61 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Second Ave Subway”

  1. It is ridiculous that a pleasure boat can create a 30-minute 520 bridge closure to bus and car traffic on 2 hours notice. Zero cost to the pleasure boat. Disruption to regional transit, traffic, and thousands of peoples’ plans.


    WS-DOT’s description of this as a new CG regulation seems misleading as well. I doubt it is a new regulation at all. Instead I suspect that WS-DOT has newly blocked the western high rise, causing an existing (outdated) regulation about navigable waterways to come into effect. Misrepresentation seems a frequently used tool in WS-DOT’s toolchest. Nevertheless, the CG regulation in this case should be modified to minimize the impact on the public.

      1. Turns out I was wrong about 2 hours notice, look like it is 12 hours for weekday openings. It’s still an incredible misuse of resources to permit weekday and even weekend openings during daytimes. I agree, charge boat owners a toll that appromixates the costs they impose. It would probably be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      2. Here is the WS-DOT reference http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR520Bridge/BridgeAndLandings/DrawspanInfo.htm

        On April 1, 2012, construction barges working to replace the vulnerable SR 520 floating bridge created a work zone within the SR 520 eastern navigation channel that blocks boating traffic.

        As a result, new Coast Guard rules required WSDOT to open the SR 520 floating bridge drawspan to allow passage of boats over 45 feet tall. Weekday closures of the highway to open the SR 520 drawspan requires 12 hours notice (for openings between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays.)

        Boaters still can give two hours notice requesting SR 520 highway closures and drawspan openings for times between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and anytime on weekends.

    1. It seems to me the boats should have the right-of-way since the 520 bridge is an obstruction to boats, and a convenience to cars. Cars have plenty of alternate routes if necessary, boats don’t.

      1. Boats should have the right of way from 2:40 AM until 3:40 AM. Other than that, a huge toll should be charged. For gawds sake, it has been many years since ocean going ships used to tie up in Houghton (Kirkland.) Now, it is almost soley the McCaw bro’s, Bill Gates’s friends, and Paul Allen’s pals that need the 520 bridge to open. To hell with that.

      2. All of their boats fit under the eastern highrise. Navy ships and work barges for the floating bridges are the only thing the bridge has been opened for since the saw mill down near Renton closed

    2. The boats were here first. :-)
      The state can limit opening during rush hours if approved by the Coast Guard, but they cannot impede marine traffic all day long. It’s one of the conditions they agreed to when they built the bridge.
      There aren’t a lot of boats on Lake Washington over 64′. But there are quite a few over 45′.

      1. I doubt that there is a boat built before 1964 operating on Lake Washington. If this were a working waterfront or a transportation corridor and people were using it for moving goods or transporting people, I can understand. 99.9% of Lake Washington boat traffic is recreational. It’s a misuse of the law to permit weekday daytime bridge openings and let a boatowner’s recreation take precedence over everyone else. I’d understand it for commercial boats but nothing else.

      2. Yeah, the argument that it was a condition they agreed to holds a lot more weight than the “we were here first” one. But even if it’s true that they agreed to those conditions, I can’t imagine that the agreement goes on in perpetuity, nor can I understand why they made the agreement in the first place. I feel like the state has a lot of authority when it comes to building transportation infrastructure.

        Back when it was built it was, perhaps, not an absolute necessity for the regional transportation system, but now it is. Not only is it economically harmful to shut down the bridge for recreational boaters, it’s also an environmental disaster to delay all those vehicles (many of which probably continue to idle, at least for part of the wait) for the sake of one person/group’s pleasure.

      3. Well, given that the argument is made in defense of tolling of “fair use” it would seem to me that a person who wants society to lift a bridge to let his yacht through should be paying a toll of something like $10,000 a crossing.

      4. Be careful what precedent you set. If I use the pedestrian signal to cross Aurora at Green Lake, should I have to pay a toll of 50 cents for each car that has to stop and wait 30 seconds for me to cross. If a bus were to hit that red light (let’s pretend the 358 stayed on Aurora instead of deviating to Linden), should I be forced to pay an additional 50 cents for each passenger on the bus that has to wait for me to cross?

      5. Interesting point.

        Taxis make people pay money for time spent waiting in traffic!

        Why not buses? (uses gas).

        (Asked as speculation, not suggesting we do..)

    3. The travel mode that was invented earlier has priority. Sometimes that works to our advantage, as in Amtrak. Sometimes it works to our disadvantage, as when industrial shipping disappeared from Lake Washington and the Ship Canal and pleasure boats replaced it. I agree that boaters shouldn’t hold up people who are making more important trips, and they should be charged a toll, but changing the law is tricky.

      1. Foot mobility was invented long before any of these, and yet, it doesn’t seem to get much priority.

      2. Sometimes that works to our advantage, as in Amtrak.

        Many drawbridges on the Northeast Corridor default to “up.” One of the many reasons ACELA isn’t the high-speed rail that it was billed as.

        So that rule of thumb is hardly of incontrovertible benefit to Amtrak either.

    4. Seems to me the 520 Bridge is an impediment to boat traffic. And be careful with the line of thinking that the needs of the many outweigh the few or the one. It works for noble causes and movie plots but in real life, not so much.

      1. And be careful with the line of thinking that the needs of the many outweigh the few or the one. It works for noble causes and movie plots but in real life, not so much.

        It works pretty well in this case though… ’cause the “need” of one rich douchebag who wants to sail a bit on the other part of the lake has pretty much zero worth.

        [And really, I think people would be a less pissed if there were at least a reasonable toll; $150 or so might do it…]

      2. I can just see it now: Occupy Lake Washington will rent a yacht, and run it back and forth under SR 520.

    5. I’m sure the CG will grant an exemption during rush hours, just like they have for all of our other bridges.

      1. The new 520 bridge will not open. The CG has already determined that there is no commercial traffic that will not fit under the highrise portions as designed. No more Navy ship for Seafair. I think they’re going to be screwed when it comes time to replace I-90. Maybe they’ll finally build a real bridge instead of barging in pontoons for the umpteenth time.

  2. 2016? The race is on…

    Will New York open the 2nd Ave Subway first …

    Or will Metro incentive ORCA use first …

    Flat dollar amounts change bill-and-change fumbling (from two compartments) into mere dollar bill fumbling. One dollar is not an exorbitant cost for riding the bus for those who possess a senior or disabled pass, but haven’t loaded e-purse. Note to Metro: Denying the reduced rate would be a violation of the RRFP contract. Having different rates, based on time of day, distance, and payment medium, is perfectly valid, as evidenced by the distance-based reduced fare on Sounder. If you are squeamish calling the extra 25 cents a “surcharge”, then call the 25 cents e-purse users save a “rebate”. The contract doesn’t ban rebates.

    Charging youth $2 for boarding the bus with cash is easy. They don’t vote, so tough. ;) Youth are already charged the largest cash surcharge on the King County Ferries. I wonder why.

    The full adult fares get a little stickier on this point. Charging $3 on a one-zone off-peak fare will draw protest from the ORCA-phobes. Fine. It’s off-peak anyway, so fewer riders would be impacted from a rider fishing for 50 cents, turning and panhandling the bus for the last 50 cents (which he already has, but won’t admit it). Operators won’t kick the rider off, but remember that panhandling at a transit facility is an offense, and so the driver can hit the Call Metro Police button, and have them waiting down the line. Panhandling arrest. Wallet confiscated for evidence. 50 cents found. Credibility shot. Next few weekends spent doing public service.

    Peak hour, $3 is not too much to ask for a one-zone cash ride, compared to $2.50 with e-purse. Nor is asking for $4 for two zones that much of a hardship either, especially when the cash/e-purse differential ratio would be the same as that for reduced fares. If someone is down to their last three bucks, they’ll ride to the end of zone one, transfer, then continue on the next bus that comes along.


    If New York City can complete the 2nd Ave Subway, Metro can figure out how to incentivize ORCA use.

    1. Let’s just charge $4 for all trips on Metro and Sound Transit paid in cash, regardless of time of day and rider. If occasional riders (the ones who most commonly use cash) are confused at the fare structure, $4 is easier to understand. Perhaps this will get people on Orca.

      Also, eliminate paper transfers on metro. Those cause fare evasion.

    2. Just a quick ORCA question that I couldn’t find on their website. Do they charge your orca card if you don’t use it after a certain time? I’ll be only an occasional user (like maybe once a month) but I want an orca card anyways. Will they deduct like $5 a month if I don’t use it?

      1. The $5 charge is for the physical card. There’s no periodic surcharge or anything like that. The card should last a decent amount of time; the website says the life expectancy is 5 years.

  3. Sunday Morning Open Question: Which bus routes will be appropriate to truncate to East Link when it’s built in 2023, where would you force the transfer, and your estimate of riders per day that will add to Link?
    I did the ST550 and came up with about 3,500 daily boardings (ST 2012 SIP), looking at current ons/offs by stop in both directions, discounting riders that wouldn’t use Link.
    How about Eastgate/Issaquah riders?
    Or MT271 riders to the U-dist?
    What do you do with Renton Highland trips?

    1. Should have said “discounting riders that wouldn’t be on E-Link, such as all the ons/offs that remain in Seattle, or Bellevue Square to BTC, etc”

    2. 555/556 should clearly be truncated at South Bellevue P&R. The only loss would be the 520 freeway stops and some stops in the U-District, but those are covered by other 520 buses.

      I’m not sure about the 21? routes and the 554. They could potentially be turned around at South Bellevue or Mercer Island. If the service hours saved were put into increased frequency on the 554, it would be worth it to me to transfer.

      1. That sounds like a good transfer. It’s 39 minutes in the peak from Isssaquah PR to UW stn in the AM peak.
        Transfering at S. Bellevue PR would be: 12 min to SBPR, 5 min walk/wait for Link, and 24 min to UW stn on E-Link. That’s only a couple of minutes longer, but much more pleasant and predictable. Good One!

      2. So, would we have one ST Express route from Issaquah to S. Bellevue, or one to S. Bellevue and one to Mercer Island (or downtown Seattle)?

      3. If we’re going to truncate the 554, it is absolutely imperative that we charge something for parking at both Mercer Island P&R and South Bellevue P&R. Otherwise, half the people that drive to Issaquah or Eastgate to catch the 554 today will just drive directly to Link, bypassing the 554 completely. The result will be completely full parking garages at the Link stations, with mostly empty parking garages further out.

      4. I doubt the 554 is a good enough candidate to run just from Eastgate PR to SBPR. It’s 15 min to IDS on the bus, and 3 min to SBPR, + 5 min transfer, + 12 min on E-Link to IDS. That’s 5 min. longer trip, unless speeds on i-90 HOV is allowed to deteriorate well below the 45mph rule.

      5. I’d look at it the other way around. Dump the 554 and beef up/tweak the 555/556 routing so you have frequent all day service to South Bellevue Station. Downside: Forced transfer to get downtown. Upside: Frequent/fast all day service between Issaquah, DT Bellevue, UW, and Northgate with connections to Frequent/Rapid to downtown Seattle. Presumably the 218 and 214 during peaks for commuters although you could in theory terminate those as well.

        If you bring RapidRide down to South Bellevue and terminate it there, you could cover Bellevue Way & Main St with the reasonably dense areas down there that will lose service when the 550 goes away although I have no idea how you pay for that.

        Travel times on East Link will be fast enough to make it all wash out although I’m sure it will *feel* slower…

      6. Oooh… Another thing: Does anybody know what the South Kirkland P&R direct access ramps will look like? Linking Issaquah via the 555/556 might be worth the extra time getting on/off those ramps if they can facilitate that. Probably a pipe dream, but the idea is to connect as many nodes as possible with at least 15 minute headway service.

      7. Given the deep fear of transfers from people who don’t regularly ride transit, I’m unfortunately certain that any proposal to truncate the 554 would cause people to scream bloody murder at the public meetings. People in Issaquah would complain about losing their one-seat ride to downtown (*). And people in Bellevue, Newcastle, and Mercer Island would also scream because the truncation would cause people in Issaquah to fill up all their parking when they forgo the bus and drive directly to the train.

        So, as much as truncating the 554 and re-investing the service hours to improve frequency would make since from the standpoint of the overall network, I am resigned to the fact that the current routing and frequency is probably here to stay for the foreseeable future, or at least until ST3 builds a Link extension that would replace the entire 554 with a train ride.

        (*) In their minds, a bus->train trip to downtown Seattle is inherently worse than just a bus trip. And even though the change would greatly improve the quality of transit to downtown Bellevue, they wouldn’t care – their plan would be to just drive and park in Kemper Freeman’s free garage. (A few might consider driving to South Bellevue P&R and taking Link in the Saturday before Chistmas if the parking story is the zoo it usually is, but almost none will be interested enough in catching the bus back in Issaquah to make it worth giving up the one-seat ride to downtown Seattle, especially if the 556 would still be running during rush hour anyway).

      8. “555/556 should clearly be truncated at South Bellevue P&R.” They shouldn’t be, and they won’t be. Sound Transit will keep these routes as they are after East Link is built.

      9. Clearly, we will continue to need a bus that picks riders up on campus and takes them on the scenic route to Northgate Station. Students are going to rebel against the lack of view.

      10. If the 555 and 556 were truncated at the South Bellevue P&R, how would people coming from Issaquah easily get to the 10 to 20 stops between there and Northgate? These two peak-only routes are very popular with UW faculty who live around Issaquah. I don’t think it would be worth it for ST to cut the service, and once riders started complaining, I think ST wouldn’t make the cut.

      11. Let me answer that with a question. If the 555 and 556 are unnecessary because they duplicate the 271, why do the 555 and 556 exist?

      12. Or rather, why does the 271 exist? Most riders are going from Issaquah or Bellevue to UW, not to/from Medina. Metro has made noises about moving the 271 to Bellevue Way or 405 at some point. Why not just replace the 271 with ST? That will signal to riders it’s an express so they shouldn’t expect it to stop at every intersection between BTC and 520. The main problem is it would shift expenses from Metro to ST, which ST doesn’t have money for. But this is just one of several such problems, like how removing peak-only Metro routes from the DSTT would affect Metro’s share of the DSTT’s debt burden.

      13. I wouldn’t change a thing with the 271. It’s perfect as a local Metro route. It’s a very popular workhorse route, connecting the UW, BTC, Bellevue College, and Issaquah.

      14. Sam, for the 555, there are five stops between SBP&R and Northgate that will not be served by Link, two on SE 112th and three 520 freeway stations. For the 556 there are those five stations, plus eight stops in the U-District. Two of those U-District stops are convenient to Husky station, and Brooklyn station is not far away for the others.

      15. @Velo, I dug around a bit and found the WSDOT diagram for the Bellevue Way lid and 108th Ave project. Looks like the HOV ramps are only for traffic to/from the West (e.g. for the 255/540). There are no HOV/transit ramps to/from the East that could accommodate the 555/556, though since those routes would be going between there and the 405 ramps it’s probably not as big of a concern.

    3. Making downtown Bellevue the northernmost terminus of the 566 seems like a no-brainer to me. And if EastLink achieves the same travel time between Redmond and downtown as the 545 (don’t forget the count the 15’ish minutes it takes to get the 1/2 mile from the Stewart St. exit ramp to the middle of downtown), I would also replace the 545 with a frequent (*), fast shuttle from downtown Redmond to OTC.

      Using EastLink to replace the 271 seems is trickier because there, the bus actually saves a fare amount of time over the train by not going through downtown and traversing a shorter distance. Especially if your ultimate destination is Bellevue Square, meaning the 271 drops you off closer to your destination.

      That being said, for anyone that isn’t a student at the UW, one has to ask the question of how they are getting to the U-district to board the 271 in the first place. If they’re coming in from a southbound Link train, simply staying on the train is likely to be at least as fast as transferring to the 271 when station-exit time and wait time are taken into account. Even for those coming in from the west on 44 or 31 bus, Link might still be faster if the 271 is on its evening/weekend schedule with 30-60 minute headways.

      I think the best outcome here would be to truncate the 271 at Bellevue TC and replace the Bellevue->U-district segment of the 271 with an extension of a Seattle-based east-west route, such as 31 or 44 (**). I would aim for 15-minute headways at 6 days a week during the day, but if resources are limited, I would aim to prioritize frequency over span because a bus over 520 connecting the U-district to Bellevue has very little marginal value over Link if it doesn’t run frequently enough to be worth waiting for.

      (*) By “frequent”, I mean a bus to connect with every train. The saved service hours would easily pay for this, many times over.

      (**) I’m assuming here that when EastLink opens, the entire 520 bridge construction, including the Seattle side of things will be complete, allowing the bus to get across the bridge reliably enough to avoid reliability issues for people that just want to go from the U-district to Fremont or Ballard.

      1. asdf: From BTC to Univ Stn in the PM-pk is 22 min. E-link will do it in 33, so it’s really hard to beat a route that pretty much goes direct. With the new 520 bridge and tolling on both bridges in place by the time E-link is running, travel times should be more consistent between both on the bus.
        I think for most riders the 33% time savings will generally trump the nicer/more predictable ride on Link.
        (BTW, having two different trip planners for the same area is ‘nuts’.)

      2. @mic – the 271 is a largely a legacy route based on legacy commuting patterns when getting a one-seat milk run from anywhere on the eastside to the UW was a priority. The 271 also probably existed before there even was such a thing as Sound Transit, so if you wanted to reach the UW from Eastgate or Issaquah, the slow milk run of 271 all the way was all you had.

        Now, times have changed. Downtown Bellevue has become a major employment center and a lot of people who work in Bellevue live in Seattle. Most of these people do not live in the U-district, which is largely student housing, which means if you live in Seattle and work in DT Bellevue, there are very few places to live in that allow you to get to work without transferring buses.

        The transit network has changed too and will continue to change further. Yes, taking the 271 from Bellevue to the U-district will continue to make sense after EastLink opens. But taking the 271 from Eastgate to the UW is currently a wash with 554->71/72/73 and taking the 271 all the way to the UW from Issaquah is actually slower than the 2-seat ride going through downtown. A route from Issaquah to Bellevue makes sense. A route from Bellevue to the U-district also makes since. But stringing together the Bellevue->U-district segment with the Bellevue->Issaquah segment will no longer make sense, which the alternative to connecting the Bellevue->U-district segment with an East-West Seattle route will benefit more people. Yes, a few people in random neighborhoods between Eastgate and Issaquah would lose their one-seat ride to the U-district. But the 271 is such a milk run that few people take it that far anyway and most people that could probably drive instead, if not all the way to work, at least to a P&R with more direct service. For Seattle residents working in Bellevue, however, the park-and-ride model doesn’t work as well because Seattle is more dense and there simply isn’t room for large park-and-rides for people commuting to Bellevue. So, having the bus to Bellevue go to places where people actually live becomes more important.

        As to your other comment:
        “I think for most riders the 33% time savings will generally trump the nicer/more predictable ride on Link.”

        The 33% time savings is grossly simplifying things. Yes, if you catch the 271 directly from your house, that might be the case. However, let’s suppose you live north of the U-district and are already on a southbound Link train when you get into the U-district. Let’s crunch some numbers and compare staying on the train vs. getting off and transferring to the 271. If you stay on the train, 33 minutes later, you’re getting off in Bellevue TC. If you get off and switch, you have:

        – 5 minutes (exiting the station and walking to the 271 bus stop)
        – 22 minutes (riding the 271, assuming the bus doesn’t get stuck in traffic)

        Already, you’re up to 27 minutes, which means that the 271 needs to show up at the bus stop within 6 minutes of when you reach the bus stop just to break even. At 10 minute peak headways, the odds are just barely in your favor of this happening, even if you naively assume the buses come right on time and never get bunched. At 15 minute midday headways, you have a 1 in 3 chance that switching to the 271 would save you time over staying on the train. And at 30 minute evening headways, your odds of saving time by switching to the 271 are just 1 in 6.

        Even if we assume it’s peak and the 271 is running every 10 minutes, how many people are going to go through the trouble of putting their book away, getting up, and walking to another stop just for the chance of saving up to 6 minutes in the absolute best case and ending up with a longer trip in the worst case? The answer to this question is obvious – almost nobody.

        If the 271 runs frequently, it can still a superior option over Link for people transferring at the U-district from another bus. However, if the 271 runs infrequently, that advantage gets wiped out. For example, let’s suppose it’s evening and the 271 is running every 30 minutes. You get to the U-district on your other bus and you have to choose between waiting 15-20 minutes for the 271 or waiting 0-10 minutes for Link (plus a 2 minute walk to the platform). If Link takes 11 minutes longer than the 271, the two options are about a wash. Which means the money we as taxpayers are paying to operate the 271 trip is providing zero benefit to your ability to get to Bellevue, given that Link is also available. Which means the money used to operate the 271 trip could be better spent in other ways, such as making your connecting bus run more frequently. This is why I said in a post East-Link world, I would rather see a 271 running every 10-15 minutes during the day 5-6 days a week than every 30 minutes 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

      3. Good Reasoning. My example was for someone standing at BTC and being offered a ride on either Link or MT271 to UW or Brooklyn station, which I think would be a wash. Any other combination of linked trips, as you pointed out, would change the decision matrix in favor of Link. OTOH, juicing up the 271 to limited stop express after BTC might tilt the scales the other way.

      4. “the 271 is a largely a legacy route based on legacy commuting patterns when getting a one-seat milk run from anywhere on the eastside to the UW was a priority. The 271 also probably existed before there even was such a thing as Sound Transit”

        The 272 replaced the 252, which was even more of a milk run. It had the current route from UW to BTC, then went on NE 8th Street to 164th (east of Crossroads), then south to Lake Hills and Bellevue Communty College, then halfway up Somerset Hill and terminated. I never understood why those particular streets should have a bus to UW when the rest of Bellevue didn’t.

  4. Current update on my adventures in parking in Seattle

    Current Global Averages:
    Average Cost per Hour: $0.81
    Total Cost for Parking: $26.27
    Average Distance from Destination: 1.27 block(s)
    Average Time spent Searching for Parking: 0.96 minute(s)
    Total number of hours parked: 32.6 hours
    Total number of recorded parkings: 21

    The Average Cost jumped about $0.75 a hour from last week because of ticket that I got. Whoops!

      1. Seattle city limits, and within that I am only really counting parking in the neighborhood cores where parking may pose a challenge. I don’t count things like parking in Safeway or parking for the night in these numbers. Nor do I count parking in, say, Sand Point or super, super residential areas where parking is immediate and abundant.

        Later on, I plan to break it down by neighborhood and then to slice and dice the information to pull out patterns, but for now I’m focused on getting the data into it.

    1. Our Talgos can go that fast, and someday will. “Despite a maximum design speed of 124 mph (200 km/h), current track and safety requirements limit the train’s speed to 79 mph (127 km/h), although a $781 million work is currently underway for the Cascades route which will allow them to operate at speeds up to 110 mph (177 km/h).”

  5. I was looking for something else on Sound Transit’s website, and ran into this notice. Has anyone had the problem described?

    Posted: April 5 – 1:34 pm
    Attention Link riders who use ORCA:

    Please be aware that on Monday, April 2, action was taken to fix a bug in the ORCA system’s software that between March 22 and April 2 resulted in a small percentage of ORCA E-purse users being improperly charged an additional fare when transferring from a train or bus to a train. The bug cropped up on a sporadic basis and did not affect the vast majority of transfers. The fix we implemented will eliminate this issue going forward. We have identified the ORCA E-purse accounts that were affected by the bug, and over the next few weeks Sound Transit will be manually crediting those accounts.

    There is no chance you were affected unless you used an ORCA E-purse account to transfer from (1) a bus to Link or Sounder; (2) between Sounder and Link; or (3) between Link and Sounder between March 22 and April 2. If you DID make one or more such transfers using an E-purse account during the period, there is a possibility that credit from a first trip was not properly applied to eliminate or reduce payment for a second trip made within two hours. Affected riders will see credits to their E-purse accounts appear between now and April 20th. Affected riders who have registered their ORCA cards will also receive an e-mail about the credit that is applied. Please note that an affected rider using the same card for the exact same transfer on multiple occasions was not necessarily or usually affected multiple times.

    If you believe you were affected, please check your accounts and if you do not receive a credit by April 20, 2012, please contact ORCA Customer Service at 888-988-6722 or email us at contactus@orcacard.com and reference in the subject – Transfer Revalue. Please have the times and dates of any E-purse overcharges, and the agent will assist you in receiving compensation.

    We apologize for any inconvenience that this issue has caused and thank you for your patience.

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