Annual Reader Survey

In an effort to get a better understanding of our readers (and also get more relevant advertisers), we’re conducting our first annual reader survey.  In addition to the basic demographic info, we also want to know what you want to see more of on the blog, and what other sites you’re reading.

The survey takes just a minute to complete – it’s only 10 questions! So if you wouldn’t mind, click the link and fill it out? Thanks.

2011-12 Link Station Boardings

Here’s an update on Link station boardings/alightings from ST spokesman Bruce Gray, a continuation of previously released data from 2010. For some reason, the 2nd quarter is the season for these.

Each value includes both people getting on and getting off at the station, so it sums to twice total system boardings.

2Q 2012 Boardings/Alightings by Station

Station Northbound Southbound Total  Chg Fr. 2011(%)  Chg Fr. 2010(%)
Westlake 4864  4416  9280  8  17
University St. 1830  1877  3707  12  30 
Pioneer Sq.  1536  1538  3074  5  22
ID/Chinatown  2187  2352  4539  10  22
Stadium 733  621  1354  4  7
Sodo  823 789  1612  19  28
Beacon Hill 1615  1389  3004  17  31
Mt. Baker  1489  1435  2924  17  35
Columbia City 1260  1237  2497  13  29
Othello  1512  1406  2918  22  42
Rainier Beach  1103  1120  2223  10  32
Tukwila IB  2332  2047  4379  9  27
Seatac/Airport  3674 3997  7671   7  22

The relative shares of the stations has remained basically constant over the last couple of years. The Rainier Valley is a quarter of all boardings and alightings. Assuming that no trips remain entirely in the Valley*, then just over half of all Link trips are to or from a station there.

Continue reading “2011-12 Link Station Boardings”

Election Open Thread

You may have heard that there was an election last night. As of 9:30pm, someone sympathetic to STB’s endorsements would say the news was mixed. Of the four statewide races we picked, only I-1185 is going poorly. Of 9 contested legislative races, only Maureen Judge is trailing.

The local measure picture was worse (2 for 6) overall, with the two big transit measures (in Pierce and Clark Counties) both losing, the Pierce measure narrowly.

Anyhow, I’m sure it’s what everyone wants to talk about, so go right ahead.

Announcing: STB in Your Inbox

Eagle-eyed readers may have spied the recent appearance of a small “Subscribe to our newsletter” link on the right-hand column of the site.  This is exactly what it says: a link to subscribe to our newsletter.  The newsletter is simply a weekly digest of STB blog posts, delivered to your inbox on Wednesday mornings.  If you visit the site regularly or follow us on Facebook, RSS, or Twitter, then you’re already getting everything that’s in there.  We’re simply adding another option for folks who prefer to use email for this sort of thing.

Sound Transit to Lease More Parking for Sounder North

Photo by Sound Transit

KOMO reported last Thursday that Sound Transit is planning to lease an additional 103 parking spaces at Edmonds Station under a 5-year agreement with Salish Crossing, owners of the adjacent Edmonds Antique Mall.  This will increase P&R capacity by 66% (from 156 to 259 spaces).  The spaces will be free for riders.

Much critical attention, both here on STB and elsewhere, has been paid to Sounder North since the Citizens’ Oversight Panel publicly questioned its continued viability. In this critical context it will be interesting to see the effects of the new parking both on ridership and public sentiment.  Adding free parking is almost always a net political win for agencies, but in this case the price is very high.  Sound Transit has agreed to pay $150 per space per month for 5 years, for a total contract cost of approximately $927,000.  Assuming 100% utilization, 250 workdays per year, and 15 special event service days, the new parking will amount to an additional subsidy of $6.79 per car per day.  This will be in addition to the $32/boarding costs Adding roughly 10% to ridership will certainly decrease the $32 cost per boarding figure, but probably not enough to outweigh the cost of the added parking. In any case, Sounder North costs will remain sky-high.

But if there’s any place that it’s proper to invest along the line, it’s Edmonds.  Sounder is 46% faster to Edmonds (27 minutes) than CT 416 (50 minutes), 50% faster (42 minutes) to Mukilteo than CT 417 (83 minutes), but 31% slower to Everett (59 minutes) than ST 510 (45 minutes) and a reliable 59 minutes to Everett, while ST 510 runs 50-75 minutes, depending on time of day and traffic.  Relatively speaking, Sounder should be more attractive to Edmonds commuters than anyone else, and if constraints in parking supply have been a true drag on ridership, then it is reasonable to expect the agency to seek to lease existing but unused spaces.

The Sound Transit board is expected to vote on the issue on November 15th.   The new spaces are expected to become available  May 1, 2013.

[Update:  See clarifications above.  The original post erroneously used off-peak travel times on ST 510 from 4th/Union to Everett Station.  The post has been updated to show the full range of travel times between 4th/Jackson and Everett.

Metro to Add More C Line Trips

Photo by zargoman

Starting this week, Metro will add four new C Line trips in the evening peak, two of which start today, the other two starting next Monday.  Three of the added trips won’t be through-routed with the D Line, which will help avoid reliability issues coming through Lower Queen Anne into downtown.  According to Metro, the trip adds, which are funded by a contingency reserve, are meant to help alleviate evening service gaps caused by such poor inbound D Line reliability:

Traffic in downtown Seattle poses a daily challenge for bus schedules on the best of days. Metro schedules its RapidRide buses for 10-minute service during the peak commutes – even higher at 8-9 minutes during the highest ridership times about 7- 8:30 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. But traffic, events and other factors can cause buses to be delayed. Buses might bunch up and arrive together when riders are expecting more frequent service.

Analysis of recent transit travel times shows intervals longer than 10 minutes between buses during the evening commute. Inserting additional bus trips is expected to help fill those gaps in arrival times, [Metro GM Kevin] Desmond said.

C Line ridership may very well be Metro’s most pleasant post-service change surprise and a good indication that the the West Seattle restructure is working well.  Operationally, however, route performance continues to suffer thanks to things like on-board payment and downtown congestion, to which fixes would unfortunately be illegal recipients of Metro’s contingency of service hours.

STB 2012 General Election Endorsements Cheat Sheet

For all those last minute voters, below is our election endorsements cheat sheet. Full writeup can be viewed here.

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator: Maria Cantwell

Washington State

Governor: Jay Inslee

Initiative 1185: No

Supreme Court Position #9: Sheryl Gordon McCloud


Pierce Transit Proposition 1: Yes

C-Tran Proposition 1: Approve

Washington State Senate

District 10: Barbara Bailey

District 41: Maureen Judge

Washington State House

District 21, Rep. 2: Marko Liias

District 27, Rep. 2: Jake Fey

District 30, Rep. 2: Roger Freeman

District 34, Rep. 2: Joe Fitzgibbon

District 36, Rep. 1: Reuven Carlyle

District 46, Rep. 2: Jessyn Farrell

District 48, Rep 1: Ross Hunter

District 48, Rep 2: Cyrus Habib

City and Other

City of Seattle Proposition 1: Approve

City of Kirkland Proposition 1: Approve

Proposed North Highline “Y” Annexation Area: Approve

Proposed West Hills Annexation Area: Approve

Working Toward a Vision

It’s been a while since I’ve written about what I believe in, and I think this is a good time to share that again.

I am not religious. I don’t believe my purpose is ordained by any higher power. But like all of us, I do seek purpose, and many years of that search, trying to find what’s most important to me, has led me to believe the most important thing I can do is care for those around me: my friends, community, city, even species – and the ecosystem we all live in and depend on. The most important purpose I can imagine is to help us survive sustainably within that ecosystem.

To do that, we know we need to reduce, or even eliminate, our technology’s climate changing emissions. We know energy will continue to become more scarce and expensive in our future. And we know our transportation system has been contributing to social, public health and even economic problems. There are huge tasks ahead of our generation and those that come after it, tasks I want to do my best to help us accomplish. Continue reading “Working Toward a Vision”

The Next Housing “Emergency”


Earlier this year, the Seattle City Council set a bad precedent by using emergency legislation to stop development of small-lot homes.  The Capitol Hill Community Council has now asked the City Council for more emergency legislation to block development.  Their target? Apodments.

Apodments are a form of townhouse development where each townhome “unit” is broken into several rooms for rent.  The result is very small, inexpensive units and high density.  Several have been built in Capitol Hill, which makes sense due to this neighborhood’s low-rise zoning and great walkability (apodments generally don’t come with parking spaces). 

The Capitol Hill Community Council argues that Capitol Hill has met development goals and implies they don’t want any new development.  They also claim that apodments violate the “neighborhood context” and that they have “undefined environmental impacts”.

I notice that both of these reasons are vague at best.  “Neighborhood context” is purely a matter of opinion.  I don’t live on Capitol Hill, but it sure seems to me that if low to mid-rise dense housing fits any neighborhood’s context it would be that neighborhood.  But the term is vague enough that it could be describing anything.  Are the units too brightly colored?  Are they using wood siding instead of brick?  Are the intended residents too poor?  “Undefined environmental impact” is even worse.  Bacon has undefined environmental impact – should we expect the next emergency legislation to ban bacon?  

Of course, what they really want is design review and SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) reporting.  These two processes significantly add to the cost and timeline of projects, which is why buildings this small are exempted.  In the end I can’t see how SEPA would substantially change these projects, and design review often makes only minor changes like requiring expensive facades.  It’s hard to believe it’s in the city’s interest to require low-income residents to pay for brick siding, and that not doing so constitutes an emergency.

My view is that the real emergency is finding a way to provide affordable housing within the city, and to add new residents here rather than sending them off to the suburbs and beyond.

Metro Looking for Savings in Snoqualmie Valley

Snoqualmie Valley Fixed Route Service Map
Snoqualmie Valley Fixed Route Service

Metro is looking to save money on rural routes in the Snoqalmie Valley:

Residents who want to improve public transportation in the Snoqualmie Valley or have ideas about how Metro might better serve their communities are invited to attend two upcoming meetings. The meetings, which will include an opportunity to talk one-on-one with Metro staff, will help shape future transportation services in the valley. People are also invited to provide feedback about their travel needs via an online survey. The deadline for survey comments is Nov. 4.

[Meeting times and locations at end of post.]

The Snoqualmie Valley is the first of several rural areas where Metro is shaping future bus service as part of the County’s newly adopted Transit Alternative Services Plan.  The plan establishes a framework for how fixed-route bus service – along with potential alternatives to this costly service – might look like in less populated areas of the county as Metro looks for ways to get the most out of every available transit dollar. In addition to operating regularly scheduled bus service, Metro provides alternative services such as community vans, dial-a-ride transit, and ridesharing options. Other potential alternatives might include products such as community-access transportation, flexible transit services or shared taxis.

Fixed routes in the scope of this restructure include:

  • 209, an all-day local bus serving Issaquah, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend.
  • 215, an I-90 commuter express serving Issaquah, Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie and North Bend.
  • 224, a local bus serving Redmond, Duvall, Carnation and Fall City.
  • 232, a bidirectional, peak express bus connecting Bellevue, Overlake, Redmond and Duvall.
  • 311, an I-405 commuter express primarily serving Woodinville, but with some trips continuing to Duvall.

Judging by the schedules for these routes, the provided level of service is already being done with the smallest possible number of coaches, so any savings, of necessity, must come either from cuts or conversion to a cheaper form of service. None of these services attracts, or could ever attract, a particularly large number  of riders in the Snoqualmie Valley, so the goal in this area is necessarily coverage and connectivity, not high ridership; and Metro’s press release suggests they’re looking to save money, rather than make budget-neutral changes.

With that in mind, there are a few ideas which stand out based on looking at the map, after the jump.

Continue reading “Metro Looking for Savings in Snoqualmie Valley”

Metro Tweaks North King-Seattle Routes

306, 308, 312 Routing Change from Stewart to . Similar changes for 301, 522.
306, 308, 312 Routing Change. Similar changes for 301, 522 (links below).

Yesterday, Metro announced a change to the outbound downtown Seattle routing of Routes 306, 308, 312 and ST 522, and the inbound and outbound routing of the 301. These routes serve Woodinville and other areas of northern King County. From the announcement:

Beginning Nov. 5, Metro will shift five bus routes off of Olive Way and onto Pike Street, and move a Fourth Avenue bus stop one block north. The revised routes are 301, 306, 308, 312 and Sound Transit Express 522 – routes that carry several hundred riders on 21 trips during the busiest hour of the evening commute. Maps of the revised routes are posted online for route 301routes 306, 308 and 312, and ST Express 522. […]

The change comes after a month of observations and rider feedback that identified lengthy travel times on Olive Way during the evening commute. On Sept. 29, these five bus routes were revised to travel via Fourth Avenue and Olive Way as part of major changes in the bus network in downtown Seattle. However traffic in the area – buses, general traffic and pedestrians – proved too congested. […]

To make the route revision work, Metro also will close the bus stop on Fourth Avenue between Union and Pike streets on Nov. 5. All buses that have been stopping at the stop between Union and Pike streets will serve the stop one block north on Fourth Avenue between Pike and Pine streets. This move will help buses and other traffic better make a right turn on Pike Street and head straight to the Interstate 5 express lanes. Other bus routes that continue north on Fourth Avenue also should see improved travel times.

The moved bus stop affects riders on:

  • Metro routes 111, 114, 210, 212, 214, 215 and 217
  • Community Transit routes 402, 405, 410, 412, 413, 415, 416, 417, 421, 422, 424, 425 and 435
  • Sound Transit Express routes 510, 511, 512, 513, 554, 590, 592, 594 and 595

These four routes have been tweaked a lot lately, and riders may find useful to know more about why, so as to understand that Metro isn’t just fiddling around with these routes for fun.

The 301 was, until last month, in the Downtown Transit Tunnel, along with other Shoreline commuter routes like the 316. It was moved from the tunnel to the surface due to reduced bus capacity in the tunnel, caused by the elimination of Pay as You Leave rules when the Ride Free Area ended. The 306, 308, 312 and 522 previously operated on a unique downtown pattern, operating southbound on 2nd Ave, and northbound on 3rd Ave, and then to and from the freeway express ramp via Pike and Union; most other suburban service operated on 2nd and 4th Avenues and accessed the freeway via the Stewart and Olive couplet.

More after the jump. Continue reading “Metro Tweaks North King-Seattle Routes”

News Roundup: Hero


This is an open thread.

ST 2013 DSIP Wrap Up: Eastside and South King

I-405 Corridor Restructure Proposal
I-405 Corridor Restructure Proposal

Last week, I wrote two in-depth posts about two of the more interesting proposals in Sound Transit’s 2013 Draft Service Implementation Plan, the I-5 north corridor restructure, and the Westwood Village 560 restructure. In this post, I’ll wrap up the last change proposed in the DSIP, and share some thoughts from Metro about potential Sounder-related restructures. But before I do, you should know that today, at Union Station, Sound Transit hosts the last open house on this first draft of the SIP, followed by a formal public hearing. The open house is from 10:00 to 11:30, and the hearing from 12:30 to 1:00.

The biggest proposed change I haven’t yet discussed is the introduction of peak-only Route 567, an Eastside “Super Express”, running from Kent Station to Overlake Transit Center, with only one stop, at Bellevue Transit Center. This idea seems like a straightforward and sensible response to ST’s ridership data on this corridor, which shows strong demand between Kent Station and those two Eastside employment centers, but weaker demand for other stops and during off-peak hours. These trips would be scheduled to connect with Sounder trips, effectively turning Sounder’s schedule into a pulse for Kent Station. This enhances mobility by giving commuters on connecting feeder services convenient and fast connectivity to more destinations.

Speaking of feeder service, I discussed with ST and Metro staff the possibility of squeezing more efficiency out of the South King bus network by better leveraging Sounder for trips to downtown Seattle. Metro currently operates three commuter express routes in Auburn and Kent which, in part, compete for riders with Sounder — 152, 158 and 159. The 158 and 159 serve loops in East Hill and Timberlane, then serve Kent Station and Kent-Des Moines P&R before heading to downtown Seattle via I-5. The obvious thing to do with the 158 and 159 is truncate the service at Kent Station, although the trick will be to figure out what to do about KDM P&R, which is far to the west, away from Kent Station by I-5.

Meanwhile,  the 152 begins at Auburn Station, then heads northwest to Star Lake P&R (which is served by numerous other routes) and then Seattle on I-5. It seems to me the thing to do here is axe the I-5 segment, then split the local route into two new routes: one on 272nd St, running between Star Lake P&R and Kent Station, and one on West Valley Highway, running from Auburn Station to Kent Station.

More after the jump. Continue reading “ST 2013 DSIP Wrap Up: Eastside and South King”