Mercer Island Station Open House Report

Screenshot 2013-06-07 at 6.33.04 PM

Thursday evening Sound Transit staff conducted an open house at the Mercer Island Community Center focused on the East Link light rail extension. Approximately 80 to 90 people, including staff, trickled in throughout the evening, which included the brief opening, presentation, and Q&A sessions. The presentation centered on the design of Mercer Island Station in particular, approximately 30% complete. Essentially, the alignment of the track is completely determined at this point; several Sound Transit engineers at the open house intimated that this was the crucial first step of the design.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of this, but we’re at a point where we have a good idea of what’ll work correctly,” said David Hewitt, founder of Hewitt, an urban planning and design firm handling the design of Mercer Island Station East Link.

As one resident put it: “They’ve done their homework.”

The Mercer Island Station (a working name) will squat firmly in the center roadway of I-90, with light rail running on either side. From 77th and 80th Avenues SE, riders can stroll into the western and eastern entrances of the station, respectively. Detailed images and layouts are available here.


Each entrance will consist of a plaza with ticketing and seating areas, leading to an escalator, a stair, and an elevator, with surrounding lightweight steel and glass structures. The east entrance will also have a bicycle cage for secure storage. Once a rider descends 25 feet onto the central platform, she has roughly 380 feet of open space in which to frolic, with a central canopy serving as weather cover. Sound-dampening walls specially designed to absorb I-90’s acoustic assault will outline the tracks.

“It’s fairly symmetrical in nature,” Hewitt said. “The scale of the station is a very pleasant one we think.”


More after the jump.

Continue reading “Mercer Island Station Open House Report”

Link’s Reduced Service Ending Monday

Avgeek Joe/Flickr

The sound wall installation that was expected to reduce Link headways to 20 minutes after 9 pm weeknights through July 31st wrapped up almost two months early:

Link light rail will resume its normal nighttime operating schedule beginning Monday, June 10.

Sound Transit contractors have completed installing a new sound wall along the light rail tracks near the Duwamish River in Tukwila. The work forced delays through the area and was originally anticipated to last through July.

The service reduction typically cost only five minutes or less on a late-night trip. However, as someone who’s used Oran’s unofficial Link schedule for years to avoid long waits, I gained a new appreciation for the non-STB-reading rider that has had neither schedule, nor OneBusAway, nor real-time arrival signs when Link drops down to frequencies where it would ideally have all three.

Center City Connector: Streetcar Moves Forward

Open House Crowd
Open House Crowd

One of my favorite ways to evaluate a new product or service is with Clay Christensen’s “Job to be done” framework. I won’t bore you with the details, but the idea is that people don’t compare feature lists when evaluating a product.  They have a job to do, and they hire the best product or service to do it. The trick for the product designer is to figure out what the job is to be done.  Put another way, people don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.

The job to be done was on my mind as I attended last night’s open house for the Center City Connector.  The CCC was one of the corridors identified in the Transit Master Plan as a potential high-capacity corridor.  When I attended the last open house, the mode choice was still technically up in the air (though never in much doubt).  Yesterday, the Mayor made it official: the CCC will be a streetcar.  Not only that, but connecting the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcar lines into a single, U-shaped line is now an explicit goal of the project. Specifically, the purpose of the project is “to improve north-south transit mobility through downtown and to connect the SLU Streetcar and FH Streetcar.”

That makes sense and all, but connecting lines is primarily an operations goal, not an end-user goal (though it has certain end-user benefits).  I am on the corner of Westlake and Harrison in the year 2016.  It’s noon on a Tuesday. I need to get to 3rd and Marion.  That’s the job to be done. What service will I hire to get me there? I have many options: car, cab, Car2Go, my two feet, Puget Sound Bikeshare, a Metro bus, and the Streetcar.  The choice will come down to an array of factors: how much I’m willing to spend, how much time I have, when the next streetcar is coming, whether I know where the nearest bus stop is, etc. For a streetcar to be competitive in this mix of options, it has to be obvious, which a streetcar – thanks to its nice stations, tracks, and clanging bell – usually is. But it also has to be frequent and reasonably fast.

A full report on the state of the project after the jump…

Continue reading “Center City Connector: Streetcar Moves Forward”

Link to Fun


Sound Transit has one-upped our Link Excuse of the Week, and put together a great website highlighting events up and down Central Link for the entire summer.  Check out the Link to Fun page and go do something new!  As an extra incentive, at events that have an asterisk beside them, Sound Transit will host an info booth where you can enter to win an ORCA card.   These last couple of months from SDOT’s Ride Route 7 promotion, to Metro’s Route 50 promotion*, and now Sound Transit’s Link to Fun, I have been very impressed with the outreach work our agencies have been doing; especially the ORCA card tie ins.

*Although not mentioned in the linked press release, the mailer had a postcard you could send in for a complete Route 50 information pack and a $10 ORCA Card.

A First Look at South Bellevue East Link Stations

South Bellevue neighborhood context plan.
South Bellevue neighborhood context plan (click to enlarge).

The public got a chance to see the long-awaited first renderings of the South Bellevue and East Main Link stations at Sound Transit’s third final design open house last week.  With the alignment decision settled, planners are considering a series of design improvements– bicycle/pedestrian access, station architecture, site planning, etc.  As with the other East Link stations, station naming will also be a part of this process.

Although no one expects South Bellevue to transform into some greenfield TOD hub, there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to station access.  ST is meeting basic expectations by rebuilding sidewalks and preserving the multi-use trail along Bellevue Way.  One opportunity far too potent to pass up, however, is greatly expanding the station walkshed by improving neighborhood connections, something that’s been a pet cause of mine for some time now.

Continue reading “A First Look at South Bellevue East Link Stations”

News Roundup: The Real Tyranny

Burien Transit Center (Atomic Taco/Flickr)

This is an open thread.

Ride Route 7 Promotion Followup

Around the Block

Two weeks ago as part of our semi-regular Link Excuse of the Week series we highlighted the Columbia City Farmers Market and the Ride Route 7 Promotion.  The event was a smashing success.  When I arrived after work the line was around the block.  While I was waiting they ran out of pledge cards.  When I left an hour and half later the line was still around the block.  Curious, I wrote to SDOT asking about the event.  Many thanks to Jonathan Dong and the whole Ride Route 7 team at SDOT for the quick and thorough response (below the fold):

Continue reading “Ride Route 7 Promotion Followup”

Prospects for TOD in Rainier Valley

Future Plans (

Puget Sound Business Journal recently ran a wonderful series on TOD. Check out the “related stories” ($) for a focus on Pioneer Square, Mt. Baker, Othello, and Federal Way. I especially enjoyed the interview with actual real estate decisionmakers.

In the region’s first test case — the $2.4 billion light-rail line that opened in 2009, many of the TOD parcels Sound Transit offered to developers turned out not to be economically viable.

“Link Light Rail through Southeast Seattle is a great example of what not to do,” said Levine of the Seattle Housing Authority. “You’ve got 20 fenced-in sites that are too small to develop.”…

Ric Ilgenfritz, Sound Transit’s executive director for planning and project development, said officials complied with federal policies that dictate that the agency can buy only the property it needs for the projects themselves…

Last year, Sound Transit adopted a new TOD policy. As the agency maps out routes and designs stations, Ilgenfritz said, staff members try to be “more intentional about our planning up front” to encourage density along transit lines.

Much, much more after the jump.

Continue reading “Prospects for TOD in Rainier Valley”

After Bridge Collapse, Voters Appear Mixed on Transportation Taxes

Gordon Werner/Flicrk

Back in March Sherwin had a great post on polling and context, using an Elway poll as reference.  Yesterday Elway released an updated poll conducted in the aftermath of the Skagit Bridge Collapse.  From the Seattle Times ($):

A gasoline tax remains particularly objectionable, opposed by 63 percent of those in the new survey — down from 72 percent in March.

In the new survey, 53 percent opposed a license-tab tax increase, down from 62 percent in March.

And 52 percent opposed tolling major roadways, down from 61 percent in March.

Overall, 54 percent of those in the new survey agreed with the statement that we cannot afford to raise taxes to pay for transportation improvements at this time. Forty percent said we can’t afford not to improve our transportation system, so taxes will have to be raised.

For transit supporters this is a mixed result.  While many feel the current highway expansion package is flawed and hope it will fail (see comments at link), most agree that we need to raise the gas tax and other user fees in order to maintain what we already have and fund alternatives to driving.

Thankfully, an EMC poll was released today with starkly different results.  On the surface the poll subject seems similar, but Erica Barnett at PubliCola made some good points about differences between the two. However, I think she missed the most important distinction.  The Elway poll asked only about unspecified “transportation improvements” while the EMC specified a “statewide transportation package this year to address congestion and safety issues; fund road and bridge maintenance and improvements; and provide additional transit funding.”

In other words, when the question is framed as Fix It and Transit, it wins across the board.

Link Excuse of the Week: Columbia City Beatwalk


The Columbia City Business Association has revamped and upgraded Beatwalk for it’s 19th year.  Events are now on the second Sunday of the month June-October from 4-9pm and FREE.  Location is Downtown Columbia City, a short walk east from the Columbia City Link Station.

Each Sunday event will have it’s own theme and unique lineup.  June 9th is “Funky Times”:

4 to 8 – Roving Street Performers
4:30 to 8:30 – Cyrille Gosselin at Tutta Bella
5 to 8 – DJMCG5000 – live funk DJ on the street
5 to 6:30 – Kid Feature at Arc Lodge Cinema
6 to 7 – The Beaconettes at Columbia City Gallery
6:30 to 8:30 – Jeff Fielder & Friends at Island Soul
7 to 9 – Thadillac at The Royal Room
7:30 to 9:30 – Eldridge Gravy & The Court Supreme at Columbia City Theater
8 to 10 – McTuff at Lottie’s Lounge

For more inforation and to see the full summer lineup check out their webpage or facebook page.

See past Link excuses here.

HCT Funding Meeting Delayed Again

Friend of the blog Bill LaBorde has informed us that the Government Performance and Finance Committee meeting scheduled for June 5, at which the Spokane Street savings issues (Ship Canal Crossing and UW-SLU HCT studies) were going to be decided, will be pushed back to June 19.  The reason for the delay is that Councilmember Burgess will be out of town with family.  In addition the council is waiting on more information from the City Budget Office on the savings.

We have written on the studies here and here.  If anyone would like to comment on them, the meeting will be in the Council Chambers (City Hall, up the stairs), Wednesday June 19th, at 9:30am. Come at least half an hour early to ensure you get a chance to testify!

New Design

STB’s design has served us well over the past few years, but it was limited by an inability render well on mobile devices (which now account for 20% of visits and rising). Our mobile site was an unattractive short-term patch that got us by for a little while, but wasn’t a viable solution for the long term. So we’ve redesigned the site using a responsive template that should render well on phones, tablets, and desktops.

The site now supports Gravatars in the comments for those of you who would like to make use of them (I know several commenters already do). I don’t have the resources to test the site on every phone, tablet and internet-enabled doodad under the sun, so please do let me know if you’re having trouble viewing content on your particular device and I’ll do my best to fix it. Bear with me as I’m sure there will be some wonkiness in the short term.

Also, due to popular request, we’ve added an event calendar, which we’ll be populating with transit-related events over the coming weeks.

Those of you visiting on desktops will notice a beautiful background photo courtesy of Dave Honan. Many thanks to Dave for the image.

Update 6/4/13: Due to some performance issues, I’ve disabled the background image. I really liked it, but it was causing some erratic behavior on mobile. I’d like to bring it back, but only if I can do so without making performance compromises.

Seasonal Service Change June 8

567It’s time for agencies to switch to their summer schedules:

ST Express
Route 550: Minor Sunday schedule changes
Route 560: Major schedule and route changes; new stops serving Westwood Village
Route 566: Major schedule changes to accommodate new Route 567
Route 567: New route with service between Kent, Bellevue and Overlake
Route 574: Southbound buses now use SeaTac/Airport Station Bay 2
Route 577: One new southbound weekday afternoon trip added; minor schedule changes
Route 586: Two morning and afternoon trips discontinued until fall

The 567 is the 566 except that it doesn’t serve Auburn or Renton. The 560 will now terminate at the emerging Westwood Village transit hub rather than going all the way to Alaska Junction.

As always, Metro is doing the same, with minor changes to the C, 7, 15, 17, 18, 49, 56, 57, 82, 83, 84, 215, 240, 245, 265, 280, and 384 304.

Pierce Transit is making a few cuts this month but the axe really falls in September. 33 routes are changing, and 32 of them have at least a few deleted trips.