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This is an open thread.

64 Replies to “News Roundup: Shrink the Service Area”

  1. Looking at the Pierce Transit service area / transit votes overlay map provided in the first link, it’s clear that for this to work, the service area would have to be shrunk dramatically. It’s worse than I originally thought – basically NONE of Tacoma’s neighboring towns are regular transit supporters.

    The article claims that over time, the suburban voters are becoming more hostile towards transit. That means even in the purple areas of the map, public support is not a sure thing. That includes the area served by their crush-loaded backbone routes 1 & 2, which is solidly purple on the map.

    If they contract to half their size, cutting off all the red areas on the map to the east and the west, are we then trusting Tacoma voters to tip the scales and overrule the waffling areas directly south of the city?

    Perhaps countywide transit service in Pierce is doomed after all, and Tacoma needs to do it at the city level, in order to get the public support and funding needed.

    1. If you exclude the purple areas outside of the city you remove some areas with pretty strong transit support, like Gig Harbor, Puyallup, and Lakewood. Certainly the red areas in East Pierce need to go, but at the very least there needs to be service from Tacoma to the transit-friendly centers in purple areas.

      Tacoma might consider a city-only streetcar system to supplement and feed into Tacoma Link and the eventual Link connection to the north. It will probably happen faster than if it’s an ST-only project.

      1. The Pierce sub area has a huge amount of bonding authority that we’re supposedly saving up for the last leg from Federal Way. We could use that instead to do a great build out of Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College. Ridership predictions are strong.

        ST hasn’t been operating the fastest for us. It took over a year to get a stakeholder group started to craft the scope of the Alternatives Analysis. Unlike Bellevue, we will take whatever alignment ST says will get us the most economic development and ridership.

    2. I thought about adding overlays with the routes, but my shape files are out of date. And they don’t add all that much to the discussion – although, in October when cuts are made to East Pierce County, it’ll make sense to look at the map with them.

      Also – the deeper the purple, the more they supported PT Prop 1 2011. That may change your analysis a bit.

      A city measure is in the works for complete streets and streetcar, but we’re in scoping mode at the moment, gearing up for Nov 2012.

      We could lop off most of the red area and not lose much revenue. We’ll have to keep some cities that don’t vote much for us, but need PT anyway. Once we lose most of the unincorporated county, we’ll be in good shape to go again – and less of our revenue will need to be dedicated to Shuttle service.

      1. I thought about adding overlays with the routes, but my shape files are out of date. And they don’t add all that much to the discussion

        I was really only interested in seeing the voting patterns around frequent routes. Since for Pierce Transit that’s only two routes, it’s pretty easy to figure out without an overlay – two vertical corridors running south from Tacoma on either side of I-5.

        The Fife/Puyallup/Sumner support really surprises the hell out of me in this map, knowing that there’s not a single frequent route in those areas. Maybe there’s room for ridership growth out there if service is stepped up?

        Also – the deeper the purple, the more they supported PT Prop 1 2011. That may change your analysis a bit.

        Yes, it does. I was operating under the assumption that most of the purple were areas who had supported transit measures in the past, but had voted no on the more recent ones. That didn’t quite mesh with the maps of the Prop 1 vote I recalled seeing, though.
        Knowing that deep purple = yes on prop 1, the plan seems quite viable again.

      2. Remember that we’ve been at 0.6% since 2002. We didn’t go back to the ballot. If we had gone for more earlier, we would have had a cushion to get us through the recession and we would have more frequent service all around. I was a real proponent of shifting from a timed transfer system to a dominant grid with on-street transfers when we were going through the redesign process.

        What kills us in the eastern suburbs is the sight of empty buses, and that’s just a fact of life because of piss poor planning and endless suburban subdivisions rubber stamped by Pierce County.

      3. The last part of your post gets to the root of the problem. If you’d had more money earlier you’d just have a bigger mess. Look at Tacoma Link. It’s free because there’s tax dollars that need to be burned. If PT looses Lakewood then game over; fold up the tent and go home.

    3. This looks bad for Link south of Federal Way. There’s nothing like a Mountlake Terrace between FW and Tacoma.

      It could also affect the 500 (Tacoma-Federal Way local) and 402 (Puyallup Federal Way).

      1. I understand. Just would hate to see you guys seen as yet another progressive blog that will always honor the Democrat for being a D and won’t reward Republican electeds’ courage when that courage is self-evident. Both Hague & Lambert are getting the what-for because they stood up to the Eymanists (while I try to explain what they did to my King County friends), stood up for Metro and made the tough call.


      2. In my case and I suspect more people that frequent this blog might be inclined to consider voting for an (R) if said “R’s” didn’t always vote as a block and feared reprisals from the neanderthal wing of their party.

        The very last Republican I would have considered voting for I was too young at the time. That was Dan Evans. As for Ms. Hague, I thanked her for doing the right thing. But I and my fellow King County citizens shouldn’t really have to had to expend all of that energy just to get a very small amount of funding that has huge impacts for our citizens. It should have been obvious and have been acted on without controversy. The problem that required all of this energy can be traced back to your party and obstruction of government processes.

        That is not to say there is always agreement on the way to move forward. For example, I am at odds with the prevailing notion by many participants here that car tab fees are the best source for transit infrastructure. A Republican response instead of simply saying NO, might be to offer constructive solutions for raising that revenue and that means from someone’s taxes! If Republicans would start engaging in building our community instead of obstruction then more people would listen to them.

  2. It would be interesting to expand the concept to encompass more than transit- why not cut government contracts, subsidies, and services of all sorts from anti-tax voting regions before cutting them elsewhere? I think the effect would be to encourage more growth where there is already density, and the efficiency of many services like transit would go up.

    1. Indeed. I read with amusement Chris Vance’s musings about how “rich liberals” in Seattle are the only ones who vote for tax increases, and how Washington would be Republican but for Seattle. Of course, all those rugged individualists out in the boonies would have to significantly increase their tax burden per capita if they were to maintain their existing level of government services without sponging off King County.

    2. Something to consider. In my travels, I encountered a rather interesting way of doing things in the City/Nation of Singapore. I was reading the paper and read that the government was cutting off a number of services to particular precincts because they did not vote for the “winning” party in the previous election.

      So, say in the City of Seattle that Mr. McGinn didn’t win the last election and instead we got the “all business/no taxes” candidate. But precincts on Capitol Hill and Fremont didn’t vote for that person and when he/she took office, froze all utility work in those areas. Cancelled any road repair work, and reduced bus service and for kickers closed the fire station.

      While it may be emotionally satisfying to “punish” recalcitrant voters in this fashion, I question the democratic fairness of this action. Perhaps, it might be better to put to the voters of the entire county the prospect of:

      “Shall ( A ) the sales tax be increased to fund Pierce Transit’s operations at their current levels of service or ( B ) shall Pierce Transit be reorganized into a Transit Service District whose boundaries correspond to those areas identified as having sufficient demand for transit services or ( C ) disband all public transit services in Pierce County?

      I would surmise that the structure of the questions above probably doesn’t conform to the proper format for referendums but you get the idea.

      1. I understand what you’re saying, but there are a number of important differences which make these situations almost incomparable.

        – Many of these outlying areas currently receive little or no service as it is. Removing them from the service area means that they’ll be paying fewer taxes. The money they save from the taxes will more than offset any amount of money currently being spent in those areas. So it’s hardly a bad deal.

        – The votes in question were not for a political party, but for a specific issue, in this case raising taxes to pay for transit service. These outlying areas have consistently demonstrated that they do not value paying for transit service.

        – Most importantly, *there will be a vote*. We’re not talking about punishing anyone; we’re talking about giving Pierce County voters a chance to decide how they want the transit service area to look, going forward.

        I do hope that you see the difference between stopping utility work in areas that voted for the wrong party/candidate, and giving voters a chance to *choose* that they no longer want to pay taxes and receive the corresponding (minimal) transit service.

    1. Wow. What new US subway was 3.5 miles long but cost $7.5B? Ah, NY’s “East Side Access CR”. I’d love to hear the details of that one.

      Hey look, U-Link was the 2nd cheapest new subway in the US, in $/mile.

      1. Having just two stations probably helps, with the Cap Hill station being fairly straight forward, in good soil and fairly shallow.

      2. East Side Access is the name of the project that connects the LIRR mainline to Grand Central Terminal on the east side of Manhattan, via a new yard and station in Sunnyside, Queens. It’s not actually a subway project.

      3. 1. the East Side Access project goes hand-in-hand with the 2nd Ave Subway project.
        2. the Rock that is the foundation of Manhattan Island is a real bitch to carve anything into/through … never mind all the known and mostly unknown pipes, tubes, wires, cables, etc that are underneath the streets of NYC …

      4. The 2nd Avenue Subway goes nowhere near Grand Central, and has been in the works in some form or another for almost a century now. Yes, it’s an important project to relieve congestion from the Lex that will only get worse when LIRR commuters can get straight to Grand Central, but most of the users of ESA will be heading to jobs in the immediate vicinity of the station anyway.

    1. Uh, yeah, no it wouldn’t at all when you add the fact the speed limit is only 60mph until Broad Street then 30mph from that point into King Street Station. Add your transfer and walking time back into CBD, it becomes a wash.

      It would be better money spent to have a station at the North end of Downtown Seattle (Broad) than in Interbay IMO.

      1. I think you’ve taken my point backward. Take Sounder from somewhere far north. Hop off at Interbay. Take fast bus downtown. This instead of riding all the way to to King St and having to ride a bus back north into downtown.

      2. Ehhh, still, Broad Street would be a better location for sometime like that. I doubt BNSF would even allow it with the yard expansion project coming up next year. There is no real location other than North of Dravus Street but the land there is pretty steep with narrow roads that a bus wouldn’t be able to get in and out of easily.

        Any other location is simply impossible to do, even in Ballard, it wouldn’t be desirable because of the sheer distance to get to 15th Avenue from the railroad.

      3. Broad St. would be nice if there was a way to get people up from the waterfront. Restoring the waterfront streetcar couldn’t hurt. But nothing runs on Alaska, Elliot, Western, or even 1st anymore, so that makes a long walk to get anywhere. I’ll try to refrain from using the word “gondola”.

      4. Actually I think North Link should have 3 new stations. Broad St, Ballard and Shoreline. Broad St because of the already mentioned comments and a connection to a possible re-activated Waterfront Streetcar. I agree that the stations in Ballard and Shoreline might be a bit off the beaten path, eventually transit is bound to catch up as well as the public getting used to it being there (much like Link).

      5. Brian, I have to disagree with you on this one. Interbay is the perfect spot for another stop, the land is already there, add a easy way for either one of the Magnolia buses or maybe the 15/18 combo to stop at the ballpark and pick people up to carry them downtown.

        Broad is way to close, the only reason its a mess up there now is due to that stupid pet project of SAM since they canned the streetcar. Golden Gardens is to far away from central ballard. Interbay serves QA, Ballard, and Fremont.

        Besides, think back to circa 1998 when we met on the bridge, heck the possibility of getting on a commuter at Interbay then would have been golden for photo ops, and seeing brand new F59PHi power!

      6. “But nothing runs on Alaska, Elliot, Western, or even 1st anymore, so that makes a long walk to get anywhere.” Right there is my complaint. What I wouldn’t give for a waterfront streetcar (but slightly more functional than the old one — running more often, and late enough in the evening that students at the Art Institute could catch it after evening classes, which don’t end until 9:45).

      1. What, I’m going to link to a heat recovery project on a transit blog? I needed a hook.

      2. Ok, fine. Check out this PDF for a rough plan of the station. Then, if you happen to care at all about wastewater heat recovery or the new Interbay development, you can read my blog post.

  3. The Tacoma Rail open house is this Saturday from 10am to 2pm. The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad will be there as well with our 1922 Baldwin steam locomotive that will pull some of the trains as well.

    If you happen to be in Tacoma between 4pm and 5pm on Friday or between 3:30pm and 4:30pm you’ll see us going by Freighthouse Square =D

  4. There wasn’t a whole lot of promotion of it, but earlier this week, the Washington State Transit Association held a symposium/vendor expo at Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, with Ben Franklin Transit as the host. To launch the meeting, they held a Roadeo competition. Now, I don’t have the entire final results (it doesn’t seem like anyone does, based on the phone calls I had to make), but I do know who won each division.

    Body-On-Chassis: Darrell Finley (Jefferson Transit Authority)
    30-foot Coach: Gabe Beliz (Ben Franklin Transit)
    40-foot Coach: Dan Schmidt (Ben Franklin Transit)

  5. I agree that Pierce Transit should shrink the service area and use the savings to bring back the service that had to be cut. Brining back the special event service (i.e. The Puyallup Fair) would be a good start.


    Central Link weekday ridership in July 2011 same as in June, and six percent above July 2010.

    I had thought this July weekday ridership might be about 10% above last July, but it was only up about 6 percent, year-over-year.

    It will be interesting to see if Link ridership maintains that 6% year over year increase in the last 5 months of 2011.

  7. Thanks so much for posting the article about bike sharing. I think I was reading more as to find out where the county is in the process rather than reading the pros and cons to wearing a bike helmet. I heard Portland is in the process of putting their system in, I didn’t realize that we were so far along and even have some grants to help us. I think bike sharing would be an amazing addition to our transportation system here in Seattle.

    1. Good Grief Charlie Brown. That document can show you exactly where ‘Joe Six-Pack’ can park his car under 3 different scenarios, but not one mention of where existing bus riders get dropped off or have to walk to get a local bus.
      This sounds like how Mt Baker Stn and Huskie Stn riders got so screwed over.
      Why not just change the agency name to Sound Rail to Car Experience Project.

  8. That’s the Uptown Triangle. Belltown ends at Denny Way.[/snobbery]

    But there are developments being proposed in Belltown, including one to redevelop the parking lot where KOMO parks their microwave trucks into a 12-story apartment building.

  9. Went for a bus ride today and couple of humorous things:

    * I was on a Burien bound #180 at the #671 (RR-A) northbound stop at SeaTac/Airport Station when someone asked the driver where and when to catch the 194. How many years has it been?
    * All my rides on ST Express buses: a lot of trips, lots of people still trying to use Pierce or Metro transfers. Again, how many years has it been?

    Gave me a laugh, but it brings a deeper thing:
    * It has been a while since the 194 was discontinued
    * It has been a while since ST buses took transfers (and each agency took others’ transfers)
    So, what’s taking so long with adapting to change?

    1. Changes to fares, routing, etc, are usually only advertised on the affected routes themselves, so only regular users of those routes hear about them, so it’s probably less about adaptation than it is about awareness. If you rode the 194 or south-end transit very rarely, you’d have little way of knowing (and little reason to know) that it’s gone. And if you mostly ride Pierce/Metro, you wouldn’t keep up on ST’s transfer policy or even their fares—it worked that last time (you know, three years ago), it probably still works.

      I mean, I’ve lived in Seattle 16 years and have probably ridden three ST Express buses in that time. If not for being very ORCA-literate and/or reading this blog, I’d probably have no way of knowing ST doesn’t take Metro transfers anymore. The vast majority of Seattle folks only ever use ST in the form of Link, and while they’re probably aware that they can’t use Metro paper transfers on Link, they probably assume that’s because it’s light rail, not because it’s a different agency.

      Though I wonder if agencies should start printing very largely on the front of their transfers “Valid only on X Transit, not valid on Y Transit or Z Transit”.

  10. Regarding red light cameras: It seems the study may have a conflict as the sponsor apparently has a vested interest in the camera operation industry. Also, as the commenters to that article point out, the assumptions of the study are pretty flawed regarding changes to traffic patterns etc.

    I also know anecdotally from my time in Chicago, that increased rear end accidents and unsafe conditions ensue because of red light cameras.

      1. “Whose” data? :-) I’m saying that there is an increase in rear end collisions and unsafe driver behavior including speeding because of red light cameras AND things like shortened yellow light cycles. I’ve witnessed it first hand.

      2. btw, should pedestrians be ticketed for being in the roadway after the don’t walk countdown expires?

      3. That’s a very car-centric attitude. Pedestrians aren’t putting other people’s lives at risk. Red light runners are.

      4. If you ticketed pedestrians for exceeding the crosswalk time we might have more standing to sue the city and state for timing them absurdly. Most of the pedestrian counters across Rainier (for example) are too short for a non-disabled person walking at a normal pace to get across in time, much less someone with any mobility impairment. Of course, at many intersections right turning drivers (especially at the I-90 off-ramp) think it’s fine to eat into that crossing time by jumping the light by a split second and cutting the pedestrian off.

      5. Conversely, I’ve observed (in Chicago at least) that it is callous pedestrians that create huge car traffic jams downtown by walking into the road after the don’t walk sign has lit and keeping right turn drivers from being able to move. It can take 2-3 cycles of the light to make a right turn. Chicago deals with this by having a whole squadron of “traffic management” personnel bedecked in phosphorescent green safety jackets. They have the power to direct cars against the traffic light system and to tell pedestrians to get back on the curb.

        Of course Seattleites still wait patiently at crosswalks for the walk sign and would rarely if ever think of crossing in the middle of the street with your toddlers in tow. In Chicago, kids are taught early that walk/don’t walk signs don’t mean anything. And cars often don’t stop at crosswalks unless there’s a crush of people in it.

      6. There’s a solution to the pedestrian crossings blocking right turning: all way walk intersections. Seattle has a couple of them. Considering one of the highest risk places for a pedestrian is actually the crosswalk at an intersection, it seems like a great idea to reduce road conflicts.

      7. @RachaelL: In my experience SDOT has been somewhat responsive to being made aware that certain signals are poorly timed. They do sometimes mess up in their calculations or measurements, but moreover a few years back the recommended pedestrian speed was adjusted so that even if SDOT’s earlier calculations were “right”, many signals are due for an adjustment. Couldn’t hurt to let SDOT know if you think a certain signal needs to be lengthened. See this WalkingInSeattle post for more.

    1. Charles-

      Your thoughts on this topic are similar to the early experiences with red light running cameras. There appears to be an uptick in rear-end collisions immediately after the installation. However, the longer a camera is in place, both red-light running collisions (i.e. the right angle collisions which are often the more severe injury type of collisions) and rear-end collisions decrease. There are at least two studies that I am aware of which documented this by analyzing collisions 3 years before the installation of a camera, then comparing it to a period well after the red-light cameras had been installed. This was to minimize the affect of the period when drivers became used to the presence of a camera. The one paper I am familiar with is Red Light Cameras: Surprising New Safety Results by Brian Malone, Alireza Hadayeghi and Cale White. I believe there is another paper from the Texas Transportation Institute.

      1. While my observations are based on my experiences in Chicago, those cameras have been in place at certain intersections for several years already. The behavior of speeding up to get through the intersection remains in place because I would surmise the timing of the yellow light has been reduced significantly. If the light turns from green to yellow while you are in the first 1/3 of an intersection, you will almost be guaranteed to be photographed before you exit the intersection unless your car has “bitchin'” acceleration.

        I had a good laugh at myself when I moved back to Seattle and observed Red Light Cameras on some intersections on Rainier. One of the techniques I had learned in Chicago was if the walk/don’t walk sign had a countdown timer and it is approaching zero, it’s best to stop before the light turns. Well, at Rainier and Graham, I did that and the light didn’t turn!

  11. I saw an item on twitter from the Chicago Tribune ( ) about China investing $199B in urban rail (of which Beijing get’s the lion’s share) in the current 5 year plan. Contrast that with the budget for the US Federal Transit Administration of about $10B in 2010 ( ).

    What could be done if the FTA had that kind of money to spend? Could we have built out ST2 in 5 years instead of 15 or so it’s going to take?

  12. FWIW, I registered my Orca card for autoload today and it was pretty easy. I remember a few people complaining on this blog about website ease-of-use.

    1. Ya, I don’t quite understand all the crank about the ORCA website. It’s not awful. It doesn’t have all the pizzazz that the SoundTransit site has but it’s functional.

      What would be a cool addition however is either a) ability to download transaction history in either delimited format or b) provide some secure API access to the data for analysis. I’d like to see an app that could analyze your transaction data to suggest whether buying a pass makes sense and if so, which level?

    2. IIRC the gripe people had with autoload and the website is the need to set it up from scratch every time you change your pass amount, which of course one tends to do whenever fares go up. Since there were a couple of fare increases shortly after the website launched, it made a rather poor first impression.

  13. When I was waiting for the 180 to go to SeaTac at Kent Station, I noticed there is express service (566) to Renton, Bellevue and Overlake.

    Is that new? It’s quite impressive.

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