Photo by SD70MACMAN

This is an open thread.

60 Replies to “News Roundup: Disastrous State”

  1. Check out the top of that third tunnel picture. Is that the current 99? Are they really refusing to reconnect the street grid there and leave us with two highways, reconnecting as one super-highway?

    1. What an inefficient use of land, all that wasteland of nothing between the ramps and under the flyovers. If it was condensed it could occupy 1/2 the land now shown.

    2. I find it absurd (and honestly hostile) that 99 cuts through the SLU / Seattle Center area the way it does. There are only two reasonable pedestrian connections (Denny and Mercer — Broad goes at at a diagonal and is even more unpleasant than Mercer) which forces crazy walking routes. If you happen to be at, say, Thomas and 8th and want to get to Thomas and 6th — only three blocks if the street were connected — you get to walk:

      * a little over a mile if you take Mercer
      * almost a mile if you brave Broad (shudder), or
      * (the best) just over half a mile if you take Denny.

      The actual distance is less than 2/10 of a mile.

      I honestly am surprised the city hasn’t been sued repeatedly about this. The pedestrian paths that *do* exist are substandard — sidewalks on Mercer are barely wide enough for a wheelchair and have frequent quality issues — and there are so few thru routes I’m surprised there are more deaths of people trying to cross Aurora “illegally”. Even on Google Maps you have to zoom way in to realize that Republican, John, etc. don’t go through — when I first moved here, I made the mistake of taking Republican due west only (it looked like it went thru!) only to have to backtrack up to Mercer and down to get where I was going.

      Everyone talks about how Seattle Center and SLU aren’t truly vibrant neighborhoods — because SLU really only has people around during business hours and Seattle Center during events or for tourists. There’s plenty of housing and big employers on both sides, but why would you walk anywhere locally? I exaggerate a bit, but neighborhoods so close to each other should be helping each other economically and socially, but 99 makes that much harder here.

      I realize that (supposedly) the Mercer changes are going to involve reconnecting the street grid, but considering the pace of construction I don’t expect it would be reasonable for me to walk to the other side of Aurora for lunch for a long time.

      1. 100% agreed.

        I think it’s kind of ridiculous that the tunnel proponents keep talking about how they don’t want a highway on the waterfront, but meanwhile, we have *the same* highway cutting through *the middle of the city* and no one seems to care.

      2. I agree too. To me reconnecting the grid north of Denny Way is the silver lining of the SR-99 tunnel, but of course even assuming they don’t run out of money it will be 10-15 years before it’s done.

    3. Take a look at the hi-res version of the north Aurora rendering on WSDOT’s Flickr (warning: 4800 x 3600 pixel image). It shows the street grid being reconnected at Harrison, Thomas, and John. The area between Mercer and Harrison would be used to split off downtown traffic from the tunnel traffic. North of Mercer, Aurora would presumably remain about the same as it is now.

    4. Not sure what you mean by “the current 99,” but that cross-street at the top is Harrison, not Denny Way. If you look at the rendering huge size on flickr you can see the Seattle Pacific Hotel at 325 Aurora Ave N (hilariously the hotel owners have apparently refused to sell to WSDOT; it’s right in between the actual tunnel mouth and Aurora):

      The street grid will be reconnected at John, Thomas, and Harrison, and Republican will be the off-ramp.

      1. Good. I just couldn’t see the intersections in the Stranger sized rendering and it looked unchanged from the current configuration. I’d still want them to diet this road like crazy so it isn’t a 6-lane highway, but at least there are crosswalks.

  2. Lovely roundup of items. The first “Port Defiance” you list is Point Defiance, and the second is Port Townsend.

  3. As pretty much the lone tunnel supporter who ever writes for the Blog, I have to say that hopefully now we have a chance to move on from this tedious and largely fruitless debate and on to other equally pressing issues such as East Link, the First Hill Streetcar, more streetcars, the waterfront, the 520, running Tim Eyman out of Washington, neutralizing the influence of Kemper Freeman in the corridors of power, developing Tukwila Sounder/Amtrak station, moving things along with respect to the Point Defiance BNSF corridor, adding more trains to SEA – PDX/Eugene and SEA to Vancouver, worrying about getting light rail beyond the U-District, wondering if the streetcar along the waterfront will ever come back, thinking about saving the ferries and building some, pondering adding more Sounder Stations to the north line and additional stations to Central Link……

    A whole host of projects, real and imagined which have always been there for us to think about when not buried by all of the tunnel vision we have all too frequently displayed over the mayor’s agenda in Seattle.

    Ironically, the hopeful ending of this long debate may actually play to McGinn’s advantage in that he will be forced now to think of other things and he may have some interesting ideas on some of them which may play well for him 2013. At the moment, it looks unlikely but we can wait and see I guess and if it makes you guys feel better about Tuesday’s result.

    1. You clearly haven’t been paying attention to what the Mayor’s been doing. He got the entire TMP process going last year, and it’s about to come to fruition.

      And incidentally, if we’d adopted the Surface/Transit plan the 1st Avenue streetcar would have been included.

      And strictly speaking, you “comment on” the blog, you don’t write for it.

      1. In any case, Tim’s comments are absolutely correct and deserve to be taken seriously. This tunnel debate was a needless distraction from the real purpose of this blog – the promotion and advocacy of transit. It’s time to move on and get back to the core mission.

        McGinn’s ratings are in the toilet. TMP or not, if he comes out “for” something it is highly likely that the electorate will vote against it. Witness Ref 1 where McGinn’s involvement on the “no” side somehow got the electorate to vote 60% “yes” for something that only 35% of the people really support.

        Maybe the best way to get more rail in Seattle is to have McGinn come out against more rail in Seattle?

      2. That is a silly quibble as to whether one comments or writes for the STB, but however one views it, whatever at this point.

        What is the TMP?

        No, I don’t pay much attention to McGinn – at this point in his time in office, it is pretty clear that not many do in Seattle. I did toss out an olive branch, though, that the tunnel vote could play to his advantage ultimately in 2013 but he will have to find something else to talk about.

        Martin, from a purely public/mass transit-oriented point of view, you and Ben and most of you on the Blog had the issue down well, but the public didn’t see it through this lens but viewed the question in terms of mass mobility and political/financial logistics. The surface option just wouldn’t move the people and freight it would need to, to make the option economically viable for Seattle.

        Most of my fellow tunnelites are just as passionate about mass transit as you are, but the difference between us is that some like me look at mass integrated transit that looks at the problem holistically rather than simply focusing on cars or buses or trains. Not every transportation corridor in the city is suited to trains and buses either logistically or economically. Some corridors suit cars – if not best, at least practically, and the viaduct replacement was one of them. Some corridors can take a mix of rail and cars. To everything there is a purpose and to every season a turn.

        All new projects now can be transit-based in my book and that is why we are here writing or commenting on this Blog.

      3. McGinn’s ratings are in the toilet. TMP or not, if he comes out “for” something it is highly likely that the electorate will vote against it.

        Are you kidding? Politicians would kill for that kind of influence. Do you really think that a full quarter of the population based their votes solely on doing the opposite of what McGinn wanted, and ignored all of the other possible sources of information (including the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pro-tunnel advertising from Let’s Move Forward)?

      4. Aleks,

        No, certainly not all people were voting solely against McGinn, but McGinn’s involvement is widely credited with moving the vote towards the “yes” side. Additionally, the Lets Move Forward people have stated that all they had to do was mention McGinn and their polling numbers shot up. And they used a lot of those mailings to remind people of just that. And it didn’t help that Eyman was on McGinn’s side on this.

        But the real problem here isn’t the win, because that at least clarifies the situation and allows us to finally move forward.

        No, the real problem is that the victory was so lopsided that a lot of policy makers are going to be reticent to modify the plan. It’s going to be much harder to get transit added to the DBT after a 60-40 landslide, compared to getting transit added after a narrow victory (or even a defeat).

      5. The TMP is the Transit Master Plan. We’ve been talking about it a lot here.

        To those who think this didn’t match our “purpose” (though, who put you in charge?): I think we’d all agree a primary purpose of STB should be to maximize transit investment. By that standard, the DBT is by far the worst of the three options.

        Maybe that doesn’t matter to you and you’d prefer to build a highway; that’s fine, you have a lot of company. But don’t get pissy when the transit blog disagrees with you.

  4. I find it amusing that you talk about our Mayor as if he created the budget or the legislation.

    The question is what unfunded messes Ciuncil will get us into.

  5. Am I paranoid? Has the City deliberately let road maintenance slide so they can ask for road levies and use available revenues for other things? The street maintenance issue has been going on for many years, well before the current slowdown. Seriously, I’d love it if someone could point me to a study, or a budget breakdown, or something. I’ve been casually looking for this information for several years. Thanks.

  6. So the Point Defiance bypass will “destroy our neighborhood and permanently disrupt our lives so a few people from Seattle can save six minutes getting to Portland.”

    Sounds like code for “destroying our way of life”. I assume the bypass will be used for more than just Amtrak, no?

    1. This alignment is already used by short-line freights, who will continue to use it after the upgrade. There are no current plans for anything else to use this piece of track.

      1. That’ll be true only for the part of the bypass project south of the new Lakewood Sounder station, which will be “Adjacent to Pacific Highway Southwest near 47th Avenue Southwest.” South of that point, the alignment runs adjacent to I-5, and thus does not go through the middle of any neighborhood not already bisected by a large freeway.

    2. It’s not a new rail corridor. It’s been there for years. It just previously hasn’t seen passenger train use.

      It’ll be shared with Sounder regional commuter rail service, which is currently being extended down to Lakewood, and planned to begin service in fall ’12.

      Some information on Sounder project here:

      Construction of the bypass project that will allow addition of Amtrak trains won’t start until ’13 and is not projected to finish until ’16. By then, the project will be merely adding what should then be 7 Amtrak trains per day to a corridor that already should be running more than that number of Sounder trains.

      The WSDOT project summary page is here:

      1. I looked at the schedules to see how much that would add to the schedule. 9 each way is what Sounder already does, and there’s already half-hour service in the peak direction, although northbound is shifted an hour earlier than the normal peak. So it’s not going to add runs but just extend them. Northbound is half-hourly from 4:55am-8:00am; and southbound is half-hourly 3:15pm-6:15pm. (Some intervals are actually 35 minutes, but it would be a small adjustment to make them truly 30 minutes.) The reverse-peak is two runs. That means five trains are deadheading unless they wait all day for their return run.

        If it were 18 runs each direction instead of 18 runs total, that would allow symmetrical half-hourly peak service, and almost hourly in the mid-day (say 10am, 12pm, and 2pm).

        If there were 18 runs each direction but biased in the peak direction, so that the reverse-peak direction were doubled to four runs, that would give a northbound schedule of (* indicates new runs): 4:55am, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 9:00*, 10:00*, 11:00*, 12:00pm*, 1:00*, 2:00*, 3:00*, 4:00*, 4:30, 5:00, 6:15*.

        Caltrain in contrast has 29 peak-hour trains (limited and baby bullet) each direction, and 13 off-peak trains (local). Judging by the stop spacing and speed, I’d say all Sounder South trains are equivalent to Caltrain’s baby bullets. Saturday has two baby bullets (10:35am and 5:35pm northbound), and 14 hourly local trains (8am-9pm). Saturday adds two extra early/late trains: 7am and 10:30pm northbound, and 10:15pm and 12:1am southbound. The latest you can stay in SF and still have an hour to catch a train home is 11pm weekdays and Saturday, and 8:15pm Sunday. If your event is in San Jose and you live in SF, you’d have to leave at 8:30pm weekdays, 9:30pm Saturday, and 8pm Sunday.

      2. “That means five trains are deadheading unless they wait all day for their return run.”

        Trains layover in the coach yard south of Safeco Field during the day.

        If you look at the SIP, Sound Transit has purchased four additional train easments from BNSF that they currently plan to introduce by 2016. One of those will be a reverse-peak trip and one will be a mid-day trip.

        That will make 13 round trips, but it’s possible that they would not all extend to Lakewood Station. One big difference between Caltrain and Sounder is that Sounder exists on a busy freight rail corridor. Also in the fact that Caltrain has been there for much longer. It’s relatively easy for Caltrain to add trains, they simply need the travel demand, the equipment, the track capacity, a place in the schedule to put the train, a place at the terminal to put the train, and the money to operate the train. They’re currently falling short on that last part.

        For ST, they need to negotiate with BNSF and provide them with great gobs of money. They also need all those other things (except for the capacity, which BNSF will provide for a portion of the money they got).

  7. “Lakewood resident Alan Hart urged the City Council to continue resisting the project. He said the bypass would “destroy our neighborhood and permanently disrupt our lives so a few people from Seattle can save six minutes getting to Portland.”

    Someone put a little too much hyperbole in their coffee this morning.

    1. I wonder what Mr. Harts attitude is like on the freeway when he’s jammed in tight. I’m thinking those PDX-SEA drivers trying to save ten minutes must really wrankle his britches since they’ve just delayed him, what a rough life!

  8. I hope you guys endorse Jane Hague without reservation. She really is catching heat from Republicans and Eymanists for doing what was right for transit… and for the disabled. It’d also only help your nonpartisan cred to back her in the general – and make sure transit issues do not become the province of one political party.

    If Hague goes down, State Republicans will harden much in their anti-tax views. That simply cannot be good for transit can it?


  9. Got to witness a contender for the “Darwin Awards” last night at the SODO Link station. Really STOOOPID! young man with headphones on and phone to his ear under his headphone muff ignored the big flashing red lights and the LOUD clanging bells to cross from the east side platform and walk right in front of a south bound link train that had started moving out of the station. I yelled at him to stop/watch out but he didn’t hear me. The train blew its loud horn and screeched to a halt. The guy seemed unconcerned about his own safety and apologized for “scaring us”.

  10. That’s a really nice summation by Transport Politic…thanks for the link. I’ve been heads-down in work, and I guess I’ve been missing more of the discussion on the TMP than I realized. Would be interesting to see how they resolve potential issues at intersections.

    “Mr. McGinn’s initiative speaks for itself: Here is a leader who recognizes the value of public investment and is willing to put his face forward in order to support what is effectively a significant increase in the cost of driving a car in the city. That’s courageous.”

    Yes, and exciting. He’s moving forward in a way that is still compatible with regional planning…the same framework, at two speeds of implementation.

  11. Now that the tunnel is being built, one transit item on my wish list that will never happen a freeway station in the middle of the tunnel, right underneath Pike Place Market. Yes, it would cost tens of millions of dollars which we don’t have, but if it were there, it would allow RipidRide routes C and E to thru-route each other. This not would result in both corridors being able to drop people off quickly downtown without getting bogged down in local traffic, something that isn’t possible today. It would also make thru-trips from south of downtown to north of downtown possible in time that is close to parity with driving. Compare that to the present, where such trips usually require 20’ish minutes of meandering on local streets, plus a transfer while the highway gets you across downtown in under two minutes.

    1. Well the North Downtown Sounder station has always been penciled in for several blocks north of there. I forget the intersection, but it’s a few blocks south of ME and two blocks east…close to the art institute I believe.

    2. I think I remember Ben writing something about how ventilation and passenger circulation issues prevent there being bus stops in the tunnel. Which is too bad, because an “express” stop in the 99 tunnel could be useful for some passengers, especially if there were a way to connect it do the DSTT.

    3. Why does it have to be underground?

      Since the tunnel in effect creates a wider “surface street” as a by product, why not run a line along the old Interurban, up and down 99. When in Seattle, build some surface street stations where the street front watercar is…this new LINK line would continue south and make the South Center connection then the airport but run express along 99.

      North it would travel Aurora.

  12. Interesting all the comments in the Portland and Vancouver pieces against bicycling. Guess they even have their detractors.

    1. I am still amazed that any one would be against bicycles!?

      To me it’s like being against puppies…how can you not, at least in principle, like bicycles!

      By the way, anecdotally (my favorite way to argue) here on Kent East Hill I’ve been seeing way more people — kids and adults — on bikes. In fact, I see a lot more street “play gangs” where kids are riding, or sitting on their bicycles, more like when I was kid growing up in Queens…

  13. U.S. hails clean fueling breakthrough

    Commissioning the first fuel cell and hydrogen energy station in Orange County, Calif., is a sign of U.S. leadership in clean energy, an official said.

    A tri-generation fuel cell energy station commissioned in California produces hydrogen for up to 50 alternative-fuel vehicles charges per day. Another 250 kilowatts of energy produced by the station can be used to help power a nearby wastewater treatment facility.

    1. It uses methane from wastewater? That’s going to smell nice. I much prefer the biodiesel cars that smell like french fries.

      1. The cars run on hydrogen produced from the methane.

        That’s one of the three products they speak of.

        Hydrogen has no smell…it is the cleanest of fuels.

      2. I’m not worried about the smell of hydrogen. But how pure is the hydrogen they’ll produce?

      3. Methane is a odorless gas as well. Utility companies add a chemical smell to it with butyl mercaptan.

  14. RelayRides ( ) raises $10M to expand service, attract members

    The car-sharing network started in Cambridge, Mass., but moved its headquarters to San Francisco. Rentals at RelayRides start at $5 per hour, and include gas and insurance. Borrowers go through a driving-record check before being allowed to rent a vehicle, and owners outfit their vehicles with an immobilizer that enables renters to unlock their car without a physical key exchange. Like its competitor ZipCar, a set of keys are in the vehicle’s cabin, but the car will only start if there is a reservation and the vehicle has been unlocked using a member access card. Each borrower carries a $1 million insurance policy in the event of an accident.$10m-to-expand-service-attract-members/#ixzz1VUcivTOi

  15. Those people are just nuts. It’s not like they’re building train tracks there. Like people who move next to an airport then complain about the airplanes. One lady was complaining because her kid would be in danger when crossing the rail road tracks. That’s trespassing! We’ve covered this over and over and over for the last 50 years. Stay off the tracks and you stay alive….

  16. I’ve heard train operators call these incidents in. They are obviously shaken so I can only imagine they push all the buttons and pray they don’t get to witness somebody getting mowed down.

  17. The city’s road maintenance issues go back decades. Our backlog at this point has projects that have been known about for 20 years. Good luck finding anyone to consistently point a finger at.

    Most of the problems stem from never truly acknowledging the true costs of road maintenance, and thus never finding a solid funding source for it. Our city street grid carries more people and freight than the state highway system, but doesn’t have any corresponding permanent, comprehensive funding source.

    Some penny-wise and pound-foolish decisions were made over the past century. A lot of streets paved in the early to mid 20th century that should have been poured concrete were made asphalt instead. A lot of streets that should have been resurfaced in the 70’s and 80’s were allowed to degrade to the point where the underlying roadbed was compromised. At best, through most of the 90’s SDOT was treading water on the maintenance backlog, but they finally started to actually document it.

  18. Hague is running against a pro-transit opponent, and has never been a very strong voice for transit on the county council until last week.

    Forgive me if I still view her with some skepticism. We’ll have to see how her mostly unknown, relatively conservative Mercer Island challenger shapes up during the campaign. Many people think she only shifted on the CRC to take a wedge issue away from the Democrats in the upcoming general election, and not out of any true support of transit.

  19. It would potentally be doable, given that the DBT actually passes within a block of the University Street Station at one point, although close to 100′ deeper. All it takes is money to dig a bus stop turnoff and run some ventilation/elevator shafts.

  20. ORCA is so freeking broken. I had to use my ORCA card today or epurse added value would have gone into limbo (major lameness #1). So, wanted to check out the bike polo at Westlake (Worlds coming to Seattle in September!!!). The 255 was 15 minutes late to S. Kirk P&R and it was PACKED. Seems like nothing brings out transit riders like Hempfest. A half dozen or so were headed to the Seahawks game and surprisingly, at least the transit pointy ball crowd and the pot heads get along OK. Before looking at the polo I rode Link out to Bacon Hill. Pretty cool station. The artwork looked better in the pictures than in real life but still pretty cool and they did a lot without really spending a lot of money. Thumbs up! Rode the elevator up to the surface and tapped my ORCA card. This is where it gets wierd. I was tapping to turn around and go back to DT. I think the system assumed I was tapping out. What to do? Anyway, it said free which is a price I like ;-). But when I looked at my ORCA card statement (world’s most user abusive website) what it had done was reverse the 50 cent charge I had been debited when I’d tapped onto Link at Westlake. I probably would have been arrested as a fare evador if they’d checked on my return trip! The really broken thing though was after riding the 255 back to S. Kirk P&R and tapping on exit it just said “transfer” and didn’t charge me a dime. This was a good couple of hours after originally tapping on.

    1. Once e-purse value is physically added to the card (i.e. tapped), it never expires. I just set up Autoload and never worry about it. I haven’t used my personal card in more than month and my e-purse value is still there.

      Let’s break this down leg by leg:
      1) Metro 255, -$2.25
      2) Link tap in downtown, -$0.50 (running total -$2.75 = maximum Link fare from downtown to airport, this is your incentive to tap out if you don’t ride all the way to get some money back, 2 hr transfer window reset)
      3) Link tap out Beacon Hill, +$0.50 (-$2.25, since Link fare from DT to Beacon Hill is $2.00, therefore your ride was a free transfer)
      4) Link tap in BH, -$0.25 (-$2.50 = maximum fare from BH, 2 hr transfer window reset)
      5) Link tap out downtown, +$0.25 (-$2.25, fare for that trip was $2.00, another free transfer)
      6) Metro 255, free (-$2.25 = fare for that trip, within the new 2 hr transfer window, therefore free)

      Total spent $2.25, yes, the transfer window extension feature upon additional payment can be abused in this way.

      And BTW, you’re really not supposed to think about it (that’s the point!) but hey, what can I say about wonks?

      1. 2 hr transfer window reset

        When did this policy go into effect. I thought you got two hours from when you tapped on the first time; in essence a penelty over asking for a paper transfer. Did the agencies all agree this was unfair and provide a big bonus for using ORCA? You could tour the City all day long for one low fare.

        The issue with money going into limbo is if funds are added and the card isn’t used for 60 days (was originally 30) the money gets frozen. And since I got my card through my employer (which was a mistake) I can’t reset it over the web but have to have our HR contact a real person at ORCA which usually requires two or three calls before they find someone that knows what’s going on. They you get another 60 days but there may be a wait of a day or more before the funds are available.

      2. I don’t think you need to use your card to get it updated, you just need to have it connected to the network. If you’re near BTC or a train station, use a TVM to inquire about the e-purse balance. If I understand things correctly, that should update your card.

      3. Well yes, if they had a TVM at S. Kirkland I could use it but I’m not going to drive into DT Bellevue just to do that although if I’d been thinking about it there were several times I was at City Hall where a short walk would have done the trick. Do the machines at RR stations perform the inquire function or are they simple tag on/off like what’s on the DTT (they don’t say Seattle on the signs) platforms? IIRC you can tap on and tap off within a short time window at the same machine and it will cancel your fare. I wonder if that would suffice as connecting to the network. I still don’t understand the 60 day window; it just seems like a pointless pain in the butt.

      4. The off-board ORCA readers have a live connection to the backend, therefore, tapping on them should update your card.

        Don’t know the reason for the 60 day window. Does it have anything to do with accounting or the amount of data that has to be downloaded to the readers each day?

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