you get too excited that’s about 15 riders per trip and doesn’t even meet the strong performance threshold for off peak in the west subarea; in fact it’s quite average. If you assume every rider goes a mile (almost the full length of the line) on a miles per revenue hour metric it’s well below the minimum performance threshold yet it costs twice as much to operate as a bus.

      1. “miles per revenue hour metric it’s well below the minimum performance threshold”

        As are many of the urban trolley routes. Just as suburban commuter buses perform terribly on riders/hr, urban busses get terrible rider miles/hr. The more interesting quote in that piece is that the SLUT beats the 70, probably the closest comparison that can be made.

      2. The 70 is at 42.8 boardings/hr off peak and 44.9 peak (2009, latest perf. report Metro has posted) which is remarkably consistent over the course of a day. It’s passenger miles per revenue hour are 94 peak (102 min. performance threshold) and 104 off peak. The winner for peak boardings is the 4 N at 100.7/hr (163 mi/hr, fast bus ;-) and the 3 S off peak, 124.3 boardings and 153 passenger miles. On the fare revenue / operational expense metric it would rate somewhere around 15% putting it well below the minimum performance threshold in that category too. Overall the SLUT is a very expensive lack luster performer.

      3. No shit, the SLUT hardly goes anywhere and most of its rides ride free, in addition to the general lackluster miles/hr of urban busses. If it were extended along the route of the 70 or connected to a 1st Ave line, it would do very well.

        The point is that on the only metric that can be usefully compared to much else, rides/hr, it does well against its peers.

      4. What Bruce said.

        And along those lines…anyone seen an update/schedule on the Fairview Ave. bridge project lately? Don’t recall seeing anything since December-ish. Even getting this line into Eastlake would be a wonderful improvement (although it wouldn’t let you eradicate bus service). At the moment half the walkshed is in Lake Union and the other half is obliterated by I-5 and the Capitol Hill cliff.

      5. I was assuming the same fare to rider ratio as any other bus but you’re right in that the biggest problem with it is that it doesn’t go anywhere and walking will beat it for time to destination on most trips. As far as the numbers for the 70 I think that Metro some how factors out rides completely within the RFA (could be wrong about that). If the SLUT does get extended it would still need to double it’s boardings per hour to be cost competitive with an average ETB. But making the route longer tends to decrease the boardings per hour. The only direction it could go where that wouldn’t happen is into the downtown core; maybe on 5th Ave which of course is in the RFA. At that point it might as well just become the 1st Hill Streetcar and continue on to Capitol Hill. One continuous line has some major advantages.

      6. “But making the route longer tends to decrease the boardings per hour.”

        Depends on the land use, competing service and how good the access is. Eastlake is pretty dense as far as Boston St, then it drops off for a bit.

        With the funding crunch Metro’s in, one live possibility for restructuring is abolishing the 66 (put the hours on the 67, make it frequent service all day) and the 25 (which performs terribly), combine the 7x into an 80 that runs express to the U-District and then local to Northgate at all times and run the 70 as the Eastlake local all day.

        In such a configuration, the 70 would have to run every ten minutes or better all day to meet demand, with the attendant problems of platooning that the 7 and 36 experience now; if it were a streetcar, particularly a streetcar that connected to the First Hill line, and thus had a good walkshed downtown, it could meet the demand much more reliably at lower frequencies. It would perform excellently and provide a nicer service at the same cost as running trolleys.

      7. You could cut frequency in half and have roughly the same operating cost as more frequent service with buses. But 20 minute headways on a route that supports/demands 10 min. bus service I’m not sure is a winner. You also start to add more trams as you lengthen the route which are expensive to buy and require ever larger maintenance and storage facilities. Connecting to the 1st Hill line would mean only one MF would be needed. I wonder how much tracks to connect the two would cost vs what the land the existing maintenance barn sits on is worth? You might get by without having to purchase any additional streetcars over what was budgeted for (5 I think) for the 1st Hill line assuming you’d only need one back-up if it were one continuous route. New ETBs with off wire capability should relieve the problems of platooning.

      8. Bernie-

        Do you know where the doubled operating cost comes from? Is it depreciation on more expensive equipment (i.e. streetcars cost more per vehicle than buses)? Streetcars lacking some maintenance economy of scale that buses get? More training costs for streetcar drivers? Maintenance of trackbed? A short route with a comparatively long layover meaning fewer revenue hours per operator hour?

        I ask because it’s not clear to me whether to expect operating costs to remain twice as high per revenue-hour if the system is extended.

      9. I don’t know why they are so much more expensive. It’s not capital cost. Depreciation is accounted for separately. Given the longer useful life of a rail vehicle they may have an advantage over buses. Economy of scale probably has a lot to do with it. Don’t know if going from 3 (2 in service + spare) to something like 8 after the 1st Hill line opens will make much of a difference. Since they will be operating two separate maintenance facilities probably not. Why the Seattle streetcar is about a $100 less per hour to operate than Tacoma Link is a real mystery. I suspect it’s because that is the only service that ST operates directly instead of contracting out.

      10. Interesting. Thanks for the information. Buses will probably always have better economies of scale, so it’s probably a given that the streetcar will always have higher operating cost, but you could see them getting closer in the future.

      11. “SLU Streetcar to go to privately funded 10 minute peak frequency.”. And still doesn’t manage to take you anywhere.

      12. Buses will probably always have better economies of scale, so it’s probably a given that the streetcar will always have higher operating cost

        No, streetcars or light rail has a clear cost advantage if it is operating at a level where per operator/driver it is carrying consistently twice as many passengers. Light rail can easily carry 6X the people per operator of a bus at which point it’s phenomenally more economical (at which point it’s also the only viable alternative but Seattle is not London or NYC). Demand in the Seattle Metro area is nowhere close to that level. It’s the classic example of using a sledge hammer to crack a peanut.

  5. Hey, that picture is of the Cal Ave train station in Palo Alto. That was at my stop back when I worked down there.

    Since that picture was taken, Caltrain spent $35 million building a pedestrian underpass at that station which actually made the station less usable. That’s the same Caltrain that’s massively cutting service because they don’t have enough money, for those keeping score at home.

    1. And as with most transit systems, the money for one type of use (building the underpass) comes from one pot and cannot never ever be used for other uses (such as running the damn trains).

      Given that the any future L.A. to San Francisco train that wants to actually serve downtown San Francisco, (be it high spped or not) would pass through this location, grade separating the peds from the tracks is probably a good idea. The process will always be cheaper today than it will be in the future.

      1. I’d agree with you if the high speed rail plan didn’t involve ripping out the whole Cal Ave station and rebuilding it yet again.

        Also, while I get that capital projects and operating projects come from different money pots, Caltrain has an incredibly important capital project that keeps getting deferred because they can’t seem to get the money (electrification) and even if you assume the comparatively small money going to the station rebuild was a use-it-or-lose-it situation, they still could have done better (grade separation in Palo Alto/Menlo Park/Redwood City, more 4-track passing zones to allow more express trains, etc.)

      2. My station as well.

        There were some serious safety issues in that section of the route. In addition to the terrible 2009 outbreak of suicide-by-CalTrain at Gunn High – there were a number of life taking “accidents” a few years earlier, with folks (including a class mate) crossing the tracks for boarding (required) being met side-on by an unseen through train.

        That’s also where the Junior High kids have an undercrossing.

        The idea of adding express trains or high speed on that route scares the *^$# out of me. I don’t believe all the stops are grade separated still.

        Steve, I see your point looks like the new underpass would add a couple minutes per trip, and encourage fence jumping.

  6. Bi-Partisan ‘Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011’ Introduced in U.S. House

    We are pleased to announce that H.R. 1780, the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011 was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 5 by Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH). This bipartisan bill directs state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to write and adopt Complete Streets policies. H.R. 1780 supports the work of over 200 Complete Streets policies at the local, MPO and state level by ensuring a comprehensive approach across jurisdictions for safe streets for all, regardless of age, ability, or chosen mode of travel. Check out the great things people are saying about the bill. We expect to see a similar bill introduced in the U.S. Senate next week.

    Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 1780 by contacting them via our easy online action tool. You’ll be able to customize your letter to include information about why Complete Streets matters to you. And be sure to add your organization to the growing list of groups nationwide that support a federal Complete Streets policy by filling out this quick form. Our federal resources page offers more information on the bill, a sample script to use when calling your representative’s office, and tips for setting up an in-district meeting.

  7. RE Poor and Sprawl –

    I found it interesting that they used Lake County as an example of “no transit” in the burbs. The article conveniently leaves out the fact that Pace (the suburban bus providor) is mandated by the RTA to have a 40 percent farebox recovery ratio – which means marginal routes are quickly axed.

    That being said, serving the transportation disadvantaged in the suburbs represents one of the biggest challenges for any transit planner.

    1. I thought it was an interesting article too. Having lived carless on the Edmonds/Lynnwood border for a while, and hearing about all the service cuts up there, it makes me sad for the many poor folks living up in that area. I mean, it’s more walkable than, say, the Fall City-Carnation Road, but it’s still not great without a bus.

    1. This is the first I’ve heard of the 2 Mile Challenge, and I think it’s an interesting thought experiment. It seems it would be better for LaHood to focus on the emissions/physical fitness parts, though. At $4/gallon for a 5 mile round-trip in a 20mpg car, that’s only $1 spent in gas. The financial aspect won’t convince anyone to take a bike (or transit for that matter) instead of a car.

      1. I think the point LaHood is making, by citing the $4/gallon and 40%/trips in the same breath, is that the cumulative impact would be astounding!

        On the other hand, when you think of all the pedestrian-hostile 2-mile trips in Kansas City, all the unbikeable 2-mile trips in Dallas, and all of the 2-mile trips in Seattle for which Metro is lousy (*cough*cough*Ballard-Fremont), the cumulative challenge is equally astounding.

      2. Yep…and this is after 2 decades of transit spending and putting buses in suburbs and so on. Portland still has a commuter SOV rate of 61.5 percent.

      3. Yup. Commuter expresses to the boonies. MAX along highways to the outskirts.

        And yet 2-mile trips within the urban area itself remain such a pain in the a** that people can’t be blamed for hopping in their cars.

        I see we’re in agreement on that. Right, John?

    2. I had to go to the bank today at lunch. It’s about a mile each way so a perfect example. I rode my bike to work but using it requires special shoes (OK, maybe I’m just having a hard time letting go of racer days.. platform pedals would work… um, no they really don’t, it’s like having the saddle at the wrong height) I’m back… So I walked. pretty radical, huh? Even though I work at a place where there’s an overwhelmingly young liberal demographic virtually all of them take their cars on exactly this sort of short trip everyday for lunch. What happened to bringing your “lunch box” to work? Point being, these folks could (but don’t) walk to Wendy’s and burn off some of the calories but don’t. I guess they figure by voting liberal they’re doing their part. No need to actually walk or use transit; that’s for poor people and we need to keep a large poor people voting block, right?

      1. I walk 1-mile trips without thinking twice about it.

        But 2-mile trips still require an window of time (and a fortuitousness of weather) on which one can’t always rely. That’s why it is so much more bold a challenge on LaHood’s part.

      2. I work downtown and can’t even get some of my coworkers to take the covered escalators up the hill two blocks to go out to lunch because they say it’s “too far.” I swear I’m not making that up.

        But when I was little, my neighbor used to walk 6/10 of a mile to the Safeway to buy her groceries. She was in her 70’s at the time. She had one of those rain hats that old ladies had back then instead of having a coat with a hood. There were real sidewalks the whole way and frankly it was a pretty pleasant walk. But we always drove to the store. Might explain why she lived to be in her 90’s and my mother’s health is already deteriorating at age 60.

  8. I saw a decal near the back of a CT bus in the U-District saying “BUY LOCAL FOR TRANSIT”.

    Someone swooping in to say “if you really cared about buying local you’d have reverse-peak trips” in 5… 4… 3…

    1. Actually… I live near U-District and commute to Canyon Park using all buses operated by CT (the 511 is an ST route but operated by CT). The reverse-peak service probably doesn’t serve as many areas as the forward-peak service, but a lot of them are pretty much residential, right?

  9. Nothing depressing about infrastructure backlog- good way to hire the millions currently unemployed.

    Shouldn’t be a political problem. In wartime, taxes go up to cover the costs. Since we’re in three wars right now, all of them basically about motor fuel, nature of tax should be a no-brainer.

    Look at it this way: The whole Interstate system is a defense project. Ike said so. Now that system has reached the end of its design life, its repair counts as helping pay for the wars.

    So does adding public transit to the upgrades. When the interstates were conceived and begun, it’s hard to believe planners imagined they’d carry all the country’s passengers, including commuters, without any transit at all.

    How about a goal of bringing transit back to the percentage of the public it carried at the end of WWII, and this time including, say, light rail as a Federally-mandated part of the new highway program?

    It wouldn’t be the first time a national priority took precedence over a state law.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Infrastructure backlog is more depressing when you don’t have the money to pay for the changes you want to make. Also… we who would like to re-shape American development don’t exactly have political will on our side…

  10. Mostly unrelated: When there is a bus reroute (such as the Mercer Corridor Project reroutes), why can’t Metro post a map showing the changes? Instead, they just publish a pdf with text (i.e. “L on NB Eastlake Av E, C on NB Eastlake Av E, C on regular route). It would be much more user friendly if they made available a map that could quickly be glanced at. Maybe such maps exists, but I haven’t stumbled on them yet.

    1. I’d settle for Metro putting the reroute notices on the correct stops. I had a 16,3,4 reroute notice on an 8 bus stop.

  11. So I heard that the judges ruling was that the tunnel referendum can go to the ballot but the City Council has to get off the dime by next Tuesday to make that happen for a vote in August. The story on ch 13 also said that the judge ruled only a small part of the contract is actually relevant to a vote and it’s mostly procedural (whatever that means). Seems to me that this was always more about just being a referendum that allows people in Seattle to vote up or down on their support for a tunnel. A win for the initiative sponsors in this battle but a defeat at the polls in August pretty much loses the war. Even if the measure wins it doesn’t have any effect over the monarchy in Olympia. The money isn’t there now and Seattle never would have or could have coughed up the dough for cost over runs. But lack of funding and trivial legal details like a completed EIS don’t seem to mean much with respect to moving “forward”.

    1. If people vote no on the initiative, it means the majority of Seattlites want the tunnel. If people vote yes but the tunnel is built anyway, it will be black-and-white proof that the city council, ex-mayor, legislators, and governor ignored the will of the people.. and further that they tried to avoid a vote precisely because there was a good chance it would fail.

      There are differing opinions on whether the previous votes — against another tunnel and an elevated roadway — apply to this tunnel. From what I saw, people voted against the tunnel not because they didn’t like underground roadways but because it was the most expensive solution. So the politios come up with an even more expensive tunnel, and then argue that when people voted no they really meant yes! If it’s genuinely unclear what the people wanted, then have another vote to clarify it. That’s exactly what the politicos tried to avoid, and what this referendum tries to do. There’s a reason we have votes on major capital expenditures, and that’s to make sure people aren’t paying for projects they don’t want.

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