City-built bus layover at 55th St & 35th Ave, now part of the cemetery.
City-built bus layover at 55th St & 35th Ave, now part of the cemetery. Seattle Municipal Archives via RavennaBlog.

This is an open thread.

128 Replies to “News Roundup: Geeks”

  1. Ballot measure to prevent I-90 tolls planned.

    The group sponsoring the ballot initiative is headed by Elizabeth Campbell. Yes, that Elizabeth Campbell

      1. The one who wanted to build a waterfront monorail because she’s losing her view on the viaduct.

  2. Recently, Martin took the time to reflect upon the complicated history and unparalleled success of Washington, DC’s Metro subway system. As the only unequivocally effective American example of a tabula rasa rail system in the modern age, Martin in no way exaggerates when he describes Metro as having “utterly transformed land use throughout its region”, such that “the Nation’s Capital is unthinkable without it”.

    While the DC Metro’s five lines took decades to construct, it bears repeating that today’s system resembles almost perfectly the one envisioned at the start of the process, nearly half a century ago. The lines criss-cross the District, stopping every 1/2-mile to every mile as needed, thereby providing some of the most comprehensive urban coverage of any subway this side of Paris. They then stretch outward to provide connections to the primary inner-suburban nodes, and further to provide access from the outer suburbs. But make no mistake: this is not intercity transit. This is about giving the core of the region the key to the city, by making it easier to get in and then effortless to get around.

    I couldn’t help but wonder what the DC Metro might have looked like had it been conceived and constructed by the politicians and planners behind Sound Transit, employing their peculiar obsession with long-distance “regional” connectivity, their low expectations for urban coverage and service quality, and especially their focus on fashioning a 65-miles spine from Tacoma to Everett.

    So I went and drew a map.

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is what DC looks like today, if left to Sound Transit’s devices!

    The parallels are shocking. Baltimore and Manassas book-end a glorious 65-mile spine, just like Sound Transit envisions here. A sole additional branch of 15 miles or less crosses the Potomac and provides a crucial connection to busy Arlington and Alexandria, just as East Link crucially connects to Bellevue and parts of Redmond.

    But… that’s all there is. Service within the District itself is disproportionately concentrated within shouting distance of the National Mall. Barely 8 or 9 other stations fall anywhere within the boundaries of what can be generously called the “urbanized areas” in or abutting the city. These stations are depressingly difficult to reach, and do little to make it easier to get between the many destinations and centers of activity that one might need to reach in this busy (and not even particularly expansive) city.

    On the way to Baltimore and Manassas, spinal trains stop every few miles at arbitrary locations, ensuring a delightful level of spontaneous travel to and from vast parking lots in South Laurel, Maryland and Yorkshire, Virginia.

    One might think Baltimore and Manassas would at least be happy with this outcome, as all-day 10-to-15-minute service provides the ability to flee these profoundly struggling and profoundly boring (respectively) cities on a moment’s notice. But perhaps not. The likelihood that any given Baltimorean or Manassahol can travel all the way to D.C. without planning ahead is vanishingly slim. The likelihood that all their needs, once there, will be within easy reach of the “spine” is even slimmer. And after nearly an hour spent on the train, will they really choose to fight the last three miles of their journey on a run-down and unreliable bus? More likely, they’ll begrudgingly get in their cars and fight the traffic apocalypse – growing ever worse because the real DC Metro was never built – all the way to the parts of the District they actually wish to reach.

    Even Baltimoreans who regularly travel to DC do much better with today’s MARC schedules (which resemble Sound Transit express buses in frequency and speed), plus access to the full array of destinations served by DC Metro, than they would with a 10-minute “spine” that brings them to DC but doesn’t get them where they want to go.

    The question, dear Seattleites, is simple: would this have done anything to “utterly transform” the Capital region, to fundamentally change the way it operates and the way people access and take advantage of its core, in the way that this has so triumphantly succeeded in doing? Would even a fraction of DC Metro’s nearly 800,000 daily riders be using it? Would those people be able to get around on transit even if they wanted to?

    The urban short-shrift – wide stops, missed stops, delayed lines, streetcars magically appearing as real-transit proxies – is (sadly) accepted as the norm (or even the ideal) by many in this region and many on this blog. Political consensus around “completing the spine” is strangely treated as obligatory.

    It is time to rethink those politics.

    Otherwise, when 35 years pass and the only mass transit we build does little for the masses, we’ll have only ourselves to blame.

    1. The problem is the completely asinine idea of sub-area equity. The areas aren’t equal! It’s the same thinking that was used in 40-40-20.

      The other problem is that SO much of the transportation infrastructure in the area is focused on commuting only. Look at how many peak-only routes Metro runs, or how overbuilt 15th Ave W is. It’s absolutely crazy.

      1. How would you convince Snohomish County voters to raise their taxes for HCT in Seattle? Subarea equity is a two-way thing. It also prevents Seattle’s money from being spent in Bellevue and Lynnwood.

      2. It prevented no such thing. Our grotesquely anti-urban lines built to bee-line for our borders subsidize suburban access. And we pay every cent.

        Don’t raise Snohomish taxes at all. Let them fund or not fund a project on its own merits.

        The system you cite as ensuring fairness is only ensuring terribleness. Kill it.

      3. Indeed. I’ll grant that building the main line up to Northgate is a fine enough idea, but the current plan is to keep going all the way up through Shoreline before starting on anything else. How is this a higher priority for Seattle than getting started on a downtown/Ballard line, a Ballard/U-District line, or any number of other potential projects in denser areas?

        If Seattle was building Link on its own, I really doubt we would see projects done in the order that regional sub-area equity is forcing on us. If the northern suburbs want a Link train to downtown before Seattle is done building out its highest-priority corridors, they should foot the bill for the whole thing past Northgate. That would be true sub-area equity.

      4. It’s 2013 and Link is running on the ground. The issue is not whether Seattle would vote for a Rainier Beach – Northgate and Ballard – UW line without ST now, maybe it would. The issue is whether Seattle was ready to vote for that in 1996 or 2008, when they did not have a successful SeaTac – downtown line to try out and look at, and when nothing like that had ever existed in our region. It was a lot harder uphill climb then to get voters to approve it. Look at all the naysaying that forced MLK to the surface to cut costs, and the really hard battle we had to get it to go to Broadway and University Way rather than Eastlake and I-5. Part of the reason Seattlites approved it was because it would go to Bellevue and Lynnwood, not just to the city limits.

      5. Mike Orr: “…when they did not have a successful SeaTac – downtown line to try out and look at, and when nothing like that had ever existed in our region”

        The interurbans? But of course, the airport didn’t exist at that time.

      6. The interurban was not underground and did not travel at 55 mph. It was a streetcar that happened to go a long distance.

      7. Yes but that wasn’t enough to make people feel better about Link now. Few Seattlites now ever saw the interurban in operation, much less ridden it. One generation turned away from streetcars, and the next three generations never experienced them except when visiting other cities.

    2. What part of our inner-ring suburbs is as populous and dense as Arlington and Alexandria? Not Kent, Southcenter, or Shoreline, I would imagine. How then does this affect the population distribution in the region? I.e., it looks like a greater percentage of our population are spread out towards Tacoma, Everett, and Redmond, compared to your DC-BART region, since there is nothing equivalent to Alexandria and Arlington in between. Plus we have that lake and sound on either side, which has pushed the population further north, south, and east than it would otherwise be. All this has made longer-distance transit more of a necessity, and infill stations less of an issue, than the DC region. There may be valid arguments for Summit, 15th, 23rd, and NE 85th stations, but they aren’t as critical as you make them out to be, and won’t be unless a lot of single-family houses get replaced by multifamily, which the city isn’t even considering at this point.

      1. Study the map, Mike. It’s not just the District itself that gets screwed over by this. It’s the entire area inside the Beltway — the very area that the real DC Metro has so admirably managed to serve in so many ways.

        It almost wouldn’t matter if there were a million people in Federal Way, because Federal Way’s land usage is so awful and because it’s so far away that it would still be wasteful to build and run the line that far.

        Form is subservient to distance. Distance is subservient to land use. This is “you can’t get there from here” transit. It is never good.

      2. d.p., geography matters. That particular hypothetical WMATA system doesn’t make any sense. If Seattle were not constrained by the Puget Sound to the west, Lake Washington to the east and various other water bodies and hills in between, there would be a much different regional transit system. The main spine of Link is north-south because Seattle and it’s neighboring cities are orientend that way. East Link works the way it does because a lot of the regiional population is to the east.

        Some other important factors:
        Intercity passenger rail had not imploded in the northeast like it did in the rest of the country, so it made sense for Washington – Baltimore to be served by Metroliners and commuter rail.

        At the time the Metro system was built, the feds were paying a larger proportion of the bill, so they could build a more comprehensive system. The Seattle area missed its chance when the voters did not approve the Forward Thrust transit initiatives.

      3. And what part of any of that makes it suddenly make sense to serve our region with frequent, useless intercity transit while letting our own underserved city starve?

        That particular hypothetical WMATA system doesn’t make any sense.

        No, it most certainly does not. And neither does our hypothetical build-out.

      4. Arlington is the equivalent distance from the core as the U District or Ballard, not Shoreline or Kent.

        Alexandria is a bit further, like Northgate or South Park (or Bellevue, if the lake wasn’t in the way).

      5. Don’t forget that the DC metro was a unique priority for the federal government, because of the huge tons of federal office workers under the metro’s wing, and the fact that it makes DC more like a European capital which impresses foreign diplomats. (Funny how our federal capital is a lot more European than the rest of the country, but it’s the same kind of paradox as Wall Street tycoons walking to work or taking the subway while financing car-oriented monstrosities in the rest of the country and claiming the New York model can’t work elsewhere.)

      6. If Lake Washington weren’t there, it’s perfectly feasable to imagine a Kirkland and Bellevue next to Madison Park and Seward Park, which are similarly upper income.

      7. And if the Potomac River weren’t there, Arlington County might still be part of the District of Columbia and not have representation in Congress.

        And if the South Atlantic Ocean weren’t there, Gondwanaland might still be intact and everybody in Nigeria might speak Portuguese.

        Geography affects development history and movement patterns. Exactly what the fuck is your transit-relevant point when you make statements like the one above?

      8. My point is that people are distributed further out in Seattle than they are in other cities, even though they have the same square-footage aspirations as those cities. Because they’re pushed further out by the lakes and sound, transit has to go further to reach them. It’s not reasonable to limit rapid transit to the extent it would be in a flat, no-lake region. Because if Kirkland had been next to Madison Park, the 11 or Madison-BRT would just have to be extended a half mile to reach it. But it wasn’t, so transit has to go further, even if it costs more.

      9. And my point is that none of that matters.

        The lake is there. As a result, development patterns are different, movement patterns are different, and transit can’t work the same way.

        Until you invent a teleporter, you can’t take a spontaneous 25-mile trip from Federal Way just because in another universe it might have been closer.

        Seattle’s topography predates its population, and people who are in Kirkland are in Kirkland for whatever reasons they’re in Kirkland. If they wanted to be in Madison Park, they’d fucking be in Madison Park! And they’d be twice as close to stuff, and four times as able to take spontaneous trips.

        Location choices have consequences that you can’t simply will away.

      1. (bow, hat tip, curtsey)

        That map popped into my head the moment I read the opening paragraph Martin’s DC Metro-invoking book review. When you have a lone example of something working so well, how can you possibly defend doing the exact opposite unless you are willing to defend failure?

    3. Does anyone here (on this blog) really support “completing the spine first,” if “the spine” is defined as continuous Link from Everett to Tacoma?

      I think there’s some support for reaching Lynnwood and maybe Federal Way, at most.

      But I also think everyone here except the trolls would throw Lynnwood under the train in a heartbeat if they saw some way to build to Ballard or even West Seattle instead.

      1. I would support postponing Lynnwood for Ballard. But that’s not a choice we have. We can imagine a scenario where this might have happened, but imagination is not going to get transit built on the ground.

      2. We may not have any single-tracked “spine über alles” people on the blog, but we have an awful lot of people who dutifully parrot whatever crap logic springs from Sound Transit’s misguided approach.

        We have “subways are regional, streetcars are urban” people. We have “subarea taxation rates and capital expenditures must be proportional always” people. We have “every station must fill three blocks and have massive plazas” people. And I’ve heard enough about the “Presto: Manhattan” development potential of Lynnwood and Federal Way to make any East Coaster’s head explode.

        Excessive deference to popular consensus is a problem when popular consensus favors proven fatal errors. Excessive deference to the transit agency is a problem when that agency is known to be subject to political forces that yield substandard results.

        That half the ST board still views anything that doesn’t look like this (a.k.a. this) as a distraction from its core mission is a huge freaking problem. It’s like how the GOP has meticulously shifted the debate on economic policy to the right over 30 years: the opposing baseline is so far off the deep end that even a “split the difference” compromise is bad policy.

        Unfortunately, a lot of people on this blog endorse the Ballard streetcar, in part because their Fearless Leader has convinced them that ST and the city are uniting to build us both, which is about the most delusional thing I’ve ever heard. Endorsing that monstrosity is implicitly giving up on real urban rapid transit, and letting Sound Transit “spine” away.

    4. I don’t know about you, but the Sound Transit Long Range Plan I’m looking at includes Downtown-Ballard-U District as well. Is there anyone who thinks extensions to Tacoma and Everett will happen before Ballard? At least they’ll happen at the same time.
      Meanwhile, DC Metro isn’t necessarily as wonderful as you make it out to be – Of its ~105 miles, about 64 of them, or 60%, are outside of the District, and the massive new exurban Silver Line extension will bring that percentage up to almost 70. And practically none of its termini in the outer suburbs have even a semblance of urbanism around them; Tacoma and Everett, on the other hand, are major urban centers with a lot of potential for more dense growth. A Baltimore extension of the Metro sounds like a reasonable approximation of Seattle-Tacoma, but the area between Washington and Baltimore is far less filled-in than the continuous reasonably dense suburbs along the I-5 corridor like Des Moines (4500 people/sq mi) and Federal Way (4000 people/sq mi). The northern corridor is similar. And none of these places is like Manassas.

      1. True that the exurban fringes are basically stations surrounded by parking lots but the dense urban core is well served.

        The District plus Alexandria and Arlington, which combined have a slightly greater density than the city of Seattle (9,000/sq mi) covering a slightly larger land area (~100 sq mi), have 54 of the 86 stations in the network.

        If all 47 stations on the Seattle Subway map existed, we’d actually have a similar station density to DC, despite the huge coverage gap on North Capitol Hill and other parts of the city.

      2. The WMATA rail network works well enough as a commuter system. The mesh of lines in District and the well-designed connections between lines do a good job of getting people in from residential areas and distributing them to DC’s multiple job centers.

        However, it’s surprisingly useless for getting around DC. Outside of the core, the stations are too widely spaced and they skip a number of busy neighborhoods. WMATA’s bus network doesn’t help much; I found myself using either the District’s Circulator bus or the bike share system to fill the gaps.

        The WMATA rail network is best understood as a very good commuter rail system, more akin to BART or even the Berlin S-Bahn. And as a commuter rail system, it’s hard to beat. It runs frequently, runs all day, and extends to most corners of the metro area. But for intra-city transport, it literally doesn’t scratch the surface.

      3. It does that job 10 times better than any train built in this country since the 1930s. It does that job 20 times better than Portland MAX does. It does that job 50 times better than BART does.

        It does that job 100 times better than Link will.

        It’s a pretty darned solid baseline. In fact, I’m curious to know where exactly it failed you (aside from Georgetown, a know gaping hole). Given that it covers nearly the entire District and rarely has spacing in excess of 3/4 mile except on the periphery, given that half of the system’s stations are concentrated in the District (compared to 1/6 of BART and about 1/4 of Link-as-planned, not counting anti-urban Haller Lake and I-90 shit), given that the rest of Metro aims to serve the Beltway rather than the Boonies), how did you find it failed you?

      4. The Sound Transit Long Range Plan I’m looking at includes Downtown-Ballard-U District as well. Is there anyone who thinks extensions to Tacoma and Everett will happen before Ballard? At least they’ll happen at the same time.

        And yet the only action ST has taken toward that pencil-thin Ballard afterthought on their map has been to agree to study it concurrently with a streetcar, raising the very real possibility of passing the buck for that entire promised corridor off onto a project that will not work.

        If that comes to pass, then real urban rapid transit will never happen. Not before, not currently, not after, not ever.

        (And, of course, there remain ST board members who want ST to wash its hands of even that. My above reply to David L:

    5. “the only unequivocally effective American example of a tabula rasa rail system in the modern age”

      It’s the only example of a new system that’s as comprehensive as the hundred-year-old northeast metros. San Francisco is distantly behind because BART covers only a quarter of the city and MUNI Metro is slow and not that frequent per line.

      “It does that job 10 times better than any train built in this country since the 1930s. It does that job 20 times better than Portland MAX does. It does that job 50 times better than BART does. It does that job 100 times better than Link will.”

      It’s much better certainly, although the ratios are too arbitrary. But the most essential features of northeast-style rail systems are frequency, speed, and covering all neigborhoods. Link has decent frequency and speed, and has stations in all the must-serve areas in its path. “Covering all neighborhoods” like Ballard and Greenwood can only be met with additional lines. If Central Link misses some lower-density intermediate areas that would have stations in a northeastern system, that’s a secondary problem, it’s not the primary problem. It doesn’t make the system a “failure”. It just means it’s less than its potential could have been. It’s still solving 80% of the problem, and that’s a major accomplishment, and is more urban coverage than MAX or BART is doing (i.e., one line is serving a greater percentage of the city’s urban neighborhoods).

      1. Yes, of course “100 times better” is a figure of speech. But the truth is in the mode-share, on-peak and off-, and in whether any other system has “utterly transformed” a city as Martin correctly wrote.

        MAX’s mode-share within the urban area is utterly pathetic, because 90% of the time it’a going to be so much easier to bike, bus, or just drive to where you’re going than it would be to travel out-of-direction to the highway bypass that the train takes through the urban area. An SF resident who doesn’t live in the Mission might be lucky to find herself on BART twice a month.

        It’s barely even mathematically comparable to DC’s experience in any way.

        And getting urban service wrong on any time is absolutely part of the “primary problem”. Because that stuff can never be fixed, and because Seattle is masterful at doubling down on such mistakes, and because our peabrained leaders start thinking crawler streetcars are the great urban gap-filling answer. Learning from those geniuses down in Portland:

      2. @Mike: The primary problem isn’t Central Link itself so much as the plans to build long freewayside lines before filling in a comprehensive network in places that could plausibly use it all day. Solving 80% of the problem in one corridor is fine for that corridor; the next step is solving the problem on all the other important corridors, not long-haul extensions.

        Instead of the ridiculous excesses of BART, the Bay Area could have rebuilt and modestly extended the urban transportation systems of SF and Oakland, providing fast, reliable access all over those cities. Instead the trains run no-stop for miles along freeways to stations surrounded by freeways and massive parking lots. BART isn’t comprehensive because they didn’t design it to be comprehensive.

      3. Bay Area who? Do you mean the citizens of San Francisco, the citizens of all the BART counties, or some higher-level state or regional government? San Francisco could have had several underground citywide lines now if they’d decided to, either as part of BART or separtely. Would BART have refused to build single-county lines if San Francisco had insisted on it and ponied up the money? There would have been a line to northern SF and Marin if Marin County hadn’t voted it down. San Francisco could have built its own portion anyway. I don’t know why it didn’t; I assume people’s expectations were too low and they didn’t think beyond their slow surface MUNI and trolleybuses.

        The absence of city lines is not the fault of suburban extension. You need both. And BART’s stop spacing in SF is adequate, IMO, except for the 30th Street station which is now being built — similar to our Graham station situation.

      4. The absence of city lines is not the fault of suburban extension. Instead, it’s the fault of the funding formula that requires residents of the city to pay for the entire portion of the suburban extension that exists within the city limits.

        Sub-area equity is billed as a way to ensure that each area gets an amount of transit service proportional to the amount of money they raise. In reality, the suburbs’ highest priority is for trains to downtown Seattle. That’s fine, but they should have to pay for them. The current system means a big portion of the Seattle sub-area pot is dedicated to supporting those suburban lines, intra-city trips be damned.

      5. That’s because it is a city line. Today I left the meetup at Columbia City and took Link and transferred to the 41 to Northgate. That’s just one of numerous examples where ST2 Link’s Seattle portion would have benefited me multiple times per week even not counting work commutes. (It would cut my commute time in half, and that’s even though half of my commute is on a bus which I’d still have to take even with North Link.) And BART too is heavily used between downtown SF and the Mission district.

      6. Let us know when you have a burning need to go to Haller Lake or the embankment of the highway in Shoreline, or anywhere along the 5.8 miles between Northgate and the Snohomish border that we’re paying for even though its useless to us!

        Also… that was you over at the small table!? I knew I picked the wrong side of the aisle. You left way too early… you missed the fight!

      7. I was sitting to the right of Velo. I would have stayed longer but I was getting tired. Sorry I missed you.

      8. If I’m going to Shoreline, better to take Link to the highway embankment and whatever feeder bus might exist then or walk if there isn’t one, than to sit on the 358 all the way through Bitter Lake or go to Northgate and wait 30-60 minutes for the privilege of slogging through Meridian. Did I mention Link is already more frequent than the 358 or 316 ever will be?

      9. You’re “if” is a big one, since there will never, ever, ever, ever ever be anything there you will need to or be able to reach from the train.

        It’s not for us. Repeat: not for us!

        We pay. They benefit.

      10. p.s. Will you be at Hale’s Wednesday, as ST announced the first step in their smoke-and-mirrors process of throwing Ballard under the streetcar?*

        *(As glib as everyone thinks I’m being about this, my suspicions were 100% confirmed last night, from the horse’s mouth. Not at liberty to say more, but the die is cast. ST is only “studying” an Interbay subway in order to have “proof” that is too expensive. They will then throw all their weight behind the crappy streetcar.)

      11. my suspicions were 100% confirmed last night, from the horse’s mouth.

        I understand if you can’t tell us more, but… did your source say they weren’t seriously considering an Interbay alignment, or grade separation? If the second, I hope your source is wrong.

        Whether or not that’s the case, though, we should pack the Wednesday meeting to demand actually-effective trains. I was just reading about how debtor-relief movements in the 1780’s stayed away from the polls thinking their cause hopeless – but, the historian argued, they’d have won if they’d only voted! Similarly, let’s not give up.

        Do you have any strategy ideas, d.p.? How about you, Ben? We all want the same thing here; let’s organize for it!

      12. It really isn’t my place to elaborate with specifics, but to speak in generalities…

        As we all know, the “collaborative study” being announced Wednesday involves only two basic options: streetcar without grade separations, and Link that passes under the Ship Canal.

        The expectation seems to be that the Ship Canal will be deemed unattainably expensive, and that all parties will coalesce behind the streetcar.

        I’m reserving my “I told you so”s for later, but this is not looking good.

      13. I wonder what horse was at the meetup who had the authority to make such a decision or to know what the ST board will do. In any case, it’s not over till it’s over. People can be mistaken; things can happen; people can change their minds. Has the study contract even been let yet? Either it hasn’t or the contractor has just started, so they don’t even know how much it would cost. When it’s finished we’ll know the price, and even if the board says no we can judge whether it ever had a chance or how much we’d have to raise to get it done another way. If DP really believes the die has been cast, he might as well move to Boston right now. Or do what I do and live in the east side of the city where the best transit is and the most destinations are.

        I was bothered by McGinn’s statement at the Connector open house. “ST3 can bring some money for it.” No it can’t, and we need to make sure it doesn’t, at least not until the subways are further along. I intend to tell ST that we need grade separation at least past Queen Anne, and then underground or MLK style till Ballard. They need to start with the travel time and keep that a major factor. 15 minutes maximum from Westlake to Market Street. University Link is 10 minutes to Brooklyn. At worst it should match the 18X which is 18 minutes. The SLUT is already 10 minutes to Lake Union, so that gives 5 minutes for the rest if you want a streetcar substitute. But as for that streetcar, no matter whether it complements Link or replaces it, they need to retrofit the existing line with real signal priority, its own lane, and a cycletrack. No just extending it as-is. And 10-minute frequency too, including evenings and Sundays.

      14. “there will never, ever, ever, ever ever be anything there you will need to or be able to reach from the train.”

        If you mean within walking distance of the stations, I’ll score that as 51% true. It’s still possible for the community center and P&R to be redeveloped. But as for reasons to go to Shoreline, you’re flat wrong. How do you know I don’t have a friend who lives in Shoreline, or that I won’t marry somebody with relatives in Shoreline, or that I never go to events at Shoreline CC, or that I’ll never join a club that meets in Shoreline, or that I’ll never be so poor I’ll have to move in with my brother who bought a house in Shoreline? (All these are amalagated real scenarios that happened to me or people I know, although the brother’s house is actually a sister’s house in Lynnwood.) Even if some of them don’t happen to me they’ll happen to other people. That’s why we need a light rail line connecting all these places.

      15. A horse is a horse, of course. Of course, sometimes he speaks for the farm.

        As for your last reply, your 0.00001% chance hypothetical need trumps our real, immediate, and certain needs for our limited capital dollars because why?

      16. Because that train is about to leave the station and you have no evidence that your “city train” could have happened politically. Because it’s one metropolitan area and people need to get to both Roosevelt and Shoreline. There was a time to argue for the city train and that was when Central/North Link was being designed. The best-case scenario for your case would have been if all the monorail effort and money had gone into a reconfigured Central/North Link. That didn’t happen, and it’s too late to do anything about it. So we need to focus on making things better than they are and not get hung up if it’s not perfect, because perfect is very hard to achieve. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      17. BTW, as I’ve said before, I would not object if ST decides to truncate Link at Northgate or 185th and use ST Express buses from there, as long as the buses are at least every 15 minutes including evenings and Sundays. The 512 is a promising move in that direction, and maybe if it had been done a few years earlier I might not have felt as strongly about sending Link to Lynnwood and Everett. The same goes on the south end and East Link. But if the politicians are ready to move on light rail the whole way, by all means do it now because it’ll make the region better transit-connected for the next century.

      18. Fine. Sure. People need to get to (or, more accurate, through) Shoreline.

        That’s nice. Good for them. It will be horribly underutilized and an objective failure just like every similar train in existence. But good for them. Let the people who want that — a.k.a. suburbanites — pay to build that.

        Calling that a North King Subarea service is USDA Grade A certified bullshit. How dare you bill the ciry for something that willfully screws the city over.

        Don’t piss on my back and then offer to double-charge me for a raincoat.

      19. Uh, except that Shoreline and LFP are part of the North King subarea. If you’re going to be horribly provincial about who pays for what then expect North King suburban voters to do the same.

      20. And it’s quite a rhetorical leap from “is not optimal from a purely Seattle perspective” to “willfully screws the city over”. North Corridor will be great for Seattle even if it’s not the best use of the marginal dollar.

      21. Shoreline is one of the most geographically-endowed and progressive suburbs in Pugetopolis, and that’s why it has the most potential and why it’s fair to include it in North King. Bellevue has a big downtown which is important in its own way, but Shoreline has an intact street grid and is not overrun by superblocks. The streets run smoothly into Seattle and are perfect for future densification. Shoreline has spruced up Aurora and the Interurban Trail impressively, and has full HOV/BAT lanes along its part of Aurora. It has promised TOD at all its RapidRide stations. It could easily put 185th on a road diet to improve east-west transit (and the same for 175th and 155th). Come to think of it, one thing it should most look at is an east-west trail to complement the Interurban, if it can figure out where to put it.

  3. Just curious, aren’t all the “NO TOLLS ON I-90” signs stuck in the ground in medians and such illegal?

    Also crazy to think that the 7 used to go from 55th and 35th all the way to Prentice. Talk about a long route.

    1. In Seattle, they are typically illegal if they are in center medians or in planting strips adjacent to public property. They are legal in planting strips next to private property, with permission of the property owner. I’m not as sure of the exact regulations elsewhere (such as Mercer Island). Here’s a link to Seattle’s rules:

    2. The 7-Rainier was through-routed with a number of NE Seattle routes. There were a lot of 7’s on the Rainier Ave side, and they were connected to several routes with lower frequency. The 7-Rainier was through-routed with the following:

      7-Eastlake (now the 70)
      7-View Ridge (now the 71)
      7-Lake City (now the 72)
      7-15th Ave NE (now the 73)
      8-Ravenna (now the 74 and others)

      The photo was taken at the (at that time) end of the 8-Ravenna route.

      (who was a transit geek as a kid & grew up just down the hill from where the picture was taken.)

      1. My grandfather may have been driving that bus (or may not have at that time/day, but that was one of his routes). I have a time card of his somewhere for it. When that photo was taken my Mom lived two blocks from that stop. The buildings in the background look almost identical today; it was the farthest NE stop the streetcars used to make.

      2. And, of course, there were 3 different terminals for the 7 RAINIER (Prentice St, Rose St and Graham St with Express service to Prentice St during rush hours). The various 7 & 8 trolley lines were dieselized in 1963 and extended to the northern city limits (7 LAKE CITY/145TH ST., 7 15TH AVE NE/145TH ST) and deeper into Wedgwood (7 VIEW RIDGE/85th ST.).

        In about 1968 all day Blue Streak Express service between downtown and the U-District was added to the north end 7 routes which eliminated a lot of the thru-routes between the north end and Rainier Valley. But there still was local service between the U District and downtown via Eastlake (signed 7 15TH AVE NE/50th ST) that continued to Rainier Valley. The 7 schedules could be very confusing for inexperienced riders.

  4. At the start of a Criminal Minds rerun, “Empty Planet” I noticed the front of the bus was done up with a Metro like logo but it said Seattle Municipal Transit. Not sure if it’s copyright issues regarding a “brand name” or if they went to the trouble of designing a different logo since the plot involves a bus bombing but I went to look up what the Seattle bus system was called before becoming Metro. In doing so I stumbled across this interesting link, A City at Work: Images from the Seattle Municipal Archives Photo Collection.

  5. Two stories with numbers on dwell time improvements. “Geeks”, indeed!

    SF’s all-door boarding is pretty nice on crowded routes, and achieved with very little infrastructure (just back-door card readers). It will be interesting to see whether their positive results on fare evasion continue… but, to be honest, it probably doesn’t matter. A more efficient, faster, more popular system is the big, important thing. Here we don’t even do all-door boarding all day on routes with off-board payment!

    1. I was just in SF on Wednesday – all door boarding is fanTAStic, especially on the streetcars out on the west side of Twin Peaks running as 2 car trains. And on dense heavily used routes like the 14, 24 and 38 it is positively blissful not to have to wait at the front to board.

  6. I have a question. Most of our transit services are funded by sales tax, right? If that is the case, why hasn’t anyone lobbied to start charging sales tax on internet purchases?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love not paying tax on stuff I buy online, but it seems like a major drain on our local budgets.

    1. If the retailer you’re purchasing from has a business presence in WA, then you have to pay sales tax. This is why all Seattleites pay sales tax on Amazon purchases.

      People have been lobbying Congress for years on both sides of the interstate-purchase issue. Amazon recently flip-flopped, saying they would now support efforts to collect sales tax for Internet purchases from out-of-state retailers if the Federal and state governments worked together to build a streamlined system for tax collection.

      Right now, any online retailer can sell goods out-of-state and not have to worry about collecting sales tax from those states. Without any other changes, online retailing would get much more complicated if all retailers were required to collect sales tax based on the buyer’s country.

      The EU has a scheme to deal with this—the default is for taxes to be paid to the seller’s country unless the seller sells over a certain threshhold to another country, at which point they have to collect and remit the buyer’s taxes to their country instead. But then again, taxes tend to be much more uniform in European countries since they have a national VAT and not piecemeal sales taxes as we do here.

      1. Personally I think it’s unfair that online interstate sales don’t result in the collection of sales taxes. I also think that given the wild difference between states’ tax regimes that the taxes should always be collected in the buyer’s locale, rather than the locale of the seller, because otherwise we create a perverse incentive for certain states to offer beaucoup tax credits to large online retailers at the expense of their electorate.

        But I am quite sympathetic to the argument that collecting sales tax in every locale in the US is infeasible for small businesses. There’s also the question of buying goods in one locale with a billing address in another.

        I hope the Federal government can establish a system for municipalities to define their taxation boundaries by GIS data, and then sellers would query that service to map a shipping address to a ZIP code. The burden of correctness would be on the municipalities, the Feds, and the purchaser, never on the retailer.

    2. By State law you are required to pay a use tax on anything you didn’t pay sales tax on at the time of purchase. The reality is that since we don’t have an income tax the State doesn’t do any audits of individuals. For a business it’s a different story. Companies are routinely audited and you’re in deep dodo with the State if you don’t remit the proper amount of use tax.

      1. +1

        This is absolutely correct. I deal with it all the time at work. (I work for the state, but yes, the state charges *itself* sales tax, too.)

        I used to live in Michigan, and there you were supposed to report use tax on your state income tax. Very, very few people did, and audits were rare, except on titled items like boats and airplanes, where the state already had a record of the transaction.

    3. Seems like in some cases sales tax is collected. iTunes songs are never $.99, they’re more like $1.08 after tax.

      1. Apple has a presence in the state (see the Apple stores) so they have to charge sales taxes for WA residents.

        On the other hand the internet business in TN my cousin owns doesn’t have to charge WA state sales tax because he has no business presence in WA.

        If internet retailers are forced to collect sales taxes he might be able to do so for the 40 some odd states with sales taxes but there is no way he’s going to make sense of the thousands of different tax rates and jurisdictions.

        The only way this works for small businesses is to have more or less uniform rates.

    1. We spent over a week in Melbourne and used the trams extensively. Plus, with a Myki card (which you can buy at every 7-11, which are as ubiquitous in Melbourne as coffee stands are here, plus many other retailers), there is a maximum per day that can be charged, so after basically two rides you can ride for free for the rest of the day. It’s a lovely system.

  7. The Luxury hotel planned for Fifth and Columbia office tower has been in the news a lot recently. I was surprised to read:

    Fifth and Columbia is a great location for a hotel, Daniels maintains: “It’s the densest corner on the West Coast.”

    Who knew, right here in lil old Snowflake. I’m surprised because a reason sited for the Columbia Tower having such a hard time attracting tenants is because it is too far south and feels isolated. An issue compounded by SLU being the place to be nowadays. I wonder how this building will affect the area and Pioneer Square. Are there any other projects slated for this area?

    1. That’s the great thing about growth. There doesn’t have to be just one center of gravity, constantly shifting according to developers’ whim, like there was in 1989.

    2. “Too far south and feels isolated” refers to the single-use hole bounded by Union Street, Yesler Way, 2nd Avenue, and I-5 or 9th Avenue. There’s hardly anything but office buildings that empty out at 5 o’clock. There’s no neighborhood, in other words.

      1. Mike, your line drawing at Union is a bit overinclusive, as it encompasses the arts district that features the 5th Ave Theatre, Benaroya Hall and SAM. I live in the Cobb building on 4th at University, and can attest that there is plenty of evening foot traffic on Union and University streets, such as the Triple Door on Union (great music venue), Sullivan’s on Union/7th, Purple on 4th at University, Rock Bottom on 5th between Union/University and Sazerac on 4th and Spring.

        True that the area south of Seneca could use more residential to keep it livelier into evening hours. Hopefully it will get some of that influence with more apartments in the North Lot project being built on King St.

    3. It’s the densest corner on the West Coast.

      Ummmmmmmmm…. Sounds like Mr. Daniels and the reporter might actually be the densest something-somethings on the West Coast.

      And this is why journalism is dead.

      1. I guess it sounds possible that 5th and Columbia has more office space than any other west coast intersection.

    4. In the news this weekend was Smith Tower hits a milestone on the road to recovery

      Now it’s paying off, O’Keefe said: “It’s not just the tech companies. We’re getting law firms and engineering firms, too.”

      Pioneer Square’s improvement has been especially dramatically. The neighborhood’s office-vacancy rate was 25 percent at the end of 2010, according to Office

      Now it’s down to 14 percent.

      Nice to see this part of town finally starting to “look up.” I guess the investors in the Fifth & Columbia tower are ahead of the curve in bringing new development to the area.

  8. Why is it that the headsigns on inbound ST routes along 4th avenue always say destinations in the south? I typically notice the 590, etc, going northbound on 4th ave in Seattle and their signs say something like “Tacoma”. Do their signs flip at some point? Are the drivers forgetting to change them?

    1. Tacoma is the intermediate destination for most of those routes. The signs say something like “Seattle via Tacoma” for the entire course of the route.

      Then there are a few trips (on the 577 and 590, IIRC) that are live-looped in downtown and exit at Seneca Street. Those will have their southern destination up on the headsign by the time they reach downtown.

    2. It’s a total joke that ST routes say “Seattle 5th Avenue”, as if there’s a parallel express bus to a different avenue. When the NYC subways say “8th Avenue local”, it’s because there are alternative subways on other avenues and you may want to take one of those instead.

      1. I haven’t been up there in a while, but last I was around Lynnwood TC regularly the CT commuter routes were headed to “Seattle 2nd Ave” while the 511, of course, was going to 5th. It’s plausible someone might choose one or the other based on that distinction.

        Unfortunately these are one-way streets, so I always forget the important part: which street to catch them on to come back north. I think they all come back on 4th, but it hasn’t been drilled into my head by the headsigns.

    3. There are two types of 590 trips, ones that start in Downtown Tacoma at 10th and Commerce (roughly every 15 to 20 minutes) and ones that start at Tacoma Dome Station (roughly every 5 to 8 minutes). The ones that start on Commerce have headsigns that read “Seattle / Tac Dome” because the Tacoma Dome is an intermediate stop; the ones that start at the Dome simply say “Seattle.” Going up Fourth Avenue, that’s what the signs should say unless the driver forgot to change them. They don’t change automatically. (Southbound headsigns read simply “Tacoma Dome” for trips that terminate there or “COMMERCE ST / TACOMA DOME” in all capital letters for downtown trips.)

      There are also two types of 592 trips — ones that start in DuPont and ones that start in Lakewood.

      Route 594 is the off-peak combination of the 590 and 592 routes. Since it starts in Lakewood, the signs read “Seattle / Tacoma” going northbound and “Lakewood / Tacoma” going southbound.

      Finally, the 595 reads “Seattle / Narrows” going northbound and “Gig Harbor / Narrows” going southbound.

      1. I can’t remember if it’s the 510, 511, or 545 that says “Seattle 5th Avenue”, but one of them does. And now that you mention it, I’ve seen “Tacoma 9th & Commerce” or something like that too. You’d think “Tacoma” is enough to imply downtown Tacoma (Commerce Street) where most of the transfers are, and the other routing would say “Tacoma Dome”.

      2. Until a year or two ago, routes going all the way downtown used to say “Tacoma / Tacoma Dome” instead of Commerce Street. I can tell you from years of riding the 590 that it wasn’t descriptive enough — if I had a nickel for every time someone asked the driver if the bus went to Commerce, it’d have paid for a lot of bus fare. If I was programming the sign I think I’d say “Downtown Tacoma / Tacoma Dome” because a new rider may not know if Commerce Street is in Seattle or Tacoma.

        You can tell from the “style” differences that Metro, PT, and CT each choose their own ways of identifying the destinations on ST routes.

        Pierce Transit has some pretty inconsistent ways of signing their local routes (some give destination, some give a primary street, some give a neighborhood, and a few have a combination)… many of them are the same inbound and outbound. I think only a transit geek could figure out which way Route 1 or 2 is travelling by the headsign. (Both routes have a ton of information crammed onto the signs and they just reverse them like “6th-Pacific Ave / SR 7 & 8th Ave” outbound and “SR 7 & 8th Ave / Pacific-6th Ave” inbound.)

  9. China motorizes alternative energy sector

    profit-making has been an elusive goal for alternative-energy vehicle makers such as Yixing and Foton. Survival has hinged on government procurements and subsidies.

    At “nearly three times the cost of a gas-powered bus” (I assume they mean diesel) I have a hard time seeing where this is ever going to pencil out. A hybrid in this country is only a 50% premium over a conventional bus. It’s hard to believe that the batteries cost more than the rest of the bus but evidently they do. Unless battery technology takes a quantum leap hybrid and off wire capable trolly buses seem to make a lot more sense.

  10. I thought metro was mandated to install OBS on all of their buses by the end of 2012. I have been on at least two buses that do not seem to have it. Anyone know what’s going on?

    1. Some Gilligs and 2300s will be retired fairly soon. Metro is likely not bothering to install OBS on those buses.

      The Gilligs with OBS will likely be around awhile longer; there is still no order to replace the remainder of the Orion order that was nullified when Daimler Bus USA went out of business.

  11. Love the picture! I live a few blocks north of that intersection, and this picture explains the curvature in the roadbed on 55th.
    It was fun to see what used to occupy the buildings at this corner: Mazi was a drugstore, and what was All That Dance was a small grocery store.

  12. Hydrogen-powered cars
    The future, finally

    “IT IS the fuel of the future—and always will be,” skeptics joke. And in recent years it was hard not to chuckle: fuel cells and other promising hydrogen technologies looked like they would remain little more than science-fair projects.

    But a series of alliances suggests that things are looking up for the lightest of all elements. Carmakers are increasingly worried that building battery-powered cars will not be enough to meet tough emissions and fuel-economy standards. So hydrogen is once again gaining credibility—and the R&D dollars that could finally make it a reality.


      Build The Hydrogen Economy!

      This nation needs a new energy infrastructure based on Hydrogen. Hydrogen storage and use augments the capture of green energy from solar, wind and tides. Cities can build fuel cell power plants running on hydrogen right in their densest cores. Fuel cell vehicles can travel hundreds of miles and their tailpipes leave only water vapor. Let us now allocate not thousands, but billions and billions of dollars towards jobs and technology in research, development, investment and infrastructure that complement the new commercial businesses creating product for the use, storage, and creation of Hydrogen.

      Sign and Share:

    2. Hydrogen Fuel Network In London Expands

      A fully integrated hydrogen fuel network in London has moved a step closer with the announcement of new fuel stations and the roll-out of the 700 bar delivery system required by manufacturers to existing stations.

      Clean Technica (

  13. I’ve been messing around with Farebot for awhile. It’s a cool program to amaze people with how much they have in the ePurse and their trips they’ve been on recently.

    The one thing I bring from it is, if my phone can read ORCA cards, it can sure transmit as one. I’m sure there’s a bunch of security issues to hash out and figure out how to crack down on people spoofing cards for free rides, but it would be awesome if some day, instead of purchasing an ORCA card, you download the ORCA program on your phone and start adding funds to it. All you’ll need to do is tap your phone on the bus.

  14. ORCA’s Full Transaction history is a blessing in disguise :)

    Here is why:
    I was once accused of stalking someone back in Virginia. At the same time I was doing the alleged stalking, ORCA reports that I was hopping on an Everett Transit bus (I was going from Everett Mall to Everett Station, on my way back to Pierce County).

    The father (who was trying to press charges against me) shut up real quickly, and all legal threats ceased. Thank-you ORCA :)

    1. I remember once reading a news story about someone in New York getting a murder charge dismissed because his subway card proved he was nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time it happened.

      1. How did he prove his subway card was nowhere near where he was at then time of the crime? Sounds like urban legend to me.

      2. I’m sure that the ORCA records can be used to place a specific location and an exact time. And that information can be used to check video camera footage around that ORCA usage event. The video data would be the evidence that cleared the suspect.

        Unless there was an accomplice involved who was dresssed just like the killer and was using make-up. Or a phantom doppelganger. Or an evil twin. Or a clone.

      3. For my specific case: ORCA is Registered and it’s an RRFP ORCA. I also remember getting fare-inspected that day on SWIFT on my way to Everett

Comments are closed.