Puget Sound - Photosynth Panorama
Puget Sound - Photo by flickr user alins74

The Puget Sound Regional Council is looking for public comment on projects for $9.7 million in Federal Transit dollars for 2012. The complete list of projects is here, and the current plan includes spending half of the money on I-90 LRT (every penny counts at this point). If you’re unfamiliar with the PSRC and its role in transportation funding, I wrote a fairly detailed post on the subject here a couple of years ago. Submit your comment by June 23rd.

How to comment:

Mail: Puget Sound Regional Council
ATTN: Kelly McGourty
1011 Western Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, Washington 98104-1035
E-mail: tipcomment@psrc.org
In Person: June 9 at 9:30 a.m. or June 23 at 10 a.m. at PSRC

51 Replies to “PSRC Wants Public Comment on Federal Transit Money”

  1. So East Link is getting half of the 10 mil, and everybody else in the transit world gets to fight over the other half.
    Yeah, I know it only 10 mil, and mostly by formula at that, but watching our bus agencies eat themselves is painful.

    1. What pains me is hearing people say that our future high-capacity transit network should be sacrificed in order to maintain the status quo on today’s bus networks, many of which are painfully inefficient. Even the 600k-cut “doomsday scenario” for Metro leaves the core high-performing routes almost unscathed, and many of the high-priority cuts that are likely under a smaller cut scenario should have happened years ago. Similarly, it’s worth asking why CT is running one-way peaks from Stanwood to Seattle, a ~100 mile round trip (what’s the cost per boarding on that?)

      My question is why this money is going to East Link, which is very expensive and not going to be fantastically productive. It seems like that money would be much better spent in South King, which desperately wants South Link and is drowning financially.

      1. One place South King should look is the operating cost of both Link and Sounder. It’s a discussion worth having.
        1. Sounder is costing $14.05 per boarding, and only gets $3.05 from fares, for a net subsidy of $11.00 per rider. Pierce and S.King eat 100% of the cost of SB trains. Caltrain, in SF gets 44% from fares, or double what ST is getting.
        2. South King gets hit with 1/3 of Links operating cost, yet only has two stations compared to 11 for Seattle, and far fewer than 1/3 of the total daily boardings.
        It’s no wonder S.King can’t build infrastructure with so much money going to feed daily operations.
        It wasn’t supposed to be this way, when the JRPC was pushing Sounder and Link down SKCTB’s throat.

      2. Is cost per boarding just O&M cost divided by number of riders or does it already factor in revenue (fares). I’ve always looked at it as prior to fare recovery but it seems other revenue (ad revenue from bus wraps for example) would have to be factored into cost per boarding so why not fares?

      3. Well, my math says 26%(5173/19715), so I’d be willing to reduce S.King by a few mil per year.
        Sounder is problematic, as fares would have to double to get to 40% recovery, then there wouldn’t be any riders, so there just stuck with what they got.

      4. How many people boarding at TIB are actually from Renton? And most of the people boarding at Seatac are people that have ridden from downtown and are returning after their flight or workday. So the only south area population that’s boarding at Seatac are a small number of kiss and ride and people using TIB as off site parking for business flights.

      5. Wooly speculation about the purpose and destination of these boardings is irrelevant. I’m merely pointing out that 26% of boardings occur in South King. This is not an insignificant number.

      6. It’s the network. Everybody benefits if a rapid transit system goes to all parts of the region. It’s not Bellevue vs Federal Way vs Renton: Link needs to serve all of them eventually. The chunk of money for the lake crossing has to be looked at for its benefit to the entire network, not just to Eastsiders. Obviously a lake crossing is expensive, but obviously it’s unavoidable too, and this is a one-time capital expense, not a recurring expense every year.

        There may be benefit in shifting money to Federal Way because, as you said, their city council really wants Link. It may not matter so much what order the extensions are finished (as long as it doesn’t postpone the most critical segment: downtown-Northgate). But again we need to think about the impact on the network — everybody in the region — not on “rewarding” one city’s residents. The train goes two ways, and serves both those who live in those cities and those who are going to those cities.

      7. 26% of boardings occuring in South King is irrelevant. I’m merely pointing out that given an insignificant number of the boardings at Seatac are likely to be south subarea residents. A more equitable proportion of cost would be to use only the TIB boardings which is only 8%. Look at it this way, when U Link opens alightings and therefore boardings are going to dramatically increase at Seatac. Does that mean the South subarea should foot the bill for these too?

      8. “I’m merely pointing out that given an insignificant number of the boardings at Seatac are likely to be south subarea residents.”

        Bollocks. You’ve proved nothing of the sort, merely asserted it. This may come as a shock to you, but that’s not the same thing.

        A bunch of them probably aren’t Seattle residents to begin with. Shall we charge their home jurisdiction?

        South King residents have access to Link. Quantifying the benefits exactly is hopeless, so we divvy it up approximately.

      9. “Look at it this way, when U Link opens alightings and therefore boardings are going to dramatically increase at Seatac. Does that mean the South subarea should foot the bill for these too?”

        Increased boardings decrease costs.

      10. It’s not even close to approximate. The airport is a destination and the majority of access is in the north subarea. Absolutely some of the ridership is coming from the east subarea and in true it’s likely to be close to the number of south subarea residents. It’s not really that hard to figure out. We have the station by station boardings remember? About half the ridership was going the length of the line from downtown to the airport. It’s just silly and obstinate to assert these riders are from the south subarea which is getting a raw deal.

      11. OMG the suburbs are so fucking persecuted. They have to pay for rail infrastructure that they have access to. What is the world coming to?

      12. Increased boardings decrease costs.

        Cost per boarding should go down but the net operational expense will be greater after U Link is open. Assuming we’re not going to be talking about how to distribute income, is it fair that the south subarea be charged in proportioned in increased boardings at Seatac because people from Capital Hill and the UW are using Link to the airport?

      13. Is it fair that South King residents for for a train that’ll take them right to two of the biggest employment centers in the region?

      14. Sure that’s fair. How many are able to actually do that? Hint, virtually the only way they can is to park or transfer at TIB. Until Link extends south of the airport it’s of very limited use to south area residents trying to fly in/out of Seatac.

      15. “is it fair that the south subarea be charged in proportioned in increased boardings at Seatac because people from Capital Hill and the UW are using Link to the airport?”

        They’re not charged per boarding.

      16. On what basis is the south area contribution to Link operational expense justified?

      17. “On what basis is the south area contribution to Link operational expense justified?”

        It’s justified by the fact that the stations exist on one side of an arbitrarily drawn line.

      18. Pretty sure one of Metro’s blockbuster frequent service (now RapidRide) routes is the 174 extending all the way down to Federal Way TC, and just maybe some of those people get off at SeaTac and go downtown. Hell, people in that part of the county have better access to Link than residents of Shoreline — that’ll be even more true when S 200th opens.

        Look: it’s impossible to completely quantify the benefits due to transit for everyone. Therefore I don’t care who uses Link or Seattle’s streets on my dime, or, for that matter, state and county routes which I pay for with my taxes but that I never use, because I understand these things are essential to everyone in the region. We come up with agreements to share the cost in some very approximate way and then get on with life.

      19. Is it fair for someone who lives outside of ST’s juristiction, to be charged for any subarea when he/she purchases some taxable goods within the juristiction of ST?
        Is it fair for someone who lives in one subarea and works in a seperate subarea to have to pay sales tax in whichever subarea they buy something in?

        For Operational expense, does each subarea only pay for operations within their subarea, or Operationa expense agregated across all subareas, and taken proportionally from each subarea?

        Lor Scara

      20. It may or may not be fair but that’s how sales tax works in Washington. You pay based on the store’s location, not your residence.

        I think ST charges subareas on a per-route basis, or at least that’s what Metro does. An all-day route between two subareas is charged to both of them. A unidirectional commuter route is charged to the residential end, not the commercial end.

      21. We come up with agreements to share the cost in some very approximate way and then get on with life.

        If it’s all for one and one for all how come the North Subarea contributes nothing to ST Express O&M or capital expenses? (ST 2010 Financial Plan page 29/39). Nobody living in Seattle and commuting to Bellevue or Overlake?

        “On what basis is the south area contribution to Link operational expense justified?”

        It’s justified by the fact that the stations exist on one side of an arbitrarily drawn line.

        So, King Street Station is north of that line; we arbitrarily ignore that when assigning costs rail branded Sounder but enforce it when it’s call Link?

      22. Why don’t we make each resident their own subarea? Then we can get really anal about it.

      23. Seriously. While we’re at it, maybe I can get back all my taxes that contribute towards the common good of the region but don’t benefit my bottom line directly, like schools, non-Seattle roads, and whatever else. We can all live in stupid prick heaven.

      24. Boy, ask a question about the equity part of subarea equity and instead of intellectual answers it only draws snarky attacks. That’s usually a sign you’re picking awfully close to a truth some people want to keep hidden.

  2. I-90 Two Way Transit is a fancy way of saying carpool lanes? More money for Dow’s pet ferry “system” than for CT, Everett and Skagit Transit combined. Why is there money going to the Monorail when it’s a private company that operates for profit with a completely separate fare system than any public transit agency?

    1. Bernie: You can go to ST Financial Plan for a breakdown of what goes into O&M. It’s generally ALL the expenses (not counting debt repayment) divided by the number of riders. That’s OE (operational expenses).
      Revenue is OR (operational revenue) and is all the farebox revenue divided by the number of riders.
      OR/OE is the ratio of the two, or in ST’s case about 22% for Sounder.
      Caltrain is about 44%. http://www.progressiverailroading.com/prdailynews/news.asp?id=26837
      You might look around the country to see what ‘normal’ is.

      1. One place South King should look is the operating cost of both Link and Sounder. It’s a discussion worth having.
        1. Sounder is costing $14.05 per boarding, and only gets $3.05 from fares, for a net subsidy of $11.00 per rider.

        OK, I looked at the 2010 budget and the ridership report. Cost per boarding is as you stated (and I’d always just assumed) the O&M cost divided by number of riders. $14.05 is a bit of an exageration if talking about just South King. ST lists cost per boarding at $13.74 which is inflated by North Sounder being ridiculously more expense than the South Sounder. And the lowest fare, Tukwilla to Seattle is $3.25 and it’s $4.75 from Auburn. When you separate out the cost per boarding of just South Sounder and subtract full fare it’s virtually identical to the cost of running a long distance express bus and cost per boarding has, in a seesaw fashion been trending downward whereas the opposite is true for buses. However, total subside per boarding (O&M + depreciation – revenue / # boardings) it works out to $18.97 per boarding for Sounder and only $7.38 for ST Express. Now, those are system wide and the gap would be narrower if you mined out the data from the SIP and compared South Sounder to equivalent Express bus routes. Central Link for comparison was at $13.88 total subsidy per boarding.

  3. I agree with Bernie’s comments about the Monorail, when I saw the chart listing it as getting 139,000 approximately, I about barfed.

    This older than dirt monstrosity needs to either be torn down or converted into something tangible for the whole city. I personally like the idea of ripping it out and putting either an at-grade light rail down Fifth, or elevate it. Talkj about a great way to get people directly into downtown from the north end.

    Yeah yeah, I know, there’s no money for this….yet we’ve wasted so much on that screwy 1962 era demo project over the years, and I don’t think its been providing the return to the community like it should be.

    1. I thought the Monorail operated at a profit. That’s one reason to keep it running.

      1. Mike, I cannot say. My question then is why did the city dump money into a few years back, and simultaneously shut the line down for some time, wasn’t it like almost six months?

        Seems like if it was making money they’d scream to have it in service immediately.

      2. It makes a profit but it’s operated by a private concession. I don’t know if they pay rent back to the City? If so I can understand the subsidy. It’s like a landlord doing maintenance.

    2. Now that the Gates Foundation is at Seattle Center, the monorail is a more vital piece of the regional transit system.

    3. I personally like the idea of keeping the monorail. Just as I wish Seattle still had the older than dirt cable cars.

      1. Victor Steinbrueck in Seattle Streetscapes #2 bemoans how the columns of the monorail (he calls it something like a temporary amusement ride) preclude the intended tree lined boulevard the ROW was designed to be. I have to admit that I’d be against ripping out trees to build the monorail today but, like the Eiffel Tower I think it’s “charm” has come to grow on the population. What’s slightly ironic is that what was built to be an icon of the future is, a half century later, becoming more and more of a legacy piece akin to San Francisco’s cable cars.

      2. If I’m not mistaken, the Monorail is a historic landmark and cannot be removed. But could always have a few miles added to it. ;)

      3. Here’s a “historic” perspective:

        Monorail is not a landmark, council says

        Interesting coming from the PI who’s globe is also an iconic part of DT Seattle yet the City prohibits corporate signs on highrise buildings (where is the giant R ?). But from the same era:


        On Wednesday, April 16, the Seattle Landmarks Board unanimously voted to give the original 1962 Westlake-to-Seattle Center monorail–including the ugly pillars running down Fifth Avenue–historic landmark status,

        So, Monorail buffs; what is it? I sense an STB post topic ;-)

      4. The monorail’s supports are an example of Brutalism, or so said the people who argued against tearing it down for the citywide monorail. I don’t think they’re worth preserving, but it is true that each generation has different ideas about past architecture. The early 1900s generation saw 19th-century architecture, art deco, and beaux arts as old-fashioned and tore it down or covered it up in favor of modern boxy undecorated buildings. Our generation can’t believe they were so shortsighted.

        There is one “modern” historic building on the registry, the Egan House in the St Mark’s greenbelt on Lakeview Blvd. To me the very idea of a house in a greenbelt looks out of place, and this one especially with its peaked roof and 1950s lines looks ugly. But who knows what future generations will think of it?

    4. The monorail needs to be integrated into the orca and transit pass system. This should be a stipulation the next time the private contract is up for renewal.

      No commuter is going to wait in line at a little booth to pay $4 every day, in addition to other transit fares.

      1. Yet the Monorail continues to be profitable. If it’s sucked into metro area transit instead of being a tourist attraction then it’s gone. From a transit efficiency point of view and a city planning “view point” it’s toast. The question seems to be; do we treat this as an historical landmark.

      2. A different angle on the Monorail would be to regard it like San Francisco’s cable cars. I was recently in SF and rode the Powell and Hyde cable car from my South of Market hotel to dinner on Union Street. It cost five bucks one way, with eight blocks of walking after leaving the cable car. If you’re a daily commuter, a monthly Clipper Card cuts that fare way back on a per trip basis.

    5. The Seattle Center Monorail is operated by a private contract with the City of Seattle, who are the owners of the system in its entirety.

  4. Pretty sure one of Metro’s blockbuster frequent service (now RapidRide) routes is the 174 extending all the way down to Federal Way TC, and just maybe some of those people get off at SeaTac and go downtown.

    Maybe some of them do. I don’t know the advantage of transfering at Seatac vs TIB. I tried to find information on walking distance on ST and Metro’s site and couldn’t. I tried to look at travel times between the two stations but all I could find for RapidRide was “it’s so frequent you don’t need a schedule”. I know there were some travel times posted prior to implementation but I couldn’t dig them up. So I fell back on trip planner (AM weekday commute). Metro suggests from Federal Way TC; #1 MT 177 $3 33min, #2 MT 179 $3 41min, #3 ST 577 $2.50 41 min. Sound transit’s trip planner suggests the same routes with slightly different travel times:

    1 38 min6:10am – 6:48am $3.50 Walk › Bus 577 › Walk
    2 41 min6:02am – 6:43am $3.00 Walk › Bus 177 › Walk
    3 36 min5:23am – 5:59am $2.25 Walk › Bus 179 › Walk

    Sometimes trip planner is totally wrong but not feeling the Link Love for South King County Residents. I plugged in a trip from S. 200th because that should if anything be where Link shines and indeed ST trip planner does transfer you at Seatac Station.

    Bus – King County Metro A LINE TUKWILA LINK STATION
    6 min (3 stops)
    WalkWalk from International Blvd & S 176th St BAY 2 < to Seatac Link Light Rail Station
    1. Walk 20 min (0.7 mi)
    LinkTrain – Sound Transit Link LINK TO SEATTLE
    6:05pm Depart Seatac Link Light Rail Station (NB)
    6:38pm Arrive Pioneer Square Station BAY A (NB AT)
    33 min (9 stops)
    WalkWalk from Pioneer Square Station BAY A to 2nd and Jackson
    1. Walk 10 min (0.3 mi)

    So, .7 mi from RR A to Link. Is that really a winner over TIB? Overall, from a point that’s half the distance from DT Seattle it appears travel time, the time you’re either on a bus or train, is about equal to FWTC (33-41 vs 39 minutes RR+Link); it’s that .7 mile hike that’s a killer. Price is about the same; $2.50-3.00 vs $2.75 for RR+Link. Unless of course you don’t have an Orca card in which case the fare jumps to $5.25 (but I have no problem with incentivising ORCA and stabbing out of town tourists, really).

      1. OK, I believe boots on the ground more than trip planner which I know can be notoriously wrong. Seems like something ST really needs to fix. But still, just the travel times are pretty bad since Link takes the scenic tour through RV. Doesn’t seem fair that the South Subarea should be shelling out big bucks for this and the North Subarea contribute zilch toward express buses.

      2. Bernie brings up some great points, and ones that seem almost too simple to answer.
        Both Metro and ST have ‘boots on the street’ in the morning.
        How difficult is it to have a service quality supervisor park at either TIB and Seatac Airport Stn, and count the number of people that get off the A line, and walk up the stairs to a train for say a couple of hours over a few days. There’s your answer!

        Seatac is a little more difficult, you’d have to watch how many kept walking towards the terminal and how many hung out for a train, but it’s not rocket science.
        HEY NORMAN! I’ve got a job for you.

      3. I don’t want to keep Norman from important work, but wouldn’t it be easier to get linked trip data from ORCA?

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