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This is an open thread.

43 Replies to “News Roundup: On the Decline”

  1. Is moving Amtrak to Freighthouse Square part of the Point D Bypass project (since it’s primarily for passenger traffic)? What are FSQ’s plans for future integration on this subject? It’s not in any state to be Amtrak-ready at the moment.

    But: Amtrak through FSQ? Yes, please. Good for Dome district, good for FSQ, good for T-Link and ST, good for Tacoma.

    1. Indeed. I spent a good cusp of time on the Fourth of July looking for the Tacoma Amtrak Station… grrr!

    2. FHS is woefully inadequate at present for an Amtrak station. There will have to be some big changes made, such as a proper waiting room, baggage facilities, ticket counter, etc. all of which are [of course] currently absent. I’m not sure how it would all come together given the current infrastructure of the building.

      1. I haven’t seen detailed plans, but I believe last I read (several years ago), the I idea was that part of the building which is currently unused (or perhaps rented out) is going to be renovated and opened up again to provide the baggage facilities / ticket counter / waiting room. Does that make any sense?

      2. I was just there a week ago. The first time I came in the whole west end was empty and would have been perfect for Amtrak. Now the west end is mostly rented and there are empty stores all over the rest of it. It seems like some people would need to be moved.

    1. I just checked the service changes. They talk about eliminating the 17 (fine) and replacing it with other routes. One of the new routes they mention is Route 29 – yet there is nothing on the Service Change Bulletin
      that mentions new route 29.

      1. The 2E is being renumbered the 29, which will extend from SPU to downtown Ballard. (Hooray for a direct connection between upper Queen Anne and Ballard!)

        It’s on the first link, but not the pages with all the affected route numbers listed in squares. So, yeah, it is a little confusing.

  2. What Decline? Local Sales Taxes have rebounded to above ’08 recession levels.
    Here’s Metro’s Sales Tax take for the last 10 years, in millions.
    ’02-231
    ’03-255
    ’04-236
    ’05-291
    ’06-267
    ’07-290
    ’08-306
    ’09-252
    ’10-279
    ’11-298
    ’12-323* projected
    (source Nat’l Transit Database to ’09, Metro KC)
    Metro took an 18% hit after ’08, but has fully recovered to a 5% gain over 4 years, so effectively they’re down a little due to inflation over that period, but not much inflation occurred since ’08.
    “Fill up the buses and let ‘er rip”
    Oh, We’re still broke? Never mind!

      1. Metro burned a lot of reserve funds the past few years, which ultimately need to be paid back at some point, or we’re really screwed when the next recession hits. So even if revenue in 2012 is equal to 2008, maybe Metro doesn’t have to drain its reserves further, but that’s not enough to replenish them.

    1. Didn’t the King County Council also pass an extra $20 car tab for Metro about a year ago without a public vote? So, how much is that bringing in on top of the sales tax revenue? They expected the extra car tab fee to bring in about $25 million per year for Metro.

      http://www.nwcn.com/news/washington/King-County-expected-to-approve-20-car-tab-hike-for-Metro-127727963.html

      So, not only is Metro’sales tax revenue the highest every this year, there is an additional $25 million in revenue from the new car tab fee.

      Does this unexpected increase in sales tax revenues mean that King County can rescind the car tab fee, since Metro seems to have more sales tax revenues than they had anticipated when they said they “needed” the car tab money?

      1. LOL!

        Nah, the $$$ will go to the poor union drivers to accommodate their underfunded pension plans or perhaps to SHARE/WHEEL for the ‘social justice’ angles.

        Expect sob stories in the fall as METRO asks for more $

      2. The big push when revenues tanked in ’08 was to become a “lean, mean, transit machine”.
        Average cost per rider has been climbing slowly since then, and cost/hour for buses is pretty flat at $125/hr. I’m wondering when their route performance report will hit the streets, so us wonkies can see how all the efficiencies are paying off. The report usually is available to the public in Jun/Jul, but so far nothing on the web site.
        I find it troublesome that it takes nearly two years now from the time data starts being collected (Jan ’11), until the report is put out there. After that, they have to go through an agonizing public process and council hearings before they can schedule something for a future service change = so maybe another year has passed.
        This turning battleships thing isn’t very responsive.

    2. Are there any stats for Metro’s fuel expenses year-to-year? I’d guess that in some years, higher oil prices could wipe out a certain level of improved sales tax revenue. Or maybe that’s paid for out of a separate funding source.

      1. Fair point. I really want to see how many bus hours are being deployed, but it’s clear that Metro is not keeping pace with population growth, and it’s certainly not building ridership over the last years to gain market share from the autos it’s trying to replace.
        Or you could look to Pierce or Snohomish Counties to make a similar argument of watching those systems in decline.
        I tend to look at TOTAL investment in transit (both operating and capital) and see if that is paying big dividends. So far, all we’ve been doing is shuffling chairs on the Titanic. I’m still waiting for the big increase in transit’ mode share of all trips taken in the region.

    1. AFAIK, RapidRide doesn’t add any new late night trips. The RapidRide D trips are a 1:1 replacement for the 81’s two night-owl trips, which currently leave downtown at roughly 2:30am and 3:15am.

    2. RapidRide C & D replace the 81 & 85 Night Owl routes, which already provide service after 2 AM.

      On the other hand, RapidRide operates late-night trips on the usual route, whereas the Night Owl routes operate as unidirectional loops.

      So if you live on Fauntleroy, that means a much quicker trip downtown in the middle of the night. If you live on Delridge, no more night owl for you!

  3. Had an interesting conversation with someone who has lived in NYC for the past 5 years. Granted, she prefaced our conversation with the fact that she knows very little about transportation, though I thought her beliefs were pretty funny.

    First she asked me about why there weren’t any express tracks along the light rail route. I told her the idea was that light rail is ‘express enough’ and that kind of redundancy is prohibitively expensive. Then she asked how long it was going to take to get from Roosevelt to the Airport, ‘3 hours?’ I told her more in the order of 45-50 minutes.

    Sometimes I think people living in NYC are too spoiled.

    1. Also, airport trips in NYC are usually awful, expensive, or both. One of the nicest things you can say about the walk from the Sea-Tac terminal to Link is that it would be nice if the train to airport connections in NYC were that good.

  4. Regardless of what everyone thinks about the merits of the proposed free downtown shuttle, has anyone seen a proposed route? I’ve heard of it running to Harborview but beyond that I’ve heard of no specifics.

    1. I think it’s funny that Harborview is always referenced for a free shuttle, but Harborview was never in the RFA in the first place. How did everyone get to Harborview before?

  5. I am glad to see that the Point Defiance Bypass is being expedited at the Federal level. It is more than a six minute improvement, but it along with improvements around Kelso will help add two more trains between Seattle and Portland.

    1. I wouldn’t count on anything yet. If Romney gets elected President, he will do everything in his power to find a way to kill it – even if the money has already been promised. Remember, we’re talking about a party that believes that any transportation investment other than highways to move more cars is 100% pure waste.

      If we want this project and others to have any hope of receiving any federal assistance, we need Democrats in control of Congress.

  6. What a difference 32 years make. The following is from the Republican Party Platform in 1980:

    The role of the federal government should be one of giving financial and technical support to local authorities, through surface transportation block grants. Because of the long planning and construction times inherent in bus, rail, and other mass transit systems, a consistent and dependable source of revenue should be established.

    Mass transportation offers the prospect for significant energy conservation. In addition, both management and labor agree that ease of access to the workplace is an important factor in employment decisions and industrial plant location. Lack of adequate access is a major reason why businesses have moved out of crowded urban areas, resulting in lower tax bases for cities. To encourage existing businesses to remain in urban centers and to attract new businesses to urban areas, it is vital that adequate public and private transportation facilities be provided.

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