92 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Streetcar Construction”

  1. I find it pretty amazing how fast they can crank out a streetcar line. Seems like minimal utility relocation… they just take a saw, cut where the tracks go, lay down the appropriate substrate, put in the tracks and go.

    I have to say though, I am quite disappointed to see the line terminate at SCCC instead of the end of broadway.

    1. Actually, it should go all the way to the University District and replace Route 49.

      1. Is it replacing the 49 feasible from an engineering perspective? That hill you go down/up just south of the University Bridge is pretty steep. Would that be a limiting factor?

        Side question: What are the specific advantages of streetcars over buses? Speed? Efficiency? Larger loads?

      2. Streetcar used to run that route back in the day … therefore could do it again and merge with an extended Eastlake line

      3. “Side question: What are the specific advantages of streetcars over buses? Speed? Efficiency? Larger loads?”

        I’ll specify “over trolleybuses” for the sake of a fair comparison. Electric power has huge advantages. And I’ll specify the same amount of exclusive right-of-way, even though in practice it’s easier to get exclusive streetcar ROW than exlcusive bus ROW.

        Anyway, advantages of streetcar over trolleybus, in no order:
        (1) More people per vehicle
        (2) Smoother ride
        (3) Ability to attach multiple cars into a train (for even more people per driver), if you make platforms long enough — while still going around tight curves. (No fishtailing.)
        (4) Narrower ROW requirements
        (5) No looping required to reverse direction (driver “changes ends” instead).

      4. Alki, your link manages to repeat the outright lie about streetcars-as-magic-development-fairies in the very first sentence, and then proceeds to make about the worst case imaginable for a mixed-traffic feel-good boondoggle of the highest order.

        In a generation, people will look back at the early-2010s Streetcar Revival Movement the same way we look at the pedestrianization schemes that killed downtown shopping districts everywhere: wasteful, useless, dumb.

      5. d.p.: I’m living in a city where the pedestrianized downtown street succeeded wildly.

        So, uh, hmm. Generalizations bad.

        I think streetcars would also do quite well where I live: the biggest physical problems with the buses here are (1) they can’t go around the tight, 19th century corners properly (flying out into the wrong lane, over the sidewalks, etc.), and (2) the diesel buses don’t have the power to climb our hills at speed.

        Now, in Seattle your streets are effing enormous. There is no reason to ever have streetcars in mixed traffic, because there is *plenty of room* for exclusive lanes. So that is a very different situation.

        The streets where I live frequently have enough room for one lane of traffic each way and ONE lane of parking (not two!). You have these gigantic Western avenues with five lanes, you can afford exclusive streetcar lanes.

    2. It doesn’t really terminate at SCCC, but at the Capitol Hill subway station. It’s a mitigation measure paid for by ST since they eliminated the First Hill station which was part of the voter-approved Link proposal. It would be great to run the line further up Broadway, but the City of Seattle will have to pay for that work itself.

      1. Gordon and CRK are correct, unfortunately.

        The final track map shows a streetcar terminus that is entirely to the south of Link’s southwestern entrance, which is already a ways to the south of the station box, which itself extends significantly south of the subway platforms.

        The streetcar platform is only barely north of Howell, which (as the blocks are unequal) puts it a precisely equal distance from Pine as from Olive/John. And it sits directly outside of an SCCC building.

        This subway-to-streetcar transfer is basically as bad as the Westlake SLUT. Transfers to or from cross-transit on Olive/John, meanwhile, are an even bigger “fuck you” to rider convenience than the ones at downtown Bellevue: 750 feet and two cross streets.

        And, of course, the FHSC will be slow as maple syrup, has every station placed to guarantee missed lights, and has absolutely stupid headways for a short-hop connector.

        This thing is an embarrassment.

  2. Are there plans for a route restructure around the opening of FHSC?

    For starters, if the 9 can run straight up Boren, and run frequently enough during peak, that would be a superior replacement for the 205 and 211. Is it worth it for the 9 to jog over to 9th and serve the hospital corridor instead of staying on Boren all the way? Consider that if that happens, it may make it feasible to terminate the 60 at Beacon Hill Station, and reduce frequency on the 60 to match its southern-half ridership. 15th Ave S deserves better than half-hour frequency, but that could be accomplished by having the 106 go straight up 15th Ave S to BHS instead of heading downtown.

    The 64, 265, 303, and 309 defy a direct path to First Hill, but the 309’s path (Mercer, Fairview, Boren) looks the least painful and most useful, if it doesn’t get stuck forever on Mercer. They could even head to Mt Baker TC, turn around, and become a shortened version of the 9, perhaps under a new number, to provide the added frequency to First Hill from the south.

    1. Also, since the 49 was mentioned … After CHS opens, the 49 could take over the 60’s path through hospital row, and perhaps take over the 9’s path down to MBS, or maybe keep going all the way.

      1. The 49 for much of the day is the other 1/2 of route 7 to/from Rainier Valley. I would like to see all day and evening service direct between Cap Hill and RV either on a 9X.

        The other issue is that street cars are limited stop resources and just like a well designed BRT, a local feeder is necessary to fill in the gaps in service.

      2. Once Capitol Hill Station opens, it seems unlikely that anyone would want or need to take a local route the whole way. In all cases, it would be faster to take Link between Capitol Hill and Mount Baker, and switch to a local bus for the last leg.

        This is another reason that I doubt we’ll see any major changes before CHS opens.

    2. The last I heard, there were no plans for any restructuring associated with the FHSC. That was *before* the big shakeup last fall, after which Kevin Desmond announced that Metro would never do another “big bang” change like that. So I wouldn’t expect to see any changes here for a long time.

      Note that the TMP considers Corridor 3 to go from Othello to the U-District, via Beacon Ave, 12th Ave, and Broadway. (For anyone who doubts that the TMP is recommending a bus line along this corridor, I would point out that the map itself says “A major service restructuring would be required”.) So if we do see any major restructuring here, I would expect to see a single route serving this corridor, replacing routes 36 and 49, and modifying routes 9 and 60. I’m pretty sure that there’s already continuous wire from John to Jackson via Broadway/Boren, so even if Metro doesn’t have the money (or desire) to string up wire on 12th Ave, such a route should be feasible without any capital spending.

      Having said that, there are some streets which are not part of Corridor 3, but are served by the above buses. I think you’re right that we’ll eventually see the south part of Route 60 become its own route. It’s also possible that the 9 would survive in some form, and would take over the 60’s First Hill duties, rather than duplicating Corridor 3 or the FHSC.

      Of course, we may not see any restructuring here for a long time; I just don’t think it’s likely that Metro would shake things up in a way that was totally unrelated to the TMP.

      1. Well they will change service in areas that need it. they just won’t try to do too much in one go.

    3. I’d suggest creating a route (half trolley, half diesel) to replace the 36, 60, and 49, sort of like TMP Corridor 3 but not quite, that works like this:

      – Use the 49 routing from the U-District to Broadway/Pine.
      – Use the old 9 routing from Broadway/Pine to 12th/Jackson.
      – Use the 36 routing from 12th/Jackson to Beacon Hill Station
      – From BHS, half of trips continue along the current 36 routing to Othello.
      – From BHS, half of trips continue along the current 60 routing to Georgetown only.
      – Run every 10 minutes from U-District to BHS
      – Run every 20 minutes from BHS to Othello and BHS to Georgetown

      I would then use a revised 7 to serve Boren (that’s another whole story) and combine the western half of the 60 (reduced to half-hourly) with a new half-hourly oute from Georgetown to Rainier Beach to create a south-end crosstown route. All of this would cost significantly less than the existing service.

      1. There are a lot of ways that RapidRide hasn’t lived up to its potential, but I think its single greatest success is the way that Metro is using it to simplify its route network.

        Take a look at the frequency chart on Metro’s website. It’s a haphazard mess, full of random special cases, turnbacks, branches, and route pairs. The only routes which meet Metro’s strictest frequency standards for the entire length of the route are the 36, the 44, the rail lines, and RapidRide.

        Imagine a world where Oran’s frequent service map doesn’t need a legend, since every single frequent route meets the same standard. That’s where we’re heading, and I think it’s awesome.

        You’re probably right that there’s more demand north of BHS than south. Regardless, I’m highly skeptical that Metro would create a new couplet — especially a half-diesel one — when they could use the opportunity to create a single legible route.

        And also, Metro has been focusing on 15-minute headways for bus service (and multiples/fractions); unless Metro’s budget suddenly doubled, I don’t think we’ll see any new bus services with 10-minute all-day headways for a long time.

      2. Another thing. A lot of research went into the TMP. The decision to include the routing from BHS to Othello as part of a frequent service was based on a lot of things, including actual measured demand. That is to say, we’re talking about a corridor which currently receives 10-minute service, and which the city believes is one of the most important transit corridors in the city. Demoting that corridor to 20-minute service seems like a major step backwards.

      3. Aleks, of course you’re right that a 20-minute couplet isn’t ideal. If resources were unlimited, I’d rather have it be 15 minutes on the two legs and 7-8 on the main portion of the route. But the truth is that 20-minute service more than satisfies demand on both legs, while the current service — a 10-minute route all the way to Othello — massively, massively overserves all of Beacon south of the VA Hospital. Even at rush hour that portion is not at all crowded.

        Another way to do it would be to make the 36 into TMP 3 (full stop) and create a separate route combining the portion of the 60 between Georgetown and 12th/Jackson with new service up 12th and then Pine and 15th to the 10 terminal. I’m reluctant to suggest that because it would leave the entire 15th corridor, which is awkwardly too far from CHS, without any nonstop service to downtown. Had ST elected to build a 15th Link stop, as they should have, my 60/12th/10 route would be a great idea.

    4. Link reorganizations are still on the table. The FHS is unlikely to trigger a restructure because it doesn’t replace any bus routes: it’s too short to replace either the 49 or the 60 north-south, or the 7 or 14 east-west. What we don’t know is whether Metro will reorganize Capitol Hill with University Link or wait till North Link. Metro can’t take hours from Broadway-10th-University Way until North Link opens, and that may put a damper on the rest of the restructuring.

      The 9’s primary purpose is an express between Rainier Valley and Broadway. That need will go away with University Link, two years after the FHS opens. Rerouting the 9 to Boren would take Valleyites where they don’t want to go: not to the hospitals, SCCC, and Broadway shopping. When University Link opens, the 9’s hours should be reinvested in another north-south local route.

      There have been several proposals to split the 60. I don’t have much opinion on them. Note that the 9th Avenue detour was due to First Hill preference when the route was created. So changing it would require determining that that preference has lessened and other-corridor demand has risen. 12th Avenue is definitely clamoring for service. It’s not clear whether Boren would attract riders. It would probably attract more people going to SLU/Seattle Center (because the 8 is so slow) than to First/Capitol Hills.

      1. The 9th Ave deviation on the existing 60 imposes a considerable cost to speed and reliability, mostly (if not totally) to provide front-door service to Harborview. I would be curious to know what proportion of 60 passengers going to Harborview (or other stops along 9th) have mobility impairments that would make it difficult to walk the two relatively flat blocks from Boren to 9th. If the number is high (which it might well be), then the deviation should likely be retained.

        But asking passengers which routing they prefer inherently produces answers biased in favor of deviations. Passengers understand where they want to go quite well, but they don’t have any way of understanding the speed and reliability cost of any particular deviation — especially when it’s an abstract concept during the planning process. And I think speed and reliability is generally underemphasized by Metro.

      2. I just meant that Metro was originally going to keep the route all on Broadway, but First Hill residents (not Harborview patrons) clamored for it to be closer to the center of the neighborhood. So rerouting it will raise that opposition, if it’s still as strong as it was. It’s the same kind of opposition as those on 6th Ave W who don’t want the 2 merged into the 13.

      3. It’s interesting that it was the residents who drove the decision to impose the deviation, given that the vast majority of people using stops on the deviation are going to the hospital. Shades of Arbor Heights…

  3. Found this article via SLOG:

    Ten Cities with the Worst Traffic

    Seattle at 7th place has 81% of people driving to work. But the kingdom of suburban sprawl, San Jose, at 8th place has 86%…a mere 5% difference.

    This after billion and billions were poured into Seattle over a two decade long period in the name of transit and density.

    Yet here we are, with Jobs Sprawl to the suburbs exceeding urban growth. We’re San Jose. With a choo choo train.

    1. ”8. Seattle
      > Congestion score: 17.6 (tied for 7th highest)
      > Population density: 585.8 people per sq. mile (35th highest)
      > Average commute time: 27.6 minutes (22nd highest)
      > Pct. driving to work: 81% (20th lowest)
      Congestion in Seattle actually improved in 2012, with the INRIX index score declining from 19.6 in 2011 to 17.6 last year. Despite this improvement, Seattle remains one of the most congested metro areas in the nation and had some of the most congested individual roads in the country in 2012. Among these was a nine-mile, southbound stretch of Interstate 5, which ranked as the 11th most congested corridor in the nation in 2012. Last March, The Seattle Times noted that new tolls on the nearby Highway 520 had led to increased congestion on Interstate 5.”

      America is a country of people driving to work, sadly. Seattle is doing better than most of the rest of the country on that score.

      What percent of Kenters get to work by means other than a private vehicle?

      1. from the article:

        Despite this improvement, Seattle remains one of the most congested metro areas in the nation and had some of the most congested individual roads in the country in 2012.

        Among these was a nine-mile, southbound stretch of Interstate 5, which ranked as the 11th most congested corridor in the nation in 2012.

        Last March, The Seattle Times noted that new tolls on the nearby Highway 520 had led to increased congestion on Interstate 5.

      2. I don’t know what percentage of Kenters get to work by bus, but when I take the 560 to SeaTac there’s always a large number of people boarding and leaving at the Kent Transit Center.

        Let’s ask the same question about a west side location: I wonder what percentage of Ballardites or West Seattilians get to work by means other than a private vehicle?

      3. AP,

        Where is Kent Transit Center? (I’ve never heard of it.) Where does the 560 stop in Kent?

      4. AP, I have wondered the same thing. When I am waiting for the route 255 at the Covington Transit Center to go to SeaTac, I wonder what percentage of Duvallians or Fall Citians get to work other than personal automobile.

      5. When I lived in Kent, it wasn’t that uncommon to find the parking ramp at Kent Station parked up to the top floor by the time the last train arrived. Occasionally it would fill up entirely.

      1. 25 years later, VTA light rail among the nation’s worst

        A quarter of a century ago, Santa Clara County’s first light-rail train left the station as excited supporters heralded a new wave of state-of-the-art transportation to match the region’s burgeoning high-tech industry.

        But there was no grand celebration this month as Silicon Valley marked 25 years of light rail.

        The near-empty trolleys that often shuttle by at barely faster than jogging speeds serve as a constant reminder that the car is still king in Silicon Valley — and that the Valley Transportation Authority’s trains are among the least successful in the nation by any metric. Today, fewer than 1 percent of the county’s residents ride the trains daily, while it costs the rest of the region — taxpayers at large — about $10 to subsidize every rider’s round trip.

        Even light rail’s supporters concede the train has not lived up to expectations thus far, but they are optimistic that slow and steady increases in rider counts will continue.


        This despite having 42.5 miles of track or twice that of LINK.

        “It is an unmitigated disaster and a waste of taxpayer money,” said VTA critic Tom Rubin, a transportation consultant based in Oakland. “I think the original concept was very seriously flawed.”


        For the most part, the density never materialized in Silicon Valley. As Connolly spoke at VTA headquarters along its main light-rail line on First Street, he noted the orange groves across the street.
        In our case we tried to graft a big-city transit type of mode onto a suburban environment, and it’s still kind of a work in progress,” Connolly said.


        How long before we finally hear those words about Puget Sound!

      2. If you’ve ever seen San Jose and the rail route, you’d understand why it isn’t working. San Jose’s population is almost twice as large as Seattle but its density is like Kent. Immediately at the edge of downtown heights drop to two stories, with four-story buildings dotted here and there. The light rail goes north-south through the middle of the city. South is residential. North is office parks, mile after mile of lowrise towers-in-the-park. So it’s the epitome of a commuter line: not much reason to use it outside 9-5.

        It’s hard to compare anything in Pugetopolis to Silicon Valley because it’s so vastly different. The streets are wider, there are expressways everywhere, even major city centers are low density, and the sprawl is much bigger.

        But if we must try, imagine a surface light rail line across south King County or the Eastside, not connected to Link. Say from East Hill to Renton and Factoria. Renton can be the city center, and we’ll give it a couple more six-story buildings, and a token walkable area on 2nd/3rd streets to the Cedar River Trail. We’ll move the Canyon Park, Northup Way, and south Lynnwood office parks to rail line going south from Factoria toward Renton. That’s more or less what VTA light rail is like. It does have two newer branches which I’m not familiar with; they are probably more residential and shopping-mall, and at least bring a wider cross-section of the city and neighbor-burbs into the system, and thus may have slightly higher ridership.

        Bus 522 is BRT from east San Jose to Palo Alto. This takes an hour, even limited-stop. The density is about the same as the light rail line, but more retail and plain-office rather than steel-and-glass corporate headquarters. Every building is alone on its superblock, so it’s a long walk from one building to another. The density is somewhat like Swift. Oh, and the bus goes into train station parking lots, just like people are complaining about RapidRide E doing.

        Link in south and east King County is designed to bring people into Seattle and downtown Bellevue. So it has P&Rs and goes quickly between them. VTA light rail does not have P&Rs and does not go anywhere major. It will take you to downtown San Jose, but there’s less in downtown San Jose than downtown Bellevue, so less reason to go there. If it went to San Francisco, it would of course be a lot fuller.

        There is a new stadium being built in Santa Clara, which may finally bring a large cluster of riders to the light rail, at least on game days. And it already goes “to” the SJ airport, and the new branches are bringing it to more neighborhoods where actual people live. So maybe it will slowly get better used (although never well-used). I guess what it really needs is to knock down a few of the office parks and replace them with malls, mixed-use housing, and other all-day destinations.

      3. JB, VTA rail is among the nation’s worst because the entire concept behind it is totally delusional. Imagine building a streetcar network with uniform quarter-mile stop spacing all over the eastside, where all the lines are radial, in and out of downtown Bellevue… and not even try to fix the walkability problems anywhere along the system. VTA is like that. It doesn’t reflect the way people actually travel there and it doesn’t even make up for its limitations with speed. It’s the answer to a question nobody asked.

        Link isn’t like that because it’s serving a lot of known high-demand trips. Better, known high-transit demand trips. Link is making some frustrating mistakes and missing some opportunities, but they aren’t the fatal errors of conception that plague VTA. And Seattle isn’t the sort of city San Jose is, built from core to outskirts around the car. It’s not Boston or Paris but it’s also not Phoenix or Houston, and even our car-dominated parts are not as hopeless as many cities’.

      4. Strictly from a numbers standpoint, San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View (i.e. the core of Silicon Valley) is nearly just as dense as Seattle proper and far more dense than anywhere in the Puget Sound outside of Seattle. Not to mention, Downtown Palo Alto, Mountain View, Campbell and several other town centers in Silicon Valley are more walkable and urban-feeling than any downtown in the Puget Sound, save Seattle, Tacoma, and maybe Kirkland.

        San Jose is a a very weak central city for the region (although, FYI, it has a significantly higher population density than Portland), but that’s because San Francisco and Oakland/Berkeley are less than 45 minutes away. Overall, the Bay Area absolutely throttles Seattle in terms of density and urbanity. Silicon Valley certainly has its a lot of sprawl compared to other parts of the region, but the light rail there is a failure because of its design, but because of the urban form.

      5. @James: You sound like someone that’s never been to Silicon Valley. That’s the peril of aggregate density (even population-weighted density is dominated by residential density of suburbs, which is just a number). It tells you very little about urban form. Silicon Valley, much like parts of LA, is dense auto-sprawl. It has to be dense because it’s hemmed in by the bay and the mountains, but it grew up around the car, so the major developments have massive infrastructure for car access but little consideration for pedestrian access. Major developments have been largely kept out of any walkable town centers for fear of more traffic, so major employers have little choice but office parks in locations that rule out anything resembling public transit (transit that serves more than one employer); hence the proliferation of private corporate shuttles (MS runs some here, but the 545, 542, and B Line are way more relevant to them than any VTA service is to major Valley tech companies).

        Seattle is squeezed by waterways near downtown, but it’s got room to sprawl north and south, and so it does. There are lots of big houses way out in the north and south, and our downtown isn’t especially dense. But many parts of the city were at least planned out before mass-motorization with walkable street grids, use mixture, narrow side streets, and human-scale arterials. As the auto influence grew we didn’t go nearly as far as Silicon Valley in building highways that cut the region apart. That’s not to say we built none, but a combination of highway opposition and stinginess prevented us from going all the way. So even though we’re smaller and less dense than the sprawliest corner of the Bay Area we’re still more walkable.

        It’s not all about density, even population-weighted density. Use mixture matters. Street network characteristics matter. Road capacity and parking capacity matters.

      6. The biggest deterrent to LRT ridership in San Jose may be its speed:

        But their main complaint is speed, which is often less than 10 mph in downtown San Jose.

      7. Just look at the squiggly routing of the Mountain View line and you’ll begin to understand just how poorly designed VTA light rail is.

      8. I mean, I’m not sure that speed alone could save VTA, but a system with the speed and stop spacing of SF Muni and the station-area walkability of the worst parts of BART is pretty much useless. Speed would at least give it something.

      9. Al – you really think Silicon Valley is sprawlier than the Walnut Creek/Concord/Pleasant Hill area?

      10. James is right about one thing: there are other pockets of walkability, like Mountain View station. However, these are very small and don’t seem to meet a wide range of residents’ needs. I.e., you can eat at a boutique restaurant in downtown Mountain View, but what else can you do? Really as much as Kirkland? Of course, these pockets do exist and they have a potential to grow. And San Jose could wave a zoning wand and create TOD at a few #522 stops.

        The main problem with James’s comment is that average density can be very misleading. LA may have a uniform medium density, and Silicon Valley may too, that is higher than in the widely differentiated density in New York. But that doesn’t gain you much if it’s still so low it’s auto-dependent. The only meaningful comparison is the denser districts where cars can be optional and transit is more comprehensive. How much of the city is covered by higher-density districts, and is a full range of livelihoods and amenities available within them? It doesn’t really matter if the rest of the city has a strip mall every two blocks or every twenty blocks.

    2. John,

      Um. Er. Well, gosh, San Jose has a choo-choo train too. And it actually has cost more than Link. It’s a lot longer, but it’s more like Max than Link.

      Link is looking more and more like BART with a tiara.

  4. As one of the world’s most respected and leading street car experts, in my opinion, the West Central District stop at 14th and Washington is a mistake. There should not be a stop between 12th and Jackson and Yesler Terrace.

      1. Gordon was simply asking you to explain your opinion, not attacking it. What’s wrong with a streetcar stop there?

    1. Everyone understands that Sam is kidding/lying when he claims to be “one of the world’s most respected and leading experts in [blank]“, right?

  5. Has anyone else seen the ST ad in the Alaska Airlines magazine? “Ride Link Light Rail downtown, for less than renting a luggage cart.” Seems to me like a smart place to advertise. Only problem is it’s pretty small.

    1. That, and you may still want the luggage cart to get to the station. So, they may as well say “for less than the cost of getting an ORCA card”.

      Or, “for not much more than the cost of the free hotel shuttle that picks you up at the front door and takes you downtown”.

      1. Just curious–what downtown hotels offer a free shuttle to/from the airport? The Downtown Airporter is $18, which is a bit more than Link.

        I’m honestly curious as I wasn’t aware of any doing this, which would be a great deal if so….

      2. I was thinking the same thing. In most cities, isn’t it the hotels near the airport that have the free shuttles?

      3. It appears that none of the downtown hotels have courtesy shuttles to the airport after all. Link really is the third cheapest ride between the two, next to various 2-seat bus rides off peak, and biking it.

  6. I did the transit thing in LA on Friday. Caught a Metro bus in Burbank and slowly meandered my way to LAX. TAP is their equivalent of ORCA. Much like here there are limited pass outlets and I hadn’t planned ahead enough to get one mailed to me. Cards are only $2 from an outlet or $1 if you buy from Metro. However the really cool part is that you can buy a card on any bus and subsequently load a day pass on it. After slipping $6 in to the farebox I got a card that gave me unlimited rides until 3am the next day. The RIFD reader is built in to the farebox, and the farebox can actually distinguish between ones and fives.

    There’s a free shuttle between the Green Line (light rail) and LAX. Strangely, they require proof of fare payment to ride. In this case, the TAP card becomes a flash pass. I don’t know for sure, but I think you might be able to buy an empty TAP card at a nearby TVM and use that as an alternative to getting dropped off on the airport drive. Buying a card at the TVM is new since the last time I was there; previously you could only buy a paper day pass.

    1. San Jose also has an RFID-based day pass, but it’d distinct from Clipper cards and has a separate reader on the farebox. It’s not refillable so you have to buy a separate pass each day. Nevertheless, the card is similar enough to ORCA that the ORCA readers say, “One card at a time, please.”

    2. Biggest problem with TAP is that Big Blue Bus doesn’t use it. At least BBB fare is just a buck, so no change fumbling.

      LA’s Rapid buses are pretty awesome.

      1. LA’s rapid makes metro’s rapid ride look like true brt. No off board fare payment period and everyone enters through the front. Heck they replaced the 333 with the 733 rapid just by changing the livery on the buses serving that route. metro rapid has never been advertised as brt though. metro orange line however is true brt even more so than our swift as it has dedicated bus lanes. the silver line is BRT similar to swift in that it has stations but still has to deal with traffic.

      2. Some of the LA Rapids run 3-5 minute headways at peak and 8-12 minute headways the rest of the day.

        There are many of them, on major boulevards, woven into a grid structures, allowing for easy transfers across wide swaths of the city.

        LA’s TSP seems to work, whereas I often wonder if Seattle’s really exists at all.

        And absolutely none of LA’s Rapid routes pull the kind of bullshit detours that RapidRides B and D do.

        Oh, and LA doesn’t have insane schedule padding and ask its “rapid”-branded drivers to drive slower to meet it.

        Our “off-board payment” would be our lone comparative advantage… if anybody actually could or did use it.

    3. How much time does it take to buy a card on the bus? It seems like the sort of thing that could really hold things up if there’s not a really efficient system, or if people that already have cards can’t bypass the card buyers in line (it would be nice if ORCA readers here were placed in a way that encouraged ORCA users to pass up cash-payers… IIRC the card readers in Chicago buses are).

      I’m recalling buses I rode while in Erlangen, Germany, where drivers make change and print POP receipts out of a machine for cash payers, but boarding delays (in the little bit of the system I saw) aren’t a huge problem because the drivers have a device to help them make change super fast, and because non-cash-payers don’t have to wait in line (monthly passes don’t require tapping and other sorts of pre-paid tickets serve as POP for a set length of time after being time-stamped by a machine near the back door). All their equipment looked old and cheap, but it was used really efficiently.

      1. In order for this to be workable, it needs to be fast. The easiest way to make it fast is for all the cards to be pre-loaded with a fixed value on them and the driver just hands you the card when you insert the proper amount of cash into the fare box. For instance, if the bus fare is $2.50 and the cost of a new Orca card is $5, the way this would work here is you insert a $10 bill into the farebox and the driver hands you back a new Orca card with $2.50 on it.

        Any additional money you want on the card would need to be done at a machine in the back of the bus where it doesn’t hold up the line of people waiting to board.

      2. I did hold up the bus, but less than a wheelchair would.

        I had to:
        1) Tell the driver what I want
        2) He told me to put money in the farebox and then reached behind him for a package of cards
        3) Helped me with difficulty inserting bills (the farebox wouldn’t take a one)
        4) Tapped the card for me
        5) Handed it to me and I’m good to go.

  7. This is a waste of money and has no, ZERO, NADA improvement over a bus. This could have been done as a ETB, the wire was already in place but STB and ST have never seen a rail project it doesn’t love no matter how wasteful and unnecessary. To many self appointed experts who have no idea what they are talking about.

      1. … and that has what, exactly, to do with bubbamike’s point? Are you trying to give an example of a non-wasteful ST rail project? I’d agree with you on that, but that doesn’t say anything as to the FHSC.

    1. Perhaps you could do a little research into what this blog has said about the FHSC in the pasr before commenting about things of which you know nothing.

  8. Calling all 132 riders (I know Brent falls in this category, but I hope there are more of you out there too)…

    Tell me about the usefulness of the deviation to Military Road, which serves the Highline Medical Center Specialty Campus and Riverton Medical. How many people use the deviation? How many are headed for the medical center and how many are residents of the area? Do you know whether the 132 or the 128 serves more medical center users?

    Also, is there significant traffic on the 132 to the City of SeaTac recreational facility at 128th and Des Moines Memorial?

    1. I tend to think of the legacy swerveback from Military Rd S, as opposed to the deviation (from a straight path to stay on Des Moines Memorial Dr) to serve Military Rd S. The highest-use stops between the 1st Ave Bridge and Burien TC are, in geographical order, 1) at S Cloverdale St and 8th Ave S; 2) at Seamar on 14th Ave S; 3) at S 120th St and Des Moines Memorial Way; 4) at Military Rd S & S 128th St; and 5) at the clinic on S 144th Way, a little ways west of turning off from Des Moines Memorial Way. I’d say the stop at the Rec Center is somewhere in the top ten to fifteen stops in that stretch.

      The 132 is the only bus serving the 144th clinic, which now has a fancy improved stop with bars protecting people from falling off the sidewalk into the clinic’s parking lot. Hey, even totally sober riders can trip and fall there, especially as bad as the lighting is in that neighborhood. The clinic on 114th is surrounded by vacant (except for the shrubbery) land. It should continue to be served, in some quasi-front-door sort of fashion. Its clientele, frankly, cannot reasonably be expected to make their way up to 114th and Des Moines Memorial Way safely. Well, maybe some can, but most of the ones I’ve seen riding the bus shouldn’t be asked to hoof it that far in the condition they are in when they come out to the bus. A turn-around in their parking lot wouldn’t be terrible, and much less schedule-destabilizing than the VA knot.

      Stop 3) is a combo of 128 transfers, Thriftway shoppers, and Boulevard Park Library patrons.

      Stop 4) is a combo of 128 transfers, local residents, and some going to Highline MC – Riverton campus. Highline MC-Riverton is not a large facility, and has enough parking that the buses don’t solve a congestion problem. It would be interesting to see the stop data, but of course, Metro doesn’t have a way to separate out users of that stop by purpose, except using ORCA data, which doesn’t get at the cash users (which are more abundant on the 128 and 132). The 128 serves more riders going to the campus simply because the 132 only reaches the corner of the campus.

      There is not much on the stretch of Des Moines Memorial Way between 128th and 144th, except a park. 128th, though, has a presbyterian church, an adult family home, and a consistent string of single-family houses. During the restructure exercise, I suggested having the 128 stay on 128th between Military and 1st Ave S, connecting with the SR 509 freeway stop. One of the planners said there was a social service agency keeping the 128 on its more circuitous 116th/5th/112th/Glendale path. All I see is a school and a country club.

      There is also very little to serve on the stretch of Des Moines Memorial Way between 120th and 128th.

      If it weren’t for the 144th clinic, I’d say keep them both on Military Rd S, all the way to TIBS. But that clinic has lots of bus-dependent clients who need quasi-front-door service.

      1. I’d rather it stay on Des Moines Memorial Way S of 128, but that is because my stop is there; how the potential traffic compares would be another question. I guess at least some depends on how one feels about 30 min service through two areas that are not all that close) 20+ blocks versus perhaps 15 min service on one of the two legs.

      2. Thank you very much for the useful answers. I’m working on a blue-sky network proposal for all of the city of Seattle (including immediately adjacent areas served by Seattle core routes) and the routing of the north-south route through Boulevard Park is quite a puzzle. And of course it’s really not helpful that the area is one of the parts of King County with which I’m least familiar.

      3. David L.
        Check out what the Beeler Organization suggested in 1939 for a combination 16/26 to serve Wallingford, Latona and Green lake.

      4. J. Reddoch, that part of my network is already done and combines the 16 and 26 (with an assist from the 31/32).

    2. I could see a route that starts at TIBS, heads to the clinic via S 154th St and 24th Ave S, then heads down 8th Ave S and Des Moines Memorial Way before heading over to Angle Lake Station on S 200th St.

      However, I think some Metro planners had an idea for a Boulevard Park restructure post-Angle-Lake-Station-opening, but never told me what it was.

  9. A friend of mine said that east Pierce County is starting a new public transit system in the absence of Pierce Transit. I went to look it up, and after a lot of digging, I found a transportation service called Beyond the Borders, that helps elderly and low income people who live beyond the borders of PT’s service area (hence the name) get to PT bus routes. This service has buses that run loop routes that connects PT-less neighborhoods to PT routes, like Puyallup to Bonney Lake to Prarie Ridge, even 8th Ave E/SR 7 Walmart to Roy. Is this the beginning of a viable east Pierce County public transportation agency that works off of their own sales tax? Since PT used to be in some of those areas, and was giving them much less service than they should have based on tax funding, I think that this could work.

    1. I vaguely remember looking this up awhile back to gauge the feasibility of combining it with a 10-20 mile bike ride, and the national park shuttle, to reach Mt. Ranier.

      Basically, the way Beyond the Borders works (or at least worked 5 years ago) is that in many parts of Pierce County, paratransit was the only transit, period. If you are not elderly, low-income, and a resident of a house out there, you are not even allowed to ride it.

      Given the recent budget cuts, my hunch is that your reference to the service is out of date and that it actually no longer exists. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. AlexKven, Beyond the Borders appears to still be paratransit though it does still exist. The service is not for the general public:

        The Beyond the Borders (BTB) Connector offers eligible riders transportation to work, medical or social services appointments, the grocery store, and other destinations at no cost to the rider. To ride the Connector, residents must call 2-1-1 to register and then complete an eligibility screening.

      2. Right, but perhaps in the future it could get a .6% or a .9% sales tax fund and a nice cheap fare and become its own transit agency for the general public.

        Maybe even farther into the future, this agency could cover most of the transit-worthily populated area of Pierce County, and PT could just cover Tacoma and Lakewood (or even just Tacoma, kind of live Everett Transit). This would work well because Tacoma will pass the extra tax PT wants, and could be an “enhances transit zone” without legislative action.

      3. How could a private non-profit agency get to directly receive a dedicated sales tax stream?

      4. Didn’t they provide the service between Spanaway and Morton through Eatonville and Elbe? I’ve ridden that.

  10. Ugh. Another accident involving ST service operated by CT subcontractor First Transit, this time with fatalities. The cause is uncertain but catastrophic mechanical failure is suspected (and based on the description of the accident sounds like a reasonably likely cause). If that cause is correct, how much more of this do we have to endure before we realize that paying operators and mechanics $12/hour with rock-bottom benefits is not the right way to run a transit system?


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