Photo by Eli Goldberg (Thursday morning, 15th & 45th)

This is an open thread.

66 Replies to “News Roundup: Snow News Week”

  1. So a couple friends and I decided to start a transit club at my university (Illinois Institute of Technology) And I was wondering if any of you guys have dome anything similar in the past and/or have any suggestions for us.

  2. Silly Rhetoric, Martin? That’s a nice two word editorial piece all by itself.
    Since when is it silly for an elected body to ask serious questions about the source of funds and use of funds? Why is it called rhetoric when elected officials want some straight answers about the choices they made in the past and how that effects the choices they will be offered by ST in the future?
    Other elected bodies should do the same due diligence, instead of accepting a pat on the head, and told to ‘run along and play’.
    The very high operating cost of services being operated by ST in the South Sub-Area has a lot to do with little money being left over for actual building projects – costs much higher than advertised.
    Why isn’t ST going after Federal New Starts money for E.Link? Seattle will have reaped the benefits of 1/2+ billion for Central Link, then again for U-Link, and probably another big bag-o-fed-cash for Northgate. Should Bellevue cry foul too, or just suck up 1/2 the cost of their piddly little tunnel, and say thank you?
    Seattle has a long history of screwing the surrounding cities. There is good reason to engage in some Silly Rhetoric.

    1. I’m not sure I would have used the phrase “silly rhetoric” either, but mainly because it is too soft a phrase. I probably would have used a phrase like “stupid grandstanding” or “idiotic pandering.”

      Quite frankly there is no excuse for the actions being taken by the FW mayor and city council. If I was a citizen of FW and was being represented by these *people* (not my first choice of words) I’d be both embarrassed and ashamed.

      The fact is that the South King sub-area is the worst performing of any of ST’s sub-areas. South King tax revenues are down 30+% and the sub-area is running about an $800M deficit. There simply is no way any agency can keep to their pre-recession plans in that sort of environment.

      But what is the mayor doing about the under performing economy in FW? Is he trying to improve things? Is he trying to facilitate growth? Or even facilitate recovery? Na, he is attacking ST for doing what it has to do deal with a huge budget hole created by no fault of their own.

      My advice to FW residents? Don’t be fooled! While the mayor is trying to distract you by throwing bombs at ST, you had better look at what the mayor is trying to DISTRACT YOU FROM: Mainly the failed policies and actions of the FW mayor and city council.

      Meanwhile, ST will be building to S 200th St and later to Highline CC. Light Rail will get to within 1 stop of FW. Given the economic situation, that is pretty darn good.

      1. Well, I hope the State Auditor has a keener eye on reality than you when he audits ridership fact and fiction. And BTW, thanks for making my point about promises and goods delivered. Those Sky high costs belong to ST, not Fed Way. Want to venture a guess how that happened?
        Link numbers for Dec. are in. It didn’t even break 8 Mil riders last year, down from 8.3 forecast during the year, and down from 15 Mil per year they were supposed to be well on the way to achieving by going to the Airport.
        If Fed Way residents are being fooled, I can assure you it’s not the Mayor. Look elsewhere.
        Look at Sounder costs. Did Fed Way have anything to do with $20 buck rides to Seattle. Hell, Sounder can’t even compete with it’s sister buses from Tacoma.

      2. And what if Renton had been included in the South Sub-Area? Would you be still castigating the South Sub-Area as some failed pariah?

        And further, your sheer arrogance and condescension in describing the citizens of Federal Way and the South Sub-Area is astounding. Do you ascribe to some ultra right wing/libertarian ideology that says those less affluent are lazy, and should be punished for being so?

        To me, the heart of the matter is that the residents of Federal Way, want something for the taxes they are paying and they want THEIR community to transform and be viable for the future. With 1.5 million new people coming to the metropolitan area, it makes sense to develop plans for places like Federal Way to be an opportunity for new population density growth. It won’t be Capitol Hill but it has value to offer. But transit is the key.

      3. IMHO, I think Federal Way is being reasonable. Sound Transit seems to get a lot of slack when it comes to responsibility with taxpayer money. When playing with billions, it’s important somebody demands accountability. In addition, engineering and construction firms should be added to the target list since they’re not without fault either.

        Yeah, light rail will be within “1 stop” of FW, but thats still 1 stop away. You’d never say “well, lets stop building the Link at TIBS because its one stop away from the Airport”. It still isn’t at the Airport, just as this isn’t at Federal Way.

      4. Yes, how embarrassing, demanding what had been promised. Good for FW, I hope they don’t give up until ST commits to extending Link.

        The subarea system is a little silly; how many South King County dollars are spent at Bellevue Square, downtown, etc.

        Lazarus, when you excuse ST for not bring very accountable to the commitments they make, you hurt future expansion. How many s king residents will vote for ST 3 after this? I suspect, a lot won’t. This is a breach of trust, you and other transit advocates should take this seriously and see it for the threat it is.

        Also, which failed policies by the FW mayor and council did you mean? Or was this comment baseless?

      5. Yes, how embarrassing, demanding what had been promised.

        Yes, how unreasonable, being expected to pay for that which you have promised to pay.

        MIke, in the past you’ve opposed building suburban rail that only make sense based on accounting tricks and laughable demand projections. Nowhere is this on better display than in Federal Way.

        Federal Way is far. There’s nothing there. Almost none of the residents’ transportation needs — near or far — are met by the proposed line, and literally no one from outside of Federal Way will be able to get anywhere on it.

        No amount of political wrangling can overcome that the corridor has a fixed ridership ceiling. Even the desired ridership numbers are anemic compared to the cost and effort of construction. The ridership you’re likely to receive in reality is even lower.

        The $13.5 million/year about which Federal Way’s mayor complains probably doesn’t even pay for the bus service they enjoy today — non-stop service, useful to no one else. All of his other bitching are based on this lie that they’re not getting something they’re paying for, something they don’t even logically need. Your b.s. detector should be working overtime here.

      6. Mike,

        When ST2 passed at the polls it was expected that South King would pay a certain amount into the South King sub-area. Now South King is not paying in what was expected of them. As a result, ST needs to cut the amount it spends in South King.

        There is no mystery here. This is exactly what is expected under the policy of sub-area equity – each sub-area gets an equal amount of invest as to what it paid in. This is a policy that South King (amongst others) demanded prior to passing ST1. Now it is time for South King to abide by what they demanded.

        But what is your solution? What would you do to close an $800M funding gap in the South King sub-area?

      7. “what if Renton had been included in the South Sub-Area?”

        If Renton is really better off than the rest of the county, it would improve the South King situation but hurt the East King situation. I think most Rentonites prefer to identify with the “rich” Eastside than the “poor” south end. That may or may not be fair, but I think the current boundary reflects local (i.e., Renton’s) wishes.

        You can’t talk about Renton’s money helping the Federal Way station without also talking about how the loss of Renton would impact East Link: would it jepordize the Overlake stations? Would it make East Link non-viable? Note that Renton is not getting ANY direct benefit out of EITHER East Link or Central Link, both of which are miles away from it. Yet it’s still paying taxes which are going to East Link, and in your scenario it would be paying taxes to Central Link.

    2. I’m not a huge fan of sub-area equity, but in this case it makes this a fairly straight-forward situation for Sound Transit. It basically comes down to math. The South Subarea hasn’t put as much money in the capital pot as the ST2 plan called for, so it won’t get everything the capital plans called for. In this case, Federal Way is absolutely getting screwed because Link to FWTC is getting cut. Setting the facts aside and waving your arms and claiming that Federal Way got screwed for some other reason is silly rhetoric. If Federal Way wants to complain, they should complain to their fellow South Subarea mayors who are getting their promised capital investments.

      Of course, there is the “we paid something and are getting nothing” complaint, and while they aren’t getting nothing, I’m sure some of them feel that way. I think the politicians are trying to get everyone really fired up so they can start negotiating. Unfortunately, coming to the table looking extremely upset can sometimes get you a better political outcome than if you come to the table looking like you’re ready to settle.

      1. Exactly. If you put $800M less into the pot you should expect to get about $800M less in investment. It’s really pretty simple math, and grandstanding against ST isn’t going to change that math one bit.

        But the FW mayor and city council are just trying to distract the citizens from their own failures. I mean, how many times did they fail at the “towers” project? Something like 3? And their annexation proposals went down in flames. Now their economy is the worst in the region and they suddenly want to talk about “ST promises”?

        Yeah, right. Anybody that falls for that one deserves this level of representation.

        Per sub-area equity, the really interesting thing is that it was the outlying areas that insisted on it. At the time they were concerned that all their tax dollars would get sucked up by Seattle, so ST developed the concept of sub-area equity so all the taxes raised in one area get spent in the same area. And Sound Move then passed.

        But now they are mad because they aren’t getting the same thing as the other sub-areas? Well it’s precisely because your subarea isn’t doing as well! Put on your Big Boy pants and deal with it, because the sub-area equity policy you insisted on prohibits Seattle from sending any charity funding your way.

      2. Hello?!? Can you guys that want to pontificate about South King County’s apparent lack of fiscal merit answer my damn question? Would having Renton be included in the South Sub-Area have changed the financial picture for them?

      3. Obviously no one has access to the specific numbers, but I’m pretty sure the answer would be “no.”

        Renton isn’t that big, and doesn’t contribute that much in tax collections. Certainly not anywhere near what would be needed to fill and $800 million hole.

        Keep in mind, also, that the finalized Bellevue routing hasn’t been fully funded, even with Renton in the sub-area pot. And now Seattle gets to be on magic-accounting hook for an East Link station we don’t even need!

    3. From the article, it isn’t clear to me whether the author made the jump to the conclusion that Federal Way is getting “nothing” from Sound Transit, or whether that is what some politicians told him.

      I wrote to him and asked for a retraction.

      At any rate, I hope it is clear that Federal Way is more likely to get light rail faster by lobbying for additional revenue than by undercutting Sound Transit.

      1. …perhaps a few dishonest politicians claiming to be in favor of light rail reaching Federal Way, while actually trying to defund the effort to get light rail to Federal Way.

        Oh, wait, I get your point about ST2 vs ST1. Some of those politicians have been around since ST1. A certain mayor and former state repsentative reminds me of that old saying about politicians and diapers.

    4. “Why isn’t ST going after Federal New Starts money for E.Link?”

      Because the East King Subarea money-pot needs to be emptied, not new money added to it. It’s an embarrassment of riches there, unlike w/S. King.

      1. There’s no embarrassment of riches. If there were plenty of money, Link would be going to downtown Redmond and ST wouldn’t have questioned Bellevue’s tunnel.

      2. And the reason there’s any surplus at all is because the east sub area hasn’t been spending money on capital and operating expenses for rail (except East Link preliminary engineering).

      3. Mike . . . It IS an embarrassment of riches. This is the first light rail line build ANYWHERE in the US just with locally-raised money.

        No need for the pesky FED questions and grant processes, no need to bug the roads folks in Oly for grants, etc.

        We did it on our own, all $5.3 billion of it. Those East King subarea taxpayers have the money and THAT’S GREAT! This way they apply some of it to the socially-beneficial amenity of Light Rail.

    5. The Federal Way station is not eliminated, just deferred. The current thinking is that S. Link will be built out to Federal Way by 2040; the financial models suggest there will be sufficient funds from the ST2 sources by then. So they wait . . . BFD. We’re building a 100 year system, and maybe they’ll have the density there by 2040 to truly allow light rail to be a transformative agent. All that would take is the political will.

  3. Anyone at metro reading here care to explain the rationale behind the 71 “snow shuttle” in Wedgwood? Getting on a bus only to be dropped off with no transfer in sight sucks. So me and the 50 others standing at the corner of 65th and 15th waiting for any bus downtown are curious. Great the 48s are running; lots of those, but not a single 71,72,73,64,or 76 for an hour!

    1. Because the articulated buses running route 71 cannot operate in the area the snow shuttle serves and they cannot run regular buses in the tunnel because of the diesel fumes.

  4. Hey Matt: $120 mil for the same number of riders Link is carrying, which they say is more than the buses it would replace. Someone want to crunch the numbers on Link total costs (cap/ops/debt/dep) against buses and gondolas?

    1. If you want to make a point, it usually is more effective if you make it yourself. Translation: Do your own math, because I don’t care to do it for you.

    2. Gondolas aren’t a great comparator for Link. They don’t go terribly fast, so although for short routes they’re great, it would take far too long to get to the airport in one. Similarly, buses don’t compare because they get stuck in traffic. To build BRT well enough to be comparable you’d need to spend about as much as Link.

      Link seems expensive. But sometimes real solutions are expensive. And “expensive” really only has meaning when compared to something else. How expensive was NYC’s subway system? What would NYC look like now if they just stuck with buses?

      Gondolas are best for reasonably short routes (a few miles max). I see them working well along with light rail. In this case, they are using it to get from the Skytrain to a college campus – a perfect application of the technology (as the benefit-to-cost ratio of 3.6 suggests).

      1. Actually a better question is how expensive would NYC’s subway or Chicago’s be TODAY with the amount of regulatory compliance around ADA, modern zoning, fire code, etc.

      2. Well, its supposed to be what, 3 Billion for the Red Purple Modernization project? 1 Billion to extend it to 130th, 1 Billion to fix what’s there already and bring it up to the posted speed limit, not counting the 110 million to fix Clark/Division station and the 50 million just spent on Grand Ave. Station…

      3. Well you can look at NYC’s Second Avenue Subway project, which is expected to cost $17 billion if all four phases are built, for what ultimately will be an 8.5-mile line.

      4. @Matt L
        hmm, but I think it’s pretty clear that costs on the SAS are way too high for what they’re getting…

        One good question, of course is: “To what degree are the excessive costs on the SAS due to NYC-specific corruption/crazy-regulations/incompetence (as opposed to general American corruption/crazy-regulations/incompetence)?”

    1. I know the driver may be in hot water over how he handled the fare dispute. However, given the violent response, that driver may have just saved the lives of several co-workers trapped in the same office with that guy — which is to say — I don’t think he’ll be welcome at that workplace any more, once he gets out of jail.

      If a driver states the fare, and then lets the passenger on without paying the full fare, it makes it hard to prosecute for trespass.

      The fare signs are quite clear (when the driver gets them posted properly, so that, for example, rides into downtown aren’t displayed as “Pay when you leave”).

      Instead of drivers asking for fare, and putting their faces in harm’s way, the combination of clear signage, recorded fare messages that include a trespass warning, and the ability to summon transit police, seems like a much safer way to deal with violence-prone fare cheaters.

      Let us give thanks he wasn’t about to cross the Aurora Ave Bridge.

    2. Another snippet from the P-I. Time to arm the drivers

      “Assaulting a transit driver is a felony. On average, a Metro driver is injured in an assault or threatened with a weapon about once a month.”

  5. Pretty pathetic that personal car sharing has to be legalized…even finding an insurance company that will cover split households is difficult. In some states it’s just impossible. Yet another social engineering bias in favor of cars.

    1. What’s wrong with this? Other than it’s a car? If anything, this will increase the utilization rate of cars and hopefully that will mean fewer of them in total on the road. As for insurance, I can see cooperatives spring up to provide just that service. You’d pay a monthly/annual membership and per hour/day use fee and your insurance and fuel would be covered. People who put up the capital to purchase a vehicle get a rentier return on their investment.

      When the bias here is cutting off the tails of routes and making people walk farther and farther to get to transportation and in some cases, leaving whole neighborhoods without public transit, car sharing is a viable option to getting people where they want to go and ultimately using less resources e.g. fewer cars manufactured and those that are, are utilized at much higher rates than the 9% per day.

  6. Silly little Federal Way politicians and their silly rhetoric. Let’s just keep marginalizing them, and hopefully their voice will be drowned out.

    Yes, what they paid wasn’t enough to get the track far enough. But they paid something, and got nothing. We can assume that Link will eventually stretch that far south, but when? 2030? Who knows what the region’s priorities will be by then.

    We all appear very paranoid when we discredit any voice of opposition.

    1. There’s a difference between constructive criticism and unconstructive, counterfactual histrionics. I’m all in favor of the former, but people who engage in the latter deserve to be marginalized.

      1. Bruce,

        I don’t think you’ll ever be satisfied with any criticism toward Sound Transit. It is amusing to me that you hold so much allegiance to a government agency that exists as much for it’s own good as for ours.

      2. I concur 100%. The overblown rhetoric coming out of Federal Way is not just embarrassing and shameful, but it is actually counterproductive to getting anything constructive done.

        It’s amazing that the FW citizens are willing to put up with this sort of “stuff”.

      3. Anyone who thinks I’ve not been critical of Sound Transit is laughably uninformed. I’ve harshly criticized a raft of ST’s bad strategic decisions relating to its rail projects, starting from the initial choice to build Central Link before University Link and North Link, as the latter two segments will dwarf the rest of the network in ridership and productivity. I haven’t been critical of them punting on the FedWay segment because they don’t have the fucking money to build it and that seems to me like a good reason not to build it.

      1. The more I think about your comment, the more offense I take on behalf of those who work hard to gather the information reported on this blog.

        Anti-transit trolls who go out of their way to visit a pro-transit blog and try to steer the discourse into a ditch and take pot shots at blog authors and other commenters should find something better to do. (I want to say ad hominem, but I won’t…)

      2. It’s too bad Sam can’t see the high-quality discussion that often occurs here. I learn stuff from the articles and from what people comment; that’s why I read it. It’s capable of descending to the level of an AOL chatroom because anybody can write anything without pre-screening. But it doesn’t have the useless one-liners and shrill attacks that are the reason I don’t spend time in chatrooms or in the Seattle Times comments.

    2. Apparently some in Federal Way are unaware of Sound Transit’s express bus service to the airport and non-stop service to Seattle and Tacoma. They think that’s “nothing”.

    3. Federal Way is asking for something for nothing. It’s expecting other cities to pay for its station. It’s expecting ST to build it for free after ST’s revenue dropped. That’s the silly rhetoric. If I were a GOP presidential candidate, I’d accuse it of being a liberal communist who thinks it’s entitled to other people’s money.

  7. Today’s Transit Adventure

    Kent East Hill to SeaTac

    Had to catch plane at 12 but wanted to get there early to use computer, do work (yeah, right).

    Considerations were: car still covered in 2 inch of ice, apartment parking lot iced over, roads slippery, temperatures still cold. Best choice seemed like transit.

    Left home around 7:15 am. Using OBA was told there was a bus that was delayed a few minutes coming. Then another about 20 minutes later. The first bus disappeared, then the second about 25 minutes later. Then the sceduled 7:52am bus showed up. If I didn’t have OBA I would have just said that I missed my bus by a minute.

    Got to Kent Station, and bad luck continued. Saw 180 leaving just as I got there. Could not make the run from Bay 2 to Bay 9 in snowboots on ice. OBA showed yet another “delayed” bus, which never showed. The scheduled bus was right on time, but of course I had another maximal wait time.

    The roads in Kent Station were covered in pockmarked ice. All the buses had trouble coming down the main cross street that feeds it, and also the street that rings the island where most of the Bays are. I was standing at Bay 9 and a ST 566 got stuck (single, rear wheel drive). A Metro guy with a shovel dug out the wheel while he relayed instructions to the driver through me, shouting through the open door. Always willing to lend a hand.

    Trip to airport just fine. So overall, transit did great. For me there were only “perceived” delays because of OBA, but I just had bad luck hitting the scheduled buses, twice, which added an extra hour to my travel time. In a perfect world, the total trip would take 30 minutes or less. Today it took 2 hours. Still it beats wrecking my car in the snow.

    1. Wait, your car was covered with a 2-inch thick layer of ice?!?

      Seattle winters seem to be worse than I remember…

      1. Yes! I went out Thursday with the intent of cleaning it, but I could not break through the ice to get inside to get the ice scraper!

        Here’s a vid of that stuck bus from yesterday:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo2hrGuYEVs

        Here’s Kent Station, inbound buses struggling in on ice:
        http://youtu.be/NyAOViqvb_A

        There was some beauty…these frozen tree flowers, like nature’s ornaments:

        https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-AYocwLZGQJc/Txq0AaZoCFI/AAAAAAAAAhQ/bOx0bjIwVmw/s512/IMG_20120120_082523.jpg

        https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-24qXGp7OYwU/TxqzzA4h5uI/AAAAAAAAAgo/psq-p2CU6uI/s640/IMG_20120120_082704.jpg

        And the blue glow while waiting for the 168 on Kent East:

        https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-VtmS6XXyjcc/TxqziZ0NVlI/AAAAAAAAAgQ/ebW-pybyVLE/s640/IMG_20120120_073847.jpg

  8. Maybe Mayor Priest would be satisfied if the Regional Express service were not provided by “buses”, but instead by “RTV’s”:

    Council members in Montgomery County are a step closer to a big change to a major transportation project.

    The Corridor Cities Transitway is a proposed mass transit line that would run from the Shady Grove Metro station west and then north, ending in Clarksburg. More than two years ago, council members voted to make light rail the preferred transit option for the line.

    But after talking with state officials, County Executive Isiah Leggett asked council members to change their minds. Leggett said a bus rapid transit (BRT) system has a better chance of being built because it costs less and the state is already seeking federal money for two other light rail projects considered a higher priority: the Purple Line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore’s Red Line.

    Yesterday a council committee voted to change the preferred option to BRT, and the full council will vote next week. Council member Craig Rice was a light rail supporter, but says he understands the need to move forward with an alternative.

    “Being a realist and understanding that, unfortunately, without the support from the state, and understanding how important this project is, that we need to go forward with whatever we can at this point,” said Rice.

    Another change is also likely. Council members began referring to BRT as “RTV” for rapid transit vehicles. The thinking is that buses have a negative connotation, and that RTV systems are different than standard bus lines.

    http://wamu.org/news/12/01/20/committee_picks_bus_over_light_rail_for_cct

    1. Perfect solution. ST takes over the A line from Metro, calls it RTV and poof. All fixed. Win, Win, under budget, ahead of schedule.
      What’s not to like about it?

      1. The part about the ST South sub area being broke. They have no funding to take over additional service. Fortunately Metro doesn’t adhere to a strict sub area equity model.

  9. Hydrogen-powered buses may be on way to north-east [Scotland]

    North-east councils have secured a multimillion-pound European funding pledge towards Scotland’s first hydrogen-powered buses.

    http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2605230

    Hydrogen cars moving closer to reality in Britain

    The UK Government has teamed with several key companies involved in alternative fuels and auto making to form a new project, UKH2Mobility, which seeks to make hydrogen-powered cars a reality on British roads.

      1. Wenatchee already has an electric bus in service.

        http://www.linktransit.com/

        Scroll down to read about the Current. Last I heard, they are still working out some issues with the quick-charge station at Columbia Station, but they are running it in service during midday hours.

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