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This is an open thread.

124 Replies to “News Roundup: Votes”

  1. The shoutout from the Bellevue councilmember is fantastic. This really is an impressive blog, and a force for good in the region.

  2. I totally get why Kemper Freeman believes in free parking. His dad built his business off of it, and the free parking at Kemper’s mall is a key aspect of why Seattleites make their annual Christmas trip to the east side. But my god, I hate how it depresses the availability of parking in downtown Bellevue.

    Here’s a quote from the article that pretty much acknowledges that Bellevue doesn’t have sufficient parking:
    >>Vic Bishop cautioned one “red flag” is an operational study for “running projects” that assumes higher rates for parking downtown in the future…

    No one is incented to build parking because they can’t charge for it. The result is a bunch of little, isolated parking lots with “no walk off” signs. This means a driver who has three places to go can’t walk between these three places after parking once (as they might in Seattle downtown.)

    I get that this is a transit blog. But I think that mixed modes of transportation are a necessity. And I further think that the free parking at Bellevue Square is one of the big reasons that there aren’t enough pedestrians in Bellevue.

    1. The free parking at Bellevue Square is responsible for way more Bellevue pathology than just reduced parking availability elsewhere. It distorts the entire transportation market. Without it, there would have been little reason to build a 9-lane expansion of NE 8th St, to keep Bellevue Way arranged as a car sewer even through the heart of downtown, or to have commercial Bellevue separated from its nearby residential neighborhoods (where I grew up) by acres of garages and another car sewer in the form of 100th Ave NE. Go north of downtown Bellevue into the area bordering Clyde Hill and you can see what those neighborhoods could have looked like. Still SFH, but with narrow streets and quite manageable for pedestrians. And go to downtown Kirkland and you can see a shadow of how downtown Bellevue might have evolved without the roads necessary to get everyone to Kemper’s free parking.

      I have an emotional attachment to west Bellevue because I grew up there, but the magnitude of the wasted opportunity is just staggering and very, very sad. Today, even the density in downtown Bellevue is in the form of towers in the park separated by car sewers, and it really doesn’t contribute to walkability except in a couple of small pockets at the edges.

      1. David, I agree. Bellevue Square’s free parking influenced more than anything the design of downtown Bellevue. And the design of downtown Bellevue is mostly about funneling traffic from 90, 405, 520 to Bellevue Square.

        I think–or maybe just hope–that Bellevue is changing to become more walkable. Even though the mall is growing to encompass the entire western half of downtown, there are pockets of interest away from the mall. New development such as the train, the Spring District, or even the 4th St extension help pull downtown eastward and thus away from the mall.

        Bellevue isn’t all that bad for pedestrians, believe or not. And there’s a ton of pedestrian traffic during the day from people who (by and large) drive their cars into Bellevue, park in one place all day (at work) then walk around in their free time (lunch, happy hour.) It’s just that the current parking model discourages any pedestrian behavior from people who visit Bellevue for social reasons.

      2. I wonder why Bellevue doesn’t utilize the built infrastructure of bus bays on 106th. The street is made for transit and is closer to the center of Bellevue. Why not extend Rapid Ride to turn onto 106th and then back out via NE 4th St. It would provide better service to the farmers market on saturdays and closer to more of the social parts of the city.

    2. Didn’t Kemper’s Mom die by being hit by a car in a crosswalk?

      I’ve always wondered how he can be so pro-car given what happened to his mom. You would think that he would understand that there is a downside to a car dominated world, but he seems to view it differently. I suspect it is “all business”, but still…..

      1. It is not uncommon for survivors of a family tragedy to be reborn as advocates for additional layers of safety surrounding the mode of the accident. Sometimes the measures advocated are reasonable and prudent. Other times they are overkill and do more harm than good in the aggregate.

        Freeman certainly could have reacted by becoming a champion of traffic calming and shared streets around his properties. But instead his little fiefdom has doubled down on wide roads and pseudo-safety for pedestrians through compartmentalization of their movement space and signal timing.

        I would also note the proliferation of sky-bridges in downtown Bellevue. Grade-separating human movements up into the privatized sphere is a classic trope of the car-futurist’s Utopian sterility.

    3. If drivers don’t pay through parking fees they’ll pay through congestion, or time spent searching for parking. In any case, as long as transit has a way to bypass the congestion (as it will via the TMP) then we win.

    4. “the company does not believe people park at the Bellevue Collection and then access transit.”

      That sounds like a challenge. Since Bellevue Square opens at 9:30 and South Bellevue Park & Ride is packed from ~8am on, any late starters could park in the one of the plentiful (and generally underutilized during the day) garages, stop by one of the chain stores inside for breakfast, and walk out the other end to a waiting 550, 271. Walk a little further and people would have access all the routes at Bellevue Transit Center. I suspect you’d get away with it if you didn’t do it every day and also spent at least some time shopping in the mall, though face recognition software could thwart such a move.

      1. I was thinking exactly the same thing. Park in the big west garage, walk into the mall, get a cup of coffee, walk into a store, and then walk straight out of JCPenney to the 4th/Bellevue Way 550 stop. Nice way around the S Bellevue P&R mess if you don’t have to get to work until 10:15.

    5. Are we seriously going to lay all this at the feet of a single mall? Granted, it’s a big mall that’s associated with a politically influential figure. But few neighborhoods in the whole western US outside of big-city CBDs have much private paid parking. Here in Seattle, Ballard and Capitol Hill don’t have much paid parking available, and there’s no B-Square-sized mall to blame.

      1. There’s actually quite a lot in Ballard. Even as the (very cheap) private lots north of Market get gradually supplanted by development, the (equally cheap) garages under the old-folks apartments and the world’s ugliest hotel have arrived to pick up the slack.

        All of these are underutilized, less on account of an aversion to the $1/hour (or less) and more because people seem to forget that they exist or that they have direct pedestrian access to Ballard Ave. Also, the old-folks garage might close at midnight; no one wants to inject that stress of uncertainty into a recreational evening.*

        Still, I am amazed how many people will pay the far more expensive daytime meters rather than head off-street a block away for half the price.

        *(This aversion to being trapped also applies to paid off-street surface-vs-garage. Per your mention of Capitol Hill, where people are far more likely to wind up paying after circling, the tiny Diamond lot at Broadway and Mercer gets away with charging nearly $13.50 in the evening, while the massive Joule garage across the street charges, I think, much less.)

      2. I think in general people don’t like parking garages. Maybe it’s because they’ve watched too many creepy movies. Or maybe its because each pillar seems to be covered with bits of car paint. I personally don’t like them for that reason (I fear I’ll scrape my car). But in general I won’t pay for parking. I will drive several blocks out of my way and walk before paying for parking. If the neighborhood doesn’t have nearby free parking (e. g. downtown) then I take public transit. Generally speaking, there is an inverse relationship between easy free parking and good transit. In other words, I wouldn’t drive there even if the parking was free and easy (because the transit is good). But I’m with you d. p., generally speaking, people are really ignorant about parking, and that includes their ideas about parking garages.

    6. It’s pretty obvious.

      By saying it has to remain free, he is saying the only place to park is in his mall…where no doubt you’ll find some fine goods, services and a cheerful meal.

      (But that’s why he’s a zillionaire, and I make comments on blogs.)

  3. The protest is really sad. I know even hardened criminals tend to have mothers, but there’s no evidence of profiling (they check everyone), and he was a felon that aimed a gun at a cop. If there’s a valid point they’re making, I’m missing it.

    “Sunday’s group was made up of concerned citizens, anarchists, family and friends.” Oh anarchists. Keep fighting the good fight.

    1. I know FEO’s don’t profile, and this is a completely unscientific observation, but when I see that a disproportionate number of minorities are being questioned off-board Link and Rapid Ride, you have to admit, there could be the appearance of profiling.

      1. Do you see a disproportionate number? And importantly: do you see white riders without proof of payment given a pass on Link?

      2. Matt, yes, I do see a disproportionate number. As to your second question, no, I do not see white riders given a pass. I wish the Times’ article went further. I wish they would have looked at race and sex in terms of who is getting ticketed and overall bus and train demographics.

      3. the FEOs check everyone. if you are seeing a “disproportionate number” of minorities then a “disproportionate number” of minorities are evading the fares.

        Therein lies the problem … its not a profiling issue its people trying to skirt the system and getting caught.

      4. I think it’s something worth looking into. I’m not suggesting feo’s profile but if there is a disproportionate number of minorities being taken off the train, I want to know why. Why they don’t have proper identification (which combined with no payment is automatic). This to me isn’t as much a profiling problem as a social justice issue.

    2. I think this is a combination of understandable family anguish, knee-jerk reaction, and the desire to graft a series of non-crazy causes (excessive police violence, draconian immigration enforcement) on a very bad example.

    3. A disproportionate number of poor people are minorities, and since the people most likely to evade fares are the ones who have a hard time paying that means a disproportionate number of fare evaders are going to be minorities. It sucks, but that is the reality we live in. I’m a huge skeptic of the police in general, but in this case they are in the right. That guy didn’t have to die. The protesters are asking for a “compassionate” way to deal with fare evasion. We already have that, it is called a ticket. It isn’t like the guy was going to get arrested. He should have just taken the fine and went about his day. Now I’m sure there are improvements that could be made to the punishment (allowing those who can’t afford to pay it to do community service or something) and we certainly should be providing more ways for poor people to ride legitimately for little or no charge, but that guy got himself killed and it does a disservice to the real movement against excessive use or force to try and pin the blame on the police.

      1. I still don’t think this man was killed over fare evasion. The police weren’t going to jail him ’til he paid his fine. He could have just said goodbye, walked around the block, torn the ticket up and kept walking. Does anybody even keep warrants on this charge?

        My take is that the officer recognized the man, who knew the law was already after him- for something serious enough to do serious time. From a social justice point of view, could be that constant cutbacks on prison funding have created conditions that it’s worth both delivering and risking death by violence not to be “taken alive.”

        That’s what the poem meant by “no choice for the citizen or the police.” In a decent country, and its legal system- this situation should very seldom arise.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Good observations Mark.

        There could be a few pieces missing from the general media’s stories.

    1. Having a fleet of missed length vehicles can be operationally challenging and sometimes capacity limiting.

      I.e., the current situation is that 4 standard length Link cars just equal the platform length, but add an extended length car and the platform suddenly limits the Link train to 2 standard length LRV’s and one extended length LRV — which represents less total capacity than 4 standard length LRV’s. Since Link supposedly will be operating with 4 car trains in the future, this could become a real concern.

      Of course a double length Link LRV wouldn’t have this problem, and might be something worth pursuing.

      1. my point was that the existing fleet can be lengthened at much less cost than entirely new vehicles and I wasn’t suggesting that all be lengthened … but if you can make a 2-link LRV long single car … then you have much fewer redundant items like operator cabs.

        And even if the train is slightly shorter with two extended cars vs 4 normal ones … the space not wasted by the redundant cabs and couplers will make up for the difference in length.

        open gangway trains are always better in crowds than closed gangway trains.

      2. It also increases capacity, because the space for the cab and couplers is now usable space. It might not be much, but every little bit helps during crush loads.

      3. A double would increase capacity over 2 singles by converting the cabs and space over the couplers to passenger space. The only issue with doubles is whether or not the existing maintance base can service them without resorting to turning manuevers or mods to the maintanince bays.

        Also, doubles make a certain amount of sense since ST isn’t expected to operate Central Link in a single LRV configuraiton much (if at all?).

        But a 30% increase in the length of an LRV? That is an oddball size that probably would cost you more in the long run than it saves.

    2. How many cars does NJ Transit currently run on the lines in question? How long are the platforms?

      Extra space can be gained by deleting the operator cab on one end of each car.

      1. DART in Dallas has successfully done the same thing with their kinkisharyos, google ” dart SLRV” for super lrv and you will find a lot of documentation.

  4. Not asked in the RapidRide D survey:

    “Has access to downtown become better or worse since implementation of RapidRide D?”

  5. “Toke up for Transit” has a nice ring to it.

    Also, has this blog ever mentioned restructuring/truncating Metro route 32? It runs from Children’s Hospital all the way to the Seattle Center, but by way of Nickerson and 15th. Why wasn’t this line truncated at the Ballard Bridge when they introduced Rapid Ride? There seems to be no reason for that last section of this bus’s route, and I’m guessing (but don’t have the data), that it’s jaunt down 15th/Elliot causes delays and disruptions in the route, especially northbound.

    1. The 32 currently provides a connection that’s otherwise very painful, between Fremont/Wallingford and Uptown. Connections at 15th and Nickerson/Emerson are virtually impossible because of the street layout. The 15th segment really doesn’t cause any problems — the only real schedule problems on the 31/32 are the approach to the Fremont Bridge and occasional congestion under I-5 near the U-District.

      The way to solve this problem and allow the 32 to be restructured is to extend the 13 to Fremont, but that’s going to be a long-horizon project because it would require an expensive bit of wire. It’s not currently in the city’s TMP and it would have to be coordinated with the Ship Canal study that just got delayed. Nevertheless I’ll keep advocating for it.

  6. I have been pro transit for my entire adult life. For the first time ever, I am against a rail project. I for the life of me cannot understand how a street car on First Ave will do anything but make a bad traffic situation far worse.

    We should be talking about a tunnel under 2nd Ave, not wasting time and resources on a 1st Ave streetcar.

    1. Those aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact the downtown streetcar is a rounding error in the cost of a 2nd Avenue tunnel.

    2. What specifically are you concerned about with 1st Ave traffic? 1st Ave has a very high amount of pedestrians, no transit, and isn’t a terribly useful car thoroughfare (because of that traffic, caused by said pedestrians, left and right turners, and perennial events at/near the stadiums). Assuming the streetcar is given its own right-of-way, it will be a way up and down 1st that doesn’t exist now. This is a big win for tourism and transit. All for the price of a few dozen street parking spaces (and of course money).

      As you’re a lifetime transit supporter, I’m concerned that you don’t see this “doing anything”. Maybe I’m missing something.

      1. Well, I too see no real value to a 1st Avenue streetcar unless perhaps as a free ride attraction. There is a ton of transit just two and three blocks east of 1st.
        The cost may be a rounding error to some, but IMO, the money could be used in better ways.

      2. Whether it’s worth the money is certainly debatable. But again, I’m surprised by the “no real value” language. Am I in some Bizarro transit world where 23,000 to 30,000 daily riders counts as do-nothing transit?

      3. fwiw, it’s not just about providing transit on 1st, it’s also about connecting the two existing streetcar lines. The streetcar actually provides a pretty good value as it will also increase the utility of the two existing lines while attracting it’s own new riders as well.

      4. Yes, lovely report. If they put in something like what is pictured as “Mode:Modern Streetcar”,
        they will take almost the entire width of 1st. Ave. So, maybe a bit of bait and switch there?
        But, where are these 20K to 30K riders now? Are they using the ample resources along other N/S routes?
        I still think there are better ways to use scarce capital than to build seemingly redundant facilities, no matter how charming.

      5. That’s actually a little helpful. So your concern is that it’s parallel path transit (“seemingly redundant facilities”) which is generally frowned on, and for good reason. But consider that those two blocks between 1st and 3rd are via some of the steepest streets in Seattle, and that a very large amount of ridership is generated 1st (federal buildings, hotels, Pike Place, etc.) and on an almost-flat path from 1st (the ferries). Having transit on 3rd is not the same as having it on 1st, and ignoring this means losing a whole lot of ridership.

        Of course there’s also Drew’s point, that we’ll have two separate streetcar systems with nothing connecting them.

      6. I’d almost count providing transit along 1st as a secondary benefit to connecting the two streetcar lines. Being able to go from eastern First Hill (note to future planners: dragging the southern east west section along Jackson over to 23rd would be awesome) to South Lake Union–an area that’s difficult to access from east of the freeway now and will be worse once the 8 gets chopped through the CD–will be awesome.

        Also, the “modern streetcar” picture is of Dublin’s Luas Green line (left tram says “St. Stephen’s Green” and right tram says “Sandyford,” both in Irish). Dublin bills this service as light rail, not a streetcar, so the platforms are much wider, there are full smart card handling machines at all stops (the machines are identical to the ORCA ones we use), and larger landing areas. I doubt that the Central City Connector will be this grandiose, if only because of its more limited scope. The stop spacing on Luas is more like a local bus, though.

      7. Re: the ridership:

        If there is an expectation of fairly ubiquitous fare enforcement, and if the Itty Bitty Choo Choo Committee insists on permanently pegging the fare at Metro’s peak price — i.e., higher than a Link trip from Rainier Beach or Northgate — then I can’t imagine even a fraction of that number of people riding.

        It’s simply too much money for a very short service: even a small group of discombobulated tourists would do better in a cab. And transfer passengers hate the idea of a surcharge for the last partial-mile leg, even if that surcharge is only a quarter. (This is also one reason why the FHSC will infuriate and fail.)

        On the other hand, if the expectation is for much of the line (say, from Denny to the I-5 crossing in Chinatown) to remain a Look The Other Way Zone — a de facto return of the Free Ride Area limited only to this circulator service — then I can imagine the “happenstance usage” being significant.

        None of which would make the plan less redundant, never mind make it “necessary”.

        I would genuinely love to be proven wrong here. If the thing gets built as proposed, without compromises, I’d love to

      8. …If the thing gets built as proposed, without compromises, I’d love to see it turn out to be a worthwhile, time-competitive, experience-preferential option between a number of discrete destination pairs. I really would. My ego can survive being wrong on this one.

        But with a couple blocks of 1st S. and a couple blocks of Jackson remaining the only section of the line more than 500 feet from the existing subway and transit spines, and with most of the purportedly “connected” destinations requiring lumbering out-of-direction zig-zags (regardless of how fast the straightaways become), and with any trips past the redundant downtown section still demanding 10-20 minute waits — and also with the ridiculously high fare — I just cannot see the intended usefulness materializing.

      9. I strongly agree with you on pricing. We need true distance based fares with tap-on, tap-off. Or we need to bring back the RFZ, but I won’t hold my breath on that one.

        That said whatever you *think* ridership will be, someone’s actually gone and done a study. You should look into that if you have questions about their assumptions. The monthly pass / transfer factor alone (ferry riders, gov workers, downtown workers are all likely to have passes) may play a very large role.

        No transit is *necessary*, and that’s a terrible criteria. This line will be useful, convenient, and increase ridership.

      10. I’m sure they presumed a lot of “because it’s there” trips from downtown commuters who already have a peak-level Metro pass.

        But the ambitiousness of the number almost suggests that they just guessed how many people used transit for intra-downtown trips back in the hop-on-hop-off days of the FRA, and then magically *poofed* all of those people over to First Avenue.

        WSF monthlies have no reciprocal value with other agencies, BTW. Most daily ferry commuters walk to their destinations, and $2.75 extra just to climb a few blocks will leave this much-lauded transfer opportunity a total no-go.

        As I’ve said before, Seattle’s transit studies seem to do pretty well on cost estimates and reasonably well on speed estimates, but their ridership estimates seem to be 8 different kinds of random (see: Lynnwood-Northgate exceeding Bellevue-Seattle) and only ever useful in certain apples-to-apples comparative circumstances.

        The cited numbers are nearly 10x what many on this blog love to label the “proven success” of the SLUT. There’s going to have to be a huge off-peak and many-purposed demand surge for these optimists’ outcomes to manifest. I just cannot see it.

      11. Oh, and plenty of transit is made “necessary” — or at least of exceedingly high priority — by circumstances in which its absence would have acute deleterious economic and human consequences.

        You can’t really be so urban-professionally privileged and gadgetbahnish that you’ve come to see urban mobility only as a collection of comparative aesthetic experiences, can you?

        Anyway, I still fail to see this project as more useful or more convenient than anything it supplements, nor particularly well-suited to increase ridership rather than to merely rearrange it.

      12. Do be careful with critiques of the CCC, many of the same arguments can and will be made against any future transit in the region.

        Like council member Licata or not on other issues, realize he has never met a rail project he likes (including U-Link) and is generally opposed to density (though not to John Fox levels of insanity)

      13. If someone doesn’t support U-Link, they have no credibility on transit issues at all.

        I wouldn’t usually be so black-and-white, but U-Link is the most obviously necessary transit project in the Pacific Northwest and will revolutionize mobility in several parts of the city even though mistakes were made in its design.

      14. “Lynnwood-Northgate exceeding Bellevue-Seattle”

        Is it really saying all those people will get off at Northgate? It probably includes those continuing on North Link which is a separate capital project, so it means “riders in the segment” which is what matters for capacity, not “riders who both board and alight completely within the segment”.

      15. Wouldn’t that be a really good reason to be vigilant about drawing distinctions between the broadly beneficial and the merely faddish/fanciful?

        I don’t disagree about Licata, BTW.

      16. [Last one was for Chris]

        Mike: It means ST expects 47,000 (or something) users to be on the highway-hemmed train north of Northgate. Which is as many or more than ST expects to use any part of East Link in any direction for any reason. Because InstaLynnwood?? (No, it doesn’t make any sense.)

      17. Defining necessary as “circumstances in which its absence would have acute deleterious economic and human consequences”, most every piece of transit we have is necessary and this would qualify as well. And I’d argue a lot of systems we don’t have are “necessary” under that definition. But it’s pretty broad to be a good criteria.

        “you’ve come to see urban mobility only as a collection of comparative aesthetic experiences” (eyeroll) We’re talking about ridership numbers and connecting systems, not the style of wheels the thing uses.

      18. @David,
        My memory is a bit fuzzy but I recall Licata in the past questioning the cost effectiveness of U-Link, especially during ST’s “wilderness years” in the early 00’s. I believe he suggested ETB’s as an alternative back then as well.

      19. LOL. We already have frequent ETBs running on three different routes that partly or totally parallel U-Link. They take four to five times as long as U-Link to cover the same distance, and are destroyed by freeway buses for those accessing the north and west parts of UW.

      20. I am not the only one who has noted that the CCC corridor presently hosts zero transit whatsoever, without having ground downtown mobility or economic activity to a halt in any particular way that this project is likely to relieve.

        That sort of seems like the exact opposite of the definition I laid out, does it not?

      21. d.p., I would argue that the lack of First Avenue transit has significantly hurt the development of Pioneer Square. The neighborhood has been unable to break out of a funk for well over a decade. There are a variety of causes for that, but taking all* of the transit out in 2005 really didn’t help. When there was real First Avenue transit, it was used quite heavily, and Pioneer Square was the second-biggest destination after the Market.

        *except the 99, which is less “transit” than an excuse for a driver to enjoy driving a bus around on nice afternoons

      22. @d.p.
        I consider the CCC to be broadly beneficial rather than faddish/fanciful.

        BTW I do agree with you on the faddish/fanciful nature of some other proposed rail projects in the area.

        As for ridership models do realize there is a standard and widely accepted methodology used for those. That said one should peel the onion as far back as you can as certain assumptions made and the detail level used can produce wildly different results.

        All that said I believe Northgate-Lynnwood (and possible future Lynnwood-Everett) Link will indeed see more daily riders than East Link.

      23. @David,
        I agree the good Councilman’s suggested alternatives were absurd. But he does tend to use the same arguments against rail and density over and over again. He is a bit predictable that way.

      24. Grinding the economy to a halt was not your definition. Deleterious = harmful often in a subtle or unexpected way. I’d actually consider it difficult to be acutely deleterious, but I let that slide.

        Very few transit lines would grind our economy anywhere close to a halt. Interestingly, the one that would come the closest didn’t exist a decade ago and had detractors using many of the same arguments you are about why it isn’t necessary. It’s more difficult to see benefits of something you don’t have (especially “unexpected” benefits).

      25. “Deleterious” can be used to mean “subtly harmful, often in unforeseen ways”. Or it can be used more generally to mean “causing adverse outcomes”. In that way, it can come in gradations of severity.

        Anyway, as David says, Pioneer Square’s most recent slump happened for a stew of reasons (some merely perpetuations of problems from prior slumps never fully surmounted), and longtime anchors like Elliott Bay Books were getting ready to jump ship long before the 15/18 were rerouted away.

        Traffic in the area cannot be blamed upon people driving between downtown destinations (parking at either end of downtown is expensive enough that few will do it twice). Most of those who will make this trolley trip, already in possession of a (peak-level) monthly pass or transfer, do so today using other transit. Others may be forgoing extra errands across downtown, and will continue to do so rather than pay $2.75 for a mile on a trolley. Perhaps a few trips are being forgone solely because today’s transit is less shiny and/or fails to reach the front door, but this number is small.

        In short, Pioneer Square is not being “acutely harmed” due to the nonexistence of this streetcar. And certainly not in the way that West Seattle or the Central District would be harmed if all transit service suddenly evaporated, or the way Ballard would be harmed if congestion continued to be allowed to push it (functionally) further and further away from the rest of the city and region, with no long-term grade-separated bypass relief.

        The world is full of cities that would quite literally grind to a halt in the absence of their transit systems, Matt. That you don’t believe Seattle to be one of them is tantamount to an admission that our transit approach has long been, and continues to be, a smoke-and-mirror affair of little real consequence.

        I don’t believe that to be the case, but wasting energy flogging downtown trolleys as “equally vital” to real mobility enablers certainly doesn’t help escape from accusations of frivolity.

      26. I do think it is strange that this follows a route that is not currently serviced by buses, and that this fact is used as an argument for it (rather than against it). Run a bus along this route and see how it goes. I know you lose the “connection” with the other streetcars, so run it longer (along much the same route). See how popular it is. If it doesn’t live up to the hype, then it should be obvious that a streetcar won’t either. I can’t think of any major transit success that we’ve ever had that would fail that test. For example, we built the bus tunnel because lots and lots of buses struggled getting from one end of downtown to the other. They were all very popular, despite the slow speeds. The tunnel worked. Likewise, downtown to the U-District is served with dozens, if not hundreds of buses, most of which crawl through the U-District and downtown (and many crawl in between). U-Link will be an obvious success. The 44 is one of the slowest lines in out entire system, often barely moving faster than walking speed, yet is is still plenty popular. That could definitely be replaced by something faster, and if it was, it would be extremely popular. But somehow, with this line, we are supposed to roll the dice because … streetcars!

        I agree with the earlier point — I think this will only be successful if it is free. This might make a lot of sense. This could, theoretically, reduce a lot of the load on the buses. But that gets to Licata’s point. I rarely agree with the guy, but I agree with him on this one. We should look at the big picture and figure out how this is going to interact with the buses. Again, I can’t think of any big successful project that fails this success. Light rail from Downtown to the U-District makes sense on its own right (two biggest urban centers in Washington) but it also makes sense because it has the potential to substantially alter the bus system (for the better). Every 7x bus can just turn around at the U-District. If nothing else changed, that would mean way more frequency, and way more reliability for every bus rider in northeast Seattle. I really don’t know how buses will be altered if we build this streetcar — or if they will be altered at all. I would like to know the answer to that question before we spend money that could be used to build the little things that often make the difference between a bus spending five minutes to go a couple blocks or not.

      27. Run a bus along this route and see how it goes.

        We basically did that.

        Before 2005, the local all-day buses to Ballard and West Seattle, then known as the 15, 18, 21, 22, and 56, ran on First Avenue from Spokane Street clear through Denny Way. They had extremely high ridership through downtown, particularly in good weather; it was common to come into downtown from the south with ten people on the bus and have all the seats full by the time the bus left Yesler, only to have those passengers exit at Stewart and be replaced by another batch headed to Uptown and Ballard.

        Granted, enough passengers to mostly fill a bus every ten minutes are not enough to fill a streetcar every five. But what skeptical transit activists have a hard time believing, and I do believe, is that there is real demand for transit along First Avenue that is distinct from the demand served by Third Avenue buses and the DSTT. Part of this is because of the city’s utter failure to make the south end of the Third Avenue corridor less than scary, but it’s still true.

        Rules of corridor separation don’t necessarily apply when all the corridors are as crazily frequent as the downtown north-south corridors. If we had the buses and the demand to run buses up both Madison and Seneca every five minutes or more, I probably wouldn’t even bang the drum of consolidating those corridors!

      28. but their ridership estimates seem to be 8 different kinds of random (see: Lynnwood-Northgate exceeding Bellevue-Seattle)

        I know I’m late to the party here, and I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but I have never once while working inside Seattle city limits had a co-worker from Bellevue. I have had dozens of co-workers, however, who commuted from the Lynnwood area.

      29. Did you work with every single man, woman, and child from Lynnwood? Because that seems to be whom ST expects to be on the trains, each one twice a day.

      30. Re Lynnwood vs Bellevue ridership. (I’ve been offline because my computer’s acting up.) I can see greater Lynnwood ridership as plausable. ST and CT run a ton more bus routes from there than from the Eastside, which will all be truncated. Eastside trips are split between I-90 (East Link eligible) and 520 (not East Link eligible), while Snoho trips all come down I-5 (Lynnwood Link eligible). Eastside population drops significantly at Redmond/Somerset, and stops completely at North Bend, while Snoho population trickles continuously to Marysville, Smokey Point, and beyond.

      31. And do all those truncated buses add up to even a tiny fraction of that Lynnwood Link hypothetical? You might be surprised by the answer!

        For example, every Community Transit bus running into downtown Seattle today, combined, amounts to only 7,200 weekday boardings (3,600 people).

        Also, as I am so often reminded when I mention Sound Transit’s abject theft of Seattle tax money to build portions of East Link ROW, the Lake crossings represent a reasonable amount of bi-directional commuting and commerce. Mythical Downtown Lynnwood? Not so much.

        Sorry. The North estimate makes no sense.

      32. I would point out that giving this decent dedicated lanes could makes this very popular just because it is faster than parallel surface routes.

        However, I don’t see this happening. The worst routes that parallel it come from the Seattle Center area. It does nothing to help the various routes from there.

      33. The other thing Link does is bypass slowdowns like the I-90 construction work next weekend, accidents, and random spikes in traffic. Friday afternoon I took a 71X southbound and it got caught in a crawl between John Street and Convention Place. This happens several times a year. Why not have a transit line that bypasses it? Logically it would go north, east, and south — just like Link is planning to do.

    3. What’s making the bad traffic situation far worse is continuing to allow high volumes of car traffic on First Ave. We need to give people effective alternatives for moving about the city so that they leave their cars in their garages, or at least parked outside the city core.

    4. Also worth noting that the closure of the Columbia and Seneca ramps from SR 99 should improve vehicle traffic flow on 1st Ave by reducing the number of turning vehicles on and off of 1st.

      1. Isn’t the enlarged Alaskan ways supposed to replace the service provided by those ramps?

    5. By this time 1st Avenue should be completely carfree (as should all the major downtown avenues).

      It’s ridiculous that with this much transit jammed into one square mile, people still drive through it.

      In this instance I am with the most draconian of transitistas.

      No private cars in downtown, only cabs, car shares, transit, bikes and pedestrians!

      1. Even Pike Place Market is only closed to vehicle traffic for a select few peak hours. I often see fools try to drive cars very slowly through sidewalk to sidewalk crowds of pedestrians in the market.

      2. That is exactly what we should expect the CCC streetcar to do on First Ave: turn first Ave into effectively the pedestrian experience of Pike Place Market on a peak summer Saturday at noon, and be the only vehicle conveyance through throngs of pedestrians.

  7. David, thanks. Yeah, I suppose it’s a daunting task to get across 15th there from East to West, and the truncate, if there is to be one, would have be be further south on 15th.

    Will the Mercer completion help with the connections from Uptown to Wallingford/fremont via Westlake?

    1. The Mercer completion won’t help with anything transit as currently planned, and Mercer generally isn’t a good street for transit. One thing that could help, once the grid is reconnected, is moving the 8 to Mercer north of Seattle Center and Harrison the rest of the way to Fairview (or at least to Westlake). That would make the 8 much more reliable.

  8. The Rainier Re-zone link is currently going to the SODO shooting protest article – can you fix this? Thanks.

  9. Good essay, Nathan. But a few more points in addition:

    1. Probably the biggest advantage of trolley over combustion propulsion on buses in places like Seattle and San Francisco is the percentage of our heaviest passenger loads that we have to carry on our steepest hills. Electric motor has great torque from a standing stop. The Queen Anne Counterbalance is named for the counterweight mechanism necessary to pull streetcars up that hill. Same with San Francisco cable cars.

    2. Aircraft pilot training often starts with gliders- to give the trainee a feel for the natural forces he can use rather than fight. Should be same for trolleybuses.

    A serious part of smooth trolley driving is to be develop a feel for the slope of the street. The slightest downgrade will make less power necessary to accelerate, along with less worry about “dead spots”. And without compression resistance from an engine, you’re bus will coast a long way.

    Likewise, a rising grade can really smooth out a stop. Let the grade do most of your braking, and apply full pressure when the bus has already essentially stopped.

    Question, incidentally: I left driving before the Gillig 40′ fleet came in. Is it true that regeneration (the motor becomes a generator and helps slow the coach, along with returning power to the system now comes on as soon as power pedal is released? In my day, this feature came on when brakes were applied, giving driver a little more control. Would like facts on this one.)

    3. All the above depends on the terrific level of training I had. All due respect to seniority, but trolley instructors have to be not only best trolley drivers in the system themselves, with enthusiasm and appreciation for this particular field. Huge amounts of operating time and taxpayers’ money depend on it.

    For same reasons, trolley work really merits a special pay grade: there’s more to know, and many more passengers to carry. And another reason: it takes at least a year of full time trolley driving to experience enough dewirements to know their prevention and cure.Too often, work falls to very low seniority people, whose experience leads them to drive something else as soon as they can escape. Hate word “incentivize”- so let’s just say “necessities for performance and retention.”

    4. Good to get auxiliary motors finally. But don’t like what I hear about new trolleybuses without rear windows. The best trolley driver still needs to be able to see ropes directly behind the coach- best indicator of what happened after the last switch- and whether or not parked truck ahead can be cleared. More expense and effort for designers? Cruel world. And very few of them forced into their work by seniority.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark, a couple things:

      1) The Gillig trolleys will do a little bit of regen with your foot off the pedal, but they are calibrated so that they still feel more or less like you are coasting. It’s not like a Tesla where lifting off the pedal will throw you forward in the seat.

      2) With modern two-element mirrors there is less need for the rear window. Adjust the convex mirror well, and you can use it both to see in the normal blind spot and to see your poles directly. Given all the infrastructure on top of a trolley, you can’t have both the rear window and air conditioning. As a driver, I know which of those I’d rather have, and it ain’t the rear window.

      3) Fiberglass poles have made driving trolleys far easier. With them, you have to do something really stupid to fall off the wire (like me on one occasion at 4:00 a.m. in the dark, when I totally forgot about the switch on northbound 1st Ave N leading to Mercer, and cruised through it at 30+ mph).

      1. Thanks, David.

        Good to know “regen: doesn’t harm coasting. Agree about value of AC- like just about everything else in design of Breda buses, not only weren’t they air conditioned, but heat from braking resistors went straight into the forward roof air vent.

        For a regenerative system that I was told the company would not let return power to the line. Fact we ended up buying the Breda’s at all- and worse, the fact that other systems that should know better, like Oslo and Gothenburg, end up with trains which are steel rail versions of our tunnel buses- means posting is needed on “procurement”

        Another term, BTW, for sales agents in the Oldest Profession. Bad performance, similar results across all professions, industries, and times. But I think some strong and authoritative union participation in design of the tools or our trade could save taxpayers a lot of money, passengers much aggravation, and operating personnel a lot of ulcers.

        And I wouldn’t be so fatalistic about trolley overhead. Fact that the technology has worked so well so long indicates deeply successful design. But like carriage industry, adding a motor wasn’t fatal. (Horse accidents killed a lot of people too.) Reading wire and handling special work is a good skill.

        But so is designing overhead itself so it enhances, rather than interferes with operations. Closer poles are to wire center through most of route, less chance of trouble, and better speed. Designer should have to repeatedly cover every route inch they’re going to wire- in person.

        That way, substation breakers will not go in a block up the Counterbalance. And speaking of speed- that particular mistake has been there through forty years of budget cycles. Mentality behind that fact first thing that needs to go under both duals and flanges. And same with a certain union local’s habit of not causing employer sufficient amount of grief for not fixing that and things like it.

        Mark Dublin

        Mark Dublin

        Mark Dublin

  10. Not repeating myself just ’cause I’m old. Though will say seriously that these screens are hard for me to use for editing. Also sign of being old.


      1. well its what we have now albeit with some sharp corners curved and just a new color. should mix well with the blue, teal, and green we already have

      2. Seconded. The purple is horrendous (as is the existing teal). Would much rather just have the entire fleet divided between the royal blue and dark green versions of the current scheme.

      3. That purple is horrid. The royal blue is my current favorite. The dark green is OK though. I agree on the teal, it always looks like a dirty and sun-faded version of the green to me.

        I suppose it could be worse, Metro could have stuck with either the old 70’s color scheme or that horrid mess that came around the same time as the Bredas.

      4. So Metro now has Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple? All we need to do is add orange somewhere and we can change Metro’s slogan from We’ll Get You There to Taste the Rainbow. Diversity may be a laudable goal, but not when it comes to branding and color palettes.

  11. So as a First Hill Resident … I attended the July 7th Transit Meeting … where the forthcoming service cuts and the Madison BRT project were discussed.

    First of all, First Hill, where the Hospitals are, is losing the 4, 9 (becomes 1-way peak only), 12 (becomes peak only), 27, AND 60.

    This will leave the 3 (with added frequency) and the 2 albeit moved to Madison from 1st ave to at least 12th and the First Hill Streetcar

    Needless to say … all the voices who opposed restructuring the 2 last time were here … using the same arguments … people can’t walk from Madison to Virginia Mason, people can’t handle the transfer at 3rd & Madison, etc …

    Whether or not their concerns are justified or valid … they are still concerns and a lot of the folks are elderly or disabled.

    So, I have suggested to the City, County, Metro, etc … that the following be done and was wondering what folks here thought.

    1. move the 2 to Madison as planned.
    2. redirect the 3 to head east on Spring/Seneca, and then use the existing wire on 9th ave to get from Virginia Mason to Harborview Hospitals.

    (note: Metro already had a plan to alleviate congestion at 8th & spring for the 2 before Prop 1 failed)

    This would allow Virginia Mason to retain service
    This would keep the one-seat ride to downtown (at least for First Hill Residents) or a transfer at Madison
    This would allow 9th ave to retain service (big Cathedral, Frye Art Museum, Retirement communities)
    This would allow the 3 to AVOID the nightmare that is James St. (now almost all day nightmare)

    What would be lost are the stops at:
    3rd/James (DSTT) plenty of N-S service to connect to Marion/Madison and Spring/Seneca
    5th/James (Jail) N-S service to connect to Marion/Madison and Spring/Seneca
    8th/James (residential) .5 blocks up/down James to 9th ave bus stops

    anyway, that was my idea to save some service on First Hill and it’s Hospitals … not perfect … but better than no service.

    As for the Madison St BRT … they are only getting started … but the primary goals are curb BAT lanes with TSP and full RapidRide style stations with off-board payment.

    To be determined is whether the line will be extended west of 1st ave to actually serve Coleman Dock (or at least get closer) and what happens east of 23rd/Madison.

    Also whether the line will continue using the Madison-Marion couplet or whether a contra-flow EB bus lane needs to be added to Madison (and how buses would turn around at the waterfront).

    They are planning on implementing a number of changes BEFORE BRT conversion … which may include the BAT lanes and repositioning of the stations for better service.

    There will probably be a lot of complaining by the users/abusers of handicap placards with regards to removing Madison St. parking … but that HAS to be done … in fact it has to be done now.

    1. Unfortunately I think sending the 3 up Seneca would be a worse cure than the disease.

      The problem with Seneca/Spring, just like James, is the I-5 on- and off-ramps. That is why transit needs to be removed from both of those places. And there are plans to do so. The city is moving forward with the Yesler wire project, which will send the 3 and 4 up Yesler rather than James. And half the reason for Madison BRT and for the 2/12 restructure is to get buses away from Seneca and Spring.

      There is also huge demand up and down the hill between Pioneer Square and the Harborview area. You need frequent service making that trip.

      There is a flat walk to Madison from virtually any building along Seneca. The 3rd/Madison transfer is more of a concern, but there is a solution available for that that doesn’t require buses to be poorly routed forever.

      1. The Spring Street problem could be fixed by eliminating the library stop or converting it to an island. The left lanes of Spring are almost traffic free even at rush hour.

      2. Long term, the Seneca and University ramps are going away (assuming the “Fuck Seattle” legislature ever allocates freeway money to Seattle again), in order to extend the NB I-5 HOV lane through the 2-lane downtown bottleneck.

        The James ramps are never going away, but the Yesler wire takes care of that issue.

        The backups cause by the Spring ramp mostly effect the right lanes only – if the Library stop was removed or moved to a left-lane island, buses could sail right past. But I still prefer a Madsion alignment, based on the same “flat walk from Madison to Seneca” justification you use.

    2. Two-way Madison puts the bus closer to the library, which serves a wider cross-section of the public than anything else in a two-block radius.

  12. Does anyone know whether the improvements to the SLU and FH streetcars discussed in Appendix H of the Central City Connector study are considered an integral part of of the Central City Connector project?- e.g. are they included in the budget forecasts for the CCC and would necessarily be built/implemented if the CCC goes forward, or are the SLU and FH streetcar improvements separate from the CCC- e.g. would need their own budget and wouldn’t necessary be built/implemented together with CCC construction?

  13. I’m definitely in the pro-TNC camp, but the way the lawsuit went down is rather bizarre. 3 councilmembers voted not to repeal their own legislation in order to wait to see how the court ruled, but then the court ruled against the cabs because, wait for it, they said there was nothing to contest because the Council had indeed repealed it a day earlier.

  14. From the Maple Leaf Portal web cam: Seeing chunks on the conveyor belt. Dig, Brenda, dig.

  15. That picture reminds me of one thing that has bothered me since link opened: the walk to the the link station from the Airport. While I typically embrace the chance for a walk, I find that one, loaded down with heavy bags, often rushing and/or very tired, to be particularly frustrating. You walk three times as far as for every other means of transport, and it’s not a pleasant place, either.

    Does anybody know if there are plans for improvement, particularly moving walkways? I imagine it’s never gonna happen, but it seems like a natural part of airport infrastructure and an affordable way to save time and effort.

    1. Yes, exactly. So far the Port hasn’t considered moving sidewalks important enough to mention.

    2. Perhaps at some point in the distant future. The Port has mentioned a potential future people mover between the terminal and the rental car center. Such a people mover might be able to include a stop at the Link station.

      1. Thanks for the info! Frustrating, though, how such small improvements so easily overlooked for sexier projects.

    3. Nothing in the immediate future, however the people mover Chris mentions is indeed part of the long term plan. There are plans for a new structure (hotel I believe) to be constructed between the parking garage and the Link station, where the overhead walkway is now. That new structure will integrate a new moving walkway, which will be indoors, allegedly for the entire length.

  16. In case anyone is interested metro appears to have updated the next stop system on some of the buses. “Greyhound bus depot” is no longer announced at Convention Place station, “water taxi” is announced at Pioneer Square station and “Greyhound bus station” is announced at S Royal Brougham Way.

    Also I’ve noticed the U District express buses (71X, 72X & 73X) are using a much larger font on their head signs. Makes it easier to read in my opinion. They also include the “X” behind the route number.

    Maybe this is a test for the rest of the tunnel buses?

  17. Would be great if the Sounder deal goes through!

    I might to prove to some people that not all venues have to be in Downtown Seattle…

    How about an NBA/NHL franchise in Tacoma Dome — fed by Sounder!

  18. Tacoma…movin’ on up!

    Point Ruston moving quickly to second phase

    Construction activity at the site of the former Asarco copper smelter near Point Defiance Park is moving swiftly into the development’s second phase as Cohen tries to meet a growing demand for more waterfront apartments, condominiums and retail spaces.

    The Copperline Apartments, the first major building in the multi-phase development, is 100 percent leased. The 21 water-view condominiums in the first phase of the Copperline Condominiums are sold out. Of the 22 condo units in the second phase of the Copperline only six remain available.

    Interest in the third condominium building that borders Commencement Bay which Cohen calls the Century Condominiums, is high.

  19. I realize this thread’s been up for a while (but I’ve been busy, busy, busy today between business and just gave Skagit Transit some comments on their strategic plan and after this comment, more business work until 11 PM) but want to toot my own horn. I got my letter to the editor published in the Everett Herald about my views on Sound Transit’s plans. Below is the body of my letter:

    Yes, Paine Field should be on route

    Just read Noah Haglund’s wonderful report on July 1, “Light rail: Should a route go to Paine Field?” As somebody with impairments that make me feel safer using mass transit instead of driving, and as a huge aviation enthusiast; I am joyful Sound Transit is finally considering increasing transit access to Paine Field. Especially as Paine Field has four great museums that are tourist attractions — namely Future of Flight, Historic Flight Foundation, Flying Heritage Collection and Museum of Flight Restoration Center — seemingly left out of transit plans.
    For the immediate future being I visit Paine Field; I pledge to regularly patronize a private sector or public sector circular bus servicing the four museums around Paine Field that links up with current Community Transit bus services; especially on Saturdays in the summer. A circular would certainly enhance the airport.
    But long term, I sure would love to see light rail service Paine Field as well if light rail could service other Paine Field tenants too. However, after reviewing Sound Transit’s plans, I wish Sound Transit would not seemingly duplicate Community Transit’s Swift bus route but rather use the Boeing freeway and the Mukilteo Speedway (Highways 526 and 525).


  20. Reading through the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that ST gave out at their public meeting today is really interesting. Some well-needed improvements are listed in the first appendix as potential projects, including the north half of the Ash Way HOV ramp and a NB Olive Way freeway stop. Also, a possible revival of the Everett Streetcar, which is a little bizarre.

  21. Assuming the CCC resolution eventually comes before the full Council, I see that being a close vote. I think the Council shakes out something like this:

    Likely Yes – Burgess, Bagshaw, O’Brien
    Likely No – Licata, Sawant, Harrell
    Swing Votes – Clark, Rasmussen, Godden

    The advent of districts could make councilmembers reluctant to support a downtown streetcar, especially if the (dubious) Licata framing of Downtown Streetcar vs. “Neighborhood Buses” takes hold.

    1. I still really have no clue where Sawant generally falls on transit and land use. She seems the sort who could be won over though you might have to win her over with a social justice angle.

      Harrell seems to have rather suddenly shifted on transit and land use since the passage of council districts.

      For this vote I suspect Clark and Godden will vote yes. Godden especially is unlikely to vote against something the downtown businesses are for.

  22. Someone on another site was asking about the cost of a “big fleet of hybrid buses that were purchased a few years ago and never put into use”. They were wondering if they were still sitting idle or if they’d been sold.

    I’d never heard of any buses being purchased by Metro and then not being put into use. Am i forgetting something, or was the person who mentioned this maybe thinking of another agency?

    1. They weren’t hybrids. They were small and cheap StarTrans diesel buses based on medium-duty truck chassis. They had poor sightlines and poor ventilation (among other problems) and Metro rejected them and sued the manufacturer. Metro ultimately got most of the purchase price back in a settlement, and the manufacturer took the buses back. The service those buses were intended to run is being run for now by Metro’s old fleet of 30-foot Gillig diesel buses, built in 2000. A new order of 35-foot hybrid buses from New Flyer is in process to replace them; the first pilot bus for that order is now under evaluation.

      Buses based on van or medium-duty truck chassis are a mistake for transit service, in my opinion. They’re not very space-efficient and rarely tough enough to take the abuse that transit service dishes out.

      1. Thank you so much, David. I think that possibly the person who mentioned them was trying to come up with ways that Metro was wasting money so they could think of a good excuse to vote against increasing any taxes in November. I will be very happy to give them this info.

      2. Norah, the irony of the StarTrans order is that the problems resulted from a well-intentioned effort to save money. The StarTrans buses are a good deal cheaper than the New Flyers that will replace them, or even the Gilligs that are standing in for them. But for vehicles that operate 8 to 20 hours per day, 7 days per week, and may cover 600,000 stop-by-stop miles over the course of their lifetimes, paying a bit more for build quality and toughness pays off.

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