128 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: KIRO’s U-Link Tour”

  1. Much hoopla accompanied Metro’s new direction several years ago, when it switched from sub area allocation of resources to one based on productivity.
    (you can view the Strategic Plan at Metrokc.gov/planning) here’s a quote on their website:
    “Metro is proud to present its Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2011-2021. This plan describes a vision for the future of King County’s public transportation system and sets objectives, goals, and strategies for getting there. It focuses on the results Metro intends to achieve: outstanding performance, financial sustainability, transparency and accountability to the public, and excellent service.”
    So far, so good.
    The way you measure productivity is contained in the annual ‘Route Performance Report’, listing routes and a ton of measures that tell the planners and public how things are going. It historically has been released to the public in Jun/Jul for the previous year. This year it is way overdue, which should raise concerns about transparency of the agency, whether or not they intend to follow through, or perhaps this is an indicator of something we all should be very concerned about as our local transit agencies claim poverty, threaten more service cuts, and seem to only focus on the revenue side of things, rather than on route productivity.
    The current data on routes was collected between Jan-Dec of 2010 (now up to 3 years old), and reported in Jul of 2011.

    1. You might have noticed that Metro just ended the RFA in October, rolled out its new flagship route, the C/D Line, and made a major restructure involving over 50 routes. That’s where Metro’s staff has been, mic.

      1. So the public should just sit on their hands for 2-3 years to see how that went?
        How Convenient!

      2. The 2013 route performance numbers will be of far more interest to the public than the 2011 ones.

      3. Not to mention, Matt, CTA has for years now provided a real-time map for every vehicle in the system.

    2. Maybe this response is too abstract for a short post, but we seem to confuse Visions with Strategic Planning in this area far too often.
      It’s fine and healthy to have 100 year visions of where we would like to be as a society or even a bus agency. It’s quite another to formulate goals and objectives, leading to annual tasks that incrementally get you to that higher place.
      Making dramatic changes to routes and so called ‘flagship service’ rollouts may make for nice press releases, but does little to chart the course on a monthly or yearly basis to see cause and effect for changes being made.
      Asking the public to wait patently for several years before the effect can be compared is just dishonest and manipulative of information – and played very well by our transit agencies.
      Metro doesn’t really want a lot of public scrutiny, in spite of the nicey public face they put on their process.
      ST has played the game in spades. Ridership is forecast for 2030, which is a generation away. By the time 2030 gets here, it’s a whole new crew with a whole new set of expectations and directions. Look at their 3/4 million study to see the Before and After effects of building the initial segment. We’re over three years into service, and the report was to be given after two years of service. By the time it finally hits the streets in final form, it’s very out of date and might as well be covered with dust and put on a shelf. The response to any criticism will be, ‘it’s an emerging first step, and old data now, so just wait and see’.
      Of course, the outfall from manipulating the press and public is that voters eventually will figure it out, and then poof… there goes your next big tax increase. It’s a dangerous game we play, and one that society should call them on.

      1. I may have a few criticisms of the restructure (and I think I’ve named most of them), but the fact that Metro went through with it is not one of them. If Metro used data to move service from where routes were less full of passengers to where it had too many passengers, then where’s your beef with what they did? Is it that they went through with it instead of continuing to just collect and report as much data as possible? What’s the point of knowing where you’ve been if you don’t *act* on the information?

      2. Fair enough. But here’s the point of having public involvement that is ‘meaningful’.
        Take RR-A, which seems like ancient history now. Can you find any information on how that is working out in a report to the public. Sure, the planners have access to the data, but that’s not public awareness or knowledge. We have the A line running, and all but putting the finishing touches on the F line – all based on the faith that Metro is doing the absolute very best they can with the resources they’ve been given – absent any reports.
        I don’t buy it, and neither should you.
        Public scrutiny of government is what keeps us chugging along. I demand it!

      3. Mic, there have been reports on the A Line before-and-after, and they’ve been posted here.

    3. Okay, mic. Here’s the fodder you were looking for. Problem is, all the ridership data collection in the world wouldn’t have pointed this out. It took a bookkeeping audit.

    1. Looks like it has been fixed. I couldn’t find the video on KIRO’s site so nice to see it posted here.

      1. Thanks Zach! Cool Video!

        Any idea on why it is going to take 3 more years to lay track and build 1.5 stations? (I’m sure I’m oversimplifying what needs to be done.)

      2. During at least one of those years, everything will have been built, and will be undergoing exhaustive testing to ensure passenger safety.

      3. Fitting out the tunnels consists of a lot more than just laying track. They need to string cables, install sprinklers, add lighting and ventilation, add the signalling system and OCS. Then make sure it all works.

      4. I’m sure there’s also a fair bit of buffer in the schedule in case of unanticipated delays. It looks far better to announce in 2016 that the line is opening a few months early than to announce in 2015 that the line is opening a few months late.

        For that reason alone, even if construction is ahead of schedule, they won’t publicly announce the line is opening early until everything is done.

      5. I work for your local friendly utility. From an electrical standpoint, Link really is quite impressive – it seems that each station is fed from two different utility substations, allowing for quite a bit of redundancy in the event of major outages. That’s probably a requirement for systems of this nature (I’m not an engineer) but the nuts and bolts aspect of it is quite interesting to see up close. When you add all the tunneling into the mix, it gets even more impressive.

      6. Barring some unforeseen problem I’d be surprised if U-Link doesn’t open early. The TBM work was the trickiest part, and was completed ahead-of-schedule. You also have to figure the overall project schedule was structured to accommodate tunneling delays (sinkholes, etc.) without postponing the start of service—meaning there’s probably a bunch of wiggle room that likely won’t be needed now.

      7. If I remember right from the U-District station meetings, the contingency buffer was originally around nine months, and at that time was about six months. If U-Link tunneling was finished early, you can add that time to it.

      8. You can find all sorts of interesting information like schedule contingency and critical paths in the quarterly Agency Progress Reports or the monthly Link Progress Reports.

  2. Is Seattle Bike Share planning on locating a bike station next to the UW station?

    Between crappy bus access and the Burke-Gilman trail right there, bike access to the station seems like something we want to encourage in every way possible.

    Where I live, I will be able to bike to the UW station, when it opens, in under 10 minutes, or walk there in 20-30 minutes. But with the current bus network, it is impossible to bus there in anything less than 20-30 minutes, except for the 2 trips a day that the 243 operates.

    1. Does your bus go through campus (is it the 65, 68, 75, or 372)? That seems guaranteed if you live within the 243 gives you a direct connection. If so, you can get off along Stevens Way, inside campus, and it’s a fairly short walk to the station. No need to go all the way to 15th to catch a 43 or 48.

      1. Deleted some words… that should have been “if you live within half an hour’s walk and the 243 gives you a direct connection.”

      2. Why can’t the 65, 75, and 372 serve UW Station? Having to walk all the way between Stevens and the station is a pretty large transfer penalty for northeast Seattle riders headed downtown.

      3. Two reasons:

        1) The bulk of the riders are going to upper campus, which is an epic walk uphill from Montlake; and
        2) Montlake Boulevard and Pacific Street represent an exceedingly slow and unreliable way to get to and from the U-District, especially at peak hours.

        All of those lines except the 372 are through-routed to something else. Forcing them through Montlake would have major knock-on reliability effects.

      4. Yeah, the transfer situation from the northeast is tough, and doesn’t get a whole lot easier even when the station up at 45th opens. This is why ST wanted to build a station under the middle of UW, ‘eh?

        I really think a lot of the northeast could be well served for downtown trips by a few more stops on the 522 and better crosstown connections to them. Whenever there are opportunities in that corridor we should focus on them.

      5. The 68 and 372 would get me between home and the rail station, but they have very limited hours (no service evenings and Sundays, with the 372 not even running Saturdays). Then, there’s the problem that by the time you walk to the stop and wait for it (neither of these routes are particularly frequent outside of the peak), total door-to-door travel time is just barely faster than simply walking down the Burke-Gilman trail.

        As to reliability on Montlake, I would like to point out that from my personal experience, reliability is really on an issue in the southbound direction. Northbound, it’s pretty free-flowing. Having buses serve the station in the northbound direction would not introduce reliability issues. Even southbound, congestion is only really a problem during rush hour and football games.

      6. David L,

        The 65, 75, and 372 all terminate at the west end of campus. For riders on the 65 and 75 wanting to get onto Stevens Way, they could transfer to the 25, 31, or 32 on 45th before reaching campus. And of course, riders on those routes wanting to head downtown could transfer to the 65 or 75.

        Frequency on all these routes could be increased (to absorb the downtown commuters) using platform hours from eliminating the 71-74, which will be made redundant by the 76, 372, 373, and 30.

        For the 372, there might need to be a pricey stop south of 45th to transfer to the Stevens-bound routes. Ideally, the 372 would be coupled with the 48-south, to make one nice long straight line.

      7. +1 on the idea of coming the 372 with the 48S. I’m not sure the off-peak ridership is there to justify it going all the way to Woodinville, though, but if it could get to Kenmore or at least Lake City, that would be a huge help.

        I also wish the 522 could serve the 45th St. station, plus one stop somewhere in Maple Leaf.

      8. Metro hasn’t said what the bus routes will be like, and we probably won’t hear an initial proposal until 2015. There are two advents to juggle, UW station in 2016 and U-District station in 2021. The five-year gap presents a lot of difficulty because UW station alone can’t serve the entire U district. The majority of people are going to campus but a significant percent are going to the Ave or transferring at Campus Parkway or 45th. Metro probably can’t bring the 71/72/73 to UW station or significantly increase the 43/44/48 because of the traffic on Pacific and 520 backups. And without U District station, enhanced transfer opportunities on the Ave aren’t feasable, which makes the 65/75’s interlining and transfers on Campus Parkway more critical. All this suggests there will be few routing changes in 2016, with the bulk of changes in 2021 when Link fully serves the U District. There may be frequency improvements, but currently there’s no money for them, and a potential 20% cut in Metro is looming in two years. Which means that any new revenue would first have to focus on maintaining existing service levels.

        However, although there are no definite changes at this point, there have been bits of ideas coming from Metro over the past couple years, which we can piece together to see what direction it might head.

        (1) There’s little layover space at UW station, so there’s unlikely to be a wholesale truncation of Eastside routes, or Pacific Street routes terminating there.

        (2) There might be room for the northeast routes (65, 68, 75) at UW station. But my gut feeling is that students’ convenience and UW clout (keeping the routes going through campus) will trump non-students’ convenience (northeast to downtown or to other parts of Link).

        (3) Last September Metro interlined the 31/32 with the 65/75 and heavily promoted this “frequent corridor” from Children’s to Fremont and Interbay (Dravus St). What Metro promotes today, it will not sever tomorrow, especially that corridor which is very successful and rapidly growing.

        (4) Metro has mused about replacing the 72 and 73 with full-time service on the 372 and 373. That may have to wait until the 71/72/73 consolidation (next item), but Metro could anticipate it by adding a few additional runs in 2016.

        (5) The 372 has a very long overlap with the 522, from Lake City to Woodinville. I can’t see that remaining forever. Either one route or the other will have to take it over, especially as Link gets further north.

        (6) Metro has mused about consolidating the 66/71/72/73X into a route 80 going express to the U District and local to Northgate. This would maintain the U District expresses until U-District station opens, and could then be seamlessly truncated. It would require doing something with the 71, 72, and 73 tails, and making the 70 full-time. If the 72 and 73 are to be deleted anyway, they could simply disappear. The 71 would have to be a shuttle, since it can’t really be reorganized until Roosevelt station opens. Metro has sometimes suggested it might do the 80 early (2016 or earlier), but given the enormous service change in September and the canceling of RapidRide E reorganization, I suspect Metro is in no hurry for another large reorganization for a few years, especially since 2021 will have to be a large reorganization in any case.

        (7) I don’t see the 30 being increased to compensate for another route. It’s already half redundant with the 71 and 75. I could see the 30 dropping to daytime only or weekdays only in the next few years.

      9. “The 372 has a very long overlap with the 522, from Lake City to Woodinville. I can’t see that remaining forever. Either one route or the other will have to take it over, especially as Link gets further north.”

        Meaning, there will be people in Lake City and Bothell demanding to transfer to Link at a northerly station (130th or 145th, or perhaps Northgate), and Link could also serve as an express from there to UW. So at least one of the 522 or 372 will have to be modified, unless ST steadfastly keeps the 522 as a one-seat express from Lake City to downtown.

      10. Brent, the 65 and 75 are through-routed with the 31 and 32. They don’t end at the west end of campus.

        The 68 is also through-routed with the 67.

        Reliability on Montlake northbound is OK, but reliability south/eastbound on Pacific is not, at all. Unless you’re thinking of terminating those routes at UW Station, which would cut off the entire U-District from good chunks of NE Seattle and break several through-routes that Metro just went to some length to create, you have a reliability issue in both directions.

        Mike, I don’t think there will be a significant restructure of NE Seattle service until North Link opens. There may be a reduction in frequency on the 71-74. But the restructure when U-Link opens will be centered around Capitol Hill. If there is any justice, it will include the 43 disappearing.

        The 522 is so fast, and reaching Northgate TC/Station from the east is so slow, that you would face a lot of resistance to truncating the 522. Link will shorten most commutes from Northgate and points north, but it would lengthen a commute from Lake City significantly compared to the current 522 and 372. I don’t think those two routes will change until a rail line reaches Lake City.

      11. Ah, now I see the through-routing. I don’t think Metro is that wedded to particular through-routings, as much as they are wedded to keeping route paths. I see that the 65 and 75 are each through-routed with five other routes, making a confusing mish-mash. Metro changed a bunch of through-routes downtown administratively last October, without making them part of the repeatedly-publicly-vetted restructure proposals.

        It is fairly easy to reduce bus traffic on Pacific when UW Station opens. For starters, through-route the 372-south and 48-south. Eliminate the 43, as you suggested. Move the 44 and/or 48 to Stevens Way. That should leave lots of room for the 65 and/or 75 to be able to run on Pacific. Go ahead and keep the 73, I suppose,(but ditch the 71, 72, and 74, as their neighborhood constituencies are served better by the 30, 48, 73, 372, 76, 65, and 75) leaving the 373 at current service levels.

        Keep in mind that if Link peak headway is decreased, a few north-end DSTT routes will have to get kicked out of the DSTT. I’m personally fine with longer trains instead of less headway until Northgate Station opens, but I’m clearly in the minority on that opinion.

        At any rate, couplings come and go. It’s the paths that are cemented into stone, and unfortunately in some cases, law. The RapidRide political process has given new meaning to “Newton’s First Law of Bus Routes”.

      12. The trips on the 65 and 75 that are not through-routed with the 31 or 32 are a few edge-case trips at the end of the peak hour. At the service change, Metro made a big deal (rightfully, in my opinion) of the new frequent service corridor it created with the 65/75/31/32 through-route, from Interbay to Children’s Hospital via Fremont and the UW. That is not going to go away.

        Taking buses off eastbound Pacific won’t make it more reliable; the issue, just as on southbound Montlake, is excess car traffic trying to cram onto the Montlake Bridge. Buses traveling across the bridge have a bus lane to help partly bypass the traffic, but buses turning left onto Pacific Pl can’t use it.

        I expect the long-term solution will be to have people transfer at U-District Station, or possibly to build pedestrian amenities and relocate Stevens Way stops to make the Stevens Way – UW Station transfer less painful.

        This is just one more reason why the UW blew it big-time by refusing a Link stop directly under the HUB.

      13. One other thought… if you both 1) through-route the 372 with the 48S and 2) eliminate the 72, you’ve eliminated all reasonably routed service between Lake City and UW or the U-District.

        Personally, I think the 73 is the route that can be eliminated (replaced by expanded and revised 373 service) when North Link opens. The 71 can be combined with the 48N, rerouted to Sand Point, and turned into a frequent crosstown route. The 72 is a tougher case, because it provides a necessary connection but doesn’t have all that high ridership. My initial suggestion is to through-route it in Lake City with the stub of the 41, and change the routing as follows from Roosevelt Station:

        NB 15th
        R on EB 75th
        L on NB 35th
        L on WB 125th

      14. One more subtlety with the 65/75\31/32 through-routing: Every 31 or 32 westbound through-routes as a 75 or 65. A handful of the 75 southbound routes don’t through-route as a 31 or 32 (9 out of 56 runs). A majority of the 65 southbound trips (24 out of 45) do not through-route as a 31 or 32.

        13 of these 24 non-throughrouted 65 trips occur in the stretch from 7:18 to 10:24. A chunk of these trips could easily be converted to a version of the 65 that goes to UW Station, and give it a new number. Notice that the 65 advertises transfers to the 71-73. There must already be downtown commuters riding that route.

        This new route to UW Station might not have to serve the full length of the 65 on peak trips, since the 64 is a faster option for downtown commuters from 65th on north.

      15. “The 522 is so fast, and reaching Northgate TC/Station from the east is so slow, that you would face a lot of resistance to truncating the 522.”

        Truncating the 522 at 130th or 145th would be much better than truncating it at Northgate. Travel time would be within a couple minutes of the current route, by my calculation, although transfer time would be additional. That’s why I pushed heavily for a 130th station. Seattle also said a 130th station was important. It would allow for the possibility of the 522 serving Lake City and that station, and would also allow for some kind of Lake City – Link – Aurora bus service.

        Combining these ideas, and giving a sop to commuters, we could make the 522 peak only, and add a new all-day route from 130th & Aurora (or further west) to Lake City and Woodinville. (I would just reroute the 75 to 130th & Aurora, but that would raise opposition from those who want it to keep going to Northgate.)

        As for adding southern stops to the 522 to replace the 72, I’ll wait to see whether there’s more support for this. It would of course add to travel time, contradicting the reason the 522 was created in the first place.

        Some people have said the 72 has unique stops in the middle that are too far from the 372 or other routes to be deleted. That may be, but I’ll let others propose a solution to that. Those stops and its sometimes-hourly frequency make the 72 ineffective for its primary purpose of connecting Lake City to UW (as its signs suggest it’s for), so so something should be done with the route. Maybe Metro can accomplish it with marketing: “If you’re going from UW to Lake City and the 372 isn’t running, don’t take the 72, take the 65.”

        “I see that the 65 and 75 are each through-routed with five other routes, making a confusing mish-mash.”

        Metro should simplify the numbering at some point, and hopefully will when the corridor is more established.

        “I’m personally fine with longer trains instead of less headway until Northgate Station opens, but I’m clearly in the minority on that opinion.”

        I think ST will switch to 4-car trains rather than increasing frequency. The increased frequency was mainly going to come from East Link’s overlap.

      16. On the 522…

        Yes, a 130th truncation would be immeasurably better than a Northgate truncation. That said, I think the travel time would still be meaningfully slower. The 522 is currently scheduled for a trip of between 14 and 21 minutes from 125th/Lake City to 6th/Union. That’s *fast*, and in my experience it almost always runs bang on time. It’s the reason I moved to Lake City… you get some advantages of an outer neighborhood (cheaper housing prices and lots of green) with reliable, fast access to and from downtown that would make d.p. ball up his fists in jealous rage.

        A Link trip from 130th to downtown is going to take about that long (at least the shorter end of the range) before you even consider the bus trip along 130th/125th, which takes 5-8 minutes when I do it on the 41. Lake City Way and the express lanes just work too well for buses.

        Incidentally, we’re on the same wavelength as far as the 75. The current 75/41 arrangement is a historical artifact, and both routes would make much more sense if their routings between Northgate and Lake City were swapped.

        The high-usage connection the 72 makes that you can’t easily replace is the one between Lake City (and especially Hale HS) and Roosevelt/north U-District. Without the 72, that would be a crazy time-consuming transfer from the 65 or the 372 to the 71. I think you have to keep the 72 in some form that makes that connection, although I think it would make more sense to get it out of the Ravenna neighborhood streets and run it along 75th to 35th. It’s worth pointing out that the north tail of the 72 is very productive given its low frequency, so as ugly as it is on a map, the route does work.

      17. I know nothing about Lake City, David, but I do know that Lake City Way has a direct exit onto Roosevelt and an entrance from 12th.

        Why wouldn’t you truncate at Roosevelt station and avoid the worst parts of running I-5 into downtown: the nightmarish counter-peak traffic and the slogging across downtown itself?

      18. David L, what would a comprehensive reorganization for Lake City look like? (You may want to start a top-level comment for this since we’re now buried in a third level.) What mobility gaps are bothering Lake Cityians?

        “The high-usage connection the 72 makes that you can’t easily replace is the one between Lake City (and especially Hale HS) and Roosevelt/north U-District.”

        That’s the same segment that enrages me. :) I lived at 56th & University Way for 15 years. The hourly, slow 72 to Lake City perturbed me to no end. Now I tend travel the other way; e.g., I’m in Lake City and want to go to the U District. I forget that the 65 exists and the 75 is more frequent than it used to be, so I take the 72 and almost cry at how bad the bus service is. Or I decide to postpone my U District errand to avoid taking the 72.

        I don’t know whether both the 75 and 41 segments from Lake City to Northgate need to be kept, but at least one of them should be made full-time frequent. The 75 route is more direct due to the diagonal roads, but the 41 goes past denser housing.

      19. Mike, the Lake City/Wedgwood reorg is an interesting question, and I have most of a reorg proposal in my head. It could be *much* improved. I just don’t have time to detail my ideas in full at the moment on this thread. I promise I’ll do so eventually.

        d.p., a Roosevelt end to the 522/372/72 is a very sensible proposal. It, like the 130th proposal, is more sensible than taking anything through the slog to Northgate. In the counter-peak direction, it might even save time versus the one-seat ride.

      20. I didn’t really mean a full reorganization with all the through routes and service hours matched between neighborhoods. I meant more, what does Lake City need? Where are people wanting to go and can’t easily? Where would the most effective frequent corridors be? 75 vs 41 or both? Would it be better to have a route to KMart or strengthen the 330 or have a route to Aurora Village? If a bus goes to KMart, does it need to continue to Greenwood or meet the 40 or go to Ballard to be most effective? Or is it good enough if it just goes to KMart? Things like that.

      1. Funny how this study’s recommendations cover all of the obvious areas in its first 2 phases — every well-populated area within 3 miles of downtown, plus the Burke-Gilman and 45th corridors between Ballard and the U-Village — while the final proposal leaves skips around to Kirkland and Redmond, leaves Ballard out of the plan entirely, and oversaturates Belltown like no bike-share on earth (with as many as 2 stations and 65 bikes per block).

        It’s almost as if they didn’t pay attention to their “basis” study at all!

        To the study’s detriment, it admits the destructive impact of King County’s draconian helmet law, yet refuses to forcefully advocate for an exemption for utility bikes. A bike-sharer who gets an $81 ticket is a bike-sharer who won’t be back. (And yes, Seattle cops are exactly the kind of dicks who would go out of their way to ticket bike-share users.)

    2. My impression of the #1 need in Lake City is a quick way to get west of I-5 without suffering through the Northgate mess. A 130th Link station would make this absurdly easy, by making it possible to do exactly what you suggested: taking the 75 out of Northgate and continuing it to K-Mart. Once you are at K-Mart I don’t think there is any particular need for people from the east to go further, although ending the route at Greenwood would make for a nice, easy-to-understand grid corridor.

      The 330 is good for what it does, which is taking a few people to SSCC at peak hour, but more people need to be closer to 130th than 155th. They need to get to the Social Security office, the licensing office, and businesses up and down the Seattle part of Aurora.

      The next need is to rationalize north/south service. As you point out, we currently have 4 routes to the U-District, only one of which (the 372) is any good, and only one of which (the 75, the most indirect) has frequent service at any time of day. There needs to be an analysis of what connections each route is providing, and a way to squeeze those connections into fewer, faster, more frequent routes.

      Finally, there is a need for more frequency and a greater span of service on the trunk service to downtown. (Couldn’t that be said about almost every neighborhood with good bus ridership?) ST chose to take away late-night 522 trips to add desperately needed capacity to the AM peak, but those late-night trips are needed and had plenty of ridership. The two other routes (41, 72) are both hourly at night, even though they are very well used. This will get easier and cheaper when Link opens.

      1. Thanks. I’m keeping a list of things I want in Pugetopolis’ transit system and I’ve added a link to this comment.

      2. A stop at 45th for the 306/312 would make for a hyper-quick Lake City to UW trip. At least at rush hour, when the run. Keep the 522 fast. Maybe truncate at Roosevelt, but going west to pick up Link at any of Northgate 130th, 145th will be significantly slower, and a definite step backwards for transit.

      3. A stop at 45th for the 306/312 would destroy ridership, because they’d have to use the local lanes instead of the express, and those are much slower. No one except the people in Maple Leaf would have any reason to ride those buses anymore.

        I think it’s much better to put the Lake City-UW eggs into the 372 basket. Make the 75, 372, and 71 frequent service, reroute the 72 to pass Hale and Eckstein, and cancel the 65 or make it peak-only.

      4. I can understand the 522 skipping the 45th St. stop during the peak in order to use the express lanes, but off-peak, the express lanes don’t offer any real time advantage and are often not even running the right direction anyway. Stopping at 45th on weekends would also greatly mitigate the fact that the 372 isn’t running and the connections at Lake City from the 65, 72, and 75 are horrendously timed.

      5. I hadn’t thought about the express lane issue. Maybe in-lane stop like on the 520 bridge?

        LCW to I-5 really is the only quick way to UW from Lake City. Roosevelt is slow, 35th is slow, 25th is slow, Sandpoint is slow…

      6. Yes, having the 522 stop there off-peak would work fine (albeit at the expense of consistency). But biliruben was talking about the 306 and 312, which only run peak-direction during peak and shoulder hours, and all use the Express Lanes.

        I’d still rather have the 372 turn into a true frequent service route and run weekends, at least as far as downtown Bothell.

        It’s true that no surface route from Lake City to UW is super-fast, but 25th is the best by a considerable margin, and would be better with some signal optimization and TSP.

  3. I hope at one point, when the time it “right”, tunnel tours will be offered to the public.

      1. I received a tour of the then being build Pioneer Square station. Even got a ‘Mighty Mole’ certificate proving I had taken the tour, and was allowed to keep the hardhat they gave me. Very cool! I remember being shown the water seal around the tunnel, which they had to use, because a small portion of it actually lies below sea level, and there is salt water seepage there.

      2. If there was a tour, it would probably be one station and environs rather than walking between stations. Because it would take over an hour to walk from Westlake to UW station, and I could see ST being nervous about having people between stations for so long and possibly somebody getting separated from the group.

  4. I think of all the Link lines, East Link will be the most important, even though the alignment is incorrect. For I believe it will be the line that will get the most people to switch from cars to transit. Somebody on this blog, I forget who, said something like it’s not important for ST to get people out of their cars and onto trains. That has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever read on this blog, and that includes my own idiotic comments, so that’s saying a lot. It’s hard to get excited about U Link. It’s a really expensive answer to a problem that didn’t exist.

      1. Ignore him.

        No one who has ever had to rely on any Capitol Hill or U-District bus to pick them up and get them anywhere in a reliable/time-sensitive/non-excruciating/non-capacity-straining manner would refer to this as “a problem that [doesn’t] exist”.

        He just doesn’t ever take the bus, is all. Ignorance.

      2. Also, U-Link is the only Link segment guaranteed to edge into the 6-figure ridership orbit, no matter what else happens.

        East Link, by contrast, is expected to max out in the range of 50,000 boardings for the entire built-out line, which actually strikes me as being surprisingly low. (I guess the failure to connect to much on either end will grossly limit its usefulness.)

      3. I am actually really looking forward to the extension to Northgate.

        Currently buses like the 41 are usually always full and to be able to avoid the I5 traffic all the way to the airport will be a godsend to those who live north of downtown and the U District.

      4. Eh. I’m guessing East Link will do a bit better than expected — but only because of U-Link.

        Specifically, I expect many people from Bellevue will choose to take East Link / Central Link to the University of Washington, despite the indirect routing and competition from faster buses on 520. The models generally assume people won’t do stuff like that, and then people do anyway, because rail bias is strong.

        U of Washington to downtown is really the trunk line for the entire system. When it’s been open for a year, that would be a good time to recalibrate the entire ridership model.

      5. Sam is focusing on the number of people switching from driving to transit, not on the total number of passengers. He may be right, because traffic is heavy in the U District and parking is expensive and the U-Pass is cheap, so most people who would take transit are already on it. Bellevue is more of a car culture, so there’s more of an opportunity to switch from driving to transit. In other words, the target market for U District service is people suffering on overcrowded buses in traffic. The target market for East Link is people driving across the bridges, either because buses aren’t good enough for them or they get infrequent after 7pm and on weekends. The 71/72/73 never get infrequent, so that problem doesn’t exist there.

        As for Link not being needed downtown-UW, that’s a total joke. Every day when school is in session, it’s standing room only southbound from 43rd, and northbound from Westlake, and at least once a week you get bumped from taking a bus that’s absolutely full and have to take the next bus, and sometimes that one’s full too.

    1. Hard to get excited about something that will cut the travel time in the highest-ridership transit corridor in the state by two-thirds?


    2. Also, any updates on East Link? Aside from the cost-saving meetings back in October, I haven’t heard much progress since a year ago, and ST website says East Link is in Final Design for the next two years.

  5. So, my wife and I randomly found ourselves in Cleveland for a layover last week (volunteered to have our flight moved to New Year’s Day). We used Cleveland’s RTA red line to get downtown, where we ate, saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and came back.

    The red line is weird. It’s technically a real subway line, but it’s like they built the bare minimum to call it a subway and then stopped. The trains and stations are short, and the station platforms are very narrow. The system feels very neglected and there weren’t many people riding it, even during the afternoon rush hour (granted, it was New Year’s Eve day).

    I was also surprised that there’s only one station that serves downtown, though downtown Cleveland is smaller than downtown Seattle. We used the bus to get between the Tower City station and the waterfront, which worked well enough and we didn’t have to wait long (good thing, because it was cold). I did like the day pass that worked for both the subway and buses.

    1. Ah, Cleveland. Now here’s something where I actually know what the hell I’m talking about.

      If you look at the alignment of the tracks, there’s really no other place for a station. In addition, in 1930, when the Blue and Green lines were originally being built, Downtown was MUCH smaller. Terminal Tower (where Tower city station is) was built to bring people downtown from Shaker Heights, the Van Sweringen brothers street car suburb, for work. Intra downtown transit wasn’t really the concern.

      The red line was actually really advanced for it’s time. It was the first downtown-airport subway connection in North America. All of the stations are being re built right now one by one to bring them in compliance with ADA and generally update them from the 50’s.

      OTOH, the trains are short because the ridership numbers are really low. No one ever talks about restrictive zoning or limiting density in Cleveland. The city pays people to build. If you come to City Council with a project they roll out the red carpet as fast as possible.

      There is also the concern that riding transit in Cleveland isn’t safe, which frankly is true. People think the Rainier Valley is unsafe, but they’ve never been to East Cleveland. On the west side, ridership on the red line is decent mostly due to P&R’s.

      On the other hand, Cleveland’s bus network is mostly logical and grid based. The frequencies just suck (Almost everything is 30+ min headways).

      Did you get to ride the HealthLine? It’s BRT done mostly right, and should make anyone who has to ride RapidRide envious.

      1. I’m curious about the ADA retrofit of the east side stations. How are they handling the dual-height platforms where the low-floor Shaker trains share a stop with the high-floor Red Line?

      2. aw: they’re making loooong platforms. At each station, there’s a level-boarding Green/Blue Line platform, then a ramp, then a level-boarding Red Line platform.

        There are only 3 shared stations; they’re quite some distance apart; and the trains are all pretty short; so there’s plenty of room to do this.

      3. Key word being mostly. Try the “BRT” cutting through University Hospitals or Case Western University, and it takes 15 minutes to go 5 blocks during rush hour.

      1. Are people supposed to walk and play on that grassy area next to the tracks? It seems like a dangerous combo…

        Yes, it may look more beautiful, but with the buildings pushed further back from the stations, the major achievement of the beautification is to reduce the density in the stations’ walksheds.

      2. Brent, what the ’30s developers were clearly going for here was “grand iconic boulevard”, along the lines of Commonwealth Ave in Boston, Easter Parkway in Brooklyn, or even the Champs-Élysées.

        It’s not a bad thing to have a single, wide, placemaking gateway with lots of communal open space. One of these won’t make or break your regional density. What matters is what happens on the streets around that defining boulevard.

        Boston and Paris surround their defining boulevards with densely-constructed, sidewalk-fronting buildings on skinny side streets. Thus, the overall density is very high, in spite of the width and open space of Comm Ave or the Champs-Élysées.

        Los Angeles, on the other hand, builds every right-of-way as wide as the next one. That’s a problem.

        In our Cleveland example, the problem is that everything drops off to “suburban tract home” the moment you leave the boulevard (or once you cross the Shaker Heights line, even on the boulevard).

      3. Market Street in SF is, in my opinion, of the great grand boulevards in the US. Much of the street is flanked with dense side streets and bustling neighborhoods.

    1. Thanks, this one worked great. Cool video! Too bad we can’t be tunneling to more places yet.

      1. Except we are already starting the Montlake-Northgate tunnel, aren’t we?
        (I definitely hope we are!)

  6. My wife and I were in Los Angeles the past few days. We stayed at a hotel near the Pershing Street Station. We didn’t realize how close we were to it until we got there. And then, how wonderful it was. The red line train took us to Hollywood in 20 minutes and Universal Studios in 22 minutes. We went the other way to Union Station to take a look at it. I was in transit heaven as far as I was concerned! The metrolink trains weren’t very pretty and the stations in Los Angeles were gray and drab, but there were a lot of people riding the trains. Next time we go, we’ll have to see where the other lines go. Does anyone know how close the Anaheim station is to Disneyland?

    1. The Anaheim station is “not close enough” to Disneyland. Close enough to take a taxi, not close enough to walk. The station is next to the Angel Stadium of Anaheim (major league baseball).

      1. Depends how much they like to walk. ;-)

        It’s about 2.3 miles, a.k.a. the distance from Ballard to Fremont.

        Scenery is, needless to say, sub-Burke-Gilman.

    2. Of course, it would be unthinkable for Disney to operate their own shuttle to get people from the Metro station to the park?

    3. You can take Metrolink to the Fullerton station, and then it is about a 15min bus ride to Disney.

  7. I really hope the curved rail design is better than that of the Central Line between Rainier Beach and Tukwila Int’l Blvd Stations. Granted, the speed of the EMUs are far higher than they would be in the U-Link tunnel, but I can’t help but be frustrated when I take Link to/from Sea-Tac Airport and feel like the curve isn’t properly designed or constructed. As the EMU negotiates the curves, the curves aren’t gentle and with flawless rail-to-rail expansion joints but are series of angle points shaking one up like a martini.

    1. That’s an issue with the cars’ suspension design, not with the rails. The cars oscillate back and forth on their trucks.

      1. I think in railroad parlance this is known as “truck hunting.” One solution is to narrow the rail gauge so that there’s less play between the truck flanges and the track; but that requires more maintenance, since every time the temperature changes the rails shift a bit.

        It’s still not as bad as the subway I rode in Philly, which shimmied viciously even on straight sections of track. It reminded me of when you get a “tank slapper” on a bicycle or motorbike.

      2. I’m guessing you were on the PATCO line, a.k.a. the weirdest/sketchiest subway on earth, a.k.a. the train that still looks like this, a.k.a. “Is that driver enclosed in a shower curtain?”

        The PATCO line pioneered Automatic Train Control technology, but basically still uses the prototype system from 1969. The result is one of the most uncomfortable rides imaginable:

        “The cab signals supply one of 5 different speeds (20 mph, 30 mph, 40 mph, 65 mph and 0 mph) and the on-board ATO gear will supply maximum acceleration or maximum braking force to reach that target speed. The frequent use of such high acceleration and deceleration rates makes for a quick ride, yet one that is also perilous for non-seated passengers.”

  8. *Metro funding solution*

    Instead of earning fare revenue $2.25 at a time, Metro should consider itself in the business of selling annual contracts for monthly Orca Passes. Its really the same business model as cellular phones and gyms. Sign people up for annual contracts, and enjoy the revenue stream. The less they use the service the better for eveyone.

    Offer discounts with 1-year contracts, like $65/month. $60/month with a 2-year contract. Bombard the airwaves with high-quality ads convincing everyone that an Orca Annual Pass is their passport to the city. Staff up sales kiosks in every mall and anywhere else people gather. Offer even more steeply discounted passes at Costco (only $600 upfront for an entire year!).

    If 38,000 new riders purchased annual passes, King County would receive $30,000,000 per year additional revenue. (I am assuming that King County residents would be most likely to use their Orca passes on Metro, and therefore Mero would receive most of the Orca revenue.) 38,000 is less than 2% of King County’s population, and about 10% of Metro’s current daily ridership.

    Let’s make it happen.

    1. And what is the marginal cost of servicing those riders? Have to match revenue with the cost of servicing increased demand. But in one sense, Metro or ORCA is already doing the game in selling tax advantaged cards to companies e.g. the companies buy a package of cards for every employee and the cost is based on the estimated usage of that population.

      1. That’s great if you work for a large company. Not so great if you work for a small company not downtown, or if you work for yourself.

        Denver allows neighborhoods and multifamily buildings to buy group passes.

        It’s really the same model as group medical insurance vs individual insurance: the group rate is always better. The reason individual insurance has been so astronomically expensive is that the insurance companies haven’t been required to put all ungrouped individuals into a “group” and charge them the same rate. (Obamacare’s exchanges are such a group, so that solves that.) My dad was an insurance broker and he said that once a group reaches a thousand members, adding a few sicker or healthier people doesn’t change the actuarial projection much, so it doesn’t change the rate much. Of course, transit usage may have a different, um, actuarial profile than medical-service usage, but the general principle remains.

  9. I’m sure this has been previously asked & answered, but why are the U-Link tunnels ascending to Capitol Hill? We were able to cut straight through Beacon Hill; what’s different in this case?

    1. I think a few reasons:
      1) Capitol Hill is going to have a lot more ridership than Beacon Hill, so I’m guessing the elevators we have at Beacon Hill wouldn’t cut it.
      2) I’m a lot less sure of this one, but I think they want to avoid particularly deep stations if they can, due to engineering concerns. In this case, they obviously could.
      3) Okay this point probably doesn’t belong in this list, but the Light Rail actually does ascend into Beacon Hill. Mt. Baker station is elevated and, coming from the other side, once you’re past SODO station, you turn east and go up an elevated bridge.

      1. And the tunnel under Beacon Hill itself is also not flat. It ascends from both ends to reach Beacon Hill Station, which is significantly higher than the tunnel portals.

  10. Aside from the design excess of the future Capitol Hill station — “You could lay a 50-story building in here!” WHY!!? — the precision boring feat ST pulled off (as detailed in the video) was really quite impressive.

    1. Given potential ridership and probably the densest walkshed in the system, is the station design really that excessive?

      1. Charles:


        Because it’s not “platform space” that’s the issue. In fact, with promises of 4-minute headways once the line is long enough to achieve expected demand, you’ll never have to wait long enough for the platform to get remotely full.

        The real “station capacity” issue comes at the escalators, stairs, tunneled walkways, and street-level entrances. None of which are any wider or allow any better circulation at Capitol Hill station than they do at stations big or small in any other location.

        In fact, longer escalator and passageway bottlenecks actually create more of a problem for large exiting crowds than shorter ones, as there are essentially no opportunities to hurry around the slowpokes.

        Regardless, every major old-world subway network has a few stations with ridership that dwarfs Capitol Hill station now and forever, and handle it easily with skinny platforms and tight entrances. The 20-second journey from train car to street corner more than makes up for any marginal crowding on the platform.

        The appeal of such easy access seems to be completely lost on Link designers.


        He said 540 feet, which is indeed the standard for 50 floors of a modern skyscraper, and is significantly longer than the maximum train length.

        If you look at the complete plans for the station, a great deal of additional lateral movement is required from the upper escalator landings to the street (much like in Westlake station).

        In addition, they appear to be designing the “southeast” entrance, where lovely sunlit Espresso Vivace used to be, as some sort of emergency egress (concrete stairs behind fire doors, not locked, but use discouraged). The public will be funneled an additional 200 feet under Broadway to the “really far southwest” entrance.

        Even if you accept that the construction pit had to be that huge just for dirt removal — which I find specious — there’s no reason they shouldn’t have shrunk and shortened the station box after the tunnels were dug, yielding a more convenient experience for all riders and additional redevelopable surface space.

        Why “high demand” is used as an excuse to waste additional time for every one of those people is beyond me.

      2. I’ve never understood the reason we have such massive stations and why the tunnels are so deep. Downtown you could walk from Westlake to Pioneer square in the time it takes you to get to your Link platform and back up. It’s really not that usable. Looks like we duplicated that here too. I’d understand if they were digging under something but they ripped the entire block out so there’s nothing above the station but blue sky (well cloudy sky). Making a massive station means you’ll have to walk a block inside the station to board the train. If you’re in the middle of the block directly over the train you’ll still have to walk a block.

      3. Admittedly, the tubes do burrough beneath a 6-story apartment building directly north of John. But south of the station, there’s nothing for hundreds of feet but a parking lot and an ugly funeral home that probably should have been displaced.

        I can think of any number of ways that this station could have been smaller, shallower, and have had closer access to both John and Broadway (most likely by angling the footprint slightly to keep it entirely north of Denny, while sending the northern tubes east of the apartment building).

      4. Perhaps the station excavation is so long because it needed to launch and retrieve the TBMs. As for the depth, if it were shallower, the grade from under I-5 to the station would have to be steeper. According to the video, it was already at a maximum 5% grade.

      5. It is clear in the video that they’re only traveling at such a steep grade for part of the time. I greatly doubt that an additional 40 foot rise over the course of nearly a mile would have been impossible to achieve.

        The TBMs themselves were not hundreds of feet long; the argument for the size of the staging area was always about dirt volume rather than not equipment. It still seems unnecessarily massive for that. I struggle to think of another construction or tunneling project anywhere that demanded multiple very large blocks worth of hole in the ground.

        And even if you were right, that would still be no excuse to build the station interior so huge and inconvenient. You don’t have to use every inch of available space, when doing so is actually detrimental to the primary use. Thus the term “overbuilding”.

    2. I think it’s probably prudent to build it on the large side now, to allow for future expansion. No one’s going to want to dig that whole area up again to expand it later.

      1. Orv:

        See what I wrote above.

        There are about half a dozen subway stations on the entire planet that are actually so underbuilt and truly so crowded that access to them has had to be limited and major expansion projects have been needed in the modern era.

        Essentially every example of the above has been:
        – in London (e.g. Camden Town)
        – well over 100 years old
        – maxed out at 60,000-70,000 entries and exits per day.

        We are never going to have this problem.

      2. And Gostiny Dvor/Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg. (Russia tends to give each platform in a transfer station a separate station name.) It may be better now, but when I was there, the officials cordoned off one transfer direction because the pedestrian tunnel couldn’t accomodate both crowds of people in the daytime. So to transfer one direction you simply walked through the passage, but to transfer the other direction you had to go up to the surface, cross the street, come in another entrance, and pay another token. Occasionally somebody would push open the cordon and a big mass would follow them, keeping close together to deter the officer from reclosing the cordon. The officer would let the mass through for a couple minutes and then force the cordon closed again, leaving dozens of people behind it.

      3. I can’t even begin to imagine the magnitudes by which that Russian station’s usage dwarfs ours.

  11. Given the obvious upcoming ridership spike, the U-Link section will finally allow the use of 3-car trainsets, or are we still forced to wait for North Link on this?

    1. Up to four-car trains will be usable, although ST does not expect to use four car trains, and in fact, currently plans to only use three-car trains in the peaks on normal days.

  12. For those affected by the decapitation of Magnolia night service… the Spring 2013 draft run cards currently show a new outbound 24 trip leaving 3rd and Union at 10:21 p.m. There is no inbound trip associated with it; it deadheads from Magnolia Village back to the base. No new 33 trips either; the last one continues to leave 3rd and Union at 10:09 p.m.

    1. So, if the bus is already deadheading back to the base anyway, what’s the marginal cost of carrying a few passengers downtown along the way? If ridership is low, the bus will hardly ever have to stop, so it will be almost as fast as deadheading anyway.

      1. On a route like the 24, you’d have to run another full trip, which would mean heading back to the north end of Magnolia, and running inbound on 3rd instead of 2nd. It would add about 20 minutes. That’s not many hours in the grand scheme of things (about 100), but on that particular run it would be paid as overtime, and there isn’t much reason for it given that no one is riding out of central Magnolia and the rest of the route is covered by RR D.

      2. It doesn’t have to the a full trip. Just start it wherever the route ends, take the most direct route into downtown, and stop at any bus stops it happens to go by on the way to downtown to pick up whoever is waiting to get on.

        The bus is going that way anyway, so even if you only get two riders, that’s two more riders than you would have gotten and essentially zero cost.

      3. Oh and don’t bother with a layover before this last inbound trip either. Just have it leave immediately whenever the last outbound trip on the 24 is finished.

      4. That is the goal of the Metro policy that base-route buses are theoretically “in service” and are supposed to pick up passengers.

        Becdause, if you are going to make it a trip… how do you publicize that trip? If you put it on the 24 schedule it will just cause more confusion than enlightenment, because the route and pickup locations are different. If you put it on the 19 schedule no one will be looking for it, since the 19 is otherwise a peak-hour route.

        And the union contract requires at least 5 minutes of recovery time if you are going to make it a scheduled trip. That bus just came all the way from TIBS on a long through-routed trip, so the exception for short live-looped trips doesn’t apply.

        I just don’t see it as worth the effort when literally no one rode inbound from Magnolia in the evenings even when the 24 ran both ways until midnight. In fact, those outbound trips were part of the reason night 24 productivity as a whole looked so bad, which led to the decapitation.

      5. Sigh… the last “outbound” in my comment should have been “inbound.”

        24 productivity might not have been low enough to lead to cuts if all the outbound buses after 9 had just headed back to base, or even deadheaded back to downtown to start outbound trips on the routes the 24 was through-routed with at the time.

    2. I think the Magnolia transit rider group is inviting Metro people to talk to them next Tuesday. They’ve been agitating.

      Though heh, sometimes the 24 is late enough that it’s -like- having late night bus service – I was on a hideously late last 24 last Thurs (planning on either the 33 or walking, but spotted a transfer opportunity on OBA), which got even more late when the driver missed the exit to the bridge…

      The 24 deadhead route back from the Village is very efficient but is not the 19 route. The 19 route heads uphill on Condon to provide service to the main Magnolia transfer point at 28th & Blaine, the buses deadhead on Magnolia Blvd, which is mostly park and isolated from housing.

      However, the 19 and the 24 are on the same printed schedule already so that part wouldn’t be an issue.

  13. In Puerto Vallarta this week.

    On a bus tour today they mentioned that 70 percent of the residents took public transit. But at the same time, the price of a car is beyond the average person, and gas prices are kept high to discourage domestic consumption ($5 a gallon).

  14. On the list of “organizations who don’t understand what public transit means” may I present Groupon:

    This is in my mailbox from them:

    “Recommended because you bought 3-Day CTA Pass”, i.e., two transit passes in Chicago which meant I didn’t get in a car the entire time I was there.

    54% Off Mobile Detailing with Wax
    Up to 82% Off Oil-Change Packages
    79% Off Car-Care Package with Eight Full-Service Oil Changes
    Up to 53% Off at Jim’s Detail Shop
    Half Off Window Tinting at All-Star Auto Glass
    Half Off at Mark’s Auto Detail
    66% Off Oil Changes from eOilChange.com
    Up to 63% Off Auto Detail

    1. Wow. That is funny and pathetic.

      It’s stuff like this which makes me laugh at the fears that big corporations will figure out everything we do and use targeted advertising on us. They’re *incompetent* at it.

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