63 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Merry Christmas from the Hauptbahnhof”

    I even hesitate to bring this up during the festive holiday season, but would like STB to run some guest posts on Fact Checking Transit in the Puget Sound in the coming new year. My pause, is that personalities will turn any meaningful discussion into the last ST3 ‘Furball – Dog Fight’ we saw here last week, so maybe we could have a ground rule that unsubstantiated, hearsay, pure hyperbole will be ignored (not deleted), in favor of just looking at the facts as we know them, and try our best to move forward in ways that make our future a brighter one.
    History ignored is a fool’s game. Discounting actual facts in favor of visions of Nirvana only serve to muddy the waters to the point of swimming in circles till the food and oxygen supply run out.
    Looking backwards, our transit systems (bus/rail/vanpool, all of it) are not doing a very good job of showing significant growth, while our spending continues to double, then double again. Looking forward, we are confronted with shrinking bus system services in Pierce and Snohomish, and King County racing towards it’s own fiscal cliff in 2014. ST is currently about 5 billion short of ST1/2 funding projections. Our state and local governments are looking for ways to raise much higher levels of taxation on cars and transit through a variety of means (sales, MVET, Tolling, etc) just to pay the current bills. ST3 is looking for ways to complete the spine and throw in enough for Seattle to ensure a positive vote, such as a new Ballard line, or others routes mentioned in corridor studies.
    Soon, ST will release a study on Link rail to the airport (Before and After Study in DRAFT form available by request from ST), which will show that over 3 years, ridership in the corridor increased by about 7200 trips per weekday, through 2011, when all the bus and rail routes are compared as a group. It will also show that in 2008 we spent $90 mil to serve 26 mil riders. After three years, ridership in the corridor is up to 30 mil, and costs are up to $140 mil. A 57% increase in cost for a 15% gain in riders is not my idea of a good deal, and cannot be sustained in the future. ULink will certainly improve that record, but is by no means a slam dunk on huge efficiency gains as it only adds two stations to the system. As we build further and further from the core, metrics will get worse, not better. (d.p. makes a strong case for not building BART II)
    Sounder North is another example of choosing to ignore history for political reasons, going forward into the future. Even the worst poker players eventually fold a losing hand.
    I think our region is at the crossroads of continuing on as in the past, with blinders firmly attached, while we move ahead with a plan to build rail from Everett to Tacoma and Redmond. Recent discussions in the press from our leaders indicate we are contemplating moving forward with even less productive extensions to gather YES votes, and all the while ignoring past events over the last 20 years of rail planning and building.
    Another facet of this discussion should be TOD. We’ve known for decades now where stations will be built and when. How much have those neighborhoods ‘Really’ changed? MLK is better – more walkable – more vibrant, but how much more for the investment made? At what continuing expense?
    These are the kinds of facts our leaders should be presented with when we ask them to come up with solutions that make life better, not just the appearance of doing better.
    STB is about the only place where conversations of this importance can take place. I hope it is up to the challenge, and I wish the Road Warriors had equally challenging discussions about their chosen mode, their history and their future.

    1. This may be a little into the smaller picture, but minutiae matters: As we get ready to upzone in a small area adjacent to Henderson and MLK, we still don’t have a plan for space to stage buses that are loading passengers transfering from Link (loading bays, not layover space). The upzone might lead the best, and perhaps only good, staging areas to be deveoped into multi-story buildings, that will make the bus connections much more difficult to set up. At the very least, the upzones will make the property more expensive for Metro to acquire. I hope the city and Metro can think this through before just upzoning based on the current street alignment, and Rainier Beach Station becomes another Mt Baker-style oops.

      I don’t foresee the 101/102 getting diverted to RBS until after U Link opens. But when U Link opens, the 167 could be on the chopping block. When the 167 goes away, a 2-bus ride for Renton Highlands and East Kent riders to UW will suddenly become a 3-seat ride. However, if the 169 and other routes around Renton get extended to RBS using the 101/102’s platform hours, then a whole bunch of riders will suddenly have a 2-seat bus/train ride to UW, all day.

      The opening of U-Link may be a catalyst for more neighborhoods wanting direct connections to Link. Will we have foreclosed on those opportunities through failure to plan for bus transfer areas next to stations?

      1. I don’t know what Metro’s policy is with regards to high-voltage lines, but it seems to me that there’s lots of space available for a transfer station as long as they’re okay with buses parking underneath them.

      2. The voltage lines are a little bit far from the station to be a good transfer point. It’s the same problem as Mt Baker Transfer Center. Yes, a transfer center was built, but the transfer penalty was too large to get many riders to be willing to transfer.

        I was hoping for pick-up space right on the corner of Henderson and MLK, preferably on the southwest corner. It could be done cheaply, if no permanent structures are built there first. I’m not talking about an off-street space where buses have to then take a few minutes to pull into traffic. I’m talking about a space where the bus can be loading on Henderson, and make an immediate right turn when it is ready to take off. This means, essentially, constructing a bus-only lane on the south side of Henderson west of MLK where there is currently sidewalk, and building new sidewalk a lane’s width south of the current one.

        For buses dropping off, the ideal would be to have them pull around into a bus-only lane on the south side of Henderson just east of MLK, so as to not give riders a reason to cross MLK in the middle of the street.

      3. Since Metro has heretofore shown no interest in terminating more routes on Henderson except the 49, it’s not surprising it hasn’t made any moves to reserve layover space.

        There’s lots of industrial land starting just a block south, which may have excess parking space if Metro asks.

      4. I’m not concerned about layover space for the buses. I’m concerned about minimizing the transfer penalty. Pulling out of a parking lot takes at least a minute, and having to yield to traffic, which could take a couple more minutes. If the parking lot is on MLK, south of the Henderson crosswalk, it’ll also encourage a lot of jayrunning.

        If the loading zone is in a dedicated traffic lane, on Henderson, then the bus only has to yield to the light. It is tempting to set up a pull-out load area on MLK, but, again, that creates unsafe pedestrian behavior, and as we’ve talked about ad nauseam on another post, the cars just don’t obey the yield law.

        At any rate, I do hope Metro starts studying the issue, with a focus on minimizing transfer penalty and minimizing unsafe behavior. Now may not be the time, but having a plan ready by the time U-Link opens would be awesome.

    2. What alternative suggestions do you have to increase the number of riders further? Or do we just give up and say auto dependence and overcrowded buses and bus bunching is the best we can do? As Obama would say, “Europe isn’t settling for that. China isn’t settling for that. How are we going to compete with them if we’re stuck in dysfunctional, high-cost, high-energy dependent transportation system?”

      This large increase in capital expenditures is not forever. It’s just a hump to make transit more ubiquidous and reliable for the long term. We should have done it thirty or fifty years ago when the cost would have been much smaller. But we didn’t, so we have to do it now.

      Sounder was a political concession to the people who wanted to see something with low capital costs. That’s what happens when you put capital costs above effectiveness.

      1. I hope this doesn’t come across as being a ‘smart ass’, but I would start to follow existing laws on the books and make them even better. GMA and Least Cost Planning leave much to be desired, and have lot’s of ways to get around doing things.
        The power industry has led the way in being creative to avoid adding capacity every time someone new moves here. They certainly don’t start the planning process by drawing pretty colored maps with new transmission lines serving new places, like we seem to want to do with rail lines.
        A trip saved is a trip earned, and one that didn’t cost the government much at all. I would really give Least Cost Planning a chance to work, and think creatively about how, why and when we move about. Insulating houses and double pane window replaced a lot of new dams and turbine plants, and shut down the nuclear efforts here.
        I’d reclaim lots of existing street ROW for our bus system, and let the parked cars fend for themselves. Harsh maybe, but private enterprise doesn’t miss money making opportunities too often. Let it work!
        I’d increase bus frequency and span and reduce trip times where it competed favorably with owning a car for most travel.
        HOV lanes that don’t meet the 45mph standard in the peak hours would go to 3+, as the law intended. Harsh, but effective.
        I’d build mass transit to replace buses when it was cost effective (meaning cheaper than the bus it replaced) to do so and deploy my precious capital dollars elsewhere to get more bang for the buck.
        I’m not against rail at all. It works great in many situations. We just haven’t figured out the best situations to do it in so far.
        We should avoid reading our history books through very thick rose colored glasses.

      2. “I’d reclaim lots of existing street ROW for our bus system, and let the parked cars fend for themselves…. I would really give Least Cost Planning a chance”

        There are two ways to look at this. If this is just you reminiscing on your ideal I’d give one reply, but if you really expect it to happen and are berating the officials for not doing it I’d give another.

        To make it happen you’d have to convince the elected officials. So far they’ve moved partway from embracing sprawl to halfway suppporting urbanism. That was a huge effort, especially getting them to support Link which thirty years. The other thing is they don’t want to change direction frequently because that makes them look wishy-washy. So after we’ve finally convinced them to make one change, there’s value in just continuing it rather than trying to change direction again.

        If it’s just your ideal, then I may agree with you on some parts. My concern is for frequent/fast transit more than the mode. But nobody is willing to give Metro enough money for real frequent transit, and fast transit requires new rights of way which end up making bus solutions approach the cost of rail solutions, so why not use rail because it scaled up better and, it’s a train!

        To get Metro to extend the 169 to Rainier Beach, which I would like and have written to Metro about and mentioned it in open houses, the first job is to convince Metro to do it. The second is to give it enough money to do it without cutting service it finds unacceptable. The third is to find layover space. Clearly, we should accelerate the first two because it’s easier to find layover space now before Henderson is redeveloped more, but that comes back to convincing Metro, not berating it for not looking for layover space beforehand.

      3. As I’ve said on other threads, there is plenty of layover space in the area around Rainier Beach Station. That’s not the issue. What future development may lock out is the ability to stage the buses for loading adjacent to the Henderson/MLK crosswalks. I doubt the neighbors will put up with just letting the buses idle in a traffic lane for a few minutes before they depart, or while they are unloading their entire ridership.

        A bus loading area that is essentially an extra lane on the south side of Henderson, the length of 2-3 artics, has a small footprint compared to building something as useless as a Mt-Baker-style off-street transfer center taking up land better used for TOD. The lane could be used as a kiss-and-go until Metro decides to fill it with buses. If not used, it will be a standard sidewalk, abutting a multi-story building, with nobody willing to give up the sidewalk for a loading bay, and nobody wanting to move the whole street a lane north (taking out part of the grocery store?) due to the immense cost of performing such a feat.

        Indeed, the property owners might love having a bustling loading area in front of their business. Customers!

        I’ve also suggested building a south exit from RBS, with new crosswalks. I’d like to take that suggestion back, as it creates a rather poor transfer among the buses serving the station.

        This isn’t meant to berate Metro for not doing this. This is a call to get the best results out of redevelopment at RBS.

  2. Seems like you’re missing the link to the video

    It’s here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJyda7XKNZQ

    It was filmed on Dec 6 at the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof as a flash mob-style promo for the Deutsche Bundesbahn.

    Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof is a beautiful structure with about 25 aboveground tracks and another 4 underground for the S-Bahn. I think it may have the most daily departures of any station in Europe

      1. That’s not a coincidence. Dec 6 is St. Nikolaus Day in Germany and every child gets a boot filled with chocolates, marzipan and other treats

  3. I frequent Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, as I usually use transit when I go visit my folks. It was recently upgraded in the early/mid-2000s. I remember going to Frankfurt in 2003 and it was covered in green netting to catch construction debris.

    As for December 6th, I sometimes got switches in my shoes. I was a bad kid. I was an only child that could entertain himself for hours doing something no other kids were really interested in doing. I played with little Siku (German brand) toy cars, arranged toothpicks in the form of lane control and then played traffic jam for hours.

    1. ROFL, that’s awesome! thank you, you made my night. I used to make racetracks for my Hot Wheels cars in the dirt, so I don’t think it’s too far off.

  4. Part of me wonders if the powers that be don’t want pubic transit ridership to increase beyond a certain point. Since car owners and drivers contribute so much in the way of taxes compared to the average bus and train rider, if a significant number of people gave up their cars in favor of transit, certain revenue streams to local and state agencies would dry up.

    I have a homework assignment for someone. I want you to research what the average car owner pays in fees and taxes vs the average carless bus rider. I want you to include things like car tabs, sales tax for various things like fuel, repairs, the cost of the car, private parking, also public city parking, police infraction tickets, tolls, and then also factor in how much goes into the economy buy helping to support industries like tire shops, car washes, car dealerships, repair shops, etc., and all the taxes those workers pay.

    Obviously carless bus riders contribute almost nothing to the economy, compared to a car owner, but I want to see the numbers. Then let’s discuss whether or not getting people to give up their cars in favor of public transit is a realistic or desirable goal.

    1. All those cars and congestion cause headaches for the powers that be.

      And it’s not like non-drivers burn the money. They spend it on other things, which keeps the economy going just as much but without the negative externalities of driving. Some of them take more trips to Europe and across the country, which also helps the economy. And some of them save the money for retirement, to help ensure they won’t be a burden on you.

      1. Or move to the city and put it on rent. I’m currently paying $650 + $120 for car payment and insurance because I live in the burbs. If I wasn’t I could put almost another $800 toward my house. That money isn’t lost if I get rid of the car, it’s now spent in another location.

    2. First, whether you have a car or not, you’ll still buy just as much non-car-related stuff that collects sales tax. Yes, you’re not pay gas taxes and parking taxes, but you’re not contributing nearly as much to wear and tear on the road, nor to the need to build wider roads to carry more traffic.

      And on the occasions when a carless person takes a taxi somewhere, the fare is going straight back into the local economy and is helping a local driver make a living. Whereas with gas, most of the money spent goes overseas to where the oil is drilled from. And, depending on what brand of car you buy, the cost of the car itself may also be going overseas.

      There is one thing that is an issue though, which is that while the current system (namely buses) scales down pretty well, it doesn’t scale up very well and can never be used by the majority of the population without costs spiraling out of control. For instance, if 50% of the adult population is commuting during commmuting hours and each bus carries an average of 25 people, that would require 2% of the working adult population in the Puget Sound area to be Metro bus drivers in order to get enough buses to carry everyone. Funding the paychecks of 2% of the entire working population with a 1.8% sales tax is simply not possible – the math doesn’t add up – and that’s before you consider all the non-bus-driver expenditures of a transit system, such as fuel and purchase of buses.

      1. And the only way to make a system that scales up better without waiting for technology that supports driverless buses is to fit as many people as possible onto a vehicle driven by one single driver. The only way to do this is trains.

  5. As construction has ceased for essentially the rest of 2012, here is the result of the last 6 months of work on the First Hill Streetcar.

    The Northbound track now exists in 2 contiguous segments:
    1. 14th Ave S & S Washington Street => 12th Ave S & E Yesler Way
    2. Broadway & E Fir Street => Broadway & E Howell St.

    The Southbound track now exists in 3 contiguous segments:
    1. 14th Ave S & S Washington Street => 12th Ave S & E Yesler Way
    2. Broadway & Boren Ave => Broadway & Cherry St.
    3. Broadway & Madison St => Broadway & E Howell St.

    (refer: http://zoom.it/Ge29 )

    Currently Broadway is in the process of being excavated between Madison St and Cherry St although they are taking their time because construction will hinder access to Swedish Medical Center.

    According to the crews from Stacy & Witbeck, the GC, all track construction on Broadway should be completed in early January, with the exception of the terminal track at Howell St, before they move onto Yesler way.

    As soon as all of the track construction is complete, general rehabilitation of the rest of Broadway will occur as well as repaving and setup of the cycle track on the eastern side of Broadway and the associated re-striping of the street/parking from Howell to Yesler.

    The car barn for the streetcars is also well underway at 8th Ave S & S Charles Street … you can see the construction happening if you go there … but there really isn’t a good view from publicly accessible areas at this point.

    I will keep posting photos of the work as it progresses here: http://www.wa98104.us/fhs/

    1. Thanks for your updates, Gordon. I don’t get up to Capitol Hill but once or twice a month, so it’s nice to see how things are progressing.

  6. Relatively good news from http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Seattle-Everett-passenger-commuter-trains-halted-indefinitely-184560451.html

    “SEATTLE – Passenger and commuter train traffic won’t be moving between Seattle and Everett for some time, due to a continuing series of mudslides.

    “Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said Saturday that a 48-hour moratorium on passenger and commuter train service is now being extended indefinitely.

    “He said engineers are worried about safety due to more than 10 mudslides that have hit tracks in recent days. He said crews will assess the situation day by day.”

    If I were the Mayor of say Edmonds or Mukilteo I’d see this as an opportunity of opportunities many politicians dream of to find an exit strategy from a $50+/rider subsidy ticking off taxpayers throughout Washington State. Pronto. But that’s me.

    In other possibly relevant news Mike Ennis is now working for the Association of Washington Business (AWB) and their transportation lobbying. A coincidence for sure, but again I’d be demanding permanent bus service to replace the rail and close the door on Sounder North.

    1. “I’d be demanding permanent bus service to replace the rail and close the door on Sounder North.”

      But that would make sense and save taxpayer money — two things that Sound Transit cares nothing about.

    2. The bus service to replace Sounder already exists with pretty much the same span of service as Sounder. It isn’t particularly fast (especially from Mukilteo)… maybe there are some infrastructure improvements that would help with speed (I don’t know that part of SnoHoCo to know exactly what they are), but with that little span of service, maybe the most important improvements are in span of service, and on roads shared with the trunk routes.

      1. Well I’m thinking express bus that stops only at Everett Station-Boeing Plant-Future of Flight/Hilton Garden Inn-Mukilteo Ferry-Edmonds College-North Seattle-Seattle.

        It sure would be cheaper than Sounder North which has literally fallen into Puget Sound. Giving that up would send a message that we transit advocates ARE fiscally responsible.

      2. Joe, there isn’t a fast, or even particularly direct, on-road route that connects all those places. But who cares? If Sounder served anything other than commuter trips to downtown Seattle, and its span of service was capable of it, this would be a problem, but as it is they’re just a random set of towns that a random freight rail line happens to pass through.

        ST giving up Sounder would say only things about ST and not “transit advocates”, and depending on things work out (perhaps in court) they may not be able to save much money stopping it anyway. If they could actually save lots of money giving it up and that money could be invested in capacity, frequency, or span of service where it’s needed, I’d sure like that.

      3. Al, with great respect I’m far from the only transit advocate calling for Sounder North to go. I too want to see the savings “invested in capacity, frequency, or span of service where it’s needed” where there’s a lower subsidy or actually a rate of return.

        Waiting for BNSF to offer to buy a run or two or more is a fiscal risk. It might be in Sound Transit’s best interests to start heading in that direction.

      4. Once Link has been built out to Lynnwood, we could give Edmonds, Everett, and Mukilteo separate non-stop shuttle routes to Lynnwood Station, operate these routes many more times per day than the North Sounder does, and still come out way ahead on operating costs.

        Trips to downtown from Edmonds or Mukilteo stations may become slightly longer, but you would have many more trips per day to choose from and service would become much more reliable than North Sounder, with no mudslide disruptions. Depending on how clogged the I-5 HOV lane is, service between Everett and downtown may actually be faster this way – the 510 is already faster than Sounder for Everett commuters when it doesn’t get stuck in traffic.

      5. The 417 from downtown Mukilteo (the most direct bus to Seattle) takes 1 hr and 20 minutes. The sounder takes 48 minutes.

        I live on top of the hill and going down to the Sounder takes the same amount of time as going east to the 417/511 so it’s a tossup. I don’t take the Sounder because the number of scheduled runs is so small I’d have to make sure I came home at exactly the right time. If I take the bus I can come home whenever I want.

        If the Sounder ran all day I’d go out of my way to take it.

      6. If we’re currently subsidizing the North Sounder $50 per rider and there are 1125 riders per day how many 511/510 runs could be added if we moved the entire subsidy to buses? Or maybe we’d have to subsidize some of the local buses too so we have more runs (CT 113) as well. Still how many? Anyone have numbers?

      7. Just back of the envelope numbers would be $10mil/yr saved on Sounder ops, so maybe 80,000 bus hours/yr, or north of 250 hours/day. So about 30 round trips to Seattle at each of the three SnoHo stations, or more if Muk & Edm shuttle to I-5 buses. If ST starts the process now, they could transition to buses in five years when the parking lease runs out, make all the Swift style changes needed, apply for BRT bus grants, and know what impact the coal terminal will have on the corridor to strike a deal with BNSF to recapture some of their sunk cost.
        That would mesh quite will with Link starting a few years later to Lynnwood, and help justify that investment.
        Just one opinion though!

    3. If BNSF thought they could get ST to just walk away from the corridor, and get nothing in return, they would bend over backwards to ensure that happened. ST would be foolish to let it happen.
      First, they allowed BN to get a 1/4 bil. for trackage rights for 4 RT’s, with apparently no buy back or early termination clause in the contract. That was a huge mistake by ST, as it is well documented that many transportation types were predicting low ridership on the line in the early days of ST/RTP. This was foreseeable.
      Now, to just give it all back, with nothing in return would be the second bonehead decision of the century. Those slots have great value, given the chokepoint nature of the route, and no alternatives. When coal and oil trains start getting stacked up, and the ports start looking for other carriers, the BN will suddenly be willing to talk contract amendments.
      They’re tough negotiators, AND there not stupid.
      When coal starts up, start running a few RDC’s in ST’s time slots until BN wants them bad enough.

      1. That may work, but you’ve still got the massive subsidy in the meantime. It’s a fiscal risk… but I wouldn’t be too surprised if four morning & evening runs became two morning & evening runs – one of which to connect w/ Sounder South.

        That said, I would cheer if Sounder North was shut down for good. It would put the focus back on sustainability in today’s fiscal climate.

  7. Matt the Engineer:

    The Car2go you left on a dead-end street off of 23rd, a block from the McClellan service boundary and practically in the woods, is still there.

    Is this an experiment?

      1. Whoops, Sorry!


        Matthew ‘Anc’ Johnson:

        The Car2go you left on a dead-end street off of 23rd, a block from the McClellan service boundary and practically in the woods, is still there.

        Did you leave it there specifically as an experiment?

  8. I have a homework assignment for all of the transit supporters on this blog

    With your knowledge of costs, ridership, etc. pretend you are the new owner/operator of the latest ‘congestion reducing/mobility enhancing’ project.

    I, as a taxpayer, am willing to deed to you, the I-405 corridor that has not already been paved, and also throw in the portions where my taxes will pay for the property takes to accomodate your requirements at no additional charge.

    You are tasked with building and operating this corridor, and since it has been decided that it will be GP lanes, 2 in each direction for most of the 31 miles, you need to figure out how you are going to pay for construction, pay for operations, and where you’re going to get the money to do this.

    You are not the government, so you only have the ability to collect from those who will use your facility. However, I will concede to you that the portion of the gas tax monies collected that is burnt by the users of your facility, will be contributed to your revenue stream.

    See if you can, as true entrepeneurs, break even.

    Extra points for making a profit!

    1. Isn’t that (sort of) what the E-470 folk out by Denver International Conspiracy Airport?

      I’m not quite sure what exactly you’re trying to prove with such a question. Questions asked in this form are always intended to make a fool of anyone that would answer and make a point. It can be a rather artful troll but this one managed to be both obvious and bizarre, so I’ll only answer thus: Is death an option?

      1. It’s a perfectly legitimate exercise that everyone should do.

        Please Tell me Al, why do you consider it a trolling exercise?

        Please, whoever is moderating this thread, don’t be too quick on going after any ad hominem statements, I can deal with them.

    2. I’m going to charge everyone that drives on it five bucks a trip. My cost on a 10 bil investment works out to $4.75 per trip for about 200k trips a day, over a 30 year payback.
      Now, I handsomely rake in a quarter per car profit.
      Chaa-Ching. I win!

      1. This exercise was something I did when we were working on the I-405 Corridor plan.

        My numbers would have been a little bit different, but for conversation’s sake we can go with yours, mic.

        Your $10 billion divided by 30(yrs)= 333,333,333 (yearly amount to pay off),
        divided again by 365(days) = 913,242 (to get the daily payoff amount),
        then using your $4.75 to divide again = 192,261 (The break even amount).

        So a daily figure of either 190k vehicles or 200k will work.

        What would this translate to physically?

        WSDOT uses 2100 vehicles per lane, per hour. There were people on the committee that argued that with better brakes, and higher performance from newer cars that WSDOT should use 2500 VPH.

        For 4 lanes, that means 10,000 vph (@2500vph.

        So, your calculations show that those lanes will have to be performing up to the un-congested limit for 19-20 hours out of the day, to collect what you described.

  9. Pierce county must have been on the naughty list, and as a result, Santa took away 53% of their transit. They were also on the naughty list in ’11, when they lost about 33%.

    In 2011, they were only 46% nice. They almost made it this year, but they were just a little over 50% naughty.

    But the damage has been done. Unless Santa offers them a third chance, their financial future as a county will worsen. When gasoline hits $6 a gallon, they will be living in their “low cost” Puyallup cars that cost so much to operate, while people in King County can get just about anywhere for only $2.25-$3.00 one way.

    But hey, they are saving pennies on regular purchases. And after all, not paying taxes at all costs is what’s important, isn’t it?

    1. I used to use Pierce Transit.

      I have no sympathy for the loss of service, because it costs too much. Normally, I consider myself pretty much pro-transit, but there needs to be a house-cleaning of Pierce Transit. Too Bad, So Sad. Sales tax rates are already pushing 10% in Pierce County. If they really want to run good service, they need to look at themselves and figure out where to come up with it. The general feeling about it is that it is mis-managed.

      1. Yes, there are certainly mismanagement issues, but also an issue of underfunding. In King county, metro gets 0.9% of sales tax revenue, but PT only gets 0.6%. I don’t it can be done very well if it is underfunded by 33%. And plenty of service is essential, otherwise no one will see the value of transit. I have heard the arguments, that the new sales tax will “drive [auto] buyers out of the county,” but that is an extremely biased statement in favor of auto dealers. The “10.1% sales tax?” signs you see are incredibly misleading, since the 10.1 figure is only for auto sales, while the next highest tax would be in Tacoma and only be 9.8%. In all seriousness, it is only 3 cents per 10 dollars. I really don’t think it’s worth all this destruction to simply “teach Pierce Transit a lesson.”

  10. Speaking of vertical density, I bought a GroupOn for the Observation Deck of the Smith Tower and took my son, visiting from CU, there just before we went to the Hawks game.

    I love the Smith Tower more than any othe structure in downtown. To me it seems like the most human scaled of skyscrapers. In my book about as big as we would want to get.

    I never knew it had an observation deck. I guess because some many other buildings were constructed about half of its view is obscured. Still to me Smith says Seattle. It has more purpose than the Space Needle…heck, it actually is a needle, shaped like the old stone obelisks. It is about business, trade shipping. I looks like it grew out of the ground there…not planted like the buildings north of it.

    I took some pics of Century Link all lit up. Sodo classic pioneer architecture amazes me. So perfectly proportionate and fitting Seattle as Western and an Eastern gateway. And yet the streets between these 5 story brick buildings are eminently walkable.

    My comment to the curator of the Chinese Room was that they should have quit while they were ahead. In 1914 that is.


    1. I love the Smith Tower observation deck. I go up maybe once a year and bought groupons for 8 people from out of town. It’s not the highest but the fact that you can go outside and look around makes up for that. And lets face it, that area of Seattle is more interesting to look at from above than the Seattle Center area.

      There are some Groupons left if anyone wants to go up. http://www.groupon.com/deals/smith-tower-observation-deck-2?pt=aUNlr0zAAAAB2-_R1ZxO-kw2H-OYEN3mv

  11. So, I was thinking about Car2Go and I just thought of an interesting idea that could potentially earn them a lot of business. Suppose Car2Go negotiated an agreement with the Port of Seattle to allow people to pick up and return their cars at the SeaTac parking garage. The way this would work, any user who picks up or returns a car in the SeaTac garage would be charged a $15 parking fee, in addition to the use of the car. The parking fees would then be remitted to the Port of Seattle as payment for use of the garage, in lieu of the normal hourly/daily rate a private car would pay. There would also be, of course, support in the mobile phone apps to help people picking up a car there quickly find their way through the garage on foot to where their car is parked.

    The idea is that with travelers constantly going into and out of SeaTac, cars parked at the garage would likely not stay there for long. Within a few hours after someone drops a car off there to get on a plane, someone else would pick up a car there coming off a plane. This service would be incredibly valuable both to residents of Seattle and to tourists visiting Seattle. With a decent turnaround rate and a parking fee charged when the car enters and exits the garage, the Port could easily end up making more money per space per day with Car2Go than with a private car paying the $26 daily parking rate.

    This would be a win for everyone. Even with a $15 parking fee each way, using Car2Go to get to and from the airport would be comparable with driving a personal car to a satellite lot, but you don’t have the hassles of waiting for shuttles and you retain the flexibility to save money by using Car2Go one direction and Link the other direction. It would come way ahead on price compared to parking a personal car in the terminal garage for several days. For out of town visitors, using Car2Go for airport trips would be much cheaper than renting a car or taking a cab. And passengers that were planning on taking Link home, but got delayed and missed the last train would suddenly have a very convenient, relatively low-cost option to get home.

    Meanwhile, Car2Go would gain a bunch of new members, as car owners who travel out of town a lot would suddenly become interested in their service. And done right, the Port of Seattle could make at least as much money, if not more, out of their parking spaces than they do today.

    This proposal looks like win-win for everyone. I hope the Car2Go people decide to do it.

    1. The Port and us taxpayers made a half Billion dollar investment in a car rental facility. I don’t think they would want to compete with that investment.

      But, I’d offer a similar idea in that they should negotiate something with Sound Transit and Metro to park these at Transit Centers and Park & Rides. I have a use case where I travel to Issaquah/Samammish and it takes too long to get to/from the Transit Centers by DART to do the things I need to do while out there.

    2. I think the biggest limiting factor of Car2Go getting into the airport business is that their cars are too small to fit a family full of luggage. They look big enough to fit one person with luggage or two traveling very light, but that’s it.

      That being said, I do not buy the argument that Car2Go should be blocked from the airport because it competes with rental cars. By that argument, Link shouldn’t be allowed to serve the airport because it too competes with rental cars! And all the private commercial shuttles that serve the airport shouldn’t be allowed to operate either!

      And most of the customers for this service would be people who live in Seattle and already own cars, but want the convenience of driving and parking at the airport for a cheaper price. These people are not and will never be customers for the rental car companies at the airport.

      In any case, the concept of a Car2Go model for airport trips exposes a huge inefficiency in the traditional airport parking model – having your car take up valuable real estate for however many days you’re out of town. A system like this would lead as many as 3 or 4 people getting use out of a single garage space per day, even if every one of these people are going to be out of town for a week or more.

      And if you want to make the system even more convenient, you could even offer a premium service for trips to the airport where, for an extra $10-15, a valet would grab the car from wherever it is and drop it off by your front door a few minutes before it’s time to go. Seems extravagant, but even with this, you would still come out way ahead for a weeklong trip compared to driving your personal car and storing in the garage the entire week.

  12. With Sounder North closed “indefinitely” — a move with which I have to wholeheartedly agree with BNSF — maybe ST could negotiate a large partial reimbursement of its perpetual easement for the line. That should be far more than enough to cover replacement bus service, and maybe even throw in that long-awaited express bus to Everett Boeing.

  13. Hailo [cab sharing app] reportedly raises big bucks

    Apps that allow consumers to hail taxis from their phones have turned out to be far more controversial than the average urban dweller would have imagined.

    Regulations are thick and entrenched interests run deep, but Uber bulldozed the way for taxi apps in at least three US cities through a combination of grit and irreverence.

    In New York, Uber launched its taxi hailing service without the final approval from local regulators and had to shut it down about month later.

    By contrast, Hailo hung back, playing nice with regulators and pre-registering 1,000 drivers.


  14. Early-morning bus report. I couldn’t sleep Christmas morning so I took a 5:30am walk on Lakeview Blvd and the Blaine Street stair to the 49 stop at St Mark’s (6:10am). I expected two things: (1) a bus would be running at that hour, (2) it would probably be empty. As I approached the stop I saw something that I couldn’t tell if it was a post or a person. When I got closer I saw it was a middle-aged woman with bags, and three other apparently homeless people at the stop, one walking from the back of St Mark’s. Maybe there’s a tent city or informal shelter? I was in luck, the first Sunday-schedule bus was coming in ten minutes (6:22am). I walked on to the next stop and the bus came. There were 18 people on the bus, all apparently homeless or working class, and one woman with florescent blue hair she was brushing. I don’t how many were from St Marks or had come from the U-district. I watched to see where they would get off.

    There were two on/offs at Seattle Central, then half the bus got off at 3rd & Pine. Most of the others got off along 3rd Avenue. Third Ave was slow even at this hour because the bus missed every stoplight: it took 25 minutes from St Mark’s to Jackson Street. Jackson was slow due to streetcar construction. When it reached Rainier, it went nonstop to Mt Baker station like a bossXXXXexpress. A few on/offs at Mt Baker, and four at stops further south, including some who had been on the bus at 10th E. I got off the bus at Rainier Beach. There were still two people on it, both of whom had been on at 10th E.

    I walked to the Link station (7:30am, still dark) and four buses passed. An inbound 107 had 1 passenger. A northbound 8 and outbound 107 had no passengers but they had just started their run. An outbound 106 had no passengers.

    At Rainier Beach station, five people got on the train. There was a rally of fare inspectors (four of them), although they didn’t inspect my train. Rainier Valley had a couple on/offs at each station, typical for off-off-peak. Still, the total number of riders on the train would have filled a non-articulated bus, which could not be said for the surrounding bus routes.

    So that’s my early Christmas bus report. I was surprised to see a night-owl sized crowd on an early morning bus, and to learn that homeless people stay at St Mark’s and take the first morning bus out.

    1. Ick! I had never heard of Angle Lake before it was proposed as a station name. I know vaguely where S. 200th St. is.

    2. I like it simply because it is a distinct name…none of the confusion of University Station or Sodo/Stadium. I was expecting something more incomprehensible like Seatac North. The main effort here is to insure that visitors don’t get on the train going the wrong way.

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