72 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Squats for Subway”

  1. I knew Sam would find something totally off-the-wall to cover after we sent him on assignment to Europe. Who said working for STB is less fun than working for the New York Times?

    1. Speaking of working …

      After the election of socialist Kshama Sawant to the city council, who ran on the platform of raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15/hour, I finally found the courage to speak out on an issue that has long troubled me. And that is the deplorable working conditions in online comment forums. We receive no pay for our writings. Our comments are summarily deleted. (Repeated deleted comments at a local online newspaper, I believe, is the reason for my PTSD, and why I must now write all my comments with my emotional support dog, Buckles, by my side). And we can be banned without benefit of an arbitration hearing. There should be a commenters Union to fight for just compensation, paid sick leave, etc!

      1. Goes into the category of people who want the “right” to protest inside a privately owned shopping mall.

  2. So is it just me or was this election actually pretty disruptive to the political scene?

    1) Murry being elected solely for his “I’m not McGinn” platform
    2) Sawant replaces Conlin.
    3) We now have district elections for council.

    If only (1) had happened I wouldn’t think much of it, but throwing in (2) and (3) makes it difficult for me to project what the general direction of the politics will be for the next few years. It’s obviously not going to be fantastic for transit advocates, but I don’t think you can automatically say it’s going to start raining frogs, Lake Union will turn into blood, or it will be dark all day. Okay…maybe you can say that last one.

    Anyone want throw in there two cents? It would be appreciated.

    1. I categorize Sawant’s election as a Socialist as something along the lines of Washington State legalizing pot.

      Essentially it’s less legalization the legitimization since everyone had already been smoking pot with relative immunity and this region’s politics border on Socialist anyway.

      This just allows us to call a duck a duck.

      1. Or, it could be like 4 years ago when Seattle took a chance on McGinn. If Sawant doesn’t do anything, or just fights with other Council members, then she will not get re-elected.

      2. I chalk Sawant’s election up to the long-term ideological rightward slide of both major parties and the power-brokering “urban elites” you’re so fond of, while actual on-the-ground voter ideology has been constant or sliding to the left (at least in Seattle).

        Eventually the left feels like their support is being taken for granted and they’re receiving nothing in return policy-wise. So they find an alternative, as we see here.

  3. Anyone know what the deal is with the Northbound routing for the D? The map still says the 8th street detour is “temporary” but they’re installing what looks like a permanent stop on 8th and 90th.

    1. The permanent terminal loop near QFC is already well under construction, I think it’s supposed to open early next year. My mind is a little boggled that they’d be building a permanent RapidRide branded stop on the detour. My only guess is that it’s a long-planned stop improvement that’s just temporarily getting a spare RR shelter? I’ll look into it.

  4. Why didn’t the 183 ever have any Sunday service? Not only that, but the span of service on the days that it does run is a few bars lower than every single other non-express metro route in Federal Way. It’s also interesting to note that there aren’t any changes at all in order for the 183 for the coming service reduction, because it’s already very underserved.

    1. This is one of a few mysteries like this scattered around the Metro system.

      Sometimes routes just don’t seem to be in line for improvements, almost as if they had been forgotten during the planning process. The 183 is not a stellar performer, but it’s always been better than a bunch of routes elsewhere with more frequent service and longer spans. Other similar mysteries are the 68 (no Sunday or night service despite being one of the strongest Saturday and off-peak performers in the network) and the 73 (still hourly at night despite extremely strong ridership north of UW).

      1. I wouldn’t say that any of those routes are forgotten. As per the RTTF service guidelines, Metro’s top four priorities (in order) for new investment are:

        1. Reduce overcrowding
        2. Improve schedule reliability
        3. Increase service to meet target service levels
        4. Increase service on high-productivity routes

        According to the latest service guidelines, 43,200 hours are needed to address the first two priorities. Given that these are urgent problems on exceptionally productive services, I think it’s safe to assume that Metro will be fixing these problems, even given the latest cuts. (Though it’s worth noting that some of the problems are being “fixed” by simply deleting the service in question.) This leaves virtually no money for addressing any of the latter two priorities — which is the bucket into which the 68, 73, and 183 fall.

        I think this is understandable. If a bus is so full that it’s turning people away, then it’s clear that a new bus will be very well patronized. Similarly, people (theoretically) count on Metro to be reliable, and so making a route more reliable is likely to reap major dividends. These two are also complementary — buses which are more evenly spaced are also buses that are less crowded, which improves the efficiency of the whole system.

        There are a whole pile of corridors which are below the target frequency at some or all times. The 73 is #3 on the list; the 183 is pretty high up there too (as is the 132), and the 68 is on the list (though pretty far down). But in the face of 17% cuts, it’s hard for Metro to justify *any* of these improvements. The 49 is the #1 priority for investment to improve service levels, but can Metro afford to spend 4,700 hours to make this route more frequent during the peak, if it means ending service on some other route at 7 PM instead of 11 PM, or cutting some other route entirely?

        Of course, this does illustrate one problem with the service guidelines (which many people have observed since the beginning). It’s easy to measure the productivity of existing service, but it’s difficult to measure the productivity of service that doesn’t yet exist. It might be the case that adding Sunday service on a route will increase productivity on all 7 days; maybe somebody works Sunday-Thursday, and so if the bus ran on Sunday, they could sell their car and take the bus. However, when we’re facing 17% cuts, I do think that a laser focus on the service that is most productive today is a completely rational response.

      2. Aleks, to clarify, I’m talking about lacunae in the system that have existed for a very long time, since well before the Service Guidelines process was established. The 183’s service level hasn’t made sense since I’ve known the south King County network. Also, “target service level” as Metro is using it is a bit of a fuzzy concept, so that list you identified in the SGR is a bit hard to make sense of. I think they could do better by directly identifying routes that have higher 1) absolute ridership or 2) productivity than similar routes elsewhere in the system that operate at a greater level of service. Using this measure, for example, it makes no sense that the 36 receives 10-minute midday service while the 49 receives 15-minute service, and the 73/night and 68/night/Sunday holes are some of the most gaping in the network.

        I agree with you that in the environment where we are figuring out how to implement a 17% cut this discussion is largely academic, although I’ll note that the 49 and 73 dodge the cut almost entirely. (“Replacing” the south end of the 68 with the revised 372 will improve span for riders there, but will result in unfathomable crush loads during peak and parts of weekday midday.)

      3. You hit the nail on the head with the 68 for me. I understand that the cuts do need to be made, but the crushloads on the 372 during the peak are already heinous (SRO many times to at least 125th, if not 145th) and the 68 used to be much, much worse. They added three trips in the peak direction and that has helped out with dealing with some of the crush loads, but losing the 68 will be devestating. For me, it isn’t about losing the most efficient one-seat ride between the Village and Northgate (which, for me, the 68 is). It’s about the holes in service being so gaping. I honestly feel that it’s a case of “if you build it, they will come” as far as the night and Sunday ridership on the 68.

  5. Moscow builds its very first bicycle lane – or is it an obstacle course?

    Moscow, home to 11.5 million people, recently got its very first bicycle lane. It was proudly inaugurated with much fanfare by city officials this summer to the great excitement of the city’s cyclists. However, their joy was slightly diminished when they realised that it was more like an obstacle course than a method for cyclists to more easily navigate city traffic.


    1. When I was in Russia I saw a few bicyclists in St Petersburg but none in Moscow. I asked people why and they said, “Moscow just isn’t built for bicycles; it’s not really safe to ride them anywhere.” The second picture in that article shows why. Not the bike lane and gate, which weren’t there when I was there, but the raised curb that’s high at the intersection and stops abruptly after a short distance. On the streets people drive fast and there’s no or little shoulder, and on the sidewalks it goes abruptly up and down without ramps.

  6. Public gets peek at study of Front Range high-speed rail line Tuesday

    Recommendations for putting in a high speed rail line from Pueblo to Fort Collins will be revealed to the public next week in Golden.


    I’ve driven that route especially the Denver to Fort Collins and it would be ideal for HSR. It covers all the major population centers, it’s nearly a straight line all the way through with very moderate grades. Much like Vancouver BC to Portland, only Colorado seems to be considering real HSR technology (not just improving track from 48 mph to 67 mph).

    1. Considering the overall car dependency of the area, my natural inclination is to be skeptical. Even if the train got you from station to station instantaneously (e.g. StarTrek, beam-me-up style), throw in a half-hour of waiting at the station on of end, a half-hour of waiting in line for a rental car at the other end (because, of course, you need a car at the other end to get anywhere, once you get off), the trip would beat driving in total travel time by a mere 30 minutes or so. Even a train that traveled as fast as 200 mph would result in a door-to-door travel time that would be slower than driving all the way. And a train that would likely not run more than a few times a day on top of that.

      Meanwhile, the combined cost of the train fare (multiplied by 4 for a family traveling together), plus whatever it costs to park at the train station for several days, plus whatever it costs to rent the car on the other end, would, in all likelihood, be vastly more expensive than the gas to drive all the way, even with $5 a gallon gas.

      And for those arriving by plane at the Denver airport, riding a shuttle bus to downtown, then taking a 200mph train to Colorado Springs and renting a car there would make zero sense in either dollars or time over the alternative of just renting the car right at the Denver airport.

      Bottom line – for HSR to attract enough riders to make it worth doing, the local transportation at both ends for getting around without a car has to be in place. Denver, itself, does have a decent rail system. However, even that, my understanding, is heavily geared towards downtown rush-hour commuters who have cars to stash in park-and-rides all today. Small cities like Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, forget it. The last time I checked, public transit in Colorado Springs consisted of a very skeletal bus system of circuitous hourly routes during the day on weekdays, plus some peak-hour expresses to downtown Denver. Evenings and weekends had no service whatsoever. It should also be noted that most people traveling to Colorado Springs for a vacation aren’t even really interested in the town of Colorado Springs itself – they are driving to vacation homes in the mountains and the town itself is merely a place to stop or drive through on the way. Similar for Fort Collins.

      I have similar opinions on the California HSR proposal between Los Angelas as San Francisco. Fix the local transportation within both cities first (e.g. make CalTrain something other than the joke it is), then worry about building high speed rail lines between them. In the meantime, people traveling back and forth can make do with airplanes.

      1. Well, having done this trip many times (Seattle-Den-Ft Collins) let me say I see it a bit differently.

        After I get out of Denver airport, I have to take a shuttle bus to the car rental agency on the far end of the airport (Pena Boulevard). Then wait in line for a car, then get on the toll road ($10) and then loop into the heavy traffic of I-25 to Fort Collins which is often crowded and near a standstill around Denver (despite being 5 lanes wide at places!). Even heading towards the Front Range, the traffic remains very crowded and unpleasant! The entire ordeal can take 2 to 3 hours! And coming back just the same. Also, there can be near instant snow and blizzard conditions that impact air travel (I know from having driven through one in a rental car…it was scary being the only car on a desolate highway with one lane paved and the surface icy!)

        I contrast this will getting my bag, getting on some nearby light rail link. Connecting with HSR in North Denver and then zooming at 200 mph to Fort Collins….suddenly a 2-3 hour ordeal becomes a 30 minute commuter trip. And yes, I would still need a car, which I would able to get at the HSR station!

        This would also be used for the various events that clog up that interstate like Broncos games, Rockies games and so on.

        In addition it could be a good link between major Universities like Boulder, Denver, CSU ( I realize Boulder would not be on the HSR, but would have a light rail link to it).

      2. From what I’ve seen I-25 is often a parking lot from Colorado Springs, though Denver, and all the way to Ft. Collins. Sure rail on the Front Range isn’t time competitive with driving if you can drive the speed limit, but often that isn’t the case, particularly in bad weather.
        Flying really isn’t an option except from Colorado Springs. But similar to Seattle/Portland flights the cost of tickets is much higher than train fares are likely to be.
        I believe the market is there for Cascades type service between Pueblo and Ft. Collins.
        Not sure if it would make sense but I’d love to see this as a continuous corridor between Cheyenne and El Paso.

      3. Speaking as someone who lives in Denver now, I agree with Bailo. Although Denver keeps building new highway lanes, traffic on the interstate is still inexplicably bad despite there being side roads parallel to most highways. While there used to be an express bus between Denver and Colorado Springs, it lost funding last year (but might be coming back?). A train would be faster, wouldn’t get stuck in traffic, and would serve more destinations.

        Instead of worrying about bad public transportation on either end, it might be a good opportunity for a car share system. Fort Collins has a fairly compact downtown area next to CSU, so a station there would probably be usable without renting a car. Also, on the north end, it wouldn’t be too difficult to construct an extension to either Cheyenne or Laramie.

    1. It’s worth noting that the ped bridge did just get $600,000 from PSRC for design, so the project is still moving forward.

      1. I am looking for the studies which justify the Ped Bridge at N’gate.

        I am not sure what sort of studies would typically be done.

        But more than vague “The goal of creating a Northgate urban village would help if there was a ped bridge.”


      2. If you lived in the area and ever tried to get to Northgate without a car you would probably understand the need. I don’t mind them doing a study on it though if they think that is necessary.

        There are not a whole lot of crossings of I-5 up here and most are very much automobile oriented.

  7. RossB, a week ago I gave you a assignment, tasking you with writing a story on the progress of the building of the E Line. As I explained, this is not a googling assignment. You are not allowed to simply regurgitate the crap that you’ve read on the internet about it. You are to go out into the field and report firsthand on the building of the line and its stations. You were also to interview people at bus stops and get their reactions, as well as the reactions of business owners along Aurora. You were also instructed to take pictures. How’s that story coming along?

    1. Sam, as emperor of the comments section, I hereby assign you to issue a detailed report on conditions transit users face in Ulanbator. Please return all expense reports to Kemper Freeman.

  8. In re: the reroutes of the 49 and 60 this weekend for construction.

    Wouldn’t it make a ton more sense for the 49 to just take the 43’s route to broadway then making 3 lefts in heavy traffic? Also for the 60, why can’t it just terminate at Pike, rather than spending all of that time getting to it’s terminal?

    1. When the 520 bridge is closed, the 545 takes a crazy route: it goes all the way up to the Convention Way stop, then heads *south* on I-5 to I-90, then over to I-405, before finally stopping at OTC.

      It seems like it would be better in every way to simply cancel the 545 for the weekend, and instead, temporarily extend the 550 to Redmond TC. After arriving at Bellevue TC, it would use the special direct-access ramp to 520, and then pick up the 545’s route.

      However, I believe that both Metro and ST place an exceptionally high priority on maintaining as many local stops as possible when a bus is rerouted, skipping only the stops which are literally inside of the construction zone. And that’s why we get these bizarre reroutes.

      It may be that Metro is right, and that the public confusion from these more drastic temporary changes would outweigh the time wasted from the current reroutes. But I don’t think it’s ever really been tried, so who knows…

      1. However, I believe that both Metro and ST place an exceptionally high priority on maintaining as many local stops as possible when a bus is rerouted, skipping only the stops which are literally inside of the construction zone. And that’s why we get these bizarre reroutes.

        Exactly correct. Rightly or wrongly, Metro has judged that serving as many stops as possible and minimizing passenger confusion are worth more than keeping speed of service up during short-term reroutes. (During long-term reroutes, they often make more comprehensive changes.)

      2. Given that WSDOT seems to have been having fewer bridge closures weekends recently (they used to average about 1 a month), I think Metro and ST are making the right call and erring on the side of not screwing people over who are waiting at the wrong stop. Even if a rider alert sign is posted, somebody who is blind or does not speak English can still become horribly confused.

        There are also capacity issues to deal with – the 550 is crowded enough as it is and if it were expected to carry 545 loads too, you would have to add extra trips or things would start to get really ugly. Also, getting in and out of Bellevue Transit Center is not a fast operation – it involves a lot of turns and stoplights. Overall, I would expect trips between downtown and Redmond to take a good 20 minutes longer under your extended 550 proposal than what we’ve got today – enough to induce many people who would otherwise ride the bus to drive instead.

        By the way, speaking of getting in and out of Bellevue Transit Center, is there a reason why the westbound 555 or eastbound 566/567 can’t stop on the 405/10th St. bridge just before getting on the freeway? This stop would be very useful for anyone headed home from Overlake Hospital. Waiting for all those stoplights to get to the transit center, only to have the bus wait through all those same stoplights again to get on the freeway is not a very attractive form of service. I’ve walked across the bridge numerous times and the sidewalk is plenty wide enough for a bus stop. I think the 226 might even already stop there.

    2. “Wouldn’t it make a ton more sense for the 49 to just take the 43′s route to broadway”

      I just wondered the same thing twenty minutes ago when I got on a 49 at the Broadway Market and got off at the next stop rather than sit through the reroute, which I couldn’t believe when the driver described it.

    1. No. I don’t think any Metro bus has had a compression brake since the Detroit Diesel 8V71 days. Like most non-hybrid buses, the transmission of the 3600s (Voith 4-speed, D864 IIRC) has an integrated, fully automatic retarder which serves a similar function to a compression brake, but using the transmission rather than the engine.

      In the early days of integrated retarders the driver could choose to disable them. Not anymore; now they are fully automatic.

    1. It seems like the authorities coul just step up fare enforcement and break the bank of the insurance fund. Or just raise the fines.

  9. I’ve made this suggestion before, but I think it’s worth making again. Why doesn’t this blog request an interview with Kemper Freeman? I think it would be one of the most fascinating things you’ve done. And if he won’t give you an interview, go Michael Moore on him. Stalk him and write about it. You can call it Kemper & Me.

    1. We don’t have the budget to make a movie about writing such a book, nor to send you on tour to promote your movie about writing your book. It is totally up to you to get the radio and TV interviews to promote your tour about your movie about your book. Would you like some fundraising tips?

    2. While I can’t fathom why he’d agree to it, I do think that an STB interview with Mr. Freeman could be fascinating to read.

      1. He would do it because he’s interested in transit issues, and this is a transit blog. It’s easy to interview like-minded people, but that tends to devolve into an echo chamber. This would be an interesting interview because it’s smart people with opposing opinions on transit. It would also be an opportunity for him to clear up some questions, like, is it true he didn’t want Link to come by his mall because he didn’t want certain types of people to patronize it? What does he think about the Spring District and East Link’s alignment?

        BTW, I read that Bellevue Square’s Tesla store is Tesla’s highest sales per foot of any of their stores, and is Bellevue Square’s highest sales performer.

      2. Where did you get the idea he’s interested in transit issues? His overriding concern is to widen 405, and his answer for transit is always “more buses” even though they just get stuck in traffic and don’t solve the problem.

      3. Speaking of Kemper… I’ve been in Bellevue Square 3 times this month, once in morning, once in mid-day and once in the evening. At All these times the mall was decidedly not busy, compared to other malls and shopping centers. Should he be worried?

      1. Tim, according to your logic, anyone who’s ever been interviewed someplace else shouldn’t be interviewed by STB because it’s redundant?

        Kemper Freeman’s name is mentioned (and demonized) more on this blog (in both posts and the comment section), than probably anyone other local figure. That’s another reason why he should be interviewed.

        Mike Orr, because his solution to transportation problems doesn’t agree with yours, that’s a reason not to talk to him, I believe just the opposite. That would make for even a better interview.

      1. OK, so he’s counting sales of Tesla’s ($100k items) and Apple gadgets (pricey) and Nordstrom (pricey!) to say sales are up. big whoop.

  10. Having the city council members elected by district cannot end up being good for density in the districts, nor making decisions for citywide good. Which group that stands to benefit funded this initiative?

  11. They can’t stop on the 10th St Bridge because they’re getting in the left turn lane for the freeway ramp, unfortunately. However, I don’t see why they can’t stop a block or two away – at least at the stop opposite the library.

    Regarding the 545 reroute and the 550, I agree that going into BTC would lose a lot of time. However, it also loses a lot of time by taking the general-purpose lanes on I-90 to northbound I-5 instead of the busway to the DSTT. I was recently on the 255 on reroute, and we spent a horrendous amount of time there.

  12. Seattle Times likes the transportation package: http://seattletimes.com/html/editorials/2022269120_transportationedit17xml.html

    I’m not sure how that makes me feel. Seems like their editorial board is in favor of the local tax option; I wonder if that holds up if/when it comes to a vote: “King County does well in both transportation proposals. A buffet of local tax options are offered to stave off devastating cuts to King County Metro service.” (I “like” how transit gets one sentence.)

    1. Of course they like it, it gives the east side more roads, why wouldn’t the “Seattle” Times like it?

      1. Transit gets only once sentence, and a smaller percentage of the package, because only 3% of people take public transit. Why should 3% of the people get more than 3% of the pie?

      2. Sam, where did you see that only 3% of people take public transit and 3% of what population? King County, Sound Transit’s area, the world?

    2. I was talking about America as a whole, but in this area it’s around 8%.

      If you want to know where I saw it, go here. Go halfway down the page to the green box. Put in the state and click search, then scroll halfway down the page again, and there you will see a list of WA cities, and what percentage of commuters take public transit.


    3. The Blethens avoid I-90 tolls under the package. You bet the Seattle Times will editorialize in favor of it.

  13. This is probably a terrible idea, but bear with me.

    Sound Transit has something that Metro wants: money. Metro has something that Sound Transit wants: a tunnel.

    I wonder if it could make sense for Metro to renegotiate the tunnel agreement with Sound Transit. Metro gives the DSTT to Sound Transit as soon as possible, and gives up its right to run buses there. In exchange, Sound Transit takes over all of Metro’s remaining cross-lake services (e.g. the 255 and 271 and the handful of peak-only routes), and also takes over express service along the U-Link and North Link corridors. In practice, this means express service between downtown, the U-District, and Northgate (i.e. the 41 and the revised 73). The 74, 76, 77, 101, 102, 106, 150, and 255 would be surfaced ahead of schedule. The 522 and 554 would go into the tunnel, and the 554 would become more frequent.

    Metro is better off, because many of its most expensive routes disappear. Sound Transit is better off, because it no longer has to negotiate tunnel rights with Metro, and because its routes will run more efficiently in the tunnel. And anyway, it’s only operating service on corridors that are already in its long-term service plan.

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