80 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Detroit Bus Company”

    1. If an apartment community houses 100 families, then it should get 100 times the backyard space of a single family house.

      1. The Washington Park Arboretum, mostly. Also the Volunteer Park Conservancy. Also Seward Park.

        Seattle has a surprising number of large, park-like areas. Some of the largest contiguous ones are private, which is arguably a problem. Consider the Jefferson Park Golf Club.

        In smaller parks, there’s Cal Anderson Park, Denny Park, Lake Union Park…

  1. The resistance I get when I suggest the solution to many of society’s problems is trying to live as close to work as possible got me to thinking. Since the beginning of mankind, it’s been in our nature to migrate, travel, explore and commute.  Back in caveman days, commuting meant setting out and tracking down the next meal.  It was a matter of survival.  But today, travel isn’t a matter of life and death like it was back then, but that need to travel is still in our DNA.  I wonder if people today arrange their life so they will have to travel in order to satisfy some instinctual, primitive subconscious urge.  For example, if they work in Seattle, they may look for house in Bellevue and tell themselves it’s because of the schools.  Or if they live in Bellevue, they may look for a house in Seattle and tell themselves they like the culture better.  But in reality they are subconsciously arranging their lives in a way that will force them to travel, even when they have the choice not to.  Perhaps being on a bus or train and going somewhere taps into some distant survival instinct. So it occurred to me, perhaps I am fighting against some genetically ingrained travel trait that we’ve had since we left the serengeti.

    1. Very insightful thinking, Sam.
      It doesn’t take much to excite the ‘Travel-Genes’ (TM) in all of us. Just look at California in 1849.

      1. I used to enjoy the buffer time on the bus between home and work when I lived on the Eastside and worked in Seattle. Got much reading done that way.

    2. Hunting and gathering is not the same as commuting because the travel is the destination, while with commuting the travel is just the way to the destination. It’s the difference between a military unit going on a reconaissance mission vs travelling to a battle site. If they don’t do the mission they don’t know what’s there, and if the cavemen don’t hunt for food they die. There’s a human instinct to stay alive, and in some people there’s an instinct to travel and see new places. But “new places” is the opposite of commuting because commuting is about making the same trip day after day.

      Probably most people have an adversion to living right at their job site (at least if it’s a bureaucratic job as opposed to owning your own shop), so they want to commute at least five minutes. Then it just becomes a question of how far is the housing they can tolerate or afford. Also, they can’t just move whenever their job changes because they may have bought a house or be halfway through their lease.

      Also, commuting — in the sense of living further than walking distance from daily work — did not exist until 1800s industrialization made it possible and necessary. People did walk longer distances in earlier eras, an hour or more to work or school was still “walking distance”. But that’s still an unchanging village where you see the same few people every day. I had an Irish acquaintance who walked from Ravenna Boulevard to the UW campus every day, and he said that even that was short compared to what people in Ireland typically walk, such that he gained weight by living in the U-District.

      1. This engendered by quip that “walkability” seems to mean not having to walk at all. As the higher the score, the more likely your only walk will be down the condo elevator and half a block to the cafe. However, when I mention the large number of people I see regularly walking here in Kent, over distances of 1/4th, 1/2th or miles, I am mocked.

    3. Sounds close to the truth.

      I have done this kind of analysis thinking about why we have such a hard time returning library books and (in the old days) videotapes, DVDs.

      I wondered if it was because there is no equivalent of a “loan” in nature. We kill or forage something. We eat it. Not much more to say.

    4. I think there are a number of factors. The first is that a lot of zoning discourages working close to home. For example, in my single family neighborhood, you can’t put up a butcher shop next to my house (or in the case of many apartments, under it). Second, industry changed everything. People really didn’t want to live next to a smokestack (although many did). Finally, there are a lot of professionals who have very limited job opportunities. If you are a software engineer (rather than a barista) then you probably can’t get a local job. Even if you find a job in your neighborhood (like Fremont) it might not last. More and more, those types of jobs are designed to be temporary, so you can’t stay if you want to. I’ve worked in about a dozen different locations in the last twenty years. During all of that time, I never moved, because my wife and I like our house. Which brings up another point. During these modern times, women and men are expected to work. As a result, we would have to both find jobs that are close by — that seems really unlikely.

      We were much better off when the professional and industrial fields tended to be concentrated in one area. Skyscrapers in the city are a good thing from a transportation standpoint. Skyscrapers in the suburbs, or even worse, so called campuses in the suburbs, but a huge strain on the transportation system. It is unrealistic (for the reasons I mentioned) for people to live close to work at all cases. Even if you don’t have a personal preference for the location (Belltown and Bellevue are the same) you simply aren’t going to find two jobs in the same location unless most of the jobs happen to be in one location (downtown).

      A downtown centered workforce is fairly easy to manage. Those that like the neighborhood, live in the neighborhood. Those that don’t, take a bus. Right now, with all of the failing and cutbacks in our bus system, it does pretty well getting people to downtown in the morning from just about anywhere (and back again in the evening). On the other hand, it does a really poor job getting people from Lynnwood to Fremont, or West Seattle to Kirkland, or Queen Anne to Redmond. Some of this is just unavoidable — if you decide to work in a coffee shop in a different neighborhood, then so be it. But the suburbanization of office work (which is a relatively new phenomenon that really took hold in the 1980s) has put an enormous strain on our transportation system.

      1. Once you build density into a system you run into many economic problems.

        High costs and a entrenchment and a lack of diversity.

        The abstract planner can say for example, that a butcher is a butcher, and if one is “assigned” to your Living Unit then you should be satisfied.

        However, every real world person knows there are details about the specific products and services provided in a business that aren’t always available across the board.

        One of the reasons I did not like living in Seattle was that I felt imprisoned when it came to shopping around for basic goods and value hunting.

        I found greater freedom being able to jump in my car and finding gems like Green Valley Meats. Because of the car, there can be many businesses paying low rents that exist in a wider area for the consumer to visit, make purchases, and ferry products back to his home.

        I have often posited that the Retail-Warehouse model, where the consumer makes the last mile of transport with an auto is in many ways highly efficient. Perhaps more efficient and with greater market choices than being in a dense city and having goods ferried in each and every day.

      2. Ah, the classic car paradox. Justify the purchase of the thing as spending money to save time, only to use it, once to have it, to spend time to save money!

      3. John: you have to experience New York City sometime. Pity you can’t experience it the way it was when trains brought the freight in every day.

        Thousands of small shops. Don’t like none of them? Walk next door! You are going to find FAR FAR more “gems” in a city organized like New York — on foot! – than you are going to by “jumping in your car” anywhere.

        I suppose a question is how to get cities with a retail environment like New York (or London, London has this too) rather than like Dallas. And it seems like density is necessary to get it…. but density is not sufficient by itself. Jane Jacobs had some ideas on how to get it.

      4. @Nathanael

        I grew up in NYC, albeit a remote part of Queens, but I spent a lot of time in Manhattan.

        What you find there, as in any other place, is that yes, there are many close by shops, but there are always reasons to travel far afield to get to the “good places”.

        So, yes there may be a pizza place next door, but the great place is 40 blocks away (that’s 2 miles for you non-New Yorkers). And oh yes, there are lots of clubs and bars…but one year, you “have to” go to the UES, and the next year it’s Soho and then the Village will revive itself.

        That is why the whole “walkability” argument is bunk. When I lived in Seattle, I could easily walk to places a few blocks away. Did I? Yes, sometimes, but often as not, at 9pm I would jump into my car and head up to Broadway where (at the time) the best Thai place on Earth was in existence! Right now it could be Georgetown where the hip restaurants are happening.

        There is always a need to travel, to get to where you want to go. And a car, if available, is the best way to get between all these multiple and varied destinations.

    5. In The Happy City, they cite a researcher who says the ideal commute time is 16 minutes. Good intuition!

      Generally though, I think the ideal way of arranging your life runs up against a lot of barriers. Getting laid off, your spouses work, your ideal neighborhood, and your mortgage all change how close you can or will get to that ideal commute.

    1. I always felt a transfer was time-based. As a teenager, I would use the transfer to get to my destination, do what I needed to do and then come back within the two hour window. Sometimes I would fudge it a bit, with the pay-as-you-leave scenario could give me that little bit of extra time I needed to stretch out my trip. I never felt, even as an adult, that a transfer was one-way only.

    2. I agree with what Cinesea says, when I used to ride the bus in Portland, I could make it home in the transfer window a lot of times, and what’s the difference really? If the trip is short enough that I can do that, then why would I pay 5 bucks round trip to go to the store that isn’t that far away? Portland already had zone fares at that time, so if I was in zone 3 going to downtown, I was paying the maximum fare anyways and most likely couldn’t make a round trip in the fare window.

      I never understood how Trimet was looked up to, dumb policies where you get different answers all the time, crime on the light rail lines, etc make trimet not a good service.

      Now they won’t even use Puget Sound’s ORCA system because it’s “outdated” http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2013/07/trimet_decides_to_forge_ahead.html

      1. But at least TriMet has day passes, something I wish we had here in Seattle. Many cities I have been to have these, a great deal both for locals and visitors.

  2. Someone mentioned this in the last open thread, but it got subsumed by other news:

    Boston’s MBTA is about to launch a long-demanded trial run of full-fledged late-night service on weekends, on all subway lines and 15 key bus routes: http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/12/03/late-service-tried-weekends/aDRZyLIcT3dr8ReBa33qwN/story.html

    But span isn’t the important story. Frequency is: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/04/boston-mbta-plan-for-later-service-welcome-switch/ST1qInbP3f44VA9pE88PrJ/story.html

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

    And of course, that’s just on the extended service. At 8:30 p.m., at 10 p.m., and at 12:35 a.m. — 7 nights a week — these trains are running no less often than every 13 minutes per branch, and these fifteen core bus services run every 12-20 minutes. No exceptions.

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

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

    The next time you’re headed up to Capitol Hill on a busy Friday evening, and the streets are teeming with revelers why thousands of cars circle in search of parking — and yet your bus has 7 people on it — this is why. Is it any wonder that early-evening transit in Seattle underperforms, when an expensive taxi or taxi-equivalent is required for a non-interminable return (even at a reasonable hour)?

    Is it any wonder that Seattleites scoff at the idea of “choice” riders living car-free past their first couple of young, naive, non-time-valuing years?

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

    1. Also, in Seattle you can get frequent post-Husky game service to Federal Way or Kirkland but good luck catching a bus to Capitol Hill (hint: you’re better off walking). Transit service in this city beyond commuting hours is would be a pitiful joke if it weren’t so sad.

      1. …unless you’re headed anywhere to the north, west, or central-south, in which case Link’s astoundingly poor station placement / integration with connecting transit will leave it abjectly unhelpful to you.

        Also, whoooooosh on the actual point being made about comprehensive availability of service across a usable network.

    2. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been conditioned to expect mediocre service for too long, but the thought of any bus route running every 15 minutes at 10 PM feels like an unimaginable luxury to me. And as to service between 1 AM and 3 AM, we’ve been conditioned to feel grateful we have anything at all, not to feel like we should be entitled to more than we are getting.

      How big is the area in Boston that this new late night service? Is it bigger than just a token area in the middle of downtown that you could walk end to end in 20 minutes? I suppose all the bus going down 3rd Ave. through downtown and Belltown between 10 PM and midnight probably combine for better than 15 minute headways too.

      1. The MBTA plan includes the entire rail network (with the possible exception of the Milton-Mattapan trolley), and though they haven’t itemized the fifteen bus routes yet, they are sure to encompass all of the Roxbury, Dorchester, Brighton, Watertown, Arlington, Somerville, Eastie, Chelsea, and crosstown-Boston routes that have been designated as core adjuncts to the subway system in the last few years.

        What this amounts to is frequent service reaching across most of this square (if you open the link on a regular-sized computer screen), with especially comprehensive access within a 4.5-mile radius of the center city (home to slightly over 1 million).

      2. Wow! Where do they get the money to pay for all this? Is it higher taxes or more taxpayers per square mile (e.g. more density) paying into the system?

      3. Are you sure it’s the exact same fifteen for the late-night extension?

        I’m actually a bit surprised that none of the cross-Somerville routes and the #9 to Southie aren’t included somehow.

      4. The MBTA’s press release says that it will run late-night service on the “15 key bus routes”. These 15 have been known as the “key routes” for the past 5+ years, so I’m pretty sure these are the routes in question.

      5. It’s lots of factors, ASDF. It’s taxpayer density and non-negligible buy-in from communities across the metropolitan area. It’s a state government that actually gives a damn about keeping the region’s primary economic engine humming.

        But most importantly, it’s just what happens when your transit system become so integral to the city that large portions of the public, from every demographic category, use it all the time for a whole lot of their trips. It’s user buy-in. The T has a 53% farebox recovery on its rail system and a 40% recovery on non-express buses. With a ton of service being run and about 1.1 million daily trips on these modes, that is some serious revenue in and of itself.

        Nobody would claim everything about Boston’s transit situation is rosy. Multi-modal integration has taken decades to achieve, and there are some remaining operational quirks that seem near-impossible to shake off. Meanwhile, the manipulative bean-counters from the Big Dig-era DOT shifted billions worth of environmental-amelioration capital projects onto the MBTA’s books, leaving it horribly in debt through no fault of its own.

        But really, this is just how things look when you run an urban transit system for all, rather than obsessing over some privileged commuter category or hypothetical future Magic-TOD dwellers or mythical “social needs” riders who would rather take 2 hours to get anywhere than transfer or walk two blocks. Create a system that works, and people will actually use your services. A lot.

        (p.s. To answer your narrowest question, this new late-night pilot program is being funded by corporate sponsors directly courted by the governor of the Commonwealth.)

      6. Oh, and for the record, a local bus fare is only $1.50, a subway fare (with bus transfers) is $2.00, and an unlimited monthly pass is $70.

      7. For the record, Link has the nations highest average fare paid at $1.61 per boarding, and is the 4th lowest from the bottom of all rail systems for cost per boarding.
        That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to raise fares, and costs are fixed by contract. More bodies pleases!

    3. Another reason that buses should run late at night more often is that they can run far more predictably. For most of the day, the 44 is a mess. You really don’t know when it will arrive. Fortunately, it runs often enough that it doesn’t matter much. If it ran every half hour, it would be useless. During the evening, it should run every ten minutes, or at worst, every 15 minutes until 2:30 AM. This is still not great; if you miss it by a few seconds you will chase it for blocks, hoping the driver notices you yelling. But it does mean that you won’t have to wait too long, once you decide to take the trip. Since the 44 running at 10:00 PM is fairly reliable (unlike the 44 running at noon) you can arrive a couple minutes before the expected time and be pretty much guaranteed that you won’t have to chase the bus.

    I know Ballard Light rail has been narrowed to 5 options and many here think spending 3 or 4 Bil on it is quite justified in the long term as Seattles ST3 submission, but please consider how this cripples improvements to bus and rail for the next generation.
    A. The N.Sub Area is only 36% of the ST district. Assume all the rest of Seattle wants little or nothing, including West Seattle, Lake City and infill stations on MLK, then it’s likely the ST3 package needs to be about 10 Bil. If Seattle wants more, the burbs will say ‘me too’ and now were up to a very large tax and bond package, on the heals of a very large WSDOT 2015 mostly roads package.
    B. Assuming a parallel DSTT on 2nd Ave, costing several Bil more, further cripples Seattle for anything in ST4 using the same logic.
    Sound Transit is not doing Seattle any favors by two of their recent decisions:
    1. Eliminating the Montlake vent shaft that limits trains in that section to 4 minute headways (or halving the original design capacity of Link).
    2. Declaring that the current DSTT will be at full capacity when North Link to Everett is built out. Thier ridership estimates have been at best 70% of actual, and at worst 50% of what our own PSRC has said will occur in Destination 2040.
    Both decisions remain unchallenged by the public, yet the results of miscalculation are enormously important for Seattle’s future.
    Now, the dead horse. I’ve advocated for using the existing switching north of Westlake for a future line to Ballard. Trains would be merged with those coming from North Link with headways at the switch of up to 2 minutes during the peaks, if needed. This is the original design capacity of the DSTT, per many ST documents and recognized by many transit professionals as reasonable for level junctions of this sort.
    I won’t labor the route and detail, but it’s completely grade separated until reaching interbay, with stations at CPS, SLU, Seattle Center, LQA, Interbay, and beyond where it functions more like rapid streetcar along 15th.
    To ignore the benefits of using the existing tunnel to its full potential in any detailed studies is bordering on malfeasance. The ‘Dead Horse’ route would likely:
    a. Save several Bil over ST3/4
    b. Provide greater ridership having same platform transfers for all lines
    c. Simplify traveling on rail without another confusing one block transfer to 2nd Ave.
    d. Open the discussion on Origin/Destination pairs for E.Link riders completed in the early 90’s and is still the basis for todays long range plan. (I suggest more Eastsiders would benefit from a continuation to Ballard, with all of it’s stops (SLU, QA, etc), than going on to Cap Hill and UW – but I don’t know that)
    e. W.Seattle trains would now be able to access the DSTT on the busway, and continue up to UW (again, current O/D pairs study is crucial for these decisions), and BTW, it completes the Monorail ‘X’ expansion that many adored.
    I’ll stop there, and let the discussion begin.

    1. This line of thinking is broken.

      Our job is not to make up some arbitrary number of “oh, this is all we can get” and then start subtracting projects from it.

      Our job is to go push for as much as we can get.

      If you want to get better transit, spend every word you are spending attacking options on advocating for more money and service instead.

      1. Ben, I think your line of thinking is broken. There should be a lot of consideration for cost effectiveness. If you can build the line to Ballard cheaper, you can build more rail elsewhere. That’s why I like option B in the Ballard study. I’d say it also makes sense to build a little less of that alignment at the north and extend it south instead.

      2. Ben, your job should be to get as many riders to switch from SOV’s to transit, not, REPEAT NOT to spend as much money as you can.
        The two are not the same.
        So far, transit in the Puget Sound is stuck at 4% of all trips and has been for 20 years, despite doing things your way, which is spending like drunken sailors.
        Again, I ask why the DSTT is being abandoned for half it’s potential capacity? That’s the question.

      3. It’s important to be effective about how we spend the money that we have. But it’s also important to get as much money as possible — not to waste money, but to provide the most mobility and access for the greatest number of people.

        In the case of Metro, the pool of money is fixed, at least in the short term. And so it’s important to make trade-offs, to figure out the best way to spend that money.

        But in the case of ST3 — which is what we’re talking about — we haven’t decided how big the pool of money is yet. It’s not like we know that we’re going to have exactly $4 billion, and so the choice is between Corridor D or four lines on par with the quality of Corridor E.

        If ST3 wins voter approval, it will be by promising something big and revolutionary — something that will forever change the way that people get around this city, rather than by making tiny incremental improvements.

        Of all the options selected, only Corridors A and D offer that potential. And so I predict that these corridors will prove to be much more successful at the ballot box than four different “Corridor E”s.

        Corridor D also sets a great precedent. With Central Link, we screwed up; the street-running segment on MLK is simultaneously slower than it should be (because of grade crossings) and also has lower ridership (because it bypasses the main commercial centers on Rainier Ave). In contrast, U-Link and North Link will have stops in the heart of our most important urban centers. Corridor D is a reinforcement of that principle, and it sets the precedent that Sound Transit should build rail where it should be, rather than where it’s convenient to build. In turn, that will increase the public appetite for rail, allowing us to build even more in the future.

        Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the size of the pie is fixed, when we haven’t even bought the pie pan yet.

      4. As another piece of evidence, consider the SkyTrain extension along Broadway to UBC. Originally, there was some dithering about whether they should build SkyTrain up to Arbutus only (for about $700 million), or non-automated light rail along the whole corridor (for about the same price). Instead, the provincial government ended up committing $2.8 billion to build SkyTrain along the whole corridor.

        It turns out that once people have a taste of awesomeness (e.g. the Canada Line and the other SkyTrain lines), they suddenly become much more willing to spend large sums of money on future improvements.

        If we go cheap now, we’re giving up on that potential.

      5. I don’t think we should go cheap, but we should definitely try to get the most for our money. Our current system is full of cheap touches, despite the fact that it is relatively expensive. It is like a really fast car with cheap tires — the vehicle is capable of going 120, but you will have a flat well before then. The line form downtown to Capitol Hill and then the U-District is money well spent. It is expensive, but it is a very important line (it should have included Pill Hill, but I don’t want to get into that). Further north, we continue with the expensive digging, and start buying cheap tires. The Roosevelt station is OK, but it could have been much better. As you get further north, the tires get cheaper and cheaper — no bridge to the college and no station at 130th (as of yet). Unlike the system to the south, many of the cheap decisions are reversible.

        I worry that a system like Corridor D will have similar cheap touches. We might get a station at Fremont, but connecting it to the Rapid Ride (coming from the north) could prove to be impossible. What if the save a few bucks on the Ballard station and put it at a nasty spot. Or worse yet, manage to put a station next to (or in) the Seattle Center.

        My other worry is that we might pull a “Seattle Sports Stadium” fiasco. Tearing down the Kingdome was bad enough, especially since it wasn’t paid for yet. But if we had to build a new stadium to keep our sports teams then they could have built one stadium for both baseball and football (and soccer). That would have allowed enough money to placate the Sonics. But instead we have two state of the art stadiums, but we lost our most successful, longest running franchise. Oops. I could easily see how Corridor D could end up being the “everything” for Corridor D. This could have a couple bad results. One, folks look at it as being expensive, and not delivering much to them (this would be true for most travelers from the U-District and everywhere north of there, since this won’t improve their access to Ballard or Fremont). It could also pass, but then be stalled later by folks who basically say “enough already” (as they did with the Seattle SuperSonics).

      6. For ST 3 I’m not sure using the DSTT will really save any money. For options A, B, and D the tunnel only goes to 2nd & Pine. The distance to CPS is roughly similar if not a little longer and the station count is the same (CPS and SLU rather than 2nd & Pine and Belltown).

        For expansion to West Seattle you could still use busway and the DSTT. Not sure if the headways work out but face it demand to West Seattle is just not going to be that high. For that matter you could force a transfer at Lander for West Seattle riders if you wanted to do things on the cheap.

      7. “We might get a station at Fremont, but connecting it to the Rapid Ride (coming from the north) could prove to be impossible”

        That’s a given and probably nobody’s goal. RapidRide isn’t necessary if the 5 is there, and Metro has talked about extending the 5 to Aurora Village (now probably 185th station) if you want to transfer to Snohomish County. And of course, Metro tried to make the 5 full-time frequent last year, and will doubtless do so as soon as it has the money.

        Of course, in an ideal world, Greenwood and Aurora would be the same street so you don’t have to choose between the two, and Aurora would have a convenient place for a Fremont stop. But that die was cast when Aurora was built eighty years ago.

      8. Whether it is the 5 or RapidRide, you want to connect buses coming from the north to Fremont. Connecting them via the surface streets is terrible. Fremont avenue is jam packed everyday. 39th will soon be a lot more busy, too, as soon as the viaduct gets torn down. When that happens, we lose west side access to highway 99. This means that lots of people who used to take 15th NW and get on the Viaduct will go over to 39th and stream their way onto Aurora heading south. This means that you can forget about giving a driver heading south on Fremont extra time on that already challenging light cycle.

        It makes sense to add a stop with an elevator to Aurora, since this would enable a bus coming from Phinney or Aurora to connect to the Fremont station. It also makes sense to encourage the use of Aurora because, for much of its route, it is grade separated. From the Fremont station, you could get to Ballard or the UW (as well as downtown). OK, to get to the UW you would have to build the line from Fremont to the UW, but hopefully that gets built soon.

    2. So far, I have seen evidence that
      (1) The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel has been designed for and can operate at a 2-minute peak frequency (could d.p., mic, or someone else post the link to the report that says this?);
      (2) 4-minute frequencies are adequate for Downtown-Northgate corridor (this is what Sound Transit plans once ST2 is done right?)

      Therefore, I see no reason why mic’s idea, with two lines (Ballard-Redmond, Lynnwood-Des Moines) each running every 4 minutes, would not work. If it is the at-grade section in the Rainier Valley that is screwing this up, then half of the trains on the Lynnwood-Des Moines line could terminate at Stadium Station until that section is grade-separated.

      The main problem that I can see is that if a West Seattle LRT line were to be built, that would probably require a new tunnel, unless headways on the existing lines were reduced to every 6 minutes or the West Seattle line was operated as a shuttle to SoDo (which has the downside of requiring lots of connections: W Seattle bus > Link > Link > Link > bus might be necessary for some trips, which is ridiculous). Of course, BRT might be a better solution for West Seattle anyways–West Seattle’s geography of a dispersed area funneled through one major chokepoint is very good for “open” BRT.

      1. Josh –

        What I heard on this blog before (I don’t remember where) is that the Ranier Valley at-grade section messes things up even worse than that. The problem isn’t just that we can’t shove more trains through it, but that we don’t know which two-minute segment the trains northbound from the Rainier Valley are going to arrive at Sodo in. So, we can’t schedule trains in the two-minute segment adjacent to them, since the Ranier Valley train might have to use that segment instead.

        I suppose that if we’re starting trains at Sodo, we could just barely do it – if the Ranier Valley train is delayed, we could start the other train early and hold it a minute if needed until the next slot. But an extension to West Seattle wouldn’t be possible. Plus, even this option would cascade delays through the rest of the system and forbid two-minute headways anywhere else.

      2. per SDOT, MLK trains are limited to 6 minutes to allow surface traffic to have thier share of the green time at intersections, so that’s 10 trains per hour.
        E.Link is scheduled for 9 to 10 minute headways, based on ridership, so 6 per hour.
        That’s a total of 16 trains per hour, or only about half of what 2 min. headways would give you – 30 trains per hour through the DSTT.
        That’s a lot of Ballard/W.Seattle trains by my count.

      3. The leeway needed for interlining is built into the design. That is precisely what “designed for a 90-second design headway, to enable an ultimate two-minute operating headway” means. (It’s right there on page 24.) And that is why such headways are feasible the world over, with branches far less predictable than ours.

        Meanwhile, the Rainier Valley segment is capped at 6-minute headways, though even the most generous ridership estimates don’t predict needing to go below 7.5 (w/ 4-car trains) at the peak of peaks.

        East Link, meanwhile, isn’t expected to need headways below 9 minutes (w/ 4-car trains) at the peak of peaks, which still offers about 8 times the 550’s current peak capacity on this essentially commuter-exclusive corridor.

      4. I think ST is not saying, “We’ll never have 2-minute trains in the tunnel.” They’re saying, “We don’t want to add more lines to the tunnel until ST2 is running and we can be 100% sure it’s meeting the North/East capacity and we can add a line without slowing things down.”

        But the argument is moot because even if the DSTT has barely enough capacity for one more line, it doesn’t for two or three more lines. So building a second tunnel now would be as forward-thinking as building the DSTT in the first place: it guarantees that there’ll plenty of capacity for all potential future lines, and it removes the biggest expense from future-line budgets making them more likely to be approved.

      5. Unless you’re the kind of fucking moron who thinks this city is about to quadruple in population and build scattered pockets of Manhattan all over the place — we have one of those on this blog — then the Northgate line is perfectly set for capacity at 4-6 minutes.

        We don’t need to need to wait decades to find that outs. That’s why we have math.

      6. This is a sadly amusing discussion…the 1968 “heavy” (Metro) rail proposal had ONE TUNNEL downtown with <> “spokes” (NE, NW, SW, SE and E…IMHO still a better route system than the weird meandering and freeway-oriented stuff we are getting now). Now, the lines weren’t as long as there was no perceived need to go into the suburbs further than Bellevue/Redmond, but the fact remains that, as d.p. often states, cities all over the world run trains on multiple lines at very low headways in substantial portions of their networks. Certainly the plan then expected that when the system fully opened in 1985 one tunnel would be sufficient for whatever combination of lines serving those five directions was required.

        Obviously we have made penny-wise, pound-foolish decisions such as the at-grade segment and the ventilation shaft issue that restricts somewhat our ability to run extremely low headway schedules. The shaft is probably a relatively simple (relatively) fix, including the use of eminent domain if a particular landowner is causing distress to the transportation network as a whole. The grade separation dilemma is a much more costly one, possibly mitigated somewhat by terminating some southbound trains at Stadium. However, we are nowhere near the need for 4 minute headways on any proposed line and will likely not be for many, many years. In the interim there seems to be absolutely no reason to bore a second downtown tunnel. If the system gets so overcrowded that one is needed, certainly the popular demand to fund it would be extremely high. Until then, use what we have, interline and save that money for additional lines or capacity and speed improvements as warranted on the existing one.

    3. There is nothing to stop the ventilation shaft from being built later if and when we need it. Until we have concrete plans for actually running trains frequently enough for it to matter, there is no reason to pay for it.

    4. It is my understanding that Sound Transit has not really narrowed their choices down to five options. At least, that is what one representative told me. He said that everything is still on the table. In other words, hybrid systems (or even something substantially different) is possible, if not likely. They really want to know why you like a system, as opposed to just the fact that you like it (think it is the best of the five options).

      There are other corridors in play here, including ones that will interact with this one. How this all plays out is going to be an going process right up to the point at which they put a proposal on the ballot. Then, of course, the whole process repeats itself again.

      At least, that is my understanding.

      1. By the way, this would explain the mish-mash of various options that are shown and the lack of consistency amongst the corridors. For example, Corridor A heads east after getting to Ballard. Corridor B and C go all the way to 85th (one elevated to 65th, the other at-grade). Corridor E skips Belltown entirely (the only route to do so). There is no attempt here to compare apples to apples (starting and ending at the same spot). I think this is on purpose, so that people will find what pieces they like, rather than do as many have done (and what I did initially) which is to pick my favorite based on a process of elimination.

    5. Good post, mic. I agree with all of your points. If headways improve, then it does more than save us some money (and transfer time) downtown. It opens up the entire thought process with regards to serving Ballard, and what we put on the ballot for this next round. As far as stops go, I like Queen Anne, I like Interbay, and I really like Belltown. But if you are trying to move people from Ballard to the rest of the city, the cheapest and best way is with a line from Ballard to the U-District. But, to quote Sound Transit:

      Planned light rail extensions to Lynnwood and the East Side will
      increase train traffic in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT),
      leaving no room in the tunnel for a Ballard rail line to safely operate.
      If the Ballard rail line used a separate parallel tunnel to enter or
      exit Downtown Seattle, underground walkways could connect
      passengers to the DSTT.

      If we solve that problem directly (by doing some of what has been mentioned) then instead of Corridor D, we could build a line from UW to Fremont to Ballard. The difference between the two lines (Corridor D versus UW to Fremont to Ballard) may not be obvious. Allow me to elaborate. The simplest way to think of it is in terms of stations, not distance. My guess is that it works out to be about the same. So, not counting the starting and ending stations, here are some numbers for the paths:

      UW to Ballard (and everyplace north):
      Via Corridor B/D – 7
      Via East/West Line – 1

      Capitol Hill
      Via Corridor B/D – 5
      Via East/West Line – 3

      Ballard to Westlake (and everyplace south):
      Via Corridor B/D – 4
      Via East/West Line – 4

      There is a trade-off here, but I think it is a good one. In the case of Corridor A, B or D, you are adding some really good stations. But for Ballard and Fremont itself, an east-west line is much, much better overall. It would be about the same for folks coming from the south (and folks riding the rail from the east) but so much better for those coming from UW or further north (as well as those coming from a bus on 520). It would also probably be significantly cheaper.

      Like I said, I like the two Queen Anne stops and I really like Belltown, but I don’t think that should be our focus this go round.

      If we want to add another station (and I think we should) then adding a station at Eastlake and Campus Parkway (to a UW-Fremont-Ballard line) would be a good one. In some ways, this is similar to the Belltown station. Belltown deserves a first class station, but those who live there don’t have to walk too far, or wait too long to be connected to the Westlake station. The people who live close to Eastlake and Campus Parkway could walk up the hill as well to the U-District station. But an additional benefit to a station here is that it could connect the subway line(s) to an Eastlake streetcar (or frequent bus service). Of course, this adds one more stop for people just trying to get to Ballard and thus the east-west line is just a tad bit slower. Overall, though, I don’t think it changes the trade-off:

      East/West Line:
      Much faster connection to Fremont or Ballard for riders coming from the UW and everywhere north.
      Serves UW with an additional stop.
      That stop connects the system to Eastlake.
      Is probably a lot cheaper.

      Corridor D
      Adds stations for upper and lower Queen Anne.
      Adds a Belltown station.

      The key unknown here is how much cheaper an east-west line would be versus something like Corridor D. But even if the savings aren’t huge, I think the trade-off is worth it, especially if we feel like connecting Ballard and Fremont in the best possible way is a priority.

      [Feel free to correct my station math, by the way]

      1. Frankly, if we had to save money somehow, I would vote for building Corridor D but stopping at Fremont. I think Fremont is the most important stop in North Seattle — much more so than Ballard. Because of its geography, Fremont is exactly the kind of “choke point” that makes it a perfect place for transit connections. The only problem with serving Fremont is the unreliability of the Fremont Bridge, and a subway tunnel would fix that problem.

        With a stop at Fremont, even if we don’t build any further north, we’ve drastically improved things for folks in Ballard, Crown Hill, Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, and Wallingford. Routes 5/16/26/28/31/32/40 either already pass by the future station location, or could easily be rerouted to do so. Riders on those routes could make an easy connection to Fremont Station for a painless and congestion-free ride downtown. And if their final destination was Lower or Upper Queen Anne, their trip could be over twice as fast as it is today, even with the transfer penalty.

        In contrast, with any of the options that don’t go to Fremont — Corridors A and B and even Bruce’s modified C — we’re building a service that just isn’t that useful to most of the city. No one from Wallingford or Phinney Ridge is going to take a bus out to Ballard just to get on the subway. The 48 might reach a Crown Hill station, but that’s only useful for a small subset of passengers. Folks who currently ride the 5 or 16 or 26 or 28 to downtown are unlikely to alter their trips to divert to a Ballard subway station.

        I’m certainly not going to complain about the Ballard extension of the D; I think it will generate a lot of ridership, and I think the capacity is sorely needed. But I would much rather cut Ballard from D than cut Fremont by going with A/B/C.

      2. I like your options, and feel they too should be given a close review.
        As you point out, the tunnel ‘is maxed out’ decree with nothing to back it up with is worthless propaganda. Shame on ST for doing so.
        If their projections for 2030 of 290,000 daily riders is close (PSRC says NO), then Link will be approaching 100 mil annual riders, which is 10x more than today.
        Declaring the tunnel is full, is just BS-Hot Air. Come plead for a new tunnel when you get over 50% of capacity.

      3. I’m not convinced building Ballard to UW first is the right answer. The transit demand from Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingford is primarily to/from downtown. While taking the crosstown line and transferring to the N/S line would be faster to downtown than current buses, taking option A, B, or D to downtown and transferring would also be faster than the current 44. The latter gives those going in the direction of greatest demand the faster ride.

        Second I don’t know it would be much cheaper. Ballard to UW is going to have to be in a tunnel between Fremont and the UW and will have at least 4 stations. A rough guesstimate says at least $2 billion.

        Lastly you give up the very high ridership stations in Belltown and Lower Queen Anne. Wallingford adds some riders, but not huge numbers. Furthermore by going E/W people likely aren’t going to put up with transferring from say a 5 to the subway as they might with a line that goes directly downtown.

      4. Aleks,
        I agree. The Fremont station is a game changer. I’m not sure if ST factored Metro route truncation into it’s ridership projections, but if not it would make option D much more attractive.

      5. @Chris — I think you missed my “station math”. It would be just as fast to go from Fremont to downtown via the UW as it would be to on Corridor 4. Or, at worst, it would be a difference of a few seconds. Meanwhile, anyone coming from the UW or anywhere to the north, or the northeast (Roosevelt, Northgate, Shoreline, Lynnwood, Lake City, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, etc.) saves an enormous amount of time. Seven intermediate stops versus one (or two). It is hard to say how long a difference those 6 stops are, but if the current Sound Transit schedule is a guide, that is a difference of about 15 minutes. According to there schedule, from Mount Baker to Westlake (six intermediate stops — all grade separated it takes 16 minutes). Fifteen minutes is enough time to reconsider the route. Right now, the bus takes from the U-District to Fremont takes about ten to twenty minutes, so the savings are marginal (although the train would be a lot more reliable). What is true for Fremont is true for Ballard. In other words, everyone from any of the north/northeast locations I mentioned who travels to Ballard or Fremont will look at Corridor D and say it sounds like a good idea, but improves their travel very little, if at all.

        I agree with the assessment of Fremont. I think it is a very important place. I just believe that the easiest, best way to connect it to the system is via the U-District, which is not very far away. I would also allow enough extra money for a BRT stop at Fremont, and some way to get people from the subway stop to the BRT stop (elevator or escalator). If you are being really cheap, then connect Fremont to the U-District and run a streetcar from Fremont to Ballard. The section from Ballard to Fremont isn’t as congested as the section from the UW to Fremont because the UW is way more congested than Ballard.

        I’m not saying that this is a long term solution. It isn’t Eventually we would want fast rail from Fremont to Ballard. We would also want to serve Queen Anne and Belltown. I would add South Lake Union to that list as well, along with the Central Area. Might as well add support for Interbay, since that essentially covers all of Magnolia as well as improves service for parts of Queen Anne (versus a stop on Queen Anne or Fremont). Eventually we could have all these things, but I think we should get as much value out of the system as quickly as possible, and in my opinion, adding a line from Ballard to Fremont to the UW does that.

    1. We’re all still waiting on Urban Visions’ 2nd and Pine and ID buildings. This is almost sure to never happen.

  4. The good thing about the M-1 Light Rail is that it has been resuscitated. The feds gave millions of dollars to the project and construction is to start soon.

    1. No offense, but I’m finding it extremely difficult to figure out what benefits M-1 light rail would provide over using that money to invest in buses in Detroit. As it does not operate in exclusive lanes, it would provide absolutely NO mobility benefits over buses; it would be much cheaper and more beneficial to just stripe a lane of Woodward Ave as “bus only” and add signal priority/station amenities. Unlike the streetcar, this would actually provide real mobility benefits. In addition, BRT should be so much cheaper than rail that you could use the remainder of the money to add service to the desperately underfunded bus system and thus improve the lives of many thousands of people. And yes, BRT can stimulate development–just look over to Cleveland’s HealthLine for an example.

      Also, will people living on the northern part of Woodward have to transfer to the streetcar once it is done? Or will the Woodward bus line continue to duplicate the streetcar (which makes the streetcar even more useless)? Both options seem very unsatisfactory.

      1. Detroit is SO uncrowded due to depopulation, and has SUCH wide streets, that street-running streetcars *will actually go at full speed* in Detroit.

        Yeah, Detroit is sad and pathetic. Anyway.

        The purpose of the M1 streetcar is to connect people from Detroit’s inconveniently located Amtrak station — which is going to be getting rather good rail service to Chicago soon, with a huge raft of upgrades — to all of the “cathedrals” and showpiece buildings downtown.

        There is a reason M1 was sponsored by the wealthy owners of those “cathedrals” and showpiece buildings. It is intended to impress guests from Chicago, bluntly. Maybe it will work. Given Detroit’s situation, I can’t even say that it’s a bad idea.

        Detroit is in a weird situation where “mobility” is next-to-unsolvable. The remaining population is for the most part too poor to really afford cars, but is also too spread out to actually provide decent bus service to. Really, Detroit’s problem is land use, and it’s hardly even worth thinking about “mobility” until land use is solved. M1 might change the patterns of land use and if it does, great.

  5. I’m really confused by the Detroit Bus Company. I’ve heard about them for a while now, but I’ve never seen any schedules, route maps, anything… I have absolutely no idea what kind of service they ever provide.

    What kind of mobility benefit can they possibly provide without there being any sense of reliability (since there’s no regular routes/schedules they run)?

    Does someone care to enlighten me? (I see a pilot run they did to the airport over thanksgiving that’s going to try regularly, but that’s about it… haven’t they been around longer than that?)

    1. I love those empty avenues.

      Reminds me of Seattle in 1987.

      Before the rest of you showed up.

      And yes, with low costs and low density you can take bigger risks, or simply be an artist.

      But not anymore.

      Not in Seattle…it’s a chessboard for rich men.

    2. At the moment, Detroit Bus Company is basically a charter operator, but for *LOCAL* service rather than intercity service. It’s interesting in that this is a business model which to my knowledge has never been tried; probably there was never a city in the right situation for it (with so many people so dispersed with so little car access).

  6. My wife (who sometimes commutes from between upper Fremont and Northgate), on the 16: “It’s like a drunken old man taking you to Northgate. Hey, get in the car, I’ll take you to Northgate! Oh, sure, this is the way, I know how to get there… we’ll just swing a right here and, whoooa there, that’s a tight left. OK, now — yes, I’m sure we should go this way, geez, we’re almost there…”

    Not that she thinks the 16 is a bad way to go to Northgate (she prefers it over the more complicated and only occasionally faster ways to make the trip, as do I), just sort of what it’s like. What Seattle is like, sometimes.

    1. If she likes the drunken old man experience, she should try using the 25 to get from downtown to the U-District. When I drove it I always enjoyed the comments from non-regular passengers like “This bus actually fits through there?!”

      1. I miss the old 25 (well, not really, but that was “my” first bus). Hooray for the Fuhrman deviation! And the winding (actually pleasant if you didn’t actually care about getting downtown) drive through the trees of Lakeview Blvd.! Only an hour and maybe a little bit more from Meadowbrook downtown…and this in the mid-80’s.

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