Seattle Council Sends Metro Tax to Ballot

Yesterday the Seattle City Council* voted unanimously (Tim Burgess was absent) to send a $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax increase to the November ballot to save bus service. The measure would mostly maintain the service level in the City of Seattle and preserve some trips to and from the suburbs. The final approved version is here. Public comment at the hearing was unanimously in favor of preserving bus service. There were also several amendments.

The first change from the Mayor’s proposal is that both taxes expire at the end of 2020, rather than in 10 years.

Nick Licata made a point of verifying that any surplus after restoring service levels could not be used for, as he put it, “more capital-intensive fixed rail projects” because the legislation specifically authorizes “Metro transit bus service hours.” Of course, this language would also seemingly prohibit various sensible bus capital improvements, like transit signal priority, bus lanes, trolley wire, off-board payment, and so forth, using TBD funds.

Mike O’Brien sponsored a (unanimously) successful amendment to set aside up to $2m for increasing “access to the low-income fare program” and “developing and potentially funding additional no-income and low-income products for Seattle residents.”

Tom Rasmussen earned unanimous approval of an amendment he said was inspired by the League of Women Voters, that “clarifies” that “the first priority for the funding is to preserve existing routes and prevent Metro’s proposed service cuts and restructures,” and demands the public process that is typical in Metro restructures anyway. The LWV, represented yesterday by occasional STB commenter Joanna Cullen, has been a reactionary force against restructures that would boost Metro ridership by rationalizing the route network, specifically to Route 2. Multiple sources assure me that this language does not prevent sensible, ridership-driven restructures after the usual public process. It’s perhaps inevitable that introducing city funding also introduces another veto point for restructures. But I would have been happier if the amendment didn’t pass.

The most interesting part of the afternoon was the argument over the sales tax. Councilmembers Licata and Sawant floated a plan to replace the relatively regressive sales tax portion with an employee head tax and commercial parking tax to generate about the same amount of revenue. They convinced no one to cross over and lost 6-2. I am relatively relaxed about regressive taxation for transit, as the spending itself is quite progressive.  But the arguments yesterday are interesting.

Continue reading “Seattle Council Sends Metro Tax to Ballot”

May 2014 ST Ridership Report – Happy Birthday!

Image from
Image from

Five years! For a blast from the past, check out our opening day coverage from back in 2009. A lot has changed since then, some of it the world affecting Link, and some of it Link affecting the world. How has the opening of Seattle’s first all-day rapid transit line effected your life?

Yesterday, Sound Transit released some numbers that are icing on Link’s birthday cake. May saw a twenty-three percent increase in average weekday ridership, year-on-year, over 2013. Yes, you read that correctly: twenty-three percent! (Okay, it’s actually 22.7%, but close enough.) Now if you look at my charts you’ll see that May 2013 was a relatively low growth month, but still that is pretty amazing!

May’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 33,650 / 27,910 / 17,412, growth of 22.7%, 17.1%, and 18.8% respectively over May 2013. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 9.7% with ridership increasing on both lines. Total Tacoma Link weekday ridership declined 6.2%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 5.9%. Total Sound Transit average weekday boardings were up 10.1%. The complete May Ridership Summary is here.

My charts are below the fold. Happy Birthday Link!

Continue reading “May 2014 ST Ridership Report – Happy Birthday!”

Rapid Ride 2: Electric Boogaloo


The recent opening of the sixth and final RapidRide line was an occasion for Metro’s General Manager Kevin Desmond to take a victory lap in an email, highlighting high ridership numbers and customer satisfaction scores as well as federal grant contributions to the project’s success.

To things stand out: first, that RapidRide now accounts for 12% of Metro’s daily trips – 50,000 riders, with nearly half of those on the D&E lines alone. It shows that targeted investments in a few corridors can really move the needle for a large portion of bus riders.

Second, ridership has more than exceeded 5-year targets. Now, of course you can expect anyone whose performance is tied to a metric to set expectations low enough that they can safely knock them out of the park, but the serious hiccups that Metro faced when lines C&D launched make it clear that Metro genuinely had no idea how much pent up demand there was in this city for better transit experiences. Turns out they will ride, and you don’t even have to give them good coffee or good music.

As we’ve been saying on this blog for years, the gap between RapidRide and “real” BRT is fairly large. It stops too often, doesn’t run often enough, doesn’t have much exclusive right-of-way, and launched without crucial features like off-board payment.  It was basically just enough BRT to get Uncle Sam to help pick up the check.

Still, some of the kinks have been worked out, the downtown ORCA readers are here, and it’s now a crucial part of the region’s transit ecosystem. So what’s next? As the map at right suggests, the initial six corridors spread coverage across the county. With that task out of the way, there are several routes, mostly in Seattle, that would benefit from RapidRide treatment. Given that Sound Transit is now working closely with Metro and Metro is selling service to SDOT and we’re all one big happy family, there are a few things off the top of my head that these agencies could do to make RapidRide even better:

1. More exclusive right-of-way
2. Faster, more direct service on the D line
3. Bring more in-city routes to RapidRide standards.  Contenders might include the 7, 44, 48, 120 and Madison St. BRT
4. More frequent service! 19-minute peak headways are inexcusable

How else could RapidRide be improved? Let us know in the comments.

News Roundup: Deadlocked


This is an open thread.

More on Next Week’s I-90 Trouble

Stage 1, roughly Friday 7/18 through Monday 7/21

Last week Zach reported on the 7-day WSDOT construction project that will reduce Westbound I-90 to as little as one lane. The potential for epic backups, engulfing both transit and drivers, is obvious. I asked WSDOT Spokesman Travis Phelps and Traffic Engineer Mark Bandy what the exact implications were for transit, and what more could have been done.

The first half of the closure, Stage 1 depicted above, is “probably more impactful” than Stage 2, and it’s no accident that the bulk of this work will occur over the weekend. With the HOV lanes entirely closed, buses will merge into general traffic, thus discouraging their use at the point of maximum need for spatial efficiency. I asked Mr. Bandy if WSDOT would consider making one of the remaining lanes HOV, setting aside for the moment that the planned configuration withers to one lane for a short stretch.

He said in any project “we would assess if it made sense to make one of the lanes HOV,” but the agency’s experience was that to create compliance WSDOT would “have to paint it and put the markings down,” rather than use a sign or other simple measure. The restriping operation itself would be a matter of days, in support of a closure that will only amount to 3 or 4 days. “If we were talking about this configuration in place for 3 months we’d be having a different conversation,” Bandy said.

So Stage 1 will be a disaster; Stage 2 may be mildly better for transit. As a transit user,  if you can possibly delay your trip to the later part of the week, that would be wise.  The bad news is that I-90 buses will have to share the HOV lane with all mainline traffic when it withers down to one lane. It would be theoretically possible to instead divert all SOV traffic into the collector/distributor lanes and leave the HOV lane clear, but Mr. Phelps dismissed that as “difficult.” If there’s a saving grace for the 554 et al it’s that they’ll occupy the continuous lane and therefore have an advantage over merging traffic.

Continue reading “More on Next Week’s I-90 Trouble”

ST Population Projections Much Too Low in LRP Studies

Ballard Seafood Fest (wikimedia)

The population projections in the Ballard to Downtown Seattle Transit Expansion Study (table 3-4) are very low and the methodology Sound Transit uses to create these projections should be updated. In the past the media has criticized ST for projections that seemed overly optimistic, but then proved valid post-recession. Sound Transit should avoid over-correcting by using excessively conservative estimates now. Beyond helping to decide which routes to build, the estimates will communicate a potential project’s value to stakeholders and make a case for funding to the federal government.

We were shocked to see that ST was using 29,580 for Ballard’s 2010 population, with expected growth by 2035 of 14% for a total of 33,820. We asked Sound Transit to explain why both numbers were so low. Their explanation was based on an area defined by the Ballard Existing Conditions Report:

The Ballard to Downtown Seattle Transit Expansion Study used a definition of Ballard which covers the area from 8th NW to 32nd NW, the Ship Canal to NW 85th. This includes all of census tracts 30, 32 and 47 and approximately 80% of census tracts 31 and 32 (which extend west to Shilshole Bay). The total population of the five complete census tracts in the 2010 census was 32,502; the 29,580 number reflects the reduction of the western portions of census tracts 31 and 32.

The area covered is where all the growth in Ballard has occurred in the past and is occurring now. Additionally, nearly all of the larger development since 2010 has been apartments; there are currently only two condominium buildings under construction. This makes the comparison pretty easy. We asked the apartment market experts at Dupre & Scott if they had numbers for Ballard since 2010. For this example, to be conservative we assumed anything built 2009 or before was 100% absorbed and anything built in 2010 was 50% absorbed when the census was taken at the end of that year. We will also assume apartment occupancy of 1.8 people per rental unit and 2.3 people per sold unit per the census numbers for Seattle.

Here is what Dupre & Scott sent us:

Ballard Development

Continue reading “ST Population Projections Much Too Low in LRP Studies”

Council Formally Lifts Caps on TNCs

Yellow Cab

Yellow Cab by AntyDiluvian on Flickr

By an 8-1 vote, the Seattle City Council formally approved new regulations on transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, per the broad outlines of the agreement sketched out by Mayor Murray.  The “caps” that represented the bulk of the controversy have been repealed. Councilmember O’Brien was the lone “no” vote;  he explains his thinking here.  Get all the details at PubliCola and GeekWire.

It’s a new era for taxis in Seattle as well, including the introduction of transferable “medallions” that cab owners can treat as equity.  As I said previously, this is another solid win for Murray, who’s shown an ability to move legislation forward by assembling a broad coalition and giving everyone something in return.  He’s also shown a deftness at getting what he wants through the council by scrambling ideological fault lines.

SDOT is Working to Improve Night Owl Service

I wanted to respond on behalf of SDOT to Bruce’s post last week about the structure of today’s Metro Night Owl service.

Our main goal in saving the Night Owls is to avoid any interruption and preserve service for late- and early-shift workers and other people who depend on those routes now. Although ridership seems somewhat low at 150-170 boardings per day, divided among six trips (two each on routes 82, 83, and 84), the numbers are not too bad and represent far more than 150-170 individuals – although most riders are probably regular riders, many ride only occasionally — and this is the only late night service to most parts of the routes.

SDOT and Metro did not have enough time between the April 22 failure of Prop. 1 and the normal June deadline for defining the September service change to seek public input then negotiate and implement a restructure. So initially, SDOT funds are proposed to be used to save existing trips on existing routes, which will include both the loop routes (82, 83, 84) and, if a Seattle Transportation Benefit District measure passes, late night service on high-ridership regular routes like the 7 and 36.

After we have secured continuing service on the existing night owl routes, we and our partners at King County Metro are committed to work on a proposal to modernize the late night bus network in Seattle. In the longer term, our goal — funding permitting — is a late night network that is better than the one we have today, which would add trips in the 2:00 – 4:00 a.m. time frame to most of the busiest routes.

In general, SDOT supports and is working towards many of the goals outlined in your post. In particular, we agree that large-diameter one-way loops are not a rider-friendly service pattern; that the lack of post-1:30 AM service to dense, outlying neighborhoods such as Northgate, Lake City, and Delridge presents an opportunity for improvement; and that Night Owl service should be provided by routes which are as similar to daytime core routes as possible. This is similar to what Metro and SDOT accomplished working together on the C and D Lines, each of which now has a pair of night owl trips which fully replaces a less rider-friendly Night Owl loop route.

Thanks for listening, and for continuing to suggest improvements to the Metro system in Seattle!

Bill Bryant is Manager of Transit Programs at the Seattle Department of Transportation.

PSRC Recommends Local Projects


The Puget Sound Regional Council’s most interesting job is to allocate Federal Money to local projects (Andrew explained the PSRC five years ago). On Thursday a PSRC committee recommended approval $690m of appropriations (see more on the process here), money from both the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration. The list is long, and there are tons of bike/ped projects and operating subsidies. But here are some capital and planning highlights for transit:

  • $5.2m to buy right of way for BAT lanes along SR522 in Bothell (part of a $48m road project through 2019)
  • $3.4m of $4.2m to develop Community Transit’s Swift II application for FTA small starts funding.
  • $7m (of $15.1m) to build HOV lanes on Pacific Highway in Federal Way
  • $624,000 for bus speed and reliability improvements on Denny by 2018 (of a $1.4m total cost)
  • $65m to Metro to buy 73 of 155 new trolley buses through 2016
  • $2.6m for Route 8 improvement planning and construction to aid the 150
  • $6.2m of $15.7m to replace the Passenger-Only Ferry terminal at Colman Dock
  • $2.6m to design BAT lanes and other road improvements on Rainier Ave S in Renton
  • $10m of $25m to extend the Broadway Streetcar
  • $200,000 to design electrification of Route 48S
  • $5m for Link right-of-way to Kent/Des Moines Rd
  • $8m for Tacoma Link right-of-way to the Stadium and Hilltop districts
  • $21m for Northgate Link
  • $21m of $202m to buy four more South Sounder round trips
  • $6m for Link Construction to Angle Lake
  • $12.6m to help plan the new Link operations facility

In many cases this money is already baked into the project budgets, but hooray for the Federal Government, far more constructive than the state government.

Has Off-Peak Discount Outlived Its Purpose?

There has been much public discussion on the future of King County Metro’s paper transfer program, which may have the wind taken out of its sails by both Pierce Transit’s upcoming vote on eliminating paper transfers, and the potential implementation of a King County Metro low-income fare program. Once Pierce Transit abandons paper transfers (which is expected to happen November 1, 2014), Metro will be the last agency in the ORCA pod with paper transfers that are good for more than just an immediate transfer at a transfer center (which is all Kitsap Transit’s are accepted for).

Pioneer Square Station South Clock
Pioneer Square Station South Clock

One other rogue feature of Metro’s fare system that may lose its wind if the low-income ORCA program is implemented is what Metro likes to call the “off-peak discount.” Metro’s off-peak discount is unique not only in the ORCA pod, but among all transit agencies in the State of Washington.

Metro has been justifying the off-peak discount as being targeted at lower-income riders (See pages 23-24.). The time-of-day demographics aren’t expected to change when Metro raises fares next March 1, but who benefits will, presuming the low-income fare program is implemented. This is because low-income riders will already have a single fare all day: $1.50. Only riders without a low-income ORCA will be getting the off-peak discount of 25 or 75 cents. So, the off-peak discount will simply benefit higher-income riders.

Among the 17 other bus agencies and groups of agencies around the country that have contactless cards as their primary tool of fare payment, only one agency still charges a peak surcharge on buses: Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro. However, Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro provides the equivalent of a roughly 9% per-ride discount for paying with their Go-To Card instead of with cash. (The per-ride discount is far from unique, especially outside the U.S. It is just something local agencies have not adopted. Each agency could do so on their own.)

The Port Authority of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) and DC Metro have peak surcharges just on trains. In Pittsburgh’s case, the peak surcharge only applies to cash payers.

While the savings on eliminating Metro’s off-peak discount would be minor — in the range of a few million dollars a year at most — doing so would bring Metro’s fare system more in alignment with other agencies in the region and with peer agencies around the county, but would also improve the legibility of the fare system.

Whatever purposes this increasingly unique off-peak discount still serves probably pales into comparison to helping fund the low-income fare program or saving more bus service.

Huge I-90 Closure Looms July 18-25

The Washington State Department of Transportation will close all but one lane of westbound I-90 for a full week from July 18-25 to replace expansion joints on the East Channel Bridge between Mercer Island and Bellevue. This closure will occur on a summer weekend AND the following full workweek AND a week in which the Sounders play a Tottenham friendly AND the suddenly not-terrible Mariners also happen to be in town. As this closure is all but one lane, no HOV/transit priority will be maintained, and no buses will be rerouted. So anyone who depends on the East Channel bridge and/or the 90/405 interchange should expect truly massive delays. The transit routes most affected are 111, 114, 210, 211, 212, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 550, and 554, and to a slightly lesser extent 241, 555, and 556.

Stage 1, roughly Friday 7/18 through Monday 7/21
Stage 2, roughly Tuesday 7/22 through Thursday 7/24

What can you do about this?  For most people, not much. But here’s my advice:

  • If you are so fortunate, take advantage of any flexibility afforded by your employer (later start times, vacation, telework, etc). It’s a great week to take a couple days off.
  • If you are a Renton Highlands area commuter on routes 111/114, I’d strongly suggest switching to commuting via Renton instead on routes 101, 102, or 143, or via Sounder in Tukwila.
  • If you must commute over I-90, and you own a bicycle, use it. The 8-mile ride from South Bellevue to Seattle takes between 25-55 minutes depending on your level of fitness, and will surely beat vehicular and transit traffic across the bridge.
  • If you live on Mercer Island and commute to Seattle, enjoy your week of having the World’s Largest Ramp Meter.
  • If you’re an Eastgate, Issaquah, or Sammamish commuter and cannot bike? Bring a lengthy book. Maybe something dense and wordy like Dickens or Dostoevsky.

Follow WSDOT on Twitter for the latest updates, and commiserate with your fellow sufferers using hashtag #I90to1.

News Roundup: Votes

Atomic Taco/Flickr

This is an open thread.

Pike Street Gets BAT Lanes

Pike Street
SDOT Photo

Quietly and without much fanfare, two weekends ago Pike Street got a lot better for buses. In conjunction with the bus bulb extension completed a couple months ago at 6th/Pike, two weeks ago SDOT installed 24/7  bus lanes on Pike between 2nd Avenue and 7th Avenue. (Right turns will be permitted at 3rd, 5th, and 7th.)

The ultra-frequent eastbound Pike corridor, which handles up to 20 buses per hour mid-day and up to 50 per hour during the PM peak, should see a decent increase in speed and reliability. This will be a welcome improvement for the thousands of  long-suffering Capitol Hill and Madison Park residents accustomed to traveling Pike at less than walking speed on routes 10, 11, 43, 47, and 49. All-day route 522 and peak-only routes 301, 306, 308, and 312 will benefit too, despite their need to merge left after 6th Avenue to access the I-5 express lanes at 9th.

Of course, there are still significant sources of delay on Pike that this BAT lane will not improve, namely the 3rd/Pike layover spot and the lack of off-board payment. It is peculiar to build a bus-only lane from 2nd to 7th but retain a layover space at 3rd, forcing live-looping buses to enter the GP lane to detour around layover buses. Meanwhile,  buses can be delayed by up to 3 minutes per stop due to on-board payment, routinely missing multiple light cycles as a result. The combination of this new BAT lane and off-board payment would be the real game changer, but there are no current plans to add off-board payment on any non-RapidRide routes.

Still, many kudos to SDOT for this new lane.

Metro’s Night Owl Alignments are Insane

Owl map, SDOT. Note that Routes 81 & 85 were changed to D & C Line trips in 2012.
Owl map, SDOT. Note that Routes 81 & 85 were changed to D & C Line trips in 2012.

Martin’s post this morning described the trade-offs around Mayor Murray’s decision to redirect some SDOT funds to prevent cuts to Seattle’s Night Owl service. In this post, I want to sidestep questions of whether the city should spend money on more very-late-night (post-1am) service, and where the city could find that money. Instead, I’d like to discuss the structure of the service which the Mayor proposes to buy.

Specifically, I’d like to call out the fact that in the context of 2014 Seattle, the service map above, which comprises a dismembered-flower-petal arrangement of one-way loops, designed to serve the city 60 (or more) years ago, is bonkers. If we’re going to spend city money on saving very-late-night service, we owe it to city taxpayers and transit riders to spend the money effectively, rather than perpetuating a horribly outdated route structure through sheer inertia and loss aversion.

Let’s state two basic transit planning precepts that apply here:

  • An effective transit service is a simple, comprehensible service. Ideally, transit should be like driving on a road: you show up and sit down, and it takes you in the same direction, the same way, every time. Riders shouldn’t have to memorize shifting, elaborate patterns of service for different times of day; variations, where unavoidable, should be minimized. While the petal-loops arrangement above is a great way to get a bus within half a mile of most of the people who lived in Seattle during the 1950s, its uniqueness, complexity and indirection detracts from the good work Metro has done over the last two decades, of focusing Seattle’s transit network down to a core of simple, direct, understandable routes.
  • An effective transit service connects the areas of highest likely demand. In the era of relatively cheap cab alternatives (UberX, Sidecar, etc.) and convenient by-the-minute car rentals (car2go), the people using very-late-night transit are likely low-income people going home from the city center, mostly after working swing shift, or maybe from a night out, so it makes sense to have the network radiate out from downtown; this much our current night owl service gets right. But those people aren’t then going home to Queen Anne, Broadmor or Madison Park, and they haven’t been for a generation. People working these jobs were some time ago pushed to less-tony areas of Seattle ($) — Northgate, Lake City, Delridge, White Center, and the southern Rainier Valley — if not out of the city altogether. Night owl routes need to reflect this not-really-new demographic reality.

Given the above, what would a sane night-owl network look like? I would start with the Seattle RapidRide network (Lines C, D, E), and then add the primary bus routes from each of the remaining points of the compass that remain unserved: Northgate, Lake City — 41; U-District, Northgate — 73*; Capitol Hill, U-District — 49; Central District — 3; Rainier Valley — 7; Beacon Hill — 36;  Delridge — 120; and, if I had any money left, Georgetown — 124. By comparison, under the current 15.6% Metro cuts scenario, Seattle would be left with very-late-night trips on RapidRide lines C, D, E, along with Routes 49 and 120; Routes 7, 36 and 124 would lose their very-late-night trips; and Routes 3, 41 and 73 have never had them (as far as I know).

Here’s the bottom line: The smart way for Seattle to spend any potential very-late-night transit money is not to preserve the existing mess of obsolete Night Owl loops, but to add (or preserve) very-late-night trips on the following services, roughly in order of priority: Routes 7, 3, 73, 41, 36 and 124. This restructure will benefit more riders, make better use of taxpayer money, and be more socially and geographically equitable than preserving the current Routes 82, 83, and 84. If we’re going to spend city money on service at this time of night, we should bring the route structure into the 21st century. As part of any “Save the Night Owls!” effort, the Mayor and City Council should seek to have Metro implement a restructure of night owl service along the lines I’ve described here.

* Note that I’m referring to the post-June 2015 restructured Route 73. Before the June restructure, it would probably be best just to run a truncated 73 to Ravenna Boulevard. For the purposes of this post, the alignments of the other core routes on this page don’t change significantly through the cuts process.

Mayor Proposes Funding Night Owls, Deferring Ship Canal Study

The Night Owl System (Excluding RapidRide E)

Today the Seattle Council’s Transportation Committee will receive a briefing from SDOT planner Bill Bryant on the administration’s solution to find $700,000 for night owl service* in Seattle through 2015. $200,000 of this money will come from the Downtown / Ballard rail study (completed jointly with Sound Transit) coming in under budget, according to an administration source familiar with the SDOT analysis.

The other $500,000 comes from deferring SDOT’s Ship Canal Crossing study, which Bruce introduced last year. This study was meant to identify opportunities to improve other modes in conjunction with a major High Capacity Transit (HCT) investment in this corridor, or perhaps even to do so in the absence of such an investment. This study has little to do with the progress of light rail or streetcars.

Unfortunately, the wide range of options in the rail study has complicated planning. With potential crossings at various grades and in various places, key inputs to such a study are uncertain. “Maybe the Ballard/Downtown study would have produced a solution that could easily have grafted on a bike/ped solution,” said SDOT interim Chief of Staff Bill Laborde, “but it’s not as ripe as people thought it might be.”

Though the study is “deferred,” it isn’t firmly placed into a budget given the looming Bridging the Gap (BtG) expiration in 2015. “With more than 5000 bikes crossing the Fremont bridge on some days, there is clearly a need for more bike and pedestrian capacity across the Ship Canal,” says Laborde, but  “a study will be more focused in scope once questions around the timing of ST3 and potential alignment and funding options are in place.”

I could get no commitment from the Administration to include the study in BtG renewal, in practice the opportunity to fund it. If ST’s solution for the corridor includes a deep tunnel or a high bridge unsuitable for other modes, or Ballard-to-downtown rail recedes into the future, then BtG could in principle also provide the funding to construct the bridge.

In my opinion, deferring this study is not quite costless. If SDOT completed it on schedule, even given all the Sound Transit uncertainty, it would be that much easier for the next BtG to actually fund the resulting project. As it is, actually completing a new crossing in the next funding cycle will require using whatever flexibility is built into the package, in particular leveraging whatever grants are available. It’s hard to weigh an in-demand bike/ped connection against low-ridership bus service that provides a lifeline for disadvantaged people. What do you think of this tradeoff?

* The 7, 36, 82, 83, 84, 124, and 280 night owls are currently scheduled for elimination.

Let’s Build a Sand Point Crossing! (Option “SP1”)

Purple Line From Ballard to MSFT
Seattle is defined by its waterways. Seattle congestion is defined by its water crossings. Focusing on existing crossings of Lake Washington may have unnecessarily constrained Sound Transit’s study of the best northerly route across the lake.

Their options to get from UW to Kirkland on to Redmond are on pages 3-9 of the Central and East HCT Corridor Study. Each of the options presented misses opportunities to connect major population and employment centers and contains enormous challenges, such as a new bridge crossing of the Montlake Cut.

STB previously covered many of the problems with a 520 light rail crossing. Using 520 forces ST to double back on the west side of the bridge and deliver riders to the east side far from good transit destinations. Below, we will focus on what we want Sound Transit to study, why we want it, and why you should join us in supporting it.

The Sand Point Crossing (Option “SP1”) Continue reading “Let’s Build a Sand Point Crossing! (Option “SP1”)”

Transit Report Card: Denver

A brand new Denver Union Station
A brand new Denver Union Station

While visiting Denver in June, I thought I’d resurrect the old ‘report card’ series here on STB.

Denver may not seem to have much in common with Seattle. Sea level, water-bound, temperate, and hilly Seattle is a stark contrast to the Mile High, dusty, rain-shadowed, and flat landscape of Denver. But we are both relatively young pioneer cities, Denver is our nearest peer city in population, and both cities are progressive islands in a sea of moderate/libertarian suburbs. And yeah, we both have legal pot. So perhaps some comparisons can be useful.

As a transit advocate, it’s an exciting and informative time to visit Denver, which is in the midst of a once-in-a-century transformation. Light rail lines opened in 1994, 2000, 2002, 2006, and 2013, (and one was suspended in 2009), and six more light and heavy rail lines are slated to open in the next few years. The ongoing Fastracks project is the most ambitious transit expansion in the U.S., and the most intense period of construction is currently underway. When originally conceived, the project promised 119 miles of rail in every direction, all to open in 2016; and the original price tag, just under $5B, was 14 times cheaper per-mile than our University Link. Even when rising costs (~$7B now) and the recession pushed back portions of the project for years, many projects (The Gold Line, the I-225 Line, a small segment of the Northwest Line, and the East Line to Denver Airport) are still on track for 2016, and a shortened version of the North Line will open in 2018. Daily ridership on the 6 lines is 87,000 on its current 48-mile system.
Continue reading “Transit Report Card: Denver”

News Roundup: Local Planners


This is an open thread.