Bus Stop Sunset
Bus Stop Sunset. Flikr user Jeff Youngstrom.

There’s a nice post over at Metro Future Blog detailing the community outreach work Metro has been doing in the Snoqualmie Valley, a project that seems to be going genuinely smoothly. If you’re interested in the details, you should read it, but the penultimate paragraph illustrates the tone:

Lastly, the reason we enjoy being able to discuss these projects with the public is that we get the opportunity to run ideas by our current and prospective riders and see what they think, as well as hear about suggestions that never crossed our minds. For example, we heard that our flex time in Duvall would have excluded Duvall High School. An oversight on our part and something we are grateful someone has pointed out to us. We’re now able to discuss this option along with the list of other great questions/concerns/comments you have all brought up.

While I’m sure the restructure exercise in the Valley is genuinely less stressful and more agreeable than in Seattle, there’s a little more back story here that you won’t read on the Metro blog. People on the inside tell me that the person to thank for allowing these proposals to advance through the process relatively unscathed, particularly the truncation of Route 311 (riders will be required to transfer at Redmond TC), is the King County Council member for this district, Kathy Lambert.

As I (and everyone else who’s ever watched a Metro restructure process) predicted, the elimination of the commuter one-seat-ride into downtown Seattle caused protest among those Duvall riders who use that route, even though the number of people who use it past Woodinville does not warrant continued service under Metro’s guidelines. I’m told Ms. Lambert has gone in to bat for Metro in the face of opposition from upset constituents, arguing the success and effectiveness of the overall network trumps the convenience of the small minority of people for whom the status quo happens to work very well.

As a Seattleite, it’s a little galling to see this kind of backbone brought to bear on transit matters by elected officials: on our side of the lake, we mostly seem to have bad examples of elected officials squashing, or trying to squash, changes that are called for under the guidelines and which would, in fact, benefit their constituents overall. A former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was quoted as saying:

Just remember when you’re up there making those decisions, you don’t just represent the people who have the time to spend all night at your hearing. You represent everyone, including the vast majority of people who don’t know the meeting is going on and have no time or ability to be there.

I don’t know if Ms. Lambert has even heard of Seattle Transit Blog, or gives a fig about what Seattle transit wonks think of her, but in this case, and in the more high profile drama of the $20 Congestion Reduction Charge passage, she has been a friend indeed to transit, and I thank her for it.

21 Replies to “Doing Good Work in the Snoqualmie Valley”

  1. Hey, thanks for using my photo! And thanks for the great work you do here at STB. I’m a long-time follower.

      1. I liked the photo on Metro’s blog, at least it shows the valley!

        Jeff, you’s is nice too, but that’s in Issaquah.

      2. Yeah, it’s not the best fit, but at least that is a 209 stop so there’s a connection.

  2. It’s very heartening to see the attitude Mayor Newsom voiced taking hold on the council, even if only in this specific instance. Such regional, ‘bigger than just me’ thinking is desperately needed on the council if Metro is ever going to be more than it is now.

    1. Yes, although note that San Francisco’s transit situation is very different from ours. MUNI is a city-only system with very extensive service. San Francisco itself is denser and has a wider variety of amenities/services within the city so less need to go to the burbs. All suburban bus routes are run by non-MUNI agencies with their own fares, and have few stops within the city (e.g., no equivalent to Metro/ST routes 120, 106, 358, 522). BART provides regional corridor service (downtown+neighborhoods+suburbs) where it runs.

      As mayor, Newsom is more concerned about MUNI, and BART’s city stations, than about SamTrans/AC Transit/Golden Gate Transit. His only responsibility to them is to provide good transit centers and uncongested paths out of the city. Here things are more mixed. Metro is more intermediate urban-suburban. Link is not built out enough to take on much of BART’s role. The city itself is dense islands in a sea of lower density that continues seamlessly to Burien/Skyway/Shoreline. Delridge’s supermarkets and services are in White Center. Southcenter and surrounding businesses are outside the city limits, not in SOMA. Some of Southcenter’s businesses are unique; i.e., there’s no alternative to them or all the alternatives are in even less transit-accessible locations.

      1. Well, actually, it’s more complicated even than that: Gavin Newsom famously shafted Muni during his tenure as SF Mayor. But it’s a great quote nevertheless, so I used it :-)

      2. What is BART’s role anyway? I mean… I haven’t been out along all of BART, and it looks like it does reasonable stuff in some parts of Oakland and Berkeley, but in places analogous to some of our suburban bus corridors (Daly City-San Bruno is sort of like the 358 or 120) it’s pretty much a park-and-ride shuttle with no connection to walkable anything — a commuter train they have to run all day. A 358-alike down Highway 82 would be way more useful than anything the agencies there actually run.

      3. BART serves as an all-day two-way subway between Balboa Park (SF) and Berkeley, especially for trips across the bay or two/from the Mission District. It also serves people going to Fremont and transferring to an all-day express bus to San Jose. The bus also makes an intermediate stop in Milpitas at the VTA light rail if you’re going west to Santa Clara or Mountain View. On the west side, I’ve heard that the San Mateo cities have old walkable centers around transit stations but I haven’t seen them for myself. (Because I would have to get off the train and pay another fare to get on again.) The East Bay beyond Oakland and Berkeley is sprawlsville with large P&Rs, low density, and non-walability, so there BART is more of a “going to the city” thing, but note that they can also use BART for their Oakland and Berkeley trips, not just their SF trips. Another market is airport riders and employees going to SFO and OAK. As for the routing, much of the Pittsburgh line is in a freeway median, so it must have been “cheap” to construct and followed existing development. (It initially terminated at Concord and was later extended to Pittsburgh.) And it looks like much of the Fremont segment was existing railroad tracks or at least ROW, although I’m not sure about that.

      4. That was essentially accurate, but here’s a shorter version:

        Outside of SF-Oakland-Berkeley shuttle trips, BART is a peak-hour commuter rail.

        Beyond the borders of those three cities, non-rush-hour trains attract a mere trickle of riders. It’s not uncommon to be aboard an eleven-car train with an average of two or three riders per car!

        If any of the towns between Daly City and SFO have “old walkable centers”, then BART certainly does not serve them well, as intermediate usage along that segment is near-nonexistent.

        Thanks to stop placement and lack of fare integration, BART is also rarely used for intra-SF, intra-Oakland, or intra-Berkeley mobility, though most of its all-day ridership comes from movements between those three municipalities, as Mike says.

        But your “why does this even exist” incredulousness is well-warranted, Al. Riding aboard a train that’s longer than the longest New York subway consist and wider than an RER — and is carrying all of two dozen people — is an embarrassment. Sprawled-to-the-hilt BART-served communities like Fremont (population 214,000 and not one single place you can walk to) are a crime.

        Here’s my belated comment on the Issaquah hiking express Link spur, yet more evidence that BART’s gross failures remain Sound Transit’s primary guiding model.

      5. d.p., while not ideal, Issaquah Link would be a lot more effective than the outer BART lines. There would be all-day demand to a certain extent, assuming reasonable stop placement, to both Eastgate and Issaquah. Bellevue College is a major regional destination that already has substantial transit usage and is within walking distance of where any Eastgate stop should be. Issaquah has a downtown that is walkable, growing now, and has the potential to grow much further. Only the Issaquah Highlands stop, if built, would be like outer BART stops.

      6. I’m sorry, David, but that’s such a stereotypical “Seattle is awesome and therefore immune to precedent” defense that it hurts.

        The Bellevue College campus is a model of closed-off suburban autocentrism, and students who have written on this blog before have called transit access to it culturally negligible. The school has virtually no students who arrive from across Lake Washington, and an even smaller number of students who will be commuting from East Link’s notoriously slim walkshed or transfer-shed.

        The rest of Eastgate is a pedestrian apocalypse that makes the East Bay seem idyllic by comparison.

        The three walkable blocks that exists in Issaquah today aren’t exactly creating two-way transit-demand gangbusters.

        And the New Issaquah upzone, as I already wrote in my linked comment just above, is a joke — it’s all about bigger, slightly prettier office-park development, with acres of green space between them and nothing you and I would call density. Even if thousands of jobs miraculously relocated to Issaquah, you will not see people commuting to them by train any more than you do in the East Bay. Or to this transit disaster of a “suburban employment corridor” in Denver.

        Denver Light Rail is so stupid that they actually thought direct highway parking lot to highway parking lot transit was a good idea. Needless to say, it was not. Sound Transit is looking more like Denver RTD every day.

      7. p.s. Denver is so stupid that it now intends to extend its southeastern line to here.

        Yes, seriously, here!

        And then they’re going to try running the suburb-to-suburb line again.

        Denver and Seattle seem to be peas in the same incomprehensible-idiocy-infested pod.

      8. None of the above should be taken to undermine the need for smart ex-urban service of the kind Ms. Lambert has helped to enable: service designed and operated based on a rational understanding of how the physical constraints of such areas affect the level and form of such service, as opposed to Delusional Transit like BART or Denver RTD.

      9. d.p., you said “The Bellevue College campus is a model of closed-off suburban autocentrism, and students who have written on this blog before have called transit access to it culturally negligible. The school has virtually no students who arrive from across Lake Washington, and an even smaller number of students who will be commuting from East Link’s notoriously slim walkshed or transfer-shed.”

        Now, I don’t claim to know the demographics of Bellevue College students, but I don’t expect that you know them either. However, every time I ride the 554 westbound in the afternoon and pass by the Eastgate Freeway stop, there are several young people (college aged, ya know?) who get on. Some get off at Mercer Island P&R. Probably more of them get off at Rainier Freeway station or 5th & Jackson.

      10. On the south bay, Bart barely leaves San Francisco. For travel beyond to Mountain View, Palo Alto, etc., you’re stuck with the hourly CalTrain. And if you want to get to Mountain View or Palo Alto from any part of San Francisco other than downtown, you have to go downtown first, in the wrong direction, to get a connection.

    2. Where we could really use it is in Seattle… and for that matter, on the Eastside and in Snohomish and Pierce Counties as well. And in Eastern Washington in the Legislature.

  3. “You represent everyone, including the vast majority of people who don’t know the meeting is going on and have no time or ability to be there.”

    More than that, the people who would benefit from a restructure often (A) don’t know about it, (B) don’t understand it, (C) don’t realize how it would improve their lives, (D) have written off living/working/shopping in that area because of its bad transit access, (E) haven’t moved to the region yet or aren’t born yet.

    We need to continue implementing the proven transit principles of designated frequent corridors, good connections to adjacent cities rather than a peak-to-downtown focus, good transfers throughout the region, and looking at routes from the perspective of a pedestrian making all-day work- and non-work trips.

  4. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that this is Lambert doing what’s right, rather than ignoring her constituents with little power and influence vs. Seattle-area Councilmembers listening to their constituents with singificant power and influence.

    1. That is not how the council has worked to date. Suburban members have been consistently able to override Seattle members on virtually any issue where the suburban-vs-Seattle divide is more important than the partisan divide. This is Lambert doing the right thing and other suburban members not standing in her way.

      Seattle has essentially no power on the council except where its interests align with those of the more moderate suburban members.

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