This an open thread.

77 Replies to “News Roundup: Two of Three”

  1. I can deal with the glitches in One Bus Away … it has been more than helpful 99.99% of the time.

    1. My experience is the opposite…there were at least 3 times where it’s mistaking data caused a major impact on my time and travel. In one case a 2 hour wait that could have been avoided if I weren’t using OBA.

      1. As a driver, OneBusAway inaccuracies are an annoyingy common source of customer rage when OBA prediction doesn’t match when my bus pulls up.

  2. Thought experiment
    What is WSDOT’s plans for the old 520 pontoons?
    If the old pontoons were running just Transit (no general or carpool lanes) what would be a fair estimat of their remaining lifetime?
    Would it be possiable to refit the old pontoons to extend their lifetime after they are removed from service?
    Would it be possiable to move the old 520 pontoons to a new location, and set up a Sandpoint to Kirkland transit only route?
    If so are there enough pontoons, or how many would need to be built?
    I assume we would need to leave teh opening span in the middle, and highrises would need to be built on either side, what would a rough order of magnitude be on the budget for doing this?

    1. What is WSDOT’s plans for the old 520 pontoons?

      Artificial reef. That’s what they all become. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes unexpectedly.

      what would be a fair estimate of their remaining lifetime?

      Zero. It’s costing a fortune right now to patch all the cracks and as they add material the bridge sinks further under the added weight. There’s no way in hell people would accept the idea of another highway on each side of the lake and a floating obstruction off of Kirkland and Sandpoint; two of the most popular sailing spots on the either lake.

      rough order of magnitude be on the budget for doing this?

      Including EIS, ROW acquisition, supporting roads on each side somewhere north of $4 billion dollars.

  3. I had a bad experience the other day with OBA and the 355 on my homeward commute. It went from saying the bus was on time, to 4 minutes delayed, to 11 minutes, to 16 minutes. I catch the bus on 3rd, so, it’s not that far from the start of the route. I kept thinking “How could a bus go from on time to 16 minutes delayed in the span of a mile?” Is it through-routed with some other route and that other route is delayed? Or is this just a glitch in OBA? Normally OBA is so helpful and works so well, that’s probably what made it more frustrating for me.

    1. I am hoping most of these OBA glitches are just from the conversion to GPS. I don’t use OBA quite as frequently any more, but it sounds like it’s becoming less and less reliable.

      1. I have actually contacted quite a few people about OBA’s recent degradation of accuracy. I have almost stopped using it completely because it has become so volatile. I have noticed it persitently on the 26/28, where buses are getting “lost” (showing up and not being present on OBA) or arrival times fluctuating between being before or after the preceding or following arrivals. Unfortunately I haven’t received a better answer than that blog post. It is very clear though that the issues really started after the founder moved on.

        I think this issue is become more poignant too since someone put up the screen at 3rd and James showing arrival times for buses in the open public. I have boarded the aforementioned 26/28 multiple times and taken a shot with my phone at the screen with OBA showing the bus left 6 minutes prior.

        The volatility may be ok for people who are aware, but to the uninformed this sort inaccuracy could be really detrimental.

      2. It sounds from that blog post and the comments that the issue is not so much the GPS itself, so much as the system that OBA is using to extrapolate from the GPS data. The system that OBA uses to extrapolate from the AVL data, it sounds like, works just as well for the GPS data as the AVL data, while the Metro in-house system that OBA uses to extrapolate from the GPS data is… let’s just say substantially shittier. OBA, it sounds like, is as set up for GPS as they’ll ever be, meaning that full conversion of the fleet will not in and of itself solve the problems with OBA and GPS; working out the kinks in the GPS system itself will.

    2. The thing I want is a Metro App with the schedules in a font and format appropriate for an Android or iPhone.

      It doesn’t have to be dynamic at all, just a way to take the schedules with me with the latest information.

      1. I think it would be great if OneBusAway made this available on the phone clients. If you use the website you can already get stop-level schedule data (much more useful than Metro’s website), but the app doesn’t have a way to show it that I know of. Unless you have the links handy, getting to the timetable pages on a phone browser is not a lot of fun.

        For example: Pike St & 4th Ave.

    3. One issue may be prediction data on connecting routes not projecting to the route connected to. The 26/124, 18/22, 15/21 etc. can be notoriously inaccurate because OBA doesn’t start predicting delays until the inbound bus arrives downtown and “becomes” the new route.

  4. “Big Project in Columbia City”

    Big Project on Lower Queen Anne:

    “One of the largest developments in Uptown/Lower Queen Anne in years has taken shape, and it’s hard to miss it. The mixed-use development at 100 Republican St. is now framed all the way up — six stories — spanning nearly an entire city block. Here’s the view from 1st and Republican (the camera didn’t zoom out wide enough to capture the entire building

    “The building will house 275 units with 17,725 square feet of street level retail space, two rooftop courtyards, and a 2,000 square-foot outdoor plaza on Republican that will serve as an entrance to the building. There’s no word yet on any retail tenants. Here’s the view of the rendering of the finished product, from the same intersection”

    Some nice drawings and a photograph in this article. This is just north of KeyArena, and just across the street from one of the busiest bus stops in Seattle, outside of downtown.

    1. Looks interesting, seems to have some of the same design elements as the development on broadway between republican and mercer — especially that central staircase mezzanine thing.

    2. This is just one of many new projects in LQA/Uptown. Ava Queen Anne is now leasing with 179 apartments. There are four large 6 & 7 story buildings in the planning stages around Seattle Center. Plus there are several smaller buildings under construction or in the planning stages which are 5-7 stories high.

    3. Another large development in Ballard:

      Large retail and residential building to be built on NW Market St. near 24th Ave NW

      March 29th, 2012

      The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has approved a land use application for a seven-story building at 2428 NW Market St, where Archie McPhee used to be. According to the project listing, the building will contain 12,200 sq. ft. of retail commercial uses and four residential units at ground level, and 305 residential units above. There will be parking for 415 vehicles in a below grade parking garage. The current buildings at that location will be demolished.

      Very near bus stops for Route #17 and #18.

      1. I don’t think the SDOT blog post really reflects either a good cross-section of the feedback or what the Waterfront Seattle people are thinking. Certainly, the latter seem to care about have a viable small retail/restaurant scene down there.

      2. Agreed. I’m a bit curmudgeony about this. The port should be for shipping/maritime. But that “ship has sailed…”

      3. Did you commerce fans and boat fans attend the public workshops and give feedback? I trust a design firm, fifty volunteers, and hundreds of citizen respondents over one person’s belief that they know what the waterfront needs.

        I attended at least three of the workshops, and small businesses were mentioned frequently by both the organizers and the respondents. There was some mention of tiny boats (kayaks) but not much about small boats (covered motor boats, sailboats, houseboats). Of course, the ferries, cruise ships, and tour boats would continue to be supported.

        Perhaps others felt like me, that the waterfront doesn’t have small boats because they’d get in the way of the larger ships that dock downtown. There are marinas at Shilshole and other places which are a better place for “residential” long-term storage. Of course, a small marina for day use might be beneficial — have you suggested it to the waterfront team? But most of the small boats that I see are toys for the rich or indebted, which have negative impacts on the community when they force bridges to go up. So I’m not sure how much public benefit there is to devote a large part of the waterfront to them.

    1. Because if there’s nothing to draw pedestrians there in the first place, the “space for pedestrians” will become wasteland. And wasteland begets wasteland (and crime and other horrible urban uses). Bad art is not a draw: heck, good art, should any such exist, isn’t a draw. Offices, shops, restaurants, and carts are a draw.

      The biggest draw of all in an urban waterfront is conspicuously missing in Seattle’s so-called waterfront: BOATS. A few ferries a day, a couple of tour boats, one water taxi (if that’s even still running, I haven’t checked), a tiny marina to the north of downtown, and the infrequent shipping traffic to the south of it. Boats need to be there, lots and lots of them.

      1. +1. More boats, please. Would it be legal for fishermen to sell fish directly from boats harbored on Elliot Bay?

      2. +1000, even though I hate riding on boats (I get motion sick). Boats (and the waterfront) are half the reason that you build cities on the water in the first place! You better believe the waterfront wasn’t a mere tourist attraction when Seattle was first settled.

    1. I’m waiting for these to be banned. The very first accident, and there will be total hysteria.

  5. The 81% figure on people claiming they wouldn’t pay $3 for parking is interesting.

    I grew up in in a suburb of Chicago where many residents park and ride a commuter train to downtown Chicago (there is no Seattle-style P&R; commuter garages and lots are scattered in the blocks surrounding the station, all paid, probably subsidized, city-operated — the nearby suburbs each have their own train stations and downtown Elmhurst isn’t especially convenient to drive to, so there’s no reason to expect lots of non-residents taking advantage of the subsidy). I know some of these park-and-riding commuters who have commented during a Chicago transit funding crisis that if their fares and parking rates doubled overnight they wouldn’t even think about changing their commute. Their other options are simply lousy.

    I think the same will be true for many people that park and ride from Northgate after Link opens. But a lot of those people drive downtown (or to other congested areas like the U District and Cap Hill) today, because the (perceived or real) problems with the 41 (crowding, unreliability, not going to the U District or Cap Hill, etc.) make it an undesirable option as well. Polling today’s bus passengers, even today’s park-and-riding passengers, is only telling half the story. So people that like the idea of paid parking at Northgate shouldn’t let the 81% number scare them. I’m sure the Seattle Times would make a stink about it, but let’s face it: 81% of their readership will be living in Arizona by the time Link hits Northgate.

    1. High five, Al, I grew up in Villa Park.

      Same there – you have to pay to park in the lot at the Metra station. Sure as hell beats the Eisenhower.

    2. The reason commuter trains and non-free parking are accepted more in Chicagoland and New York is that the trains have been running since before the rise of the automobile, and the station parking was (presumably) built as an extra service for people who were already taking the trains as did their parents and grandparents.

      In Pugetopolis, the streetcars and commuter trains were ripped out and there was no rail for fifty years until it started coming back. The bus service that replaced it was skeletal and limited. Suburbia extended to new areas that had never had rail (e.g., Federal Way). In the 80s Metro built P&Rs to entice people to take transit. If it had charged for parking, people would have blown it off. Enough people remember those days that they’re offended at charging for P&Rs now, because why should they pay for something that used to be free? And anyway, their taxes pay for the construction and maintenance of the P&Rs.

      It’s truly sad that Seattle and Pugetopolis didn’t hold on to its old rail routes so that they could simply be renovated as in Chicago and New York, and the tradition and expectation of rail transit would have been continuous. Then people here would be more accepting of paid P&Rs, because they’re riding the trains anyway, and the P&Rs would be seen as just a new side service than as an enticement for a wholesale shift in travel patterns.

      1. Chicago has torn up lots of rail, too. Chicago’s bus numbers date back to the old streetcar numbers, like in other cities. And Chicago has torn out “interurbans” just like Seattle has. Even some of the grade-separated trackage, elevated structures, and embankments have been removed (both freight and passenger).

        Pugetopolis has never had what Chicago has. When Chicago went to build the Orange Line, as mentioned in a previous post, it had a better rapid transit corridor than Seattle has ever had in its history, just lying around as surplus freight trackage.

        But that doesn’t change the geometry of the situation — the park-and-ride commute to a fast, reliable train is a pretty good commute option for people that don’t live within walking distance of fast, reliable transit service. The advantages over parking downtown are clear even without the history.

  6. With all this development with the city limits, could we see an uptick in our density? I believe seattle sits around 7,300 per sq mile.

    1. I would assume so. I think what happened in the past is that more places were being built at the same time that family size in the typical house went down (smaller families or couples living in houses). But even that has turned around, as more and more people send their kids to Seattle Public Schools (a lot of the schools they thought they were going to close are now being re-opened). But all in all, I would imagine our density has increased substantially in the last five years, and is likely to increase in the next five.

      1. But there is also an uptick in households of unrelated persons and in SF’s being converted to shared housing.

      1. Per Wikipedia, LA’s population density is only about 8,000 people/sq mile. So Seattle is less dense than LA but on the same order of magnitude.

        7,300 people/square mile is about the density of Crown Hill, for what it’s worth — smallish-lot single family housing with the occasional small apartment building or townhouse.

        (By the way, I don’t know LA well, but LA being more dense than Seattle doesn’t surprise me offhand — my understanding is that a lot of the fabled LA sprawl is outside the LA city limits. LA itself is a real city, grown in the 20th century, but truly a city. It’s just that LA gets compared to New York, which is a 19th century city)

      2. LA being one of the most populated cities in this country, 8,000 per sq mile is a rather pathetic density number. Look at the size of LA, I believe its over 300 sq miles. At this size, LA will never size an increase in density. If anything, more people are moving out of the city and state. Here it Seattle we have a better chance of increasing our density with smart development.

      3. Standard density calculations are flawed in two major ways:

        – They follow municipal boundaries, which are arbitrary and meaningless.
        – They are weighted by area, which means that if everyone in the city moved to a single apartment building, the number would not change.

        Using population-weighted density of urbanized areas, you end up with very different numbers.

        However, note that the Seattle area is still far less dense than LA (though denser than Portland). So the basic intuition is correct.

  7. How accurate would OneBusAway be for a northbound (non-42) bus at I-90/Rainier Freeway Station, far from the start of the route, even if it were equipped with GPS?

  8. GM trying to get the disinterested young

    Earth to Government Motors, build cars that don’t suck!

  9. Will the DSTT (or any of the future link tunnels) ever get cell phone reception??

    While I like tunneled rail better than elevated, the cell phone reception issue bothers me since I’m on my cell phone about 10+ hours a day. It’s already the year 2012 and they have not figured out how to get cell phone signals underground.

    Please, lost reception is lost time. Lost time is lost money. Lost money is sad.

    1. Oh, I’m sure they know how to do it. It’s getting the cell carriers to pay to do it. Those two objectives haven’t intersected yet. With the upcoming ULink tunnels with tens of thousands of UW people all using personal tech, I would think underground connectivity would be a high priority. Also, this is a prime place that the city’s erstwhile WIFI network should be deployed.

    2. What’ll probably happen is that one cell carrier gets an exclusive contract, so only people with that carrier will be able to use their phones.

      1. Then I guess it will most likely be Verizon or AT&T, given that both Sprint and T-Mobile are on a downward trend.

        Wifi is only half the problem (although that would solve OneBusAway). I expect to have lots of phone calls coming in at all periods of the day.

    3. Sorry to hear that. On the plus side, as a big fan of elevated (grade separated) rail, now I have another argument for my side :)

    4. I asked the same question on STB a while back and was told there are interference problems that prevent adding cell phone service in the DSTT.

  10. I just got back from the open house on the RFA. Not a lot of information was offered beyond what you can find on the webpage.

    I’ll have a lot more to say on the topic later, but there is one immediate action item: Metro’s deadline to notify Sound Transit of any changes in tunnel routes is 180 days ahead of the change. In the case of the September 29 pick, that would be this Saturday.

    Please call your county council member tomorrow and ask that Metro go through with its plan to remove a couple peak-hour routes from the tunnel.

    Given that POP for the tunnel, and most bus routes in general, is off the table, we have to have fewer buses slogging through the tunnel during rush hour.

    1. Unfortunately, moving the buses to 3rd Ave. during rush hour will cause its own delays, especially when everyone on all buses has have to pay/scan as they board. If I remember correctly, the last time any tunnel buses were on 3rd during the work week, the 15 and 18 were on 1st Ave.

      1. Given that the commuter routes from which to choose are not one-zone, I bet the ones kicked upstairs are going up to 2nd and 4th. Most of the capital and personnel investment in the post-RFA system is probably going in the tunnel and on 3rd.

    2. I put that on the comment form, but there’s no way Metro can choose routes and notify ST in just one day. Perhaps the county council can put pressure on ST to accept a late change or a “pending change (number of routes to be determined)”. This is an extraordinary situation not anticipated when that rule was made, and the public comment period only started yesterday. But in any case, even if the peak-only routes don’t get yanked in September, they could still be in February. That might give Metro an opportunity to spread out its work over a longer time period rather than this compressed six months.

      1. I imagine ST would be willing to accept late changes that are *removing* Metro routes from the tunnel, since that would almost certainly improve Link operations. They might be less pleased about the shift that causes in the tunnel debt payments though, which AFAIK are based on the relative amounts of service ST and MT have in the tunnel.

  11. There is a parking spot at my apartment complex that is always empty. That’s my spot. Many of you who live in an apartment have a similarly-reserved parking spot.

    I heard drivers whine about subsidizing buses to the tune of $20 a year last year during the CRC debate. Guess what? I subsidize the drivers renting at my apartment complex to the tune of over $300 a year, and I don’t get anything for it. Thank you, parking minimums, for making me subsidize the automobile so heavily.

    1. And I suppose the owner would frown upon your using that space for something useful like storage, a tank trap, or a garden? (I took the trouble to shop around for a car-spot-free apartment, which somewhat limited the choices.)

    2. Yep, not only you, but everyone who rents pays for that parking. It pushes the cost of all new apartment buildings up, which in turn pushes up the cost of existing parking.

    3. In Chicago, (and places back east) parking spots are often sold and sometimes can be sold separately from a condo unit. They fetch hefty prices. sometimes as much as $100k coupled with hefty “association fees” you can pay as much as $200 fee per month plus the mortgage. Crazy if you ask me… You could UberCar all month cheaper…

    4. When I shopped for a condo a couple of years ago, one of the factors I looked at was how easily I could adapt the car parking space that came with the apartment to general storage for other things. Most of the places had parking lots out in the open, with no way to secure anything stored there, and I rejected them.

      The place I finally chose not only had a secure parking garage, but the previous owner had even installed a bike rack in my reserved parking space for an additional layer of security. Even though I don’t own a car, I still get lots of good use out of the space. I currently keep two bikes there, plus lots of accessories, from lights to paniers to a Bob trailer. I even have a folding table set up so I don’t have to bend over to reach my stuff. On the rare occasions when I need to park a rental car in front of my apartment, I park on the street.

      So, even though I am ultimately paying for the capitol costs of the parking garage through the purchase price, plus the maintenance costs through my HOA dues, without keeping a car there, I do not consider that money by any means wasted.

      1. I would have chosen a unit with surface parking or a 1950s carport, because the cost of the space would be cheaper and the debt would have been paid off. I would never use it myself but people visiting me could use it. Of course, this precludes using the space for storage if that’s a high priority of yours.

        I actually did this in Ballard. The apartment I wanted came with an outdoor parking space which was bundled with the unit, but the overall rent and other factors were acceptable. So I never used the parking space but my visitors did. Except one visitor who found it frustrating making all those tight turns to the back of the building; she parked on the street where there was always a space (NW 65th Street, a residential area).

  12. Great to see development taking off along Link. We’ve been eyeballing Columbia City for a while but the lack of grocers has been a real drawback.

    1. yes, I noticed the low rise apartments along MLK are taking shape. That’s good. but I sure wish they had gone for much more density for that project. e.g. the new projects they are building in Columbia City near the village is about the size they should put in on MLK.

      I’m also hearing that “The Station” at Othello is filling up a bit slowly and they’ve instituted some rent discounts and incentives. I’ve heard there about 50% full so far.

  13. I am glad to see that WSDOT is using some of the FRA rail stimulus money, though the pace is too slow. It is also odd that they can spend or use that, even though none has been appropriated. I guess it is like someone promising a birthday present that you hopefully can collect on later.

  14. Downtown “City Target” store is scheduled to open July 29th. Looking forward to cutting my Target commute in 1/2.

      1. Personally, I think that a downtown Target store commute is much better than a commute. (In the same sense that an open Best Buy store at Northgate is better than a vacant Best Buy store at Northgate.)

        But maybe that’s just me.

    1. I wonder what the hours will be…Same as suburbia targets?

      Do they have parking requirements? IE: is there a garage under that building? Are they truly going to cater to the urban dweller, or still try and market towards suburbians?

      1. Here is an article from last year. No mention of parking, but I’m sure there will be some. It sounds like they’re differentiating the store from suburban Targets a bit in both selection and branding (the latter surprised me a little, at least if I read it correctly). But, of course, “urban dweller”s and “suburbians” have a lot in common.

      2. It’s a pre-existing building, built with parking. How/if they’re going to make any of that available for Target customers I have no idea.

      3. Target purchased the property (good news for us, I think… they are not likely to “give up” on that store) with 250 parking spaces. The CityTarget concept doesn’t require parking, but unless they intend to lease those back to the condo tower, I expect this one will include those.

  15. Thank you for including the link to proposed WTA service increases. I live in Bellingham and I appreciate that STB monitors and relays transit news around the region. Keep up the good work.

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