Amidst all the depressing funding news surrounding our region’s transit ambitions, here is some positive transit news from the City of Light. The Transport Politic has a full run-down of Paris’s 125-mile, 72-station, €20.5 billion ($29.5 billion) expansion plan for their Metro. Amazingly, work is scheduled to begin in 2014, with the first stations opening by 2017 and the entire expansion complete by 2025. I’ll believe it when I see it.
It’s startling to see how much money can be raised so quickly by such a large city when the political institutions favor central-directed action:
Of total funding for the new lines, €4 billion will be granted from the national government, €1.5 billion from local governments, €7 billion from loans, €7 billion from new taxes on commercial activity and real estate (€500 million will be collected this year alone), and €1 billion from existing taxes. The state intends to use eminent domain to redevelop land around each of the stations. It will use the funds it accumulates through sales and added-value taxes to help pay off debt.
Seven months after the kickoff event, the South Lake Union Mobility Plan has been released. The plan, led by the SLU Community Council, Uptown Alliance, and both the Greater Queen Anne and SLU Chamber of Commerce, is structured around seven key mobility themes. Below is my high level summary with some commentary. The report is a refreshingly light read and looks pretty slick.
Connect Communities: This section is all about East-West connectivity. If you tried to sever the connection between Capitol Hill, SLU and Uptown you’d be pretty hard pressed to do a better job than what we already did with I-5 and SR-99. This section calls for reconnecting the grid over Aurora, improving East-West bike/ped travel, and designing Harrison St to accommodate future East-West bus service.
Increase Transit Service: The plan proposes to improve connections between Capitol Hill, SLU and Uptown with new service operating on Denny/Fairview/Harrison. It also proposes pulling some downtown routes off I-5 at Mercer St, routing them through SLU on Fairview into downtown. The plan mentions BAT lanes on Fairview.
Serve Regional Access & Mobility: Boils down to funding Mercer West. Also make sure Republican doesn’t get hosed by vehicles exiting the deep bore tunnel.
Encourage Walking: A smattering of pedestrian enhancement projects, such as green street improvements to Thomas St and complete the Lake-to-Bay Loop Trail. It also includes reconnecting the grid at Aurora and possibly a new bridge across I-5 somewhere north of Denny. I think the two highest priorities are reconnecting the grid at Aurora and making sure new sidewalks and streetscapes are built to a high design standard.
Support Biking: In my opinion this section could have been bolder. The plan calls for adding a few signals to help cyclists cross arterials. It suggests that if BAT lanes are added to Fairview they could be shared between buses and bikes, in my opinion a DOA idea. No mention of cycle tracks. The plan calls for a bike share program but that is kind of a freebee unless company/developers are willing to chip in some seed money. King County is currently in the process of studying this.
Leverage Private Transportation Investments: We have already seen some of this with employers chipping in to fund the 3rd streetcar during the PM peak period and Route 70. Also calls for providing passenger load zones for private shuttles along public streets and new legislation that “makes it easier for private business to share shuttle resources”. I wonder what they have in mind.
Create Hubs for Mode Transfers: The plan proposes creating “mobility hubs” at Thomas and Harrison (a future RapidRide station) and on Valley St at the SLU Streetcar station. In case you haven’t been keeping up on your transportation lingo, mobility hubs (otherwise called “new mobility hubs”) are an idea the Cascadia Center and other tech firms have been peddling. It essentially boils down to a tech heavy transit center, with traveler information, electric car share, bike share, and other amenities.
The City Council will be briefed on the plan in their chambers, Monday at 10am.
As last weekend’s weather represented the start of Silly Season for Seattle Happiness, I thought I’d write up another carfree Saturday daytrip. Deception Pass State Park, bringing together Fidalgo and Whidbey islands, is a pretty spectacular place. As the bridge between the islands is itself a prime attraction, Deception Pass is a premier roadtrip destination, and can get very crowded on sunny weekends.
This 12-hour, relatively easy Saturday transit loop takes you from Seattle to Whidbey Island and back via Amtrak Cascades, Island Transit #411W, Island Transit #1, Washington State Ferries, Community Transit #113, and Sound Transit #511. It allows time for a beautiful train ride along the central Sound, a 90-minute brunch in Mt Vernon, 4 hours of walking along the beaches and bays of Deception Pass, and has you back in Seattle before a June sunset. Variations could allow a nice hike to the top of Mt Erie or an alternate return via Port Townsend and Bainbridge (only attempt on weekdays!).
And this loop is very cheap. Island Transit is a fare-free agency, and doing the loop counter-clockwise gives you a free ride on the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry. Aside from your Amtrak fare ($13-$20), with an ORCA card this trip allows you to ride 5 buses from 3 agencies for only $3.50!
It’s service change season, and for Pierce Transit it’s time to implement a 20% cut. Unlike most such cuts, most riders will see an improvement, because PT had already reduced service by 20% due to the natural gas fueling station fire in February, a reduction that is no longer necessary. This service reduction will be based on achieving system objectives rather than the logistics of emergency fueling, resulting in a better situation for most riders.
There are more PT cuts coming in October. I don’t really know anything about the PT system, so I’ll hand it off to Chris Karnes at Tacoma Tomorrow to critique it.
On a happier note, thanks to Bellingham voters Sunday service is back in the city limits. Alert reader Elliott Smith sent us the flyer above.
GM CEO asking for higher gas taxes rather than regulations forcing more fuel efficient cars. This makes sense both from a consumer and producer side, as well as an efficiency argument. Politically disastrous however. (H/T to Erik)
Searching for a good definition of “human scale” with regard to street design, I came upon an unlikely source: an Oregon Dept. of Transportation document from 1999. It’s a great reference about how to take the noisy dangerous highway that runs through your town and turn into a comfortable pedestrian-friendly main street. One particular segment jumped out:
The idea of a bypass often comes up in discussions where there is heavy traffic on main street. It’s often seen as the one big solution to get through traffic out of downtown. However, in many cases traffic studies have shown that most of the trips on main street are local and may not be attracted to a bypass…
Bypasses are very expensive and generate much debate. The controversy that goes on while the community discusses a bypass may detract from other issues. If approved, people often think the problem will be solved and they don’t need to support other improvements to main street.
Also, if a bypass removes too much traffic, the economic vitality of the main street can suffer.
But of course it wasn’t all about why you shouldn’t build a tunnel. They identify all kinds of good street design that is completely lacking on WA highways. Starting on page 14 they talk about human scale, street ratios, and many other street design concepts that are really important for walkability. They recommend 25mph speed limits in a main street area.
Take a drive up Aurora from downtown – inside WA’s largest city – and you’ll see examples of everything ODOT recommends against. Following Oregon’s laws this area would be a business district and have a speed limit of 20mph. It would be designed for that speed with a connected grid, no massive parking lots fronting streets, limited curb cuts, and appropriate street ratio. I guess I’m just surprised because I had assumed every state’s road-building agency would be like WSDOT. But it turns out even our closest neighbor has human scale figured out.
UPDATE 4:31 – The Slog has an interview with Jim O’Halloran, chair of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association’s land use committee. In the piece Jim says “We’ll take the density but we expect to have considerable influence on how and where it’s accommodated.”
In response to the letter we added our signatures to (and 60+ of you did as well), asking for more leadership on the Roosevelt station area rezone, the Mayor has sent a letter to Diane Sugimura, Director of the DPD asking for her department to revisit the proposed zoning changes. The letter is below.
This is to follow up on our earlier discussion on Roosevelt zoning issues. Since before taking office, I have been listening to community input on potential heights and up zones. I have also had time to reflect on the briefing you provided.
At this time, I believe the city needs to take towers “off the table”. Towers do not appear consistent with expectations for this neighborhood. At the same time, I believe that given the significant investment in light rail, and the potential for good neighborhood-scale development, the city needs to take a closer look at heights above 40 feet, such as 65 and 85 feet.
I look forward to DPD coming forward with new proposals to reflect this direction, and give the council a broader range of choices. The decisions we make now will be in place for a while. It is important to set the stage for good transit-oriented development.
I appreciate all of the thoughtful work you and your staff have done on this issue.
The only thing I would add is that I would urge the city to truly “bookend” the range of proposed rezone alternative in any future studies. The rezone currently proposed would likely reflect a minimum action alternative (and not even really, this rezone was based on the 2006 neighborhood plan which should have already been implemented), with at least two additional alternatives, each more dense than the last. The additional alternatives needs to be bold and visionary, not token gestures. Future proposals should focus on the entire neighborhood, not just on the the Roosevelt Development Group (RDG) properties. A well distributed range of alternatives will give everyone the information necessary to make informed decisions.
Capitol Hill community event featuring music group Toy Boats (playing from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), Come by and learn about Sound Transit and its light rail construction projects. Bring the family to enjoy balloon animals and face-painting.
Link light rail construction site tours will also be given. View the tunneling boring machine as it prepares to launch towards downtown Seattle. Please be sure to wear sturdy shoes. People wearing open-toed shoes will not be allowed onto the site.
You’ve no doubt seen the new, green schedules if you ride Metro. Starting Saturday, Metro operates their summer schedule, which includes a reroute on Airport Way in Sodo, and other minor changes (generally, clipping a trip or two) on the 1, 7, 17, 21, 27, 33, 36, 39, 42, 49, 71, 72, 73, 99, 110, 116, 180, 181, 202, 204, 209, 210, 242, 345, 910, 913, and 917. These cuts complete the short-term 2010-11 plan for “low-impact” Metro cuts, although in 2012 the budget may fall off a cliff.
Additional service on SR520, part of the plan for bridge replacement and funded by a special allotment of property tax, will arrive on October 1, according to Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Overshok.
Alternative I preserves the current system, but running much less frequently.
Alternative II restores Sunday service, at the price of even deeper frequency cuts to the existing network.
The third alternative is the most interesting one: no Sunday service, but a total restructure of the route network to emphasize a few frequent corridors. Commuters into Seattle would generally have to transfer into a dramatically reduced number of Seattle-bound routes from new peak-only feeders.
The third option invokes a lot of the themes I like to emphasize: more direct routes, focus on key corridors, and a more gridded system. My first instinct to endorse Alternative III wholeheartedly. However, the key to a network that forces transfers is that the component routes have to be frequent. As far as I can tell, nothing but Swift will ever run more often that every 30 minutes, which I don’t think is frequent enough for this kind of thing.
If budget relief is on the horizon, then Alternative III is the best baseline from which to grow a better system, one based on the excellent long-range plan they published earlier this year. But if CT is going to be stuck in a rut of providing basic service for a while, then the answer is not clear to me.
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
In Person: June 9 at 9:30 a.m. or June 23 at 10 a.m. at PSRC
These beautiful bus shelters in Cleveland have won an American Instutite of Architects Small Project Award. More information here, here and video with the designer here. Thanks to Mike Fisher for the tip.
I have friends that live in the far suburbs, and spend quite a bit of time in their cars. They each drive seperate cars far away to work in the morning after dropping their kids off for school in a different direction, drive far for groceries, etc. Financially they just get by every month, and going grocery shopping with them at a big box store is a significantly different experience than going shopping with my wife at Trader Joe’s or the Met (both an easy walk from our house). I never thought twice about this difference – they make less than us and have more kids, and I’ve certainly had to make due with simple and cheap groceries at different points in my life. But today I saw this graph:
Notice the size of the food wedge next to the transportation wedge for the average American family. Pinching pennies on large blocks of low-quality cheese is less effective than just driving a bit less. If they had only settled for a smaller home (for the same price) in a dense area, it would have had a much larger effect than years and years of choosing low-quality food. I know people love their yards. But I don’t think most people realize they’re making a choice between more yard space and, well, everything else in the world they love but costs money.
Last week STB and a host of advocates sent a letter to the Mayor, City Council and DPD urging them to take a larger leadership role in the Roosevelt rezone process. We believe DPD needs to conduct a more encompassing planning process that includes much higher heights and densities around the station area. As we reported earlier the proposed rezone is woefully inadequate.
We urge you to take a leadership role regarding DPD’s currently-proposed rezone in Roosevelt. As you know, several individuals and groups have written to comment on the proposed rezone, which will constrain development capacity within close proximity to the future Roosevelt Sound Transit Station.
The creation of transit-oriented communities supports the significant public investment in transit that will occur in Roosevelt as a result of the new station. Transit investments are most effective when combined with opportunities for more people to live, shop and work near the stations. The Planning Commission’s recent Transit Communities Report identified several communities, including Roosevelt, as areas in which more housing and infrastructure should occur to take advantage of the investment in transit. Futurewise’s Blueprint report made similar recommendations related to the Roosevelt neighborhood.
The current zoning plan as proposed by DPD constrains development in the station area, a 5-10 minute walk, to primarily single family housing, with only 2-3 blocks of additional NC-65 zoning in the neighborhood core. The core, areas currently zoned for NC3-65, have no proposed increases in density. Other proposed changes are primarily minor single level “step ups” to transition from the slightly larger core to surrounding single family housing (Ex. LR1 to LR2), or character changes (Ex. LR to NC).
All together the current plan will only result in an increase in housing capacity of only 350 units. A majority of this increase is immediately adjacent to I-5, where Sound Transit originally proposed to build the station.
The Roosevelt community successfully lobbied Sound Transit to move the station closer to the heart of the Roosevelt neighborhood in order to create a vibrant neighborhood center. DPD’s plan does not properly increase capacity in the correct locations to take advantage of the great work accomplished by the Roosevelt community in moving the station, and the plan fails to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage the creation of a transit community in Roosevelt.
We believe that in order to fully take advantage of the transit investment in the Roosevelt neighborhood, and the work accomplished by the Roosevelt community members in moving the station, DPD must undertake a full station area planning effort complete with an Urban Design Framework Plan, similar to the planning efforts in South Seattle, South Lake Union, West Seattle, and other transit-oriented locations. Such a planning effort must include much higher heights and densities than currently exist in the DPD plan, which will ensure the appropriate level of development in close proximity to the public’s $300 million investment in the Roosevelt Light Rail station.
In their board meeting last week, Community Transit presented 2012 system change alternatives. Due to revenue cuts, Community Transit will be cutting service another 20% next year (they cut 15% last year). You can see the alternatives, read about the detailed impacts, and learn how to provide input here.
I don’t live in Snohomish County, but the alternatives are fairly interesting – if bleak – to investigate. All three alternatives shorten the service day by two hours, reduce Swift frequencies and eliminate routes, but that’s just the baseline. Alternatives I and III do not restore service on Sundays and Alternative II includes massive frequency reductions.
Glad to see (via STB) that Metro has released a final recommendations report (PDF) in favor of keeping the electric trolleybuses. The report is fairly unequivocal in recommending the electrics over diesel hybrids, which is great to hear, especially after the talk last year that Metro could realize some short-term savings by switching to diesels.
I recommend browsing the comment log at the end of the report, which is an amazing outpouring of Seattle community support for the electric trolleys. It’s nice to see the public show so much love for something that’s also good policy.
A London bus driver experiences the life of a bus driver in Manila. And I thought Bangkok’s traffic, buses and life of the poor was tough, Manila’s is tougher. This is more than just driving buses. This is plain survival.
It is more cost-effective to replace the existing fleet with electric trolley buses based on reasonable federal fixed guideway funding scenarios.
The electric trolley bus generates significantly lower GHG emissions and has a lower total annual energy consumption. Seattle City Light generates 98 percent of Seattle’s electricity from non-GHG emittingsources (hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, and biomass).
The environmental comparison favors the electric trolley bus regarding traffic, noise, air quality/climate change, energy, and environmental justice.
The primary component of the study is the life-cycle cost comparison, which includes cost of the buses, fuel or electricity, bus and overhead maintenance, removal of the trolley overhead system, and construction of new fueling facilities at Atlantic base. This section also included a sensitivity analysis which is helpful when projected costs or income are likely subject to unpredictable variation.
The report unequivocally shows the GHG benefit of the trolley system, which emits 21 times less CO2e (equivalent units) than a diesel system, due to the fact that Seattle City Light gets 98% of its energy from non-GHG emitting sources.
Another interesting section, especially for those of you that have been following, is the section on the auxiliary power units (APU). The study looked at both battery and diesel based APUs, comparing their costs, performance, and impact on operations. The report goes on to recommend a lithium ion battery system that can propel buses 1-mile or more. A system like this would reduce 75% of diesel replacement requests and be more redundant in the case of unplanned interruptions of power or reroutes.