Where should this bus go in 2016? (Oran – Flickr)
Where should this bus go in 2016? (Oran – Flickr)

This is an open thread.

47 Replies to “News Roundup: Sounding Board”

  1. •Integrated U-Link planning is heating up! 3 open houses are coming up on the on the 13th, 17th, and 20th, there’s a new online survey, and Metro is recruiting a 20-member “Sounding Board” to help guide bus changes. Metro also confirms that service changes in the Downtown Transit Tunnel will begin in September 2015 for ULink testing.

    Is there supposed to be a link to info for the open houses? If so, it’s not working.

  2. Has there been any indication were the termini locations are going to be for the RapidRide C (SLU) and RapidRide D (Pioneer Square) when they split them in a year?

  3. “[Whole Foods] cites the coming First Hill Streetcar line and proximity to First Hill’s hospitals and the nearby Seattle University as important factors in choosing the Broadway and Madison location.”

    Oh.

    1. I hope their customers enjoy thawed and melted groceries.

      p.s. No one ever waiting for the SLUT outside the existing Whole Foods. Plenty of OBA-timed 40 riders, though.

      1. Oh, and zillions of 8 riders, of course, since it’s a great place to micro-shop during a transfer.

        Anyone living within SLUT distance of the store has long since learned it is stupid to wait. FHSC experience will be much the same.

      2. I can’t count the number of Whole Foods pizza slices I’ve eaten solely because I was waiting for the 8.

      3. Honesly I’m pretty stoked about Whole Foods coming. QFC is Whole Foods prices for Kroger goods, and anyone who pays them is getting fleeced. If you stick to produce and bulk and house brand items, WF is less expensive than people think.

      4. Indeed, I fully endorse Whole Foods for the comparative food value, though its proliferating “lifestyle” outlets (i.e. SLU, versus straightforward grocery outlets in Interbay or Roosevelt) are intentionally designed to obfuscate wayfinding and to make shopping there a lingering, self-image-reinforcement event.

        Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a business with ties to Libertarian groupthink and climate denial would get swept up in the fallacy of streetcar “placemaking”.

  4. NYC’s 25mph speed limit will be an interesting experiment. Speed reductions are widely cited for reducing the severity of injuries sustained in collisions, which is certainly a worthy goal. It is better still to reduce collisions altogether. I’d argue that speed limits are not a preventative solution, but a mitigating one, since most pedestrian-car interactions are in crosswalks, not at speed.

    Turning movements are very dangerous, especially left turns. 34% of the car-pedestrian collisions in 2013 in Seattle occurred during left turns, most of which occur at relatively low speeds. I bet a lot of the car-car collisions also involve left turns.

    Banning left turns at arterial intersections, or only allowing them under left turn signals, would eliminate pedestrian-car interaction in the crosswalk. This works as long as pedestrians are not jaywalking, which is unfortunately common on left turn phases because pedestrians are impatient or think the signals are broken. Some education would be needed but this cuts out a lot of dangerous car movements.

    Improving visibility at crosswalks is also helpful and doesn’t need much money or a new law. An SUV parked 5 feet from the corner is a huge obstacle to drivers scanning for pedestrians (as are signs, trees, garbage cans, street lights, signal boxes – there’s lots of visual clutter on street corners). SDOT seems to think that roadside trees are good – I am not so sure when they obstruct drivers’ visibility when I’m about to step off the curb.

    It is already illegal to park within 20 feet of any crosswalk, anywhere. It is widely ignored. Simply enforce the existing rules. Paint some red “no parking” lines in the street and on the curb to give strong visual cues to drivers about where parking is and isn’t allowed and make for easy monitoring by PEOs.

    1. The best way to enforce compliance with the no parking within 20 feet restriction is pedestrian bulbs. Of course, these are more expensive, but they have the added advantage of reducing the crossing distance.

  5. Does anyone know what the city had in mind when they designated Northgate as an urban center?

    I’ve been to Northgate a few times recently, and every time I’m there, I can’ t help but think how much less “urban” it is compared to the other neighborhoods designated as urban centers/villages and how it doesn’t obviously have the potential to to evolve into a contiguously dense, walkable actual neighborhood like the U-District, Capitol Hill, Ballard, etc, unless the entire mall area was demolished, reconnected to the street grid, and allowed to organically fill in with housing and businesses.

    I see some apartment buildings going up there and when Northgate Link opens, at least the mall’s western parking lot will have great N-S transit access to much of the city, but it still feels like a bunch of boxes shoved up against an indoor shopping mall isolated in an ocean of parking- a place where people just commute, shop, and leave.

    So I’m genuinely confused about what the city sees as the future of the area- was it just designated an urban center because it has a transit center, or is the area actually supposed to develop into something more organic and “urban”?

    1. Take a look at the new developments by the Total Wine shop and the whole Thornton Creek Area. Eventually the parking lot of Northgate will be more profitable as apartment bldgs with multilevel parking garage for the mall.

      Throw in the pedestrian bridge over I-5 to NSCC you then have a very attractive place to build up…

      Plus the area just north of the Mosque on 15th has a whole section of Ethiopian restaurants and shop, negating the need to go down to the CD ;-)

    2. Here are the City’s plans:

      http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cityplanning/completeprojectslist/northgate/whatwhy/

      They can’t force Northgate Mall to redevelop, but Simon Malls may find that its more profitable to put something much bigger on that property once there are a lot more residents and high capacity transit in the area. Especially when there will likely be other shopping centers on the transit system that will have better amenities than they can manage in the current space.

      I hope we can also convince them to bisect their super block with some better pedestrian access across the parking lots (which will hopefully not just stay parking lots).

      1. Hopefully Simon will decide to do a large-scale mixed use development. ‘Lifestyle Centers’ that emulate pre-auto shopping districts are all the rage in the retail world. Combine with offices and housing like say Redmond Town Center and you could have a winner.

    3. You’re right, it’s obviously the urban village where the “historic center” is from the sixties, not prewar. It lacks a lot of what makes urban villages work.

      But I think it’s a totally logical Link stop: the transit center provides connection to a huge swath of North Seattle, Northgate is a pretty big destination, and with the connectivity of the transit center and link and a pile of developable land, it has real TOD potential. Living or working there would give you better connectivity and lower price than any other north end location.

      I think the questions are 1) do we connect the street grid, zone for height with ground floor retail, etc. so that it’s a pleasant place to be? and 2) do population and economic growth put sufficient pressure on the housing market that Northgate becomes an appealing option? People will move there if it is cheaper than elsewhere, AND if that is still expensive enough that development is more profitable than big box stores.

      We shall see.

      1. As for if it will be profitable, there is a significant population base already that has very few shopping options in walking distance… Licton Springs.

        Is it mostly single family homes? Sure, but unlike some other parts of Seattle, its got a rather healthy dose of the “6 pack” style townhome development pattern in the early 2000’s. Even before the apartment and condo towers go in where the Northgate park and ride lots are now, there is a significant population there without the kind of local shopping options you see in Ballard or Phinney Ridge/Greenwood.

        If that pedestrian bridge goes in over I-5 there will be a ready made strong customer base for the stores right on the other side, should they build them.

    4. Everything about that location is a mess. Huge parking lots, huge unwalkable blocks, and everything north and south is an unconnected, disjointed disaster.

    5. A lot of the critical auto-focused infrastructure was probably already in place when it was so designated.

      Northgate was designed for high-volume car access, which by mid-20th century planning standards made it an appropriate place for high zoning and things like office buildings and large retail. The “zoning capacity” there is largely a legacy of that.

      Because of the offices and large retail it made sense to run lots of transit there, even if it was mostly to add transit access to a car-first place. And now because there’s lots of transit and more planned, it’s slated to grow more. It only seems weird if you think of cars-vs.-not-cars as the main planning dichotomy, and that hasn’t been the case for most of the last 100 years. Northgate’s development and planning situation is pretty typical for this country, from downtown Bellevue to Tyson’s Corner.

      I actually think the more frustrating piece of inertia-based planning around Northgate is that the light rail stop has been sited based on the existing transit center. The existing transit center is conveniently near an HOV freeway on-ramp for express buses to downtown (today’s 41), but its location is horrible otherwise, cut off from the local street network to the west, far from the transit-carrying arterials in other directions, inconvenient for express bus access to the north. Local routes must choose between offering transfers at the transit center and offering reasonable service across it — doing both is impossible (as the old 75 proved). Pre-light rail that’s probably the right trade-off, but with an elevated light rail line coming we should have taken the opportunity to move the station somewhere that allowed local routes to get through efficiently.

    6. It’s about upzoning. Northgate doesn’t have any single-family NIMBYs to object. The density in Northgate is rather invisible because people notice only the mall, but south of the TC is a couple 1970s office towers that look like they were transported by helicopter from downtown. Those aren’t allowed in Broadway or Ballard or elsewhere. What’s important is not the current office buildings or those Marie Callender/Silver Platters strip malls but denser things that could replace them. And across the freeway is the existing college, other office buildings, and medical facilities which currently employ/teach/treat tens of thousands of people — and those office buildings could be redeveloped too.

      Simon Malls is missing a lot of money from the rent it could be collecting on stories above the mall. The south parking lot was already declared excessive and unneeded two decades ago: that’s where Thornton Creek is now. Surely Simon could also find a more lucrative use for its other surface parking lots as Bellevue Square and University Village have already done. Maybe not now, but it’s hard to think it won’t want to by 2025 or 2035, or maybe it’ll be sold and the new ower want to.

      There’s also the city amenities that have made it more of a self-contained neighborhood: the library, the community center, and the park.

      1. Some of the buildings on the west side of I-5 are already planning to redevelop:
        Look at DPD Permit #3015241

        Replacing a 5 story office building with a 6 story medical building with an 8 story (!) parking garage. Unfortunate that they feel they need that much parking. Hopefully they turn it into a public parking garage as the area redevelops and it will give us an excuse to replace more surface lots with more useful living, office and retail space.

    7. Breaking up the superblocks is a good point. Several suburban centers have done that now so it’s not a radical thing. Northgate should do it.

    8. “I actually think the more frustrating piece of inertia-based planning around Northgate is that the light rail stop has been sited based on the existing transit center.”

      That does seem silly when no express buses will go there. I can think of two reasons why the planners might have preferred it: (1) It’s publicly owned so no acquisition costs. (2) The original idea was for the Shoreline/Snohomish buses to terminate there, based on the assumption that the Lynnwood Extension wouldn’t happen until a later phase. But it was the same ST board that approved North Link and the Lynnwood Extension simultaneously, and the station location wasn’t set in stone until later. So it does seem to be inertia and public ownership.

      My observation is that as time goes on, things that were considered too urbanist become more acceptable and then become mainstream. So Beacon Hill Station is all alone, while Capitol Hill Station will have buildings over it. If Northgate Station had been sited now, there would probably be more traction to consider a better place.

      On the other hand, the further east you move it, the further away it is from Meridian, and the less Licton Springs can use it.

      But where else would the station be? On 5th? On 3rd (i.e., next to Thornton Place)? How would the elevated track get to I-5 then, or would it be underground?

      1. I’m not as much talking about the east-west positioning in this post — that’s a more complicated issue, tied up in how (as you say above). I’m talking about the north-south positioning. The light rail station should be in a location that allows routes running east-west through Northgate to do so without a 10-block deviation. I don’t think any routes run through Northgate TC today (except the 41 on the way off the freeway), but of course any rider going through by transfer will have the same deviation plus the wait to transfer. Anyone doing a 40-75 transfer to go from Greenwood to Lake City, for example. That street would probably be Northgate Way, and interchange traffic there sucks, but people taking the 16 to transfer to the 347/348 today actually have to sit through that interchange and zig-zag around in every conceivable direction. Some of the N-S routes to the east have it nearly as bad.

        The location of the current transit center is actually as bad for routes coming from Lynnwood (and even runs of the 41 that can’t use the express lanes!) as it is for local routes. If that weren’t the case the 512 could stop there today instead of the wasteland of 145th, which would be a win today for transit mobility between north Seattle and SnoHoCo.

      2. The 75 went through Northgate until the 40 took over its western half. David Lawson has suggested moving the split to Lake City, which I think is a good idea considering the number of times I’ve gone from Lake City to Aurora. Or the time I was going from Lake City to Ballard and I got to Northgate at 5pm and discoved the 40 dropped to half-hourly right then and the next one wasn’t for twenty minutes. Ultimately what’s needed is a route on 125th/130th. Yes, it would be nice if the 40 went straight through Northgate Way, as long as all the transfers remain together.

      3. When the 16 discontinues its north Seattle College/Northgate Way cumbersome routing next year, perhaps the 75 can serve that portion instead. It would give students faster access to the college than it does now, not having to rely on the 345-48 milk routes.

      4. It’s somewhat non-intuitive, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. A 75->40 transfer could be made on Meridian, rather than at the transit center, and could possibly allow one to make a bus that would otherwise be missed. I still think it would be better, though, to summon up the courage to route the 75 straight down Northgate all the way to Crown Hill. The transfer to the 41 to go downtown would still exist; it would just be at 5th and Northgate, rather than at the transit center.

  6. With the hospitals, Seattle University, the first hill street car, and eventual Madison BRT, that Whole Foods is going to make serious money. Makes me really wish we had a link stop there.

    Which got me thinking. If we build a Ballard to Downtown line with ST3, we run into capacity problems in the DSTT, correct? It seems like this could be a real mess – another downtown tunnel would be hugely expensive (if it had any stops) and either have to be close enough to the existing tunnel that it provides no added downtown value, or would have terrible transfers to the rest of Link. Further, it only makes sense if it goes all the way through downtown, but building to West Seattle just isn’t worth the cost.

    So what if we build a downtown bypass for link? Break off at the Mount Baker station, connect to East Link at the Rainier station, build a Broadway and Madison station, and connect back up with the existing route at Capitol hill.

    You could get enough trains out of the DSTT to squeeze Ballard line trains in there while adding some very useful service. The first hill station would have huge ridership, and people going south of downtown from capitol hill, UW, and so on would be have quicker trips. South bound east siders would see substantial time savings, too.

    Of course, we already abandoned the first hill stop, and built the first hill streetcar instead, because of challenging geology. I’m sure the geology hasn’t changed, but it could well be cheaper to deal with than purchasing ROW and building a tunnel plus stations downtown.

    1. Pay Ballard-Downtown line would not share the DSTT. If the one is built to only 2nd & Pine then you will see a fair number of people transferring to/from the DSTT at Westlake. This shouldn’t be a huge problem as DSTT loads fall off quite a bit south of Westlake.

      With Ballard-Downtown it would still make sense to go at least as far as the stadiums. The ridership hit from not serving all of downtown directly is pretty big.

    2. So what if we build a downtown bypass for link? Break off at the Mount Baker station, connect to East Link at the Rainier station, build a Broadway and Madison station, and connect back up with the existing route at Capitol hill.

      Maybe I’m thinking about this wrong, but since the Rainier Valley segment is limited to 6 minute headways, wouldn’t one of your two Mount Baker Capitol Hill segments be limited to 12 minute peak headways, or worse, unless you also turn around some trains at Sodo?

    3. Wouldn’t a Broadway and Madison station require a fairly deep platform? ST canned the First Hill station on University Link because of its anticipated engineering difficulties.

      A Rainier/Boren line would be a great south end for a line down Aurora Avenue (via SLU).

      1. @d.p at some point I suspect we will have the courage to do it right. I just hope it doesn’t take until ST5 or whatever mechanism Seattle has to fund rail by then (maybe city only measures by that point?).

    1. That makes no sense at all! I have taken the 25 a few times during the day with only a couple of more passengers on board. Re-direct the hours/funding where it is sorely needed.

    2. There is no sugar-coating the obvious that the 25 needs to die. That said, prop 1 will fund several much more deserving routes, and it is important not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  7. I have a confession to make–the only reason I wanted to see longer tunnel hours was to see more local service in the tunnel. Metro seemed to have this senseless cardinal rule that all tunnel routes had to run on a freeway (I-5, I-90 or 520). The local 71-73 routes were the few exceptions, but Metro seemed to deliberately schedule express trips when the DSTT was open and local trips when the DSTT was closed. So aside from a handful of trips in the early weekday mornings, local service was nonexistent in the DSTT (even the 71 had its first four southbound local tunnel trips converted to Express). But now that the tunnel is open full-time, most local trips use the DSTT.

    This has to be asked: Why was Metro so reluctant to put local service in the tunnel in the first place? And why was Metro so reluctant to have the DDSTT open on a full-time basis in pre-Link times? These facts made little sense at all!

    1. The primary concern seems to be getting tunnel buses to all quarters of the county that paid for the tunnel. The 41, 71/72/73, 550, and 101/150 all seem to be sensible. The 106 originally made sense there but now now that it’s downgraded to a milk run. (fast tunnel + slow meandering route = contradiction) What bothers me most is peak-only routes in the tunnel, because that’s an egregious waste of capacity when we should be beefing up our all-day network, not giving an extraordinary privilege to certain peak-only routes.

      The 71/72/73 express span is not really related to the tunnel. There have been all-day UW-downtown expresses since the early 80s if not longer. I used to ride a 70 that got on the freeway at 45th, running parallel to a 73E on Eastlake and a 73X in the express lanes. I think there were also 71X and 72X but only peak hours. The local routes were the 71/72/73 on Eastlake and the 74 on Fairview. All that was consolidated into the current 71/72/73(X) when the tunnel opened. (I think the 74 local hung on for several years later, probably until the 70 trolleybus started.)

    2. I think it’s mainly just a consequence if how the tunnel was constructed. To/from the south, it doesn’t make a difference, as any bus headed south on 4th could just as easily be put in the tunnel and take the Busway instead.

      But to/from the north, with the end situated as it is at Convention Place, it only really makes sense to use the tunnel if the bus is getting on the freeway or Eastlake/Fairview. I suppose the 43 could use the tunnel at the expense of Bellevue Avenue service, but rerouting any other buses in that general direction would either mean bypassing Capitol Hill, or having to backtrack south from Olive. (Which is only two blocks, but an extremely painful two blocks during PM peak.)

      So your question is really “Why was the tunnel built the way it was?” To which the answer is probably what a Mike said above (to favor service that serves the county rather than just the city).

  8. So testing begins in September. Has anyone heard a timeline for when ST will announce an actual date for U Link opening?

  9. Besides the fact that the whole island of Iceland is an active volcano, the most amazing thing is its intercity bus service. I addition to tourist buses, there’s scheduled service all around the island.

    The interior itself is literally no-man’s-land, impassible by road. But buses run all the way around the shoreline. Average intercity coach looks pretty much like other European highway buses, except with much more clearance underneath.

    Not only for rough patches of road- roads are frequently carried away by flooding, and occasionally flowing lava- but because fair amount of every highway puts a river at windshield level.

    So, many buses, if not most, of the fleet has both intakes and exhausts at the level of the roof.

    Would highly recommend a visit to Iceland mainly because I can’t think of anyplace else so much like another planet only a seven hour flight from Sea-Tac. Take-off 4:30 pm- morning espresso at Keflavik, airport an hour’s bus ride from Reykjavik.

    Icelandair is my favorite airline- crews are professional, and born to Icelandic conditions. Like landing a jet at Keflavik where crosswinds can roll a plane sideways across the field like a hat just before the wheels touch.

    Proof of strong link between Norse people in both Iceland and Minnesota: Recently a passenger drank every drop of alcohol in the duty free store before take-off, and wouldn’t behave.

    So stewardesses restored order by simply wrapping the man to his seat from head to foot like a mummy with duct tape ’til they reached Keflavik. Office Margie Gunderson or what?

    Interesting people, too. Rugged outdoorsmen for whom writing poetry is a cultural mandate. My wife, who studied Norse history, told me that the Icelanders are the most Irish of the Norsemen- giving them the most ghastly ghost stories in the northern world.

    Also possibly the reason Bjork looks like her name should be Bridget. On tne map, Iceland is a straight north-south bearing to Ireland. My wife also mentioned to me that Dublin was a Viking trading town.

    Also, that lovely women departing northward were not all exactly kidnapped, but partial to the Vikings’ giving women more equality than rest of Europe. And also being men who took frequent baths.

    Markus Jacobsson Dublin

    Or stewardesses who recently restored order in flight by fastening a passenger who had drunk everything in the duty free shop before take-off to his seat like a mummy with duct tape.

    1. I’ve been to Iceland and do recommend it. It’s a beautiful country. However, as a tourist I probably wouldn’t rely on the inter-town bus service. It’s infrequent and expensive and makes relatively few stops. The island is full of so many beautiful things to see that are not served by the buses, and even if they were they would not each be worth spending half a day at until the next bus arrives. The public transit must be great for the locals who want to visit friends and family on the other side of the island, but if you want to really see the island I highly recommend either renting a car or joining a tour group that has its own bus.

  10. Let’s straighten bus routes and make our light rail alignments super zig-zaggy, meandering milk routes. Isn’t that backwards?

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