117 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Halted by a Squirrel”

  1. Is transit ‘Out of the Woods’ yet in the Puget Sound? NOT EVEN CLOSE.
    I’m a firm believer that informed public comment to our transit agencies is one of the best ways to ensure that public transit remains healthy and grows.
    My concern this morning is that information is becoming ever more scarce to make good comment to our elected officials, who in turn have a lot to say about what goes on around here.
    For example, Metro used to publish it’s Route Performance Report in Jun of each year for the proceeding calender year. That was true for both ’07 and ’08 data years. It seems like a long time to gather and publish the results, some of the information at least 18 months old by then (Jan ’07 through Dec ’07 reported Jun ’08).
    The ’09 report came out in Jul ’10. The ’10 report didn’t arrive until late Sep of ’11, which is after the fall service change.
    So, if the trend continues, we’ll walk into a Fall ’12 restructure, relying on two year old data from 2010. This is just nuts!
    Sound Transit has quit reporting Link ridership on a monthly basis, and has gone to a quarterly report. 1st Qtr ’12 just came out. The Before and After study due on Central Link won’t be available for public review until late this year I’m told by ST staff. The data reporting period ended in July of last year. One year to write a report? C’mon, that’s barely useful by the time it comes out.
    Maybe I’m just a data junkie, but the enthusiasm to offer creative solutions to our agencies has really hit the doldrums lately, if postings on STB are any indication.
    Maybe cute squirrel videos, and endless debate on TOD is all that is left.

      1. and the Feds picked up all but $53M of the total $318M. Daily ridership is double that projected after 9 month of running.

      2. Allow me to chime in as a user of The Tide:

        Our current ridership is double the projections, and we already had our 1 millionth rider

        This current weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) will shatter all ridership records because of both Harborfest and OpSail happening on the Downtown Norfolk waterfront. Those of us who were smart took the bus to the train because both the Newtown Road (and even its overflow lots) as well as Military Hwy Station park & ride lots were FULL.

        Like Central Link when it only went to TIBS, The Tide is currently known by the naysayers as The Train to Nowhere and use the term “Light Rail = Heavy Taxes”. They refuse to look at the full trains at rush hour and the off-peak, but still heavily used, trains during the day.

      3. As for our daily ridership counts:

        * Weekdays, you can view the ridership of the day before every day right on the home page
        * Weekends (includes Fridays): you can view combined weekend ridership every Monday morning. The group Bring The Tide to Virginia Beach asked them to break out daily numbers for weekends, which are also posted on Monday mornings.

        ST and Metro could learn a lot :)

      4. At a cost per mile of $42 million, implemented in 4 years, I could support this type of light rail all day and all night long.

      5. Thanks Michael. If we really want to be jealous of you guys, just have a gander at their monthly report. Here’s Apr 2012. Check out the IT stats on page 28 & 29.
        Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we’re given two year old data to make a decision on service in the future. The fall ’12 is decided, but the most current data is from 2010 – or about a three year lag from action to results.
        That’s unacceptable for an agency with a 3/4 Billion budget.

      6. You’re absolutely welcome. If you monitor ridership numbers for us, bear in mind there will be a HUGE (and record setting) spike for the weekend.

        For the “No One Rides the Train” crowd :)

        Bear in mind: this train was heading away from Harborfest/OpSail and also away from the Park & Ride lots. To compare to Central Link, it would be like an event letting out near University Street and this would be the Westlake train fully loaded (as opposed to heading to SeaTac/Airport, which would be really crush loaded)

      7. Michael, please post the results on this thread when you get them in.
        We are so longing for some good ‘crush load’ stats these days.
        If you’re interested in what a route did several years ago here, I’d be happy to look that up for you :(

      8. Per the APTA 2012Q1 national ridership report, the Tide had an average weekday ridership of 4,000. For a 7.4 mile system, that is around 500 boardings/mile. This is less than half of Link’s lastluster ridership/mile, and about 1/9th the ridership on Houston’s 7.5 mile light rail line (37,000 average weekday riders).

        If the Tide sees double its ridership projections, the projections were very low indeed.

      9. “Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we’re given two year old data to make a decision on service in the future.”

        I didn’t realize you were planning Metro’s service changes.

      10. Sorry Zed, I forgot my place. I thought those community meetings were for that purpose, but I guess you’re right. The public has no voice in these matters.

      11. Ridership numbers will be posted on their home page as well as their Facebook page within the next couple of hours. The lady who does post the numbers is usually at her desk around 9 Eastern.

      12. As promised. From their FB page:

        “Good Morning! What a weekend… fantastic ridership
        numbers on rail and ferry! RAIL: Fri (16,306), Sat
        (22,625) and Sun (7,833). FERRY: Fri (9,630), Sat
        (14,772) and Sun (7,807).”

      13. KUDOS to The Tide.
        The web site shows 46,746 over the weekend for a system local taxpayers only kicked in $53M. or about the same as ST wanted to ‘study’ what to do with the BNSF coridor along I-405 (gone forever now), or the community development fund to go down MLK (hush money), or 1/10th mile of new subway system.

      14. I suspect Zed is trying to get me to refer back to 1996 costs and timeframes, which I don’t care to do. The point I was making is the very long lag times between taking an action (service change) and when reports are available to the general public.
        The Tide excels in that department.
        Basing decisions on two or three year old data isn’t very wise, but we do it here. End of point.

      15. The Tide was lucky enough to be mostly following an existing (abandoned) rail line — and that rail line happened to go to the right places.

        Seattle has far fewer existing abandoned rail lines than the East Coast, and most of them are not very useful.

      16. We are like Central Link. No faregates of any kind. Oh, and our Fare Paid Zone signs are *before* you get to the TVMs, technically.

        If you’d like to see it, here is my Route 800 picture collection on Flickr.

  2. I compared the MT 255 schedule in effect Oct 2011 – Feb 17, 2012 – the schedule with increased service due to tolling of the SR520 bridge – to the new schedule which went into effect on June 8.

    The Oct schedule offering 10-minute headways from Kirkland-> Seattle from 3:24pm to 6:54pm and then 13 and 15-min to 7:22pm. Similarly leaving Seatle, it offered 15 mins from 5:30am to 6:00am and 10 mins from 6:00am to 9:00 departing University St.

    The result of two successive reductions is now 10-min afternoon inbound headways do not start until 3:54pm (even though peak fares start at 3pm) and end at 5:54pm, increasing to 20 mins at 6:40pm. And morning outbound headways are now 30 mins at 5:30 and 6:00am, 10 mins from 6:13am to 8:23am dropping to 15 mins at 8:45am.

    The reductions were accomplished incrementally in two successive shake-ups without any announcement or policy decision, just a vague comment that “Two eastbound and two westbound off-peak trips will be deleted.” In fact two of the deleted trips charge peak fares and are during peak period, and the others are in the shoulders of the peak. Route 255 operating costs should have gone down with the implementation of 520 tolls since 520 congestion went down – and there was a promise of increased service on the 255 to offset implementation of tolls. It’s disappointing to see these service reductions applied incrementally instead of maintaining the promised 10-min headways.

    1. Another information ‘cave in’. Good work Carl. After the initial reporting in the Times on tolling, the paper has given zip in the way of reporting. There was to be a flood of new riders and service to handle them as a result of charging a premium to cross the lake.
      How much are they taking in? How much of that is the State getting to keep after overhead, or is this another HOT lane debacle like on SR167?
      How many motorists are being fined, and what percent actually pay up?
      How many SOV riders have switched to public transit?
      Geeze, there’s several columns right there.
      How soon will the Transportation Commish move forward with I-90 tolls?

      1. News reports were were pretty frequent up through March. Now it’s old news. The public is more concerned about bridge openings and road closures. You can be sure there will be a story when the toll increases (July I think) but it’s up to the Metro and ST to release transit ridership numbers and until there’s another legislative session nothing is going to happen with tolling I-90 or discussions of funding shortfalls.

        Tolls on Highway 99 tunnel now expected to fall $200M short

        Gov. candidates split on paying for transportation

        McKenna said tolls helped build many of the state’s existing transportation facilities and will be necessary to rebuild those same sites, such as the 520 Bridge.

        “User fees, in the form of tolls, will be in the mix for certain projects, no question about it,” McKenna said.

  3. More numbers from my parking in Seattle…

    Current Global Parking Averages:
    Average Cost per Hour: $0.35
    Total Cost for Parking: $34.92
    Average Distance from Destination: 1.12 block(s)
    Average Time spent Searching for Parking: 0.93 minute(s)
    Total number of hours parked: 98.45 hours
    Total number of recorded parkings: 69

  4. How much could headways be improved on some routes that are normally run with 60′ coaches if they used 40′ instead?

    The reason I ask is because I went down to Portland yesterday and was reading about TriMet. They have NO 60′ coaches, and NO hybrids, because they have found them to not be worth it. It’s mostly just a bunch of D40LFs.

    One thing that I also noticed was that they have some EXTREMELY long routes. For example: route 4. http://trimet.org/schedules/r004.htm Do we have any routes that are nearly an hour and a half end to end (the 8 is close, but it’s scheduled for a half hour to go from cap hill to sea center)? Especially ones with a 15 min headway during the day?

    1. Metro used to have some extremely long routes, especially when they were through-routed through the Seattle CBD. MT 255 used to be through-routed with the old MT 226 (which is basically the ST550+RRB, well not really RRB since it when down NE 8th St all the way to Northup Way before heading back to 156th Ave and then to Redmond). So The route was Kingsgate-Kirkland-520-Montlake-Seattle-I90-MercerIsland-Bellevue-Crossroads-Remdond. And MT 251/254 were through-routed with MT 235 which meant the route went Redmond-Kirkland-520-Montlake-Seattle-I90-MercerIsland-Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake. I think it took close to 2 hours. It’s been broken up to increase schedule reliability, but must also increase operating costs.

    2. xxpor: The short answer is, “not at all”.

      The limiting factor in providing bus service is driver pay. Other things, like fuel prices, can have an impact, but they’re peanuts compared to driver pay.

      Driving a 60′ bus is harder than a 40′ bus, but not so much harder that drivers command a premium. You certainly don’t pay a driver 50% more for driving the longer bus.

      Some transit agencies have saved money by replacing bus with vans on low-ridership routes. But the key element, which is not as widely reported, is that drivers (who are often unionized) agree to allow the transit agency to pay substantially lower wages to van operators, on the basis that driving a van is much easier than driving a bus, and that vans are inherently less productive (in terms of the amount of mobility that can be provided per hour of labor).

      1. “Further, Metro trains all drivers on all equipment prior to hiring.”

        So, training is unpaid, and then they might not hire you after making the time and effort to train you?

      2. Training is paid, although at a lower rate for new part-time drivers. Also: Metro trains (or used to train) only on the most common equipment. Trolley training is not included at first. There is also additional training for RapidRide and Sound Transit, although those classes are only an hour or two.

      3. Back when Tri-Met had genuine Hungarian Crown Ikarus Articulateds, the drivers did get a premium for drving them.

    3. 48 used to be, and I think still might be, the longest in-Seattle route. Route 196 I think takes the cake for longest route geographically.

      1. Route 952 which serves auburn to Boeing Everett is the longest in the system. That route does not serve Seattle however.

    4. Long routes?

      The 132 takes as long as 1:32 to wind from 2nd&Pike to Highline CC. If you add on the 37 minutes with which it is coupled, that makes 2:09. Even after the 132 is truncated at Burien Forced Transfer Center and recoupled with the 26, it will take up to 1:01 and 1:36.

      The 131 takes as long as 1:36 (and 2:13 with the 24). That route is being euthanized on September 29, with the number being reused for a more direct route to eastern White Center.

      Both of these routes use mostly 40-footers.

      The 143 from downtown to Black Diamond still takes 1:31. When it went all the way to Enumclaw, that tacked on another 20 minutes. Oddly, you can’t get out of Enumclaw until 7:31 am, and can’t get back to it if you depart downtown after 3:24 pm. The 143/907 schedule is … interesting.

      1. I guess the difference the trimet routes are in city. I’m thinking more like if the 7 was interlined with the 358, and given one number.

      2. A lot of the longer in-city routes have been split up, for instance, the 7 and the 49 used to be one route.

    5. The 180 is an hour and twenty minutes.

      The 174 from downtown to Federal Way used to be an hour and a half. There was also the 150 from downtown to Auburn, and the 210 from downtown to North Bend.

      The 226 was my home route when it was interlined with the 255. I rode it from Northup Way to downtown, which took an hour. And came hourly.

    6. How much could headways be improved on some routes that are normally run with 60′ coaches if they used 40′ instead?

      From what I can tell, Metro generally will increase frequency first, before switching to 60′ coaches. Once they hit 15 minute headways, then they’ll start switching to 60′ coaches before increasing frequency any further.

      This may not hold true for trippers or peak-only/express routes. It’s just what I’ve seen on all-day in-city routes.

      1. This isn’t true for my daily bus: the 70. Ten min headways during peak. Always 40′ gilligs (except for the one day I was randomly on a D60HF). This may have to do with it being a (very long term) trolley route though.

    7. The 952 (Boeing Everett to Auburn) is nearly two hours end to end in the PM.

      Back when I drove for Metro, there was a South Base tripper which lasted about five hours and had you deadhead to Everett, do a 952 to Auburn, deadhead back downtown, do a 152 to Enumclaw, and deadhead back to South Base. That tripper covered more miles in five hours than most coaches do in a whole service day. It wasn’t my cup of tea.

    8. Some routes even with tight headways are crush loaded at certain times of day even with 60′ buses. See the 48 or 71X/72X/73X/74X for examples.

  5. One of the main benefits of RapidRide is supposed to be quicker boarding. From the RR website: “Three doors, so people can get on and off quick.” So can someone explain to me why Metro wants people to board only the front door of RR coaches after 7 PM? On the outside of the middle and back door it says “Use front door between 7 PM and 6 AM.” Someone help me with the logic of this policy switch for RR at 7 PM. I’m not seeing it.

    1. Perhaps Metro doesn’t want to employ fare enforcement officers after 7pm, or it’s too expensive. Do they also stop off-board fare payment? Or do ORCA users re-swipe?

      1. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that fare enforcement officers never work after 7 PM. What would that have to do with not opening the back doors after 7 PM?

      2. People with flash passes and transfer tickets don’t have to show them to the RR driver as they board through the front door after 7 PM, so they should be able to board through the back doors.

        Again, RR boasts “Three doors, so people can get on and off quick.”

      3. I’ve got to agree with Sam here. Most people entering the front door after 7 have already pre-paid, so the only reason you’d close the other doors is to make fare dodgers look the bus driver in the eye. The bus driver has no way of knowing who actually pre-paid and who didn’t, so it’s basically a guilt-trip. Very Catholic.

      4. (I mean, most bus driver can probably guess who has and hasn’t paid pretty accurately, but that’s not exactly actionable.)

      5. It violates the principle of simplicity. RapidRide is distinguished as “board all doors” like Swift. It shouldn’t change based on time of day. That tells riders the system is complicated, which makes it less likely they’ll take the bus again.

      6. Metro is incapable of doing the same thing all day every day. With the RFA going away things are going to get too consistent so there has to be SOMETHING people will get confused about.

    2. Well Sam, maybe you should ask Metro and get a real answer, instead of just a bunch of guesses.

      1. I thought humbly asking the all-knowing transit blogging gods of STB would be a better source for answers than Metro.

    3. Despite the “front door only” stickers, most RR drivers open all doors at most stops late at night (by late I mean 11p-1a), except buses departing the terminals. I’ve had a few drivers open all doors before leaving TIBS, but it doesn’t happen often.

      I’ve never had to EXIT through a front door at my stop.

    4. IIRC, those stickers were placed on the coaches before the After 7PM policy was rescinded for everywhere but the RFA downtown. Metro was replacing those stickers with ones that said “After 7PM, Front Doors Only in the Ride Free Area,” but it looks like they’ve stopped that since the RFA is going away in a few months. How they’re going to handle that Post-September hasn’t really been announced, as far as I know.

  6. I don’t appreciate how the person shooting this video exclaims that “there’s a squirrel on the track and the female driver doesn’t want to run the squirrel over”. Am I supposed to infer that a woman is too sensitive to drive a train, and that a man in the same situation would just run it over?

    1. Agreed. The sexist remark was uncalled for. I would hope *any* driver would do the same. There was no emergency that would have justified running it over. Not just for the squirrel’s sake, but the humans (including little kids) who would have had to see it…. From the sound of it, seeing the squirrel make it was worth the wait to most of the people in the station….

      1. For those of you who are callous to the lives of small mammals, it’s also genuinely bad for the wheels and tracks to be covered in fur, blood, and guts. They have to be specially cleaned.

    2. Indeed…

      Anyway, squirrels are notoriously fearless and stupid animals. Once when I was biking a squirrel jumped out in front of my back wheel. Were I driving the monorail I might have tried charging at the squirrel to get it to move, but I’m not sure squirrels are that smart.

      1. I hate to say I agree. In reality, the driver could have been the only one on the train to know about the squirrel, and assuming they’re far from the station, no one but operations folks would have to know about it.

    3. Incidentally, this is one of the things which the horn is for. A short blast will usually drive animals to run away off the tracks.

  7. So, I’ve been told it takes agreement among all seven ORCA partner agencies (ST, Metro, PT, CT, ET, KT, WSF) to eliminate the ORCA card fee. What I can’t get an answer to is which agencies are fer it, and which agencies are agin’ it. Could any of you reading this from Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap Counties contact your local transit agency and ask if they would support eliminating the fee for getting an ORCA card? Thanks ahead of time.

  8. I realized that a lot of Metro’s 7-day-a-week high-frequency corridors are interlined with different routes. Do tourists, or even occasional local transit riders, have any idea about this? I can imagine people not realizing that the 26 and the 28 are the same route from Fremont to Downtown, and thinking that there is no frequent route along that corridor when they look up the schedules. The same thing could easily happen with the 71/72/73, the 3/4, the 15/18, and the 54/55. It appears that Metro doesn’t publish combine schedules for these online, although I have seen the 71/72/73 combined schedule in paper form.

    1. Metro shows frequent service corridors on maps at stops downtown, showing the route numbers. But it wouldn’t necessarily be easy for a tourist to figure it out.

      1. Metro’s unwieldy and difficult-to-understand system reminds me a lot of a infamous email rant from Bill Gates. Talking about Windows’ user-friendliness, he complained instead of being helpful, it’s a lot “like a puzzle you get to solve.”

    2. Metro has started to dip its toe into publishing a frequent-transit map, with the Eastside map last summer. Like many things with Metro, it will take a long time and several iterations before they do it across the board and put the map on every bus.

      The downtown map is more about which streets have frequent service downtown, than where the frequent routes go. It should get at least somewhat better with RapidRide C and D in September.

      I don’t think many people miss the 26/28’s frequency after riding them a couple times, especially if they look at the schedule on a inbound bus stop. They may not guess how far the routes travel together, but they’ll at least get that they’re combined in Fremont and Dexter.

      The main problem with combined routes is that they’re often not consistent. They’ll be evenly spaced for part of the time, then there will be a 50-minute gap you have to memorize. Or they’re evenly spaced except after 7pm or on Sundays. That’s the good thing about RapidRide, it’s guaranteed to be evenly spaced and frequent until 10pm every day. Metro could do that on the 66/67, 23/124, etc but doesn’t.

      1. That inconsistency is a huge pain for me. I ride the 43/48 a lot along the corridor they share (23rd/John 15th/45th). They both come every 10 – 15 min, but are scheduled to arrive at EXACTLY the same time, or within 5 min. What could be a frequent service corridor with a bus every 7-8 min turns into 15 minute headways on 120 foot buses with two drivers.

        And then the 48s start bunching… One day I was in a pack of one 43 and two or three 48s all traveling together.

      2. I think Metro would say the 43/48 isn’t intended to be an evenly-spaced corridor because the 43 is already frequent; the routes just happen to overlap. The other cases I cited are where two half-hourly routes combine to provide 15-minute service, which is the minimum definition of “frequent”. Or in the burbs, two hourly routes combine for 30-minute service (347/348).

        I think Metro would also say traffic at Montlake is too congested to reliably space the 43 and 48, especially since they each travel through different chokepoints on their separate segments. In the case of the 347/348, the only traffic is really around Northgate, so their travel time in their separate segments is predictable. But Metro can’t even make the 8 predictable with its multiple chokepoints, and it’s just a single route.

      3. The reason that the 43 and 48 aren’t evenly spaced is simple — they’re scheduled out of separate bases, meaning that their schedules are created completely independently. If both buses run at the same 15-minute frequency (which is roughly true for most of the day), and we assume a schedule granularity of 1 minute, then there’s a 13 out of 15 chance that the schedules will be poorly lined up (i.e. 0+7 and 0+8 are good, and every other combination is bad).

  9. Hey, urbists.

    I’m surprised that you haven’t run any articles on the Seattle Commons, which was proposed as a rezone of the Denny area to transform it from light industry to residential…in city town home style living.

    It was rejected in 1995, but right now it seems like it would have been the best thing going!

    Seattle voters reject the Seattle Commons levy on September 19, 1995.

    On September 19, 1995, Seattle voters reject by a narrow 47 to 53 percent margin a $111 million property-tax levy that would have funded the development and construction of the Seattle Commons. Designed as a 61-acre park stretching from downtown Seattle to Lake Union, the Seattle Commons has been envisioned as a vast civic lawn framed by high-tech laboratories, condos, restaurants, and urban amenities.


    1. There has been some discussion on the Commons. I voted against it because I didn’t want to spend public money for Paul Allen’s benefit after CenturyLink field and the EMP. Many people did the same and that’s probably why it was defeated.

      However, then we lost Mayor Schell and then Nickels, partly because they were seen as too friendly with developers. But in retrospect they left behind several good things for the city, especially Nickels who was one of the main proponents of Link and it turned out to be a success. Then the realization that if we want to keep housing prices from going through the roof, we need to build a lot more housing, and that means cooperating with developers and not getting mad about their profits. And in retrospect, if we had built the Commons, we’d have the Central Park that Seattle doesn’t have. So maybe we should have voted for it, and kept Nickels and Schell.

      There was a discussion about this in the STB comments last year or so. There are people on both sides of whether we should have built the Commons. However, luckily we don’t have to worry about it any more because South Lake Union is shaping up nicely, and is becoming an extension of downtown, with the downtown buses starting to layover there and some commuter routes stopping in SLU on their way to downtown. (Some of this hasn’t quite happened yet but Metro/ST have made noises about it so it probably will.)

      1. Yeah, since moving to Seattle I’ve really missed the “oasis” that large urban open spaces like Central Park provide. But I stood at the corner of 6th and Virginia last evening and smiled at what South Lake Union, the Denny Triangle, and Downtown are becoming.

      2. We’re so blessed with amazing parks, but who needs them downtown when we have Volunteer Park (9, 10, 49, 60), Interlaken Park (10, 12, 25), the Arboretum (8, 11, 43, 48), Madrona Park (2), Leschi Park (27), Colman Park (27), Seward Park (34, 39), Lincoln Park (54), Alki Beach (37, 56, Water Taxi/775), Discovery Park (33), Woodland Park (5, 358), Green Lake (16, 26, 48, 358), Ravenna Park (30, ,68, 71, 72, 73, 74), and Magnuson Park (30, 74, 75)…all within 7 miles of downtown?

      3. “I voted against it because I didn’t want to spend public money for Paul Allen’s benefit after CenturyLink field and the EMP. Many people did the same and that’s probably why it was defeated.”

        I think your timeline is off. The Commons election predated both the new Seahawks stadium and the EMP. And if it was September 1995, it was the same day as the vote for a tax plan to build a new baseball stadium. (Tax plan failed by the slimmest of margins; stadium was built eventually using a different financing method, one that was never voted on).

      4. “who needs them downtown” That’s the whole point. People rarely devote the several hours to travelling to a park a few miles from where they live or work and finding activities to do while they are there. The parks that are truly successful, like Central Park, are simply part of the day for people. In the morning you might walk through Central Park on the way to work, and stop for a cup of coffee at one of the little cafes there, and in the afternoon you might walk across the street from the subway stop and sit on a bench to read a book. If the Seattle Commons had been built, it would’ve become a park like that. It would have been a place where workers ate lunch and Downtown residents walked their dogs. I hope the Waterfront park can somehow fill the role of the City’s outdoor living room.

      5. The next time you’re walking up Westlake Ave N, notice how nicely it’s shaping up. The new buildings complement the nicely repurposed older buildings. The offices and cafes are symbiotic but separate draws to the area. The light industrial continues to hum along for the time being, one block over. The streetcar zips down the middle of the street, often with actual people on it.

        Seattle Commons would have obliterated all of this. Westlake Ave and the blocks flanking it would have disappeared, and in their place would be dead space. The residential that was to ring the park and provide it homogeneous clip-art users would have been built from scratch, sterile uniformity trumping organic growth.

        The Commons would never have been Central Park. At best, it would have been Bellevue Downtown Park. At worst it would just have a been another placeless Seattle place that nobody ever really went.

      6. The difference between “those in the know” and just plain folks. I’m working from memory, but I think this is basically true.

        The first library bond issue was put on the ballot with lukewarm mayoral support in November 1994, and got 57% of the vote. Of course, it needed 60% as a bond issue, but still, 57% is a lot of people, particularly since election day that year was wet as hell (I remember because I was holding up signs above the Battery Street Tunnel entrance for a couple of hours) and it was that terrible Republican year. In order to reintroduce it on the ballot, it needed two+ years and a lot of public input and restructuring. Of course, it passed in a real landslide when it did.

        The Commons lost its first vote and was immediately put on the ballot in a special election, as far as I can recall without any real changes. It needed only 50% of the people who voted at that election, but it failed to get it and Hinterberger and Allen decided to pout and take their ball and go home.

        You can guess how I voted.

      7. Re central parks in Seattle, Westlake Park is too small for that role. The other parks are mostly peripheral: you have to make an out-of-the-way trip to Myrtle Edwards, Discovery, Leschi, or Seward Park, and most of them have atrocious bus service.

        Fortunately, the waterfront project could become the missing central park if it succeeds, and if there’s good access from 1st and 3rd Avenues.

        BTW, there’s a parks and attractions brochure bundled with Metro’s June service change announcement. It touts Golden Gardens as one of Seattle’s great parks, and lists the bus routes that “go to it”. It neglects to mention that the 46 runs only peak hours, and it’s a long stairway from the 48.

      8. Hrm, the 46 has been upgraded slightly. It runs “extended peak” from Ballard to Golden Gardens (and other weird schedules from Ballard to Fremont and Ballard to UW). So you can go to Golden Gardens approximately hourly, with a 2- or 3-hour gap here and there. No evenings or weekends.

        I think the 46 is slated to be deleted in September, with no more service on Seaview at all?

      9. “you have to make an out-of-the-way trip to Myrtle Edwards, Discovery, Leschi, or Seward Park, and most of them have atrocious bus service.”

        Been to Jefferson Park lately? It is at least closer to “central” than Seward, Leschi, or Discovery, and since they lidded the reservoirs it’s a great park. There are some killer views, too.

      10. I didn’t see anything at Jefferson Park except a lonely golf course. I looked at an apartment on the west side once (16th), but I couldn’t handle being a 20-minute walk away from the 36 and the only closer bus being the 60. (This was before Link, and I think the 60 ended at 9:30pm, and I was even timing how long it took to walk across the freeway to the Spokane St busway and whether I’d be willing to do that on a regular basis.)

    2. For those of you who were not in Seattle at the time, The Commons was initially just supposed to be a tree-lined “Grand Boulevard” like the Champs Elysee (Westlake) from downtown to Lake Union as proposed by Newspaper Restaurant critic John Hinterberger.

      It then morphed into “The Commons”after Paul Allen got involved.

  10. One of my friends from Toronto was in town recently and we talked about transit among other things. He forwarded me this article about the tough choices Ontario voters face with regards to funding congestion relief. Also of note, the article is about the 90+ year old mayor of Mississauga ON fight to get more transit to her city.


    1. The problem in Toronto is that the TTC is a horrible, terrible group of mean spirited people.

      1. Not really. Transit in Toronto has a lot of problems. The TTC is very stuck in the mud, not interested in change. The Council has historically been kind of out to lunch on mass transit issues, paying them little attention (this seems to be changing). The current mayor is a blowhard and an ignoramus who hates mass transit on principle. The provincial government can’t decide what it wants to do: it’s been whipsawing funding (now you have it, now you don’t) and demanding different organizational arrangements every few years (including reorganizing the city government a few decades back). The federal government has … been doing the same things as the provincial government.

  11. Maybe our region should spend more on lobbying and we would get more federal help, like Utah seems to do:

    The Utah Transit Agency spends more on lobbying in Washington, D.C., than any transit agency in the country _ more than Houston, Philadelphia or Denver, records show.

    It spends more than Phoenix, Oakland, Calif., and San Jose, Calif., transit agencies combined.

    For its effort, the Utah Transit Authority has raked in more than $1 billion in federal funding _ so much that state auditors say it might be left unable to maintain or operate its expanding light-rail and bus network on ordinary revenue.

    UTA makes no apology for hiring lobbyists it says have produced $500 in federal construction and operating funds for every $1 of compensation.

    “We believe that money we’ve spent on government relations work has been very much worth it,” UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City. “All you have to do is take a look at what we’ve managed to build here and continue to build.”

    (it continues)

    1. This is one reason I don’t really support transit funding on the federal level. It’s a textbook example of rent-seeking behavior, in which people from every state send tax dollars to the federal government, and also use local tax dollars to pay lobbyists who compete to get the federal tax money spent in their community. It’s inefficient. Rather than begging for federal grants to get our transit built, I would rather see the money that Seattle-area residents pay toward these grants be re-allocated directly to our own local transit agencies. Beats sending it to Utah.

      1. As soon as state governments can print money….
        …remember, much of the federal budget is funded through “borrowing” which is really money-printing.

    2. It doesn’t hurt that Orrin Hatch (ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance) has been in Washington as long as Pattie Murray and Maria Cantwell combined.

  12. Chicago with its huge far flung suburban cities has long been a nightmare for workers who “reverse” commute from the city to jobs in places like Hoffman Estates and Libertyville is now seeing the national trend of moving jobs back downtown. Google’s newly acquired Motorola Mobility may move downtown. United Airlines moved back a couple of years ago, even Sears has moved some offices back to the city.


    1. At the same time, like Detroit, vast stretches of Chicago are going wild or being turned into parkland.

      So it is less reurbanization but more like normalization across the metro area. In the way they “saved” Times Square by turning it into an open air suburban mall.

      1. Uh, not really. Only the far-flung edges of Chicago are going wild. And Chicago sprawls more than you can imagine.

        Meanwhile, the center of Chicago is building up, up, up.

      2. John, no. The city of Chicago is not being turned into parkland. There are however, significant areas of the city that are blighted by poverty and crime. But that is also true for some suburbs of Chicago. sorta like parts of Kent valley are blighted by poverty and crime.

        What is also true is that many parts of Chicago are rapidly densifying with new construction. Many major companies are considering moving back to the city and downtown. Sears holdings, United Airlines and Motorola have already or are in the process of moving offices downtown.

      3. It’s just Bailo hyperbole. He thinks Seattle is depopulating too, even though its population is increasing.

        There are some places in California where the counties are bulldozing isolated exurban McMansions that fell into foreclosure to prevent anyone from living there again (and thus requiring services in their isolated location). Is that happening at the edges of Chicagoland? I heard that some rural towns that were starting to grow have “reverted to rural status”. Does that cover all the cases of “stretches of Chicago going wild or turning into parkland”, or what other examples are there?

      4. I think you’re talking about Victorville. $300,000 homes hardly qualify as McMansions and nobody ever lived there. Only four models were complete and the teardown is part of getting the property ready to put back on the market. Chicago OTOH did actually lose 200,000 people (6.9%) between the 2000 and 2010 census. Contrast that with a growth rate for the State of Illinois of 3.3%. Yes there has been a tremendous concentration of wealth near McCormick Place and along Lake Shore Drive but this only further divides a city where the line between opulent and scary has long been an issue.

  13. I love how that mockingbird is dive-bombing the squirrel as if to say, “get off the track you idiot!”

  14. It’s official: As of September 1, ORCA will be the most expensive bus smart card in the country, by far.

    DC’s SmarTrip card, which nominally costs $5, will give those who register the card online a $3 e-purse credit, making the true card fee $2.

    This is similar to the Chicago Card, Houston’s Q Card, and Minneapolis’ Go To Card, which are all free with registration.

    It leaves SmarTrip the same de facto price as Spokane’s Go Smart Card, San Diego’s Compass Card, and Miami’s EASY Card, which, at $2, puts them in a 4-way tie for second-most expensive bus smart card, but leaves the most expensive card — ORCA — a whopping 150% more expensive than its closest competitor.

    After September 1, the average price for a bus smart card in the US will be 77 cents, which leaves ORCA costing 550% above the industry average.

  15. Hydrogen-powered buses continue to grow in popularity around the world

    Australia has begun showing interest in adopting hydrogen-powered buses for the sake of public transportation recently. The city of Perth, in particular, may soon become home to a sleuth of Daimler buses in the near future. The city’s transportation planners have expressed interest in making use of hydrogen-powered buses, citing economic and environmental factors as driving forces behind the tentative initiative.


    1. Of course “Hydrogen Fuel News” thinks this is great. But in fact, nobody’s actually adopted hydrogen buses as part of their fleet.

      Battery buses have been adopted in a couple of places though…

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