108 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: L.A. Underground”

  1. L.A. Transit Spends $5 Billion to Decrease Ridership

    The full destructiveness of the Red Line comes across when you consider that every mile of rail service MTA adds actually reduces overall transit use in L.A. County. Rail grows at the expense of the bus lines people actually use. Bus fares have been hiked twice in the last three years, and MTA last month announced another cut to bus service, eliminating 4 percent of its bus lines.

    In fact, since construction of the rail network began in 1985, L.A. County’s population has grown about 35 percent, but overall MTA ridership is lower today than it was in 1985.


    1. I’m having a hard time backing into some of the numbers in the article..in particular, the source it uses to indicate ridership is lower than 1985 was written in the spring of 2000. The last of the Red Line extension to North Hollywood opened in June 2000, and as I recall was responsible for strong ridership increases.

      Secondly, that source article uses some strange logic, saying things like:

      “During its first few years of operation, ridership hung between 11-12 million annually. In 2000, ridership is expected to be about 17 million, less than one-fifth of the reduction of bus ridership from 1985 to 1990. Five years after it has opened, the Blue Line carries 17 million annually, while 96 million bus riders were lost between FY85 and FY90. By FY 96 bus ridership was down 161 million.”

      So it is comparing a cumulative loss of bus ridership of 96 million over 5 years (96/5 = 19.2 million/year?) to one year of Blue Line ridership (17 million). If I’m reading properly a loss, but not to the scale the tone suggestions.

      Nowhere does the source article (or the reason article) seem to present a graph of ridership, by mode and in total, by year. As life would have it I tried looking on the MTA site but it looks like they have a bad link.

    2. The author is an ally of the Bus Riders Union, which has a strong anti-rail, anti-transfer, pro-milk-run bias. LA would have not needed to make such large rail investments if it hadn’t dismantled its rail network in the 40s. Likewise, if ridership declined while population increased, it probably means that transit investment declined per capita, so that transit’s extend did not keep up with the population growth. People complain about the “billion” a rail line costs and how it serves less than 5% of the population, but that just means it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the backlog of transit needs that have accumulated, so it’s no wonder that it on its own has a small impact. You also have to look at trip quality. The Red Line is more frequent and faster than the buses it replaced. The other lines have brought this to several different parts of the metropolitan area, which is by no means everywhere but it’s a step in the right direction.

      1. Route 1 (Hollywood Blvd – Sunset – downtown) was deleted. The subway provides so much more and better service it’s laughable to compare them. The 1 took an hour, and its frequency was good by bus standards but not by subway standards. So the 1 could in no way compete with a car; it was something you had to suffer with if you didn’t have a car. The subway offers some compelling unique advantages, so it can compete with cars. That’s the kind of transit we need more of.

        I’m not sure about the Blue and Gold lines. When I was there after the beginning of the rail lines but before the rapid bus routes, the Hollywood-Pasadena bus was gone but the Long Beach Blvd bus remained. Now both those areas are reorganized again. The Green Line was built as a concession to get I-105 approved, so it’s more of a political line than connecting major centers.

      2. The author isn’t an ally of the BRU, he ridicules them and calls them communists. About all they have in common is that they have a modal fetish against trains… he because he hates government spending and thinks capital spending on rail is inefficient, they because they think rail projects redistribute transit funding up the income ladder.

        The BRU perceives that the rich and poor use transit in different ways and to go different places, that rail investments cater to the trips and travel preferences of the rich, and that even if that isn’t true they’ll cause gentrification, displacing the poor (often to places with little or no transit service at all, often to places with no money for or no interest in funding social programs at all). The author wouldn’t care about that (in fact many people of his political stripes applaud gentrification and transportation projects targeting the rich) if he thought the train was efficient.

    3. In other words, John, the huge cost of Sounder may actually be reducing overall transit ridership in Kent. Is that what you’re suggesting?

    1. I hear the Boeing Plant in Everett produces its own weather as well. They better get moving on legislation to ban large manufacturing facilities, as well.

    2. Because all the skyscrapers in downtown Seattle have changed weather in Seattle for the past 40 years, right?

  2. Two things:

    1) Just how bad is the Bellevue station decision in the big scheme of things? Is this going to end up a crippling blow at some point or just going to be an mid-level annoyance for people that are going to use the station in the future?

    2) Was there really anything we realistically could have done to stop this or were these decisions more or less baked in because of the Bellevue councils make-up? As someone not in their constituencies I felt llike it was pretty much totally out of my hands.

    1. Both great questions for someone else to tackle. For me, I’m disappointed by the outcome at BTC, really discouraged about overall transit usage when the current system finally comes on-line in 2023 (the BART II syndrome), and exhausted from watching our bus systems be systematically dismantled across the region while we forge ahead with mega projects designed on the bathroom walls in Olympia.

    2. Again, the placement of Bellevue Station is just fine. It’s at the BTC and at the edge of downtown Bellevue. Just because some transit bloggers say there’s something wrong with where it will be, doesn’t make it so. If this were the catastrophe and mistake some are making it out to be, wouldn’t we be hearing about it on the local television news, newspapers, and the like? Wouldn’t there be a great public outcry throughout the region? “OMG, what is ST and Bellevue thinking placing the light rail station in the middle of nowhere??” But there isn’t any outcry over this supposedly poor station location. Why? Because it’s not a poor location. Otherwise we’d be hearing about it from sources other than just transit blogs. This is a case of a few train nerds nitpicking. The station is in line, and even exceeds in many cases, the locations of other train stations in relation to a city’s core and bus station.

      1. @Sam While I really do appreciate your reply and your input to my question what other news outlets are we supposed to be depending on? The Seattle Times has very little credibility on most issues and bad decisions get snuck through local government all the time precisely because of situations where the immediate pain is felt by some influential/vocal minority even when it goes against the long term interests of the region at large.

        This may be an overreaction like you said but when your choice is a blog vs. silent institutions with suspect interests which would you choose?

        P.S. “Nerd” isn’t quite the pejorative it once was. When you call the side opposing you “nerds” you’re basically calling the other side smart and yourself…not. It would probably be worth using a different insult in future discussions or maybe none at all.

    3. The 110th underground station would have had entrances at the equivalent of 110th and 5th and 110th and 3rd while the 6th Station has entrances at the equivalent of NE 6th and 110th.5 and 112th. While this would ordinarily reduce the walkshed of the station at the southern end, due to the placement of the East Main Station at 112th and SE 1st, everyone who would have been covered by the 3rd and 110th station is covered by East Main. While the 112th and NE 6th entrance does not add much walkshed (most of its 5 minute radius is covered by I-405 or would be better served by the 110th.5 and NE 6th entrance) it does open up some development opportunities for an expansion of the Meydenbauer Center and development on the Metro site.

      Depending on future development on 110th and NE 6th it will not necessarily be bad. If it was there right now, it would be a minor annoyance…but so would be going underground and walking down 110th to NE 5th.

      1. You are looking at an older version of the 110th station.

        The “optimized” 110th station that was actually on the table this week — the middle diagram on the first page of this link — had an entrance right on the corner of NE 6th, and on the west side of the street, for direct access to the primary east-west pedestrian spine of the city.

        It also had a shallower, refreshingly mezzanine-free design. It might have been the best subway stop in the entire Link system.

    4. Spoons, there are commenters here with the word nerd in their name, there are bloggers here who have called other bloggers nerd, and bloggers who call themselves nerd, so I have no problem calling someone what they call themselves. And I use the word to mean someone who is overly obsessed.

    5. It sounds like the vast majority of transit enthusiasts around here are strongly opposed to and disappointed by the NE 6th Station placement, but I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal. It’s still within a quarter-mile (or less than five minute walk) of many if not most of the major Downtown Bellevue office buildings, and I expect the center of downtown to shift closer to the station as all the vacant sites within a block or two of the station get developed with office and residential towers. Also, they’re planning a NE 6th overpass over the 405, which will bring several large lots on the east side of the freeway within a quarter-mile of the station. Major development there combined with treatments to make the freeway crossing a little more pleasant than usual could result in a lot of riders coming from all directions to the station.

      1. Of course the location of the station will influence development patterns. That would happen with any station location. The potential for this location is absolutely limited by the freeway. There’s a limit to how pleasant a walk can be when there are so many cars speeding around, and I don’t think Bellevue has any plans to reduce car capacity or speeds around its downtown. And the freeway crossings are inherently lousy; in downtown Bellevue any place you walk across 405 you go at least a quarter-mile without any destinations whatsoever. Even if your destination is between 112th and 116th you can’t access it from the bridge.

        The station will still be important and useful for lots of people. But in a city that still gives drivers every advantage, every little advantage for transit matters, and a location where much walkshed isn’t wasted on the massive freeway and its ridiculous interchanges doesn’t help. Imagine if the station on 45th in the U District was to be built at 9th rather than Brooklyn. Just a few blocks, but a few blocks that matter.

        I mean… you’re saying the saving grace of this location will be new development adjacent to a freeway. That doesn’t inspire much hope. Neither does the fact that there’s a cloverleaf ramp, the worst possible waste of urban space (it even sucks for the cars), within a quarter-mile of the platform.

      2. And it’s still a waste of $200 million to dig a tunnel that detracts from system performance instead of using it to optimize the BTC station location. I guess if you don’t think it’s that big a deal you’re in line with the thinking of the City Council and the ST board… Hey, it’s only money and we can always raise taxes right?

      3. I think Al Dimond is right on here. The big reason other than the station not being closer to existing development downtown is the proximity of the station to the freeway. I-405 takes up so much prime real estate right next to the proposed 6th station and I can’t imagine Bellevue ever skinnying down the freeway. So there really isn’t an opportunity for development on the freeway land which really reduces the long-term impact that a subway station would have on an area; there’s simply way less area for the station to service.

      4. What Al said, but I doubt even the scant silver linings he offers.

        Ridership predictions anticipate post-East Link modeshare as remaining essentially negligible — and those prediction were with a station in the tunnel.

        Downtown Bellevue’s center of gravity won’t shift one millimeter. The train simply won’t be important enough to such an effect.

      5. Ak Dimond:

        “…the freeway crossings are inherently lousy; in downtown Bellevue any place you walk across 405 you go at least a quarter-mile without any destinations whatsoever. Even if your destination is between 112th and 116th you can’t access it from the bridge.”

        This is true of the crossings at NE 4th, NE 8th and NE 12th, but not Main Street and NE 10th. From NE 10th, you can access an entrance to Overlake Hospital. On Main Street, there is access to 114th NE on the west, and an access to the Lexus dealership on the east. Maybe you could be pedantic and say that those acceses are not “from the bridge”.

      6. Your caveat is what’s pedantic. The existence of a single driveway and a minor spur street do not change the effect Al describes: a very long walk over open freeway and by nothing of importance.

    6. Matthew, you said, “So there really isn’t an opportunity for development on the freeway …” The Convention Center was built over I-5. Why don’t you think anything can be built over 405?

      1. Added design and construction costs to build anything over a functioning 320 foot section of active freeway would cost dramatically more than $33 million in tunnel savings for Bellevue. Add that you cannot close the freeway during construction, which is normal practice in heavy civil contracts, you are making it so expensive to build over the freeway that there is no way a private developer in their right mind would assume that much risk to build over the freeway, much less a contractor. And that’s assuming you could ever even pencil it out financially on paper, and get all the permits and governmental agreements (city, state, and federal in the I-405 case).

        We only do high risk/ high cost on public projects it seems, like the Convention Center, where permits and environmental reviews can be fast-tracked and cost overruns aren’t an issue.

      2. The highway department would also never approve of such a scheme because it would make widening the highway in the future prohibitively expensive.

  3. Color me jealous. “Metro never sends out a train that isn’t completely clean” Sigh. If only CTA were that ambitious.

      1. Correct but the basic budget is about to pass.

        The Tri-County Connectors made it, whew.

  4. Unlike most transit agencies that go to great lengths to make their low-income rider assistance programs invisible, LA Metro has a dedicated website for its “Rider Relief” program.

    Qualification is based on federal income guidelines (just as King County Metro is contemplating doing here), which makes the program sensitive to family size.

    The subsidy coupons distributed by the agencies are used for discounts on day, week, or month passes.

    A couple smaller systems accept the coupons for loading e-purse, but LA Metro insists they be used for passes.

    As I’ve pointed out before, having the low-income subsidy program on passes only, on regular ORCA cards, makes the debate moot over whether to accept a branded low-income card as a flash card to pay a reduced fare with cash. It also avoids the pitfall of having other agencies within the ORCA pod not honor the discount.

    One of the issues with my suggestion of switching from giving out ticket vouchers here to giving out pass discount coupons is the fact that our passes are set to calendar months. People entering the low-income pass subsidy program for the first time might have to keep paying full fare until the beginning of the next month. This doesn’t bother me if the program involves giving the recipient coupons for multiple consecutive months, with unique info on the tickets that prevents resale, or better yet, entering the recipient into the database that Metro pass sales specialists can pull up when the person shows up to buy their pass for the next month.

    However, if this program is also to work for no-income clientele, the recipient will need a bridge to the next month, preferably not in the form of individual ticket vouchers. The most direct method I can think of is to give the pass sales office the ability to electronically distribute passes for the remainder of the month even after the middle of the month.

    1. Thanks for all your thinking and reporting on the progress of the low-income program.

      I can’t wait for this to come to fruition, and to end once and for all Metro’s reliance on fundamentally unjust across-the-board fare increases in the face of ample evidence that cash payment is disproportionately wasteful and that transfer abuse/fare underpayment are rampant among those who can duly afford the current full fare.

      1. I’ve sat in on a couple meetings as an audience member – a lot of discussion on what the threshold for qualifying for the low-income fare should be and how it would be verified without greatly increasing administrative cost. The consensus seems to be 200% of the FPL, using a food stamp eligibility letter as verification. But nothing’s been decided on yet.

    1. Hopefully, that safety vampire was fired. The video was made in 1992. LA Metro’s safety record since then is not something I would want on my resume. See my comments several spots down.

    1. Remember, this is LA here, so the audience is people who have never ridden public transit in their life. There are a lot of people who assume that driving is safe because it’s what they’re used to and transit is dangerous, because it isn’t.

      1. The record does not fully back up your assertion that transit is safe in LA. Granted, the vast majority of deaths have been people not paying attention to trains, but riders account for some of those deaths, too.

      2. There are car accidents in LA to, but getting mugged in a subway station works people’s emotions a lot more than getting rammed hard from behind while stopping at a traffic light.

  5. You guys hear about this:

    Pierce Transit’s union for drivers, mechanics and other workers will take a no-confidence vote in Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith.

    Leaders on both sides say the May 10 vote comes at a time when employees are worried about losing their jobs.

    A proposal to reduce the agency’s workforce by 92 positions — nearly 11 percent of 866 budgeted jobs — will go to Pierce Transit’s board three days after the vote. The cuts would take effect by the end of September, when Pierce Transit plans to reduce bus and shuttle service hours by 28 percent.

    The union charges that Pierce Transit has too many managers, spends too much money on law enforcement officers from outside the agency, and hires too many people not essential to transportation.

    Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/04/28/2576078/pierce-transit-union-plans-no.html#storylink=cpy


  6. Looks like Obama is nominating Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to replace Ray Lahood as Secretary of Transportation: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/04/28/4009485/obama-will-name-charlotte-mayor.html. I think this is great news – Foxx is the mayor of a major city and has fought hard for streetcar and light rail expansion in Charlotte over his term. Hopefully having him as head of the DOT will further shift federal transportation spending away from highways and towards urban public transportation.

  7. Bruce’s recent post on the 5 got me thinking about North Seattle bus routing in general.

    Suppose that you were designing a bus network from scratch, with an explicit goal of optimizing routes for speed. What would be the most effective way to serve Wallingford and points north?

    As a thought experiment, imagine the following changes:

    Route 16: At 45th, continues north along Stone Way, continuing onto Green Lake Way, and circling the lake until reaching Wallingford Ave on the north side.

    Route 26/71: Follow the 26’s route from downtown to 40th/Wallingford. Instead of turning, continue north to 45th. From there, follow the routing of today’s 16 to 56th/Keystone. Instead of turning onto Kirkwood, continue on 56th to Latona. Head north on Latona to 65th, then head east to follow the 71’s route.

    Both of these routes would run every 15 minutes. For the 16, this frequency would come from running a faster route. For the 26/71, it would come from the combined headways of both routes.

    The changes would clearly benefit anyone who lives within the walkshed of the new 16, as well as anybody who rides the 16 from points north, and would thus have a much more direct route through North Seattle. It also benefits people travelling to and from the Green Lake commercial district, which (for whatever reason) seems to be concentrated right along the lake.

    For riders in central Wallingford, the 26 would provide coverage along a stretch of Wallingford Ave that currently has no service. That fills a major hole in the network. Also, while the deviation through Tangletown is slow, it can’t possibly be slower than the one-lane sections of Latona and Thackeray south of 45th.

    Ravenna benefits from a direct connection to the Roosevelt business district and eventual light rail station. It suffers because the default route to downtown would no longer be an express. But the 76 would still provide express service. So the only loss would be during the hours when the 71X is running and the 76 is not — and even then, the doubled frequency would make up the difference.

    Between the two changes, I don’t think there would be any meaningful loss of coverage. At the absolute worst, someone who lived at Corliss and 59th would have to walk a couple of extra blocks to the bus.


    1. The 26/71 was hinted at on Metro’s preliminary leaked deletion list in 2011. And last year Metro proposed a 26/30 route. But both of these were more to avoid deleting buses from Latona than to make a frequent route.

      Clearly something will have to be done with the 71’s tail when North Link comes online or if the route 80 idea gains momentum (to combine the 66/67/71/72/73X). The 71 could be connected to the 26, 48N, or a new route to NW 65th. Likewise, there are several things that can be done with the 26.

      I don’t know the 45th-to-65th area well enough to have a definite opinion on your proposal, but the fact that it preserves a frequent downtown-Wallingford route is a strong point. Consolidating Kirkwood and Latona has merit, especially if it can become full-time frequent. Although I can already hear opposition from people on Latona. Turning the 16 into a quasi-express to Greenlake is also appealing, since it would do something about the slowness of north-south service there. I can see objections that 50th & Stone Way is not dense enough to justify a frequent bus. I also think you’d have to add some service hours to get both routes up to 15-minutes. In that aspect I’d say there are higher priorities around town for the hours, such as the 5.

      1. To me, the biggest merit in combining the 71 and 26 is simply extending the 71 west to Roosevelt. The lack of that connection is already a problem, and it’ll be even more acute once North Link opens. Once you’ve done that, you either head down Roosevelt — duplicating other service, and skipping useful connections at the freeway stop — or you keep going to Latona, and provide a unique connection through Wallingford.

        While connecting the 71 and 48N is geographically appealing, the TMP clearly found that the demand for such a route doesn’t compare to the demand for the existing 48N. So connecting them would either underserve the west, or overserve the east.

        Bruce’s chart makes it pretty clear that the stops on Latona see virtually no use — much less than the Tangletown stops. I’m sure you’re right that someone would complain, but I’d hope that the availability of alternate service (in the form of the 44, 31, 32, and freeway stop) would keep the complaints to a minimum.

        I really do think that Green Lake Way is a perfect street for buses. Nice and fast, no 4-way intersections, abundant signal priority, and it’s also the heart of the Green Lake business district. The current routing technically has a greater residential walkshed, but the park itself and the restaurants along the water are huge demand generators; I think it makes a lot of sense to serve them directly.

        As for 50th and Stone Way, it’s home to one of the best Dim Sum restaurants north of the Ship Canal. I think that deserves a bus stop for sure ;-)

      2. They did complain. I was at two of the hearings on the CRC, and a group of people testified about how losing bus service on Latona would be a hardship, how there were poor people who couldn’t walk far, etc. As I said I don’t know the area well enough to say how much of a hardship it would be to walk to the 16.

    2. Would you run more 73-turnbacks to replace the 71 trips that now operate between the U. District and downtown? If so, how would this save money?

      1. In the fantasy world where I dictate all of Metro’s service, the 80X provides all-day service between downtown and Northgate, via the I-5 express lanes and/or Eastlake, and then the 66/67 route north of Campus Parkway. That change would save money in a lot of ways, but mostly because it’s much easier to efficiently schedule a single route at 10-minute frequency than to schedule 3 half-hourly routes with 5 terminals.

      2. I would very much support making all the downtown-U-district buses uses Roosevelt, rather than University Way. Even though I would personally have to walk a little further to reach them, I already sometimes find myself walking past the Ave. to take buses like the 66 or 510/511/512, even though they only run every 30 minutes while the buses down the Ave. run every 10-15.

        Politically, however, I see any proposal to do this as dead on arrival – even if the 17% cuts force the issue, I believe Metro would cut frequency and span on all routes before seriously contemplating this.

        Why? Because almost nobody is going to go through the trouble to attend meetings and scream about how the bus down the Ave. is too slow. But business owners on the Ave. will scream and scream loud that a switch to Roosevelt will take their customers away. And the UW will also pitch a fit that with all the money they pour into the Metro system by buying U-passes for all their students, they damn well deserve front-door service. This is what happens when bus routes get determined by a political institution.

      3. asdf, there’s no reason that an 80X has to use Roosevelt. If all the passengers are on the Ave, that’s where the bus will go. Regardless of what street it uses in the U-District, the important part is that it goes west from 65th/15th to Roosevelt Station, then north to Northgate along the 66/67 route.

      4. It’s pretty certain the bus would be on University Way because that’s where the overwhelming majority of riders are, as well as the urban village, the university, and the greatly expanded dorms. It would be so unlike Metro to move the bus a few blocks away (when it can’t manage to take a bus off Latona). Especially since it would come back to University Way in a few years with North Link, which is really what Metro wants to promote and prepare for.

    3. If we’re going to design Wallingford-area bus routes from scratch, let’s be a bit more ambitious.

      I like your 16 idea but I would run it up Dexter, across the Fremont Bridge, right at N 34th, and then up Stone to Green Lake and to Northgate from there.

      I like your 26 idea but I would run it along the full 16 route from N 45th and up, then terminating at Green Lake Way and Ravenna as the 26 does now.

      I would then have another bus that serves the 26’s current routing all the way up Latona/Thackeray to the Green Lake Way/Ravenna terminus.

      I would add a Ballard to U-District route that follows the current 40 route from central Ballard (Market and 24th) to Fremont, eastward along N 34th and Pacific, left at 15th and terminating at UW.

      Then I would add a route from Ballard to Ravenna or perhaps even out to Sand Point via 65th.

      That way there would be two new east-west corridors served and three overall north-south routes in the Green Lake-Tangletown-Wallingford areas. Lots of coverage and transit becomes a good option for people to not only commute but get to business districts, schools, and other local destinations.

      1. I should be clear — I’m talking about ways to improve service in a budget-neutral way, or even by saving money. Given infinite money, sure, let’s blanket the city with routes. But realistically, we can barely afford to keep the routes we have now.

        I have no objection with moving the 16 to Dexter (or Westlake, for that matter). South of the Ship Canal, Aurora is a highway; it’s overserved by the 358 alone. Express service would still use Aurora, of course, but for local service, I agree that the Fremont connection and Dexter/SLU connectivity are more important.

        I don’t agree with your suggestion of running a parallel bus on Kirkwood/Woodlawn. We’re talking about stops that serve very few riders, on narrow streets, that are 1 block away from much faster service. Even if we had infinite service hours, I think they would be better spent on extra frequency along Green Lake Way, rather than duplicate slow service one street over.

        I also don’t think there’s any merit to the 26’s current routing. South of 50th, Latona/Thackeray are narrow streets that are hardly suitable for cars, let alone for 40-foot or 60-foot buses. Anyway, Bruce’s numbers showed that these stops serve virtually no riders. For better or worse, Wallingford just doesn’t have that many arterial streets. But by running along Wallingford/Meridian to Tangletown, and then Latona north, you serve all of the stops which actually have passengers, and do so while spending the least possible amount of time on narrow, meandering side streets.

        I think both of your crosstown routes would be great, if we had the money. Sadly, I doubt they’ll happen any time soon. One of them was called the 46, and no one rode it (mostly because it had so few trips); it’ll be a long time before Metro is willing to try again. As far as a 65th route, it would require a stretch of over 2 miles of road to be reclassified as a transit priority street, including over half a mile of “collector arterial”. In contrast, for my proposed 16 and 26 routes, the only streets that would need to be reclassified are a short portion of Green Lake Way (which is already a “minor arterial” — same as Greenwood, Dexter, and 24th Ave NW), and the few blocks of 56th between Keystone and Latona. I think that’s much more realistic.

      2. I think a crosstown route on 65th St would be great. Currently there’s no east-west service in northwest Seattle between Market Street (route 44) and 85th St (route 48). This is a distance of 1.5-2 miles. By contrast, the north-south routes in that region are spaced 1/2 mile apart, and most (except for possibly the 61) have plenty of ridership to support this spacing. 65th Street is the only even minor arterial between Market and 80th, so it would be the best option for an added east-west line.

        Unfortunately the street isn’t really set up well for buses, especially the three-block stretch between Greenwood Ave and Dayton Ave (street view). These blocks are just wide enough for two narrow vehicle lanes and a sidewalk on only one side of the street. The street jogs north a bit as it crosses Phinney in the middle of this stretch, which may not be an easy maneuver for a bus to make given the lane widths involved.

        The city would probably have to buy out a few neighboring property owners if they wanted to have any hope of expanding this street to handle bus traffic. Normally I’m not a fan of road widening projects, but it just might be warranted here if and when the budget allows for it.

    4. At least for 2016-2021, what Ravenna desperately needs, at least for travel to and from downtown is a shuttle that connects to the Husky Link station. Preferably a shuttle that takes a reasonably direct route, meaning no 20-minute deviation to go up and down the Ave. along the way.

      1. I think it would be great to have a route along Montlake/25th. But even today, Roosevelt is an urban village and a notable transit hub, and it’s ridiculous that the Ravenna bus turns away 4 blocks too soon.

    5. The old 6 used to run up Stone then around the west side of Green Lake and then back on to Aurora while the 16 used to go east on 40th to Wallingford and then up Wallingford to continue the route which I believe was pretty similar to the current route. The 16 used to be a shuttle in the evenings – you’d have to take the 6 to 40th and Stone and change to the shuttle. So there is a legacy of local service on Stone north of 45th on on Wallingford between 40th and 45th. There’s also a legacy of both of those arterial segments losing service in the name of increased efficiency and/or coverage so you’d likely have an uphill battle restoring service.

      A couple of comments on your ideas.
      – I’m not a fan of transit on Green Lake Way – I think it’s a lot more effective in terms of building ridership to have residential/commercial areas on both sides of the street.
      – If the 16 is the route that connects Wallingford to Northgate I think it would be better to have it continue to serve the center of the neighborhood. I’m a frequent rider and the number of folks getting on headed north at 45th and Wallingford with shopping bags is pretty impressive. If something seems to be working I’d be hesitant to screw it up.
      – If you’re shifting the 26 westward you’re potentially leaving a large number of people int the southeastern quadrant of Wallingford without one-seat service to Downtown. It’s about .5 mile from I-5 to the stop at 40th and Wallingford.
      – The 26 connection to the 71 potentially makes sense after the Roosevelt light rail station opens. I’m wondering if the 26 would still be around at that time or if it would just terminate at the U District station?

      1. In general, I agree with you about not running service along the water, since it cuts off half of the walkshed. In this particular case, I think there are three mitigating factors. The first is that the lake itself is a destination for many people. The second (kind of a consequence of the first) is that the highest commercial density and many of the new residential buildings are right along the water, probably because people want lake views and access. And the third is that there just aren’t really any good arterial routes between Green Lake Way and I-5, so using any other street effectively condemns the bus to be permanently slow.

        Bruce’s ridership charts suggest that the stops along Latona/Thackeray south of 45th are pretty much unused. The only real loss seems to be Latona/45th itself — which just so happens to be 2 blocks from the freeway stops, providing a much faster ride to downtown. It’s a flaw, but I don’t think it’s a fatal one.

      2. I believe routing through the center of the Green Lake commercial district is faster (less pedestrian conflict and you miss the giant 5 way intersection with Ravenna Blvd) and if you’ve been up there lately you’re seeing condo/apartment developments on both sides. The greatest increase in density currently under construction is east of Woodlawn on the old Vitamilk site.

        “Pretty much unused” is not an accurate term for the stops along Latona and Thackeray. Less used than other stops might be ok but there is traffic on those stops – particularly on the 26X.

        There are also a few problems with the freeway stops – first is reliability (those buses are not on OBA and can get stuck in traffic) and the second is level of service. The 510 and 511 don’t provide service during peak hours to the freeway stops.

      3. During the peak hours, the I-5/45th St. is served by other routes, such as the 301 and 304.

        Off-peak, the 510 and 511 will soon be replaced by the 512, which will run every 15 minutes most of the day Monday-Saturday and every 30 minutes during the evenings.

        Once the ST restructuring happens this fall, walking to the 512 will become a much more attractive option than it is today.

        As to OneBusAway, yes, the 510, 511, and 512 don’t have it, but we do have a very good substitute – the WSDOT traffic report. I have found through experience that if WSDOT says I-5 south is moving smoothly, the 510/511/512 southbound are very reliable.

    6. Aleks, your proposed 16 and 26 are too duplicative. They run very close together and both serve roughly the same parts of Wallingford. If it were up to me, I’d have just one Wallingford-downtown route (the 16), but I’d route it through the center of the neighborhood and make it more frequent and much more reliable. From the south:

      – Keep it on Aurora (and without the Seattle Center deviation). Just as with the 5, using Dexter would slow it down too much… and, unlike the 5, wouldn’t even give users the benefit of a straight N/S corridor. We already have a connection from Fremont to a significant part of Wallingford on the 31/32.
      – Use 40th to Wallingford, rather than Stone Way. This puts almost all of south Wallingford within five blocks of the 16; preserves the key 45th/Wallingford stop; and reduces the number of blocks the bus has to travel on 45th. Only a very small number of residents (few of whom ride the bus anyway) would be far from a downtown bus line, and they would have frequent non-downtown lines on the 31/32 and the 44.
      – Between 45th and 65th, use Meridian -> 56th -> Latona. This keeps the bus on streets that are safe for buses; extends service to essentially all of the former 16 and 26 walksheds; and speeds up service.
      – At the north end of the route, use 92nd to get to NTC. This will vastly improve reliability on southbound trips.

      As others have pointed out, the geography of Wallingford and East Green Lake is so weird that finding a truly legible transit corridor is pretty much impossible. But the one I’ve outlined is simpler, faster, and far more reliable than either of the two that serve the area today, while having a bigger walkshed than either. It could be run at 15-minute intervals with the number of hours of the current 16 alone. Hours from the previous 26 could be used to help create a new crosstown 65th route and to continue improving the 44, which is getting steadily better but could still use more night and weekend service as well as a 44/43 split on Sunday.

      1. As a general rule, I think that lower Aurora is a pseudo-freeway with pretty much zero local demand, and I hate that we have any local service on that street (aside from the 358 itself). Bruce’s data suggests that Dexter is 5-7 minutes slower than Aurora northbound, and 2-4 minutes slower southbound. Modulo the current construction, Westlake is generally faster than Dexter, which means that Westlake is probably about 2-4 minutes slower than Aurora northbound and about the same speed southbound. Plus, it provides much more connectivity. That’s why my preference is to run as much service on Westlake as possible. But we don’t need to rehash this debate — I know we disagree, and probably will continue to do so until the end of time. :)

        I think that you and Kevin both make a good point that it makes sense to have one local route which goes through the heart of Wallingford and ends up at Northgate. However, I still think there’s a question of what to do with the 71. Ravenna still lacks any useful crosstown connectivity. However, in the years before Roosevelt Station opens, taking away the main route between Ravenna and downtown seems like a mistake as well. By sending the 71 west to the lake, then south along Green Lake Way to downtown, you end up with a route that is useful for both crosstown and downtown travel. The fact that you also provide a semi-express for Wallingford residents is just icing on the cake.

      2. “lower Aurora is a pseudo-freeway with pretty much zero local demand”

        Meaning it’s a great way to get from north Seattle to downtown quickly. A lot of people do want to do this, and don’t want to stop at every house and stoplight along the way. That’s why the 358 and 16 are better service than the 26 or 28, unless you’re going to Fremont or are one of the very few people going to Dexter. But the 16 gets so bogged down in other places that it makes some people not want to live in east Wallingford or Greenlake, and to try to live closer to the 358 or 71/72/73 or D instead. That indicates that there’s a genuine market for faster north-south service in this area.

      3. Meaning it’s a great way to get from north Seattle to downtown quickly.

        While I don’t disagree with you, I have to observe that Metro made the opposite decision with RapidRide D, choosing to deviate (expensively) through Lower Queen Anne, rather than following the fast route to downtown.

        Using Westlake rather than Aurora strikes me as a similar tradeoff of coverage for speed. In this case, “coverage” means a direct connection to Fremont and to the heart of South Lake Union.

        The ridership on RRD (formerly 15/18) far exceeds the ridership on the 16, so the number of people inconvenienced by the former’s deviation far exceeds the number of people inconvenienced by the latter.

        Also, the RRD deviation involves several difficult turns and intersections, of which the worst is unquestionably the turn from Elliott to W Mercer Pl going southbound. I don’t know how you could make that fast without a major traffic revision to that intersection.

        In contrast, I don’t think Westlake is structurally slow. The routing to downtown is just as straight as the Aurora routing. If you had dedicated bus lanes on Westlake, and a new Ship Canal crossing, I think a Westlake routing could be just as fast as an Aurora one — but with a heck of a lot of extra connectivity.

        Basically, my belief is this. All things equal, the best frequent arterial (as opposed to express) routes are ones that run on dense but high-grade urban streets, and as straight as possible. On the whole, a network composed of these routes will be faster, and easier to understand, than a network composed of routes that are half express and half neighborhood circulators. I’d prefer to identify those good streets/routes, and make them faster, rather than running local buses on streets which are only fast because they’re basically freeways.

      4. A Westlake routing will never, ever be as fast as an Aurora one. Aurora has a 40 mph speed limit and no signals. Westlake has a 30 mph limit and lots of signals, which can be partly, but only partly, managed by TSP.

        You’ll notice that a lot of people here disagree with the RR D deviation as well. I would support un-deviating RR D if we could get a restructuring/rationalization of Queen Anne service so that the very heavily used LQA/Downtown trip had at least a bus every ten minutes at all times except late nights.

        Sometimes the desire for connecting local corridors, as noble as it is, doesn’t match reality. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of trips from the northern neighborhoods served by routes like the 5, 16, and RR D are to and from downtown. Speeding up those trips will benefit more riders, in the real world, than adding a SLU/LQA connection that subjects the bus to slower speeds and 5+ additional traffic signals, one of which is at Mercer Street.

  8. Funny you talk about connections between Wallingford and Ravenna because today, I actually made this trip:


    Since I had the time, I walked it all the way (contrary to what Google says, it actually took 1 hour even, not 1 hour 22 minutes). With the current network, making this trip by bus would have involved a connection between two not-super-reliable half-hourly routes. The time savings over walking would have been minimal, and within the range that could have easily been achieved by simply jogging stretches of the route.

    On the other hand, with Alex’s proposed 71->26 route, the transit version of this trip would suddenly become a lot quicker and a lot easier.

  9. Question for anyone who knows more about the Seattle DOT than I do.

    I was surprised to find out that the following streets are classified as transit priority streets (albeit minor ones):

    – Stone Way between 46th and 50th
    – Green Lake Way between 46th and 65th (West)
    – Wallingford Ave between 40th and 45th
    – 50th between Green Lake Way and 22nd NE
    – Fremont Ave between 43rd and 46th
    – 45th St between Aurora and Stone Way (the tiny segment, after the arterial turns into 46th)
    – Pike St between Bellevue and 15th

    As far as I know, no buses run on these streets, nor have they for a long time, if ever. So why are they classified this way?

    I’m sure there are other mysteries, but they don’t immediately jump out at me.

    1. The 16 used to run on Wallingford between 40th and 45th and the 6 used to run on Stone between 46th and 50th and on Green Lake Way to 65th. (around the S side of the lake). I’m not sure but I think one of the 44 express services (45 or 46?) used 50th at one point.

    2. A long time ago there used to be a trolley turnback that used that little stub of 45th between Aurora and Stone. They used to short-turn 43’s there to head back towards the U District.

      1. It wasn’t the 43 that turned back at that location, it was the 30 LAURELHURST which left that terminal and headed to the U District on 45th St and then looped through Laurelhurst and headed back to Wallingford. That route was then extended to Fremont Ave, down the hill into the Center of the Universe and across the bridge to SPU (which explains the designation of Fremont Ave/43rd to 46th).

      2. Hmm, you’re right about the 30 now that I think about it. But I could swear there was wire on that turnback, too.

    3. Also, the 11 used to go all the way up Pike to Madison. I didn’t realize it didn’t still until you mentioned it.

      Kevin is right about an old express bus using 50th. It was the original 46, I believe.

  10. Some of you may recall the $17 million award to the family of a blind man who tried to board in the gap between the trains, and got ran over by the Blue Line. Metro then had to install barriers (chains) between traincars.

    Does ST have anything similar? I didn’t see anything like that.

    This case may also be why the conductor has to look back out the window to see that nobody else is boarding or trying to get back on the platform.

    1. Later that year, a man was fatally stabbed on the Red Line. The vulture lawyers started circling.

      The riders tried to to use their cell phones to call for help, unsuccessfully of course. Nobody knew to hit the emergency intercom button. This is another lesson for which I’m afraid ST did not get the memo.

    2. If you think these were freaky accidents, the Blue Line had already chalked up 103 deaths by earlier that year.

      And you wonder why the LA Subway has a safety image problem.

      I was at Stadium Station after the game today. People were readily running across the tracks while the lights were flashing and the chimes were ringing. There was no security person there. There are no crossing arms to block the pedestrians. We’ve been relatively lucky so far, but a small capital investment could save a few lives, and keep millions of dollars in transit service and out of the hands of the vulture lawyers.

      1. Part of the problem is that American safety overseers seem to think the best policy is to wrap the safety buffers in safety buffers, roll them powdered safety buffer, and then tie a nice safety-buffer bow around them.

        Unfortunately, that tends to backfire.

        When you’re used to seeing the lights start flashing and the bells start ringing before the train has even come to a stop at the prior station, whose platform is superfluously 360 feet from the intersection, and where it will sit for a dwell time made artificially long by yet more “safety” concerns, and where obeying the bells and lights will likely cause you to miss the train in the other direction that tends to arrive while the first train is still dwelling, eventually you give up on the systemic warnings and start trusting your own wits instead.

        If you don’t get too complacent, and you always pay attention, this will work out for you. But if you end up on autopilot just once, and don’t see the train coming in the other direction…

        Intercity rail operators have come to understand this phenomenon, and the gates at automobile crossings no longer come down far in advance, lest the thumb-twiddling drivers start to get any bright ideas about driving around.

        But L.A. Metro is clearly slow to get the message. And Sound Transit — the agency that has human guards at its tunnel portals yet still has the train crawling in at 3 mph; the agency that makes its driver block the tunnel while he walks around the empty train (an unprecedented practice); the agency that thinks 3 minutes is a worldwide minimum headway; the agency with the platforms inconveniently placed for unspecified “safety” reasons — clearly hasn’t gotten the memo either.

        Bubble-wrap the world, and everyone will die of plastic allergies.

    3. The Blue Line had the highest number of accidents by far of any new light rail system in the years after it opened. It’s because the north end of the line crosses several railroad tracks and downtown streets before getting to its own right of way.

  11. Pierce Transit union plans no-confidence vote on agency CEO

    In her new contract, Griffith’s annual salary remains at $169,097 — the same it’s been since 2008. The board increased her number of annual personal days by three to 25. That’s in addition to three weeks of vacation.

    Sweet! $170k a year and 40 days of PTO. My question is, how essential is a person that’s on vacation 2 months out of the year? Maybe she should look at teaching kindergarten.

  12. SLOG post featuring a Daily Beast article…

    A funny thing happened on the way to the long-trumpeted triumph of the city: the suburbs not only survived but have begun to regain their allure as Americans have continued aspiring to single-family homes.


    The source article says:

    While they’ve weaved a compelling narrative, the numbers make it clear that the retro-urbanists only chance of prevailing is a disaster, say if the dynamics associated with the Great Recession—a rise in renting, declining home ownership and plunging birthrates—become our new, ongoing normal. Left to their own devices, Americans will continue to make the “wrong” choices about how to live.

    And in the end, it boils down to where people choose to live. Despite the dystopian portrays of suburbs, suburbanites seem to win the argument over place and geography, with far higher percentages rating their communities as “excellent” compared to urban core dwellers.


    1. The suburban lifestyle is dependent on cheap energy. I believe that the suburbs will continue to be successful until energy prices really start to get out of hand. It’s going to happen eventually.

      1. What an obnoxious comment. Seattle has an extremely limited housing inventory, not everyone can choose to live there.

      2. Going to happen? Gas prices went up 4x what they were 15 years ago.

        Yet people still drive and the last time I looked at a busy intersection, most of them have gigantic SUVs and minivans!

    2. It’s not so much that people are choosing to move to the suburbs. It’s more that that’s where the available housing is. The extreme prices of houses in Seattle is a reflection that there are a lot of people who would move here if they could.

      This is not the fault of anyone in Kent. This is the fault of the Seattle Processitis. Maybe we need a Processectomy.

      1. The article says that people choose and prefer the suburbs…not they are some kind of consolation prize for those who cannot afford a downtown apodment.

        If true, and it seems like it is, almost all planning done by the state of Washington in the past 20 years was completely at odds with the will of the taxpayers.

      2. The article says that people choose and prefer the suburbs…not they are some kind of consolation prize for those who cannot afford a downtown apodment.

        Actually, it says two things, neither of which supports your claim:

        1) Job growth and population have grown faster in the suburbs.
        2) A majority (but a smaller majority than currently actually lives in the suburbs) wants to live in the suburbs.

        The first is largely because housing prices in the city are out of control. The second shows that, while the suburbs aren’t going anywhere, if people could afford to act on their preferences we would see net migration into the city.

        This is all very consistent with the notion that limited supply of housing in the city is preventing the city from developing as fast as it could.

    3. I think talking about whether people “prefer” cities or “prefer” suburbs is kinda pointless. The population of the US has heterogeneous preferences- different people want different things. Moreover, each individual doesn’t just have a single preference- they have a set of characteristics (cost of living, access to employment, access to transportation, school quality, crime rate, type of housing, quality of housing, proximity to friends and family, local amenities, etc) that they assign different weights to when they choose where to live. The weights they assign can also vary over time- e.g. people with kids at home will put greater emphasis on school quality than people without kids at home.

      There aren’t that many people who will say “I’m going to live in a city, no matter how awful it is” or “I’m going to live in a suburb, no matter how awful it is”. Everything else being equal, most people will have a preference for the environment they’ll live in- but the ultimate choice is made by balancing a bunch of factors.

      Moreover, 100% of people don’t have to “prefer” to live in cities for cities to succeed and grow- cities won’t collapse if, everything else being equal, 51% of the population prefers to live in the suburbs. We just need to keep infrastructure and services funded, and build enough housing to accommodate the people who do want to live in (and move to) cities.

      The city of Seattle’s population is now growing at a 1-2% annual rate- faster than at any time since at least the 1950’s. For a plethora of reasons, many people want to move to the city of Seattle. If we didn’t have a housing shortage, the growth rate would likely be even higher. We also have a transit shortage in key corridors- if anything the government has underplanned for Seattle’s growth during the past few decades.

      1. A third of Americans want to live in an urban multifamily neighborhood. A third want to live in a large suburban house. A third could go either way. But the housing stock is 80% suburban, 20% urban. (As of the early 2000s, so it may be slightly better now, but not enough to change the percentage much.) This means 8% of people are seriously unhappy in the low density they can afford or that is near their work/family. And 46% of people who are currently living in low density would be willing to live in higher density. So if we “forced” everybody to live in high density, only a third would be unhappy. If we merely make high or medium density available to those who want it — because of all its environmental and energy-saving and community-building benefits — a lot of people would be glad to move to it, and a lot of others would be glad to have that choice even if they don’t take it.

        So why are there plenty of empty new urban units? For the most part because they’re so high-priced only upper-income people can afford them, or they’re just too high priced for what they’re worth. So we need to look at things like building more density in lower-cost areas — areas that aren’t at the top level of desirability but still close to frequent transit. The reason people are crowding into Capitol Hill and the U-District and driving prices up is that these neighborhoods have the best collection of transit/amenities/destinations. So put more transit/amenities/destinations in other areas and the demand will spread out and the rents will start to equalize, until there will no longer be a “price premium” for living in a reasonably urban area with reasonably good transit.

        Seattle’s current apartment boom is because of the pent-up demand that wasn’t addressed in the 80s, 90s, or 00’s, coupled with the recent interest in urban living, coupled with the economic realities since the 2008 crash (mortgages not being given out to every creature that breathes).

      2. Another thing about percentages. The entire real estate bubble raised the ownership rate just 3%, from 65% to 68%. But in a country of 300 million, even 1% means millions of people. So even small trends translate to large subcultures. So Bailo may be right that there’s significant growth in the exurbs — but those are largely the 33% true believers.

      3. I wanted to buy a house, a single-family house, in a quiet neighborhood close to a bus route that could take me to work. After a few months of searching, and having inspections done on a few selections, my wife and I finally chose a house in Shoreline. It is close to #347, but to get to work, I actually have to drive to a different bus route(#5) because I get off work too late to be able to take #347 home from Northgate. So, check that desire off the list. But, basically everything else we were looking for we found in the house we eventually bought. So, I had to decide what was more important, living close to a bus route to downtown or a good house that I would enjoy living in. I didn’t want a new townhouse in Ballard(those things are horrible!!) and I didn’t want a new house in Redmond, although those were more affordable, because that was just too damn far from downtown Seattle. So, the house in Shoreline is a compromise that we can live with. It didn’t matter that I ‘prefer’ one location over another, it depended on what kind of home we wanted, what was available to buy, and what we could afford.

      4. One side effect of buying a house to be along the same bus line as the bus that goes to work is that when enough people do it, it makes any kind of meaningful network restructure very difficult. Even if the new network might be more useful for anywhere to anywhere trips, it can often be less optimal for home->work trips, during commute hours, among people who specifically chose their home to have the easiest possible commute they could afford, under the old network.

        The result is that we can’t split the 2 downtown, route the 5 through Fremont, kill the 42, eliminate unnecessary stops on the E-line, etc., without dealing with large amounts of political backlash.

        That’s not to say one shouldn’t choose to live on a bus route that goes to work – but, when you do, you must always accept the possibility that the current routing might not be the most efficient and that, at some point in the future, your commute could change – or the optimal neighborhood to commute from to reach your job might change too.

      5. Also, walkability costs nothing and has no downsides. You can make a dense city neighborhood walkable or a suburban multifamily/commercial district walkcable merely by moving things around and possibly resizing some thing relative to others. That would allow both urbanites and suburbanites to walk to more of their destinations and make transit more convenient, without radically changing anybody’s density.

      6. asdf: The converse of what you’re saying is that one of the “advantages” of buses over trains — namely, their flexibility — is at best nonexistent and at worst a liability. In practice, constant routing changes are politically infeasible. And even if they were, it’s impossible to have the same kind of transit-oriented development around a constantly-changing bus network that you can with a stable train.

  13. The mobile theme sucks and I can’t seem to turn it off on my iPad or iPhone. Please kill it with fire.

    1. Yes, please. The mobile theme stylesheet will fail to load on my phone and all I get to see is plain text. The site is fine without the mobile theme

  14. California High Speed Rail To Critics: Bring It On

    In a lawsuit appropriately titled “High-Speed Rail Authority v. All Persons Interested,” the agency claims it will fight back against those who challenge its ability to sell $8.6 billion in bonds to finance a portion of the $69 billion bullet train linking San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    The move takes advantage of an obscure California law allowing state agencies to consolidate all potential lawsuits into a single case, after which no one is able to take legal action.

    It would be interesting if Sound Transit sued all “persons of interest” := This move could backfire. The current HSR project falls far short of what was promised. I’ve heard that there isn’t even funding to electrify the first segment. Some are alleging the Central Valley routing was quid pro quo for ObamaCare votes from Jim Costa and fellow Blue Dog Democrat Dennis Cardoza.

  15. Reverse Commuting Rising: From City to Suburbs

    Montgomery County has grown so much as a job hub that more people now commute from Philadelphia into the county than the other way around.

    The so-called “reverse commuting” trend was documented in this year’s “Philadelphia 2013: The State of the City” report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. It shows that 68,986 Philadelphians head out to Montgomery County for work, surpassing the 64,575 Montgomery County workers who head into town for jobs.


  16. Google Car: the future of transportation
    The future may involve riding in a car with no driver

    The future of roadways look bright. Right now, much of the available space on the road is unused to provide enough space for humans to react to possible crash scenarios and avoid danger. With autonomous cars communicating with one another, cars could drive at a much faster speed and more cars could fit on the road at a time.


Comments are closed.