Pronto Installation at Cal Anderson (Photo by Ansel Herz)
Pronto Installation at Cal Anderson (Photo by Ansel Herz via Twitter)

This is an open thread. 

159 Replies to “News Roundup: 71% More”

  1. Please be careful with the Development Capacity Report. It’s a political document and the anti-growth crowd often cite to it to try and make the case that there’s plenty of capacity to build without upzoning.

    Of course, development capacity is a useful number, but it’s used completely wrong. To get that 70% from Capitol Hill you’d need to bulldoze the whole neighborhood and build every building to its maximum envelope. Rents would have to be insanely high to make that happen.

    1. Matt, that is not true. It is a rigorous data driven document – the antithesis of a political one. Please read the methodology, which is in the report to understand which parcels are deemed redevelopable. There is a ratio threshold of existing assessed property value to postcard redeveloped value that must be exceeded in order for the parcel to be considered redevelopable. Other non developable lands like landmarks and publicly owned sites are also deemed ineligible for redevelopment.

      1. It is absolutely a political document, hidden in data. I did look at the methodology. They use 80% of the development capacity to claim that they can meet 20 year growth targets. Think about what it would take on Cap Hill to get 80% of the remaining capacity in 20 years. You’re talking about bulldozing a very large part of the hill. Multiply that by every neighborhood in Seattle.

        It will never happen. The numbers are absolutely set up to give us high rents, if we base zoning changes on them.

        I haven’t yet been able to ferret out where that 80% of development capacity in 20 years comes from, but that’s your political piece right there.

    2. This is 100% correct. The argument flows naturally. If we’ve got 71% capacity left, we don’t need an upzone.

    3. Large areas of lowrise zoning have remained single-family for decades. On Broadway we saw two one-story supermarket lots stand vacant under 40-foot zoning, but they took off when the zoning was changed to 60 feet, and several other buildings followed them. Indeed, the four-story development at Broadway & Roy under the old rules now looks sad, a short anachronism and the loss of two potential stories of units (which would have slightly relieved the low-vacancy pressure). Developers generally only build when they can significantly increase the number of floors or units, and that’s a primary reason why these lowrise areas have remained single-family or two-story-apartment for so long. I think that’s what Frank is getting at, that some zoning capacity may be formally available but not practically available because the difference between the current building and the maximum is too small to justify replacing the building. At least I hope that’s included in the analysis.

      1. Sadly the report says things like “Seattle Has Adequate Capacity to Grow”, with that “adequate capacity” simply meaning that they can meet their 20 year goal if less than 80% of the capacity is built out. They do reduce the full capacity by what can be rationally built, but don’t take into account what makes sense to rebuild. In fact, it specifically ignores that, and uses an infinite timescale – in other words assumes what could be built once the useful life of all buildings is passed and they need to be demo’d anyway.

        Again, this is very useful info to have. But it’s too easy for people to jump to the conclusion that this reflects real capacity that’s available.

    4. So obviously, this relates explicitly to what we were talking about the other day.

      I wanted to write a long(er-even-than-usual), conflicted comment rooted in my blasé feelings for both the Capitol Hill of the recent past or the one of the present. I wanted to note that, despite the zeal expressed by so many transplants who have never seen a city before, and despite the superlatives in official documents (“densest neighborhood in the Northwestern United States, blah, blah, blah”), Capitol Hill has always struck me as surprisingly sedate and dull, as aesthetically and culturally monotonous, as inconveniently laid out.

      A big part of this is that, yes, it isn’t really all that dense: the streets are too wide, the blocks between the major streets are often underutilized, and that even the older constructions were often built too blocky, too few per block-face, reducing visual stimuli and ensuring that you must walk further to find your destination-type of need or interest.

      Or development approach, of course, makes this worse rather than better, eschewing the very concept of infill, insisting on bulldozing and façading and generally amalgamating and reducing diversity instead. And only nominally increasing density anyway.

      We’ve discussed such conudra before, suggesting ways to restore a balance between preserving what is both pleasing and functional, while allowing density to do what it needs to do. I don’t know how to convince developers to seek an infill approach, or to make infill pencil out here the way it clearly does in a Boston or New York.

      But one thing is for certain: an rationalization that abuses the “available” capacity in the Density Quarantine to endorse the 100% eradication and replacement of every existing urbanized area in the city is not a serious policy argument, and to the extent that it may be cited as a reason to double down on the Quarantine policy, its destructive potential must not be relegated to a footnote.

      Even the free-market purists on this blog can’t really think New Beijing is a model urbanist approach, can they?

      1. I’m not quite sure where the end of this is coming from (and I agree with your comment until the end). I’m certainly not arguing to bulldoze CH – I’m saying that’s what it would take to use this supposed “capacity”. I’m saying that to show those who say we have plenty of capacity realize exactly what they’re implying. I think the general attitude I’ve seen around here is a preference for infill and replacing the short or flat with the tall and setbackless. This will take upzones or some other major change to meet that capacity, but it can be done without bulldozing the whole neighborhood.

      2. Yes, I am agreeing with you. The logical implication of that statistic is NIMBYism in its purist form: “We shouldn’t care what negative externalities we force within the ‘Growth Quarantine’, so long as no change whatsoever appears in my backyard”.

        You have often lapsed into the tautologies of market purism, ignoring some well-demonstrated flaws in the expectation of elasticity or the fungiblity of (non-identical, non-identically-located) housing goods. Martin arguably takes these logical shortcuts to an even more bad-policy-enabling extreme.

        But this isn’t one of those times. This time, you’re absolutely correct that the “71%” statistic is ripe for abuse by those who would permit Beijing-ing from Pioneer Square to 15th&Roy, just as long as their quasi-Mayberries remain forever immune to gradual and organic growth.

  2. Question for Mark Dublin (or anyone else who knows the answer, but especially Mark because of his involvement with the DSTT)…

    What are the operational efficiencies or tools you have mentioned Metro could implement in the DSTT? Obviously off-board payment would speed things up a lot, but you mebtioned something about control towers or something like that which were built but never used. I’ve seen you mention it a few times but I can’t find anything you’ve written with the details.


    1. The easiest and most effective would be to start moving some of the bus routes to the surface. this would improve tunnel ops for both Link and for the remaining tunnel bus routes. The best candidates are those bus routes that will be supplanted by U-Link when the Link extension to Husky Stadium opens in early 2016.

      1. There’s some belief that that last set might be empty… do you have any evidence to suggest that it isn’t?

      2. As a regular 255 rider I would *love* it if my route would move to the surface.

        The 255 gets the disadvantages of the tunnel since joint ops started (an absolute operational mess at peak hours, particularly PM peak) without the biggest advantage (a straight shot to and from the freeway or E-3). Before the 260 and 265 stopped running, I was guaranteed to get from University Street onto the freeway more quickly with those buses than with a rush-hour 255.

      3. so where exactly do these buses go if they move to the surface, is there enough room on 3rd or 2nd/4th?

      4. @jon,

        They go to the surface, and it won’t be a problem. During DSTT reconstruction ALL downtown buses operated on the surface and the improvements they made to surface ops handled everything very nicely. In fact, there was hardly an issue. Now it will be even less of an issue because Link has absorbed much of the demand and those riders will stay in the tunnel.

        Really, having all the remaining tunnel buses operate on the surface is not an issue, and we have demonstrated operationally that it is not an issue.

        That said, if Prop 1 passes there might be even more buses on downtown streets. But that is hardly an issue with Link, it’s something that should be handled within the confines of Prop 1 planning and implementation.

      5. “During DSTT reconstruction ALL downtown buses operated on the surface and the improvements they made to surface ops handled everything very nicely. In fact, there was hardly an issue.”

        It took 30-40 minutes to get from one end to the other (Convention Place to Intl Dist). It was only “not an issue” if you don’t care about travel time. Granted, 3rd Avenue has been improved since then, but it’s still slower than the tunnel, and would be more slower with all buses on the surface.

        Although as a counter-argument, yesterday afternoon I spent some 20 minutes in the tunnel between Convention Place and Westlake. I transferred to the 131 which was just leaving. It took a whopping 45 minutes to get from Convention Place to the south edge of downtown. Originally I was going to transfer to another tunnel bus to Spokane Street (a 10-minute walk from Costco), but after that tunnel blockage I was afraid there’d be other tunnel blockages after it, so I went up to get the 131/132.

  3. For a proper BRT system, is there any advantage to having the bus lanes run along the sides of the roadway rather than having center lanes?

    1. There is one advantage: riders do not have to cross the street to a center platform. So people living to the side of the street taken by morning commute buses don’t have to wait for any lights to access the platform. But, everyone has to cross the entire street on one direction of a daily trip or another so this is not a huge advantage.

      There is one overwhelming disadvantage: curbside lanes must be “BAT” (“business access/transit”) lanes and accommodate right turners. Out in the boonies this isn’t always a severe disadvantage because there is often enough room to provide a right-turn pocket to the right of the bus lane. If that is done consistently at intersections with many pedestrians crossing the perpendicular street and the pocket is long enough to hold enough cars to be a useful refuge, the damage isn’t major.

      But anywhere that right turners must be accommodated within the BAT lane and there are frequent pedestrians crossing the perpendicular street, buses are badly delayed by the right turners waiting for the pedestrians.

      This is why the proposal to substitute ETB’s for the streetcar on First Avenue won’t work. Bus reliability is destroyed by all the pedestrians around the Pike Place Market.

      1. You are still fallaciously assuming that the route serves an inherent purpose.

        No technology will “work” when your routing premise is an unnecessary parallel to existing high-volume corridors and a nonsensical through-route requiring convoluted zig-zags.

      2. David,

        The ETB’s in your through-route proposal do not stop on First. Sure SDOT could buy both sides ETB’s but they wouldn’t cost a lot less than Modern Streetcars. Or, Iguess they could run left side on Stewart and Olive. Ineither case, the system would lose connectivity between First Hill and the entertainment centers on First Avenue and between SLU and those same centers.

        The SLU streetcar running in reserved lanes south of Denny Way also has real possibility of being a decent link to Union Station for SLU workers.

        Look, the City is probably going to do this, barring another serious recession, so let’s try to get the best system possible.

      3. Read my proposal again… they do not stop *on* 1st, but they stop directly adjacent to it in all four directions. Stops at Madison/1st and Pine/1st in both directions should be plenty good for the connectivity you discuss. In any case, my response was intended to be a bit tongue-in-cheek.

      4. I don’t even see the streetcar as being much used by Sounder commuters. No matter how you much you expedite the ROW, it still won’t feel direct, because it isn’t. You also presume that a ton of SLU employees are commuting from the distant south end; I don’t know that there’s any particular evidence of that being true.

        I’ve already said that the exclusive-lane design is the least-worst version of the proposal. But thanks in part to bad press from the DC streetcar, and the hard second-look at mediocre projects completed or underway nationwide that DC precipitated, our little national streetcar fad has begun its inevitable nosedive in the last couple of months. Even I have been surprised by how quick and harsh the public about-face on these symbolic downtown transit projects has been.

        A project that can’t sustain itself on its mobility merits, even if it isn’t quite as pathetically slow as the worst fad-made examples, is hardly a shoo-in anymore. One corrective to the Federal award algorithm and the Connector is toast.

      5. I kind of hope the Connector gets built because it actually seems like the first decent streetcar project proposed in Seattle since the old system was ripped out. :-P

        The First Hill Streetcar is the most misdesigned, misbegotten thing ever… so they were designing this as a replacement for a First Hill Link station, and somehow they managed to not have the streetcar stops connect directly to the Link stations at either end? And put a giant zig-zag in the middle to slow it down?

        How do you even DO that? Who was trying to sabotage the design? It should have been marked as “does not meet purpose and need”.

    2. There are a bunch of tradeoffs around platform design. Many center-running BRT designs use center platforms, which require buses with left-side doors. Chicago’s Ashland BRT will have center platforms, for example, so it can’t be operated without the BRT buses, and other routes using Ashland can’t use the same stops.

      A lot of it has more to do with specifics of design, location, traffic conditions, and signal cycles than necessary properties of side-running and center-running designs. If you run BRT down the middle you have to deal with left turns somehow… by allowing left turns from the bus lane, or by having a separate left-turn pocket (which is essentially required at intersections where left-on-green is banned)… or you could just ban left turns and have everyone make San Francisco lefts. That’s a pretty close parallel to right-turns blocking a side-running bus lane (even the banning turns bit — right turns are banned from SB 5th at Pine, in part to prevent right-lane backups, though it isn’t a bus lane).

      1. “or you could just ban left turns and have everyone make San Francisco lefts”

        Does that mean U-turns? I always thought of that as a general California thing, not particularly San Francisco. Although now they’re becoming more common here (MLK and Bellevue).

      2. What Erin said. Lefts from highways like 19th Ave and Sunset Blvd. are usually a matter of taking three rights. IMO we’d be much better off if this was the case from Aurora. Maybe some other roads, too, where there isn’t room for turn pockets.

      3. In this specific application, left turn pockets are accommodated where there is no station adjacent to the intersection (and there’s somewhere to go for northbound to westbound turners).

  4. Can I please rant about something? Why, at Rapid Ride stops, when there is a working off-board ORCA reader, do I often see the vast majority of ORCA users line up at the front door to tap in? Can any drivers verify this phenomenon? And no, these aren’t tourists who just arrived in the city and don’t understand how RR payment works. I live on the eastside, and this is going on with MS workers, who presumably are regular riders. And yes, while you can partially blame the cash payer for holding up the line, on the other hand, there shouldn’t even be a line! Those ORCA users should be tapping off-board and boarding the two back doors and then the bus would be on its way while the cash payer was still digging for coins!

    1. You’re absolutely right, Sam. I guess Metro should run an education campaign. One would think that they would have done so by now, but maybe “Funds!”.

    2. I used RR E for the first time last week, and it was not at all clear how it worked.

      I had to ask a fellow rider how the driver would know I paid. She just shrugged her shoulders. That sort of non-explanation causes anxiety in most people. Anxiety that is more than equal to waiting 5 seconds and tapping in on the bus.

      Some way of conveying that it is now a honor system with random checks would increase off-board tapping I would think. If that is even what it is???

    3. The lack of a line in any other door is exactly why I tap at the stop and go to an alternate door. My only twist I that I tap when I see the RR coming. Then I know that my card gets tagged and I get the maximal time for a transfer.

      RR E also has that 2 zone situation that I have not figured out about. My attitude is that I’m tapping and screw it for the 2 zone.

      1. Tapping when you see the bus coming is also useful when you’re at a stop that also serves non-RR routes. No sense in tapping before you know which bus you’ll be getting on.

        I guess if everybody did this, there would be a potential for a jam-up at the off-board reader when the bus pulls up.

      2. There’s also the case where the next ride to where you are going might not be a RR — e.g. Microsoft to Crossroads might be a B or a 245. I suppose you could look at the arrival indicator, but my (very limited) experience is that the times they show are pure fiction. Do they at least get the order of arrival right?

      3. “No sense in tapping before you know which bus you’ll be getting on.”

        If that extra 15 minutes of transfer time will really make a difference for you, and you don’t have a pass. Usually people transfer before 1:45 is reached and they don’t transfer a second time. And with a pass, while one segment of the trip may be higher than the pass value, it’s unlikely that both segments will be.

      4. @Mike. I suppose I hadn’t really thought things through. Do you know if there are any potential pass back issues?

        @Ren [below] I wonder if the driver who was still charging Peak fares at 7:15pm last night would have yelled at me for an off board tap…

      5. The bus has a different card reader so it’s not a pass back but a transfer.

        Offboard readers never do passback, by the way. The second tap cancels the first. So if you tap for a train but then decide to take a bus, tap again to cancel the maximum fare.

      6. What bothers me is you can’t tell from looking at the card whether you remembered to tap if you tend to do it unconsciously. So I end up going back to a reader and tapping a second and third time to make sure. That puts a lovely round of database entries in my history as if I’m wishy-washy can’t-decide-whether-to-ride, but there’s no other way to confirm it. (Unless you have the mobile app that reads ORCA cards.)

      7. “RR E also has that 2 zone situation that I have not figured out about. My attitude is that I’m tapping and screw it for the 2 zone.”

        An inspector may give you a $120 citation then. Metro’s position is that the readers are set to 1-zone because a large percentage of riders are making short trips. Those who do cross 145th peak hours are supposed to go in the front door and tap with the driver or they’re fare evaders. They also have to ask the driver for the 2-zone fare if the reader says 1-zone (which I assume it does, for the same reason the offboard readers do). This is insane. It’s not an express route, and some people are going just one mile from 155th to 130th, and whole point of RapidRide is to speed up boarding (which using the front door and making the driver press a couple extra buttons for the 2-zone fare is the opposite of).

      8. I should add, Metro’s tight budget is one of the reasons these problems come up. If it had enough money to just forego the 2-zone fares without thinking about it, it probably would. That’s what we get for squeezing Metro so hard for the past 14 years.

    4. Although I don’t ride RapidRide very often, when I do I usually tap my card at the platform reader. The only time I don’t is when it’s 6:30pm or later. The reason for this is because I can never be certain that the driver is going to allow or not allow the platform tapping when it approaches 7pm, the time that platform tapping is no longer permitted for the day. I got burned a couple years ago when I tapped my card before getting on (when it was close to 7pm), the bus pulled up after 7pm, I walked on and got yelled at by the driver for not tapping my card. When I explained I had already done so at the platform he said “What does the sign say?” So I tapped my card again.

      What I don’t understand is why the platform card readers don’t just shut off after 7pm. If you can’t use it after 7pm, why would let people successfully use it?

      1. I wondered that too at the beginning, since I assumed the readers would turn off. But Metro told me, “No, it’ll still accept your tap, but tap again on the bus.”

        The 7pm problem sounds like the usual arbitrariness of some drivers doing things differently from other drivers. It’s a legitimate question, and the driver should not be yelling but explaining. But when you get dozens of fare evaders in your face every day you may get impatient. The 2-zone fare does not start and end the moment the clock reaches 3 or 6pm, but when the run has the majority of its stops in one time period, so on a given rout it may starts at 2:30 and ends at 5:30. Metro has never been clear on whether the 7pm rule is the same or refers to the moment you board even if the bus is late. So I usually do both between 6:30 and 7 to cover both cases.

    5. I think Metro was under the mistaken belief that passengers would eventually figure it out. Through word of mouth, or watching others, or reading the explanation in the schedule. Well, a great many regular Rapid Ride riders have no idea they don’t have to show the driver the transfer ticket, or don’t know they can tap off board and enter through the rear doors.

      What Metro should have done with every new rollout of the various lines is program an announcement that would play once during every trip for about the first few months until people were trained and educated. That didn’t happen. Well, it’s not too late, is it? Why not start the education now?

      An announcement like, “Please remember, in order to speed up boarding, if you have a valid transfer ticket, you can board through any door. You do not need to show the driver your ticket. You only need to show it to Fare Enforcement Officers when asked. Thank you.” And, “Please remember, in order to speed up boarding, when waiting for your Rapid Ride bus, pre-tap your ORCA card at the off-board reader station, if possible, then board through any door. You do not need to tell the driver you tapped outside. Fare Enforcement Officers will check cards to ensure payment. Thank you.”

      These announcements should run every trip on every RR for about 3 to 6 months. Then people will be properly trained.

      Can someone this idea to whoever oversees Rapid Ride?

      1. Sounds like just the right voice and completeness. I expect the someone at Metro is already forwarding the suggestion. I really like the once a trip (or maybe every fifteen minutes?) idea. MAX yammers about the doors and giving your seat to seniors and disabled folks afterevery stop! Yuk!

      2. If Metro really wants to get everyone to use off-board payment, they need lots of announcements and make it 24 hours. The reason people hesitate to switch to off-board payment or exiting in the back is that Metro is only half enthusiastic about it. Half the time it promotes it, half the time it doesn’t, and people are threatened with potential lectures or citations over the 7pm rule or not paying two-zone fares on the bus. That’s another thing, two zone fares. It’s ridiculous to have off-board payment and then say you can’t use it if you’re traveling two zones peak hours. Just abolish the two-zone fare on the E, so that it can become the primary trunk route it was intended to be.

      3. ….and then make possible to actually obey what the announcements are trying to tell you.

        For instance, on a bus in the DSTT, a tape loop says “Please leave from the rear doors”. Please open the rear doors after 10 sec, don’t make us yell “back door!” several times. Its the DSTT, for G*dsake!

        As passengers, most of us are trying to obey. We need to know what obey is. And if we get a critical mass of passengers that do obey, they train everybody else.

    6. And the fact that many STILL exit through the front door. Even when they are at the back of the bus! Simply makes no sense.

      1. I only do it when I have a bike. I’ve still been yelled at by drivers for doing so, but I’m not going to chance having the bus take off with my bike.

        At least one of the drivers who yelled at me also was yelling at disabled people who needed the ramp, so I chalk that up to a driver having a bad day.

  5. Looks like the 31 is going to be a horrific mess with that Emerson Overpass project going on.

      1. That would make the most sense, as there aren’t a huge number of riders that get on at Fisherman’s Terminal or 22nd north of Dravus, but can it turn at Dravus and 22nd?

    1. I bet they’ll try to preserve coverage, which implies using the SDOT detours. But I *hope* they use Dravus for the sake of all the non-Magnolia 31/32/65/75 riders’ sanity. I don’t think they’d try to make the 22nd/Dravus turn; if they use Dravus they’ll just turn left on 20th and go up Thorndyke, like past Magnolia reroutes.

      1. Why speculate when the reroute is posted? (I didn’t think of that until after posting, but… there it is!) They’re using Dravus and making the turn at 22nd, which seems less crazy than trying to make the U-turns shown in that SDOT map.

        The right turn there will be interesting.

      2. The 22nd/Gilman thing must be about residential coverage to the north… 22nd/Gilman isn’t any closer to Fisherman’s Terminal than 12th/Nickerson now that the South Ship Canal Trail crosses under the Ballard Bridge.

      3. It doesn’t look like Gilman and 22nd is any wider or easier to navigate than 20th & Dravus. Maybe slightly easier because the curve radius of the block on the south side at 22nd and Gilman?

      4. Definitely easier to navigate, mostly because Gilman is so much wider than Dravus, also partly because there is quite a bit less traffic on Gilman than Dravus. I thought about this possibility earlier, before the reroute was posted, but decided it was a bit too indirect. It’s not a bad idea at all.

    2. The obvious solution for the pedestrian detour would be to say, “Use Dravus, don’t bother going near Emerson.” That won’t work for people going specifically from the north edge of Magnolia to the north edge of Queen Anne, but those are probably a small percentage of users. The last time I was on Magnolia Emerson, I was heading for a southbound D bus. I noted the convoluted pedestrian path (before construction), and I had to backtrack significantly because I didn’t know the path. (I was on the north side of Emerson and you have to be on the south side to reach the stairway and bus stop, so I had to backtrack three blocks to where I could cross Emerson.) If I did live near Magnolia Emerson, I would rarely go to Queen Anne Emerson; probably only if I were attending SPU and that would only be for a couple years. So in most cases, for any combination of residences and destinations, it would be just as easy to go straight to Dravus rather than doing that Emerson detour.

      1. There is a gross and sketchy stairway underpass you can take from the north side of Emerson/west sidewalk of the Ballard Bridge to the bus stop. No one uses it. It’s better to take your chances with the jaywalk.

        My prediction is that northbound traffic on 15th will be significantly less bad for the duration of the project, especially in the PM peak and after long bridge openings. The switch from a 3>1 to a 2>1 merger point, and the reduction in total merger volume, will especially benefit buses that can bypass the backed-up primary lanes as well.

        I would expect a bit of a clusterfuck at Dravus, though. It’s probably time to temporarily restrict the parking and the teriyaki-loading zone that flank the northbound RR stop, and to consider explicitly permitting buses to use the southbound right-turn lane to continue straight.

  6. That article about driverless cars is a fantasy. There will not be a significant number of driverless cars on the road in five or ten years.

    It will take many decades before there will be a large enough proportion of driverless cars to enable strategies that could reduce congestion like platooning or smart intersections. In fact, some ways the cars might be used could increase congestion. For example, sending the car home alone after it drops you at work, then driving back to pick you up later, or having the car just cruise around after dropping you off for a short errand.

    1. Speculation over driverless cars has been all over the map from what I’ve seen, which isn’t too surprising since nobody really knows how people will actually use them and what their effect on cities will be. Ultimately I think it’s too early to really know their effects and how people will use them. They do have some positive potential (safety, may require less space for parking) and some negative (could enable more sprawl and energy inefficiency).

      I agree that we’re unlikely to see major changes for some time because widespread adoption will likely take a generation.

      1. Driverless cars won’t really be functional for two generations — minimum Then you can start talking about widespread adoption.

        The pattern-matching problem is much, much harder for computers than it is for people. This is something we’re actually pretty good at, so it’s hard to program computers to do stuff like noticing deer at the side of the road.

    2. It’s interesting that people are currently willing to accept driverless cars in theory, but the concept of the driverless train operating on city streets is anathema.

      It will be interesting to see what happens after the first accident – and you know that eventually someone will not pay attention and walk out in front of one, Will it then become as difficult for the driverless car as for driverless trains to gain acceptance?

      1. Nobody has looked at applying driverless car technology to trains, at least not that I’ve heard. The ban is for existing train technology.

        Although with the railroads going to positive signal control, it wouldn’t surprise me if they start adding other driverless-enabling technology in the future. Why wouldn’t they be persuing it as much as the car industry is?

    3. I’m sorry I didn’t respond quicker, Gabe. Coffee-shop wi-fi went down just as I hit the “post” key. Also, thanks for reminding me how much I need to set down some of those measures- keep thinking I’ll do a whole posting, but meantime:

      Next Tunnel trip, notice those elevated glassed in offices, at IDS at the foot of the northbound platform, and at CPS under the ramp where buses from the staging lanes have to go around it. Looks more like a control tower.

      It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve been inside either one, but I remember a large flat console full of toggle switches- each controlling a signal at the head of each staging lane, and an additional one at the Tunnel entrance.

      To get project approved at all, we needed to give suburban residents, who were helping pay for the Tunnel project, some use of the DSTT until their LINK lines arrived. Nobody expected that it would take 19 years for the first train to clear Westlake in service.

      So the design intent of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel was to operate a system starting with dual-power buses only, which would then progress to joint light rail and bus operations, and finally to rail only.

      “Platoon” means a line of buses organized to move together. Idea was give bus operations the same organization as rail cars- whose great advantage is that they can be coupled.

      Coupling buses complicates vehicle design. (Transit magazines sometimes show two very old Russian trolleybuses coupled, but would probably void warranty on our next order.) So engineers calculated that Tunnel would work better if platoons “pulsed” through the Tunnel like heart beats, rather than trickling like drains.

      Controlled staging also promised a really big advantage: staging supervisors could determine platoon order. So buses could stop at given locations- more than two per platform. So passengers always knew where to stand for which route- and no bus had to stop more than once per station.

      From what I remember, the bus organization plan didn’t last 19 months- probably more like 19 days. The Metro Council cut the bus order in half, reducing much pressure to organize. But I think the company decided the dispatch system was just too much trouble for something (mistakenly) though temporary.

      Lack of control over approaching freeways would have made tower supervision like trolley-wired air traffic control- requiring serious skill, training, and likely extra personnel. Ditto for driver training re: need to think as a team.

      So it’s hard to swear to results of something that never happened. But still think that however much longer joint operations last, some measures will still save time, and therefore money. Small things:

      Replace fare boxes with fare inspectors, and re-purpose security guards as information agents- so drivers, also like on LINK, drivers only drive. Forbid- and mean it- drivers starting and stopping for “runners.” And add reminder to passengers over signs and loudspeakers.

      But most important, having Management and Union meet together frequently to keep DSTT organized. And provide means, and encourage operating personnel to communicate with each other- right now, there’s absolutely no place for bus and LINK drivers to speak to each other on duty!

      And staging signals or not- if they’re even there now, or at LCC- have someone on duty who knows the DSTT and everything in or approaching it on duty at all times. World’s best orchestra sucks without a conductor.

      Long answer. But long delay on my part. Hope it helps. And by the way, Lazarus, get some reserved bus lanes and signal pre-empt on surface streets and we’ll talk about Tunnel buses up there.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mark,

        Metro has committed to removing all tunnel buses by sometime in 2019. KCM should stick to that commitment and not attempt to hold LR riders hostage.

        It was always the plan that the buses would leave the tunnel. KCM should be moving forward toward implementing that plan and not attempting to extract goodies like signal pre-emption or dedicated surface lanes in exchange. Those things might have merit, but they are unconnected to the KCM’s prior commitment to leave the tunnel, and KCM shouldn’t be attempting to change the agreement at this late date.

        Additionally, certain bus routes will be supplanted by U-Link. Removing these routes from downtown will not increase surface congestion and thus won’t require dedicated surface lanes or signal pre-emption.

        That said, my understanding is that the original platooning system was abandoned because it required too much skill and operational control. KCM was never able to operate the tunnel to its full promised capacity. While the abandonment of tight operational control probably contributed to that failure on the part of KCM, KCM’s willingness to operate the tunnel at less than promised capacity and reliability in exchange for reduced operational control costs speaks volumes to where KCM places its priorities. They have operated the tunnel like that for decades now, and it is a little late for them to be saying, “Hey, we know we can do better – just trust us!”

        And the basic question still remains; How much short term tax money should KCM be allowed to throw at Joint Ops when we know it is going away in just a few short years anyhow? None of these things is likely to get implemented before sometime in 2016, and at that point rail only DSTT operation is just 2 to 3 years away. Is it really worth all this expense just for 2 more years of service of a very unreliable system?

        And the number of DSTT rail users is likely to exceed the number of DSTT bus users sometime shortly after U-Link opens anyhow. At that point the minority of bus users will be holding back the majority of rail users.

      2. Lazarus –

        Your posts only make sense if any of your assumptions are true.

        Assumption 1) Downtown- U Dist routes will end when LINK reaches Husky Stadium.

        False – It is looking more and more likely that the 71-series (or a form thereof) will continue to operate until U Link reaches Brooklyn Station.

        Assumption 2) Buses out of the tunnel by 2019.

        False – Again, it is looking more and more likely that buses will stay in the tunnel until 2021. All the buzz from King Street Center indicates that this is the case.

        Metro and ST can do a lot better job running joint operations. Its time for someone to hold their feet to the fire and get it done.

      3. While it is very unlikely that the entire 71/72/73 series will be canceled when U-link opens, it is not at all out of the realm of possibility for the number of trips these routes operate to be reduced, as Link will absorb a good chunk of their passengers.

        Even if we could just go from 5-minute to 10-minute peak headways on that corridor, that would be enough to have a significant effect on reducing tunnel delays.

      4. @KH,

        Your sources of info are obviously different than mine. My sources state that KCM has already agreed to remove all tunnel buses from the DSTT sometime in 2019.

        Nobody is saying that all U-Dist to downtown buses will end when U-Link opens in 2016, but these routes will see significant modification/restructuring sometime after U-Link opens. U-Link will become the preferred ride between these two destinations, and having KCM operate competing service that is higher cost, lower ridership, lower reliability and with longer trip times would be a waste of taxpayer money for no gain.


        You are correct, the 71/72/73 series is where you will most likely see the greatest restructuring. There simply is no reason to maintain all these routes at their current frequency. There will be changes, and the changes will result in fewer of these buses going downtown.

      5. Several months ago they said buses would leave by 2019 when the turnback track in Intl Dist is installed. But news reports in the past month said buses might remain until 2021. That doesn’t necessarily mean all the current routes; it could be just one or two routes.

      6. @Mike Orr,

        You are correct: The pacing item for ST wanting the buses out of the DSTT is the start of construction on the turnbacks. For a variety of reasons these turnbacks have to be complete before the start of service on Northgate Link in 2021, and if you work the construction schedules backwards that means buses have to leave in 2019.

        That is what people seem not to understand – it’s not the start of service on these various extensions that drive the schedule, but instead it is the start of construction/testing/demonstration that drive the schedule. For example…if you want to support 2021, then you have to start in 2019.

        However, all this anger aimed at ST over buses leaving the tunnel might be misplaced. It is possible that the driving factor for determining when buses leave the tunnel won’t be ST, but instead will be driven by the Convention Center. It is widely understood that CPS will be “sold” for convention center expansion, and once that happens buses will be out. (It’s sort of a strange echo of what happened to the waterfront streetcar when they started construction on the sculpture park).

      7. Will the turnback block all buses, or only buses going to I-90? If it’s blocking all buses, I don’t understand the recent reports that buses might remain in the tunnel until 2021.

      8. !00% blocked, no buses after that. And there are some other construction related considerations as well which also drive the DSTT towards rail-only in 2019.

        I don’t understand the 2021 comments either. Such comments have no basis in fact and seem to be more of wishful thinking than actual reality on the ground.

        But it still might not be ST that drives the overall schedule for buses vacating. What is happening at the north end could be the driving factor.

      9. The majority of 71//72/73 riders are headed to the West side of campus, the Ave, Northwest U-District, or points north. UW station is very far away from all of these riders. Sure it is convenient if you are going to a football game, the hospital, health science center or SE campus, but elsewhere in the U-district, not so much.

      10. Poked around a bit on the web. It appears that the Convention Center wants to complete the purchase of the CPS property from Metro this year with a construction start in 2017 and a completion date of 2019. Such a schedule would require the removal of ALL noses from the DSTT in 2017 – two years earlier than currently envisioned.

        So it would appear that the conversion of the DSTT to rail only will be driven by the Convention Center expansion and not by ST at all. And that it will happen earlier than currently thought.

      11. Would require the removal of all buses from the DSTT in 2017, not “noses”. Darn autocorrect.

      12. I’ll remember that dubious “benefit” the next time my folks are forced to pay a whopping surcharge on their hotel stay, to pay for a massive anti-urban building that will be used half a dozen times a year.

        So glad I’ll have to wait 6x longer in the tunnel, too, for the cross-downtown hops that are its only use to me (and to the vast majority of Seattleites) 98% of the time.

      13. Also, it looks like Prop 1 will be significantly expanding the 70-series express schedule, to give us the useful all-hour northeasterly service that is decades overdue. (That’s the opposite of your prior prediction, btw.)

        Nice that those buses will now take significantly longer across downtown, because PAX! or something.

      14. DP, let us know if the hotel surcharge is higher, particularly for a non-Convention Center hotel. It’s a given that hotels connected to convention centers are the most expensive: that’s the way it is everywhere and it’s because they attract executive types who want all the luxuries. Peons either get their company to pay or choose another hotel or motel.

      15. .d.p.
        The convention center expansion will be used more than 6x per year.

        With the exhibit space below grade hopefully the building design will be lee anti-urban than these things typically are.

      16. Sorry, but the same academics who have long debunked the “stadium windfall” claims have similarly undermined Convention Bureau claims of “overwhelming demand” for mega-sized spaces.

        You shouldn’t buy claims of convention-center administrators any more than you should buy the rhetoric of highway-expansion professionals.

        The expanded space will be needed half a dozen times per year. Tops. Mark these words.

      17. Mike, the ever-increasing Convention tax is applied to every hotel room in King County. There’s no avoiding it. You, average tourist, get to subsidize the grand bureaucratic boondoggle. Forever and ever.

      18. d.p.
        A couple of things:
        *Even with the expansion our convention center will still be one of the smaller ones in a major city.
        *The Washington State Convention Center has not required an operating subsidy since opening, something very unusual for convention centers.
        *The hotels are pushing for this expansion. Now it could be argued they don’t want the hotel/motel tax repurposed for another use that doesn’t benefit them quite so directly.
        *i know of a couple of organizations who have attempted to hold their annual convention in Seattle but have been unable to due to a lack of availability during the preferred months. You may not believe it but ‘no room at the inn’ is a valid and real thing for those trying to book conventions in Seattle.

        In any case given the complete lack of any serious organized opposition to convention center expansion, griping about it here isn’t going to make it go away. It would be far better if you were to direct your efforts toward making the building design as good as it can be given the use and location.

    4. There will not be a significant number of driverless cars on the road in five or ten years.

      Commercial roll-out is less than ten years away. I’ve been in one down in Mountain View, and I promise you, people are going to want those.

      1. That may very well be, but will they be able to afford them? Will they be ready to trade in their current car? Teslas and Volts and Leafs have been around for a few years, but it’s pretty rare to see one on the road.

        One thing that might drive acceptance is some service like Car2Go making a fleet purchase of Google cars. Probably not Car2Go themselves unless Mercedes has some similar autonomous vehicle. Does anyone know if Google plans to license their technology?

      2. Know this takes some prognostication, Andrew, so just give me a ball-park figure:

        Adjusted for another ten years’ inflation, what will the average insurance premium be for one of these cars?

        And remember something else: proposed system will not be “driverless.” At least several thousands lives at a time will be in the hands of someone who cannot directly even see any of the cars.

        And I hope the comeback isn’t “computers” – whose performance can only be as good as the stupidest thing a human told them.

        So why not just do the easy thing: re-arrange a set of living patterns as boring as they are wasteful and expensive.

        Like horses, which no longer pull freight, keep the cars where they’re enough fun to drive that nobody wants to take away the control.

        And like a first-world country, build some transit. Uh oh…just looked up from the back seat where I just woke up, and screen is telling me there’s a bridge out somewhere ahea…”



      3. Banning of driverless cars will come about two years after commercial rollout, when the first nasty accident caused by poor programming takes place.

      4. Nathaniel,
        Increasing automation in aviation has not led to its banning by aviation regulators. Even though there is an amazing amount of automation in a modern aircraft there have been few incidents caused by software defects.

        For that matter there are much scarier things under software control than cars. A software defect isn’t going to cause Houston to be evacuated, a fault at a chemical plant or oil refinery could.

      5. But planes still have pilots, who have to sit in the cockpit. The only pilotless planes are small drones not carrying passengers, and they have heavy restrictions where they can go. So the future is probably as somebody said, more driver-assist technologies rather than pure “driverless cars”.

    5. Everyone who wants to live in suburbia already lives there and already has a car. Especially now that housing costs are significantly higher in the city. I can’t believe that there’s more than one or two suburbanites who don’t have a car now but will when driverless cars become available. For one thing, driverless cars will be significantly more expensive than regular cars: the same reason that only a few people have switched to hybrid or electric cars. If you want to make sprawl more popular, import those $1000 cars from India, don’t count on driverless cars to do it.

      So driverless cars won’t jump-start a new suburban golden age. But they may give sprawl a few more years before the suburbs become underused slums.

      1. Hybrid and electric cars save money on fuel, so they can break even on TCO if you drive a lot. “Driverless” cars don’t save any money. Accordingly, adoption is going to be much, much slower. They would save time if we really trusted them enough to let the driver sit back and do other work… but we don’t, and we will never be able to.

        What will actually happen will be a bunch of “driver assist” features — automatically hitting the brakes when the driver tries to crash into something, refusing to exceed the speed limit, stuff like that. Stuff which insurance companies like, which don’t seem to create new risks. And yes, it’ll raise the price of cars.

        Actual “driverless cars”, if they are put on the market, will be banned shortly thereafter the first time they kill someone. Which will happen.

      2. The driverless technology will become much cheaper over time to the point where it becomes a relatively trivial expense.

      3. There will be a lot of commercial pressure to allow driverless vehicles, especially from industries who can save money by firing drivers.

      4. “The driverless technology will become much cheaper over time to the point where it becomes a relatively trivial expense.”

        It may, but I doubt it will fall as fast as computers do. In any case, we can’t count on it falling that fast, and if it doesn’t it’ll take at least a decade until it becomes mainstream. The car industry hasn’t said what price point they’ll set the cars at or what the break-even point is, and I don’t see how driverless technology can be less expensive than hybrid technology or electric technology.

  7. They say that about 23% of Metro’s revenue comes from fares. I’m curious, with bikeshares like Pronto/Alta, what percentage of their revenue or funding comes from bike user’s memberships or fees vs what comes from government grants and private sponsors? Does anyone know?

    1. Well, bikeshare capital costs are tiny, orders of magnitude below that of transit. Capital Bikeshare had a 97% operational farebox recovery rate as of a year ago, with just a $70,000 annual loss on $2.5m in expenses. New York’s CitiBike has struggled under the weight of its own success, with too many annual users taking too many trips, and not enough casual/daily memberships being bought to subsidize them, so there’s probably a case to be made for lowering the daily membership threshold or allowing per-minute travel.

      But the overall picture is clear: if you care about spontaneous mobility that makes an efficient use of public funds, bikeshare is about as good as it gets.

      1. The current group in Portland city hall aren’t the greatest at projects. We still have many times the unpaved road miles that Seattle has, despite decades of promises to do something.

        So, I wouldn’t use us as much of an example.

      2. Part of the problem is that a $10 daypass is just way to expensive, when walking and transit exist as competing options. Even on a recent trip to New York, with bike share stations almost every block, I could not justify purchasing the $10 daypass to use just once or twice a day, when walking was free and the subway much cheaper than that.

      3. A $10 daypass is not for people making one or two trips. It’s for people making four or five trips, or who just want to pay a flat rate. To a visitor, a flat rate means freedom, no stress, and predictable costs.

      4. Never mind, I thought you meant a $10 transit daypass, not a $10 bikeshare daypass. I’m still unsure whether I’ll use Pronto. $8 is a lot for a day, but $80 is tiny for a year. But I didn’t want to get an annual membership until I actually try it. It also seems like the plausable rides are the same places that it’s easiest to find a bus to. And the one trip that would be most useful to me, from my house to Children’s hospital, would take more than half an hour, so not something I’d want to do often if I had to pay for the second half hour.

  8. We’ve lost Mike O’Brien. He’s drank the gentrification koolaid.

    From Publicola:
    I recently interviewed O’Brien about his “Linkage Fee” proposal, the aforementioned tax on developers to pay for affordable housing. The tax wouldn’t touch single-family development nor find any way to charge people to protect their suburban-ish property (which is certainly part of the affordability crisis). The tax targets development hubs in multi-family zones, and along light rail, and downtown. Isn’t that the exact kind of smart green development O’Brien wants to incentivize, not disincentivize?
    An earnest O’Brien told me: “That is a question that I spend many hours on my bike ride or lying in bed thinking about. So, here’s a little bit of the evolution of Mike O’Brien. I absolutely want to see these dense urban environments. Especially concentrating the density and investing in transit and other infrastructure. The thing I struggle with is when I start looking at displacement. [Or] gentrification. But really displacement. And when you look around the country, at where we do dense urban infill really well, you almost always find massive amounts of displacement.”

    Want real gentrification? Slow down development. If you think the people with high-paying jobs are the ones that will leave because of lack of supply, you’re wrong.

    1. Displacement is inevitable in a “World” city such as Seattle has become. Once it was “discovered” (and the summer rains stopped) a place with a site such as Seattle’s was going to become expensive.

      1. The question is how expensive how quickly, and if there’s any paradigm we can shift to reduce rents.

        At one extreme you can lock down development with fees and restrictions, and you’ll quickly see people outbidding the current residents until we have an all-high-income city.

        At the other you can open development wide by removing all non-life-safety regulations, and we may actually drop prices by the time the cranes catch up.

        I’d prefer something in the middle. Have a good debate about how to allow the type of sidewalk-to-sidewalk, 15′ storefront streetwalls downtown that exist from booms a century ago. Change little pieces of our 63% single family zone into our 12% multifamily zones, especially around transit and neighborhood cores. Break down our restrictive rules around backyard cottages. I’d even allow rowhouses like San Francisco has, especially in single family zones surrounding neighborhood cores (we do have a tiny sliver of this allowed now).

        Any new efficient building type you allow has the potential to drop the price. We would have seen that with aPodments if we allowed them to fully build out, and we’d see that with any of my ideas above that meet a market need.

      2. There is a lot of underutilized land already existing in our multifamily zones (and I agree that we can bump out the edges of the MF zones and bump the height limits within them) that for some reason isn’t getting built out. If I was sitting on a buildable parcel in Pike-Pine, it would have cranes on it last year.

        Big fan of rowhouses as well. Nice density boost, great option for family housing, and massively better than the townhomes we saw in the past 10 years.

        I’m really ambivalent about backyard cottages, however. They are a distraction from the real density conversation, which is multifamily. Most SFH backyards in Seattle are pretty compact and not conducive to hosting another dwelling unit. The owners of big backyards are often rich and have no interest in removing their backyard to have another neighbor. So, we’re not looking at a large opportunity set to begin with. The additional density generated is rather trivial – maybe a few people per block at most, which is equivalent to a few kids moving back to the family home after college or roommates renting a house formerly occupied by a single person. But cottages seem to elicit thermonuclear responses from neighbors who conflate cottages with “all development is this awful and ruining my life” and then we get height limit reductions that crush development potential in multifamily zones.

      3. All good perspectives. But:

        “There is a lot of underutilized land already existing in our multifamily zones”

        Sure. But it’s nothing compared to the underutilized land in our single family zones!

        Really, we can’t think of development capacity like a bucket that still has more room for water. The closer we get to capacity, the more expensive every new unit is, and the higher rents have to be to convince a builder to add that extra unit.

      4. Victorian London encouraged massive construction of enormous numbers of apartment buildings, rows and rows and rows of them. (Mostly 4-6 stories.) That was their solution.

      5. Speaking of single family zones, I have been thinking about ADUs, lately. Not DADU, but ADU. By that I mean a regular house that essentially functions as a duplex. Except by law, one of the occupants must be an owner ( This got me thinking.

        Is there a value added by converting your house into a duplex? There are plenty of expenses and limitations, but I wonder if it actually increases the value of your house. At first glance you would assume that it does (rent being what it is these days). But as I see it, there are three potential buyers of your house:

        1) Someone who want to buy the house but rent it out. There are plenty of individuals (and companies) willing to do this.
        2) People who want to live there, and want to rent out a second unit (to save a few bucks).
        3) People who want to live there, and have no interest in being a landlord.

        Converting the house (or adding an ADU) only adds value for the second group. The other groups would want to undo the conversion (to add value to their property). I’m guessing that the second is pretty small.

        So, basically, you have a very niche market (those that want that type of structure). I think it is quite possible that not only does that conversion not pay for itself, but it doesn’t even add value! This is quite remarkable when you consider the cost of rent in this city. To think that adding density might not add value shows how messed up our rules are.

      6. “There is a lot of underutilized land already existing in our multifamily zones that for some reason isn’t getting built out.”

        It’s the relationship of the existing building to the new building. An existing 2-story aparment may have 24 units, and an existing house has 1 unit. It costs a certain amount of money to tear down replace the building. It’s not worth it to replace the units 1:1. At 1.5:1 it starts being attractive, and moreso at 2:1 and beyond. Of course the developer could make small units, even microapartments, but micros are restricted and some tenants won’t accept small apartments. Units get smaller over time as the population grows (condos in Seattle were not attractive in the 80s, now have a solid following, ahd could become predominant if we become like Chicago/Boston), but an individual developer can’t get too far ahead of the market. Tiny $1800 apartments are currently being filled on Capitol Hill but they won’t fly in Lake City. Microapartments must have a market-saturation point: we don’t know what that is because there’s only a small number of them so far, much lower than demand.

    2. The sadest part about this is that O’Brien appears to be a city-hall lifer. We might still have him in the council in twenty, twenty five years.

      1. Now that is an excellent idea. Aurora north of the cemetery would have been perfect with a Link station at 130th and another at 143rd. A lost opportunity for sure.

        Heck ,you don’t even need to get rid of the retail. Just build over née facilities for similar or the same businesses let the people in the neighborhood walk to it. Even “urbanists” like Costco!

      2. Classic 19th century arrangement was retail on the ground floor, housing or offices above. (Sometimes housing is on the ground floor too.) No reason not to do it, and it’s especially useful to have grocery stores convenience stores and restaurants on the ground floor of apartment buildings.

    3. Yep, it really is unfortunate. It wasn’t long ago that I thought of O’Brien as a really rational, and basically pro-growth urbanist. You just can’t call him that anymore, not with his microhousing debacle and upcoming linkage fee fiasco.

      Josh Feit gives him the benefit of the doubt about his intentions (constituency pandering vs actual affordability concern) but I can’t see it. Would someone truly concerned about affordability allow what the microhousing legislation became?

      The one idea O’Brien has come up with recently that I’ve backed is expansion of ADU’s. But he’s been silent on that one for a few months. Perhaps he’s made the full NIMBY conversion…

      Regardless, you should tweet your thoughts to him. It’s good for him and his followers to hear the true message of displacement and gentrification – supply restriction is the best way to kick out poor people. And tweet at the Mayor too. He needs us to remind him of all the things he should be forcing his housing committee to discuss.

      1. I’m no good at fitting complex information in a tweet. I sent him an email earlier, maybe he’ll respond and we could get a discussion going.

      2. My thought is he is worried about re-election if he doesn’t start making NIMBY anti-development noises. Districts change the game a bit and perhaps he’s drawn a serious challenger from the no new development crowd.

        Unfortunately the new districts mean the council is much more likely to listen to the squeaky wheels in their districts and ignore the needs of the city as a whole.

      3. When will the district elections be? I’d kind of like to just get it over with and see who our new city council is and how much we’re fucked.

  9. The Bike Blog lost me as soon as they dragged the War in Iraq into a discussion about a fucking bike trail.

    1. I’m sure they were just using it as a mechanism to say how long this has been an issue, but still. It’s an article about a bike trail, who cares that we were looking for WMD’s back then.

    1. There is a woman who rides a stair-climber bike northbound on the Burke every day.

      She doesn’t look like she is enjoying it, but she’s fit!

  10. Last week’s News Roundup noted that the First Hill Streetcar will have cars that arrive late.

    Here in Portland, there are two 1991 Vintage Trolley cars remaining. (Two of the cars were sent to Saint Louis).

    If asked to do so, they can move at a pretty decent clip
    so I don’t think that there would be too much trouble having them act as temporary fill-in cars, other than the service would be exceptionally infrequent. Also, it would probably be desirable to add wheelchair lifts as in their original service here they used mini-high platforms.

    1. With all that wood, I’m not sure they’d survive the fire testing after the off-wire-operation retrofit any more better than the delayed cars have :-).

      1. It’s a steel underframe from the 1950s. The floor burn through shouldn’t be a problem.

        From the floor up? Well,…..

    2. so why didn’t they just use standard modern streetcars but use a trolley pole instead of pantograph, almost the entire route already had trolley wires over it? they do this in san Francisco in particular on market street and in Toronto use modern era streetcars with trolley pole

      1. There are cities all over the world that have both trolley buses and streetcars. Most have pantographs on their streetcar lines. Trolley buses can have their overhead lines a lane over if need be.

        So, the decision to have off-wire ability doesn’t make too much sense to me.

  11. Hypothetical: If you were head of Sound Transit (which now also includes all other transit agencies and covers all of King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston counties) and had double the funding, what would you do to build out and improve the mass transit system in the Puget Sound area?

    1. Seattle Subway.

      And for the burbs, half-hourly Sounder South. Although it would probably require additional state/federal funding to build the dedicated passenger tracks. The state already has it as a long-term goal, although some legislative sessions are half-hearted about it and other sessions don’t contribute to it at all.

    2. Operating funds or capital funds?

      Operate Sounder between DuPont and Tacoma with Stadler GTW type cars (the type approved for use on mainline railroads in intermixed traffic, as per DCTA in Texas).

    3. Am I still subject to subarea equity? I’ll assume so.

      – Reorganize local bus routes in all service areas to be frequent and gridded
      – Ballard-Fremont-Downtown Link
      – Ballard-Wallingford-U District Link
      – West Seattle-White Center-Burien Link
      – Overlake-Redmond Link
      – 405 BRT, heavy capital version
      – New UW Station transfer facilities and reorganization of 520 bus service
      – Sounder South expansion to the extent possible (but just double the budget wouldn’t get me dedicated track)
      – Tacoma 6th Ave streetcar
      – Lynnwood-Everett Link via 99
      – SeaTac-Federal Way Link via 99
      – Make Link feeder buses meet each Link train on all very-high-ridership lines
      – Many, many speed and reliability capital projects in all areas, particularly TSP, bus lane, and queue jump projects

      If no subarea equity, then redirect more of the capital spending into Seattle to start an Aurora/Greenwood Link line, but otherwise more or less the same thing.

    4. Assuming that I can have whatever I want in terms of taxation authority, I’d want a basic set of taxes with subarea equity, but perhaps not rate equality between subareas. In addition, I’d want extra taxing authority as detailed below.

      I can only speak for King County

      Choices off this list. Roughly in priority order.

      Paid for by region wide taxation [don’t much care what, my preference is property, but that may be too politically toxic; key point is no sub area equity here, everyone in the ST region should pay for this]: U-Link standard light rail Ballard to UW via Fremont, with excellent interchange with U-Link and passive provision for continuation towards Lake City.

      Toll the West Seattle bridge and use the revenue to pay for capital improvements to improve the bus journey times from West Seattle to Downtown.

      Congestion charge 405 SOV lanes and parallel arterials. Use the revenue to build direct access HOV ramps wherever they will be helpful to express buses in the 405 corridor (including connections to I-90 East).

      Sounder South improvements to allow all day 1/2 hour frequencies.

      Tolls on the I-90 bridge to pay for direct access HOV lanes in the 90 corridor. [really all that’s needed here is one in Issaquah and finishing the 405/90 interchange.]

      Either Gondolas or Light rail from Uptown to Capital Hill.

      Congestion charge the ship canal crossings to pay for Light Rail Ballard to Downtown with passive provision for appropriate northward and southward extensions.

      In addition to these large projects I’d also want to see the worst mistakes of the existing Link infrastructure fixed: poor interchange at the UW Stadium station, infill stations, ventilation shafts. And (if there’s money) East Link to Redmond.

      If politically essential, I’d hold my nose and accept Link from Angle Lake to the Pierce County line, presumably in the SR-99 corridor.

      1. That’s just the big capital projects for regional transportation. Locally, I lean towards spending as much money as politically possible on capital improvements to improve reliability, speed and amenities, in roughly that order before spending on operations.

        I think though that with twice the budget, it ought to be possible to do the right thing while leaving the existing network in place, and then cut the bad routes later when they stop being viable. This sidesteps some of the worst difficulties with restructures.

        At some level, I think everyone pretty much knows at a high level what needs to be done here, so I doubt that there’s really a great deal of controversy (at least in the places where density supports decent frequency) here.

    5. [Copying much of David’s suggestions — see if you can spot the differences ;)]

      – Reorganize local bus routes in all service areas to be frequent and gridded
      – Ballard-Wallingford-U District Link
      – Ballard-Interbay-Downtown Link
      – Transit tunnel from SoDo Busway to Ballard-Interbay-Link. Tunnel is used by buses from West Seattle, Tacoma, Renton, etc. in the south as well as (potentially) Queen Anne, Westlake/Eastlake/South Lake Union (and the Ballard train) from the north.
      – Kirkland to Bellevue Link
      – 405 BRT, heavy capital version
      – New UW Station transfer facilities and reorganization of 520 bus service
      – South Lake Union Link
      – Central Area Link
      – Freeway station in north Lynnwood with seamless bus connections.
      – Freeway station in Kent with seamless bus connections.
      – Make Link feeder buses meet each Link train on all very-high-ridership lines
      – Many, many speed and reliability capital projects in all areas, particularly TSP, bus lane, and queue jump projects

    6. Since David Lawson is recommending a UW transfer station, I’d add:

      – Reconfigure International District station to center platform. This is important for trips between the Eastside and the airport, and should be standard for all transfer stations.

      I wasn’t thinking of local bus service, and I’m not sure ST should get significantly involved in that. But one thing stands out: RapidRide and Swift routes are of regional significance, so that’s where ST should start. CT already has five more Swift lines outlined. Metro doesn’t yet, but a place to start would be the 169. Perhaps a Rainier Beach – Renton – Kent East Hill – Kent Station – SeaTac line. Or if it’s acceptable to bypass Kent Station, it could continue south to Green River CC, and a second line from SeaTac to Covington, which would be moved to KDM Station when it opens. (I’m not convinced of Angle Lake Station as better than SeaTac.)

      1. I’d like to see RapidRide-style stop spacing, frequency, and off-board payment applied to the following Metro routes:

        – 8N
        – “Corridor 3” (36/49 combination via First Hill)
        – 7/48S combination via Rainier and 23rd
        – 44
        – 120
        – 150S/180S combination via W Valley and Auburn Wy
        – 169

  12. It’s really great that Uber now will have cars with bike racks. This service is long overdue. Especially for those going to the airport, get a flat, etc. Surprised that taxis have not thought about such service already.

    1. That’s probably because traditional taxis are more geared toward business travelers and people on vacation.

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