Waterfront Design, Topical Meetings

It's Your Waterfront

Starting later this month the waterfront design project will kick-off a series of topical meeting relating to specific interaction elements of the design. Readers will probably be most interested in the February 8th meeting, Mobility and Access, but I personally find the other topics, specifically the first and last much more unique and interesting. Information below the jump.

Continue reading “Waterfront Design, Topical Meetings”

Transit and Land Use: It’s All About Demand

I’ve written here before about how density can aggregate demand for transit and that this is one of main reasons why density is so important.  In an ideal world would be a very dense one where demand for transit is so high that a business case could be made to charge people what it actually costs to run transit and even make a profit doing it.

Here’s a story from Indonesia where transit authorities are going to extreme lengths to stop something called roof riding, the practice of riding on top of commuter trains.

The railway said it resorted to using the concrete balls after previous anti-roof-rider efforts  including greasing the roofs, spraying roof riders with colored water, and detentions and fines didn’t stop the practice.

You might think that these roof riders are just free loaders, catching a ride for free on the train to evade the fare. Nope.

Adi [a transit official] told the Globe the real problem isn’t freeloading riders, but that there aren’t enough trains to accommodate demand.

Part of this story is about how different we look at things compared to the rest of the world. For some of us, a little bit of crowding or an extra minute wait makes transit inconvenient. For much of the rest of the world transit is the primary mode of transportation; cars are just too expensive and governments have built infrastructure to accommodate the car.

I’m not saying Indonesia is the ideal world. I’m sure it’s far from perfect. But I love the idea that there is a place where demand for transit is so big that officials are trying to keep people from getting on the trains with concrete balls. I don’t think anyone around here has any concrete balls, especially when it comes to serious up zones around transit. Until then we can dream and strive for a time when we run out of trains and someone has a profit motive to open another competing mass transit agency, either using rail or something else.

Rail Outperforms But Not Immune to Ice

Photo by wings777

If there’s one thing we learned from our wacky weather week, it’s that no mode of transportation, steel, asphalt, or concrete, is immune to cold harsh weather.  During the ice storm, there wasn’t a soul in the region that didn’t find trouble getting around.  This included rail users, of course, when both Central Link and Tacoma Link’s catenary lines iced over and rail switches along the BNSF mainline froze.  Buses, however, were hit much harder– jackknifed and stranded, many were left out on streets and highways near and far while those that did keep running were slow and unreliable.

During last year’s Thanksgiving storm, Link was lauded for its smooth performance as trains whizzed by parking lot traffic on I-5 and a record number of passengers boarded.  The Seattle Times took the opportunity to pit it against Thursday’s ice storm woes, with a seeming interest in demonstrating light rail’s shortfalls.  Too often, though, stuff like this turns into fodder for transit opponents, who’ll use it as a case example against building rail, even when the framing is simply saying that ice is more menacing than snow (which it is).

With Link this time around, the woes were attributable to a disadvantage in the electrification technology– the overhead catenary lines froze over, something that wouldn’t have happened with a third rail system or if, say, the line were entirely subway.  But you can take just about any form of transportation and improve it in some way shape or form.  Just like how switch heaters and third rail help trains fend away ice, studded tires and chains help cars and buses navigate the snow.

Things like this muck up discussions and debates over mode technology, especially when people make an emotional argument against a mode because of one experience they had aboard that mode.  If last November was any indication, rail does hold a commanding advantage over road-based modes in inclement weather, not because of any technological ice/snow-proof advancements but because of the physical design of the rail trackway itself.

Whether it’s the track design or higher passenger capacity offered by rail, or the greater coverage flexibility from buses, the inherent qualities of any modal technology should be the real cornerstone of the debate.

*Disclaimer: The author is currently employed by Sound Transit.  However, all opinions expressed in this article are completely his own and may not reflect the views of anyone else.

In Defense of Seattle (Snow Edition)

Update: Not two minutes after this post went out, someone emailed this from Art Thiel, which makes the same points, plus additional ones.

Every time it snows in Seattle, you get quite a few people complaining about the response. This time even the LA Times chipped in their derision this time. Complaining itself isn’t a bad thing – we can always do better and improvement is by definition good – but the largest complaints are often about inability of the drivers (especially buses) to adequately cope with the situation. I’d like to quickly explain why our local governments might be doing the right thing, and why local drivers (especially bus operators) aren’t actually worse than those where ever the complainers think good drivers and good snow responses are.
Continue reading “In Defense of Seattle (Snow Edition)”

News Roundup: Snow News Week

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

This is an open thread.

Ice Open Thread

Route 255 on NE 160th St by Oran

Travel has continued to be treacherous all day, with ice causing problems for Link and SeaTac. For travel and disruption information follow the links; King County Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, WSDOT, SDOT, SeaTac. We’ll be tweeting and retweeting information throughout the day.

[Update from Sherwin 3:41pm – The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the region until 4am tomorrow morning. The freezing rain has now turned to snow for most areas, so expect more delays into the evening and tomorrow as well.]

Metro Proposes Minor Revision to Route 25

Route 25 Proposed Change
Route 25 Proposed Change

I’m a little late to the punch here, but Metro is proposing a last-minute addition to the June service change proposal, which will probably go before the King County Council next week (and was passed out of committee last week). The proposed addition relates to Route 25, a relatively little-used route serving Eastlake, Montlake, the U-District and Laurelhurst. The idea is shown on the two map excerpts above: between Campus Parkway and the U-Village, the current alignment on 15th Ave NE and 45th St (shown in blue) would be deleted in favor of Route 25 joining Routes 65, 68, 75 and 372 on Stevens Way and Pend-Orielle Road, passing the UW HUB.

The motivation behind this change is to consolidate all the routes going between the U-District and the U-Village onto one pathway, providing a more frequent and thus more useful service on that common segment. University Heights, the neighborhood served by the current alignment of Route 25, already enjoys much more frequent service to Downtown and other destinations just to the west on 15th Ave and University Ave; the stops on 45th St are little used. The change seems uncontroversial, and it’s pretty small stuff, certainly, compared to what we’ve discussed recently.

Nevertheless, if you have feedback or questions on this suggested change, email them to Metro planner Jack Whisner (jack.whisner@kingcounty.gov). The desire to have this included with the June restructure means the period for public comment is short: it ends January 20th (yes, tomorrow).

ORCA’s New Work and Joint Board Meeting Report

ORCA promo on CT schedule

ORCA’s Joint Board last week discussed changes and enhancements (“new work”) for the next round of implementation in June called Maintenance Release 18. Much of the new work in MR18 has to do with the website and streamlining customer service. Work to be implemented in March (MR 17) will affect back office operations: Autoload enhancements, bank holds, business account management, RapidRide card readers at stations, and transaction history.

Currently, routine Maintenance Releases are scheduled 4 times per year. Costs for new work are shared among the agencies using a complex formula based on the previous year’s ridership, except agency specific work. There is $1.5 million in the regional fund for system enhancement. The agencies will address funding beyond that amount during 2013 budget process.

Due to the publicity for this meeting, Sound Transit’s CEO, Joni Earl, opened the meeting expecting the first public comment to be ever given before the Joint Board. Alas, there was no public comment. The next Joint Board Meeting is on February 13, 2012, 10:30 am at King Street Center’s 8th floor conference center. This is your chance to let the managers and staff of all seven Puget Sound transit agencies know your thoughts about ORCA.

Summary of the meeting and work items for June, after the jump. Continue reading “ORCA’s New Work and Joint Board Meeting Report”

Snow Open Thread #3

It’s time for our third snow open thread.  Just about all agencies regionwide are in snow operations, meaning reroutes, slow buses, lengthy delays, and some canceled routes entirely.  If you’re about to head out, the smart thing to do is probably turn around and stay put.  Otherwise, be sure to check emergency service revisions.

Any rider-to-rider advice is welcomed in the comments.

Improving Route 2 in the Central District and First Hill

Fall 2012 Restructure: Proposed Changes to Routes 2 & 12
Fall 2012 Restructure: Proposed Changes to Routes 2 & 12

One of the best aspects of November’s restructure proposal was the inclusion of the Queen Anne-Madrona Restructure, a major rethinking of the transit corridor that runs from the north side of Queen Anne to Madrona through Belltown, Downtown, First Hill and the Central District. Although I’ve written about this restructure in whole or part, several times, one thing I’ve not discussed in detail is how it will improve the southern part of Route 2.

In the Fall 2012 proposal, the northern part of Route 2 would be deleted in favor of running Route 13 (serving Uptown and Queen Anne) every 15 minutes (or better) until 10 PM, seven days a week. The southern part of the 2 would be rerouted two blocks south from the current Seneca/Spring pair to Madison/Marion, as shown on the map above. Its frequency and times of service would remain unchanged.

On Madison, it would join the restructured Route 12, which would be disconnected from its current 1st Ave connection to Route 10. I’ve written in the past about how disconnecting Routes 10 and 12 would improve the reliability of both, without inconveniencing many riders. After the jump, I’ll examine more of the tradeoffs between the current and proposed routing of the 2, from both a systemwide point of view, and from that of current 2 riders.

Continue reading “Improving Route 2 in the Central District and First Hill”

Tuesday Snow Open Thread

Metro's Alert Page

It’s been snowing around the region for the last few hours with an expected 1-2 inches of snow falling today. All signs indicated that tomorrow will see the heaviest snow with between 5-14 inches of snows starting to fall in the early morning. For snow information follow the links; King County Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, WSDOT, SDOT, SeaTac. We’ll be tweeting and retweeting information throughout the day.

[UPDATE: Metro sent out a press release notifying riders of additional planned cancellations for Wednesday:

Due to the weather forecast for treacherous and impassable roadways, Metro is scaling back some service Wednesday to be able to operate the rest of its system safely and as reliably as possible. The routes scheduled to be canceled for Wednesday are: 2EX, 38, 42, 45, 46, 51, 53, 79, 114, 161, 162, 175, 192, 193, 197, 205, 210, 215, 216, 219, 224, 237, 251, 268, 277, 316, 355, and the Center Park Shuttle. […] But, service on those routes could be restored depending on overnight weather forecasts and actual travel conditions tomorrow.


HB 2575: Eyman’s I-1125 Repackaged

Section 6 of HB 2527

Republican legislators in Olympia have introduced House Bill 2575, a bill which would do many of the same things that Tim Eyman’s failed I-1125 initiative would have done.

The bill, which to me looks to be DOA due to lack of sponsorship from any Democrats, would limit the use of toll revenues only to paying for capital construction costs, require that tolls be removed once bonds are paid off, would not allow the transfer to toll revenues from one facility to another (I-90 to SR-520 for example), and would eliminate WSDOTs ability to use variable tolls.

All of these changes are for the worst and fly in the face of adopted long range regional transportation policy.

Have Your Say on RapidRide E & F Lines

Future RapidRide E Line
Future RapidRide E Line

Last Wednesday, King County Metro announced two public meetings to solicit input on the last two planned RapidRide lines, E and F, which will supersede current Metro Routes 358 and 140 in Spring and Fall of 2013 respectively. RapidRide is Metro’s improved local bus service, with branded stops and buses, off-board ORCA payment and arrival time displays at busy stops, and service “so often, you don’t need a timetable”*. Mark your calendars for the following dates:

RapidRide E (Shoreline to Seattle)
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 6-8 p.m. at
Green Lake Presbyterian Church
6318 Linden Ave N, Seattle 98103
RapidRide F (Burien to Renton)
Thursday, Jan. 26, 6-8 p.m. at
Renton City Hall
1055 S. Grady Way, Renton 98057

Due to budget constraints and the sheer volume of changes to the bus network Metro is undertaking in 2012 and 2013, Metro has replaced the sounding board process with more direct public outreach, using online and paper surveys in addition to public open houses to gather feedback, along with direct mail, social media and blogs to get the word out as widely as possible.

Maps and discussion of the some of the main issues and choices Metro would like input on, after the jump.

Continue reading “Have Your Say on RapidRide E & F Lines”

Where are the density advocates?

I just purchased Daniel Pinkwater’s Big Orange Splot for my daughter (or for me, because in a sense, it’s all for me), and it got me thinking about zoning laws (watch the video if you’re not familiar with it). They’re a funny thing, zoning laws, in a way, because there’s really no logically consistent classical liberal argument against for zoning laws that doesn’t reduce to absurdity extremely quickly.

After the jump. Continue reading “Where are the density advocates?”

A Broader Sales Tax Base Would Help

Last week, PubliCola reported on a proposal by a few freshman Democrats to institute a 1% income tax*, offset by lower B&O and sales taxes. Most notably for our purposes, it would also generate $1.6 billion by extending the sales tax to services. Overall, the State would come out about $500m ahead.

I’m no political pundit but I suspect this is DOA. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that a broader sales tax base would have huge implications for local governments, particularly transit agencies. A couple of years ago, I estimated the fiscal impact of taxing all services as $100m a year for Metro. For comparison, the temporary CRC that basically stabilized Metro’s situation generates $26-28m a year; Metro’s long term deficit is on the order of $60m. All of Metro’s expansion plans come back into play, and then some.

Community Transit’s entire funding gap would disappear, and then some; Sound Transit could suddenly afford Federal Way, the Bellevue tunnel, an Aloha extension, and just about everything else coded “if funding allows”; and Pierce Transit would recover from its recent collapse. And that’s to say nothing about renewed city transportation budgets.

This would be a game changer.

* 1% is the rate; it is NOT a tax on “the 1%”

AG Candidate Ferguson: Tougher DUI Laws Needed

Bob Ferguson

[Update 2:50pm] For those interested in details about traffic safety in Washington State check out WSDOT Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Of traffic fatalities from 2006-2008 in the state 13% involved impairment only, 8% involved impairment and speeding, 10% involved impairment and run-off-road, and 17% involved all three factors.  Of all fatalities, 48% of involved impairment as a contributing factor (see page 15,20 of report).

We don’t often dive into issue related to the Attorney General  but today’s press release from Attorney General Candidate Bob Ferguson piqued my interest. Ferguson, who is currently on the King County Council, and is running against Reagan Dunn, who is also on the Council and voted against the Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC), is calling for tougher penalties and treatment of DUI offenders, backing up his proposal with some shocking statistics.

SEATTLE, WA – Candidate for Attorney General and Chair of the King County Law and Justice Committee Bob Ferguson today announced a plan to Protect Washington Families on our Roads. The plan calls for new laws to hold Washington’s most dangerous DUI offenders accountable.

“Washington currently has a higher percentage of DUI-related deaths than 43 other states,” said Ferguson. “As Attorney General, I will fight to make our roads safer and protect families traveling on our roads. The time has come to take a tougher approach.”

In the past five years, nearly 2,000 people have been killed as the result of drunk drivers on Washington State roads. Among the 50 states, Washington ranks number 7 in the highest percentage of DUI-related deaths.

Read the rest of the press release below the jump. Continue reading “AG Candidate Ferguson: Tougher DUI Laws Needed”