This is an open thread.

127 Replies to “News Roundup: Nerdy and Dry”

  1. Riding in the car yesterday I heard that the city of Kirkland is considering a gondola to solve some of its transportation problems. A gondola system might be effective for getting people up the hill to 405 but I’m sure that there will be plenty of NOMBYs (Not-Over-My-Back-Yard) to oppose the project.

      1. Does anyone happen to know how bad traffic is there?

        Also, a lot of those buses – like the 245 – don’t hit any freeway stations, so you can’t use them to transfer. The one freeway station that does have all-day service is well north of downtown at Totem Lake.

      2. I’d like to see this idea fleshed out, but the route described in one of the articles doesn’t make much sense for gondolas – they were talking about a 5 mile run, and I don’t like to see anything too far beyond 2 miles. Gondolas are great for getting between major notes in short distances, but their speed doesn’t make great long-distance travel. Even at 14 mph (3S), that’s over 20 minutes, and unless you live at one node and work at the other this is just a piece of your trip. It will certainly beat a bus trip (at 15 minute frequencies you’ve eaten an average of 7.5 minutes right from the start), but may not be worth the investment.

      3. I thought Kirkland considered this, but then rejected it (buses made more sense).

        I like the idea of a public/private partnership. I could easily see REI chipping in for small one from the Capitol Hill station to their flagship store (in the Cascade neighborhood). As has been mentioned several times, that route makes a lot of sense for a gondola line (high density, short distance, horrible traffic and a barrier). Since REI is a co-op, they might not be interested. If the line continues a few blocks further (one more station) then it serves Amazon. For the cost of the streetcar, you could serve way more people with a much greater time savings versus the alternatives (a streetcar is no faster than a bus, while a gondola is).

        One of the interesting things about a gondola is that it has headways measured in seconds, not minutes. Depending on the size of the car, though, it isn’t too hard to crush load it. In this way, it is a lot like a giant escalator. Depending on where you are going, it really doesn’t matter where the escalator is — it could be at the beginning or the end of your route. In the case of a gondola from the Capitol Hill station to Cascade, it wouldn’t have to be right next to the station. It could be a couple blocks north and if the rider’s destination is also a couple blocks north, it doesn’t cost the rider a bit (and actually helps with the crush loading). It could be a block or two closer to Cascade and it wouldn’t be the end of the world, either. Either way it would function as a bridge in an area that really needs a bridge. It would make sense for the neighborhoods even if there were no transit stop (since the hill is steep and there is no bridge). The fact that it would compliment a station only adds to the value. The fact that it could be put just about anywhere in the area and add value means there would be great flexibility (and thus lower cost) in building it.

      4. Well the Sam that’s pretty much just wrong. The 255, the only high frequency bus goes nowhere near the 405 until you get to the Totem Lake. And the buses that go up the 85th go under the 405 but it might as well be a million miles away. But at least we know the Sam is from the California. There’s two routes from KTC up to Houghton; the 238 and 245 which conveniently Metro thought would be a good idea to have leave KTC in the evening at exactly the same time. Hard Reset; the Cross Kirkland Corridor connection from DT Kirkland has nothing to do with Totem Lake, 85th or Houghton Flyer Stop. The old BNSF route misses DT because of grade issues. The best connection point would be, wait for it, Railroad Avenue where Proctor Products is (or used to be). There is no way demand for this connection would ever warrant a gondola. Build some better, and they’re not bad now, bike lanes and call it done.

    1. The route 245 and 238 connects to the I-405 @ 70th Place freeway bus stop. The routes 236, 238, and 255 connects to the I-405 @ 160th freeway bus stop.

      The point is, the Kirkland Gondola is an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist. People have plenty of options to get from downtown Kirkland up the hill to the Cross Kirkland Corridor and I-405.

      Let’s stop acting like a drunken high school dropout who won the lottery. This is how budget shortfalls happen. We go on a spending spree when times are good, then when the economy slows, we scream we have to raise taxes to prop-up our previous needless purchases.

      1. I’m not supporting the Kirkland Gondola. Like Matt says, the distances are too great for gondolas to make much sense; and connecting frequencies in the 405 corridor aren’t good enough to make transfers easy. Plus, there’re many, many more important places to put a gondola. (Between UW Station and The Hub; along Denny Way; up California Avenue and across the bay to downtown; between Bellevue TC and Bellevue Square…)

        But as far as I can find out, there’s no all-day service to the 70th Place freeway station. That’s a problem – a small problem, but still one that should be fixed, and can be fixed much more cheaply

      2. “Plus, there’re many, many more important places to put a gondola” That’s not important. We’re talking about a project funded by Kirkland and/or Google. Neither would be interested in funding those other projects. All that matters is whether this specific project makes sense. With the route I’ve tried to interpolate from article descriptions: probably not. But again, I’d like to hear more.

      3. “We go on a spending spree when times are good”

        You must be talking about Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field, their custom highway interchange, and the symphony hall. Those are the kinds of unnecessarily luxuries we should have thought twice about during the boom. Basic transit is a necessity for any well-functioning city, and that includes appropriate rapid transit. People voted for ST2 two months after the crash hit, so it was not “good times”, and it was clear it would be the worst recession since the great D. But people voted for sensible infrastructure anyway, knowing it would be worthwhile in the long run, and that lack of it would hinder our economic future.

    2. I wonder how many aerial tramways are built where they go by the window in anyone’s home. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that world-wide, these transit ways are built in either mountain country or, like the one in Portland where nobody’s privacy is an issue.

      They also seem to be limited to places where absolutely nothing else will work- especially reserving lanes for transit, either bus or rail. Political preference for private automobiles is a different order of obstacle than the Swiss Alps.

      Also, as has been frequently mentioned, as freeway stations are presently built, nobody has been able to build a facility where fewer people with any choice can stand to be around. Noisy, exposed to weather and fumes, no toilets or refreshments- firmest message possible that anybody who doesn’t own a car deserves no better.

      Recalling Freeway Park- which Jim Ellis who founded Metro wanted to lid I-5 all the way across Seattle’s CBD- I do wonder if, using best architecture and construction available, we could create whole neighborhoods over freeways. Also, think Bellevue’s large Luther (not Luke ) Burbank Park with a transit station and suitable amenities.

      Again, problem isn’t terrain or huge number of people. It’s how land and thoroughfares are used.

      Mark Dublin

      1. The LRT lines in Singapore(not the heavy rail MRT) go very close to homes. But, for privacy reasons, the windows on the transit cars automatically fog up when they get close to the homes. I’d never seen anything like it before and thought it was the perfect solution to these kinds of problems.

      2. That’s really interesting Cinesea. That sounds great.

        Back to Mark’s idea, I think extending freeway park both directions (but especially to the north) sounds like a great idea. I’m just not sure if it is worth it. My guess is that it would be a lot cheaper to build a gondola and the city would get more out of it. If you added one like I suggest above (which isn’t my idea, by the way) then it makes sense for many of the reasons you mentioned. For example, there is a gondola in Bolzano (Bozen) that rises way above town. You could walk up, but it is quite a hefty walk. Likewise, you could drive, but why bother? The same would be true for a gondola from Capitol Hill to the Cascade neighborhood — it would simply be the fastest legal way to get from one spot to another (an extremely fit bicyclist who is willing to run red lights might be able to beat the gondola up the hill).

  2. A friend has a fence that faces a major thoroughfare in Seattle. I’m considering spray-painting the link to the service cuts map on it, with permission. My Redmond-based coworkers are tired of hearing me talk about this, so I’ve shut up there, if only because most of them say they plan to vote yes even though few ride the bus. I’m sure that people on Reddit are tired of me posting but I keep rebutting every single misconception about this increase calmly and rationally. It’s annoying that this vote had to come in an “off” election and as the only thing on the ballot but hopefully the push is sufficient.

    Please pass, Prop 1. Please.

    1. My husband had a friend over to watch basketball last night, and made sure he was registered to vote and that he would vote yes. I also made sure he had a sandwhich, so I hope I can still be called a good host.

  3. I really hope true LRT serves the more denser neighborhoods in Seattle before it goes all the way up to Everett.

    1. If you really want more LRT in Seattle Proper, then having LRT to Everett and Tacoma and Woodinville and Issaquah in ST3 is a good thing.
      The funds raised to extend ST in any subarea are raised solely within that subarea. The tax rate for all subareas will be the same. If the North subarea raises enough to extend link all the way to Everett, then you can expect that North King sub area (Seattle) will have enough to add an extensive amount of additional capacity.

      1. Oh I know how sub-area equity works and realize that ST3 will need a carrot on a stick for the suburbs for it to have a chance of passing. And believe me, LRT to the far reaches of the ‘burbs is a necessity that needs to happen sooner than 20X6 or whenever the current half-century projection falls.

        I was just more lamenting that it seems like it took some serious arm twisting by City of Seattle and Seattle Subway to get ST to throw a bone for inner-city LRT, whereas Everett was just ST going through the motions.

    2. These extensions will also make it possible for people who live in Seattle to get out to these places.

      Right now it can be quite difficult to get to some of these places by bus.

      1. Maybe for the sake of the planet we should be focusing on making it less desirable to go out to those places in the first place.

      2. @Kyle: Most of “those places” that are currently built-up aren’t going anywhere. What’s important is that future development makes them more walkable — without that, the regional transit won’t be worth much.

      3. @Kyle S.

        People are going to want to go to places like Everett whether or not transit exists to take them there. People have family, friends and other needs that are flung across the state whether we like it or not.

        Also, Everett (at least north Everett) is one of the more urban “suburbs” in the area and the largest actual city in Snohomish County. If you want to try and cut off all transit that doesn’t just serve King County you aren’t going to get a lot of friends outside of the city borders.

      4. If you want to try and cut off all transit that doesn’t just serve King County you aren’t going to get a lot of friends outside of the city borders.

        Sounds like a great reason to get rid of subarea equity to me!

      5. @Frank: how long to you thein Boeing are going to stay bought this time?

    3. These extensions take ten years to plan and build. The earliest it can start is 2016. That means they won’t open until around 2026. If you insist on doing them one after the other rather than parallel, then the Everett one wouldn’t open until the 2030s or 40s, which is twenty-five years or an entire generation away.

      However, I’m not convinced that Everett Link is essential, just that we should do it if Snohomish County wants it. Ten-minute buses from Lynnwood Station to Everett and Edmonds may be an adequate alternative.

      1. This is a far more reasonable position I think.

        If Snohomish County would prefer to spend their money elsewhere, that is up to the people who live there. I suspect a lot more folks would actually want the light rail though once they see it in operation in Lynnwood.

      2. Let’s remember that the biggest industrial operation in the whole state with tens of thousands of jobs is in Everett. And Boeing just doubled down there for a couple of generations – deciding to build the 777x – including a whole giant new wing factory there.

        Light Rail to that might be a good idea.

      3. Any ideas on how to make the Paine Field area less of an isolated autombile wasteland? Then Link and Swift would have better all-day prospects there.

        Also, regarding those buses instead of Link. Instead of ST Express, ST could help CT build out three of its Swift lines, Edmonds – Lynnwood – Mill Creek, Bothell – Paine Field, and 128th Street. Extend either of the last two to Mukilteo, and it would connect the entire ST-Snohomish area to Link or other cities. And if you extend Link just a little but to Alderwood and Ash Way, then maybe the last two lines could find some creative way to meet it. ST could either operate them or gradually turn them over to CT as CT can afford them.

        That still leaves Everett – Smokey Point, but that’s outside ST’s service area. Still, if CT didn’t have the burden of building the other lines, it could focus on that line. And CT’s own plan says that line should be built in phases starting with the southern part, and reevaluated along the way to determine when the northern part is ready for Swift ridership-wise.

      4. But is it necessary or even a good idea to try and make Paine Field less ‘isolated’? LIkewise, is it necessary to have all day service prospects from the location? It’s an airplane factor with at least 40,000 jobs, and (I think) multiple shifts.

        The service would be commute-time service for manufacturing workers and engineers coming from mixed use neighborhoods and urban centers in places like Lynwood, Shoreline, Everett’s neighbohroods, Seattle – even south to Federal Way and the like.

        I admit, I don’t have a good sense of how a LRT line could be routed into the Paine Field area (and can’t seem to find corridor alts right now if they exist), but with wide open spaces and big roads it would seem viable at first blush to physically locate the line. Connections within Boeing from the station to various areas of the factory complex and parts of the airport that are far distances from one another would be the trick. But wouldn’t there be shuttles etc. within the complex?

        I think presenting the option to workers for a commute via rail from a mixed use areas, instead of assuming a more park-and-ride strategy to the manufacturing industrial center seems a good goal. We shouldn’t make cultural assumption about what types of workers might want to commute by rail if it’s a good option.

      5. I don’t know whether a Paine/Boeing/museum station would be worthwhile, but it has been raised so it should be included in the alternatives analysis. The impact would be a slightly longer trip to Everett, which would affect only those traveling between Lynnwood and Everett. Potentially Boeing could pay for station area amenities like Microsoft is doing with a bridge. Thousands of employees is a reason for it; isolated single-use zoning is a reason against it. It would also put Link closer to Mukilteo.

        Most stations should have all-day usage but that doesn’t mean every single station has to, especially when it’s the largest employer in the region, not significantly out of the way, and near the end of the line.

      6. As to;

        I don’t know whether a Paine/Boeing/museum station would be worthwhile, but it has been raised so it should be included in the alternatives analysis. The impact would be a slightly longer trip to Everett, which would affect only those traveling between Lynnwood and Everett. Potentially Boeing could pay for station area amenities like Microsoft is doing with a bridge. Thousands of employees is a reason for it; isolated single-use zoning is a reason against it. It would also put Link closer to Mukilteo.


        Many thanks. One of the drawbacks of visiting Mukilteo’s museums is the fact I either have to get a hotel room (free shuttle) or spend $24-30 on cabs to/from the nearest Swift station. Huge turn-off.

  4. Regarding the Councilman Phillips link: Remind me to never, ever even glance at the Seattle Times’ comment section. If someone has a Greasemonkey script or a bit of DOM cleverness that will hide it, please let me know. “Larry, I missed the part where you agree that bus riders should pay their fair fare.” AAAARGH. I’m getting sick of that canard but it just won’t fly away.

    Deep breaths. Deeeeep breaths.

    1. If they would just enforce a policy against sock puppetry, Bob Pishue would have to find something else to do all day.

  5. Love that Vacancy Rate vs. % Rent change graph in the Seattle Met article. I think it might overstate the high-time rent drops and understate the low-time rent hikes by ignoring the smallest buildings, but it’s a good sample.

    If the city could modulate their policy to try and keep new apartments going up just fast enough to maintain a, say, 4% to 8% vacancy rate, we would see a nice soft decline in rental price with no sudden crash, 1% a year or so.

    1. That’s exactly what they should do. Target a persistent 5% vacancy rate, and rents would remain stable with inflation.

  6. Hey, a Kirkland gondola proposal that isn’t crazy… sort of.

    At this point the regional transit is on 405, not on the CKC, and it bypasses Kirkland. So Kirkland could be made much more accessible on transit from many other places (especially Lynnwood and Everett) by a connection to a freeway bus station.

    1. Kirkland could be made more accessible to transit by moving the stops at the South Kirkland P&R onto the street. That would could a few minutes off travel time, and produce some savings that could add more service hours in Kirkland.

  7. So, the No campaign is saying Metro should be more like Pierce Transit or Community Transit. Another winning argument! Not. I’ll keep my Sunday bus service, thank you.

    1. I wish Metro would just have said oh on 2 January that if this rescue package fails, there goes Sunday service throughout King County.

      It sucks that Whidbey Island and Snohomish County have NO bus service Sunday except for airporter$. Skagit County has some Sunday service and that’s because we’re very careful with a buck and don’t need umpteen & one runs like our southerly neighbors.

      +1 big time.

    1. Worth noting that LA Metro’s fares don’t not include transfers, even with a TAP cards. So $2.25 could be quite expensive.

      1. From the article: “Metro officials have stressed that under both proposed fare hikes, riders paying one-way fares would be allowed unlimited transfers for 90 minutes …”

  8. About the comparison between the Orange Line and EastLINK:

    Because it ignores the bus service being replaced, the comparison doesn’t really do justice to what is going on. EastLINK seems to be designed to replace the existing express bus service. The Orange Line will take several single seat rides (bus route 31, 32, 33, 99) from Clackamas County and break them into two pieces, with transfers happening at the Milwaukie Transit Center.

    The results of doing this and what should have happened instead isn’t too relevant to this group, so I only wish to make a point that breaking a bunch of existing travel patterns (as MAX Orange Line will do) vs providing an in-kind replacement (as EastLINK seems to do) have two vastly different sets of responses from the ridership.

    1. My understanding is that post East Link riders on the 218,219,216, 215 [both of them] and even the 212 will lose their one seat rides into Seattle. How is this different?

      1. All of the routes that you mention, when looking at their maps, only provide peak period service to downtown Seattle. Furthermore, LINK is built to be much faster than MAX. TriMet’s route 33 is a primary all-day route with most of the ridership originating south of Milwaukie.

        To get an idea of what this would look like in Seattle, you would have to end the Tacoma – Seattle express at Federal Way so passengers could continue on a RapidRide route into Seattle.

        Under a more sensible set of politics, the route would go south all the way to Oregon City, as it could then serve the existing ridership. That is why the blue line was extended to Hillsboro rather than ending at 185th Avenue as was originally proposed. That is why the 1st MAX line was extended all the way to Gresham, rather than end 5 miles from Gresham in the middle of nowhere as was originally proposed. It makes more sense to end these routes in a place that actually makes sense, rather than in the middle of nowhere. Even SE Oak Grove Blvd (two busy streets to the south of Park Avenue) would have been better as that bus stop is very busy. SE Park Avenue is a terrible place to have a line terminus.

        All the reasons to actually continue lines to population centers rather then end them in the middle of nowhere should have been learned from the yellow line ending at the Expo Center rather than Hayden Island.

      2. Glenn, thanks for your comparisons between Seattle and Portland’s distances, both in this comment and your earlier one.

        As I commented on the other site (I rarely comment on sites where I’m not a regular but I had to protest on that one), grade separation is good. It makes faster travel times, which is the #1 reason people choose to take or not take transit, how many activities they can accomplish in a day. East Link and Lynnwood Link have some unfortunately isolated routing and stations, but that was due to compromises with the City of Bellevue and others, which as he said saw adjacent trains as more of a liability than an asset. But grade separation is what makes Link more effective than it would otherwise be.

      3. I’m glad someone could figure out what point that Portland guy was trying to make, because I found both his conflation of slow trains with “placemaking” and his strained attempts at an apples-to-applesauce Link comparison to add up to a pile of inscrutable gibberish.

        Portland seems to have a particularly strong proclivity towards the “slow trains make places” fallacy, but they’re hardly alone in it — just look at the FHSC, and almost a dozen similar misfires around the country.

        The simple rebuttal is that transit does not “make places” at all. People make places. And the stuff that the people do in those places, and whether they bustle or linger, and how they interact with the physical space and with each other.

        Architecture — both aesthetically and geometrically — is vital to placemaking, as it strongly impacts the style and especially the density of activity. Transit quality is also vital to placemaking, in that it impacts how and how many people will make use of the place. Thus the absurdity of defining a place with visible transit, and intentionally lowering the quality of the transit and of access to that place as a result.

        Given middling ridership expectations and a route through monotonous sprawl, I see no reason to fault MAX for its cost-conscious choice to go at-grade to Milwaukie . But I also see no reason to expect that the “places” this line passes (and sometimes interrupts egress through) will change or improve in any significant way.

        The author of the blog is not wrong to criticize Sound Transit’s opposing pendulum swing, though he misdiagnoses the problem: Link fails to enable placemaking not because it is fast and out-of-sight, but because its obsession with ordained “nodes” prohibits it from contributing to envisioning the city environment as cohesively, three-dimensionally urban.

      4. I’m glad someone could figure out what point that Portland guy was trying to make, because I found both his conflation of slow trains with “placemaking” and his strained attempts at an apples-to-applesauce Link comparison to add up to a pile of inscrutable gibberish.

        Do you mean me, the narrator in the video, or the guy who wrote that particular article?

        My only point at the start of this thread is that, if you are going to compare how these new transit improvements work, you have to compare what has been built to what existed beforehand.

        If you don’t quite get the deal with the guy in the TriMet video, you have to understand that this was part of a package that were put together and circulated as part of getting funds for this line. The funds for the line came from an assortment of places, including road and intersection improvements that came from highway funds, state transportation funds, city funds from Portland and Milwaukie, some Clackamas County funds, and a few other sources. No specific TriMet construction bonds were issued as part of building this line. It sounds like a puff piece of propaganda because that is basically what it has to be in order to accomplish its purpose.

        As for the guy who wrote the root article, to me it doesn’t sound like he has spent that much time in any of these areas.

        Given middling ridership expectations and a route through monotonous sprawl, I see no reason to fault MAX for its cost-conscious choice to go at-grade to Milwaukie .

        The thing is, they could have built an elevated line above the existing Union Pacific Railroad in a few places and avoided some of that slow speed running, as well as avoided taking a huge swath of land along 17th. Doing so would have actually led to better connections to some of the local transit routes.

        The slow speed stuff through downtown Portland was, unfortunately, political in many ways. The whole South Waterfront thing for OHSU apparently won’t work out economically without a MAX line (at least so the people pushing for the thing years ago claimed) and so it HAD to go there. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has a fair number of powerful business leaders on its board, and so there is no way the line could cross the river without going BACK NORTH to get to OMSI.

        The sad thing is that most of the stuff along the line isn’t really suburban sprawl as most people think of. Most of that land was fully developed as you see it by the 1920s. However, the routing and placement of the stations doesn’t take advantage of this fact. The station at Bybee? Sure, bus route 19 crosses there, but there really isn’t much of anything in the 1/4 walk shed of there, other than a golf course on the east side and Westmoreland Park on the west side. The not-built Harold Street Station is far closer to Reed College, an industrial area with several thousand employees, and some fairly dense residential development just east of 28th. West of highway 99E the residential area is far closer to the station than is at Bybee, and just as dense.

        I get what the point is in the article about MAX having some stations that have good neighborhood connections, but there really aren’t that many on the Orange line that are set up to be good examples of this.

        Let’s compare instead certain proposed EastLINK stations with the MAX station at Foster Road & I-205. Here, a bike path crosses Foster Road and was built right into the light rail bridge (unlike certain EastLINK stations). There are two ticket machines, and they are located on the bike path level of the station area. You buy your ticket or validate your ticket, then open the gate and enter the fare paid area. So, I don’t see what is so difficult about doing the same thing at EastLINK Hospital Station or whatever, except that I certainly understand it is best to keep people from crossing the tracks at grade to get to stations – except they do that at certain other stations.

      5. I don’t know enough about Portland to see how the comparison stacks up. Is the suburb that Portland is serving analogous? Bellevue, like it or not, is a major employer. There is no “reverse commute” there. If you live in north Seattle, and work in Everett, you really don’t have to worry about traffic. But if you live anywhere in Seattle and work on the the East Side, you either have a horrendous drive or take the bus. Often that bus ride takes an eternity, which is why it makes sense to add better transit to the area.

        Everyone knows the South Bellevue station is crap, but it is just “along the way”. There are various decisions that were made that were also a mistake, but going along the surface would not have solved them. Nor would we have “transformed” Bellevue if we made a more bike and pedestrian style rail line. The train goes to downtown Bellevue, and does so fairly quickly, which is the most important thing. It goes to a few other spots after, that will have a decent number of riders. I think we could have done better, but slowing it down would be worse.

        I’m afraid I tend to gloss over articles that suggest that Portland does anything better than Seattle. Tell me how Vancouver (BC) does it and I’m all ears. But telling me that Portland is better than us is like telling a Golden State Warrior fan that they should be more like the Trailblazers. Sorry, San Antonio is leading the conference (again); maybe you should be more like them.

      6. As I mentioned above, there are some problems with ending a line in the middle of nowhere. Milwaukie isn’t quite nowhere, but there are some valid reasons why Clackamas County is nicknamed “Clackistan” by some people. I lived in the area for 20+ years before escaping to more sane regions.

        So, um, yeah. Major employers in Milwaukie. The biggest thing there is Dark Horse Comics, that employs a dozen or so artists. There are a couple of restaurants there too. Kind of like Magnolia village only add a few 2 floor buildings for Dark Horse offices, and a few apartment buildings.

        There is so little in downtown Milwaukie that the Portland-Milwaukie MAX line won’t have a station that close.

        Yet, the vast area south of there that is ripe for redevelopment won’t get a MAX line.

      7. Glenn: I meant the author of the blog post, who definitely seems based in Portland, and who espouses a lot of Portland-prone fallacies. There wasn’t much in the post that I found coherent, but his allegiance to slow transit and misguided ascription of “placemaking” to the transit itself were unmistakable.

        I can’t claim to know SE Portland well enough to adjudicate adjacent routing alternatives, but the areas where the line runs on-street appear to be faceless industrial/commercial with low-density residential adjacent. Low-coverage lots and little-to-nothing opening to the street. Sprawl to mine eyes. I see no reason why these areas would be expected to redevelop at all, much less to mutate into a “places”, when the rail arrives with its multi-block prohibitions against crossing the damned street.

        The rest of the project — seemingly at least half of it — runs in freight corridors, carefully evading any human destination just as the Red, Blue, and Green Lines have done before it. As you yourself suggest, there’s human life at SE Milwaukee Ave and Bybee… but the train will be a full ten minutes walk away. The abject uselessness of the MAX system that Inner East Portland residents and visitors experience today continues to haunt its expansions, contrary to the “placemaking” and “place”-serving pretexts of the blog author.

      8. Ah, thanks for the explanation.

        If you think the area of the orange line is bad, try Clackamas Town Center. It’s nearly a 10 minute walk to the nearest non-parking lot land use. The intersections anywhere around there are so bad that crossing them on foot is an exercise in attempted suicide. Some of them would be across something like 9 lanes of traffic. THAT’S sprawl.

        Inner southeast is pretty transit friendly by comparison, if done right. Bus routes 17, 19, and 70 are all busy through there.

      9. D.P – your point about the SE portion of the line is spot on. There are several excellent, walkable, relatively urban corridors in the SE – Division, Belmont, and Hawthorne just to name a couple. It’s ridiculous that MAX doesn’t to anywhere close to the main parts of the SE quadrant. There isn’t even a stop in the inner-SE just across the river. So many of Portland’s great neighborhoods are miles from any sort of MAX stop. It really is commuter rail that turns into a streetcar circulator downtown (not to be confused with the actual streetcar, of course).

    2. I think the author had compared downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond there these two projects would look more alike.

    3. One of the author’s big criticisms of East Link was that it catered to auto access. Of course, there are already P&Rs that are over capacity at MI, S. Bellevue and OTC. There would be additional P&Rs only at 130th NE and (someday) at E. Redmond. The latter P&R would probably replace Bear Creek.

      Another contrast was grade separation Of course, the at-grade segment in the Bel-Red area gets a lot of criticism here.

      1. Incorporating a few existing P&Rs makes sense, especially where transit is so skeletal that many people don’t have a bus that they can walk to from their house. And I’m glad the South Bellevue P&R is not at the Bellevue Transit Center as so many other transit centers are, so that in itself is worth an extra station.

    1. Apparently my mobile device just doesn’t like the link… it does go to the herald site, but the article is missing. Works from a PC though.

    1. LRV and car-truck collisions are not news in Houston. Search for “Metros Greatest Hits”.

      1. Found it.
        And people wonder why quiet zones are so hard to get from the FRA.

    2. Heard the show. Dori had a county councilmember representing the pro side and the guy who wrote the ballot opposition statement on the anti side. The councilmember managed to get in some good statements and counter some falsehoods. But there was one big falsehood that wasn’t addressed, when Dori or the anti guy said that the 2-year $20 fee was supposed to tide Metro through the recession so it wouldn’t need more funding now. That was never the idea! The purpose of the $20 fee was to give the state two years to come up with a long-term stable funding source for Metro. That was supposed to be in place before the temporary fee expired. But the state didn’t deliver, and that’s why we’re looking at a new local fee.

    3. I worked on one of the future Houston Metro lines, before the “Buy America” scandal broke and they shut down everything. One of the things they had been scratching their heads about for the 6 years the Red Line was open (at the time), was how they could could be 1/4 the total length of Baltimore’s system (7 mi vs. 30 mi), with a similar set up (middle street tracks, mostly separated except for intersections), and yet had an accident rate more than a order of magnitude higher.

      The did many studies that came up inconclusive, did major refactoring of the signaling and signage, but all that did little to stem the tide of collisions. The funny thing is that everyone knew that horrible car drivers were to blame, but Metro was understandably hesitant to blame drivers in one of the most car friendly cites in the world.

      1. What does Buy America have to do with Houston’s Metro, and what is Houston’s Metro? How is Buy America a scandal? It’s controversial but it’s a reasonable idea to stimulate our country’s manufacturing base. I hits transit hard because there are few American vendors of trolleybuses, streetcars, or rail cars, but that’s due more to the America’s transportation policy for the past half-century than to Buy America. I wish we could have state-of-the-art European trains and buses, but in the meantime licencing an old streetcar design from Skoda is not the end of the world.

      2. When the federal government is funding something, “Buy America” rules lower their effective cost by allowing the feds to recoup some of what they spend when the contractors and their employees pay federal income taxes. If you think about it that way, the net price to the federal government could be cheaper than with a foreign contractor, even if the sticker price is more expensive.

      3. So now an atrociously designed rail line that draws 37,000 one-way boardings within a city-proper of 2.1 million people is “very popular”? That seems like kind of a stretch, does it not?

        My understanding is that DART, for all its many flaws, has at least begun to influence how Dallasites move around their city and envision its future. But Houston MetroRail’s greatest achievement seems to be the viral prowess of crashcams.

      4. I know it seems like a stretch for the initial 7 mile, slow street car that trudges through downtown, to be called popular, but if you’ve spent any time in Houston, you’d see why even drawing 1 boarding a day would have been deemed a success. You’d also have had to have look at how hard people and Texas government railed against the initial line. Now you have a good chuck of the population supporting the expansion the system, even though they are going to still be slow street cars, that go through the same intersections that cause so much grief.

    4. Two kids in the car. What a monstrous asshole. Should never be allowed to drive again.

    1. Fair idea, but I think that money would be better spent building gondalas and busways and Link lines.

      1. I love transit, but I think lidding I-5 would be far more transformative to the city. The freeway cuts Seattle in half, a massive dead zone between neighborhoods that is stressful and unpleasant to cross. I wouldn’t extend Freeway Park though – I would build apartments/retail on the lid, assuming engineering is possible. You wouldn’t even know a freeway was beneath your feet, it would just be “more Capitol Hill” or “more SLU”.

    1. The debate is now online:

      I swear the anti guy makes me cringe. Pierce Transit is getting some redirected Sound Transit service due to the IMMENSE crash in Pierce Transit services, right?

      Perhaps Will Knedlick who rides Metro should read this blog. He also should realize he’s NOT doing Dow Constantine or transit riders favors by slicing transit.

      One last thing: I agree w/ Dori is we need to have ONE transit agency (from say Smokey Point to the Olympia suburbs). But this is NOT the time to have that debate and the years of difficult dialogue necessary to make that ONE mega-agency even remotely feasible. Perhaps replace ST3 with that agency :-).

      1. Sound Transit took over the Bonney Lake – Sumner route both cities were written out of Pierce Transit’s service area and they thus lost all local transit. The argument was that it was effectively a Sounder shuttle, and it kept the Sumner parking lots from being overcrowded. ST is not supporting PT otherwise that I know of.

        The unified transit agency idea is worth studying. But it can’t be done by June, or without the consent of CT, ET, PT, ST, the three counties, and maybe the state. So Dori’s effectively saying let’s cripple Metro for a decade until this super-agency can be set up. I’m not sure if by “Olympia’s suburbs” you mean the north suburbs or south suburbs. Thurston County has never been part of either Sound Transit or ORCA, so it would be a larger change there. But some people think Thurston should join ST or at least negotiate a Sounder extension and all=day bus extension, so that would be a way to get it going. There’s also Kitsap Transit, which is in ORCA but outside Sound Transit, so you’d have to decide whether to include it. Probably not because it’s more exurban/rural than the other counties, with only daytime+Saturday buses.

      2. Even if we decided to have a mega-agency, there would be a huge issue of how to allocate funds and service. There would be a lot of opposition to “Put service where the need is” like Europe and Vancouver do, It would be the same issues Metro faces with Seattle vs Eastside vs South King County only worse. Snohomish County would want a proportional number of service hours for its taxes, and it would want them more focused on peak Seattle expresses than the urbanists want. So what do you do? Give Snohomish County what it deserves, or what Snohomish voters want?

      3. That’s a conversation we need to have, quite frankly.

        Personally: We need to be having those express buses. The state’s biggest economic engine sits on an isthmus so yes, we NEED suburbs. We NEED quality transit. We NEED a transit net that is sustainable as well.

        Perhaps localism will beat regionalism. But Dori Monson is right – we need to look at some way of amalgating transit services and cutting down on redundancy + harmful competition between government agencies that only drives up costs versus bulk purchasing & keeping jurisdictions from hiking labor costs by unilateral wage hikes in a me-too game.

      4. ST is de facto subsidizing Gig Harbor riders, by paying for the portion of their 595 commute from Tacoma Community College to Seattle. Gig Harbor is not in the ST taxation district.

      5. Are you sure that route wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Gig Harbor tail? There must be some number of people going from west Tacoma to Seattle.

      6. The unified transit agency idea is worth studying. But it can’t be done by June, or without the consent of CT, ET, PT, ST, the three counties, and maybe the state. So Dori’s effectively saying let’s cripple Metro for a decade until this super-agency can be set up. I’m not sure if by “Olympia’s suburbs” you mean the north suburbs or south suburbs.


        I agree Dori is a fool to time this now. The debate of a unified transit agency for the Seattle-centric megalopolis should be a prerequisite to state legislative authorization of ST3, to help consolidate services and contain costs. We are also arguably paying for too much administrative overhead with all these agencies – but cutting that overhead can only go so far…

      7. How do we know we’re paying too much administrative overhead? Has anyone added it up and determined what a consolidated agency would cost? Have they included funds for the agency to get through the difficult issues I’ve described? Or is this just a vacuous talking point by those who think that anything above $0 is too much overhead?

      8. I’d be OK with a combined transit agency as long as it’s not stuck with an elected board. Metro already has to mix politics with route planning because the King County Council is a directly-elected board that is heavily influenced by a small segment of voters. Sound Transit is much closer to my ideal model where the elected politicians appoint an independent board to operate quickly and decisively.

        The problem is that a combined agency will get an elected board–several in Olympia want to convert ST to that model–and I don’t like where that’s headed. Besides, local taxation for local needs is a big deal. Having a county agency for county needs and then a regional agency for regional needs seems like the best mix, given our political and funding requirements. Sound Transit could conceivably be considered “100% overhead” since it operates virtually none of its own services, instead contracting them out to the various agencies in its footprint. On the other hand, ST does the lifting that those agencies don’t need to do, so they save the cost of doing that work. How does that balance out and is it more efficient to have that kind of specialization? I think it is but I haven’t run the numbers.

      9. “The debate of a unified transit agency for the Seattle-centric megalopolis should be a prerequisite to state legislative authorization of ST3, to help consolidate services and contain costs.”

        The debate could start before ST3, but we can’t hold ST3 hostage to approving it first or there’ll be no hope of an ST3 vote in 2016. Consolidating all those agencies is a huge project and we need to weigh all the pros and cons and contingencies and not rush into it. Plus it would need major approvals by people who aren’t even considering it yet. The Department of Homeland Security took over a year to reorganize when it consolidated, and we’re already in a major transition with many large transit projects underway or in planning. Plus, while it’s tempting to assume all these agencies could just be folded into Sound Transit, in practicality it would be a major change in ST’s mission, so an entirely new agency whether in name or not. ST mainly just does planning, construction, and coordination, not operations.

        On the other hand, a unified agency could unify fares. :) But PT’s, CT’s, and ET’s local fares may have to be lower than Metro’s anyway since they’re a lower level of service in a smaller, more scattered population.

      10. There may be a need for a unified agency, like a state wide New Jersey Transit.

        Then, the anti-transit crowd would complain about big, inefficient government and lack of local control.

        I really don’t think they are after efficient transit with that suggestion, even though it has merit. They just want some other excuse to oppose a transit tax.

      11. At least we’re having the debate guys. Someplace better than Dori’s.

        I am all for forcing reforms/efficiencies of some kind before permitting ST3. It would be way better to go to Curtis King with them instead of have the bipartisan road bullies impose reforms that could do serious, likely unintentional damage to our transit net.

        I do support the idea of a directly elected transit board. The problem is that there are times when quite frankly we elect people to actually administrate. My fear as is that of many here is will the general public and most transit riders actually watchdog that board or staff that citizenship responsibility out? Most likely.

        As to;

        How do we know we’re paying too much administrative overhead? Has anyone added it up and determined what a consolidated agency would cost? Have they included funds for the agency to get through the difficult issues I’ve described? Or is this just a vacuous talking point by those who think that anything above $0 is too much overhead?

        Better we on the pro-transit caucus deal with this before Dori, Curtis and the rest of the road bullies do. Trust me.

      12. Right now ST’s governing structure and subarea equity is fixed and ST3 will not change it. But if we ask the legislature to make structural changes or consolidate the agencies, it may make other changes that are worse than the status quo. There are people who want ST to stop building lines in Seattle and tap King County money to extend Link to Everett and Tacoma, which they say was the original vision for regional light rail. There are other people who want a separately-elected boardmembers in each subarea, which they think will make it easier to stack the board with pro-parking and anti-density members who will build that second garage Auburn or Sumner wants. There are other people who want to halt light rail expansion and roll back ST taxes. So be careful what you wish for.

      13. Roger all that Mike.

        So here’s my suggestion:

        *Let’s have Sound Transit negotiate the labor contracts for the transit agencies so we don’t have the risk if not reality of one-upping by public sector unions. Not that I don’t appreciate my bus drivers, but the pro-transit caucus need to be proactive and take the fire out of the other side.
        *Let’s have Sound Transit do the bulk purchasing for the local agencies to negotiate better prices for buses & printer paper alike.
        *Let’s have a real analysis to make sure rides in and out of Seattle are done efficiently since some of them are duplicated.

  9. Anyone notice an increase in dwell times on Link? I was gone for a few months, but when I came back (two weeks ago) it seems like Link stays at stations with the doors open for noticeably (and unnecessarily) longer than it used to. Was there any announcement for that?

    1. I haven’t noticed it dwelling longer, but I don’t ride it regularly because it hasn’t gotten to northeast Seattle yet. Whenever I time it in the DSTT, it takes 10 minutes in the daytime and 3 minutes in the evening.

      There have been some periods of track work in the evenings, but those are in the form of 20-minute frequency and both directions using the same platform.

  10. With the Washington Policy Center passing around some junk, I have this response:

    I’ve read these “facts” and they’re not facts but rants and whines. Here are some verifiable facts:
    a) The anti campaign is using disingenuous tactics. E.g.
    b) The tax package includes a low income rebate program AND, AND replaces a regressive interim tax.
    c) There is little hope of a state transportation package anytime in the near future.
    d) Save King County Metro is a good resource for you. So too is Seattle Transit Blog/STB.
    e) Pierce County went over the cliff WPC advocates for. This is what happened: No EVENING transit service, many cutbacks and very little restoration:
    f) 40% of this tax package is specifically for road maintenance. Some in the transit community thought that was too much, but as I like to remind the STB commentariat it was only fair and moderate.
    g) IF this package passes, Metro WILL have a low income fare AND a fare increase is in the works anyway just to KEEP service.
    h) Transit unions HAVE made concessions (and should).

    Just copy & paste methinks.

  11. It’s worth looking at what would have occurred if I-695 hadn’t happened. RapidRide and its feeders, and alternatives like the 40, would be more robust. More frequent service and more night owls. Maybe even limited-stop routes like Swift, which RapidRide was originally intended to be according to the first brochures. Metro would have made more of a dent in its acknowledged underserviced corridors, which would bring us closer to Seattle’s TMP. But Metro has been running on band-aids since 2000, and that cut the revenue for more service hours to accomodate the increasing population and ridership. The missing revenue could have made reorganizations less painful, engendering less opposition, and then maybe the full-time frequent 5 and 3 and 13 could have happened. But everything has been making do with existing hours, and cutting standby buses that used to step in when a bus broke down, and dealing with rising gas prices, and revenue loss with the recession, one after the other.

  12. The interesting part is that people keep referring to Pierce Transit service, and in the early to mid 90s PT had a greater span of service than it does now, with a somewhat higher frequency on key routes too.

    1. I miss the days in the late 2000s when my city was covered by a bus network that wasn’t reduced to a shell of its former self…


  13. I meant to ask this on a previous thread. Of all the systems, Tacoma Link is one of the few that has decreased ridership. Why is that? Are the bus cut backs hurting the light rail numbers? (I could easily see how that could happen for the rest of Link).

    1. I think it’s just a reflection of the continuing stagnant economy down south. Tacoma Link is primarily a shuttle for DT workers to free parking. Less people working DT = less ridership. If anything the bus cuts driving more people to driving would help Tacoma Link ridership. As far as all day frequent service it’s just not what anyone’s buying… oh, wait it’s free.

  14. A comment dirrected at the link to the dire transit situation in Pierce County:

    For some context, the 57 Route is one of the routes connecting Tacoma’s two Regional Growth Centers; Downtown Tacoma and the Tacoma Mall. It runs ten times on Saturday, and eight times on Sunday — the last bus at 4:00pm.

    The buzz words Regional Growth Centers aside, and not to point too much fun at the fact one of their two “Regional Growth Centers” is a suburban mall, I’ve actually agreed with this sentiment. But the transit advocates in Tacoma; the ones that seem to be able to go to meetings instead of being at work, nixed the Tacoma Link extension to the Tacoma Mall. ST is half of your transit funding. What’s it going to be?

    1. Tacoma could possibly have more than one streetcar need. It didn’t nix the extension, it just decided that another line was higher priority to get done first. That doesn’t mean some kind of full-time transit isn’t needed in the other corridor in the meantime.

      1. In what world? I’m at S. Kirkland almost every morning and students don’t even come close to being a majority of riders piling onto the 540 and 255.

        Move King County Now estimates about 17,000 people take the bus to the UW every day

        According to the UW it’s 17k students and 8k faculty and staff. But the Transportation Services documents estimate the number of trips by auto at ~60k. The vast majority of students walk to class. Anyway UW strongly discourages:

        two buses and a train to get to the University of Washington campus from her Bonney Lake home every day — a commute that can easily claim up to four hours of her day.

        A four hour commute is a problem, not a solution, and a total waste of what college is supposed to be about. How does the public subsidy to inflict this torture compare with a housing stipend to live near campus?

      2. Thanks for telling me what a Pruse is. Anti transit, true enough if you want me to be a cheerleader for how it’s done in King County. Troll, true enough if you define that as anyone that really wants people to think instead of cult like adopting a position one side or the other. Picked up my ballot at the PO Box today. I won’t mark it and mail as those that have already made up there mind base on the left/right exaggerations. I’m leaning heavily toward NO that’s true. But if some cogent argument can convince me otherwise I’ll vote yes. But there is little discourse I’ve seen on STB to sway any degree of swing voter.

      3. It isn’t unknown for people to live here in the Portland area and drive to jobs in Seattle, giving them a 3+ hour commute each way.

        Unfortunately, where people wind up living and where their emploent winds up can be two different things, and packing up and moving isn’t necessarily an easy option either.

        So I am unconvinced that housing vouchers to get people closer to their point of employment is really a help to that many people. If money were the only issue, most people would find some way to make a move.

        Halfway decent bus service and a metropolitan train service that actually operates at a decent speed won’t help everyone directly, but I fail to see how a massive cutback helps anyone.

      4. Thank you Glenn. I’m in a situation where I’d love to move south to be closer to better opportunities but can’t for family reasons. It’s the issue of having an aging population.

        The only folks that will gain from defeating this proposition are:

        *Road Bully state legislators who will use this to dismantle the transit net
        *Oil & Gas interests like Gull Industries who look to make some money from more car users
        *Bob Pishue who works in Gull Industries’ HQ and puts out PR spin machine statements that are totally one-sided policy papers that omit many facts & realities.

        That’s all who’ll gain. The working person? Not so much when their roads crumble and tens of thousands more cars get on the roads.

  15. Since this is an open thread, I might as well ask: What do you think about the other ballot measure, authorizing the Lake Washington (i.e. Bellevue) School District to issue expansion bonds? My default position would be to support it, especially since last January’s bond issue failed; but the “no” argument said they’re planning to tear down a decade-old school that could easily be renovated more inexpensively. Is this the case?

    1. “Lake Washington (i.e. Bellevue) School District”

      Bellevue has its own school district. LWSD is Kirkland, Redmond and part of Sammamish.

      1. Oh well, now you see what comes of my not paying attention to local schools.

        My browser for an edit button…

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