2013: The Year of Link – December’s ST Ridership Report

Off the Chart.

With no major projects opening I don’t think anyone expected 2013 to be a huge year for Link.  Everyone was wrong. In the fall it was revealed that the University Link extension to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium will likely open 6-9 months ahead of schedule and $100 million under budget.  And now we know Link’s ridership grew 11.3% over the year.  It was projected that Link would average 27,900 weekday boardings in 2013.  When it was all said and done the number turned out to be 28,953.  It’s hard to imagine how this past year could have been any better for the young system.

December’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 29,659/20,921/18,462, growth of 18.2%, 20.5%, and 15.5% respectively over December 2012. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 14.2% (up 8% on the South Line, 18% on the North Line).  Total Tacoma Link ridership was up 0.3% with weekday ridership declining 2.3%.  Weekday ST Express ridership was up 4%, with most growth occurring on Crosslake, South King and Pierce routes.  Complete December Ridership Summary here.

Yes, that’s correct.  Link’s ridership grew 18.2% in December to bring the yearly growth rate for 2013 to 11.3%.  My charts below the fold. Continue reading “2013: The Year of Link – December’s ST Ridership Report”

ESHB 2111 advances out of Senate Transportation Committee

The Washington State Capitol
The Washington State Capitol by aidaneus

Ben originally reported on House Bill 2111, which would enable Sound Transit fare inspectors to issue citations immediately to fare evaders when they are caught, instead of having to mail the citations. The bill was amended on the floor of the House and passed out of the House unanimously on February 13, as Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2111.

ESHB 2111 got a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on February 24 and was amended to allow the citation to not include information on the perpetrator’s personal vehicle (which would seem a common-sense improvement, when one is being ticketed for riding a train without paying).

Amazingly, a representative from the Municipal and District Court Judges Association objected to the idea of Sound Transit not including this information, as it would make the citation non-uniform with other traffic citations in the state. In particular, it would allow Sound Transit to print a smaller form than the standard one. The irony here is that it was a district court administrator who had requested Sound Transit to find a way to not have to mail out citations in the first place, since the district courts handle that expense. Indeed, the Administrative Office of the Court has been denying Sound Transit’s requests to print a smaller form that doesn’t include the perpetrator’s personal vehicle information since 2012, and has been bureaucratically unhelpful in how they would do a better form.

On Wednesday, the committee members gave the concern a collective facepalm and voted to pass the bill out of committee, with the amendment, and just one No vote.

The bill next has to get out of the Senate Rules Committee, and get voted on by the full Senate by next Friday, March 7. Members of the Rules Committee are listed here. If you wish to contact your state senator, you can look her/him up here.

News Roundup: Station Access

This is an open thread.

Seattle Subway’s 2014 Volunteer Kickoff Party!

Seattle Subway Foundation

Fado Irish Pub, Thursday, 2/27/14, 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Hello, Seattle Transit Blog readers!

Seattle Subway is excited to begin another year of outreach and education. This year we’re starting off with a volunteer meetup at Fado Irish Pub, tomorrow, 2/27, from 5:30-7:30pm. There will be food and drink (for the first 40) provided by us to thank last year’s volunteers and welcome new volunteers who share our vision of fast reliable transit connecting our neighborhoods.

Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant is located at 801 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98104, on the corner of 1st Avenue and Columbia Street, within 3 blocks of the Pioneer Square Link Station’s north entrance.

We have an exciting agenda this year:

  • Support the Move King County Now campaign’s efforts to save King County Metro from severe cuts. Subways take time to build, we need frequent bus service in the meantime.
  • Continue our educational outreach on the benefits of constructing an automated subway to every neighborhood in Seattle and to communities throughout the region.
  • This year we’ll have a chance to comment on the results of the Level 2 Analysis of the Ballard to Downtown corridor as well as Level 1 Analysis of the Ballard to U-District corridor and the Downtown to West Seattle corridor.  Translation – We  have a chance to influence what Sound Transit is going to build!
  • [Insert your agenda item here] We’ll have a board up where YOU can tell us your thoughts on what we should work on this year.

This is going to be a great year, hope to see you at Fado!  RSVP here.

Seattle Streetcar to Get ORCA Readers


Although its practical impact has likely been minimal, one might find it a bit sloppy that the Seattle Streetcar has no way to properly accommodate ORCA cards, so that fare inspectors must accept the mere presence of one as a valid fare. SDOT’s Ethan Melone confirms that those days are soon gone.

For the South Lake Union line, here is timeline:

1.      Prep Work – Brackets (By SDOT Structures), ORCA Post/Baseplate/Conduit (SDOT Signal) – Completed end of March

2.      Router Cabinets/Final Wiring – Completed April

3.      Metro Testing/Startup – May

The First Hill Streetcar will open with ORCA support later this year.

Council Approves Ballot Measure, Fare Increase


It will surprise no one that the King County Council sent a tax measure to the ballot yesterday that would prevent deep Metro cuts and raise money to work off some of the road maintenance deficit. It might surprise some of us that the vote was unanimous, including four Republican* councilmembers representing suburban and exurban areas of the County. From a Move King County Now press release:

“Our continued economic competitiveness is paramount,” said King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “As a King County Transportation Benefit District Board Member, I cannot stand by and watch our infrastructure deteriorate.”

The April 22nd measure will authorize a 10-year 0.1% increase in sales tax and $60 vehicle license fee (replacing the expiring $20 CRC license fee) and would, if revenue projections are accurate, just about cover Metro’s deficit.

On the same day, the Council approved a 25 cent fare increase in March 2015, and required Metro to create an implementation plan for the low-income fare by June 1 of this year:

If an interlocal agreement is reached with the King County Transportation District for the distribution of voter-approved revenues, the fare would start in 2015 at $1.25 for eligible adults and the youth fare would remain at $1.25, with these fares rising to $1.50 in 2017. Absent the interlocal agreement, the low-income fare and youth fare would be set at $1.50 starting in 2015.

The eligibility threshold for the low-income fare would be 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, currently $22,980 for an individual. Adults in a family of four earning up to $47,100 would also be eligible.

*The Council is now officially nonpartisan, although four current members were originally elected as Republicans.

WSDOT Comes Through with Promised SR99 Money

WSDOT SR99 Transit Letter

This weekend, we heard a rumor that WSDOT had found the money to fulfill their promise of viaduct mitigation funding through the opening of the SR99 Deep Bore Tunnel, scheduled for the end of 2015, a commitment which had been cast into doubt a couple of years ago.

This money, which amounted to about 40,000 hours of Metro service per year, was intended to provide drivers an alternative to driving on SR99, and to compensate Metro for increased running times on SR99 routes. Metro had used the money to improve schedule reliability on West Seattle routes, and add trips to high-performing commuter and all-day service in West Seattle, Ballard, and on Aurora. Those added peak trips are packed full of riders, so premature loss of this funding would have resulted in a “pre-bloodbath bloodbath” of cuts in July, falling extremely hard on West Seattle.

The potential loss of this mitigation money was one of the two fiscal swords hanging over Metro this year. The other, even larger one which remains, is the structural post-recession deficit of 600,000 hours per year. King County voters will get a chance to vote on additional revenue for Metro in April.

Quote from Dow:

“This is great news for everyone who commutes on the SR99 corridor, especially those coming from West Seattle and Burien,” says King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Viaduct mitigation has reduced traffic and increased transit use, and will continue to help manage the impacts of construction on businesses and the traveling public.”

Visualizing Metro Cuts

[UPDATE: As many commenters are pointing out, there are many errors on this map.]

Someone at codeforseattle made this visualization of the cuts that Metro proposes. Black dots represent eliminated stops; red stops will experience longer waits, and green dots will actually have shorter waits thanks to route consolidation.

visualizationGiven the parks on this map, green was not a good choice, but it’s still a powerful expression of the stakes this year.

Move King County Now Kickoff Event

This afternoon the King County Council will likely vote to put a tax package on the ballot that would prevent devastating cuts to Metro service.  This afternoon the campaign, Move King County Now, will hold a kickoff event at Fado Irish Pub.

Join Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, Kenmore Mayor David Baker, King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Council Chair Larry Phillips, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, and King County Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott.

Appetizers will be served. The first 40 guests will receive a free drink ticket!

Co-sponsored by: Transportation Choices Coalition, Downtown Seattle Association, King County Labor Council, Futurewise, Fuse, One America, Washington Conservation Voters

Time: Today, Feb 24, 5:30-7:30pm

Location: Fado Irish Pub801 1st Avenue, Seattle

RSVP online here or on Facebook.

Peak service on Eastgate Way

Google Earth - click to enlarge
Google Earth – click to enlarge

The jobs and retail along SE Eastgate Way neither receive nor deserve excellent transit service. Surrounded by vast surface parking lots and hiding from the main arterial, the buildings couldn’t be unfriendlier to pedestrian approaches. The south side of the road is given to the I-90 right of way rather than buildings, cutting the potential market in half. Vehicles getting on and off the freeway have the speeds one would expect. Bellevue does have long-term plans to make this less of a wasteland, but that’s irrelevant to Metro’s current service level.

However, there’s always value in optimizing the service that does exist, and there’s a nearly costless opportunity in the peak hours to provide something approaching frequent service. This is a lot of words to spill about a tiny and not very efficient route, and in many ways this kind of one-off peak service is the bane of a legible and flexible network. Still, it’s presumably symbolic of a larger pool of low-hanging fruit Metro could exploit with a little attention.


There are only two routes that serve the street. The 271 runs all day between Issaquah and Eastgate before heading on to Downtown Bellevue and the University District. Although this well-known route runs every 10-15 minutes, only selected buses continue beyond Eastgate to give it 30-minute headways on this stretch throughout the day. Continue reading “Peak service on Eastgate Way”

Placemaking and Transit on Pike-Pine


The Downtown Seattle Association has put together an impressive plan for improving walkability in the downtown core, specifically around the Pike-Pine district between Pike Market and I-5. The plan calls for spending $27 million to $54 million on trees, sidewalks, and planters to improve the streetscape. It seems like a modest price to pay to have what looks like a really nice downtown.  You can check out the website for more info and to read the whole vision.

Though transit is not specifically discussed in the report, it’s always struck me that the Pike-Pine couplet could be much better for buses. As with most East-West routes in Seattle, buses are slow through Pike-Pine, especially during rush hour, and the extra left-right jog at Bellevue slows things further.

Pike-Pine didn’t make it into the Transit Master Plan as a priority* corridor. Planners prioritized Madison for connecting downtown and the Hill by bus, perhaps thinking that Pike-Pine would lose salience as light rail took riders between Westlake and Broadway. My hunch, though, is that Pike-Pine will continue to be important. The corridor between the Market and, say, 12th Avenue, is arguably the most vibrant and walkable stretch in all of Seattle,  despite the incline. Even with light rail, there will still be a need to bus between the southern end of the Hill, Downtown, and destinations in-between.

Currently about 21,000 daily riders move through Pike-Pine, according to 2012 data from Metro. With a bit of trolley wire investment, and maybe even a dedicated lane, buses could move much more freely along the corridor. Moving Route 2 to Pike/Pine, as David suggested in his frequent network proposal, would increase ridership further.  This is an important corridor, and it should be treated as such.

Anyway, even if we don’t get a Pike-Pine busway in the near future, downtown business should still definitely invest in making the streets nicer and more interesting.

* UPDATE: Pike-Pine wasn’t identified as an HCT Corridor or a Priority Bus Corridor, but it was identified as a “Center City Priority Bus Corridor,” slated for transit priority treatments and improved stop amenities.  My mistake.

News Roundup: A Big Plan of Small Details

Pike Pine Renaissance
Pike Pine Renaissance

This is an open thread.

Arbitrary Caps on Taxi Alternatives Divide Council

photo-1While Seattleites are both generally dissatisfied with traditional taxis and broadly impressed by TNC innovators such as Uber and Lyft, their highly disruptive market entry has left everyone scrambling to catch up. With a year of study and process coming to a close, the City Council mostly agrees on a set of regulations to provide common standards for insurance and safety. The more fundamental policy question – whether the Council should regulate supply – has sharply divided the normally consensus-driven council. The working proposal calls for caps of 300-600 drivers (an 80% or 40% cut from estimated current supply, respectively). Though the entire special committee (Clark, O’Brien, and Harrell) supports market caps, those who oppose caps (Bagshaw, Burgess, and Rassmussen) are taking their arguments public.

First up was Councilman Burgess, writing a thorough blog post last Friday on the issue of caps:

[W]e face a supply problem in the dispatch market as there are data and anecdotes about long waits for taxis, or taxis that never arrive. The walk-up market needs caps on supply, the dispatch market needs more supply. This distinction makes a strong case for regulating the two differently.

Moreover, the TNCs have quickly changed what’s possible in the dispatch market and have done so with much higher customer satisfaction rates, according to a City-sponsored survey.


Given the market dynamics discussed above, I favor removing limits on vehicles and drivers in the dispatch market for the two-year pilot program being proposed.

This would seem to be a great compromise. Refusing to cap TNCs would greatly expand vehicle availability and protect a culture of innovation, while preserving  hailing rights for traditional cabs (and partially expanding those rights to for-hires) helpfully limits the inefficiencies of trolling for fares.

Next was Sally Bagshaw on SLOG last Monday: Continue reading “Arbitrary Caps on Taxi Alternatives Divide Council”

ESHB 2111 Moves to State Senate

The Washington State Capitol
The Washington State Capitol by aidaneus

Update: ESHB 2111 has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Transportation Monday, February 24, 2014, at 3:30 p.m.

Ben previously reported on House Bill 2111, which would allow fare inspectors to hand citations directly to fare evaders at the time they are caught. This bill passed out of the House unanimously (with one representative excused) last Thursday, after being amended.

Once inspectors are able to print out citations on the spot, they will be able to spend an extra 1.7 hours each day checking fares instead of sitting behind a desk entering data for the court system to then mail out the citations.

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2111 (which ESHB 2111 is now officially called since it was amended on the Floor of the House), appears to have answered the concerns of the court administrators about the details of the bill, and will move on to the Senate next.

More Duplexes

The Seattle Planning Commission report we discussed last week mentions a number of small and not-so-small ways to make Seattle more affordable for families by incentivizing the construction of more 2- and 3BR housing units.  As the report notes, this will likely require controversial zoning changes in Seattle’s current single-family zones.  Even if sweeping change is not on the horizon anytime soon, modest changes can be made to the code today that would increase affordability.

For example, in the last few years there have been efforts to allow more households in single-family zones via accessory dwelling units (ADUs). First came detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU), and later, the ADU (a basement or mother-in-law apartment).  These were a good start, but they never quite took off in large numbers for a couple of reasons.  It takes a fair amount of scratch to build a second house on your land, even if you’re willing to cut down trees or re-do landscaping to make it work. Most homeowners don’t have access to that kind of cash, and getting second mortgages has been a lot harder since the housing crash.   Second, one unit must be owner-occupied, meaning that you can’t rent both units out.  

One modest way to increase the stock of affordable housing would be simply to remove the owner-occupancy requirement on ADUs, making them more akin to a standard duplex. As commenter Eric writes in last week’s post, you could easily build a duplex inside the existing size envelope of a single-family house: built on no more than 35% of the property, obeying setback rules, etc.   Such a duplex would easily “fit in” with the neighborhood.  By removing the owner-occupancy requirement, it would be possible for an investor to build and operate a duplex as an investment property. That would open up a huge pile of potential capital and make ADUs more viable.  If there were a way to sell them off separately as condos, all the better.  

Keep in mind that I’m not talking about increasing the maximum allowable “house” size at all.  The maximum size of a house on an SF-5000 lot depends on several factors, but can be as much as 5,000 square feet if built to three stories.  A duplex of two, 2,000-square-foot units would fit within this envelope with room to spare.  Furthermore, duplexes like this exist today in Seattle. There are a few, small, duplex zones, but some exist in single-family zones as well.  They pre-date the current zoning laws and would be illegal to build today, but the earth still manages to spin despite their existence.  Adding a few more wouldn’t solve everything, but it would give us some more options.

TNC Regulation Update

Yesterday, the full City Council attended what was originally intended to be the final meeting of the Taxi/For-Hire/Limousine Regulations committee. Before another packed house, and with only a brief window for public comment this time around, the council discussed detailed amendments to the working proposal. They took votes on some issues, deferred others, and showed that the normally consensus-craving council is divided on the  issue of TNC market caps.

The full video above is exceptional for those interested in wading into the weeds. Public comment was substantive, on-point, and emotionally charged, with opinions hardened and clarified on both sides. The council moved through a series of amendments that generally moved in the pro-TNC direction.

Here’s where things stand:

Insurance: The council fully agrees on requiring that drivers be covered whenever ‘active’ on a system, including in between rides. O’Brien offered an amendment looking for ways to lower insurance costs for commercial drivers but the council ran out of time before discussing it.

Hourly Caps: The Council passed an amendment removing the requirement that limited TNC drivers to 16 hours per week. TNC drivers will be able to work full-time, but will retain daily limits and mandatory time off between shifts.

Pilot Program Review: CM Burgess introduced and passed revised language relating to the data collection at the end of the 2-year pilot. In short, the review of the program will now include an expanded series of performance metrics, such as average dispatch time for taxis and TNCs, % and location of rejected rides, and much more. The intent seemed to be to get a better handle on the relative service quality offered by the different options.

Training: Councilmember Clark introduced and passed an amendment removing a separate permit layer and separate  training requirements for TNC drivers. Instead, all training will be harmonized between taxi/for-hire/TNC drivers, the curriculum will be updated, and emphasis will be on safety. Trainings will be flexible to focus on some issues and minimize others depending upon the audience (i.e. Cash-free Lyft drivers wouldn’t have to be trained on cash-handling)

Market Caps: This was the meat of the debate, and was the only portion of the regulations not to be voted upon. Weeks ago the committee proposed a cap of 100 drivers per company, which was then revised by CM O’Brien to 300 total TNC driver permits which would be portable between TNCs. At this meeting two additional amendments were offered. Likely recognizing pushback from the community on the caps issue, CM Clark offered to double O’Brien’s portable TNC permits from 300 to 600, with Clark arguing that a 2-year cap would ease the way for a likely “capless future.” Bagshaw proposed removing market caps entirely, arguing that a denser, growing Seattle can absorb the new supply, and that in the context of transit cuts that Seattle needs more options. Rasmussen seconded Bagshaw’s call for removing caps, though he proposed that the Council retain authority to impose caps if the market becomes too saturated (a cap-as-you-go approach).

O’Brien and Harrell defended the original cap of 300, making immigrant rights and social justice arguments while sharply criticizing TNCs for flouting the law. O’Brien held that industry support for TNCs was hypocritical (“Would the hotel association support an unregulated AirBnB? Would the restaurant association be ok with unregulated food trucks?”)

Burgess, Licata, Sawant, and Godden stayed largely silent. Sawant criticized the lack of mass transit in the city and proposed eventually having a publicly-owned and unionized TNC company. She supported market caps, saying that it was the taxi driver “Davids” against the “Goldman-Sachs-Jeff-Bezos” Goliaths.

Burgess responded later in the day with a long and substantive blog post defending an approach that caps the market for street hails but leaves the dispatch market unregulated. However, he also said he would support Clark’s limit of 600 if a majority wants caps in some form.

In sum, currently a majority supports caps (Clark, O’Brien, Harrell, Sawant, and Godden), 3 members oppose caps (Bagshaw, Rassmussen, and Burgess), and Licata is undeclared.

The final committee vote on this issue will be on February 27 from 4-6pm. It will then proceed to the full council.

See the draft legislation and proposed amendments for more details.

RapidRide E and 65 Inauguration Ride Saturday



[Ed. Note: I’m unable to confirm that any STB staff writers will be there, but consider this is a semi-official meetup of the STB reader community.]

Tomorrow is Metro’s service change, so I invite you to join me on a tour of RapidRide E’s first day and the #65 Jackson Park extension. Meet at the Yesler Way and Prefontaine Place station at 9:30am. Here’s the schedule:

9:35-10:24am, RapidRide E (#675 in the trip planner), Yesler & Prefontaine Place – Aurora Village TC. See the new Linden configuration.

10:33-11:10, RapidRide E, Aurora Village TC – 46th & Aurora. See the Aurora routing without Linden.

11:15-11:30, #44, 46th & Aurora – 45th & University Way NE

11:33-12:05pm, leisurely walk down University Way, possible quick glimpse of the Farmer’s Market, takeout lunch opportunities at Thanh Vi (banh mi), Gyro-cery (gyros), Pagliacci (pizza)

12:05-12:42, #65, Campus Pkwy & University Way NE – 145th & 19th NE. See the 145th Street extension. Walk four blocks to 15th.

12:53-1:15, #348, 15th NE & 145th – Northgate TC.

1:16-1:45, #41, Northgate TC – Westlake Station.

If you’re coming for just part of the tour, the 9:35 E and the 12:05 #65 are the best meeting points.

Previously I had suggested an earlier 65 but that doesn’t leave enough time in case one of the buses is late, it’s better to wait in the U-District than elsewhere, and it gives time for a lunch. I nixed the 512 because the 347/348 is both more frequent and closer than walking to I-5.