RapidRide E and F Cost Breakdown

E Line F Line
Transit Signal Priority (TSP)

$5.97M (16%)

$9.93M (28%)

Passenger Facilities
(Shelters, lighting, etc.)

$5.1M (14%)

$7.64M (22%)

Real Time Information Signs

$790,000 (2%)

$800,000 (2%)

New Buses

$24.9M (68%)

$16.8M (47%)




Following last weeks announcement of FTA’s Very Small Starts funding of the E and F lines I started wondering about the cost breakdown of RapidRide. I have some answers thanks to Rochelle Ogershok at King County Metro. For each line, the total cost is roughly the same, but the breakdown differs significantly between the two. For the E Line, almost 70% of capital costs go towards new coaches, which certainly reflects the longer cycle time, and thus larger number of buses necessary to achieve 10-minute peak period headways.

Comparing the two lines, the extra cost of new buses on the E Line is offset through lower roadway/communication/TSP costs and passenger facilities. This is likely because SDOT and Shoreline have already done most of the work to prepare signals for TSP along the corridor by upgrading signal controllers and cabinets, which is necessary for various component of the RapidRide ITS system to operate. The lower relative cost could also be related to the need for fewer concrete bus stop pads along the E Line.

Despite the larger number of “stations” on the E Line, passenger facility costs are higher for the F Line. The only reason I could see explaining this is better and thus cheaper access to power along Aurora, less right of way purchase necessary to accommodate stations and fewer sidewalk improvements for the E Line compared to the more suburban F Line. The smallest part of the budgets, just 2% for both routes, is spent on real-time information signs, although things like power and communication, which are included in the other cost categories, are need for real-time information signs are to operate.

My personal take on these numbers, which I have said before, is that American BRT over-emphasizes slick-looking buses at the expense of more broadly investing in speed and reliability improvements that benefit frequent bus routes, regardless of branding. That FTA specifically funds projects which meet its “BRT” criteria, without setting caps on the the percentage of a project budget that can go to buses, exacerbates this problem, and could create an undesirable incentives for transit agencies to see FTA BRT funding as free money for bus replacement, rather than a challenge from the FTA to improve the quality of bus transit.

June Service Change Brings Minor Improvements

King County Metro 180 at Burien TC
King County Metro 180 at Burien TC

Recently, King County Metro published the details of a minor service change that will take effect Tomorrow, June 9th. There’s nothing earth-shattering in here, but lots of small, good changes that set the stage for the major West Seattle-Ballard service change in September. Several Sound Transit routes change at the same time. Here are the highlights:

  • 10-minute Sunday headways on the Downtown to U-District 71/72/73 trunk. The busiest and most important transit corridor in the city gets an upgrade from 15-minute headways. While the night-Sunday service pattern (local on Eastlake) doesn’t optimally serve the vast majority of riders, who would be much better off with an extension of the weekday (express on I-5 or Eastlake) service pattern, this is a much-needed and comparatively cheap upgrade.
  • Inbound tunnel buses are reassigned to the foremost bay at each tunnel stop. This (perhaps rather obvious) operational change helps increase the capacity of each tunnel station by allowing buses that are primarily unloading to pull as far forward as possible, so as not to waste precious platform space. The increase in capacity will help offset the expected reduction in tunnel capacity due to the elimination of daytime Pay as You Leave rules when the Ride Free Area goes away in the fall.
  • Extension of evening Route 180 service between Kent Station and Burien Transit Center, which currently ends at 7:15. A small but significant improvement for mobility in South King.
  • Sound Transit picks up Bonney Lake-Sumner Sounder connection as Route 596. Adam noted in a post a few weeks ago that this marks ST’s first significant non-capital expenditure to improve access to their rail services.
  • More details about Route 99 (Waterfront): Route 99 will be extended later in the evening during the summer, but reduced to peak only during the winter; “Summer” will be early June through the end of September.
  • Deletions and restructures of a few “worst of the worst” routes, notably the 38, 79 and 219. Sadly, Metro will not put the 42 out of its misery until Fall February of 2013.
  • Ballard expresses acquire a stop at Elliott & Harrison. This area is very office-oriented, and I’m told local businesses were interested in better commuter access, especially with RapidRide skipping the Uptown stops nearest Harrison. It occurs to me that, once SDOT’s delayed West Thomas St overpass finally opens, smart commuters bound to or from Pioneer Square could use this stop to trade a long, slow bus ride though the CBD for a fast, scenic, flat bike ride along the waterfront.
  • Minor routing changes, schedule changes, added trips, or deleted trips to various other routes. Metro adopted a proposal I discussed on the blog previously, consolidating the 25 with the Stevens Way corridor through campus.

There are no changes to any rail services in the region.

ST Station Name Survey

Sound Transit

Sound Transit has an extremely short online survey about the name of the station provisionally known as Brooklyn.

Apparently “University District” “U District” now has the inside track. ST explains why:

You may be aware that the current light rail system includes the University Street Station located in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT), which serves what was the original UW campus. The extension of the Link system to Northgate creates a potential scenario in which the word “university” could be used in three different station names, which would likely create confusion to riders about landmarks and geographic locations. That is why the Sound Transit Board recently adopted updated station naming criteria that discourages using similar names or words that are in existing station names.

The proposed “U District Station” name represents the local neighborhood and reduces the use of “university” in multiple station names. We’ve also heard feedback that the existing University Street Station should be renamed to better represent its location. That decision involves King County Metro and we will talk with them about whether there might be a better name for that particular station. While we won’t have an answer to that question for some time, we propose to keep the University of Washington Station name because it makes sense being located on the UW campus.

I’ve personally always liked “Brooklyn,” ostensibly because it maximizes simplicity and diversity of station names, but probably really because of East Coast media bias.

News Roundup: Comes Out Swinging


This is an open thread.

More Money for RapidRide


The Federal Transit Administration last week formally awarded Metro $37.5m for the RapidRide E and F lines. Transit buffs will no doubt appreciate the cash, but might snicker at FTA director Peter Rogoff’s description of the line:

“King County’s RapidRide bus lines are a great example of bus rapid transit done right,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “The RapidRide system is essentially rail on wheels and will help people keep more money in their wallets instead of paying it at the pump.”

Metro spokesperson Rochelle Ogershok told me that the federal contribution was already assumed in Metro’s budget, so this is more a lack of bad news than good new information. The Times reports that this money will cover more than half of the startup costs of the two lines, in line with earlier installments of RapidRide.

OneBusAway Looking For Feedback

OneBusAway is doing another round of user research to update their work done in 2009 and they would like your input. Info below:

Three years and many changes later, the UW team that runs OneBusAway is again looking for feedback about the service. Please respond if you are a current OneBusAway user or if you ever have used the service in the past three years. The web survey can be accessed here and will typically take around 10-15 minutes to complete. Those who take the survey will also be eligible to win a $25 dollar iTunes gift card. The survey is anonymous and will provide information related to transit use, real-time information and current OneBusAway issues. Your participation is appreciated.

You can take the survey here.

Northgate Strongly Opposes Garage at Public Meeting

Northgate meeting attendees (with a lot of familiar faces)

Last night at Sound Transit’s public meeting about their proposed parking garage at Northgate, it looks like more than 92% of the people who showed up (that’s the percentage that won’t use cars to get to the station in 2030, on stickers many attendees wore) had a pretty clear message – they don’t want Sound Transit to build a parking garage at Northgate. Instead, they want to allow Northgate the opportunity to become, as Craig Benjamin says toward the end of the KIRO clip, a “walkable, bikeable, transit-rich community.” Continue reading “Northgate Strongly Opposes Garage at Public Meeting”

Making Transit Fun: The Brooklyn Slide

I’ve recently finished reading Darrin Nordahl’s ebook Making Transit FUN!, and it’s inspired a few ideas.  I’ll write up a review soon, but for now I present my latest idea: the Brooklyn Slide.  Imagine if instead of walking down two long sets of stairs or escalators in the future Brooklyn Station, you could shoot down a slide from the surface right to the platform.  This would save countless hours of passenger commute time, and would be fun.

Considering Sound Transit is only halfway done with design, there’s still plenty of time to add this little, cheap design enhancement.  Though I show a straight slide in my illustration, this could be helical after a straight section.  This could also likely work at the Roosevelt Station, Capitol Hill Station, or Bellevue Station, as they have similar designs.  If there’s any concern about safety, cleaning, liability, or maintenance, I refer you to previous designs implemented in parks throughout Seattle on city land, built safe enough for children to use.

Transit slides are not unprecedented, there are several that have been built as retrofit installations.  The difference here is that we have the opportunity to build one right into the station from the start.

Brooklyn Slide, Matt Gangemi

Debate in the 36th: Building A Healthy Urban Environment

A few months ago, I lived in the 43rd legislative district. I’d been there for quite some time – in Roosevelt, on Capitol Hill, and then downtown, right on the edge of the district. This year, now that redistricting is complete, I live in the 36th!

This is much more exciting. You see, now that Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson is retiring, she leaves behind an open seat. Running are a bunch of amazing folks. Of those who I already know kick ass on transit are: Sahar Fathi, social justice champion and legislative aide to Councilmember O’Brien. Noel Frame, boardmember of the Washington Bus and state director of Progressive Majority. Brett Phillips, director of sustainability for Unico. Gael Tarleton, Port Commissioner. For me, this sucks, because on a lot of issues I care about, they’re all good.

Seattle Transit Blog is cosponsoring a debate between them – specifically because we need some help, from YOU, our lovely readers and commenters (yes, Norman, even you) to figure out who’s awesomest.

On Wednesday the 13th from 7pm to 8:30, at the (clearly communist) “Queen Anne Community Center“, these transit, land use, infrastructure, and social justice champions will debate how we build a healthy urban environment – a place that promotes health, is affordable, can handle growth, accessible young and old, with cars and without.

Shall we RSVP at this here link? If I see five or six comments from folks who definitely will be there, perhaps we can turn it into a mini-meetup!

Northgate Open House on Monday

On Monday, from 6 PM to 8 PM at Olympic View Elementary School, Sound Transit is hosting an open house to discuss Northgate station construction plans, “including a potential shared use, replacement parking garage and an integrated station access plan”. Parking, specifically the possibility of constructing a 600-900 stall shared-use, shared-cost garage on the Northgate Mall property close to the station, has dominated coverage of North Link for the last few weeks, and I expect it to dominate Monday’s discussion.

The open house is a part of a welcome effort by Sound Transit to engage the community, present facts, and state its goals with respect to replacement parking at Northgate. On Friday, ST released a fact sheet and a press release which previews the arguments that will be made on Monday; the fact sheet in particular is required reading. From the presser:

Construction of the Northgate Station is expected to displace 428 park-and-ride stalls managed by King County Metro over a period of about seven years. In addition, station construction is also expected to displace 451 parking stalls at Northgate Mall for which Sound Transit must compensate the mall’s owner, Simon Property Group (SPG). In order to comply with federal ROD requirements for mitigating the lost park-and-ride capacity and to provide a way for SPG to replace its lost parking, a shared use parking garage is proposed with a total of 600 – 900 spaces split between transit riders and patrons of Northgate Mall. The preferred site for the proposed garage is on Northgate Mall property near the future station site. The garage would be built before station construction begins to minimize impacts to current transit users and Mall customers.

This engagement, unfortunately, comes a little late. The mythical “$40 million parking garage” (yesterday debunked again on Crosscut) has gone viral, with Cascade Bike Club and Feet First making it the centerpiece of efforts to rally opposition to parking structures at Northgate, illustrating the dangers of an information vacuum. I’m told these groups feel ST is stampeding towards building more parking, and want more consideration and study of alternate modes, with a possible bike-pedestrian bridge over I-5 the big prize, although I’m unclear how broadcasting such dubious information advances their cause.

News Roundup – No Baloney

Erik Griswold/Flickr
  • Feds shut down discount intercity bus operators for safety reasons. You knew there was a catch, right?
  • Eyman’s supermajority initiative (a.k.a. I-1053) ruled unconstitutional.  In case it’s not painfully obvious, STB was against this initiative.
  • Who among us does not love a good infographic? Especially one that features mother and child dancing together on a sidewalk? I thought so.
  • Some Sumner City Council members want back in on Pierce Transit.
  • On a totally unrelated note, 40% of Americans who rely on public transit live in rural areas.
  • Highway 522 being widened.  Your snowboarding commute to Stevens Pass will be righteously epic by… 2014. Hang tight, bro.
  • Capitol Hill Housing presented a report on the “Capitol Hill EcoDistrict.”  The full report includes lots of great strategies for transportation sustainability.  Strangely, “bolagna factories” are not covered.
  • John Feit links the report to TOD opportunities around the new Capitol Hill (Broadway?) Station.
  • Speaking of Capitol Hill, a new Brookings report shows how walkable ‘hoods like the Hill have zoomed ahead of suburbs like Redmond in terms of property values.
  • New movie about legendary Seattle activist Grant Cogswell shown at SIFF.  Here’s file footage of Cogswell presenting the Monorail concept to a skeptical Seattle City Council.
  • 6 mobile apps for transit.  Criminally, OneBusAway doesn’t make the list.  Whatever, Singapore.
  • Federal transpo bill still stalled in the House.  Also, Eric Cantor is still annoying.
  • Seattle Times Ed Board concerned about traffic around new SoDo arena.
  • Light rail now seen as an economic boon to the Phoenix-Mesa area.  What a difference a few years makes.
This is an open thread.

Rail Roundup – All that coal

Black in blue
The Fishbone/Flickr

News from the world of heavy rail:

  •  Amtrak Cascades and WSDOT debuted a revamped Bistro and Lounge car. The “Mt. Rainier” trainset is in the rotation currently featuring the new swag.
  • Sound Transit’s Sounder D Street to M Street is moving along. D Street is open and C Street is now closed. Both of these crossings will be “wayside” horn crossings, meaning no loud train horns.
  • Sound Transit’s M Street to Lakewood is mostly completed, with only punch-list items remaining. Testing is tentatively scheduled to begin in July.
  • BNSF’s Auburn yard is getting additional capacity for coal and grain trains. These extra tracks will reduce/eliminate delays to Amtrak Cascades trains. This is a BNSF funded project, NOT part of ARRA funding…
  • BNSF’s Delta yard in Everett to get 2 additional tracks as part of ARRA funding. Construction starts in shortly, providing additional relief for Amtrak Cascades trains.
  • Canadian Pacific Railway is on strike, causing a delays to trains in North America. The ripple effect grows with each passing day. This does not affect commuter rail services or U.S. operations of Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad will be at the LeMay Auto Museum grand opening, June 2-3, providing train rides behind a 1922 Baldwin steam locomotive and a classic diesel locomotive. No advanced reservations are required. Fare is $10.
  • Oregon’s new trainsets are due to arrive in July. Certification and testing will start shortly after arrival in non-revenue service with start of service later in the Fall.
  • Could new coal trains prevent new Amtrak Cascade service? Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber believes so.
  • Seattle City Council also opposes coal-export ports and the coal trains that would come with it.
  • Could Coal Train traffic really be bad news for Public Health?
  • Rail advocates continue to push for Blaine Amtrak Cascades stop. White Rock and Surrey councils are behind the project as well.