This is an open thread.

61 Replies to “News Roundup: Progress Everywhere”

    1. Have the zoning rules changed since the previous project? If parking requirements got decreased or eliminated, that would make more difference than anything.

      1. I think they are looking at the zoning for this area. Generally speaking, they are trying to balance the desire to have industrial uses versus apartments. This is in contrast to much of the city, where folks want to preserve housing or parking. As a result, I think there is no reason whatsoever to have parking requirements, regardless of how many apartment buildings they allow. Likewise, they should be very liberal with the height restrictions as well as the number of units allowed.

    2. The parking rate also has a lot to do with the size of the unit and the target demographic and site configuration. A younger demographic and smaller units will usually mean fewer parking spaces. Additionally if adding 10 spaces requires building a whole new level of parking the developer is probably going to try to live without building those spaces.

  1. I have some thoughts about getting better mass transit to West Seattle. Basically, I want to see first class BRT to the area, with the ability to expand to light rail later. For this to happen, we would want to do these things:

    1) Off board payment stations.
    2) Transit center at Sodo designed so that bus riders and train riders can switch vehicles quickly.
    3) Expand car pool lanes at the beginning of the West Seattle Freeway, so that they go all the way from West Seattle to the 99 interchange.
    4) Bus ramp from 99 or the West Seattle Freeway to the Sodo station. I think a ramp from 99 makes the most sense. This would be shorter, and would enable more buses (coming from other areas) to use the ramp. However, if there is some reason why this is expensive, there is an alternate route (coming directly from the West Seattle Freeway).
    5) Expansion of the cloverleaf ramp from the West Seattle freeway to 99 to include a lane just for buses. This would be unnecessary if a ramp is built directly from the West Seattle Freeway to the Sodo station.
    6) Tunnel under part of West Seattle. This would be designed so that buses could bypass the traffic close to the freeway on-ramp, and quickly get into the neighborhood. I’m not sure where this should go exactly. The most straight forward location would be close to the end of the freeway, by 35th and Genessee. But if ramps and other things need to be built, this might move a bit to the north. The tunnel would be designed so that it can handle both buses and trains.

    It isn’t clear to me that West Seattle needs the capacity that rail provides right now. However, it needs the speed. Top class BRT can provide that speed, but if West Seattle grows, it will eventually be overwhelmed. When that happens, we can pay for rail, and reuse the tunnel. Doing this would not only be smart from a design standpoint, but from a political one as well. Everyone knows that converting a bus tunnel to rail tunnel has been done before. Building this tunnel will do a lot to help the folks in West Seattle in the short run, while providing the capacity that they might need in the long run.

    Doing all of this won’t be cheap, but I would guess that it isn’t as expensive as providing rail to West Seattle. I’m afraid that if West Seattle got rail right now, it would be over a new bridge, followed by surface rail. This would be a welcome improvement, but still bog down and be fairly slow (if the freeway is slow, so are the streets that lead up to it). Unlike the conversion of a tunnel from one mode to another, we have never converted a surface street line to an underground one.

    One of the big benefits of this plan is that much of it could be done fairly quickly. At the very least, I think this should be studied, and compared to the cost of providing light rail to West Seattle.

    1. I would say then that now is the time to start rail to West Seattle, along with the BRT as a stop gap. Given how long the buildout of LR lines is, by the time you need the line will be there, rather then waiting for BTR to become swamped THEN planning the line.

    2. West Seattle is a perfect place to serve with rail. It has a growing population (seriously, look at what is under construction, planned, and allowed under current plans) that is concentrated in hubs and along a long, narrow corridor that if the stations are located properly are within easy walking, biking, or short bus distance of most residents. It is also largely cut off from the rest of the city by geography, making a grade separated rail line more necessary and more effective.

      As DJ said above, now is the time to start. Sound Transit’s Long Range Planning effort is the place to get this particular ball rolling. Mayor McGinn helped get that going, and I hope Ed Murray will continue to strongly support that work when he takes office next month. Ideally West Seattle would be in an ST3 measure.

      In the meantime whatever improvements can be made to RapidRide C ought to be made, but it’s already seeing full buses with relatively frequent service during commute hours, which suggests the demand for a genuine rail connection is there – and that now is indeed the time to get started on it.

      1. I don’t know which West Seattle you’ve been looking at, but the one that actually exists is the antithesis of a “concentrated” population. 85% of that peninsula will never be able to walk, bike, or even bus to any rail line you can possibly fathom, which is why you’ll find the inevitable politically-driven proposals tossing around boarding numbers well below 20,000 (i.e fewer than 10,000 actual riders).

        This not me trying to be a spoilsport. This is simply a fact of topography and sprawl.

        California Ave SW is indeed a mid-rise spine of moderate consistency and demand (and surrounded by abject low-density), and one which has better transit access today than it would under any hypothetical rail plan, and especially under what has become the “Seattle spacing standard” for rail. This is precisely the kind of corridor that demands robust and frequent bus service, while failing to remotely achieve the critical mass necessary to support rail. (You will rarely find a corridor this slight and this isolated served by rail anywhere in the world, not even in places with far more extensive rail-based networks and capital costs sunk decades ago.)

        The Junction, while more interesting than many post-streetcar-suburban commercial strips, is neither an especially large aggregate commercial zone nor one with exceptional city-wide drawing power. As “mixed-use” it is a total failure, offering little space for non-retail commercial and poor walking connections for anyone but the residents of the mere handful of nearby mid-rise buildings. Oh, and everyone throws a shitfit if you try to build even a tiny new building without parking.

        The “hubs” further north and south are, unfortunately, even more inconsequential as generators of rail-level demand. Most of them can’t even compare to 15th Ave E, which is, famously, not getting a subway.

        And the Triangle, that isosceles perimeter of construction cranes that leaves all factions atwitter about “changing” or “densifying” West Seattle, is a glorious ode to automobile-scaled construction and to car-ownership for all trips except downtown commutes, which is already reasonably good from that locations. (“Seriously, look at what is under construction, planned, and allowed under current plans.”)

        Furthermore, and most importantly, there is a distinct “escaping city life for greener pastures” vibe among those who have relocated to West Seattle, including all of those anticipated future comers.

        Despite RapidRide’s flaws, Central West Seattle has among the best bus transit corridors in the city today in terms of both speed and frequency, and yet those buses operated at well below capacity in the mid-day and on weekends. Unlike any other part of the city, West Seattle has all-hour bi-directional bus lines bypassing its primary non-downtown bottleneck. None of this is evidence that the cost of de novo rail right-of-way would be remotely justified, or that the resulting service would even be used well if it magically appeared from thin air.

      2. The demographics/density/etc. of West Seattle isn’t signifcantly different than Ballard/NW Seattle other than growth in West Seattle has started to take off more recently. If West Seattle is going to achieve the full build out of existing zoning and take on additional growth, assurance of better transporation connections is essential.

      3. d.p., people need to read your post and understand it, because with respect to western West Seattle it’s largely accurate (if a bit too pessimistic about what’s happening in the Triangle).

        But you leave out pretty much everything east of a 1/4 mile radius of Fauntleroy Way. Delridge, while not dense yet, is an extremely high-ridership neighborhood — the 120 serves significantly more riders than RR C — that will face fewer obstacles to increased density because the housing being replaced is mostly decaying. High Point is sufficient for a neighborhood stop on a longer line. White Center has more potential as an urban neighborhood than anywhere else in West Seattle except the Junction; it just needs some well-located housing. A rail line that served all of these areas — north Delridge, the Triangle, the Junction, High Point, south Delridge, and White Center — would follow a fairly logical path and generate, at least, enough ridership to make it not a totally laughable proposition. Existing 120, 21, and C-line riders alone would get to that point. I agree with you on a line serving the Junction alone, but that’s not what ST is considering. They want to go all the way to Burien.

      4. No, Paul. Apple. Orange.

        If there’s anything that makes Ballard “special”, it’s that it’s the only place in Seattle, aside from downtown, Capitol Hill, and (sort of) the U-District that actually functions in a multifaceted way in three dimensions. You know, like a real city, including every city in existence that achieves the kind of many-vectored bustle that makes high-capacity transit necessary and sustainable.

        David, I don’t disagree with you that Delridge needs far better transit or that White Center could be a net contributor to a brighter urban future. But Delridge too is a corridor — and an extra-isolated one at that — so the notion of giving it an arbitrary node on a subway and having that work better than an improved bus over the West Seattle Freeway with seems to stretch credibility.

        Sound Transit, of course, would just look for a relatively-expensive-yet-quality-compromised way to run a very long line to a whole lot of arbitrary places, and achieve almost nothing in the process.

      5. All those overcrowded Rapid Ride buses in West Seattle that miss stops on Alaska and Avalon during the rush hour and the packed ones that pick everybody up would cause one to differ on the lack of robust demand for transit around here.

        And when those developments for hundreds of residents on California Ave SW and Avalon fill up with people, some of whom will not just take buses (will there be enough of them unlike multiple cars on LR lines?), but will also drive and take up space on the West Seattle bridge, will there be sufficient transit infrastructure to move them from point a to be

        West Seattle as a bus transit corridor may have speed and frequency when cars don’t crash on the bridge, and when the buses don’t jacknife, but only going to downtown during rush hour—if one, for example, needs to go beyond downtown to work in the U District, transfer connections can be very untimely and cause a bus trip to last 1 1/2-2 hours; many drive as a result slowing down traffic even more with our growing population.

        Assuming West Seattle’s present status quo for transit is good enough for the forseeable future given our growing population and our bottleneck limits for departure and re-entry is a recipe for disaster. Expanded infrastructure is very much needed for the peninsula. The “center will hold” approach that Seattle seems to like in its transit policy, particularly toward West Seattle, will not hold and it needs to deal.

        The bus service on the weekends and midday tends to be underutilized is due in part to it being slower and unreliable, so that can lead to underuse. Like sitting in a West Seattle local at S Lander waiting 20-30 minutes to cross the tracks while the railroad passes, buses arriving 10-20 minutes past their approximate arrival time.

        Some West Seattlites are there not for green pastures–seems like Snohomish County is good for that, but for close access to work, and a bigger bang for the buck in housing compared to Central and North Seattle.

      6. All those overcrowded Rapid Ride buses…during the rush hour…

        [Rolls eyes.] What part of the eight paragraphs I just wrote on West Seattle being physically and culturally ill-attuned for anything but commuter transit did you not understand? Rush hour could be solved with buses every 5 minutes for the indefinite future. The world is full of high-frequency rush-hour transit on modes and corridors that wouldn’t support high-frequency or high-capacity usage at any other time.

        …when the buses don’t jacknife…

        [Rolls eyes even harder at the possibility that you think you just made an argument.]

        The bus service on the weekends and midday tends to be underutilized is due in part to it being slower and unreliable.

        Except that it’s neither of those things. It’s the only all-day bi-directional reliably-actually-fast in-city bus in the entire city, at one of the highest all-day and all-weekend frequencies in the entire city. And yet its off-peak usage pales in comparison to the routes that go a dozen other places. Hmm….

        Or were you referring to the buses from places that the C Line or the 120 don’t go? Thus my point about decentralization. Rail would improve nothing for 85% of you, and improve little for the rest.

      7. If you ran Rapid Ride buses every five minutes, you would have bumper to bumper rapid rides during the rush hour on Avalon because the increasing car traffic on the West Seattle bridge, particularly when accidents happen, will keep them from timely arrival on the Highway 99 bottleneck.

        The bus jacknifes referred to the snowstorm in the city about 2 years ago–The snow and the ice that accompanied it caused the buses to jacknife on the West Seattle upper and lower bridges–the buses where forced to travel the 1st Ave bridge s backway which was jam packed with cars and slower than snails. My bus got stuck in the snow trying to go uphill to the admiral district—took me over 7 hours to get home. LR riders travelled with relative ease that day. Even when we don’t get a catastrophic amount of snow, buses can get considerably slow and stuck with the cars on the WS bridge and 99 due to slower car traffic.

        I’ll bet Capitol Hill and the University District get higher off peak use than West Seattle and a lot more frequency based on past experience in those neighborhoods.

        West Seattle buses for the most part are useless when getting to and fromother parts of the city unless one doesn’t mind spending considerable time waiting between transfers. Busing from WS to Bumbershoot—about an hour and 45 minutes, by car about 20-25 minutes. About an hour and 45 minutes from West Seattle to the University District—mostly due to un-timely transfer issues and wait times for West Seattle buses off peak.

      8. Getting between any two non-downtown destinations in this city is awful, because so much of our transit system relies on overlapping route fragments with universally terrible frequencies, plus bottlenecks on both legs of your journey, adding up to a roundly unpleasant multi-leg trip experience.

        But this is a mode-agnostic problem, able to be improved just as much with corridor consolidations and targeted bottleneck-zapping as with empty subways (where population/topography doesn’t demand them) and the inevitable opportunity costs thereof.

        I might also note that the terrible transfer experience has yet to be alleviated in the slightest by our current or planned rail lines, as tunnel operation is criminally lethargic and Sound Transit universally sucks at building stations.

        I won’t argue with you that rail is better in the snow. But we’re not getting rail everywhere. Not now, not ever. If climate change moves our ex-temperate microclimate to a place where moderate snow is a routine occurrence, then this city will simply have to invest in proper snow-clearance and de-icing equipment, at which point we will keep moving along just like hilly/snowy cities from Pittsburgh to Poland. Until then, spending billions of dollars because you were trapped in your peninsula once by a light flurry is a non-starter.

        RapidRide does not become real BRT until the SOV backups are fully bypassed and a permanent fast path into and out of the center city is secured. At that point, buses can easily handled any capacity demand that is able to be generated by West Seattle’s layout and land-use/movement patterns. The existing bus lanes on the bridge are not at capacity.

      9. Apples and oranges are more alike than they are different. Looking at the aerials, if you ignore the industrial area along the Ship Canal, the core area of Ballard isn’t really that much bigger than West Seattle.

        Ballard is important, but I certainly wouldn’t put it in the same category as downtown, U-District and Capitol Hill.

      10. The U-District is far more important as an employment center, no doubt. I put that “sort of” in parentheses because, ironically, the U-District west of the University actually is laid out in too linear a fashion, with overly segregated uses between one block and the next and a surprising amount of grossly underutilized and underpedestrianized intermediate space. Still, you won’t find me doubting the area’s importance in the slightest.

        the core area of Ballard isn’t really that much bigger than West Seattle.

        This, though, is simply incorrect. Ballard’s aggregate commercial center, in its three dimensions, is significantly and measurably greater. The up-built core is more populous, with structures closer together, and is more varied in size and form. And almost every residential inch of that Google map is, at this point, filled with some type of multi-family structure (duplex or greater), while the Junction map, at the same scale, is 75% covered with single-family houses on post-war-minimum-sized lots.

        This makes a difference. By some accounts, the area within walking distance of central Ballard is up 20,000 residents over this time 20 years ago. It’s no wonder that an order of magnitude greater number of businesses exist and are thriving, and that the streets teeming with people at all hours and all times of year. It’s no wonder that it has become more a reverse-trip destination than ever before. A critical mass will do that to a neighborhood. Meanwhile, Ballard also has the transit-amenable attribute of being adjacent to other parts of the city — with some amount of urban continuity and contiguousness — rather than set back by two miles from its nearest non-industrial-sprawling neighbor.

        West Seattle has a long way to go before it reaches the “palpable urbanity” tipping point in the way Ballard has. And giving the firmly suburban biases of its present — and for the most part, its self-selected arriving — population, I sincerely doubt it will ever do so.

      11. Something that I just don’t get with rail to West Seattle is how everyone is upset with building a bridge. You could realistically build a tunnel there (the Duwamish is only 50ft deep according to NOAA) and serve North Delridge with that.
        The West Seattle bridge is 150ft above the river, requiring 2000ft approaches (if you account for the 50ft elevation at Avalon way.
        With a station at North Delridge/the kidney center at 50ft elevation you would require similar 2000ft approaches but serve another important part of Seattle as well. Getting downtown from there would be MUCH faster than the 120, I can guarantee that.

      12. Of course you could cross the Duwamish in a brand new tunnel. For an additional billion dollars.

        There’s no reason a subway would be any faster between the Delridge on-ramp and downtown than a bus with the bottlenecks fixed. When traffic is light on the 99 segment, buses zip along at 45 mph and cover the 4-mile distance in less than 6 minutes. Already. Today.

        Conquer the bottlenecks, and it’s as fast (or faster) than any subway on earth at all times.

    3. RossB, I think you greatly underestimate the cost and time needed to build what you propose. Those new ramps you describe would not be inexpensive. They’d take a lot of room and be fairly complex to construct. Extending the bus lane into West Seattle would also be very expensive. And the time needed to plan and build your proposal would be very similar to building a grade separated rail system. In the end, I’m not convinced that the benefits achievable with the BRT system you describe would be worth the time and money when you could build a rail system for not much more.

      1. The bus-priority Duwamish crossing already exists. A rail crossing would be from scratch.

        “Rail system for not much more” is a fantasy.

      2. The bus lane on the West Seattle Bridge doesn’t work when it’s needed most. When traffic backs up, cars block the lane trying to merge into the lane going to 99.

        Going south and west from downtown can also be very unpredictable in the PM and there isn’t anything in place that addresses that.

      3. I agree with d. p. I think you could build everything I proposed and built it for much less than similar rail to West Seattle. I would bet on it, and give you good odds (3 to 1). But let’s not speculate, lets study it. See how much adding BRT things costs versus adding rail and then compare. If they are close (and I lose my bet) then I’ll be happy to support rail, along with a feeder system.

        To quote d.p.’s other statement — “RapidRide does not become real BRT until the SOV backups are fully bypassed and a permanent fast path into and out of the center city is secured. At that point, buses can easily handle any capacity demand that is able to be generated by West Seattle’s layout and land-use/movement patterns. The existing bus lanes on the bridge are not at capacity.”

        Exactly. That is the key here. Right now buses get backed up in several places. What I propose avoids them all. You can implement them in phases. In fact, you can implement parts of them in phases. For example #3 (Expand car pool lanes at the beginning of the West Seattle Freeway) could involve just adding lanes on the part of the freeway that is on the ground. Then carve out a bus lane on the surface streets going to the freeway. That would mean that buses could essentially skip past a lot of cars and jump to the front (like they do on 520). That would piss off the SOV drivers (as it does on 520) but so be it.

        Here is the thing — right now the RapidRide isn’t really BRT. It is half ass BRT. As a result, it spends a lot of its time in traffic. Remember when RapidRide started? They promised service so frequent that you don’t need a schedule. The thing is, that was bullshit. They couldn’t deliver. The main reason they couldn’t deliver is because they weren’t BRT. They weren’t grade separated, or even close to grade separated. They didn’t even have off board payment. If they had run them often enough to “not need a schedule” then they would be like the 44; frequent, but ridiculously inconsistent. So they punted, allowed enough cushion to space the buses properly, and printed a schedule. With real BRT you wouldn’t need that. The BRT line I’m talking about is less than four miles from the junction to SODO. It should take less than ten minutes before it turns around. In contrast, the RapidRide line C takes at least 40 minutes to complete its run. This means that you could quadruple the number of trips without adding additional buses or drivers.

        To be fair, what I’m talking about would require some riders to transfer. But that makes sense anyway. Whenever people discuss West Seattle, they are quick to point out that traveling to downtown, or anyplace north involves a bottleneck. So address the bottleneck. If we have light rail, then maybe that is all it is. Add a train that goes from the edge of West Seattle to Sodo. Fine. Put a big transit center at both ends and call it a day. Buses could run along 35th, Alaska, or come in from the north. What I’m saying is that before you commit to spending all that money, look at something similar, but with BRT. Much of the work has already been done, which is why I think it would be much, much cheaper. Not cheap, mind you, just cheaper.

        Oh, and here is a side benefit that could be really nice if we could get the state to cooperate. Just about every improvement I mentioned (with the exception of the tunnel, which might be pie in the sky anyway) involves roads and freeways. The state reps only wants to spend money on roads, so at the very least, we should try and get this.

      4. Without wading into the details of Ross’s proposal, Paul, I would advise you to please avoid strawman arguments.

        I never said RapidRide’s pathways were sufficient; in fact, I have said the opposite twice. But “the path to the bus lane gets blocked” is not the same as “the multi-mile bus lane itself is clogged and insufficient”. The latter assertion is categorically false. Please note the difference.

  2. Personal truth-telling: in the last days of the last monorail effort, I often spoke in public support of a monorail line from King Street Station to West Seattle Junction. Special address to special condition through industrial area- as a fast measure to address loss of the Viaduct.

    I also lost my temper in public as I watched the governing board, grinning like Moonies on mushrooms, forego the customary talent search for a monumental and appoint by acclaim someone completely unqualified for project chief. Almost as infuriating as seeing civil engineers whom I respected stay with the project without a word of protest as its course went off the rails. Okay, rail.

    But I also remember the most powerful underlying motivation behind the whole thing: years of frustration with public agencies’ determined lack of address to the need for transit worthy of the name along the whole west-side corridor. Especially with enormous disruption along the Waterfront absolutely certain. If Seattle, King County Metro, or Sound Transit had had anything even close to in the works, the Monorail card tables never would have left the closet.

    I hope there really are some documents left over usable by the real-world system we need. Soils, hydrology, and geology don’t count the number of rails. But same holds for frustration as for forces like water, fire, and wind: great energy source in competent hands. Lethal menace otherwise.

    The Feds, the pleasure boats, and the bridge? Condition the Federal Government is in, right thing would be for affected localities to tell the Coast Guard this isn’t their call right now, and pleasure traffic will weigh anchor between midnight and morning rush. And dare this particular Administration to do anything about it. At state and National level, this attitude has proven repeatedly and powerfully successful for the far right ever since 2008.

    Also likely that funds for punitive response are already long sequestered. Thanks for the Open Thread.

    Mark Dublin

    1. At this point, what is the difference between using an ALWEG monorail, and using LINK light rail in an elevated mode, like they do from Tukwila to SeaTac?

      I agree to some extent that light rail failed to meet its promise of fast regional travel, but that is because the doyens of Seattle sapped the lifeblood out of it with tunnels and the focus on “urban density”.

      However, if we ever put the “light” back into light rail, we should be able to build elevated LINK track rapidly and all around Puget Sound.

  3. Why not a Washington State NIIT?

    1. What is the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT)?

    The Net Investment Income Tax is imposed by section 1411 of the Internal Revenue Code. The NIIT applies at a rate of 3.8% to certain net investment income of individuals, estates and trusts that have income above the statutory threshold amounts.

    Sounds like a great way to balance the tax burden, and to fund transit at the state, county and city level!

    1. At the federal level, this was introduced because investment income is not subject to Social Security and Medicare tax.

      1. I know, but since that ground has been broken, why not a WA state version of the tax but devoted to transit and other priorities?

        Say another 1% on top of the Federal NIIT.

    1. Yeah I noticed that… is there any particular reason it takes a year to do this, or are they just going to take their pretty time with it?

    2. Anyone know if the trolley wire will be shifted during construction so that the 49 (and deadheads) can still get through without being dieselized?

      1. They are only going to half of the road torn up at any given point in time. Will they even need to re-route the buses?

  4. Re: TriMet grassy tracks: I seem to recall parts of New Orleans’ streetcar tracks with grass in the middle. Is this anyone else’s recollection?

    1. Yes, much of the St. Charles Line has grass between the tracks. That line also has quite a few unsignalized intersections, which is leads to a lot of interesting car-train fender benders.

    2. Back when I lived in Monterey we were exploring grassy tracks for part of the proposed light rail line that would have run alongside a waterfront park. Unfortunately the line remains unfunded, even though the local transportation agency owns all the ROW.

    3. Several cities in Europe also do this, at least in parts of their right-of-ways. IIRC, when Link was going in the question was raised as to why this wasn’t being considered in the Rainier Valley ROW, which instead got fully paved. The answer was something along the lines of “we don’t want kids to think it’s a playfield.” Ugh. (Perhaps there was a better reason as well, but it seems as though it fits in with our special way of looking at things.)

      On the bright side, with the lack of funds for capital upkeep, it won’t be long until grass pokes its way up through there anyway…. ;-)

    4. There are indeed “grassy tracks” in the “neutral ground” as they call it. Popular place for runners and walkers, like a Rambla on the cheap as it were. They have been reconstructing the line over the last couple years and it’s interesting, they put down ties, ballast, etc. then bury it in sand or whatever so it looks just like a couple tracks laying on the sod. Very crazy driving, though, because you have to U turn to go anywhere in Uptown, across the tracks . . .

    5. Wouln’t the part of the SLU streetcar in front of Lake Union park (the only part of the route where it gets its own ROW) be considered a half-green track? Not as green as some European Tram lines but still better than, say, Link.

    6. Grass track is done in a number of places. I think in the US, Kenosha uses it for their entire tiny line. I used to know some European examples but I’ve forgotten them.

  5. In 2014, Boston will be trying late night service (until 3 AM) on Friday and Saturday nights on the T and the 15 most popular bus routes.

    I’d love to see this in Seattle when U-Link opens the Capitol Hill and UW Stations in 2016. Keeping the same schedule on weekend nights doesn’t match how people live- a lot more people stay out late on Friday and Saturday nights, going to parties, shows, and clubs- and transit schedules should reflect this.

    1. I intended to bring this up in a later thread, but here is the most important part:

      After 1 a.m., trains will run every 10 to 15 minutes, and buses will run every 15 to 20 minutes.

      This is so crucial. These four subway lines (with branches) and fifteen core bus routes will get you within reasonable walking distance of anywhere in the core urbanized metropolitan area (an area far more extensive than Seattle’s core urbanized area, as it encompasses a number of adjacent cities and towns).

      And yet in Seattle, Metro thinks the most important thing is spreading service hours around dozens of fragmented and ill-coordinated routes, no matter how useless the frequencies get. This blog is full of enablers utterly unfazed by a “flagship service” that drops to half-hourly pointlessness at 10:45, while other crucial core routes peter into infrequent and awful as early as 5:45 in the afternoon!

      Is it any wonder that early-evening buses in Seattle are underused, when heading out on one guarantees an expensive taxi or taxi-equivalent for even a reasonable-hour return? Is it any wonder that Seattleites scoff at the idea of “choice” riders living fully car-free past their first couple of young, naive, and non-time-valuing years?

      For city living and city movement, half-hourly is crap. At a time when Metro is actively seeking the broad political support that would save it from a death spiral and provide it a more solid revenue stream for future growth, the above article is a timely reminder: Go frequent, or you won’t go at all.

  6. Tonight’s Ballard Open House documents contain some excellent permutations of ideas, as well as a couple of predictably awful ones:

    One is likely to find minor quibbles with the way the docs measure travel time improvement and “rate” cost-effectiveness, and there are a few so-unlikely-as-to-border-on-untruths on the thrifty end of the spectrum (Belltown surface route would never be speedy, Market through Old Ballard could never accommodate exclusive lanes), but the real takeaway is this:

    What kind of price range are we really looking at, when we get to the final report?

    That will affect every other determination, both for this line and for any future adjunct to it.

    1. Corridor D is obviously my favorite. It’s completely grade-separated, making it a great candidate for automation. It’s also set up to continue northward (good), rather than eastward (bad).

      The other fully grade-separated option is Corridor A. I think this option is strictly worse than D, though I wouldn’t be unhappy with it. It costs the same, but serves fewer riders, and takes longer to get downtown, and trades Fremont (important) for Interbay and Magnolia (not important). I think that ST proposed this option so that everyone could see that it’s not really any cheaper than the obviously-better Corridor D.

      Corridor B is interesting. It essentially proposes to turn RapidRide D into a subway, with grade-separation along the parts of the corridor that need it. I like that it’s a bit cheaper, but I also think it’s a bit penny-wise and pound-foolish. In the context of a $2.5 billion project, spending an extra $800 million to serve an extra 4,000 riders today — and potentially many more in the future — strikes me as worthwhile. You miss several important stops, and you also remove the potential for automated operation (unless you cut it off at NW 65th St, or extend the elevated service further north). I think the walkshed of the south Interbay stop speaks for itself, here.

      C and E are basically streetcar equivalents of the D (possibly without the deviation) and the 40, respectively. I don’t think corridor C is worth building; if I had a billion dollars to improve the D, I think there are much better ways to spend the money than by building rail. (For example, a flyover at Elliott and Mercer, or even a bus tunnel.)

      Corridor E is more questionable. Especially if it reuses the SLU tracks and the existing bridge, it’s exceptionally cheap, and it would provide some desperately needed capacity along a chronically congested route. But I would hate to see Corridor E proposed as “the solution for Ballard”. It’s a small auxiliary improvement that would be a reasonable use of $400 billion, but it’s not substitute for a subway.

      1. ” It’s also set up to continue northward (good), rather than eastward (bad).”

        It’s seems to me that each should include a junction so that they could continue both north and east. At the cost of those alignments, they won’t be going north of NW Market anyway.

        Corridor B may make sense on the cost effectiveness scale. It avoids a deep (read expensive) station under the Queen Anne Hill. It does make sense though to stop around Market Street and wait until a later phase to extend the line in a fully grade-separated ROW.

        I see Corridor E as a solution not for Ballard, but for Freemont. It makes sense as a SLUT extension with side running on Westlake if it can have the optional high crossing of the ship canal.

      2. I was at the open house. It was interesting, but disappointing. The Sound Transit folks I talked to were very helpful. They provided a lot of insight that isn’t obvious from the handouts. For example, a 70 foot bridge will very rarely go up. Not during rush hour, and not during most days. I suggested two or three times a week, and they said “less than that”. I would like to see some hard numbers on that (e. g. “two or three times a month”).

        I asked several people why Corridor B, which is essentially the same as Corridor 3 on the previous proposal, is suddenly a lot more expensive (from 1.5B – 2.0B to 2.4B – 2.8B). No one seemed to know why. Some took a guess, while the more informed said “good question — I should look into that”. I assumed that it was because they did a more informed, accurate estimate. This was dismissed — at this point it is rather sketchy either way. Obviously, some of it is that the line adds a station and goes a bit further. I asked about station costs and the guy said that is usually fairly cheap, especially for stations close to the surface. So, even if a station at 65th costs 100 grand, and an elevated line from Market to 65th costs another 100 (which it wouldn’t), you are still talking about an increase of around 750 million. The only other deviation between the two plans is that the new one seems to curve more sharply into lower Queen Anne. But both plans seem to start tunneling at the same point. If it really is more expensive to add that little bit of tunneling — then don’t. Don’t put a stop at 1st — put a stop at third. Third is better no matter what you do. Ideally you would have a stop at 3rd and Roy. But if you can save half a billion dollars by moving south a couple blocks (to 3rd and Republican) then do it. My guess is that you wouldn’t save that much money. Something else is going on, but I have no idea what. Sigh.

        Oh, and I’m not sure if it is in the handouts somewhere, but the 140 foot bridge is out because of local opposition. Apparently these folks have never heard of San Francisco, which built a really big bridge (that a lot of people thought would be ugly) only to find that it became a symbol for the city. Go figure. That being said, a tall bridge causes other problems. It means you have to gain a lot of height on either end, which pushes up costs. It also means that if you want the bridge to do double duty (as a pedestrian/bicycle bridge) it doesn’t work very well. Even at 70 feet, it is hard to say how popular it would be for that (although I know the bicyclists would love another way to get across the canal close to the Ballard bridge). Personally, as a guy who walks around this town a lot, I know I would take advantage of such a bridge (walking across the Ballard bridge is terrible). So, all in all, I won’t miss the big bridge, especially if the other bridge only opens once or twice a month. Mostly I don’t like the implication that a handful of whiners can kill a bridge.

        I asked a guy if aesthetics played a part in ridership estimations, and he basically said “sort of”. My point was that Corridor B (or any elevated option) could be more popular just because it is more appealing to ride. He said that they try and estimate these sorts of things by comparing them to existing lines. So, basically, Corridor B would be similar to the part of Link that goes from the surface streets to the airport. I didn’t think that was a very fair comparison. I don’t think that part of Seattle is very attractive (other than a view of Mount Rainier). Furthermore, I don’t think folks go to the airport for nightlife or any other type of entertainment. Meanwhile, Ballard and Belltown are known for their entertainment opportunities (and that ride would afford a spectacular view, even with a shorter bridge).

        I also asked which corridors could be built sooner. As expected, surface and elevated can be built faster. So the surface options could be built first, followed by B, then D (since D has the most tunneling). But the representatives said that building an elevated line is trickier — you have to worry about traffic while construction is going on. So, planning might take a bit longer.

        In this same category, digging a deep tunnel (like under Queen Anne) is cheaper than digging one close to the surface. Basically you go through less crap. Of course, the station is a lot more expensive. This is all stuff I probably could have guessed, but it was nice to learn it anyway.

        That is all I can remember from the open house. I’ll post my assessment as a different post.

    2. By the way, to answer your question more directly:

      Of the options proposed, three of them are in the “subway” price range ($2.5-3.5 bn), and only two of them are in the “streetcar” price range ($1 bn). The most expensive options (A1 and D) rate poorly for cost (which is obviously true) and cost-effectiveness (which I would quibble with), but they get best-in-class ratings for everything else. To me, this is a positive sign that someone at ST thinks that the more expensive options really have a chance.

    3. Oops — I meant to reply to the d.p’s post, not Aleks, since my comments are very generic. I also forget to mention one of the more interesting interactions of the evening. I talked to a bunch of people and mentioned the capacity issue twice. In both instances I mentioned that we can’t just run a line from Ballard to the UW, because it would overwhelm the system. The first guy I mentioned that to didn’t seem to think it was true. The second guy rolled his eyes when I said it, as if to say “I know that is the official policy, but I think that is bullshit”. Interestingly enough, when I asked him which proposal he would support, he said Corridor E. Basically, he said he wanted a short term solution that could be built quickly and work for the next twenty five years, as opposed to a long term one that works for one hundred. I can’t say I agree, but I can see his point. That is a cheap solution, and cheap is good. Furthermore, given his eye rolling, I wonder how that could work with the rest of the system. In other words, if you built that, along with a tunnel from Fremont to the UW, would that satisfy the capacity fraidy-cats at Sound Transit? Maybe. What if you replaced the Fremont to Ballard section with a tunnel as well? You would basically have the same plan that lots and lots of us support (a line from Ballard to Fremont to the UW) along with a streetcar from Fremont to South Lake Union (and downtown). This would be a lot cheaper than Corridor D, but arguably better connected to the rest of the system.

      On a related note, I found out that the other corridors (like Ballard to the UW) will be considered before this goes to voters. In general, I got the feeling that things could change at the last minute, if people (or the representatives) want it to. This is good, as I find the current process a bit frustrating. I like to think of things holistically, rather than piece meal (although I would like to know how much the individual pieces cost). That way, I can consider the savings in terms of what else we can buy, instead of just the abstract cost.

      Oh, and McGinn spoke. He mentioned that Seattle doesn’t have to be tied to Sound Transit. If we have something that we want, we should built it, and we might be able to get federal funding for it. Nice words from a guy I’ll miss.

    4. OK, now my assessment of the Corridors. I’m going to go through a process of elimination here:

      Corridor A costs as much as Corridor D but it simply isn’t as good (except for the views). It trades a couple of stops at Interbay for stops at Queen Anne and Fremont. This is a terrible trade as is, and even worse when you consider connecting Ballard (and Fremont) to the UW (and places to the north). In other words, Corridor D at least gets you half way from the UW to Fremont to Ballard, while Corridor A gets you nowhere along that line. Scratch that one off the list very quickly.

      Corridor C is similar to Corridor E — cheap. But it trades Fremont and South Lake Union for stops along 15th and Elliot. You might as well trade LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for a couple of the Washington Generals. Ugh. The only value I see in this one is if it can be used to placate the folks who are afraid of building a grade separated line from Ballard to the UW without an extra line downtown (see the first paragraph of this comment If it takes what is essentially a billion dollar streetcar to build the other line, then maybe it is worth doing. But otherwise, forget about it.

      Corridor E is the best cheap solution. One of the representatives said that Seattle is working on making the South Lake Union streetcar faster. Good luck with that. I really don’t see how any surface line can move quickly through there. If it was elevated, that might be a decent line, maybe even a great line, But on the surface? It will be really slow and get slower every year.

      Corridor B versus Corridor D — I have been a big fan of Corridor B when it was called Corridor 3. I liked it because it was fast, cheap and fun (insert joke here). But if the new estimates are more accurate, it isn’t that cheap any more. It is still the ride that would be most enjoyable, but that is only one consideration. It is still cheaper (and even a hair faster) than Corridor B, but the margin has thinned. If you throw out the extra piece (Market to 65th) it is still about 750 million dollars cheaper. This is significant, but not the 1.75 billion it was earlier. Furthermore, I think a line from Ballard to Fremont to the UW is very important. Corridor D delivers half of that. Unless you are talking about an elevated line from Ballard to Fremont to the UW (along the Burke Gilman?) I don’t think you can get there with the difference in cost. In other words, Corridor D might be the most cost effective grade separated option for delivering service from Ballard to downtown as well as Ballard to the UW. I said the opposite a few days ago, but with these new estimates, the tide has turned.

      I’m still not ready to jump on the Corridor D bandwagon. I like the aesthetics of Corridor B, and the fact that it is cheaper overall. But if we have to dig a tunnel from Ballard to the UW to get grade separation, then Corridor D might be the answer.

      1. I kept trying to get ST folks to weigh in on the Ballard-UW option, and how such a route might work with these options. The general sense I got was that a “spur” is doable. I chose D because it gets the highest ratings (see Level 2 Evaluation results) and serves potentially the most people.. While C and E are cheaper, they also serve the lowest amount of folks and are lower rated. I tried to say out loud (including a reporter from the Ballard News Tribune) “with transit, go big or go home.” Or to use another cliche, “In for a dime, in for a dollar.”

    5. Corridor D is the answer, and it’s better by a mile than any of the eight corridors initially proposed. What’s good is that ST clearly sees that it is the answer. They’re just worried about the cost.

      So now it’s a question of building political support for a $3.5 billion investment.

    1. One more story than Columbia Center, but it would be downhill from there, so it would look smaller on the skyline.

  7. For the last 3 months, I have been alternating between using Orca and paying cash, attempting to get the most use out of my transit funds. Only once did I get a full 3 hours on my transfer. Most of the time, I get around 2.5 hours. One time I got 1.9 hours. Tonight, taking the 66 downtown at rush hour, I got 1.5 hours on my transfer. I questioned it, but the driver was cranky (not only to me), and so there was only the business-like explanation that for buses going to downtown, transfers are now 90 minutes, and if the bus is going away from downtown, 2 hours. If true, that is a big change.

    1. Is that for a paper transfer, or for an ORCA transfer? It seems like the ORCA transfer would always be exactly two hours, while paper transfers will vary according to when you bus run starts compared to when you get on (and on the generosity of the driver that gives you the transfer).

      1. It was for a paper transfer. 90 minutes for a paper transfer. I should have used my Orca Card. I do understand that it is up to the generosity of the driver, but he seemed to indicate that 90 minutes is the policy.

      2. That was the advantage of paper transfers and the old “pay when you leave” system. Cheapskates could flash the transfer and jump off the bus. At worst you would get some grumbling (most drivers wouldn’t care).

    2. Transfers are to be cut 1:30-1:59 from the terminal time point on outbound trips traveling from the downtown CBD or any trip not traveling through downtown. Trips traveling to the downtown CBD are to be cut 1:30-1:59 from the Pike/Pine/Union downtown time points. For example, if your trips ended at 3:47 or passed Pike/Pine or Union downtown at 3:47, your transfer would be cut for 5:30. Basically add two hours to the time point, then round down to the next half hour mark on the transfer. This is the policy, but I find most most drivers cut their transfers for a little longer.

      I usually add two hours then round up to the next half hour, making my transfer for 6:00, rather than 5:30 in the above example. Even then, I often get crap from passengers, saying I’m not being generous enough.

      So if a driver gives you a 90 min transfers, don’t question them. It’s policy. It’s not an all day pass. It’s not intended to get you a round trip, unless you’re making a quick trip. It’s purpose is to get you onto your next connecting bus. When your transfer is up, pay your fare again. Just because some drivers are giving 3 hour transfers, doesn’t mean the drivers that follow policy deserve to get crap from the passengers all day for doing their job correctly.

      And to answer the question about the ORCA CARD…. The policy I covered above only pertains to paper transfers. ORCA cards still expire two hours from the time you tag your card. When two hours has passed, you will be charged again. Unless you transfer within the two hours to a bus, or train which had a higher fare as your original bus. Then anytime you upgrade your fare, you are given an additional two hours.

  8. The Federal government isn’t in the business of delaying cars and transit, that was the choice of local politicians who didn’t want to fund bridges with adequate clearance to allow ship traffic without stopping road traffic. The Federal government is in its Constitutionally-assigned role of maintaining access to navigable waters of the nation. Anyone who objects to drawbridges is free to build tall enough bridges for ships to pass while traffic rolls.

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