News Roundup: Under Construction

Photo by Flickr user WhenEliseSings

This is an open thread.

Sound Transit Rolling Out Bike Cages

One of the more interesting details of last week’s Rainier Station Open House was the “bike cage” planned for the entrance. Rainier Station (regardless of its ultimate name) will have space for 20 bikes in cages on opening day, with space reserved to accommodate 12 more. Regular racks and lockers will accommodate a further 20 (eventually 28).

The video above may give you an idea what it’s about, but here’s the basic flow. A bicyclist obtains a smart card (Sound Transit hasn’t selected a vendor or a technology for this) that provides her access to the cage and represents whatever cash account is necessary to pay for it. She then uses her lock to secure it to the apparatus inside and leaves.

The bike cage is far more compact than lockers while providing more security and protection from the elements than a rack. The transparent fencing is a safety feature allowing people to see what is going on inside. There will also be closed-circuit television cameras for added security.

Sound Transit didn’t respond to my question about whether or not we’ll see these at other stations before 2023.

A video about Boston’s implementation this (which I gather is farther from Sound Transit’s vision than the one above) is below the fold.

Continue reading “Sound Transit Rolling Out Bike Cages”

Senate Transportation Forum Tonight

The State Senate Transportation Committee is kicking off a series of open houses to discuss transportation funding. They’re meeting tonight in Bellevue. It’s open to the public. There will be another in Seattle in October, and several more throughout the state. If you care about Metro cuts or other transportation-related issues, it would be a good opportunity to make your voice heard.

These and other events are on our calendar.

Rainier Station Open House Report

Platform Looking East
Platform Looking East

On Thursday about 100 people joined around two dozen staff from various agencies to hear about the 30% design of Rainier Station. The event was at the Northwest African American Museum, a venue that stands to move up a few pegs on the tourist trail when it has easy light rail access.

Although various factors will prevent the station area from ever being Capitol Hill, there’s always more the City could be doing about zoning. In any case, one particularly appealing aspect of the station is the dual entrances on Rainier and 23rd Ave. Those will provide access to the pivotal 7 and 48, as well as the I-90 bike trail. From there, ST estimates travel times of 15 minutes to UW, 22 to Northgate, and 26 to Overlake. ST estimates those times will attract 3,000 riders in 2030, seven years after it opens: 2,000 from the 23rd Ave entrance and 1,000 from Rainier.

The bad news is that the distance between the two entrances is (unavoidably) quite a bit longer than a train length, meaning a longer walk for riders. On the 23rd Avenue side, after the portal* it’s a 330 feet walkway, terminating in a nice viewpoint of the skyline before descending to the platform.

Continue reading “Rainier Station Open House Report”

Camping by Bus: Tolt MacDonald Park

Shipping Container Cabin

Living in the Seattle area means having access to nature, even by bus.  There are blueberry farms you can ride to, hiking trails, and recently I discovered a campground with a bus stop at the entrance.

King County’s Tolt MacDonald Park is unlike any campground I’ve experienced.  It’s very close to the Seattle area, and just outside the city limits of Carnation.  From the campsite it’s a 13 minute walk to the grocery store, complete with Starbucks.  I wouldn’t be surprised if pizza delivery was available. Continue reading “Camping by Bus: Tolt MacDonald Park”

Take a Deep Dive on Lynnwood Link Today at Noon

Going to be sitting at your computer today at noon? Sound Transit is hosting an online tech talk today at noon to discuss the Draft EIS for the Lynnwood Link extension. Topics will include:

  • Route and station alternatives for light rail in the Draft EIS
  • The project’s potential benefits and impacts
  • Possible effects on the environment, nearby properties and transportation

More info here.  Live stream here.

Anti-Rail Forces Rejected by State Supreme Court

The HOV lanes and East Link (stolen shamelessly from ST)
The HOV lanes and East Link (from Sound Transit)

On Thursday, the Washington State Supreme Court published their 7-2 opinion (PDF), denying a laundry list of the usual anti-transit suspects their likely second to last attempt to block the construction of East Link.

This latest case started in Kittitas County – Freeman sued to block East Link there, perhaps looking for a more conservative judge than he’d find in King, and failed over a year ago. He appealed to the Supreme Court, and this week the result is clear: he’s burning his money on ways to block rail without success on any front.

The fight for rail in the I-90 express lanes is long – it started in the 1970s with the reconstruction and expansion of I-90, Sound Transit joined the party in 2004 to plan transit across the bridge, Sound Transit 2 funded it, and finally it’s happening!

Freeman’s suit alleged that because I-90 was partly (about 10%) built with state gas tax money, and state gas tax money is prohibited from use for transit projects, the state couldn’t lease the lanes to Sound Transit. There are a lot of specifics, but all of them were wrong, and unless you’re really fascinated by the legal contortions that folks like this will go to in order to try to stop transit, it’s really only worth reading the first couple of pages of background (PDF, look at pages 1-5), which are excellent.

So, assisted by attorney Phil Talmadge, who I expected better from, and the Eastside Transportation Association, a nonprofit you should never donate to, here’s the dirty dozen:

Kemper Freeman; Jim Horn; Steve Stivala; Ken Collins; Michael Dunmire; Sarah Rindlaub; Al Deatley; Jim Coles; Bryan Boehm; Emory Bundy; Roger Bell; and Mark Anderson.

It’s possible this will come back one more time – part of the decision came down to only five members of the court agreeing that WSDOT could lease the space to Sound Transit. The other four think the lease wouldn’t be constitutional, but that they can’t weigh in until someone sues when the lease actually takes place. Kemper Freeman may very well waste more of his money, and our tax dollars, with his attempt to litigate away the will of his neighbors.

News Roundup: Advisory

Angle Lake Extension Concrete Segment (Sound Transit)

This is an open thread.

Center City Connector: First Avenue It Is

First Avenue Streetcar right-of-way

When we last left the Center City Connector project, we were down to two alternative alignments: a 4th/5th Avenue Couplet and 1st Avenue.  As I noted at the time, 1st Avenue had the momentum.  Sure enough, it appears that 1st Avenue has been selected to move on to Phase 2.  An SDOT report (.pdf) to the city council indicates that the 1st Avenue alignment had overwhelming support and was the better choice for connecting downtown destinations, minimizing impact to buses and bikes, and redevelopment.  A second round of analysis will evaluate running the streetcar in exclusive versus shared right-of-way. A finance plan is still on track for January 2014. Summer Promotion


We’re a bit late reporting on this promotion, so if you have been driving alone for the past couple of weeks you are out of luck. However, I imagine a good portion of our users are probably taking alternatives but either haven’t signed up for or aren’t logging their trips in the calendar. As the system allows you to go back three weeks and log trips, you should sign up/login and get to it!

Here are the rules:

Register or update your existing user account on to get started. Then at least twice per week during the promotion (that’s Aug. 18 – Sept. 21, 2013), track your alternative work commute (for at least 10 total days) on the calendar (or a participating sponsor calendar such as IWay or DriveLessConnect) to be eligible for entry into prize drawings, including a $1,500 gift card grand prize drawing and three $500 gift card drawings. We will also draw weekly for $50 MasterCard gift card winners from each participating state ( WA & ID). Visit for contest details and eligibility. is great for tracking your trips, seeing how much money you save and pollution you reduce, and especially for finding someone to carpool with. As Wheel Options is coming up you’ll want to start getting in the habit of logging your trips anyway.

Downtown Density

A friend of mine remarked to me the other day how little people seem to talk about the revitalization of downtown Seattle over the last 20 years.  Sure, there are still your not-so-nice corners here and there, but as American urban downtowns go, it’s quite a vibrant place, even nights and weekends.

The state of downtown living and working is the subject of the just-released 2013 Downtown Density Report, which includes some interesting numbers on the subject.  Relevant to our work on this blog, for instance, 43% of downtown households are car free, and 1 in 3 downtown residents walk to work.

Furthermore, since 2005, over 11,000 residential units have been added, and over 5,000 are currently under construction. Despite the preponderance of construction cranes on the horizon, the neighborhood isn’t finished growing by a long shot. The PSRC’s Vision 2040 projects 75,000 new residents downtown by 2040. That’s excellent news, because downtown is great for transit and great for the environment.

A PDF of the full report is available here.

June and July ST Ridership Reports

July13MvgAvgDue to the August Operations Committee meeting being cancelled, Sound Transit didn’t tablulate June’s ridership numbers until earlier this month, so you get two updates for the price of one.

June’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were out of the park at 31,953/29,517/21,853, growth of 14.2%, 27.5%, and 20.2% respectively over June 2012. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 4.7% (up 5% on the South Line, down 1% on the North Line).  Total Tacoma Link ridership was down 8.7% with weekday ridership declining 1.8%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.8%.  Of special mention are the crosslake routes.  The 545, 550, and 554 had year over year increases of 19%, 17% and 18% respectfully.

July’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 31,947/32,853/23,879, growth of 10.7%, 22.3%, and 16.3% respectively over June 2012. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 16.9% (up 18% on the South Line, up 7% on the North Line).  Total Tacoma Link ridership was up 2.4% but weekday ridership declined 1.2%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.8%.  Crosslake routes continued to show strong growth.  The 545, 550, and 554 had year over year increases of 18%, 19% and 15% respectfully.

Link has seen double digit ridership growth ten out of the past twelve months, with an average of 10.9% over the period.

My Link charts below the fold. Continue reading “June and July ST Ridership Reports”

ST Responds to IDS Concerns


Many of you sent your concerns about the placement of the East Link turn-back track to Sound Transit, prompted by Brent’s recent analysis of the problem. ST sent this thorough reply out to all of you and to us:

On behalf of the Sound Transit Board, CEO, and our staff, I wanted to thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding the International District Station’s (IDS) design as it relates to Sound Transit’s light rail system. We greatly appreciate and share your interest in seeing the light rail system as well-designed and well-used as possible.

As background on the issue overall, when the ST2 regional light rail system is fully built out it will be important to be able to efficiently take trains out of service and return to the main operations and maintenance facility (OMF) in the SODO district of Seattle, south of the International District Station (IDS) and the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT). Although the agency is planning to build an additional satellite vehicle storage and maintenance facility, all heavy maintenance will continue to occur at the existing OMF. We expect each light rail vehicle to cycle through the existing facility once a week.

Given this, Sound Transit has spent almost a year analyzing options for the best placement of a “turnback track” to allow trains from the East Link line to be taken out of service and returned to the OMF. The Pioneer Square and University Street stations do not have room to maneuver a four-car train between the platforms (length of switches on one end and room for a four car train), which left Northgate, IDS and Convention Place stations as the best options in terms of operations, construction impacts and cost.

Continue reading “ST Responds to IDS Concerns”

City Council Smacks CVS With Minimum Density Legislation

The proposed CVS (1st Ave N side)
The proposed CVS (Queen Anne Ave side) – single use, single entrance

Earlier this year, CVS suddenly started trying to build suburban-style, one story drugstores, chock full of parking, in the middle of three Seattle urban villages.

In a departure from a lot of the activism we often see, neighborhood groups organized to push back asking for more density, and today, the council unanimously passed temporary emergency legislation from Councilmember Conlin banning what he called “strip mall development,” sending a clear signal against underdeveloping neighborhood centers.

I’ve had the opportunity to be part of this since the beginning. Velmeir, the developer trying to build CVS, came to an Uptown Alliance Urban Design Framework committee meeting, presenting a fully designed pharmacy building and handwaving away any option of mixed use. Other Uptown Alliance members dug in, and found that they were trying to do the same thing in Wallingford and West Seattle.

A month or more later, when Velmeir came to their Early Design Guidance meeting, the first step to get a permit, they hadn’t changed a thing. Their design was rejected by the design review board (PDF), citing large blank walls and lack of any unique design elements – despite a design packet showcasing the art deco style of many buildings in the neighborhood. They tried the same design again in Wallingford, and that board rejected it for a different reason. They said it didn’t meet the height, bulk, and scale guideline – it wasn’t big enough!

Several neighborhood activists from both Uptown and Wallingford went to Councilmember Conlin and DPD, who worked together on emergency legislation (PDF) to block further development of this nature. The legislation requires minimum Floor Area Ratio (often FAR), something that to my knowledge has never been done before in Seattle.

For a 30 or 40 foot zone in a pedestrian overlay district (which exist in station areas and urban villages), any new building or modification of over 1000 square feet must have a minimum ratio of building square footage to site square footage of 1.5. For a 65 or 85 foot zone, this becomes 2, and for a 125 or 160 foot zone, 2.5. This isn’t a difficult requirement to beat; it just prevents these suburban-style developments.

I attended today’s Council meeting. Other than one crazy regular commenter, I believe every comment with an opinion on the legislation was in favor. Oddly, an attorney from Foster Pepper (retained by Velmeir) appeared, signed up to comment, and at the microphone, merely asked whether they had the latest version of the legislation the Council was considering. They did.

Just before the vote, Conlin gave some explanation and commentary. It got very interesting – he said (paraphrasing) that the land use code today is often used to limit height and density, but the Council thinks it can also be used to encourage them! He went on to say that this is just a step on that path, but “for the future of our city, it’s important that we go down that path.”

I’m generally wary of legislation to impose new requirements on development – many requirements, like parking, can put a price floor on new development higher than what the market would provide. Fortunately, this legislation may lead to a wider discussion of Seattle’s land use code that, if guided well, could lead to more affordability, more walkability, and stronger, more inclusive community. I applaud today’s move, and look forward to that discussion.

Bolt Bus Adding Route in the PNW

Photo from
Photo from

Tomorrow morning Bolt Bus will announce further expansion in the PNW, a route from Portland to Albany and Eugene, OR.  Bolt Bus GM David Hall was nice enough to talk with me on the expansion.

More will be released tomorrow, but the basic facts are:

  • Service will start on Oct 3rd.
  • All fares for the first four days from Portland to Eugene / Albany will be $1.
  • Portland to Eugene / Albany buses will run 5 days a week, Thursday to Monday, with no runs Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • On Thursdays and Sundays there will be one throughrouted bus from Seattle to Eugene, stopping in Portland along the way.
  • On Fridays and Mondays the inverse will occur, a throughrouted bus from Eugene to Seattle.
  • Also, as part of this expansion Bolt Bus will be adding service on the Portland to Seattle line during peak times.

Quoting David:  “This region continues to be a real home run for us, and we are looking at additional expansion probably next year.”  As a special bonus, David let me know that thanks to the many well informed comments made in our earlier Bolt Bus thread, the company is studying a Spokane route via Ellensburg.  They will “need additional buses to do it” so such a line would not open until next spring at the very earliest.

ST Releases Fall 2013 Schedule


The changes take effect Sept. 28th:

ST Express
Route 510: Major route and schedule changes
Route 511: Major route and schedule changes
Route 512: Route now runs on weekdays and Saturdays
Route 513: Trips added and schedule changes
Route 522: Stop changes in Bothell due to construction
Route 532: Stop changes in Everett
Route 540: Trips reduced to better match ridership
Route 545: Trips added and schedule changes
Route 550: Trips added and schedule changes
Route 554: Schedule changes
Route 566: Schedule changes
Route 567: Trips added and schedule changes to meet new Sounder train
Route 578: Trip added and schedule changes
Route 586: Two morning and afternoon trips resume September 23, 2013
Route 590: Schedule changes
Route 592: Select trips now serve Lacey and Olympia and minor schedule changes
Route 594: Minor schedule changes
Route 596: Trips added to meet new Sounder trains

South line: One round trip added; schedule changes
North line: No changes

South Sounder adds an eighth peak direction round trip; this service will reduce headways rather than expand span.

We reported on 592 service to Lacey and Olympia here. The 510-512 changes realize the Service Implementation Plan Bruce reported on here, simplifying all-day service while shifting capacity to the overloaded peak.

Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan Report

The Rainier Beach Neighborhood Plan Update (attachment F here) – which covers the neighborhood around the Rainier Beach Link station – went to the Seattle City Council for a vote in May. (For a quick refresh, here’s STB’s past coverage of the Plan). The council voted to approve the amendments, with the items moving forward for further consideration after summer recess.

The main points of the update and the action plan focus on strengthening Rainier Beach’s economic development while retaining its diverse nature. To that end, the most important recommendations were:

  • Mixed-use, affordable housing and commercial development in the Beach Square area (pictured below), along with casting Beach Square as the hub of local commercial activity

Screenshot 2013-09-05 at 10.38.05 AM

  • Transit-oriented development around the light rail station on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and South Henderson St.

  • Support the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland Project

  • Improve pedestrian and bike facilities

  • Try to lure a community college to the area

  • Increase access to healthy food

The Rainier Beach Coalition highlighted similar issues as well, especially the encouragement of economic development. The council will meet once more in the coming week after summer recess; the agenda has yet to see the light of day, but once it appears, we’ll see what more is in store for Rainier Beach.

While Rainier Beach station is approximately half a mile away from the commercial activity in the Beach Square area, rezoning will allow more development around the station and Beach Square, allowing the potential for the station walkshed to expand into an urban village. Planned bus staging areas will also focus development around the light rail.

East Link Final Design Summer Update

Image from Sound Transit, via CDNews

Sound Transit is currently gunning through final design for East Link. Next week, there will be two open houses: one unveiling a 60% design update for the Bel-Red segment, and the other kicking off final design for the Seattle segment (International District eastward). The last segment for which there hasn’t been any final design community outreach is Overlake, but my guess is that that will probably happen sometime soon.

Though the vast majority of our East Link coverage is about the Eastside, the Seattle segment certainly deserves its share of attention as well. For one, the city gets another new grade-separated rail station on top of what is already promised from Northgate Link. And although the land use opportunity for Rainier Station isn’t significant, there’s some hope that station construction can be used to leverage connectivity improvements in the area*.

Since the poor existing connectivity is largely attributable to the the topography and I-90 ROW, there’s obviously no silver bullet. Still, ped/bike improvements will be most welcome, particularly to the I-90 trail and connections to Rainier. I’m also optimistic that this is a chance for the City to get rolling on Bicycle Master Plan projects (.pdf), which would presumably help channel riders within the Rainier corridor’s development-prone areas to and from the station.

Of course, all of this is guesswork, so you’ll have to find out more specifics from 6 to 8pm next Thursday at the Northwest African American Museum. The 60% open house for the Bel-Red segment, on the other hand, will be held on Tuesday from 5 to 7pm at Highland Community Center in Bellevue.

*Councilmember Conlin has been keeping close tabs on Rainier Station area planning as well.