King County Metro 48 in Montlake
King County Metro 48 in Montlake / Photo by Oran

Several weeks ago, I discussed one way possible way the 48 could be split in the U-District without significant additional cost or layover space in the Montlake Triangle, allowing the inexpensive electrification of the southern segment of the 48. As if on cue (but a complete coincidence!), the Executive’s proposed 2012 budget for King County (enormous PDF of all capital projects) includes a line item (PDF page 309)  for filling in the missing 1.6 miles of overhead wire on 23rd Ave.

Unfortunately, before you stand up and cheer, there’s some bad news: this project is externally funded, and the funding is a moderately-long shot. The funding sources identified in the budget are a federal grant and the City of Seattle. For this project to happen, two things must happen: Metro needs to win a $6.9 million TIGER TIGGER grant, and the city must pass the $60 VLF to afford the $9 million local match. $6.9 million is at the high end of the typical range of TIGER TIGGER grants, but due to the excellent and long-lasting environmental benefits and shovel-ready nature of the project, this project should be very competitive. More after the jump.

The total of $13 million is rather higher than I would have expected based on the conventional wisdom of roughly $3 million per mile for uncomplicated segments of wire; Metro’s spokespeople were vague on why the cost seemed so much higher. I suspect that some of the cost might come from upgrades required to existing substations and other infrastructure on 23rd Ave, which may have changed little over their several decades of use; and also the cost of paperwork and compliance that always accompanies federal dollars.

Metro plans to replace the trolleybus fleet at approximately the current size and composition* in 2014 and 2015 (PDF pages 256 and 272). I’m told that once Route 70 is re-electrified (expected in the spring), Metro will have about 20 spare trolleybuses in the AM peak and seven spare in the PM peak. I would guess the cycle time of the 48S to be about 1:20, so to provide 10 minute headways in the peaks will require at least eight buses in service on that route. Those additional coaches will probably come from other efficiency restructures elsewhere in the the trolleybus network; for example, the Queen Anne-First Hill-Madrona restructure I described achieves higher peak frequencies with fewer coaches than the current network due to its superior design.

Assuming Metro wins the TIGER TIGGER grant, Seattle’s local match will be required in order for the federal money to be disbursed. The city will probably not be able to come up with the money on schedule unless the $60 VLF passes, and the fate of the VLF is now in the hands of Seattle’s voters. It is possible that if the VLF does not pass, the award could be deferred or the project phased differently, but it’s hard to say at this point exactly how this scenario would play out.

So: if you want to see route 48 electrified, volunteer, donate and vote to pass Proposition 1!

* Actually, there will be five fewer 60′ coaches than currently, because Metro expects to be able to get significantly more platform hours out of new coaches than the unreliable Bredas.

89 Replies to “Proposition 1 May Let Us Electrify Route 48”

  1. I’d like to see the 48 electrified … but with the section from the U-District to Greenwood as a streetcar.

    1. I’d like to see Bruce do one of his charts for the 48N. I’d be surprised if it was carrying its weight as a route. If it were rerouted away from the U-District, even post-Link, I doubt it would be that popular. 15-minute frequencies, maybe; electrification and other such improvements, I doubt it.

      1. 48N between the U District and Greenwood is quite popular; west of there ridership drops off.

      2. I have only anecdotal weekend experience at this point, but what I have concurs with Alex’s comment.

        Certainly, there is good peak ridership there. We can infer that from the existence of peak trips (express and local) that only serve the northern segment. Metro wouldn’t be running peak trippers if they couldn’t fill them up.

        Of course, good peak ridership does not good all-day ridership make; but that route is definitely doing something right.

      3. Anecdotally I’d also concur w/Alex. But it’s worth noting that terminating the 48 at Greenwood would cut E-W service in Ballard significantly. You’d only have the 75 and the 44, separated by 2-3 miles, with the 75 turning south a half-mile from 32nd. It definitely makes sense to split the route, and possibly to only run all the way to Loyal Heights during peak hours, but I don’t think terminating all runs in Greenwood is a good idea. There’s also plenty of layover room in Loyal Heights that there isn’t in Greenwood :)

  2. Does Metro sound willing to at least consider restructuring Queen Anne and the 4-south in the next two years?

    1. Quite a bit more than the 48. The 48 shares a long segment with the 43 plus a bit of the 4. The 8 only shares a bit of the 4, a bit of the 43, and a bit of its west end.

    2. 4.4 miles of new wire and millions of dollars, though the ridership probably justifies it. (.4 miles of wire from MLK/McClellan to MLK/Walker, 2.6 miles of wire from MLK/Judkins to 23rd/John, and 1.4 miles of wire from Denny/Olive to Denny/1st Ave N)

      And while we’re at it, 15 minute Sunday service the 8 would be most appreciated! (kill the 42 and you can pay for it)

      1. Still well worth the cost because of the hilly terrain. But Eastbound on Denny Between Westlake Ave and I-5 will also require a remake.

      2. Why does the 8 need to exist in its current form? We’re talking about splitting the 48, after all.

        What if we electrified Denny Way and joined the 8N with the tail of the 11 at Madison St? We could run frequent crosstown service with relatively few service hours. We could terminate the 8S at MLK and Madison. There’s a nice Link station going in on Broadway that will make getting to the Rainier Valley from Capitol Hill nice and fast. The 8S would shadow Link through the valley.

      3. Terminating the 8S at Madison is less than ideal. Take a look at the Bruce’s ridership pattern breakdown for the route. Hardly anyone is getting on or off there, so you’d force a lot of transfers, and it would stop just a mile or so short of the Broadway light rail station.

        If you really want to split it, it should be split at MBTC. That’s where ridership is lowest and on/offs are highest. But then you have to electrify MLK through the CD.

        If you want to split it, and also avoid electrifying MLK, then split it at Capitol Hill Station. That’s where there’s a ton of boarding/deboarding going on already, but the passenger load passing through is higher than MBTC, so you’d force more transfers.

      4. Splitting the 8 is probably not going to fly until U-Link is built. If you look at the section of the 8 in the Madison Valley, you’ll see that is has very few boardings but has quite a passengers on board, strongly suggesting that people are using it to get from the RV to Capitol Hill.

        You can make the case that if, after U-Link, we:

        * Did the Queen Anne-Madrona restructure, creating 15 minute headways at all times the 3S,
        * Upgraded 48S and 2S to 10 min Mon-Sat, 15 min Sundays and evenings, and did TMP-like capital improvements boost reliability on those routes,
        * Upgraded the 11 and 14 to 15-minute headways at all times (possibly also abolishing the 27 off-peak),

        If we did all that, we could eliminate the 8 between Group Health and Mount Baker TC. South of Jackson, the 8 is too close between the north-south section of the 14, and the 48. Between E Denny and Cherry, it’s too close to the N-S sections of the 3 and 2, and the 48. There’s really only a couple of small (and not very dense) pockets of the city that have a long walk to a bus if you axe that whole section of the 8.

        Riders will walk a pretty good distance to a stop if their nearest route options are frequent, direct and reliable. Providing too much coverage and too little frequency is (in my view) the bane of Metro’s network. I am working on a post about this.

        Even if you split the 8, electrifying either the MLK segment or the Queen Anne-Group Health segment wouldn’t be cheap. There’s not a whole lot a of wire over either, and the bridge over I-5 would inflate the costs for that segment.

      5. Kyle,

        As I see it, there are two main advantages to connecting Madison Park to downtown via Madison St:

        – It’s a straight route, which means it’s easier for passengers to understand, and more efficient for Metro to run;
        – It’s on an officially-designated high-capacity transit corridor.

        That said, Madison Park simply does not need the level of service that any of the main Capitol Hill E-W corridors do. That’s why the 11 currently serves as an infrequent auxiliary service to the 10, rather than an important part of the route network.

        My suggestion for how to fix that (once we have U-Link, of course) is to reroute the 43 down Madison. In other words, a lot of buses would go from downtown to Madison and 23rd; most would turn left and continue to the U-District, and some would go straight to Madison Park. (And, if we don’t get rid of the 12, some would do the weird backtracking thing.)

        There are lots of ways that you can stagger these for consistent headways. Assuming 10 minute service on Madison, you could imagine having every other bus go to the U-District, every third bus go to Madison Park, and the extra bus would turn around at 23rd. That gets you 20 minute service from 23rd/24th to downtown (a bit worse than today), 30 minute service to Madison Park (same as today), and 10 minute service for the core part of Madison (much better than today).

        What I like about this idea is that it takes the best advantage of planned capital investments, and still continues to provide the one-seat rides to downtown and/or the U-District that people value. West Capitol Hill now has Link, and at most, anyone who wants to go downtown from East Capitol Hill would have to walk four extra blocks — west to 15th, east to 23rd, or south to Madison. And in return, we provide a convenient transfer point to downtown and the U-District for many more riders, since Madison St is such a blockbuster corridor (especially compared to Thomas St).

      6. Aleks, that plan doesn’t work. You can’t send every other bus to the U-District and every third bus to Madison Park. Perhaps you meant one of every four buses to Madison Park. That gives you forty minute headways, not thirty minute headways to Madison Park.

      7. aw, yeah. I’m an idiot. My original plan was to have every other bus go to the U-District, every fourth bus go to Madison Park, and the last one backtrack to 19th or turn around at 23rd. But I was tired last night. :)

        That said, I also read the TMP, and apparently Corridor 6 (Madison St BRT) will have enough demand for 5-minute all-day service. At that point, you could have 15-minute service to the U-District, 30-mintue service to Madison Park, and still have a lot of buses left over. (i.e. U-District at :0, :15, :30, :45; Madison Park at :5, :35; and the other buses would all turn back at 23rd.)

        In comparison, the “baseline” proposal for all that frequency is 10-minute service to 19th and 10-minute service to Madison Park. I think it goes without saying that neither of those long tails need anywhere close to that kind of frequency. Those bus service hours would be much better spent elsewhere.

      8. “If you look at the section of the 8 in the Madison Valley, you’ll see that is has very few boardings but has quite a passengers on board, strongly suggesting that people are using it to get from the RV to Capitol Hill.”

        Yes, and I’ve seen half the passengers on the 8 do this, some coming from Graham or even further south. But just because they’re doing that doesn’t mean it’s the ideal route. If it went on Broadway it would be shorter. It could even go up Broadway and turn left on Denny. There are a significant number of people going from Rainier Valley to SLU/Seattle Center.

        Why they take the 8 and don’t look for a faster way, I don’t know. I’ve developed a theory about one-seat riders. They don’t seem to care about travel time or frequency. So we can make their routes slower by adding a neighborhood to absorb another minor route, and they won’t complain.

      9. Rather than putting the 43 on Madison, I’m thinking about pushing all the Pine Street buses to either John or Madison when Capitol Hill station opens. Send the 11 to Madison, and the 10 to John. Turn the 49 into a north-south route on Broadway. The 43 is an anomaly, but it’s popular enough to stay for now, especially since 23rd is not a great transfer point. Pine Street businesses will complain, but the college and clubs will still be within walking distance of either John or Madison.

        The 14-north, people have been predicting its demise. I’m not going to push it off a cliff because I ride it, but note it would make a productive peak-only route. (BTW, I ride it in the “reverse commute” from Pine to Republican when I’m going to the library.)

      10. Once U-Link opens, there’s a direct route from CHS to UW (U-Link), and from CHS to the U-District (the 49). And, if the 10 is moved to John, there’s also a direct route from CHS to 15th.

        Given that, moving the 43 to Madison has a few minor cons:

        – People on 23rd lose a one-seat ride to CHS and the Broadway neighborhood
        – People on Thomas between 15th and 23rd (and according to Bruce’s table, there are very few of them) need to walk further to get downtown or to the U-District

        But it also has some major benefits:

        – People on 23rd can now use a BRT corridor to get downtown, which hopefully means a faster ride
        – South Capitol Hill/First Hill, and part of the CD, now has a much better connection to 23rd and the U-District, and vice versa

        Really, if you just look at the streets in question, it seems like a no-brainer. Between Broadway and 23rd, John and Thomas are sleepy arterials with very little pedestrian traffic or commercial activity. That corridor is really only useful because it connects others — it’s the best way to get between the Broadway neighborhood, the 15th Ave neighborhood, and 23rd (including bus connections). Between downtown and 23rd, Madison is a blockbuster corridor, with lots of commercial activity, lots of pedestrians, lots of destinations, and lots of construction (meaning that it will get even busier).

        And anyway, if Pine (a busy corridor) is so close to Madison that it doesn’t need its own service, then surely the same argument applies to Thomas east of 15th. From Pine and Broadway to Madison or CHS — the nearest downtown-bound stops under your proposal — is about 1500 feet. From 19th and Thomas to 15th, or Madison, is about 1300 feet. So if it’s a good idea to move all service from the high-traffic Pine St corridor to Madison, then it’s an even better idea to move all service from the quiet Thomas St corridor to Madison.

      11. Oh, and as far as the 49 goes, I think you forgot about the FHSC. :)

        When they chose the Broadway alignment for the streetcar, the City of Seattle committed to providing N-S service on 12th Ave. That means south of John St, since to the north, it’s just a bunch of residences.

        Thus, I think that what’s going to happen is that the 9 will get rerouted, so that north of Yesler, it takes 12th Ave. It will then continue on 12th all the way to John, then pass in front of CHS, and head north to pick up the 49’s current route. The combination of this new route and the FHSC provides service to all existing corridors, and also 12th Ave, without any (expensive) redundancy.

        It’s possible that Metro might implement a broader restructuring, but to be honest, I’m betting they’ll save that for when U-Link comes online.

      12. “as far as the 49 goes, I think you forgot about the FHSC”

        I did, but it serves a different market than a north-south route. The First Hill streetcar is only good for getting from upper Broadway to Chinatown, or further into downtown. It doesn’t work for those going from north Rainier to Broadway, or from St Mark’s or Roanoke to Broadway, or from First Hill to Bertschi School, etc. I don’t mind if it goes on 12th south of Denny, but it needs to go from the U-district to at least Mt Baker stn or Beacon Hill stn. That’s the only way to delete the 49, and fill in the hole that has existed since the 9-local was deleted.

      13. Mike,
        Pike/Pine between downtown and 15th is a pretty heavily ridden corridor. This would be as insane as eliminating the 7 because riders could just walk to the 8 and Link on MLK.

        If anything Pike/Pine between downtown and 15th Ave is likely to keep very frequent service no matter how routes are restructured.

      14. Pike/Pine between downtown and 15th is a pretty heavily ridden corridor. This would be as insane as eliminating the 7 because riders could just walk to the 8 and Link on MLK.

        According to the TMP, Madison will someday have BRT service with 5-minute all day headways. The service hours for those have to come from somewhere. Why not Pike/Pine, which (at the furthest point) is only a 1/4 mile walk from the nearest replacement service?

      15. Walking times between Madison and John/Olive at a slow pace (slower than the neighbors):

        Broadway: John to Pine, 8 minutes. Pine to Madison, 8:10 minutes.

        Summit-Pike-Bellevue: Madison to Pine, 11 minutes. Pine to E Olive Way, 3:06 minutes.

        Chris Stefan: we can get Metro to at least consider it and tell us the impacts. Pike/Pine is not as frequent as it looks because buses turn off it at several places. Even at Pine & Bellevue, it’s only westbound that all buses stop at the same stop. Eastbound it’s two blocks between the 10/11/49 stop and the 14/43 stop. If you stand at Pine & Bellevue to catch either set of buses and a 10/11/49 passes, you can’t get to the stop before it’s gone. Having two streets with truly frequent service would be better than three streets with pseudo-frequent service.

      16. Aleks: the Madison BRT may include new service hours. But even if it doesn’t, it would be worth making the street improvements now, and it would be ready for new service hours later.

      17. I guess at Summit/Bellevue, it’s only the Madison to Pine time that’s important (11 minutes). The Pine to Olive segment is irrelevant because the same bus that you’re trying to catch goes along it. Walking to Olive is necesssary only for the 8, which is outside this discussion.

      18. Maybe a sidewalk improvement on Summit or Minor/Bellevue could make the Madison-to-Pine walk better, like was done on Edmunds Street in Columbia City. Summit is residential, and Minor/Bellevue is potentially confusing to visitors because the streets meet at an odd angle. A row of distinct lampposts and an artistic stripe would say, “This is the way” and “This is the transit walkway.”

      19. I stand by the idea of removing transit service from Pike/Pine as being utterly insane.

        Sure I know there are a limited number of service hours to pull from but there are a lot of other places to pull service hours from before you mess with a corridor that is dense and one of the most pedestrian friendly in the city. This is exactly the sort of neighborhood we are talking about when we talk about walkable neighborhoods and TOD.

        In addition to the service hours for the current 11 and 12 you could move the 2 to Madison between Downtown and Union. Furthermore the 43 is pretty redundant under most restructuring proposals I’ve seen. While some of those service hours would likely go to the 8 some could go to Madison too. Then there is the 14N which most here agree is a waste of service hours. If the 9 north of Jackson/36/49 are combined into an Othello to U-District route via Beacon Ave, 12th, Broadway/10th that frees up a fair number of service hours as well even while increasing service in the corridor.

        Besides I don’t see anyone proposing to eliminate service on 15th so those buses will have to go somewhere. Sure you could run them down John, but that misses the development along 15th between John and Madison. It also puts a lot of service on the John/Olive corridor above and beyond the fairly high level of service proposed for the E/W portion of the 8.

      20. The reason to move the 10 to John is to put it right next to the Link entrance. Otherwise the 10 could be “the Pine Street bus”.

      21. If the 8 were split into an 8N (Seattle Center to the U district) and 8S Mt Baker TC to Rainier Beach (which is reasonable because there are few boardings of the 8 in the CD), then the 11 should have 15 minute frequencies. This is because the biggest gap that elimination of the central portion of the 8 would leave is in the Madison Valley. The only way to make up that service is by increasing the frequency of the 11.

        As for other Capitol Hill/First Hill restructurings, I think the 43 and 11 should be interlined and routed via Madison providing every 7.5 minute coverage on Madison between 23rd and Downtown. The route 60 should not continue past Beacon Hill. The route 36 (because of link light rail) should be rerouted up Broadway to the U-district, the 49 should continue to serve downtown to Broadway (until U-link is completed) but should be rerouted via Roy st. to terminate at the current Route 14N terminus. The route 14N should be eliminated. The Route 10 should be rerouted via Bellevue to Olive to John to 15th and from 15th serve the terminus of the Route 12 via Galer st. The Route 12 should be eliminated. The Route 7 should be rerouted via Boren and Mercer to Queen Anne. The route 9X should be eliminated.

        These changes solve all of the problems associated with eliminating the central portion of the 8, improves connectivity between a variety of corridors (notably First Hill) and keeps service hours fairly neutral although I didn’t calculate that exactly.

      22. Chris: Capitol Hill is lucky enough to have three highly dense E-W corridors in close proximity (which converge into two corridors east of 15th). That doesn’t mean that the best use of money is to split service hours equally between them.

        Madison is the most obvious corridor of the three. It’s already been identified as an HCT corridor, for which SDOT wants to have 5-minute headways. It’s the main street in First Hill, which means that everyone who gets sick (i.e. everyone) will need to go there sometimes. It’s also developing like crazy. Take a walk down Madison sometime. The amount of construction going on there is unreal. I think there’s at least one major project every two blocks.

        John/Thomas has also been identified as a priority bus corridor in the frequent transit network (corridor 7). It’s the most direct way to get between Queen Anne, SLU, Broadway, and East Capitol Hill. And it runs right next to the future Link station.

        That leaves Pike/Pine. At the intersection of Pine and Broadway, it’s a 4-block walk to the nearest alternative service to downtown (either U-Link, Madison, or Bellevue). As you go east, the gap narrows; by the time you get to 12th, Pike is actually closer to Madison than to Pine! Similarly, as you go west, you get closer to Bellevue, which has service to downtown as well (the 10).

        No one’s denying that Pike/Pine is a great corridor. But it’s bookended by two other great corridors which have been officially designated as important components of Seattle’s frequent transit network. Given the choice between 5-minute headways on Madison, or 10-minute headways each on Madison and Pine, I would pick the former in a second.

      23. Alex,

        Realistically, if the 8 is split, the 8N will probably be a straight E-W line. (Take a look at Corridor 7 in the TMP.) Similarly, the 9/36/49 will almost certainly be subsumed by a single Corridor 3 route, going from Othello to the U-District via Beacon Ave, 12th, and Broadway.

        Sending the 49 down Roy to Bellevue/Summit is cute, but it’s not happening. Either the 14N stays, or Bellevue/Summit loses service. There’s no way that Metro is going to move a route *away* from a priority bus corridor. (And anyway, the Aloha extension of the streetcar isn’t even funded for study yet, so that would leave all of north Broadway without service.)

      24. Aleks,

        I agree the 8N should be a straight east-west line and never intended to imply otherwise. Second North Capitol Hill would still have ten minute frequencies because as I stated the 36 would run along Broadway and 10th to the U-district. In this scenario while north Capitol Hill would lose its downtown service it would get 6 trips per hour instead of four, a reasonable trade off in my opinion.

        As for what I was referring to as the route 49 it would be (more or less) the same route between downtown and broadway and roy but not serve the U-district. This route would be needed to provide reasonable service between Broadway and downtown until U-link is completed. Once U-Link is completed it would be entirely redundant. As for extending this shortened Route 49 five blocks to summit I don’t see what is “cute” about that at all. If a broadway to downtown route is necessary but a route running along summit is a little excessive wouldn’t this make for a fair compromise for elimination of the route 14N?

      25. I also think Chris is right to suggest that it makes sense to route the 2 between 12th and downtown via Pike. Otherwise the 2, which can’t go all the way up Madison to 23rd without a significant detour, will simply be overlapping on top of the Madison service. This 15 minute service in pike/pine combined presumably with 15 minute service between downtown and Bellevue on a restructured route 10 would sufficiently serve the pike/pine area, particularly west of Broadway where Madison and John/Denny get further and further away from Pike.

        In addition, I expect that the route 43 will be sent to Madison, not John in a restructure, ensuring that John is not preposterously over crowded with buses.

      26. Alex,

        Re Broadway: Take a look at Corridor 3 in the TMP. It’s a corridor from Othello to the U-District, via Beacon, 12th Ave, and Broadway/10th. It’s pretty clear that the authors want this to become a single bus route. Between that route and the FHSC, the current 9, 36, and 49 would be completely redundant.

        Re the 14/49: Ah, I completely misread your point. My apologies. You’re saying, keep the 49 between downtown and Broadway/Roy; delete the 10th Ave and north segment (and reassign it to the new route); and extend what’s left of the 49 four blocks west to provide some service for Summit/Bellevue. Is that correct?

        I still don’t think that will happen, though. Metro isn’t going to string up 4 new blocks of trolley wire, just to take them down again in 5 years. If the 14N is cut, that corridor is dead.

        As far as the 2 goes, all observers agree that the 2 will be rerouted down Madison, not Pike/Pine. This is what both Chris and I suggested, and it’s what Metro wrote in some unofficial restructuring documents before the $20 VLF had been passed. This is both stated and implied in the TMP as well; figure 3-14, for example, indicates that the Madison corridor will serve Madison Park and Madrona.

        Anyway, Madison is a much more conservative routing change. Moving the 2 to Madison means a 2-block further walk (at most), and turning from Union to Madison is super-easy (compared to the weird bowtie loop that exists today). Moving the 2 to Pike/Pine means moving it away from First Hill entirely, and you have an even more awkward jog between Pine and Union at 12th. The former will save money; the latter will probably cost money.

  3. Great article and you’re right to tie this proposal to passage of Prop 1. There’s no way this is going to happen anytime soon without passage of Prop. 1. It’s also worth noting that the first set of speed and reliability corridor improvements funded by Prop. 1 will almost certainly be in this same corridor. So, you’re looking at the possibility of electrification, along with the bus bulbs, transit priority signals, queue jumps that will considerably speed up the 48. (See, page 3-20, Corridor 5 map).

    One correction, it’s actually a TIGGER grant, not a TIGER grant that Metro is seeking (with City of Seattle support). As the full name -Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction- implies, these grants are fairly well tailored for exactly this kind of electrification project. Plus, in this corridor, the project would have some real social justice benefits. So, it’s a pretty competitive grant application. We just need to local match and, therefore, voters to approve Prop 1 to make it happen.

    1. Has there been any thought process about the possibility this trolley wire would be in the way if the city decides some day to build a streetcar extension from Roosevelt Station to Greenwood?

      Or to put it another way, would installing this wire help force the decision not to build such a streetcar extension?

      Thanks for chiming in on this blog, Bill. But, if you’re still reading this, what is Councilmember Rasmussen’s preferred method of being reached, besides showing up at a forum? If he is telling people to send him emails, he needs to start answering emails.

      1. Any streetcar extension that’s not already in the city’s drafts is too far away and long-shot to worry about now. We don’t even know if both Westlake and Eastlake will be built, much less whether it might reach Roosevelt someday. It must surely be less expensive to take down or move a trolley wire than to install a streetcar. And trolleybuses have 2/3 of the benefits of streetcars anyway.

      2. Re Rasmussen, I’ve gotten replies from him, but it can take two or three months. Same for other city/county politicians.

      3. With modern “offwire” battery technology, it’s easy to remove trolleybus wire over a single intersection and allow the trolleybuses to drive through; this makes it easy to have a streetcar line cross a trolleybus line.

        If you want to have a streetcar line replace a trolleybus line, you just simplify the wiring; the poles & mountings can all remain.

        The only problem comes if you want to run a streetcar line straight down the same street as a trolleybus line.

  4. Beyond the environmental advantages to electrifying route 48, are there any other benefits to it? I think that’s reason enough, but this isn’t exactly the best time, economy-wise, to be trying to convince people to spend more money just because it’s good for the environment (unfortunately). Any other selling points to really drive home the value of this change?

    1. With Seattle’s low cost of electricity this could be a money saver for Metro. One “funding” source for Metro would be Seattle cutting Metro the same deal it does for electricity as it does it’s other large use customers. Of course Seattle rate payers would end up picking up the slack which seems fair. One question I have is what the off wire capability will be of the new ETBs and will this be enough to assure service doesn’t get hosed by bunching on a route with frequent headway. The other question is, if Seattle voters pass Prop 1 what sort of assurance do they have the money will actually be used for this purpose. It seems pretty up in the air.

      1. The new ETBs will run like Vancouver BC’s, with a battery on board to allow them to run off-wire for a few minutes at a time (through a construction zone, for example).

    2. It should climb the hills faster too. Articulated diesels have trouble with hills, as RapidRide B and its predecessors have in Bellevue.

      1. No kidding, pulling the grade on NE 8th, especially eastbound is a real struggle for RR B even with the bus only half full. But coming out of Redmond it seems to do OK on the climb up to 148th I guess because it has a chance to get a run at it. Another good reason to move the stop from 134th to 132nd.

    3. Hill climbing power – this stretch includes a steep half-mile hillclimb, with a stop at the bottom and 2 more on the slope. Even if they get a rolling start and don’t make any stops on the hill, they’re absolutely crawling by the time they get to the top. If you can calculate how much time they’d save per-day by doing 30 mph on the hill instead of 20, times $89/hr, you might find a compelling long-term reason for it.

      Fuel cost would be a big driver. Electricity is MUCH cheaper than diesel. But for it to be a net savings, we’d have to not lose many service hours following the wire on the deadheads – this is where we have trouble with our current trolley network.

      Noise is also a really compelling reason. This route has some of the highest boardings per mile of any route in the system – it is constantly accelerating and stopping over and over. Everywhere along the route, residents are currently treated to the sound of a 11 liter diesel at full throttle climbing through the gears 8 times an hour. You can hear it for a couple blocks in either direction.

      1. Which trolley deadheads are truly dead? The 43s in the early evening on lower Broadway are well used.

      2. It would be sweet if they could put switches where the 23rd Ave wire crosses the 2, 3/4 and 14. For trips originating at the north end, you could deadhead down Jackson and head up 23rd; for the south, Jackson to Rainier. I guess a diesel could use Dearborn and save a couple of minutes, but I don’t see this route as being problematic.

        Much of the inefficiency in our trolley network comes from bad route design. I’ve been meaning for a couple of months now to write about why the Queen Anne-First Hill-Madrona restructure is so much more efficient than the current configuration. Maybe this weekend…

  5. So, let’s say Metro makes the southern half of the 48 a trolley route (which I believe they will never do). During the evenings, Metro likes to make two split routes one continuous route, like how the the 7 continues on as the 49, and the 43 continues on as the 44. For this reason, I don’t believe they will ever trollify ™ the southern half of the 48.

    1. They wouldn’t have applied for the TIGGER grant if they didn’t intend to split the route and electrify it. Otherwise, Metro would not be able to accept and spend the funds.

      1. Bill,

        Please tell me we won’t electrify half this line, force people to transfer at a point distant from UW long before Roosevelt Station opens, and then tear it all out to build a streetcar.

        Please tell me these questions have been foreseen.

        (I’m asking here, in part, because Rasmussen’s office doesn’t respond to email.)

    2. You’re begging the question. If you assume that the 48S and 48N are two halves of one route, then of course there’s no real advantage to splitting them. Bruce’s proposal is not a 43/44-style split, but to actually disconnect the routes entirely. For example, the 1 and the 36 are currently connected, but it’s been proposed to connect the 70 and 36 instead. Similarly, the 11 and 125 are currently connected, but once Metro’s HCT plan for Madison St is implemented, the 11 will probably become a standalone route (or it will connect with the 10 or 43 or something else like it). In all of these cases, the original route pairing would be completely gone.

      Say what you will about numbers, but you haven’t provided any. What I know is that Metro’s recent analysis concluded that it was cheaper to keep the trolley routes than to convert them to hybrids, which means it’s not unreasonable to assume that extending the trolley network would save even more money. This is especially true for a route like the 48S, for which most of the capital investments have already been made, and which deals with enough hills and stop-and-go traffic that the energy cost savings could add up fast.

      1. “If you assume that the 48S and 48N are two halves of one route, then of course there’s no real advantage to splitting them”

        Yes there is: reliability. Any delays affect the entire route, and the longer the route is, the harder it is to get back on schedule. So that makes two reasons to split the 48: reliability, and energy efficiency.

      2. Right. What I’m saying is, if you assume that the 48N and 48S will be connected off-peak, then of course you can’t electrify one half. That’s begging the question (or circular reasoning). It’s like saying, “Metro will never buy green jellybeans, because Metro has a policy against buying green jellybeans.” Well, duh.

        The proposal is to completely separate the two halves, and to assign them new through-route partners (or maybe no partner at all, in the case of the 48S), in which case Sam’s objection does not apply. That was my only point.

  6. So what about the 48-north? The chance of it going to the Eastside as the 271 is pretty small. Would they just split the 48 and that would be it?

      1. Not sure how that helps, if the issue is layover space in the U-District…

        Realistically, I think that any of these options is more likely than the 48N-271 link:

        – The 48N will layover at the UW campus
        – The 48N will link with some other bus that goes through UW campus or near Husky Stadium, like a combined 72/372
        – The 44 will be rerouted/extended to Laurelhurst, thus freeing up layover space at the Montlake Triangle
        – The 48N will be electrified as well

        The first two options have no capital cost; the last two are based on ideas from the draft TMP.

        In contrast, linking an all-day Eastside bus with an all-day in-city bus is pretty much unprecedented. Even if the service levels match up, it’s hard to believe Metro will go for it. Aside from the potential reliability issues, there’s the fact that the 255 and 271 are the only two remaining all-day cross-lake routes that aren’t run by ST, and I’m sure there’s someone at one of those agencies who wants to change that.

      2. It doesn’t help with the Montlake end, but the 85th tail really should be extended somewhere to make it more productive. Ballard is the natural destination, and 32nd may be almost as good as 24th as a way to get there.

    1. Depending on how other routes are restructured, the 48N could continue downtown via the University Express until North Link opens. Currently, there are a lot of redundancies in North East Seattle routing. Instead of having Routes 71, 72, 73, 66, and 67, I think there should simply be two routes, the 48N going to a University Express, and a route that goes from Northgate TC to 15th ave (via 100th st) to the U-District (call it Route 40). With each route running at 15 minute frequencies, this would improve connections between the U-district and downtown, streamline the service going due north from the U-district, and free up service hours to use on other north south arterials in NE Seattle (25th, 35th, and Sandpoint Way).

      1. The 48N certainly is one option for a “North of the U-District” tail for a combined Downtown/U-District service. However most proposals send buses to Northgate via the 66/67 route.

        Due to congestion on Northgate Way, around the Mall, and the location of Northgate TC, having the bus turn from 15th to Northgate Way (and vice versa) is a recipe for delays. Also North of 65th the 66/67 route to Northgate has more density and ridership than 15th NE between 65th and Northgate Way.

      2. OK then my so called Route 40 (as I suggested it, running via 15th north of 65th) should instead run via Roosevelt along the 66/67 corridor north of 65th. But does that corridor (north of 65th) justify >15 minute headways? If not then the University Express could still be an interlined what I’m calling Route 40 and 48N.

  7. I understand the separated 48N (which I unofficially call “Route 47”) cannot lay over at Montlake Blvd NE & NE Pacific Pl near Husky Stadium, but what about:

    Option 1: …on Campus Parkway a la Routes 31 (Sunday only), 65 (Weekends only), 75 and 372?


    Option 2: …at Memorial Way & Stevens Way in the UW Campus a la Metro route 271, ST route 540 and all CT UW commuter routes?

    1. I’d like to know what you all would do with the 48, 71, and that general area from 65th to about 95th once North Link opens. At one point, we were considering connecting the 48N with the tail of the 71 with a connection at Roosevelt Station. Metro has suggested merging the 71’s tail with a modified 26. If the 48N doesn’t go to the U-District once Roosevelt Station opens, forcing a transfer to Link or whatever bus is running north-south along 15th and/or Roosevelt, it’ll still be fairly important, but nowhere near as important as it is now.

      1. As much as I like the idea of a grid-friendly route, it’s definitely true that most of the ridership of the tails of those two routes are headed to the U-District or to downtown. This proposal would be forcing a transfer for just about everyone. Probably, at Roosevelt Station, virtually the entire bus would turn over.

        That’s not necessarily a strike against an E-W route; if the numbers work out, and the transfer to North Link is efficient enough, then it could be worthwhile. But I don’t think it’s a slam dunk.

      2. It shows that the 48-north is pretty much ideal already, and it would make more sense to force a transfer on the other routes but keep the 48N. The 48N has people going to Roosevelt, Greenlake, Aurora, and Greenwood all day, as well as local residents and UW commuters. The 71 doesn’t have much past Roosevelt except local residents. Forcing a transfer on the 48 at Roosevelt would break all those north Seattle trips. Forcing a transfer on the 71 would affect just those residents who live in Ravenna/Wedgwood, and a few Ravenna shoppers and employees. That’s the price you pay for living in a lower-density residential neighborhood.

      3. For the foreseeable future it seems that the U-district will be a far more effective destination for buses than Roosevelt. Assuming that there are north south routes (hopefully with decent frequency) serving the U-district on 25th, 35th, and SandPoint way, then the only area that would lack coverage is the residential neighborhood between 40th and 55th (East to West) and 65th and 75th (North to South). Service to this area can easily be provided by simply having the route 30 continue up 40th ave to 75th st (instead of 65th st) then routing it back down to 65th st and eventually Magnuson park at 50th Ave.

  8. This seems like a lot of money for very little benefit. Any of the BRT routes in the transit master plan seem like they give a lot more bang for the buck than this. They are a lot more expensive but I think a few big projects is better than a lot of little ones.

    1. You’re not thinking about the operational savings.

      This is a relatively small expense now, which provides cheaper operations for years to come. It has to be looked at that way.

  9. Will the TIGGER grant compete with ST’s grant application for 200th St Station? While I don’t think the new station will be used to its full potential, I realize it has to get done before ST considers building to Highline Community College.

    200th St Station has had to wait in line behind the South Park Bridge and Mercer St beautification. The City Council could make a lot of friends down south by backing the 200th St Station grant application.

    1. ST’s if going up for a TIGER grant, not a TIGGER grant (I was confused about this myself at first). They are separate pots of money.

  10. Maybe its in the queue for a post, but the electrification from Rainier Beach to RB Station is necessary for the completion of the 7’s route to RBS.

    Thankfully, our friends down in Rainier Beach haven’t started a campaign group to kill the VLF unless their neighborhood gets to cut to the front of the line, like a certain other neighborhood group southeast of Northgate.

    But Henderson electrification ought to be one of the earliest new electrifications.

  11. Why bother with wires? Couldn’t we get electric buses with enough battery to run off-wire for 2 miles?

    1. … and then have the operator stop to attach or disconnect the poles from the wire in the middle of every run?

    2. 2 miles? Yes, but that starts requiring serious battery to be used on a regular basis — eventually raising costs and impacting on reliability.

      Across a single intersection (to clear competing streetcar wire, for instance) or for one block, and you’re not really demanding much out of the battery, but 2 miles and you’ve started to operate a battery car….

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