69 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: When I Ride The Bus”

  1. When the price of gas went waaaay up several years ago, my brother switch from a one hour, one-way commute via his car to a 90 minute commute via bus. To his surprise, he liked the bus better because he didn’t have to do the driving. And he fulfilled a life-long goal of reading Moby Dick.

    1. Probably for the best that Almost Live isn’t still on the air in its classic form. But the piece captures an important truth that transit discussions often miss: as this country builds back its transit system to the point where most people can use it as a regular part of their lives, people will really find that riding trains or buses offers more freedom and enjoyment than driving a car for the same trips.

      I also continue to support the MVET for transit funding precisely because it pays for my most effective maintenance measure: the ability to keep my car out of the kind of driving that places the hardest wear on my brakes, engine, and transmission. Not to mention my physical condition, my patience, my temper, and my sanity.

      Also, look up Trolleybus Yalta-Simferopol on YouTube. New blue trolleybuses, with Ukrainian stewardess/tour guides run fifty miles across the Yaila Mountains, past countryside very much like around Wenatchee. Tempted to see if the company would take a thousand US dollars to let me drive one round trip.

      If we still had wire in the Tunnel, wiring the 554 to Ellensburg might let Eastern Washington see some benefit out of letting us fund transit.

      Mark

  2. Kirkland is making a lot progress with the former rail line that’s now called Cross Kirkland Corridor. Today at 1 PM there will be a walk to celebrate the 5.75 mile long path’s opening. Here’s a good website that tells all about future plans for the Corridor. (It should be paved by the the summer of 2014, and there are plans for mass transit). The second link is a video explaining rail removal process of the former eastside rail line.

    http://www.kirklandwa.gov/Community/Cross_Kirkland_Corridor.htm

    1. So they take out a train track, turn it into a trail, but then want to turn it back into rail transit?

      1. I don’t think they are promising it will be rail transit. They use terms like “mass transit, or transit connection, or regional transportation system.” But in this video, Kurt Triplett, City Manager for the City of Kirkland explains that there is plenty of room for both a paved bike path and a possible future rail line. Personally, I hope they don’t run mass transit along the line. I’d like to see it stay a bike and walking path, just like the Burke-Gilman.

        http://tinyurl.com/kj8ny9k

      2. I’m really struggling to see how there could possibly be room for both without developing a swath 30 feet wide and removing all the nature that makes it a good trail.

        I do like the gravel…keeps the velococyclers from running people down.

      3. John, I agree that the “velocyclers” can be an annoying bunch but there has to be some place for people to ride cycles quickly and safely in the region. I personally won’t ride on the Burke Gilman trail because there’s too much “amateur traffic” for a cyclist often going 20+ mph. I kind of hope that when the north-south trail finally gets built that it won’t be very popular, at least during commute hours.

      4. It’s like the DSTT. It was built in the 1990s for buses with the aspiration that someday it might have rail, but they had no idea of when or how or whether it would happen. But they made a down payment on it early, and that meant: (1) it didn’t raise raise Link’s price tag, and (2) we didn’t have to add digging up downtown to Link’s other construction impacts. Given that a downtown tunnel would have been the most expensive and controversial part of Link, it was a wise move. Similarly in Kirkland, by railbanking the right of way, it ensures that there IS a right of way if the time comes to develop it, and that it’s already paid for. The main problem with Pugetopolis transit is that we didn’t reserve rail rights of way when we built the suburbs and freeways, which has always made retrofitting it much more expensive and disruptive. So here’s a chance to reserve something.

    2. Sam, can you expand on the statement “there are plans for mass transit”? I clicked around a bit, but I haven’t seen any plans to turn the trail back into a transit corridor.

      As a cyclist, I would *far* prefer to have a decent north-south bicycle corridor than a train track. Sound Transit can just take roads to build their trains. It’s damned near impossible to get a reasonable bike path built in this region.

      1. AP, click on the above link featuring Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett. He talks about Kirkland’s desire to one day use part of the corridor for mass transit.

      2. Sam: Thanks, I hadn’t watched the video. I almost never do because I hate not being able to skim news items.

        John, the east-west corridors aren’t bad compared to the north-south. NE 8th is a decent cycling street, as is Old Redmond Road and the (horribly incomplete) 520 trail. North-south is pretty horrific for commuters.

  3. I like that When I Ride the Bus video! Here’s a video someone made about riding the Long Island Rail Road, sung to the tune of We Didn’t Start the Fire, by Billy Joel.

  4. Lovely to see that Wenatchee is still using the simple (Diamond?) fareboxes and has not been lured into overcomplicated fare collection.

  5. I am unconvinced that more housing; denser housing leads to more affordable housing. I think there other variables like land, labor and material costs that play an important role and ultimately determine the cost of housing in a city/metro area.

    Nonetheless, I find it interesting and almost a bit amusing to see that SF is considering Seattle’s current housing polices as a possible model for their future:

    “Unfortunately, it worked: the city was largely “protected” from change. But in so doing, we put out fire with gasoline. Over the past two decades, San Francisco has produced an average of 1,500 new housing units per year. Compare this with Seattle (another 19th century industrial city that now has a tech economy), which has produced about 3,000 units per year over the same time period (and remember it’s starting from a smaller overall population base). While Seattle decided to embrace infill development as a way to save open space at the edge of its region and put more people in neighborhoods where they could walk, San Francisco decided to push regional population growth somewhere else.”

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/10/san-francisco-exodus/7205/

    1. We have a whole state to develop. Cramming everyone into the Seattle isthmus, bounded by lakes, channels and mountains is pathological, to put it mildly.

      1. Joe, don’t be silly. People should live where John Bailo thinks they should, not where they want to. What people who value location over square feet and grassy yards don’t realize is that their preferences are wrong, because they’re different from John Bailo’s.

      2. That’s why we should get rid of GMO and remove the limit on property tax rises. Both force people to live in places they do not want to.

      3. Restrictive height/FAR/unit limits in zoning force far more people to live places they would rather not than either the GMA or the property tax cap.

      4. Not really….since the dawn of time Man has congregated in cities……..well first villages; then cities. There are many benefits to living in cities………esp now. Seattle needs to strike a balance between people who think everything should look like the country and those people who think every city park should be redeveloped into denser and denser housing. I am pretty confident that Seattle will find that balance.

      5. Lack Thereof orates:

        Restrictive height/FAR/unit limits in zoning force far more people to live places they would rather not than either the GMA or the property tax cap.

        Why not get rid of all the restrictions instead of using Government and non-market forces to press people into living where they don’t want to?

        You build as high an apodment flat as you like, and I get to live 150 miles away at a farm in Yakima and zoom in on HSR for a Seahawks game?

        And each person pays fair and equitable market-value taxes based on current value.

        Let’s let all people in Washington live where the want, not where Joe Szilagyi says they should!!

      6. JB, you said you favor small-lot houses, and I think you said you favor compact towns. You don’t need to breach the urban growth boundary for that because there’s plenty of infill space. The only reason to extend or eliminate the urban growth boundary is to scatter large-lot low-density sprawl in rural areas.

      7. You don’t need to breach the urban growth boundary for that because there’s plenty of infill space

        Please now illustrate on Google maps a place within the urban growth bounderay of Seattle where you can build small lot single family homes.

        The only reason to extend or eliminate the urban growth boundary is to scatter large-lot low-density sprawl in rural areas.

        Extend sounds good. And low density sprawl sounds good too.

        Really it’s the only answer if you cannot control your population, which Washington State has not been able to. The only solutions you propose are cruel, malicious and quite frankly, crooked and evil.

      8. All those new large-lot developments in Covington and Maple Valley that you’re so enamored of could have been small-lot developments.. There’s that road in east Kent that was prepared for houses but has no houses yet. Aurora and Pacific Highway and 104th have lots of decaying big-box buildings that could be redeveloped, although those would work better for multifamily because you could only fit a few house lots and they’d have less profit than multifamily.

    2. Seattle is more than twice the land density of San Francisco, yet SFO is 2.5 times the population density as it is.

      Seattle has plenty of “infil” and redevelopment potential. Far more than San Francisco has now. Sure, SFO could put up more tall buildings but I don’t think its a bad thing that other established cities in the area are allowed to grow and meet their potential.

      Oakland is to Tacoma. Lots of potential and only now getting noticed because of economics at play in the region’s premier city.

      1. And they built their new football stadium 40 miles away from downtown in Santa Clara and will soon have 220 mph HSR so I could live in Bakersfield and enjoy a symphony in San Francisco or the beach in LA.

        That’s real choice!

      2. If you can afford $100 for every round trip or whatever the cost of HSR will be. And it won’t go directly to the stadium; you’ll have to transfer in San Jose to the light rail and spend half an hour going past office parks.

      3. @Mike Orr

        If you can afford $100 for every round trip

        For the one game a year you might to go?

        you’ll have to transfer in San Jose to the light rail and spend half an hour going past office parks.

        You don’t like transit very much do you?

      4. Did you really mean living in Bakersfield, or out beyond the fringe of Bakersfield? If Bakersfield is so great, why not live in Sacramento or Stockton, which already have commuter rail to the stadium?

      5. That’s where we’re lucky. We have twice the land of San Francisco and just 70% of the population, so we have lots of infill land to repair our situation.

        I’m not sure if I blame the San Francisco environmentalists who opposed growth for decades. They lived in a different era when housing was affordable everywhere, and they didn’t have the squeeze of stagnant wages vs rising expenses or many other problems we face. Earlier this year I was in San Jose Diridon station and saw an exhibit about what Santa Clara County was like in the 50s. I was surprised that BART planning goes all the way back to then. Santa Clara County voted it down, in favor of expressways, and later light rail. I have nothing good to say about that, but there was also a population chart of how the population changed over the years, and I can see how things may have looked different then. In the 50s Santa Clara County was just 200,000 people (i.e., like Spokane), and was looking forward to an airport in their little settlement. They seem to have had no idea that the county’s population would double in just ten years, and double again in the Silicon Valley era.

      6. Oakland is to Tacoma.

        While I happen to like Tacoma, think it has the historic bones and topographical drama for a dramatic renewal, and wish it all the best, it will never have a daily relationship to Seattle like the one Oakland can have to San Francisco.

        Because S.F. and Oakland are 7 miles apart, while Seattle and Tacoma are 32. And that matters.

      7. @Mike Orr……..the SF residents were opposed to all the new development that was engulfing the city because it was messing with their quality of life. Density increases traffic congestion and smog; two negatives that have plagued the Bay area for decades. Hi rises were blocking views. Residents felt overwhelmed. The ensuing uproar led to all kinds of building restrictions. I think Seattle is experiencing a similar scenario at the present time.

        @Aleks….my experience with the cost of construction materials pretty much echoes yours. I agree the primary culprits to higher construction costs and rents has more to do with increasing land costs and to a lesser extent parking. Seattle is experiencing a boom economy and prices tend to go up in general during boom times. Micropods may alleviate some of the pressure but I expect growing neighborhood opposition to that form of development.

      8. so we have lots of infill land to repair our situation.

        Repair? More like, there’s still time not to repeat the errors of San Francisco through over-density instead of expansion and population control.

    3. I agree with you. More supply is an important part of the solution, but too many people think that simply building new units alone will bring down rents OR slow the increase in rents. Neither is likely. New supply does not cause rents to soar, and enough new construction can help ease pressure on existing units. But much of the new supply will be priced higher than existing units out of necessity (land values, construction costs, credit costs). As long as Seattle remains a desirable place with a thriving economy there will be people who can afford the higher rents at new units. And that in turn means there will be landlords of existing units who want a piece of that action and who will raise rents on existing tenants (see the Lockhaven Apartments in Ballard for a good example of this). So that means some sort of rent control has to also be part of the solution.

      It’s clear that as income inequality persists and as urban centers become more desirable, rents will keep rising. And it’s also clear that the transit/urbanist movement is going to split over how to respond. Some prioritize efficient operation of markets, and some prioritize protecting people from rent increases. I fall into the latter camp and I know a lot of other people who do as well.

      Preventing people from being evicted from their home because their rent has risen to a point they cannot afford to pay it is, to me, much more important than worrying about how the market will operate. There are better rent control solutions than others, but until the unaffordable rent increases stop, I will continue to insist that rent control be part of the answer.

      1. Another thing that causes rents to be so high in new construction is that developers continue to build units that have practically gold-plated everything. Most people don’t need or want a kitchen with the most expensive faucets and appliances. Who really needs an exansive lobby on the ground floor? Who really uses the gym and rec rooms in their buildings? Most people don’t want that, but since all the new construction has it, they don’t have a choice. If developers would just build without all the silly add-ons, each unit would be more affordable to more people.

      2. Cinesea,

        Ironically, the biggest such luxury, by a long shot, is parking. A gym or rec rooms might take the place of a single apartment; a big lobby might take the place of several. But parking takes the place of many full floors. Even modern subterranean parking has a price, since digging deep can significantly increase the cost of the unit. Developers will often build a smaller number of larger units precisely so that they don’t need to provide as much parking.

        In fact, even the gyms and rec rooms and lobbies can be seen as a parking mitigation strategy. If the choice is between building a double-height lobby, or building 2 extra units that would require an additional level of parking, then the double-height lobby will often come out ahead.

        As far as the fancy faucets and appliances go, I’m not sure those add up to as much as you think. As an example, I recently called up a contractor to ask how much they would charge for installing different kinds of flooring. Bamboo (which you might think is a ridiculous luxury) would cost about $7,000, while laminate would cost about $5,000. That’s a difference of $2,000, which amortized over the 30-year lifetime of a unit is about $6/month. And I’m a small-potatoes customer; a large building would almost definitely get a better deal.

        Even if you tried to build a modern apartment building with the cheapest possible IKEA furnishings, my guess is that you’d end up saving about $100/month at most. That cost difference pales in comparison to the savings you can get from halving the size and doubling the number of units (i.e. microhousing), or from not needing to provide parking.

  6. Question about low-ridership coverage routes. While Metro generally does a pretty good job of making these routes connect geographically to more important trunk routes (e.g. a connection that requires minimal or no walking), Metro often does a much lousier job of connecting such routes in time (e.g. a connection that requires minimal or no waiting). I’m not arguing that we should run coverage routes every 15 minutes to carry 5 people per run (which, clearly, is not the best use of resources). Rather, I’m arguing that there are numerous zero-cost opportunities throughout the system to make such routes more usable simply by shifting schedules a few minutes earlier or later to align better with the trunk route it’s supposed to connect to.

    To illustrate what I am talking about, here a few destinations that are connected to downtown Seattle via a two-seat ride, consisting of one “core” route and one coverage-oriented shuttle route that have unnecessarily long wait times at the connection point:

    (data obtained through Google trip planner)

    1) Phantom Lake (Sunday, 554->221) – 28 minute wait at Eastgate P&R
    2) Klakhanie (Saturday, 554->927) – 25 minute wait at Issaquah TC
    3) Newcastle (Saturday, 554->240) – 30+ minute wait at Eastgate P&R (*)
    4) Snoqualmie Ridge (Saturday, before 11 AM, 554->208) – 39 minute wait at Issaquah TC
    5) Finn Hill (Sunday, 522->234) – 28 minute wait in Kenmore, or 255->234, with a 30 minute wait in Kirkland (*)

    (*) It is possible to not have to wait at all if your connecting bus is a little late, or your bus from downtown is a little early, but if that happens, it’s blind luck – you can, in no way count on this.

    In many cases, the same type of thing happens in the other direction, unless the trunk route has frequent service, but I’m omitting the numbers for brevity.

    Obviously, none of these destinations are anything that could be remotely construed as a huge ridership generator. Yet one must ask the question that if ridership to these places is really so negligible that it’s not worth a few minutes of some planner’s time to coordinate the schedules to and from downtown, why are we operating buses to these places at all? After all, the cost of paying somebody for a few minutes to think about how the schedules of coverage routes should be coordinated with the schedules of what they connect to is negligible compared to the cost of drivers and gas to operate such buses in perpetuity.

    Unfortunately, details like this matter – every time an opportunity comes up for a restructuring that attempts to move from an everyone-has-a-one-seat-ride-to-downtown system to a connection-based system, people resist out of fear that their bus is going to turn into an example like the ones described, at least for anyone making the trip home outside of rush hour.

    1. As you point out, those connections are really low priority. But Metro planners really should take a look at other, more critical transfers that more people use frequently. For example, look at the on-line and paper schedules for route 30 (weekday afternoons, northbound). The schedule lists departure times from downtown that arrive in the UD 2 minutes after the 30 is scheduled to depart. The 30 schedule suggests departing from downtown on a 71, 72 or 73 at 257pm which arrives in the UD at 314pm. The schedule then shows a connection to a route 30 bus that left 2 minutes earlier. That pattern continues for the rest of the PM peak period. Oops.

      1. The outbound 7x -> 30 connection at PM peak is completely irrelevant because those passengers all ride the 74. That’s probably why no one has contacted Metro to tell it to list the 7x bus 10 minutes earlier than the one currently listed.

    2. Often, this sort of problem exists simply because no one has pointed it out to Metro. This is a great time to put in feedback.

      At other times, this sort of problem exists because a different connection (for example, the 221 connection to RapidRide B at Crossroads) is judged by Metro to be the most important one. It’s not possible to have pulse scheduling at all connection points.

      This is why frequency is so important, even for low-ridership coverage routes, and why it’s better to have consolidated 15-minute-or-better routes even if the very lowest-ridership areas lose coverage. The better frequency gets, the less timed connections matter, and the easier the system is to schedule in a convenient way.

    1. So so stupid and shortsighted. The only reason politicians are pursuing this rather than a gas tax increase is because gas tax increases are unpopular. But, of course, this will be just as unpopular! It isn’t yet because people don’t know about it yet.

      Whatever merit this technology may have as a way of doing congestion pricing will surely be swamped by removing the tax incentive to drive fuel-efficient cars. And if you want to do congestion pricing there are simpler and better ways to do it. We have a simple to implement, non-intrusive way of taxing driving: it’s called the gas tax. You’re not going to find a way of taxing driving that’s not going to be unpopular. Give it up.

      1. Gas tax?
        • Regressive
        o Places a proportionally larger burden on those with less financial means
        • Proportional to the amount of gasoline purchased
        o As vehicles become more fuel efficient and/or forego the need for gasoline this revenue source will diminish

        VMT tax?
        • A user fee
        o You pay for what you use
        • Congestion management
        o Variable pricing of different roadways to manage demand and funnel motorists to where there is available capacity
         Means we don’t have to invest as much in new capacity-increasing infrastructure to meet demand
        o Can eliminate maligned toll roads
         No more funds wasted on tolling infrastructure which is just getting started in the area (to come: I-90, I-405, SR 99, I-5 etc.)
         Eliminates fare dodging
        • Operations, maintenance and planning benefits
        o With the ability to track most vehicles on the road the ramifications for traffic management, maintenance and planning are enormous
         On the operations side for example, traffic managers will know exactly where and when an accident occurs and can predict where congestion will form
         Maintenance-wise, funds and efforts can be distributed based on the volumes each road receives
         For planning, no longer do planners have to rely on traveler surveys and sparse models to predict how demand will spike and evolve.

        This isn’t comprehensive, obviously. I am kind of biased toward the VMT just for the huge benefits operations and planning will reap. Any scheme to extract more money from the public is going to unpopular. VMT comes with a whole bunch of other issues too. Do you want a public agency knowing all of your comings and goings? How do we get users that don’t have this “black box” in their vehicle to pay their share?

      2. “Do you want a public agency knowing all of your comings and goings? How do we get users that don’t have this “black box” in their vehicle to pay their share?”

        Make a special lane on the ‘tolled’ roads with the ‘exact change’ coin baskets, like they do back east.

        Label the lane:
        Libertarians, ACLU members (etc.)
        PAY HERE

        Heck, I need someplace to toss the change I get from the ST TVM’s.

      3. Transit users who bitch about, and feel superior to, SOV car commuters, yet rely on their continued use of gasoline remind me of a jobless, couch-surfing moocher with a false sense of superiority who looks down on the family who lets him stay at their home and eat their food because they “sold out” and went to work for “the man.”

      4. Sure the cost of gas is enough of an incentive on it’s own. Here in Washington excise taxes (state and federal) are about 55 cents. I suspect the range of gas prices is greater than that here in King County [compare the Chevron station at the south end of Mercer Island to an Arco in Renton or Kent] People (more or less willingly) pay 10 cents for privilege of using credit cards. I doubt, at this point that any plausible excise tax on gasoline would meaningfully drive people to more fuel efficient cars.

        On the other hand, the move to more and more efficient cars is slowly leaving a bigger and bigger hole in road revenues. It also means that, all else being equal, people with older less fuel efficient cars are paying a greater proportion of road taxes. For a variety of reasons those people tend to be poorer, so this means that the tax is becoming even more regressive than it already is.

        Taxing people directly for the amount of road they use seems like a good idea. It’s likely still to be regressive, but I suspect it will be less so than what we have now.

      5. Burning gas has an externality: the carbon emissions pollute our world and accelerate global warming. That externality can be internalized by charging a gas tax.

        Driving a motor vehicle on a public road has an externality: the road suffers wear and tear from the weight of the vehicle, and the vehicle takes up space that can’t be used by other vehicles, potentially increasing congestion. That externality can be internalized by charging a VMT tax, and ideally adjusting that tax so that users pay more when driving on busy roads or at busy times, and less when driving on empty roads at quiet times.

        I realize that Oregon, among others, is attempting to use the VMT as a replacement for the gas tax. But I don’t think that shortsighted scheme should be taken as an indictment of the VMT. The gas tax is incapable of delivering the types of road use efficiencies that a time-sensitive or location-aware VMT can deliver, and the VMT is incapable of rewarding fuel efficiency in the way that the gas tax is. They are best used together. I hope that we will eventually realize that both of these taxes are far better than taxes on things we want to encourage, like income and general retail sales.

      6. Challingford: Many people say that the gas tax is “regressive”. Many people say the same thing about the VMT, actually. However, I think that both critiques are missing the point.

        With a tax like the retail sales tax, poor people are pulled in two directions. On the one hand, they want to pay less tax; on the other hand, some amount of consumer spending is necessary to live in the modern world. Even with exemptions for unprepared food and rent, a Washington State resident earning $11,000/year can expect to pay about 4% of their income in sales tax, almost entirely on essentials (since they clearly cannot afford many luxuries).

        On the other hand, the premise underlying both the gas tax and the VMT tax is that the optimal level of driving is lower than the current level. Anyone who wants to pay less tax can simply choose to drive less. In doing so, they will make both themselves and the world better off.

        Now, you can argue about the extent to which driving is a necessity in modern American life, especially for people who earn enough not to be homeless, but not enough to live in a family-sized home in a walkable urban neighborhood. And you can also argue about whether a flat-rate gas or VMT tax will create the right incentives, given that a $0.375/gal tax is a much bigger deal for a family earning $30,000 than a family earning $300,000. But there are ways to address both of these problems. For example, suppose that the WSDOT doubled the gas tax (from $0.375/gal to $0.75/gal), but then mailed a monthly check for $300 to every Washington resident. This effectively compensates for the full doubled tax on 400 miles driven per month. Anyone who drives less than 800 miles a month (9600 miles per year) will come out ahead, and anyone who drives less than 400 miles a month will actually pay a negative amount of tax.

        (Ironically, this “prebate” idea also features in the FairTax proposal, which is otherwise one of the worst tax reform ideas of the past 300 years. It’s a bizarre combination.)

      7. Gas Tax of VMT, the question really is: What are you spending the tax monies collected on?

        Why does it matter? I mean, I understand it matters politically. But can you imagine if Microsoft had a policy that said that the money they earn from selling Windows could only be used to hire Windows developers, or if Toyota had a policy that said that the money they earn from selling Camrys could only be used for Camry marketing?

        A higher gas tax means that less gas will be burned. This means that we will be causing less environmental damage, and it also means that the economy will grow more slowly. The optimal level of the gas tax is the level at which the costs of the environmental damage from burning gas are perfectly balanced against the costs of the economic damage from the higher tax. That is, raising the tax by even a penny would harm the economy more than it would help the environment, but dropping the tax by even a penny would harm the environment more than it would help the economy. (This is obviously very difficult to measure, since economic costs show up in the short term, while environmental damage stays around for a very long time. But it’s the goal.)

        Likewise, the optimal level of the VMT tax is the level at which the costs of the economic damage from congestion and roadway damage are perfectly balanced against the costs of the economic damage from the higher tax. That is, raising the tax by even a penny would do more economic harm by reducing mobility than it would help the economy by reducing congestion and roadway damage, but dropping the tax by even a penny would do more harm by increasing congestion and roadway damage than it would help by increasing mobility.

        The point is that the optimal level for these taxes has absolutely nothing to do with what you spend the money on. Even if we just burned the money, it would still be a good thing to have these taxes, because the economy is actually better off with less of the activity that’s being taxed. It would be a huge mistake to reduce the level of these taxes just because we didn’t have a good thing to spend the money on, or because we weren’t willing to put the money into the general fund.

      8. So, does raising the gas tax (or via a VMT), and adding more freeway capacity fit within the parameters you just defined?

      9. Okay, so I would prefer if the extra money weren’t spent on freeways. I’d also prefer if we didn’t use alcohol tax money to fund keggers, and if we didn’t use cigarette tax money to set up a tobacco home-delivery program. But there are plenty of things we can spend the gas tax on that aren’t building more freeways — like, for example, repairing the ones we currently have.

  7. Metro route 99 excuse of the week. With the recent news of one of the Wah Mee killers being paroled, this might be a good opportunity for people to see the site of the worst mass murder in the state’s history. (You can’t go inside. The inside has remained closed for the last 30 and 1/2 years). Just take the 99 to its International District terminal at 8th and King St. Walk one and one half blocks west on King to Maynard Alley, across from Phnom Penh Noodle House, then walk a few feet south down the alley and you’ll see the doorway on your left.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wah_Mee_massacre

  8. I’m saddened that once again the Tri-County Connectors are going to be at risk in 2014. This time the Island & Skagit connections to Skagit.

    I’m also sure there needs to be a way to ally our NW Washington State transit concerns with those of the Seattle megalopolis.

  9. Late question: What’s a storage tripper? Tripper storage? I saw a bus 661 (“Tripper Storage Shuttle”, according to Transit Seattle) driving north on I-5 between downtown Seattle and Montlake this morning. There were some riders but it wasn’t full. The main ambiguity for me is whether it’s the bus itself that is being stored, or if it’s carrying cargo to be stored.

    1. A “tripper” is a bus run which pulls in and out of the base and pays less than 8 hours. (Typically, they are rush-hour pieces of work lasting between 2:20 and about 5:00.)

      Metro stores some North Base buses at Central Base during the midday to save fuel and reduce I-5 congestion.

      A “storage tripper” is a tripper that involves one of these North Base buses. In the morning, a storage tripper would pull out at North Base and pull into Central Base. In the afternoon, a storage tripper would pull out of Central Base and pull into North Base. Route 661, the “storage tripper shuttle,” takes drivers of storage trippers back to North Base in the morning after the drivers drop their buses at Central Base, or from North Base to Central Base in the afternoon so the drivers can pick up their buses. There are a few 661 trips in each direction. When I drove storage trippers there were typically 5-10 drivers on a Route 661 bus.

  10. Late addition as well: I wanted to drop this here, a video and short article on Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s 30-year history. Notably, DART was put in place by local voters, survived two rounds of city withdrawal elections (DART is owned by its member cities who dedicate 1% out of the 8.25% sales tax in each city), and has managed to build 85 miles of light rail with service to DFW International coming next year, with shuttle service already in place for both DFW International and Dallas Love. (The video even notes that this extension will make DART “one of the few” transit agencies with rail service to an airport. I didn’t know this was such a rare happenstance.)

    It’s interesting, to me, to compare what DART and Metro/Sound Transit are doing. DART is building a streetcar in downtown Dallas to connect it with a couple of rapidly-growing and dense neighborhoods and has basically redone its entire suburban bus network to take people through a given small area directly to a light rail station. By having rail, DART eliminates the need for an extensive Sound Transit-style express bus system. Of course, building rail is _much_ cheaper in flat north Texas, and the reach is only to Dallas and its surrounding areas. Unlike Sound Transit, there is limited access to neighboring Fort Worth, making the rough equivalent of being able to go from Seattle to Tacoma only during peak periods on an hourly frequency. On the other hand, the span of service for light rail is amazing. All of the routes run from 3AM to 1AM, with the lowest frequency being about 25 minutes before 5:30AM.

    DART also managed to accomplish two things this year that surprise me, as a former resident: First, they finally got the city of Arlington to cough up and do a “trial” of bus service and that service is already adding stops and trips. Second, they actually have night owl service on one route (703 between Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center), and it has _fifteen minute_ intervals in the middle of the night.

    This was all done without asking for taxing authority from the state, which wouldn’t give it anyway; the Lone Star Transit Agency was all but banned by law in the early 1980s and all attempts at allowing a regional transit agency, Sound Transit-style, have failed miserably. DART did it like Seattle should. It went to each city and said “this is the tax authority you have now; will your citizens use it to build transit?”

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